Meet Tallahassee Community College Professor Meri Culp!

When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

 Since I was a little kid, I’ve always loved to read and was inspired by authors and language. I would read the dictionary, the old World Book Encyclopedias, soup labels, anything I could get my hands on. My mother was also a big reader and wrote poetry and essays, so in other words, I was around language a lot and developed a love for writing early on. 

What do you want visitors and locals to know about writing that they may not already know?

Before words are on the page, much of writing is in “the noticing” of everyday surroundings, the beauty in the small occurrences, the details that might be overlooked. As simple as it may sound, so much of writing is sensory, sharp, fresh images from what we see, hear, taste, touch, smell. As in life, it’s in the showing, not telling that creates dynamic expression.

How has your teaching and writing intertwined?

I learn from and listen to my students, get to know them, hear about their lives. Their stories, their lives inspire me in many ways beyond course curriculum. Because I teach such a diverse group of students at the community college, I am privileged to be exposed to many perspectives, interpretations, and experiences. Their stories and voices are important to me, and I am lucky to not only teach my love of language but also hear what they have to say, their struggles, hopes, inspirations. Every semester, I have 120 new faces in my classes, some ready,some not-so-ready, to work, talk, create. They bring creative energy to my life, make me always think about the next question, the next opening.

What influences your writing?

Of course, other writers inspire and motivate me–Tom Robbins, Toni Morrison, Virginia Woolf, Richard Wright, and so many more. My mother gave me an imaginative childhood; we were always creating things–whether it was autumn leaves pressed between waxed paper or homemade paper dolls–or talking about what we had observed in the park or the grocery store. The outside world, nature’s patterns, colors, and contrasts, inspire with metaphors, maybe a poem.

What’s next for you?

I have four more years of full-time teaching: then I will write daily–as I do in the summer now–and visit my grown sons more regularly in California. I will probably keep teaching a class or two. 

Describe writing in 5 words or less

 Movement, freshness, color, surprise, rhythm

What social media do you use?


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