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Justine Haus keeps a folder of ideas. Magazine clippings. Quotes. Phrases heard from a passerby or on the radio. When she's about to begin a new story, she opens the folder up to see what random bit of information might take hold and weave itself into the text. For as long as she can remember, it's been an essential part of her writing process.
As she edits the last of the short stories that make up her Div III (senior) project, Haus can look back on the way skills learned at Hampshire have become just as essential.
"I'm really opposed to letter grading and testing. I wanted to go to college, but I couldn't stand the idea of being told what classes to take," says Haus.
What she did want to do, from the day she arrived at Hampshire, was write. She felt that the College's academic approach would give both the freedom and support to develop as an author. When she took a class with Professor of Writing and Literature Lynne Hanley in her first semester, she realized that she'd made the right choice.
"I love working with her. She encouraged my writing, and got me in line with grammar and revising," says Haus. "Over four years, my voice in writing has become more spare and distilled, less indulgent and sentimental. Lynne had a big influence on that."
Independent studies with Hanley, Haus says, were extremely helpful in honing her writing style.
"Every semester for two and a half years I would send her my work on Monday, and we would talk on Wednesday," says Haus. "It forced me to write all the time. That's something I could only have done at Hampshire."
The end result of that writing took form in a Div III collection of short stories that address recurring themes of bodily dissociation, self-detachment, chaos theory, women forging into the wilderness, outlaw emotion, happiness and despair, and the logic of children. For her Div III committee Haus picked Hanley and Visiting Professor of Writing John Clayton as co-chairs and Writing Center Co-Director Will Ryan.
"They're so dedicated. Lynne is the best line editor I've ever worked with," she says. "And John and Will are good at finding overarching themes in the plot that I hadn't even intended. They're very intuitive."
Haus has also gleaned some valuable insight from classmates in a Div III writing seminar this spring semester.
"It's been really great. There's a mix of fiction and nonfiction writers, poets, playwrights, and everyone knows what it's like to be working on their Div III, this huge independent project," she says.
Haus plans to enter the graduate writing program at Sarah Lawrence in fall of 2011.