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One of the first questions Lakeland College Assistant Professor of Writing Nate Lowe poses to his nonfiction writing course is, "Is this an art class?"
"The goal of nonfiction is to create art, not just re-tell a story," says Lowe. "You have to move from telling what happened to portraying something larger than the story that happened that day. Your writing has to affect someone who reads it and show them something new or different about the world."
In Lowe, the students have a nationally-recognized writer to help them learn the craft of storytelling. Lowe's essay "Edge of the Field" was recognized as one of the 100 most notable essays in "The Best American Essays 2007." It's a tremendous honor for a young writer, and his essay (a portion of which is printed in this issue) is a great example for his students.
Lowe grew up on a farm in tiny Osco, Ill., near the Quad Cities. He shares a lot of the same memories and experiences of many of his current students who grew up in rural Wisconsin. "That helps me understand where a lot of these students are coming from, what have they seen and experienced," Lowe said. "In a lot of ways, I was much like them when I went to college."
Lowe, a member of Lakeland's faculty since 2007, has a bachelor's degree in English from Iowa and a master of fine arts from the University of Idaho. He became attracted to writing as a career path while attending the University of Iowa. After initially thinking he wanted to be an athletic trainer, Lowe switched his major to English after taking an introduction to literature course. He started taking writing courses and followed faculty who inspired him. His teachers encouraged him to go to graduate school, and the notion of teaching creative writing on the college level took shape.
He teaches students to use their personal stories to learn the power of writing. "It can be fascinating, and there is a lot of discovery to be had," Lowe said. "It isn't just transcribing."
Lowe shares his writing with his students, especially some of the first drafts and the finished product so students can see how the work changes through the editing and revision process. He hopes they see and develop an appreciation for the power of words.
"I like writing because you learn to control your words," Lowe said. "I love words. As soon as you learn new words the world changes. You have to have a reason for every word you use. That's where it's fun and engaging, but also time consuming, hard and frustrating. In the end, I hope to create ideas that are new, fresh and different."