Alumni Spotlight: Adam Sexton '93

September 09, 2014

The Alumni Spotlight is a place to hear from the School of the Arts alumni community about their journeys as artists and creators.

Adam Reid Sexton '93's features, reviews, essays, and fiction have been published in the New York Times, the Village Voice, the Boston Phoenix, the Bellevue Literary ReviewPost Road, and other publications. He is the author, editor, or adapter of more than ten published books, including Master Class in Fiction Writing: Techniques from Austen, Hemingway, and Other Greats.  With a team of visual artists he adapted four of Shakespeare’s tragedies as manga (Japanese-style graphic novels), and his anthology Rap on Rap was acquired by Harvard's W.E.B. DuBois Institute for African and African American Research.  He teaches creative writing to undergraduates at Yale and in the summer program at Columbia.

Was there a specific faculty member or peer that especially inspired you while at the School of the Arts? If so, who and how?

Of all the faculty members with whom I studied while at the School of the Arts, Richard Locke inspired me most. In his two, inevitably sold-out, courses (a seminar on Modernism and one on Postmodernism), Professor Locke taught my fellow students and me how to read like writers.

Most of us had developed the habit as undergrads of reading as scholars and critics do. We viewed works of literature as objects of interpretation primarily, containers of meaning that it was our job as readers to “unpack.” This is a valid activity, but one of little practical use to potential creative writers. Professor Locke trained us to view each story and novel we read as the final product of multiple choices made by its creators—an awareness of which process might inform the choices we would make in our own writing. Why might Henry James have chosen a particular perspective from which to tell “Daisy Miller”? What were the advantages and disadvantages of opening Lolita the way Nabokov did?

For me, the experience proved transformative. It affected my creative writing, certainly. I also adapted Professor Locke’s method to classes on reading for writers taught at NYU, Yale, and Columbia. Eventually I wrote a book (in the acknowledgments of which Professor Locke prominently appears) that instructs readers on how to approach literature from a writer’s perspective. I teach traditional writing workshops, as well. But it is the approach to the teaching and learning of writing I encountered in Richard Locke’s Dodge Hall classroom that I believe improves students’ writing most.

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