Rachel Toor is the author of three books of creative nonfiction: Admissions Confidential (St. Martin's), The Pig and I (Penguin; Nebraska) and Personal Record (Nebraska). She writes a monthly column on issues in writing and publishing for The Chronicle of Higher Education and a bi-monthly column for Running Times. Her work has appeared in Ploughshares, Glamour, Reader's Digest, The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), The LA Times, and other various and diverse publications. After graduating from Yale, she spent a dozen years as an acquisitions editor at Oxford and Duke University Presses. She has an MFA from the University of Montana.
Visit Rachel's website at racheltoor.com.
After a dozen years in scholarly publishing, I came to see my role in terms of what an ex-President called “The Vision Thing.” As an acquisitions editor, I had to suss out which manuscripts could be turned into books that would make important contributions to their fields; once I signed them up, I had to help the authors get to where they wanted to go. The process was about seeing something not only for what it was, but for what it could be—an act of creative insight. It required suppression of the ego and an outward focus. Teaching has been similar for me: finding what is possible lurking within each student and working to bring that to the fore. The most important thing for me, and it's obvious, is to establish with my students bonds of trust and respect. I do not worry about maintaining authority in the classroom; instead I think about how to open myself up to students in a way that invites them to share their ideas and experiences, to take intellectual risks, and to be unafraid to claim their own ignorance.
I figured out that if you keep a big bowl of candy (with lots of chocolate) in your office, people will drop by with delightful frequency. The faculty and students in this program are a remarkable and eclectic group—people you want to work with, people you want to visit with. Having arrived in Spokane only recently, I am, like the first-year graduate students, still getting my bearings, but the thing I've most enjoyed is getting to know the folks who make this a lively and vibrant community.