From Teaching to Writing
TeachingBooks asks each author or illustrator to reflect on their journey from teaching to writing. Enjoy the following from Sarah Raughley.
On Teaching and Writing
by Sarah Raughley
It’s so weird how my teaching career ended up perfectly intersecting with my writing career.
So a little information on me. I actually grew up thinking I was going to be—or rather, had to be—a medical doctor. And I gave it the old college try, boy did I. I got my Biology degree, did the MCAT, and went to an interview or two. Wanna know how many medical schools I was accepted into? None! Goose eggs.
Then I got my English degree, went to graduate school, got my doctorate, and became an English professor who teaches creative writing at a Canadian university with several published books under my belt. The end.
Okay, wait, let’s back it up a second.
So, you know how I mentioned that I got my Biology degree? I did. But that was out of duty, and, maybe, fear. Truth is, I’ve always loved storytelling. I’ve been doing that since I was three. My brothers were geeks and drew comics. When I realized that I couldn’t draw, I took the geeky energy I learned from them and channeled it into writing.
And I continued to write throughout undergrad. It was while I was an undergraduate and taking English literature elective courses that I started to make some connections between what I was writing and what I was reading. You know a lot of folks have written books that have painted Black people in a really messed up light, to put it politely. And I started thinking to myself, “wait a second— I’m Black and I love to write—what if I write stuff that challenges the kind of books I’ve had to read and study my whole life?”
I did this with The Effigies series, written while I was in school, which I like to pitch as Sailor Moon meets Pacific Rim. The trilogy forces us to reconsider ‘power’ and the kind of violence we enact upon young girls who have it. I did it again with The Bones of Ruin, my new trilogy that looks at the Victorian Era, not with the usual rosy lens, but with a finger pointed at the racism and colonialism of the time.
Hey, art isn’t neutral. Words pack a punch—sometimes a brutal one. Once you’ve studied enough literature you start to realize that authors can use stories to excavate histories and challenge societal norms just as much as they can use words to hurt people. I choose the former, not only as an author but as a teacher who teaches creative writing.
I love the diversity in my classrooms. I love that students are so eager to tell stories that reflect their experiences and their realities. I love seeing budding writers challenging the norms and speaking truth to power and I encourage this in my classrooms. People talk a lot of crap about Gen Z but they are far more open-minded than one would think. And that open-mindedness, that readiness to learn is what I see every day when I teach. It’s inspired me to keep pushing the boundaries in my academic and creative work.
And hey, I kind of hope I’ve managed to inspire others too.
Books and Resources
TeachingBooks personalizes connections to books and authors. Enjoy the following on Sarah Raughley and the books she’s created.
Listen to Sarah Raughley talking with TeachingBooks about the backstory for writing The Song of Wrath. You can click the player below or experience the recording on TeachingBooks, where you can read along as you listen, and also translate the text to another language.
- Hear Sarah Raughley talk about how to say her name
- Meet the world of The Song of Wrath with this trailer for The Bones of Ruin
- Discover Sarah Raughley’s page and books on TeachingBooks
- Visit Sarah Raughley on her website, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, GoodReads, and TikTok.
Special thanks to Sarah Raughley and Simon & Schuster for their support of this post. All text and images are courtesy of Sarah Raughley and Simon & Schuster, and may not be used without expressed written consent.