One of the best ways to teach writing is by teaching students to read.’
Maria Takolander writes poetry, fiction, creative non-fiction and essays. ‘
I write because I have to,’ she says, ‘
because I can't imagine not writing (and) I write in order to think more deeply about things…’ Maria's writing interests cross not only form but also genre. She has been published most widely in poetry, but ranges into such diverse genres as fiction, memoir and reviews.
One wonders here about process – do we work the same way in different forms?
I prefer ideas for poems to magically arrive,’ Maria says, ‘
(but) if this stops happening regularly enough, I often set myself a subject to respond to….Coming up with the topic, I am forced to think about it and engage with it in a new and deeper way…’ For creative non-fiction and fiction writing, she find that it is ‘
a matter of waiting for ideas or images to become so persistent that I cannot ignore them and must explore them.’ Every writer will respond to this sort of question in their own way, but the subtle distinctions here suggest a relationship between forms that is rich in commonalities and divergences. Perhaps the bottom line is that ‘
creative and critical writing start from the same basis - wanting to explore and understand something...’
As do most good writers, Maria privileges the role of reading in a writer's development. ‘
Through reading a radical range of literary texts,’ she says, ‘
one is also inspired to be more adventurous in one's own writing.’ This perhaps best suggests the role of the writer in academia, where creativity is informed by a deep engagement with technique and scholarship.
Students are known to wonder what a teacher (and beyond that, a publisher) expects from a piece of writing. Maria's response here is worth quoting in full:
What I look for in a piece of writing is to be shocked. I want to be shocked by the quality of the writing, and I want to be shocked into thinking something new or looking at something in a new way. I would hope that the role of the writer in the university is to pass on the desire to test the boundaries through the written word and to learn how to test them in a powerful way.’