Q&A with English professor William Craig

by Rebecca Flowers | 7/20/17 2:05pm

English professor William Craig teaches both fiction and nonfiction creative writing at the College. His book, “Yankee Come Home: On the Road from San Juan Hill to Guantanamo,” explores American imperialism in Cuba and was published in 2012. Craig also founded a grassroots public reading series called the Meetinghouse Readings, where he served as director from 1988 to 2012. This summer, Craig is teaching a class titled “Writing and Reading Creative Nonfiction.”

When did you first become interested in writing, and what was your journey from there?

WC: I was raised by writers. My mother and father were both writers who found their voices in their thirties, and our family life often revolved around manuscripts in progress. My father would write a chapter at the dining room table and ask “what do you think?” We would then pass it around. So, I’ve always thought of writing as a primary form of expression, and I’ve always enjoyed working with writers, to help them nd their voices. I think I accepted myself as a writer when I pursued a Master of Fine Arts in Writing. I was working as a journalist, an art critic and studying at the Master’s level, which helped me realize my book-length ambitions. My book, “Yankee Come Home,” grew out of a family fascination with the Spanish-American War, and my great grandfather’s mysterious role in it, as well as frustration with the aggressive imperialism of the global war on terror. In my love and fascination for Cuba, I saw the opportunity to talk about America’s infatuation with imperialism — past and present — and the prices we’re all paying for it.

Why did you decide to start teaching, and how did that bring you to Dartmouth?
WC: Working with writers is always teaching. I am extremely fortunate to have writers in my life who look at my work, critique and guide me, who are all always teaching each other, so I think that’s always been a part of my life, and I started teaching writing classes many years ago. I’m very glad to be here at Dartmouth in these last few years. Just before coming here, I was a professor in the community college system in New Hampshire, which has a very different mission with a very different demographic. People ask me if I’m startled by the differences. I’m really much more startled by the similarities. The biggest difference between community college students and students here that I see is learning opportunities and access to resources.

What do you hope that students take away from your writing classes?

WC: Not everyone has to be a writer, but I believe everyone can write, and I think we can all find ways to say what we most need to say to ourselves and others in prose. I often think of writing as an act of citizenship. When we’re honest about ourselves and then honest about the world around us, I think we’re making the world a better place.

Are you working on any projects currently?
WC: I’m working on a memoir of my crazy, lovely, doomed family of writers, as well as another book about imperialism. This one is set in the American Southwest, along the illusory border between the United States and Mexico.

What do you think are the biggest struggles that young writers are facing?
WC: I think the biggest struggle that any writer faces, at any age, is to believe in herself or himself. The circumstances are always changing. People can say that this decade or that decade was an easier or a harder time to make a living as a writer. That may be true, it may not. I think the opportunities and markets are always changing, but there’s always an opportunity and always a market. You can not take advantage of those opportunities if you do not believe that you should, and that people want to hear what you have to say.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity and length.