When you walk into the office of visiting Creative Writing Professor Lauren Holmes ’07, a feeling of calm and comfort falls over you. Curled up in a chair across from her desk, Holmes is surrounded by quotes from fictional tales that decorate the walls of her office. With a window cracked open to let ideas flow in and out, Holmes has made herself at home again on the campus she once roamed as a student.
Holmes recalls the first time she visited Wellesley’s campus as a high school student touring colleges during the summer. She arrived in the parking lot once situated behind the Lulu Chow Wang Campus Center with her friend and met her tour guide. She reminisces about how she was overcome with the feeling that she was meant to be here, even without students present on the campus. After she was admitted, it took some time for her to get used to the drastically different social life and larger class sizes, coming from a small private school. But with time, she found her groove.
Holmes always knew her interests lay in reading and writing. Once she started taking classes with English Professor Marilyn Sides, who later became her mentor, she knew that creative writing was her forte. She took the maximum number of creative writing courses, reconfiguring her other literature classes to make them related to writing.
After working with Alicia Erian, a visiting professor of English at the time, Holmes realized how unique the English department was at Wellesley.
“The English department here honors and promotes creative writing in a way that’s really rare. Here it’s taken seriously as an academic pursuit,” said Holmes. She appreciates how the faculty guided her to opportunities she never would have thought were for her, such as the Schiff Fellowship for independent research projects.
During her time at Wellesley, she grew from a writer who focused on autobiographical fiction to one who learned how to write true fiction. Holmes found that before, she only used her life for inspiration but now she seeks inspiration from other sources. She is currently working on a memoir about her dog, a nonfiction book and a TV show based on her short stories, diversifying her types of writing.
Encountering setbacks for a number of years helped Holmes prepare for this job as a visiting professor at Wellesley.
“I wanted to do whatever I could to earn this job because I knew it was the best job of its kind,” said Holmes.
After she graduated, she worked at Planned Parenthood in Connecticut for two years and then applied to Master of Fine Arts programs to make her dreams come true. Holmes eventually pursued her MFA degree and started teaching at Hunter College, where she was surprised to encounter syllabi containing author ratios of 14 men to one woman. She is excited to come back to Wellesley where there are better surprises.
Holmes loves teaching at Wellesley because of the students and said she always knew she wanted to come back.
“I wanted to teach at Wellesley because of the interesting people here and the interesting stories they have to tell,” Holmes said.
She remarks that she can teach her students the mechanics of writing and help them learn how to find inspiration, but they ultimately must also find inspiration themselves.
Though highly rewarding, it can also be challenging to teach students at Wellesley.
“It’s a high level of thought to teach Wellesley students. The questions students ask require a high level of engagement. I need to be on my A game at all times,” said Holmes.
Holmes also recalls that when she was a student at Wellesley, she experienced many of the same feelings that Wellesley students experience today, including imposter syndrome.
“I too thought everyone must be smarter; everyone must be better prepared; everyone must be doing more important work,” said Holmes.
She hopes that Wellesley students will not burden themselves with such thoughts, as she knows they will thrive.
“Wellesley women carry the weight of the world and take so many things so seriously, but I learned after college that things I worried most about in college didn’t seem to matter later on. But I appreciate that Wellesley women take themselves seriously and take each other seriously, so my advice is to keep taking important things seriously and to worry less about everything else,” she said.