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Andromeda Romano-Lax

Fiction

Telephone: 907.786.4394
E-mail: lax@alaska.net

 

Biography

Born in Chicago, Andromeda Romano-Lax worked as a freelance journalist and travel writer before turning to fiction. Her first novel, The Spanish Bow, was translated into eleven languages and was chosen as a New York Times Editors’ Choice, BookSense pick, and one of Library Journal’s Best Books of the Year. It was also a semi-finalist for the 2008 VCU Cabell First Novelist Award. Her second novel, The Detour, was published in 2012; set in 1938 Munich and Italy, it explores the intersection of classical art, body image, and Third Reich politics, and was praised by Booklist as a “gently haunting work of subtle and surprising wisdom." Among her nonfiction works are a dozen travel and natural history guidebooks to the public lands of Alaska, from Denali National Park to the Tongass National Forest, as well as a travel narrative, Searching for Steinbeck’s Sea of Cortez: A Makeshift Expedition Along Baja’s Desert Coast, which was an Audubon Editor’s Choice.  As a freelance writer, she has been published in a wide range of magazines and newspapers, from Seventeen to Steinbeck Studies. She is co-editor of an anthology, Travelers’ Tales Alaska, and her own work has appeared in the travel anthologies Drive and Steady As She Goes. She is a recipient of awards and fellowships from the Alaska Council on the Arts, the Marine Biological Laboratory, the National Association for Interpretation, the Alaska Press Club, and the Rasmuson Foundation, which named her an Artist Fellow in 2009. Andromeda also co-founded a collaborative blog, 49 Writers, and a nonprofit organization, the 49 Alaska Writing Center. She lives with her husband and children in Anchorage, Alaska.

 Teaching Statement

Seven percent of Americans report doing some creative writing on a weekly basis according to a 2008 NEA study, and two million Americans publish their personal creative writing. Even beyond the swelling ranks of MFA programs, our culture is one that encourages expression— while also creating enough noise and distraction that artful, informed expression remains a challenge.

I started writing as soon as I could hold a pencil, and my only reason for not studying literature or creative writing in college was because I took reading and writing as a given. I was more concerned with studying other fields (for me, political science, marine science and the liberal arts in general), and living and traveling, so that I would have more things to write about. One problem with that theory however: writing creatively requires mastery of many craft elements over the course of a surprisingly long and unforgiving apprenticeship. Undeniably, it is possible to become a novelist or narrative nonfiction writer without any formal training—I published my first novel with no academic preparation, having worked previously as a self-taught freelance journalist—but one faces this long and lonely road ill-equipped for the many challenges along the way.

"Can writing be taught?" runs the common question aimed at writing teachers. More essential to me are the questions: "How can we best teach apprentice and mid-career writers to better teach themselves, more efficiently and with greater satisfaction? And how we can be prepare them for a lifetime of learning dedicated to writing, critical reading, and artistic participation in society?"

At its best, an MFA can speed the process toward tackling craft issues more purposefully and resourcefully, encourage students to think more critically, expose a student to a broader range of influences and ideas, and help a student situate himself or herself within an artistic tradition and a historical context. The low-residency MFA, in particular, does this in pragmatic fashion, attracting people who—like myself—wear many hats and need to juggle reading and writing with raising families, paying bills, or attending to other real-world challenges.

As a teacher, my goal is to help students explore issues of craft, subject, theory, and literary history, and to develop the language and perspective necessary to better articulate their own aesthetics and artistic goals. We need not share tastes. I am more interesting in helping other writers identify and explore—as well as possibly broaden—their own tastes, as well as better understand their own dominant learning styles. I do believe that teachers have authority, but I also believe that it is a student's task to develop his or her own sense of literary authority, whether in alignment with or in resistance to other teachers, critics, writers, and readers.

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