A profile: Dr. Warren Rochelle
By Megan Baker
Professor Warren G. Rochelle is a professor of English at UMW. He has a B.A. in English from UNC at Chapel Hill, an M.S. in library service from Columbia University, a Ph.D. in English and a MFA in Creative Writing from UNC at Greensboro. He is the author of three books, “The Wild Boy,” “Harvest of the Changelings,” and “Communities of the Heart: The Rhetoric of Myth in the Fiction of Ursula K. Le Guin.
Where did you grow up?
I was born in Durham, and then my parents moved back to where my father was from which was just right outside of Chapel Hill and where I grew up.
What were your plans for your degrees?
I finished my BA at UNC Chapel Hill. They don’t pay you to read books, as a rule, which is unfortunate but true; and I decided, well, I’ll be a librarian […] At that point in my life I wanted to get away from home […] To be a librarian, you have to have a professional librarian degree, so I went to library school at Columbia University in New York, which, at the time, was a year program, and that’s why I got the MS degree […] When I was in graduate school at Greensboro, I took a course with a professor, Hephzibah Roskelly, and I fell in love with the rhetoric and composition and the study of writing that way. So I went out for my doctorate, and with that degree, I started working in colleges.
Which degree was most fun to get?
The MFA was a fun degree to get […] I’d say it’s a toss-up between the MFA and the PhD. It was a very intense time in terms of learning and reading and writing.
Some of it is a matter that they chose me […] I had heard about Mary Washington before. I applied here once before. I applied when Emerson applied for the job, so we were competing and didn’t even know it. I got the job the second time I applied. I’ve always heard good things about the school. There were a lot of things I found very attractive about it.
Do you have any advice for students, or others interested in writing?
Tell the truth. A good writer is a good reader is a good writer is a good reader. And try to tell as much as you can […] and find your own story.
If you’re taking [a creative writing] class, I expect you to take it seriously. I have a lot of people who are surprised that I ask them to do as much work as I do. I would want them to be prepared to write a lot and take it seriously, and to see yourself as a writer.
Has science fiction always been a passion?
It kind of grew on me. When I was an undergraduate, the stories I wrote were more mainstream, for lack of a better word. Later, after I left college, I kind of realized that [science fiction] is where my passion was. I remember making a conscious decision I really wanted this, so that’s kind of where that evolved out of.
What are your favorite science fiction books?
I have lots of favorites. I reread “A Wrinkle in Time” every year. I reread “Lord of the Rings” and the Narnia stories on a regular basis. I did my dissertation on “Ursula Le Guin;” I’ve enjoyed reading her novel “The Dispossessed.”
What is your most prized possession?
My first born child…I mean it’s that kind of question, what do you say? I have an enormous collection of books. When I moved to South Carolina from Greensboro I had 40 boxes of books. When I moved up here I had 60; and when I moved to my house here I just didn’t count them anymore. I’ve actually purged a lot, this is the iceberg. I am very fond of my books, obviously.
Toni Morrison, “If writing is thinking and discovery and order and meaning, it is also awe and reverence and mystery and magic.”
Professor McAllister made this for me, it’s a Yoda stamp. Some people here at school got me this- this is the one ring. I wear it when I do the Tolkien class. It has not brouoghht me untold power, unfortunately.
What’s your favorite food?
I love Indian food. I grew up, obviously, in the South…a lot of comfort food. I love Mexican food.
What’s the weirdest thing you’ve eaten?
When I was in Scotland: “What’s that?” “Oh, it’s black pudding, you won’t mind it.” It’s sheeps blood, it was awful.
My lightsaber! With the noise! I made a special trip to Toys “R” Us to find this…I need to get a new one; I’ve had this about seven or eight years.
Rochelle has a new book out this month, “The Called,” a sequel to “The Changeling.” He will be holding a release party and book reading at the creative writing mansion on William Street at 5 p.m.on Sept. 16.