Kathryn Savage
Kathryn Savage

An interview with MCAD adjunct faculty member Kathryn Savage.

Kathryn Savage is a hybrid writer who teaches courses like Creative Writing and Writing and Inquiry at MCAD. 

Do you or have you taught at other schools other than here at MCAD?

In addition to MCAD, I currently teach at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities campus. I've also taught at The Loft Literary Center in Downtown Minneapolis and I volunteer with a really fantastic local organization, The Minnesota Prison Writing Workshop (MPWW), which brings creative writing education and literary arts programming into Minnesota state correctional facilities. While I don't directly teach with MPWW, I’m currently the broadside production editor. In the past, I’ve served as a mail mentor through MPWW’s mentorship program.

Is there a place you have taught at that is your favorite?

I feel that each class I've ever taught is as unique and wonderful as the people in the room. I really love teaching and the experience of meeting people through their literary work and work across other artistic forms.I really enjoy teaching at MCAD because I admire visual and interdisciplinary art so much. I only write, but I’m consistently inspired by work across artistic disciplines. As a teacher, I feel like that interdisciplinary context MCAD students bring into the creative writing classroom really complicates and enlivens it.

Do you think that interdisciplinary studies are something more students should be more open to? What do you think of MCAD’s creative writing minor?

When I was an undergraduate at the New School in New York City, I actually started out studying neuroscience but they also offered a creative writing minor. That was how I first came to take a creative writing class and where I got really excited about writing. I think creative writing as part of a larger liberal arts and fine arts education is something I’ve always appreciated, both as a student and now as an instructor. I think MCAD’s creative writing minor is great!

"Each class I've ever taught is as unique and wonderful as the people in the room."

As an artist, is there a genre of writing that you prefer when it comes to your own work?

I was scared of poetry for the longest time. When I was studying creative writing at the New School, I somehow managed to never take a poetry class. I was so into writing but felt really intimidated by that form. I bring this up because I’m currently pursuing a second masters degree in poetry at the University of Minnesota. I’ve come to love poetry by reading poets like Natalie Diaz and other writers whose work is both narrative and lyrical. I have an MFA in fiction, and for years, I only called myself a short story writer—and I still write short stories—but lately, I've been writing narrative poetry too. Recently, I’ve started a project that’s informed by nonfiction, so to further complicate things, I don't really have a favorite genre anymore. Lately, I’ve been calling my work hybrid, because—while I don't feel any claim to saying I’m interdisciplinary since my work all falls within a literary context—I love to read and write across the forms of fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction.

What is your process when it comes to your writing?

I lately have sort of jokingly but also very seriously have been calling my process deadlines, because I find that it's very difficult to make work without a deadline. I feel my process is really motivated by working towards a goal. A goal, for me, is very different from an outcome. I try to have an open relationship with the thing I'm making so as to not bring a rigidity to it, to its outcome. Other than deadlines, I feel like my process with first drafts is really different from subsequent revisions. For first drafts, if I’m trying to work on a longer piece, I will take a lot of notes on my phone. Then, when I have a window of time, I’ll sit down and work in earnest, flush out my notes. I don't write at the same time every day or anything like that, I’m not really structured that way, but I try to write as often as I can. As I finish that first draft, it then becomes a very tactile revision process where I’ll print out what I've written and just take up a huge amount of space on a floor or wall. Sometimes, I have the words beginning, middle, and end taped up on the wall and I’ll outline by literally cutting up what I’ve written as I go and placing it in different areas. I didn't realize until I went to an artist residency a few years ago and had my own studio space that how I revise is a physical process. I don't revise and draft in the limited space of a computer or notebook. When I revise, I tend to make a big mess and then retype everything.

"Trust your instincts about what you want to be writing and write it."

Is there any advice that you would give to aspiring writers looking into the creative writing options at MCAD?

I rent a shared studio space in NE Minneapolis with artists working across disciplines and there’s a sign up in the studio that says, “Work makes work.” I love the simplicity of that message and I agree with it wholeheartedly. My advice is to make work. Also, read widely and read what you love. Trust your instincts about what you want to be writing and write it.

I’ve had the privilege of talking about writing with the good folks who are teaching other creative writing courses at MCAD, and I feel really excited about the courses being offered here, and who’s teaching them. If I were a current MCAD student, I’d definitely take as many different creative writing classes as I could. I’d even step out of my comfort zone and take a poetry class!