Sybil Baker teaches creative writing, including novel writing, fiction, and creative nonfiction. She is the author of Immigration Essays, which is UTC’s Read2Achieve selection for 2018-2019. She is also the author of four works of fiction: The Life Plan, Talismans, Into This World, and most recently While You Were Gone. She teaches for the Yale Writers' Workshop and in the Vermont College of Fine Art’s low residency international MFA. She was a featured writer at the American Writers' Festival in Singapore and was a Visiting Professor at Middle Eastern Technical University in North Cyprus. She has received Outstanding Teacher and Creative Scholarship Awards from UTC's College of Arts and Sciences. She was awarded two MakeWork Artist Grants and a 2017 Individual Artist's Fellowship from the Tennessee Arts Commission.
M.F.A., Writing ,Vermont College of Fine Arts, Montpelier, Vermont
M.A., English Literature (Creative Writing) University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado
B.A., Communication Studies (English minor), Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Virginia
Research and/or Creative Interests
Creative interests: novel writing, short stories, essays
Writing relatedresearch: expatriate and transnational writing, travel and borders
Creative writing, short story and novel writing, reading like a writer, Western Humanities, contemporary Asian American literature, expatriate literature
For creative writing workshops, I love a mix of formal workshop, “reading like a writer,” and informal writing. The higher level the course, the more workshops we’ll do. The lower level, the more time we’ll spend on reading published work and on writing exercises and informal writing.
For literature-type classes, including Western Humanities, I prefer a seminar style class, which is focused on close readings of the assigned text. I like to include extracurricular activities (such as visits to the Hunter Museum) and enjoy bringing in other experts to enhance the learning experience. My goal is to give the students as much exposure as possible to a variety of ideas, opportunities, and ways of engaging with the world through reading a variety of texts.
Why did you become an English professor?
For a long time, my two worlds—teaching and creative writing, were separate. I fell into teaching because I wanted to live abroad for a year and teaching English seemed an easy way to achieve that goal. I ended up falling in love with teaching.
I taught composition and conversation at a university in South Korea, and would do my own creative writing on my own time. In 2007 I was hired as a Creative Writing Professor at UTC, and started teaching creative writing then.
I love teaching classes that involve my two passions: reading and writing. With creative writing courses, I get to read and engage with other writers, and provide some models for ways to continue writing outside of the classroom and beyond the university.
For reading oriented classes, I love teaching Western humanities-type classes because I get to engage with classic and contemporary texts that help me with my own writing and thinking.
Outside of being a professor, what do you do for fun and/or relaxation? I enjoy reading, walking, hiking, and traveling.
What are your expectations of students?
I expect students to come to class prepared, which means the reading materials should be annotated and students should be ready to engage with the material. I like to have computerfree class days as much as possible, not because I have anything against computers, but I find that class discussions go better if everyone has a hard copy of the book and is not distracted by computers and cell phones.
What's something about you that might surprise your students?
I lived in Seoul, South Korea for 12 years, and my immediate family now live in Turkey and South Africa as well as the States. All of my relatives from both sides of my family are from the South. My father grew up in Possum Valley, Arkansas, and my mother in Clemmons, North Carolina.