--2 A Class of Their Own
Sept. 24, 2017

A Class of Their Own

The Santa Fe Writers Workshops revisit what was great about College of Santa Fe.

July 7, 2010, 12:00 am
By Ramon Lovato

Various times
Thursday-Sunday, July 8-11


College of Santa Fe
1600 St. Michael's Drive

Strange and occasionally wonderful things are afoot at the College of Santa Fe these days. Going bankrupt and almost closing can have that effect on an institution. Now, the word in the community is my old alma mater’s name is changing to the Santa Fe University of Art and Design [Zane’s World, July 7: “Name Game”] because, you know, the word “college” just sends the wrong message to all the prospies. This week, CSF hosts its Santa Fe Writers Workshops, a long weekend of readings and writing intensives with nationally-renowned faculty from the English world.
I'd like to share a story.

In my final semester of college, after returning from Chicago, I took a manuscript-preparation class with Mark Behr, now a former College of Santa Fe associate professor of English and creative writing. Behr, a fit, bright-eyed man with a heavy South African accent, had a reputation on-campus for beingwell, a bit odd.

“You’ve all heard horror stories about me,” Behr told us the first day of class. “They don’t have to be true.”

As it turned out, this was one of the best classes I ever took. Professor Behr would saunter into class, wearing a black turtleneck and skullcap, and proceed to lend a sense of the quirky and insightful into a familiar and hackneyed workshop experience. One day, he deposited his books on the table and began lecturing about queer theory. Another, he sang a Bantu happy birthday to one of the students.

Under the hood, the writing program at CSF is actually quite robust, and has been for many years. As a high school graduate some years ago, I, like most of Santa Fe, thought CSF was little more than a film school. The Santa Fe Art Institute was housed there, to be sure, but did I stop to give the writing program a second thought? Not until much later.

On the last day of the semester, before Professor Behr left to visit Cape Town University, where he will be teaching this fall, we had a small party and discussed our plans going forward. A fellow student and recovering drug addict was talking about graduate school applications, and told us that she struggled with talking about her less-than-pristine history in her applications.

"You're making a mistake," Behr told her. "To struggle with drugs, to lose oneself in drugs, what a normal thing that is. What makes you unique," he said, "is how you write about that experience."

Behr, the author of three novels, The Smell of Apples, Embrace and Kings of the Water, is one of the faculty of the Workshops. Other events with the multiple-award-winning participants include Shaping Event into Story with Pam Houston of University of California, Davis; a Q&A session with Graywolf Press Senior Editor Jeff Shots: Writing Riveting Crime Fiction with Michael McGarrity; and poetry writing with Malena Mrling and former CSF Associate Professor of English and Creative Writing Greg Glazner. Hopefully, this event and more like it remind us why the College of Santa Fe was worth saving. For a full schedule of events, visit csf.edu/summer_workshops/writers.


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