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English Faculty Member Nicole Homer Shares Love for Teaching with Passion for Writing

12/15/15


West Windsor, N.J.Mercer County Community College (MCCC) Assistant Professor of English Nicole Homer has been teaching English 101, Children’s Literature, African American Literature, and Creative Writing since she started at the college in 2012. It is perhaps the last course on the list that most strongly reflects Homer’s own passions.

Homer is a prolific writer and performer of poetry. She recently had two poems published in The Offing, an online literary magazine. A nationally touring poet, Homer has been a poetry slam finalist on the big stage: in the Individual World poetry slam in Vancouver in 2007, and in Women of the World poetry slams in Michigan (2008) and Ohio (2010). She started slamming in 2005 at LoserSlam (NJ) and Urbana (NY).

Homer continues her love affair with the art form as an organizer of LoserSlam, New Jersey’s longest running slam, and served on the governing body of NYC-Urbana, a nationally respected venue, for close to a decade. As part of the LoserSlam community, Homer has facilitated a women’s writing group and writing workshops, with a commitment to encouraging a diverse and inclusive community of writers.

Nicole Homer's passion for teaching is matched by her passion for writing.

Homer, a long-time, active member of the Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP), was selected to participate in AWP’s Writer to Writer Mentor Program this fall. Working with author Jenny Sadre-Orafai, an Associate Professor of English at Kennesaw State University, Homer completed six modules about the craft, revision, publishing and the writing life.

“Each module offered questions and activities to spur conversation. I discussed my most pressing questions and Jenny provided helpful answers. It was a revealing and enriching experience,” she said.
Homer says her AWP membership has been extremely beneficial in her writing and her teaching. She traces it back to her freshman year as an undergrad at Brookdale Community College. She joined the English Club and had an opportunity to attend the AWP annual conference in Austin, Texas.

“I loved it. It was nonstop conversations and panels on writing,” she recalls.  “At the time I was most interested in the craft talks: how to be a better poet, how to build believable characters, how to navigate plot.” Now, as a member on a professional level, she says she continues to enjoy the creative discussions, while also focusing on the numerous writing pedagogy panels.

Homer believes that being a better writer is, at least in part, about writing regularly. “I try to write as often as possible. During Summer break, that’s every day. When I’m teaching during the semester, that’s several times per week. I’m a believer in the idea of capacity for writing as a muscle that needs to be used and strengthened. That’s not to say that I love – or even like – everything I write, but you can’t edit what you haven’t written.”

Homer uses her life and her world as inspiration. “This has, obviously, changed as I have changed. Lately, my writing has centered largely on motherhood, gender (construction), race, and the intersection of these,” she said.

She embraces the writer's unique role. “A writer is first an observer, then a questioning explorer, then a cartographer. We live in tumultuous times: to be black, to be a woman, to be a mother – all of these things mean, on some level, ‘to be devalued.’ How, then, can I question that devaluation? How can I challenge it? How can I rebel against it? My response is to write about it.”

Homer admits that making sense of the world can be a challenge. “Often, I can’t. Then it’s my job to witness. To not blink, even when I want to. To tell the truth even when I’d rather not,” she said.

With her background in performance, Homer approaches her classes with just a little touch of showmanship. “While I do not believe that teaching is a performance, I do believe that understanding the dynamic between a poet onstage and the audience in the room, listening, has been a huge factor in shaping how I teach.”

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