Becoming a successful writer is more about perseverance than talent, so believes Chandler Gilman. This is what he teaches his students—whether they’re first-semester freshmen unsure of what they want to study, or English majors longing for their first Pulitzer.
“Writing is a tough livelihood,” he says. “To make it, to really make it, students have to have a consuming passion. They write because they must.”
He should know. A writer himself, he has a collection of short stories and a book of poetry in the works. But he also understands the value of being able to teach students the craft of the written language. “I can’t teach someone how to be an artist or even how to be creative, but I can teach technique. And if a student masters that technique and keeps at it, the inspiration and the ability to turn a phrase will come.”
What Professor Gilman teaches—and what he looks for from his classes—is surprise. Students have expectations, they tend to look for answers, he explains. But, in writing, there are no answers, no right or wrong way. “I look for a way of thinking, a way of bringing a page alive. If they can surprise me, that’s what I’m looking for.”