Charlotte resident Maureen Ryan Griffin, 55, is a creative writing teacher, poet and author. She has taught for more than 15 years at Queens University of Charlotte, Central Piedmont Community College and the John C. Campbell Folk School. An award-winning poetry and nonfiction writer, she is the author of “Spinning Words into Gold, a Hands-On Guide to the Craft of Writing,” a grief workbook titled “I Will Never Forget You” and two collections of poetry.
Q. When did poetry first enter into your life?
I distinctly remember when I was 7 years old my mother read poetry to me from Mary O’Neill’s “Hailstones and Halibut Bones.” It was filled with metaphoric descriptions of colors and done in such beautiful rhyme. It captivated me. The notion that brown had a smell, or green could taste like something, was so delightful. I vividly recall thinking, “something just happened here.”
Q. What is your relationship with words?
Words are my best friends. We all start with the same 26 letters but what we do with them is truly fascinating. I love words; they are like toys for me. They comfort me, and I love to play with them.
Q. What has being a teacher taught you about writing?
Creative possibility and potential can spring from desire, willingness to work and curiosity. There is no substitution for innate talent, but I have come to see just how deeply people can grow and learn from really applying themselves.
Q. How has writing helped you work through grief ?
“I Will Never Forget You” is a workbook I developed using a series of writing exercises that allowed me to move through different stages of grief after I lost my mother – anger, regret, sadness, forgiveness. It allowed me to finally focus on what I treasured from the relationship.
Q. What is your favorite writing exercise for students?
The sprint. I ask my students to go to Garrison Keillor’s The Writer’s Almanac online and either listen to or read the featured daily poem, take a prompt or home phrase such as “I remember,” and write continuously with the pen never leaving the page for three minutes to start and eventually 10 minutes. This develops the writing muscle and taps into the primitive brain and body where emotions and experiences are shared. It is a great tool to get things flowing.