Q&A with Trent Hergenrader

By | March 7, 2017

Trent Hergenrader answered some questions for us about the new book Creative Writing Innovations: Breaking Boundaries in the Classroom and the collaboration process with his co-editors, Joseph Rein and Michael Dean Clark.

How would you describe your book in one sentence?

Creative Writing Innovations is about showcasing non-traditional approaches to teaching creative writing as practiced by several of the leading names in the field, ranging from rethinking the workshop, to blurring genres, to exploring collaborative writing projects, to recognizing our students’ diverse identities as being central to what we do as writers and critics.

What drew to you writing about this subject?

The idea for the book emerged from a conversation the three editors had at the 2015 AWP Conference. We were talking about how so many of our colleagues were doing innovative things in their classrooms that, in very different ways, challenged the characterization of the traditional creative writing workshop method. We were lamenting that these groundbreaking things were easily missed in the creative writing community, lost in a sea of book promotions, author readings, and all the rest of the field that is tightly bound to print publishing. So we decided to do something about that. There on the spot, we drew up a list of writer-scholars we knew to be doing great work in expanding the boundaries of the creative writing classroom and started inviting them to contribute to the book.

How long have you been researching it? How did you come to study it?

The three of us attended graduate school together at UW-Milwaukee, where we earned our PhDs in creative writing, and we’ve been working on creative writing scholarship the entire time. Joe, David Yost, and Chris Drew edited Dispatches from the Classroom: Graduate Students on Creative Writing Pedagogy, a book Mike contributed a chapter to, while we were still in graduate school. The three of us co-edited Creative Writing in the Digital Age: Theory, Practice, Pedagogy in the first years of our jobs. In those same years, I helped found of both the Creative Writing Studies Organization and the Journal of Creative Writing Studies, both of which are intending to grow the field of creative writing scholarship. It’s fair to say that there hasn’t been a time in our professional careers when the three of us weren’t engaged with creative writing studies and innovative pedagogical approaches in one form or another.

What does your book focus on that hasn’t been explored elsewhere?

Creative writing studies is a relatively new field, though it’s growing fast. There’s lots of exciting work emerging and it’s great to be a part of that, and that’s a big part of what we wanted to capture: that excitement and energy, only intertwined with grounded theory and established classroom practice. There are books that are mostly theoretical and books that are more geared for practice; we wanted to do both simultaneously, which we think is a bit unique. We’re also proud to feature such a diverse group of scholars. We more or less said, “We think you do great work. What would you like to write about?” The wide range of methodologies and perspectives presented in the book grew naturally from that.

What initially drew you to Literary Studies?

Joe had experience with Continuum Publishing prior to it being acquired by Bloomsbury, so that was the original point of contact. The three of us had such a good experience working on Creative Writing in the Digital Age and were so happy with the result that we didn’t give it a second thought when it came to submitting our proposal for Creative Writing Innovations. Bloomsbury is establishing an amazing collection of creative writing studies titles and we’re thrilled to be getting in on the ground floor, so to speak.

Which Bloomsbury Lit Studies books have you read? Which are your favorites, and why?

I had the opportunity to read Adam Koehler’s Composition, Creative Writing Studies, and the Digital Humanities before it was published and I believe that will be a landmark book for the field. Joe and I also contributed chapters to the reissue of Stephanie Vanderslice and Becca Manery’s reissue of Can Creative Writing Really Be Taught?, which is coming out soon and I’m really looking forward to seeing in print. The list of contributors and the topics covered in that one are top notch.  I also think Terry Ann Thaxton’s Creative Writing in the Community is an important book that bridges creative writing and community service, which I think opens up a whole new realm for creative writing courses. I know through various conversations that there are a lot of other exciting proposals currently under review by Bloomsbury in the field of creative writing studies, so I think we’re going to see this field grow in leaps and bounds in the coming years.


CreativeTrent Hergenrader is an Assistant Professor at the Rochester Institute of Technology, USA. He is a co-founder of the Creative Writing Studies Organization and the Journal of Creative Writing Studies and the author of Collaborative Worldbuilding for Writers and Gamers. He is co-editor of Creative Writing in the Digital Age: Theory, Practice, and Pedagogy and Creative Writing Innovations: Breaking Boundaries in the Classroom, both available from Bloomsbury.

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