Stonecoast MFA in Creative Writing

Cait Johnson

Cait JohnsonCait Johnson is the author of six books of popular non-fiction, including Earth, Water, Fire, and Air: Essential Ways of Connecting to SpiritCelebrating the Great Mother: A Handbook of Earth-Honoring Activities for Parents and ChildrenWitch in the Kitchen: Magical Cooking for All Seasons, chosen as a OneSpirit book club selection; and Tarot Games. Her books have been reprinted in Spain, South America, and India.  A performer, ghost-writer, freelance editor, and developmental editor as well as a writer, she is formerly the Managing Editor of six online Healthy Living newsletters through Care2.com, an environmental supersite with over 12 million members. Cait has taught theatre, creative writing, dreamwork, nature-based spirituality, and creative expression at colleges, schools, and institutions including The Institute of Transpersonal Psychology, Ohio State University, the Discovery Center, Omega Institute, and many other venues. She is a Fellow of the Black Earth Institute, a progressive think-tank connecting earth, spirit, and society through the arts.


Selected Publications:

Celebrating the Great Mother: A Handbook of Eathc-Honoring Activities for partents and Children.

Earth, Water, Fire, and Air: Essential Ways of Connecting to Spirt

How I Teach:  

Helping writers to uncover their most authentic voice is one of my passions, and to find what Annie Dillard calls the “bearing walls”—the essential elements that hold up your work, and without which it would fall down. Whether your writing is meant to educate, to inspire, to amuse, or to exhort, to exorcize your demons or find your way through the labyrinth, my job is to make suggestions for practicing our craft with the greatest possible intelligence, energy, authenticity, and clarity. Writing is a grand adventure, and it can help to have someone cheering you on, while pointing out pitfalls and making thoughtful recommendations for a rich and fruitful trip. I want to know what lights you up, what pisses you off, what scares you, and what you want to say, not because you can, but because you must. I encourage students to be free-range, omnivorous readers and to cultivate an attitude of open attention, because I’ve learned that inspiration can come from the most unlikely places, a cereal box or an automotive brochure: the openness is all.

 My own writing goddesses and heroes range from Colette to Nabokov, Terry Tempest Williams to Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Michael Pollan to the mystic poets. I’m a bit of a mystic myself, at home in the landscape of myth and fairy tale, and deeply connected to the natural world. In fact, I encourage my students to live with more sensual delight, paying close attention to the seasons and to their own bodies: this gives strength for the muscular digging it can take to uncover the bones of our deepest truths. And I don’t care if those bones are pretty as long as they’re real.

Because some of my experience is in the realm of writing book proposals and presskits, I always have an eye toward publication. We never want to concentrate on that if it’s likely to cut off the tender shoots of a creative process, but knowing how to package your creation so that it receives the attention it deserves can be helpful.

I love communicating with students—face-to-face would be great, but if that’s not possible, email and the occasional phone call will do. I prefer hard-copy packets, and I try to respond within a week of receiving them. Here’s what you can expect back: a two-page or so typed email response, with big questions, broad-stroke comments, and ideas for the next packet. Whenever the mail gets to you from where I am, you’ll also get your hard copy back with notations made in whatever colored pencil takes my fancy—suggestions, nuts-and-bolts edits, tweaks, more questions. I want all my students to feel heard, supported, respected, and encouraged. All of you are writers already—and you must be in love with words or you wouldn’t be here. I look forward to reading and being inspired by yours.