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Hollander happy at UNK

Jessica Hollander, assistant professor of English, wants students to be aware of the new minor in creative writing. The minor allows students to be creative, find their voices and tell their stories.

Assistant professor sees herself in Kearney forever
By Shelby Larsen

As a teenager from Ann Arbor, Michigan, assistant professor Jessica Hollander didn’t think she would ever have such an amazing job.

Hollander pursued her undergraduate degree in English at the University of Michigan, and it wasn’t until her senior year of college that she took a creative writing class. After earning her degree, she took a few years off to write, attend conferences and join community workshop groups. When she was ready, she applied to Master of Fine Arts programs.

While working towards her MFA in fiction writing at the University of Alabama, Hollander discovered her desire to teach.

“I taught as part of my MFA program, and I really like engaging with students and helping them think about their writing.”

Now, Hollander works with young students, extolling the creative energy that they can generate. “I love having conversations about writing and seeing students get excited about re-entering a project.”

Hollander and her husband came to Kearney after living in Alabama, when they were both offered jobs at UNK. “We stay because we love the size and feel of the university and the community.”

Here, Hollander teaches Introduction to Creative Writing and Fiction Writing at the beginning, advanced and graduate levels. She also teaches American Literature Survey classes and both composition classes.

Hollander’s favorite class to teach is Beginning Fiction. “The class focuses on exploring a lot of new techniques and styles. Students haven’t firmly decided what kind of writer they are yet, and I love that period of exploration and experimentation, just showing a range of different kinds of writing that people are doing and encouraging them to try it out.”

If she could teach another class, Hollander would like to work with students on short forms like flash fiction, prose poems and other miniatures. “I love how much range I can showcase with the short form because it’s easy to read a dozen a week. I also think it’s a great form for writers to learn from because you have to zoom in so close to one particular moment and open it up thematically.”

Hollander has many goals for her students. She wants them to able to be excited about creative writing and to have them be pushed out of their comfort zone sometimes.

“I like to see them work toward utilizing all the literary strategies and fiction techniques available to them, as opposed to only writing with an interest in plot and character.”

She hopes to see students make conscious decisions while writing and to encourage them to take risks, trying new things with their work.

Hollander’s least favorite part of teaching is grading. “There isn’t really any productive interaction with students when I’m assigning grades.”

“A Visit from the Goon Squad” by Jennifer Egan, one of Hollander’s favorite books, is one she teaches to both writing and literature students. “I think it’s such a perfect example of postmodernism, with all its playing around in the chaos and glorifying the messiness of people and contemporary life while also offering up real critiques of our society.”

While Hollander admires Egan for her ability to write with an experimental style and in a traditional realist mode, Hollander also likes George Saunders, a comic surrealist postmodern author, and Lorrie Moore, an author with a playful, cynical voice that makes great use of dark humor.

In her free time, Hollander enjoys running, reading, theater and art. She loves spending time with her kids as well and says that having them has been her most rewarding experience. “They are hard but always interesting. You’d think I would know them inside and out, but they surprise me all the time.”

As her children get older and as opportunities arise, Hollander’s future goals include being able to write more. “Right now, I do a lot of my writing over the summer, and I can’t wait for summer to get here and dig in again.”

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