Watterson: new outlook on writing

Rae Pollock, Staff writer

Mercyhurst’s newest assistant professor of English and Creative Writing, Jaclyn Watterson, Ph.D.,  has an open door and a passion for writing that she cannot wait to share with her students.

Originally from Connecticut, Watterson  got her Ph.D. from the University of Utah. She came to Mercyhurst, because of the strong connection she found between herself and the campus and she hopes to become a better writer by learning from the Mercyhurst community.

“I’m the new creative writing person, so I have all these opportunities to learn about the traditions and become a part of them, but also bring new energy here,” Watterson said.

Watterson looks at language differently than other writers. Instead of writing her pieces as a whole, she focuses on each sentence individually.

“It’s an obsession that I just want to get the sentence as close to the expression of what I’m trying to say as I can get it, and for me, that happens at the sentence level.”
The unique way Watterson views sentences is the essence of what she wants to teach her students. She is focused on giving students a modern look at writing and helping them be successful in today’s world.

“Every day I get to read and talk with students about reading and about these complicated ideas, and that just sort of feeds my writing. Then, I’m writing and I think, ‘Oh, I want to talk to my students about this that has come up with my writing.’ [Teaching] was just was a natural match for me,” Watterson said.

While she has many tips and advice to better students’ writing, Watterson says it her biggest tip is to accept the fact that writing is difficult.

“My main tip is that everyone struggles with writing, because writing is really, really hard work,” Watterson said.

“All good writing takes hours and hours. If you feel like it’s hard, then you’re doing it right because it is hard. It’s hard, but stick with it.”

As any English professor would, Watterson reminds students to keep reading, and says that there is no book that is wrong to read. Unlike other English professors, Watterson sees contemporary literature equally as important as classical pieces.

“One thing I think is helpful for students is to read a mix of the classics and also contemporary literature,” Watterson said.

“I think it’s important to try and have an understanding of ‘Ok, this is sort of the past we’re all building on, but what are writers now doing?’”
Watterson also pulls attention away from classic books and tries to get students to read the most current works found in literary magazines.

“If you want to read really fresh, really contemporary writing, then literary magazines are a great way to do that,” Watterson said.
As much as she loves teaching, the days when Watterson can find time to sit at her desk and write sentences with her cat, Woodsy, are the days she cherishes most.
“There’s a certain high that you get when you’re writing and you’re in that groove and you’re working with sentences and working with language that nothing else gives me,” Watterson said.

“One of the great things we can do as humans is think of complex ideas and then translate them into writing; it’s amazing and exciting.”