A life of writing

by Hunter Brooks
Mike Kemp photos

Stephanie Vanderslice is a jack-of-all-trades when it comes to writing. Whether is it publishing novels, teaching undergrads, directing a MFA program or writing her own column for the Huffington Post, Vanderslice makes sure her passion shows.

Raised in upstate New York, Vanderslice graduated from Connecticut College in 1989 before earning her master’s of fine arts degree in creative writing at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. She then earned her Ph.D. in English at the University of Louisiana-Lafayette.

At George Mason, Vanderslice met her husband, John, who is also a writing professor at UCA. The two have two children who attend Conway schools.

In 1997, Vanderslice accepted a job offer from UCA. Along with teaching creative writing to undergraduates, she is the current director of the Arkansas Writers MFA Workshop for UCA. The MFA program accepted its first class in 2012, the same year Vanderslice was named CASE U.S. Professor of the Year for the state of Arkansas.

“Teaching undergraduates and graduates is something I consider myself really fortunate to do,” she said. “I love talking about writing with younger people. I like to inspire people because it is a very hard field. I think giving them tips on how to start out and how to find time is key. Writing is something everyone should have access to and be able to do. I want to be the person to make it available. That’s really the inspiration for my blog.”

Vanderslice writes a monthly column for the Huffington Post. Titled “The Geek’s Guide to the Writing Life,” she gives advice to writers on various subjects, such as how to get started and how to get published.

“I really found my voice through the blog,” she said. “I love doing it. It’s very different from my fictional voice, but it’s a voice that I feel extremely confident in.”

Vanderslice is also working on a book based on her blog, titled The Geek’s Guide to the Writing Life: An Instructional Memoir For the Rest of Us.

She has multiple books published, another waiting to be selected by a publisher and a novel in development.

She published Rethinking Creative Writing in 2012. The book challenges myths surrounding creative writing and adds a twist to the writing model.

Her novel, “The Lost Son,” is currently waiting to be picked up. “I’ve been checking my email a lot waiting to hear from my agent because I’m really excited about this book,” she said. “It is loosely based on my step-great grandmother. After she had her second child, her husband took the baby and went back to their native Germany. I thought this story was fascinating. It’s something I could not stop thinking about, especially after I had my own children. How was she able to survive that? The book is my take on how you live after something like that happens. I really wanted to answer that question for myself.”

Vanderslice says she uses writing as an outlet for solving problems and expressing herself.

“I love answering questions with my own writing. I like using writing to come to an answer like I did in ‘The Lost Son.’ Also, I’m someone who is not fantastic with speech. Writing is my way of saying something exactly the way I want to say it. I think writing is a way you can explore your obsessions. I’m working on my next novel, which is historically based also.”

Vanderslice doesn’t consider herself a historical writer, but uses little-known events as inspiration for her work.

“In the one I’m writing now, one of the historical events was a massive fire on a ship, the SS General Slocum, in New York City harbor in 1904,” she said. “All 1,200 people that died were from German churches in the city, which captured my interest, being of German descent. No one knows about it now, but when it happened it was a huge deal and almost bigger than the Titanic. The next time something like that happened in New York was 9/11, so this new novel ties the two events together.”