Faculty Focus: Donna Hewlett
Newly-earned degree inspires novel, teaching methods, and more
A professor fills a variety of roles for their students — teacher, mentor, colleague, and friend.
That may be even more true at an institution like Bellevue University, with a diverse population of students combined with a variety of delivery platforms. Professor Donna Hewlett, who teaches English Composition I and II, incorporates a mentorship approach to inspire her students.
“They’re expecting that sage on the stage and I’m not that,” she said. “I teach them more like coaching than lecturing. I feel you have to write rather than talk about writing. I’ll give them some of the basics for the first part of the week and then the second part of the week is workshop. I can see where they’re at and give them one-on-one mentorship. I like that part.”
Hewlett knows a little about mentorship having recently been on the other side of the student/professor relationship. She recently completed her Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing at the University of Nebraska, a program in which mentorship plays a key role.
Hewlett worked with four mentors during the two-year program and emerged with a 400-page novel that she is currently shopping to agents and publishers.
“That unique mentorship is what I liked about their program,” Hewlett said. “I’d written a novel on my own, but I knew I was missing something. In this program, I tilled the soil and found those deeper levels.”
Hewlett’s mentors were Charles Wyatt, a short story writer and poet as well as an accomplished musician; Catherine Texier, a novelist with roots in France, Canada and the United States; Amy Hassinger, a novelist and graduate of the prestigious Iowa Writer’s Workshop; and Patricia Lear, a short story author with ties to Memphis and Chicago.
While all four contributed to the evolution of Hewlett’s book, Hassinger may have provided the key piece of advice prompting a change in the novel’s point of view — and a lot of rewriting.
“I was going back and forth between the protagonists — between chapters in a logical way,” Hewlett explained. “She said ‘why don’t you try just writing exclusively from the female protagonist point of view.’ I fought a little bit, but it made it much better. There’s more mystery to it because you don’t know what he’s thinking.”
The end result is called Love Is All. The women’s fiction novel follows Jayne Thompson, a 50-something librarian diagnosed with terminal cancer and the ensuing decisions she must make. The title is inspired by a Robert Browning poem. Browning’s love affair with his wife and fellow writer, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, is paralleled throughout Hewlett’s novel.
“There’s mirrorings between what is happening with my character and the Brownings,” Hewlett said. “I have some Browning poetry in there. I have chocolate in there. It’s almost like a character.”
Hewlett adds the MFA to her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Belmont University and a Master of Arts in Language and Literature from Middle Tennessee State University. While she emerged from the MFA program with a novel, the experience will be helpful as she works on developing a unique MFA program for Bellevue University. The program, still in the incubation stages, would combine some of the traditional elements of an MFA with Bellevue University’s business education acumen.
“No more starving artists. That’s kind of the mantra I have for that program,” Hewlett said. “We’ll want to hone talent toward a specific market. We want to help you expand your creativity and apply it in an entrepreneurial way.”
Error while processing your submission.
There was an error while trying to process your submission. We are sincerely sorry for the inconvenience.
Please reach out to one of our Admission Counselors and they can answer any questions you have at 1-800-756-7920 (option 1). The Admissions office is open Monday through Thursday 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. (CST) and Fridays from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (CST).
Congratulations on taking your first step towards earning your degree!
At Bellevue University, our passion is to help you get started and support you all along the way. In fact, we’ve found that many students have benefited from our complimentary “Smarter Measure” Self-Assessment which will help you prepare for success. Again, this is a free service.
Your User Name: ready
Your Password: ready
Just click here to start. Smarter Measure
Thanks again. We look forward to working with you!