Candice Wuehle seems like the perfect fit to teach English and creative writing at Hollins. An emphasis on genre-blending? Check. An impressive academic and professional resume? Check. An interest in the occult and spooky things? Double-check.
“I’m fascinated with séance as a literary mode and mediumicity as a poetic strategy,” Wuehle said about her interest in what she calls “occult technologies” in creative writing. “There are a lot of writers working within that occult realm as a way into the craft of writing.”
The poet/novelist joined the Hollins faculty this fall as a visiting assistant professor, and the historic presence of the university isn’t lost on Wuehle. “It seems like a lot of the students at Hollins are interested in the ‘haunted’ history of the campus,” said Wuehle. “I’d love to teach a course about the craft of ghost stories that might merge with Hollins’ history and perhaps archival research at the university.”
Even though she’s been teaching at Hollins only since September, it’s already clear that Wuehle has lots of ideas about what to do with her time at one of the nation’s oldest higher-ed institutions for women. “Right now I’m really enjoying for the first time in my life doing what I always imagined a creative writing professor doing, which is mostly just workshopping all the time,” said Wuehle. She calls Hollins a “dream job” that allows her to craft her classes around her own interests: hybrid works and authors who write across genre and form. “I like to think about the slippage between genres,” said Wuehle. “What’s to be gained from this additional space that’s generated by crossing between those borders?”
Wuehle has quite the resume, too. Born and raised in Iowa City, Iowa, she’s the author of three poetry collections including Death Industrial Complex, which was selected as a 2020 finalist for The Believer Magazine Book Award. Her debut novel, MONARCH, is due out in March of next year. Wuehle holds an M.A. in literature from the University of Minnesota, an M.F.A. in poetry from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and a doctorate in creative writing from the University of Kansas, where she was the recipient of a Chancellor’s Fellowship.
As for how this über-talented writer landed at Hollins, the credit partly goes to an old friend of Wuehle’s: Visiting Assistant Professor of English and Creative Writing Matthew Burnside. Both Burnside and Wuehle attended what many consider the most prestigious creative writing program in the country: the Iowa Writers Workshop in Wuehle’s hometown of Iowa City. “It was nice to know someone in the department before I came here,” said Wuehle, who studied poetry at the Iowa Workshop while Burnside was studying fiction. “I’d also heard of Hollins because there are so many very famous graduates and writers from the university.”
While earning her master’s degree at Iowa, Wuehle first became interested in memory studies, ghost stories, the occult, tarot, and more. She even had a class on magic and occult technologies taught by poet D. A. Powell. “We had a séance in the basement of the English department at Iowa,” recalled Wuehle. “There were maybe 40 people there, and it was really active. So I started working on projects in that magic course and just never stopped.”
Some writers struggle with the competitive environment of the Iowa Writers Workshop, but Wuehle felt differently about her experience at the nation’s oldest creative writing institute. “I’m from Iowa City where the culture of the writing program really spills over into the town,” she said. Wuehle even had high school teachers who were graduates of the workshop. “I know some people feel that Iowa City is a small town, but it was a return to where I was from, to people I’d known since high school,” said Wuehle. “It was just a really nice time there for me.”
Speaking of small towns, Wuehle seems already settled into her new life in Roanoke. “I’m really loving being at Hollins,” she said. “I’m fascinated with the general culture of this school, the mix of really contemporary—the curiosity and political passion of the undergraduates—with the older traditions like Tinker Day and the architecture of the campus itself. It feels like a really special, idyllic place to be.”
Jeff Dingler is a graduate assistant in Hollins’ marketing and communications department. He is pursuing his M.F.A. in creative writing at the university.