Robin Greene, novelist, poet, English professor, yoga practitioner, parent and wife, is a native New Yorker who is a “Southerner by choice.” She came to Fayetteville, North Carolina in 1989, and joined the faculty at Methodist University where she is now Professor of English and Writing, the Director of the Writing Center, and Literary Editor of Longleaf Press.
Greene recently completed “Augustus: Narrative of a Slave Woman,” a novel based on the oral history of a former Fayetteville slave compiled by the Works Progress Administration. It expertly weaves together Greene’s imagination of what happened with the sparse written legacy recorded in the Library of Congress archives. The book took Greene ten years to write and she included herself in the novel. “I exist as Professor Greene, an inquisitive English professor who finds her way into an old mystery,” she says. In a twist of events, the protagonist Sarah Louise Augustus, the former slave, emerges from the narrative to become the Professor’s teacher.
“The novel is a commentary on black feminism, race-specific reactions to historical inquiry, on sexuality and rape and the quest for identity,” explains Greene. In 2010, she was invited to teach American Slave Narrative as Literature at a university in Romania. And, then Norma Hawthorne selected her from an applicant pool of over 100 published writers and writing instructors to lead a creative writing retreat in Oaxaca, Mexico.
Women’s Creative Writing and Yoga Retreat (March 2-9, 2012) is a natural extension of Robin Greene’s reflective nature. In Oaxaca, Mexico each spring she offers coaching, inspiration and guidance to other women writers. “We come together as a supportive community and develop a spirit of strength that is often transformative,” Greene says. “The life of any artist is a complicated one, and emergent writers need to learn not only how to write but also how to make their lives work.”
Greene is passionate about this: “Many writers need help to integrate the many demands on their time. It is hard to write, edit, publish, make a living, and be an effective parent.” Her own life experience tells her so.
When Robin Greene earned the Master’s degree in English from State University of New York at Binghamton and the Master of Fine Arts in Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts, she was married and then became a mother. She knows what it takes to balance work, home, family, commitments, and creative endeavors. She goes on to say that, “Today, writers also need to be able to handle Social Media – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn—plus all sorts of electronic information systems.
Her nonfiction book, Real Birth, took Greene eight years to complete. Memories of Light and Lateral Drift, two volumes of poetry, were published after years of getting up at five o’clock in the morning before her family awakened, then writing for two or three hours in solitude before turning to the responsibilities of getting children fed and ready for school.
Greene knows how difficult it is to try to negotiate the many incongruent parts of a writer’s life. Her advice: “In order to write successfully, you must first schedule writing time. Writers must selfishly honor that time regardless of all other commitments.” She also believes that grammar is at the core of knowing one’s craft. She includes optional grammar mini-sessions in the writing retreat.
Writers must also have a commitment to lifelong learning. “A writer’s education is never complete,” she says. “Writers need feedback, need to understand the business side of writing, and show always focus on improving technique. This happens over a lifetime. Writers are marathon runners, not twenty-yard sprinters. It is why attending a professional development program like our women’s writing retreat can be so important and essential, no matter what your level or personal accomplishment.”
And for her next project? Greene is at work on a collection of open letters of advice and inspiration from a range of poets, from the “old masters” to the “younger, less established who are looking to find their way.” The book will offer guidance for emergent poets that is now offered at some of the best writing programs. She is now in the process of searching for a publisher! Does that sound familiar?