Meet Teaching Artist Chelsea B. DesAutels
Chelsea B. DesAutels is the author of A Dangerous Place (Sarabande Books 2021). Her work appears in Ploughshares, Missouri Review, Copper Nickel, Massachusetts Review, Adroit Journal, Pleiades, Ninth Letter, Willow Springs, and elsewhere. Chelsea received an MFA from the University of Houston, where she received the Inprint Verlaine Prize in Poetry and served as Poetry Editor of Gulf Coast. She lives with her family in Minneapolis. Chelsea also holds degrees from Wellesley College and the University of Minnesota Law School.
You can find Chelsea's current classes by visiting her artist bio page.
When did you start teaching? What path—career or otherwise—brought you here?
I started teaching beginning ballet as a teenager! But the first time I taught writing in earnest was in law school, when I served as a legal-writing instructor to first-year law students. During my MFA, I was lucky to teach creative writing to undergraduates at the University of Houston, as well as to youngsters through an excellent program called Writers in the Schools (WITS). When we moved back to Minneapolis, I knew I wanted to teach at The Loft. I’d taken workshops here myself and knew the importance of a creative home for writers in the Twin Cities.
How would you describe your teaching style?
I’d say my teaching style is supportive, curious, and organized.
When it comes to imagining and creating classes, where do your ideas come from? What in particular inspires you?
I’ll be totally honest—my ideas for my workshops come from whatever I’m thinking about or struggling with in my own work. Whatever is pushing me on the page—figuring out how to write about joy or the best way to land a punch at the end of a poem—I want to think and talk about it with other writers. Teaching a course gives me the opportunity to go deeper into the subject matter. I get to ask questions and learn alongside the class.
What's the ideal environment for your classroom? What atmosphere are you hoping to establish?
My ideal environment is relaxed, intimate, and kind. Writing is an act of vulnerability. I want writers to feel safe taking risks and growing in their work. I want us to encourage one another to keep going.
Regardless of what your class is specifically focusing on, what's the main goal you have for your students?
My goal for my students is that they leave our workshop with tools to keep going. For some students, that might mean community. For others, it may be a deeper understanding of syntax and the line or a broader reading list. For others still, it may be a clear path for revision, so they can polish up and send their work off for publication.
What are goals you have for yourself? These could be teaching goals, writing goals, career goals, community goals, etc.
What a good question! In terms of my own writing, I hope to continue work on my current poetry manuscript and dig further into personal essays. Beyond that, I’m always looking to grow my literary community and find new ways to be a good literary citizen.
What have been some of your own favorite educational experiences?
One of the best educational experiences I’ve had was a week-long workshop at Community of Writers. The schedule is that every writer submits a poem written in the last 24 hours for workshop each day. It’s like a trust fall for writers. You have to get pretty vulnerable pretty fast. Luckily, you’re all in the same boat. For me, and I think a lot of other writers, the demand of that schedule means you end up taking risks and pushing yourself to write poems you might not have otherwise. I often encourage my students to try something similar, whether in a class like Sunrise Poetry, or outside class with writer friends.
To you personally, what is the most important part of the literary arts?
Reading! The cliché is true—a good writer is a good reader. But it goes beyond that, too. Reading is also part of being in the literary community, of supporting the community.