Western Kentucky University

Creative Writing Graduate Profiles

PROFILES in CAREER-age: WKU Creative Writing Alumni

 An Introduction by Dr. Dale Rigby

Anybody ever chuckled while listening to Garrison Keillor's paeans to the career prospects of the proverbial English major? In one memorable bit real-life English major Keillor plays a punctilious graduate compelled to correct his customers' misuses of "who" or "whom" while toiling in the counter culture (of fast food!). The CD is called You Want Fries With That? You might say our hapless English major has gone into "plastics", albeit in a decidedly entry level fashion.

For who can forget the cocktail party scene from The Graduate (1967), where a liminal Benjamin (Dustin Hoffman) receives some mock-memorable career advice:

Mr. McGuire: I want to say one word to you. Just one word.
Benjamin: Yes, sir.
Mr. McGuire: Are you listening?
Benjamin: Yes, I am.
Mr. McGuire: Plastics.
Benjamin: Just how do you mean that, sir?

While The Graduate never names Benjamin's undergraduate degree, need we doubt he majored in English? Attuned to the lagniappe of language, Benjamin honors the figurative over the literal. He thinks in metaphor; he listens with the respect of a critical mind.

Oh my, how reFINEd, how jim-dandy whispers conventional wisdom. What if WKU English majors spring from less privileged backgrounds than young Messer Braddock (as most do)? How will delight at the "lagniappe of language" pay off their student loans, keep them from being the stock(ing) character in a Garrison Keillor send-up? More bluntly: how are your creative writing students gonna pursue the benjamins after graduation?

Just how do you mean that, sir?

For that question is the answer.

The WKU creative writing alumni profiled in these pages have discovered, each for themselves, a way to redeFINE what it means to pursue the benjamins. That their journeys would leave Mr. McGuire roiling his head to the rhythm of the rocks in his scotch is but a bonus.

You will read about MFA graduates, an advertising career, writing teachers, award-winning novelists, an MIT pro wrestling maven, a Shakespearean scholar, an ethnographer of farmer's markets, filmmakers, doctoral students, and poets in the schools. Better yet, you will read about these myriad alumni in a myriad of found forms transcending the traditional "profile".

As such, I welcome you to our inaugural batch of profilers and profiles. This will be an ongoing project: each year, the writers in English 406, our capstone course, will compose new profiles in novel forms. I trust you'll agree that these profilers show genuine moxie and talent; sooner than later, they will be the profiled. Keep coming back to witness how they, our best and brightest, pursue the benjamins...


 Last Modified 7/22/13