Nan Cuba, MFA
Office: Main 227
Phone: 210-434-6711, ext. 2269
MFA in Fiction from the Warren Wilson Program for Writers
Currently, she is Assistant Professor of English at Our Lady of the Lake University.
Nan Cuba began her writing career as an investigative journalist, publishing nineteen feature articles in such places as LIFE and D Magazine. Her three years of reporting culminated with a series that explained experts’ theories regarding the causes of extraordinary violence. Once she received her MFA in Fiction from the Warren Wilson Program for Writers, she started publishing poetry, reviews, essays, and fiction. Fifteen of her poems have appeared in three anthologies, including Inheritance of Light (Ed: Ray Gonzalez, University of North Texas Press), and in four literary journals, such as the Bloomsbury Review and Descant. Cuba’s stories and novel excerpts have appeared in three anthologies, including New Growth 2 (Ed. Mark Busby, Corona Publishing) and in such journals as Quarterly West and Columbia: A Magazine of Poetry & Prose. One of her essays appeared in the anthology, Risk, Courage, and Women (Ed. Karen Waldron, University of North Texas Press). Her reviews of books by such authors as Pulitzer Prize winners Carol Shields and Richard Russo have been published in the Harvard Review, Texas Books in Review, and the San Antonio Express-News. She was the assistant editor of the Palo Alto Review; she co-edited the anthology, Writers at the Lake: an anniversary anthology (Our Lady of the Lake University Press); and her second anthology, Art at our Doorstep: San Antonio Writers and Artists, was published in spring 2008, by Trinity University Press. An agent is submitting her novel, Body and Bread, for publication while she works on her second, He Didn’t Kill Nobody but Mom. She has twice been a runner-up for the Dobie Paisano Fellowship, and the San Antonio Chapter of Women in Communications gave her two awards: the Headliner in Education Award and the Award of Excellence for the Investigative Article. She received the Imagineer Award from the Mind Science Foundation.
Cuba adheres to two standards for her work: artistic excellence and humanitarian ideals. She believes that language sets humans apart from other primates, and, therefore, writers are obligated to use it expansively, yet with precision. Vocabulary and syntax matter, as do craft elements ranging from plot structure to defamiliarization. Equally important are the core concepts evoked through the writing, ideas such as the ambiguity of truth or the equivocal nature of justice. As Chekhov recommended, she doesn’t strive for answers, only the questions that should be asked. Cuba has taught in a state-funded writer-in-the-schools program, as an adjunct instructor at several universities, and as a visiting professor in the graduate departments at two universities. For four years, she hosted a cable television interview program about the craft of writing. She spent eleven years as the founder and executive director of Gemini Ink, a national nonprofit literary center.
Like Franz Kafka, I believe that literary stories, poems, and essays help us understand experiences outside our own. Literary readers gain the ability to empathize because, as Kafka said, a book is “an ax that breaks the frozen sea inside us.” In a world where people interact more frequently yet seem to understand each other less, literary reading becomes even more important. A culture’s poems and stories ultimately serve to define it. In other words, literature not only chronicles a generation’s history; it records that group’s values, ways of life, and modes of expression. Literature, then, gives us our identity. It tells us who we are. For those reasons, I am particularly excited about OLLU’s new creative writing track in our graduate English program.