Writer, Guggenheim fellow and MFA in Creative Writing faculty mentor David Lazar

As an accomplished author (creative nonfiction), editor, essayist and prose poet, David Lazar brings a wealth of passion and experience to the classroom. He recently accepted a new role: mentoring students in Regis University’s MFA in Creative Writing program.

Lazar’s long list of accolades include creating undergraduate and Ph.D. programs in nonfiction writing at Ohio University and directing the creation of undergraduate and MFA programs in nonfiction writing at Columbia College Chicago, where he is a professor of creative writing. He also was recently awarded a coveted Guggenheim Fellowship, which recognizes exceptional capacity for scholarship or ability in the arts, for his work in nonfiction.

Regis.edu spoke with him about what drives his work, his new role and his plans for the future.

What drives your passion for writing?

My motives for writing are not always the same. Sometimes I’m trying to understand something. Sometimes I’m trying to express something that exists for me, as an image or series of images, or a fragment of a line I want to make sense of. Sometimes, as John Lennon said, I’m trying to fix a hole where the rain comes in.

Why creative nonfiction?

I prefer nonfiction, which is just an umbrella for a sea of other genres. I’m an essayist and prose poet who wandered over from poetry after taking an essay workshop 30 years ago. The communion of how I think with my style of writing is very pleasing to me.

How did you come to teach on the MFA in Creative Writing here at Regis?

Program founder Martin McGovern first broached the idea with me. Then he introduced me to the delightful David Hicks. I’m just so impressed with the care these two have shown in putting the program together.

What is one piece of advice for students wanting to become writers?

Read unfashionably. Read strangely. Never bother reading second-rate work. I find my students these days are stuck too much in contemporary literature. I think that’s a mistake.

Congratulations on your John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship. Tell us about the project that won you the award.

My proposal was for a book of essays on character actors in film, with an introductory essay on the nature of the character actor, and subsequent chapters on individual actors. It’s amusing to me that I’m going to watch movies all year. I’m not sure if I’m committing to hard work or complete indolence.

What are you working on next?

I’m working on a film book, but I also have a couple of smaller projects: a short book on accidental photographs; another short book on pieces of text I’ve found in the street. Maybe I’ll combine them! And Patrick Madden and I are planning another anthology to follow “After Montaigne.”

See where your passion for writing can take you. Explore our MFA in Creative Writing program.