By Indiana State University
May 4, 2020
Indiana State University Director of creative writing and faculty advisor for the creative writing Society, faculty advisor for Allusions, and lover of all things poetic in nature, Amy Ash sat down for an interview on what her life looks like among the things that she is a part of at State.
First and foremost, Professor Ash is the director of creative writing, a program that has long offered both a graduate concentration in creative writing at the master’s level and a popular creative writing Minor for undergraduates. Beginning in Fall 2020, the program will expanded to include a new concentration in creative writing that students can declare as part of the English major. To Professor Ash, this area is all about embracing areas of growth for her students. Through opportunities for creative writing workshops, courses on how to navigate and give to the world as a writer as well as how to be a writer amidst our busy and ever-moving modern world. Professor Ash is also a huge fan of her students learning through personal experiences that will stick with them. One of the ways she engages in this with her students is through the Theodore Dreiser Visiting Writers Series (TDVWS). This prestigious and popular reading series highlights and celebrates ISU alumni who have gone on to find success in the writing world, writers with strong connection to Indiana, and both emerging and internationally acclaimed writers from across the US and beyond, including poets like Maggie Smith and Kaveh Akbar. The visiting writers give public readings of their work for crowds, including students, faculty, and community members. Not to mention, it’s also taped and shared with all distance students so that they don’t miss out on anything. To add to this, Professor Ash focuses her classes on literature composed by writers coming to the TDVWS, so that when it is time to ask questions, the students are familiar with the material that the author themselves have written. However, she also makes an effort to set up events with other authors that they’re reading from, whether through Skype interviews or even in person visits to class.
Professor Ash also has a hand in many different organizations that further her students’ educations and careers. One of these such organizations is that Professor Ash is the editor of Allusions. Allusions is an ISU award-winning literary and art journal featuring some of the best poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, drama, and visual art from Indiana State University students. Each year, submissions are open in the fall. In the spring semester, Professor Ash guides the creative writing Society officers in curating, compiling, editing, and producing the literary journal. This is a great opportunity for creative writing Society students to gain editorial experience and for student authors and artists to get exposure through publications. Also, later on during the Exposium and lit-mag launch events each year, students published in Allusions get the opportunity to stand up in front of people and read their work to them. Professor Ash also does several other things to further the overall industry that she works in She does this many ways, one of them is through going to local high schools with the creative writing faculty to offer writing workshops, to talk about ISU’s creative writing Program and its opportunities, and to let students know that writing is a career choice that they can and should make if they’re passionate. Another way that she helps her students specifically is through serving as a faculty sponsor and encouraging students to participate in conferences and festivals, such as EIU’s Lions in Winter writing festival each year. Sending two students to perform their work, or through the Academy of American poets, where the winner of the contest gets nationally recognized in their website, magazine, as well as a cash prize.
One of the many ways Professor Ash keeps a ‘hands-on’ approach to helping her students grow is by being the faculty sponsor for the creative writing Society. A student group that meets weekly, they hold open mics on campus and in the community at places such as 7th and Elm. The group also participates in campus events, such as the Women’s History Month Colloquium. Professor Ash also has these students assist in editing the aforementioned Allusions, this gives them real world experience that can really help on a resume.
Professor Ash is a dedicated teacher of writing, however she is also a writer herself. One of her own works, The Open Mouth of the Vase, a poetry book from 2015 won the Cider Press Review Book Award as well as the Etchings Press Whirling Prize. This book explores love, loss, desire, and want. Perception as well as misperception. It delves into and seeks to find the fault line between doubt and hope, where beauty and tragedy can happen, and where all emotions coexist. Currently, she’s been working on a book called Malady, which deals with grief and loss, poetically investigating illness and disease. Aside from her poetry, she has a pedagogy book coming out next year, co-edited by Professor Michael Dean Clark and ISU’s own Professor Chris Drew. Called Imaginative Teaching, the book opens up important conversations about the teaching of creative writing at both the secondary and post-secondary levels.
Professor Ash is a professor who works for her students, with her students, all for the betterment of their lives and careers. She loves the work she does, and believes them to be the most dedicated, talented, and inspiring students that she has ever had the privilege to work with.
Professor Ash did mention that while she is sad that we all have to be apart during this time, she wanted to give a few words of her own to hopefully remind her students that, while this is a tough time, “It is through writing that we grieve, we celebrate, we connect. This is what unites us and drives us together. I cannot wait for a time very soon when we will all be celebrating together again.”
Michael Smith is a Networks Scholar, marketing major, and writer in University Marketing.