Scott Blackwood

Scott Blackwood

MFA Creative Writing in Fiction graduate — Scott Blackwood — has received widespread praise and recognition for his recently published novel, See How Small. The novel is a fictionalized account of the devastating rape and murder of four teenage girls working at a yogurt shop in Austin, Texas, in 1991. The point of view shifts from chapter to chapter as each character tries to cope with the loss, confusion, and fear that came as a result of such a traumatic event. A book review by NPR describes See How Small as, “brutal, necessary, and near perfect”; The New York Times listed it as an “Editors’ Choice”; and Peopleincluded the book in its top choices for 2015. “There’s just been an outpouring of support for it,” Blackwood said. “They’ve singled it out and… that’s really rewarding.”

Blackwood graduated from the MFA Fiction program in 1997. “I started [the program] in 1992 [and] went a year while working fulltime and taking classes,” Blackwood explains. He left the program for about two years before going back. “[My return to the program] was largely due to Professor Debra Monroe,” Blackwood went on. “She’s incredibly positive and encouraging. She champions the people who do good work and also the ones that fall down a little —I was falling down quite a bit.” Blackwood was at the time a new father in the midst of a divorce and working as a fulltime high school teacher; while these factors weighed heavily on his ability to commit to the program, he was able to return and complete his degree with the encouragement and support of his peers and mentors. “There were people there and [Dr. Monroe] gathered them around and made them feel like they were a part of something bigger — you just have to find your people.”

Blackwood noted that his hardships as a student and as a writer have greatly impacted his abilities and his approach as a professor and as an author. “Hopefully I can give [students] some advice from having been a part of that community at Texas State; that was a life-changing thing for me,” Blackwood went on. Blackwood stressed that writing was not a “lone wolf experience.” He said that the “real experience” of writing requires some dependence on other writers and readers, and that this dependence “will go on forever.” In addition to finding that sense of community, Blackwood also believes such time in school is essential to an individual’s development as a writer. He explained that, for students, “[school] is your place to develop a vision for yourself as a writer. This is your time — that doesn’t come again. You’ve got to figure out how to make that [vision] before you leave that rarified world of academia.”

Blackwood currently teaches undergraduate and graduate courses on fiction at Southern Illinois University. He is in the early stages of developing and writing a book based on the war veteran’s character in See How Small. Blackwood said the book will be “more about mothers and sons… [and] war trauma — all of the mothers who have endured their kids leaving and coming back very changed — it’s an interesting and moving experience [and] I want to [explore] that.”

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