First year writing courses, those introductory classes that many students are required to take in their first semester of college, can sometimes be a challenge for teachers. I taught it as a TA when I was getting my PhD. To be sure, I always loved it because I got to expose first-year students to lots of great writing from a variety of genres. I wanted my students to be as enthusiastic as I was about writing and about great works of literature. But the reality is that not everyone shared this enthusiasm. However, every so often a student would show up on that first day of class whose obsession with literature matched mine, whose eyes also lit up at the mention of a Galway Kinnell poem.
Enter Laura Burhenn, leader of the Mynabirds, her new band. I was Laura’s first year writing teacher. Laura and I caught up on the eve of the tour to support the band’s acclaimed debut What We Lose in the Fire We Gain in the Flood on Saddle Creek Records. Given the amount of literary references she drops in this interview and the impressive awareness of her writing process, I’ll take credit for most of her success! Ok, that’s a bit of a stretch, but you won’t see many songwriters who claim Wallace Stevens and Elizabeth Bishop as influences. Laura’s writing process is very animated—literally—and she is a big believer in freewriting as a way to generate ideas (she thanks one of her college professors below—ahem—for teaching her about it). As you’ll see, she has a keen sense of what works for her.Read More