Shira Dentz, a new creative writing lecturer in the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences, is building a community of writers and readers in her creative writing and rhetoric courses.

An experienced writing instructor and the author of two books, black seeds on a white dish (a book of poems) and door of thin skins (a collection that is a hybrid of prose, poetry, and visual elements), Dentz structures her courses around workshops for students to share their writing with peers and critique each other’s work. At the end of each semester, students showcase their writing at two public readings.

“In a workshop environment, there has to be a sense of camaraderie and commitment to share what you’ve done and get constructive criticism,” she said. “It is a model that builds trust and self-confidence among the students.”

Shira Dentz

Shira Dentz; photo by Cris Baczek

Dentz received a master of fine arts degree from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop at the University of Iowa and a doctoral degree in creative writing and literature from the University of Utah. Her work has been published in numerous journals and recognized with awards including an Academy of American Poets’ Prize, and the Poetry Society of America’s Lyric Poetry Award and Cecil Hemley Memorial Award.

Prior to joining Rensselaer, Dentz was an instructor at the University of Iowa and the University of Utah, and in the spring of 2012 and 2013 she was writer-in-residence at the New College of Florida.
“We are very fortunate to have a writer of Shira Dentz’s caliber join our community. Her appointment is testimony to the Institute’s commitment to inculcate the art of creative writing and rhetorical studies into the lives of our students,” said Mary Simoni, dean of the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences.

Dentz said she hopes Rensselaer students who take her courses will find writing and reading to be creative outlets throughout their lives. “When they finish the class, it doesn’t have to mean that they’re done writing,” she said. “Students here do have an appetite for creativity.”

Helping students get in touch with their creative selves will benefit them in their future work, regardless of their chosen field, Dentz said. “Inventive thinking, in general, comes from being in touch with creative thinking, one’s dream mind.”

“Much of the work that I do is trying to get students to be less controlled by their inner censors,” Dentz said.

The end-of-semester public readings are an important part of that process and serve as “kind of an identity shift for the students that they are now writers,” she said. “It gives them a sense of respecting themselves and taking what they’re doing seriously.”