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UNIVERSITY NEWS U of M creative writing teachers Cary Holladay and John Bensko have penned 12 books between them. They are the first to be profiled in our “married professors” series.

U of M: Did you come to the U of M together? CH: John started teaching here in the mid1990s, in the early days of the MFA program. I left a position as manager of public affairs for Memphis Park Services for the U of M in 2002. For an academic couple, getting jobs at the same place is a prize. U of M: How are your writing styles similar and how do they differ? JB: Both of us are fascinated by nature, history and human experience. I write poetry as well as fiction, so that’s a difference. But we'd both describe our fiction as poetic in style and in structure. We’re attracted to quirky characters and situations, and both of us have a sense of humor in our writing and in life.  U of M: Both being writers, do you critique each other’s work? Do you usually take any

Dynamic duos This is the first in a series of profiles of mar-

Holladay writes novels and short stories.

ried couples who teach at the U of M. In this

Horse People: Stories and The Deer in the

issue, we spotlight Cary Holladay and John

Mirror both were published in 2013. Her others

Bensko, both professors of Creative Writing in

are A Fight in the Doctor’s Office, The Quick-

the Department of English.

Change Artist: Stories, Mercury, The Palace

John Bensko serves as coordinator of the Creative Writing program and directs the Cre-

of Wasted Footsteps, and The People Down South.

ative Writing study abroad program in Alicante,

Here is our conversation with the literary couple.

Spain; Cary Holladay has been director of the

U of M: How did you two meet?

River City Writers Series for many years. This dynamic duo has written a total of 12

CH: I had literally just moved to Memphis. The second day I was here, I met John and

constructive suggestions the other makes? CH: Yes and yes. We push each other to develop ideas, pursue opportunities and become more insightful as writers. We encourage each other. That’s the most important thing. U of M: What are the high and low points of working together so closely? JB: It’s fun. Our offices are right next to each other, which makes it easy to get advice and pep talks. Sometimes it makes it harder to separate our jobs from our life outside work, but everyone has that problem to some extent. We help each other to see the teaching of creative writing as an art more than an occupation.  U of M: Outside of work, do you share many interests or do you have varied pursuits? CH: John launched a summer creative writ-

books between them. Bensko’s newest volume

thought, “He's really tall, and he's really cute.”

ing program in Spain, a country he first visited

of poetry, Visitations, won the Anita Claire

At the time, we were both teaching at Rhodes

on a Fulbright professorship. He enjoys art,

Scharf Award from the University of Tampa

College. His son, Tom, was 11. To win their

fishing and growing tomatoes. I rescue cats

Press. He is the author of three additional

hearts, I went on a baking campaign and

and tend an herb garden. We read all the time.

books of poetry, The Iron City, The Waterman's

was thrilled when Tom said, “Those chocolate

We’ve been known to fight over a good book!

Children, and Green Soldiers, for which he won

chip cookies are awesome.” John and I got

Our Midtown house is running out of space,

the Yale Younger Poets Award; and a collection

married in 2001.

but we can't stop buying books by colleagues,

of short stories, Sea Dogs. 6

FA L L 2 014

students and friends. THE UNIVERSITY OF MEMPHIS

Profile for University of Memphis


University of Memphis Fall Magazine


University of Memphis Fall Magazine