On January 9th, 2012, Hollins University appointed Carrie Brown as their distinguished visiting professor of creative writing. Brown, an associate professor of English and the Margaret Banister Writer-in-Residence at Sweet Briar College, has taught writing courses in fiction, poetry and creative nonfiction for the past 18 years.
Brown is the author of five novels, including Lamb in Love (Algonquin, 1999), Hatbox Baby (Algonquin, 2000), Confinement (Algonquin Books, 2004), and her latest novel The Rope Walk (Pantheon, 2007). She is also the author of a collection of short stories, The House on Belle Isle.
According to Brown, the transition to Hollins University was a logical one. “The position is a natural extension from the one I have at Sweet Briar, an undergraduate setting to a place with an MFA program is a desirable progression for me. I was honored by the offer. It is also a very distinguished position, which not many are available, especially so close to my home, it is a great opportunity for me,” said Brown.
Students and faculty reflected fondly on Brown’s tenure. Said senior Greer Gordon, “Knowing Carrie has been like having a mother on campus. I know that whatever troubles I am having, inside or outside of the classroom, she will lend an ear and provide invaluable advice.”
Senior Victoria Bergs agreed. “Carrie genuinely cares about each and every one of her students, and makes sure that we all know it,” said Bergs.
Brown stated that she would miss many aspects of Sweet Briar, but joked that it was probably wise to list her husband John Gregory Brown, director of the creative writing department and Sweet Briar’s Julia Jackson Nichols professor of English, towards the top of the list. Brown added, “I will miss my students a lot; they are around for four years and I know a lot of students. I will miss watching them become what they are going to become. I will also miss my friends, my colleagues and Sweet Briar itself.”
According to her colleagues, this feeling was mutual. Creative writing department director John Gregory Brown stated, “This opportunity is a wonderful one for Carrie, and it represents how very accomplished she has been both as a writer and as a teacher. Her contribution to the creative writing program has been immeasurable,” said Brown who added that her departure was “a real blow to the creative writing department.”
Assistant professor of English David Griffith concurred. “I know a lot of writers, and I can say without exaggeration that Carrie is the most generous and caring writer I know. The amount of time and attention she gives to her students, her colleagues, and this College is absolutely astonishing. I don’t know how she is able to be as productive and wonderful a writer as she is. It’s near magical.”
When asked how Brown’s departure would affect students at both institutions, senior Corinne Adams replied that “Sweet Briar will lose a professor who’s dedication to her students does not end with the creative process, but extends to the Sweet Briar community at large. I know students at Hollins will benefit greatly from her instruction-although they may not have the chance to attend dinner at the Brown’s house-an experience that I know so many SBC students have enjoyed over the years.”
Lydia Marsh, also a senior at Sweet Briar responded to the same question with a metaphor. “If you think of Hollins’ Creative Writing Department as a China cabinet, Carrie will be the center place tea pot; warm and rich, pouring herself into her teacup students as she has done for countless years at Sweet Briar. For all she is, and for all she has been to this campus and community, it is safe to say Sweet Briar will lose the best tea pot this college has ever placed in its cabinet.”
Brown will join the faculty at Hollins University starting in August of 2012.