• jessrinker

A New Year of Creative emPowerment

lake tahoe
Lake Tahoe from the sky

Jess and I just returned from gorgeous Lake Tahoe, where we teach at Sierra Nevada University’s (SNU) low-residency MFA program. The campus is stunning, the faculty amazing (you can study fiction with Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award finalist Rebecca Makkai as one example!), and the talent and creativity of the students is a well-spring of inspiration and promise. It is a close-knit community where poets, fiction writers, creative non-fiction writers, and writers for children and young adults (WCYA) all come together to learn both in their respective tracks, but also from one another. After all, at the end of the day, we’re all writers, using the same tools – just in different ways, and for different audiences.

Sierra Nevada University

We were attending a reading one night and program director, Brian Turner (poet, essayist, and one of the most caring and compassionate souls I have ever met), called Jess and I “the power couple.” I had to think about that – I loved to hear it, of course, to be considered that, but we’re not big award winners in the industry or mega influencers or anything. Sure, we steadily publish, and we teach and we privately mentor select writers, but power couple? But then I thought about the roles we played during residency and the reactions and influences with the students. Jess and I represented the two on-the-ground faculty for kidlit writers in a hybrid residency that was half physical attendees and half virtual attendees (Covid, of course). Jess led the WCYA workshop sessions and I led an elective on writing scenes that was open to all tracks. We read from forthcoming books during the faculty sampler one night. We chatted by the fire with students, answering questions and offering advice. We ate meals with the students and faculty and laughed, listened, and added to this camaraderie of artists. And as the very name of this blog and website suggests, we did so, do so, in different ways; each offering our own unique personality, dynamic, input, and insight. But together … together it creates a power package.

Visiting the lake, beginning of residency

And therein, I think, lies the reality of Brian’s statement: “Power Couple”. True power takes two parts (think of a battery – positive and negative poles acting together) or two prongs of a plug. It takes both to fully charge or power what it comes into contact with. So maybe that is what we do for our students: we come to the conversation, or class, or mentorship with that unique dynamic. We are able to present a whole that is the sum of two integrated parts. We read different things, write different things, approach story in different ways, and have our own strengths, but together it blends to produce this wonderful Yin and Yang where that middle, sinuous line is forged in harmony. Power Couple. But there are lots of power couples, not just us. This entire blog series is dedicated to sharing and celebrating Power Couples with you.

And maybe it’s not just what these couples, what Jess and I, do, but how we grow from doing these things together: that we emPower each other. I am so grateful that Jess and I have these opportunities to work and create together. We teach at SNU together. We both teach at our local college. We mentor students together. We do events together. All of these things emPower me and I believe it does the same for Jess. This is one of the beautiful things about being with a partner who shares this same world and so, here in 2022, I’d like to raise a glass to those Power Couples we’ve already interviewed, to those we’ll be sharing this year, and to those we’ve yet to meet. If you’re a Power Couple who would like to share your story, please let us know (and/or if you know of a Power Couple, please pass this along to them).

Gotta embrace the tired faces after a long, but rewarding residency

So here’s to you – the Power Couples, making a difference for one another and for those you share your energy with!

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