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Say Yes to Karen Finneyfrock MAR 29, 2012
Karen Finneyfrock does it all. She writes poetry of both the written- and spoken-word varieties, collaborates on projects with other creative folks (including a chocolate artist), teaches creative writing at the Hugo House, has a forthcoming Young Adult novel and is currently working on her second novel. On top of all that, she is also the Writers in the Schools writer-in-residence at Nathan Hale High School, where she teaches poetry once a week. Although such a variety of activities might seem daunting, Finneyfrock seems to thrive on it. When asked how WITS has changed her as a writer, she says “there’s so much value in returning to the basics. When you’ve been writing for a long time, it’s not often you sit down and think ‘What is metaphor?’ or ‘What is poetry?’ and WITS causes me to return to those basics every semester.” It’s a way to “identify myself as an artist, creating my own artist statement again and again.”
Finneyfrock approaches teaching creative writing with remarkable compassion and support for her students. She encourages them in any sort of interest they have, allowing space for students to create their own aesthetics. Saying “yes” to some things rather than saying “no” to others is Finneyfrock’s way of maintaining a positive and welcoming environment in which students can explore creativity. In this way, she shows her students that poetry – and creativity, too – is accessible to everyone. She tells her students “it’s a misconception that some of us are more creative than others. We all have equal access to creativity. It’s just a matter of how willing we are to access it, how much we are willing to practice it.”
Finneyfrock hopes that what students will retain from their time with her is this ability to access creativity. In the classroom, this may mean writing poems, but establishing that practice of tapping into creativity will serve students in whatever paths of life they choose. For those who want to continue writing, she advises them to find a community of artists who share their vision. She says that “so much of what I’ve done140 is because of my community of writers.” Artists “sometimes have a damaging relationship with critique,” so it’s especially important to share your work with supportive people with whom you can enjoy the process of becoming a better writer.
“Writers in the Schools not only gave me the freedom to express myself, but also helped me express myself in better, stronger, and more creative ways.”
-- Roosevelt HIgh School 10th Grader