Alanna Schubach on Kurt Vonnegut and Great Advice From a Grad School Professor

Noodle Expert Alanna Schubach shares great advice from a grad school professor and why she'd like to study with Kurt Vonnegut.

Who would you pick, alive or dead, to be your teacher for a year? What would you want to learn?

I would love to study under Kurt Vonnegut, not only because I admire his writing, but also because his many books reveal such a wise and humane perspective on life. I would want to learn about his philosophy, as well as his approach to writing. He was prolific, so I imagine he had a lot of discipline — something I'd like to have more of myself.

What is one small piece of advice that has had a big impact on your life?

When I was in grad school for creative writing, one of my professors told our class on the first day that if we had not yet read at least 50 novels, we should take the semester off and focus on doing that. I think it's true that the best training for becoming not only a strong writer, but also an all-around knowledgeable person, is to read prodigiously.

Where would you send a student who hasn’t traveled before?

It depends on the student's own background! I would want to send the student somewhere that was very different from her own hometown so that she could see a way of life that was totally new. One of the greatest things we learn from travel is how huge the world is and that there are many modes of living; it can be a very expanding thing to experience.

When was a time that you failed academically, and what did you learn from the experience?

I was generally a strong student, but halfway through high school, I decided I was no good at math. I dropped my pre-calculus class and never took math again. I think that, at the time, a lot of girls simply accepted the idea that they were better at English and social studies, while boys had a knack for math and science — but this clearly isn't the case.

I wish I hadn't been so passive and had pushed myself just a little harder. I'm sure I could have grasped the material if I'd wanted to, and it would have made certain things easier today. (Math does come in handy in your adult life!) I learned that sometimes challenging yourself can be a little uncomfortable, but that's no reason to avoid it.

Why did you go into your field, and how is it different from what you expected?

I went into education because I really like working with teenagers, and I went into journalism because writing is my passion. What's challenging about education is trying to match my teaching to students' learning styles — everyone's is different, and it can be tricky not to neglect anyone.

Journalism can be surprising because the field has changed so much. When I studied it in college, there weren't even any courses on digital journalism. Now, print seems to be dying, and it's all about the web.

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