By Sarah Katz
“Meet the Instructor” offers a little insight into the teaching styles and personalities. This time around, we spoke with Joyce Winslow, who will lead Travel Writing, a beginner’s class, over three Thursdays from May 19 until June 2. Winslow will also lead Advanced Travel Writing from June 1 to June 15.
The Writer’s Center: What brought you to the Writer's Center and how long have you been working here?
Joyce Winslow: This is my second stint at The Writer’s Center. I taught Travel Writing about three years ago—all 20 people in the class rated it very highly and asked that I teach again. I found the Writer’s Center on my way to the OP Shop, the neat thrift shop next door many years ago and found myself sitting at the Center reading poetry.
TWC: How would you describe your teaching style?
JW: I was Associate Professor of English and Journalism at the University of Pittsburgh and taught also at Temple in Philadelphia and at Fairleigh Dickinson in New Jersey. So I’m used to teaching and enjoy questions and helping beginners publish their first pieces. My style is to give a lot of information, ask what’s most helpful, and refine the information to the class’ interests. My class is part lecture, part hands-on practice. There’s no substitute for getting one’s feet and ankles wet by wading in.
TWC: What are you reading right now?
JW: I’m reading Lorrie Moore’s short stories, and a book on the start of the railroad empire. And Audubon’s autobiography.
TWC: What are you writing now?
JW: I’m writing new short stories to go into a collection; I’ve published a fair number that have won national awards. I also just finished my first novel that took me two years to write after many years of being called the “much promised, long-threatened” novel. I’m now revising it—yet again.
TWC: What does your writing space look like?
JW: My writing space is what Virginia Woolf called “a room of her own.” A desk, a ballerina of a beautiful new computer, great light, baskets of notes, and oh yes, my bed. In essence, it’s an office with a bed in it. The condo unit probably meant it to be a bedroom. I’ve renamed it.
TWC: What's the best piece of writing advice you've been given and by whom?
JW: My mentors were Grace Paley and the great Tillie Olsen, among others. Grace used to say that the first and last sentences of a piece should be interchangeable. Tillie’s advice was to edit, cross out, change and edit again till you felt you got it right. And then remove anything extraneous to the feeling created. Both women were adamant about losing all clichés, digging deeper into your heart and honesty, and saving good bits that didn’t quite make the cut for another story, like pieces of a patchwork quilt to use elsewhere.
Joyce Winslow has served as media strategist, speechwriter, and media. She has received numerous honors, fellowships, and awards in fiction and poetry, including several D.C. Commission on the Arts Individual Fellowships, a National Endowment for the Arts grant, and, most recently, an Allen Ginsberg Poetry Award for her poem, “THE,” which took second place.