Donna Steiner encountered the mantra, “Show, don’t tell” when, as a freshman, she shared a “terrible” poem she’d written with her Syracuse University roommate, poet JoEllen Kwiatek. It was the first time Steiner had, with trepidation, shown her writing to another.
Steiner kept writing, but she didn’t envision it as a career. Nor did she consider an academic future. Yet, she has found success in both fields.
Since 2003, Steiner has been part of the Oswego Creative Writing faculty, teaching poetry and nonfiction, her current focus.
She’s published more than 50 essays and poems and earned dozens of awards. Her students revere her, and she reciprocates with respect for their work.
“I love teaching at Oswego,” she says, “and I love the practice of writing—research, drafting, revision.”
The efficacy of Steiner’s practice is evident in Elements, her 2013 Sweet Publications chapbook. It is comprised of five essays, beginning with “Sleeping With Alcohol” and including “Elements of the Wind,” which provides the title.
Steiner won first prize in the 2013 Enizagam poetry contest, and “Studying The Trees” has been nominated for Best American Essays 2014 and a Pushcart Prize. In 2011, she was named an NYSFA Nonfiction Fellow, a competitive designation that comes with a cash grant for the artist to use at her discretion.
Steiner coordinates Oswego’s Living Writers Series, in which visiting authors read and lecture on campus. That cross-genre course familiarizes students with realistic aspects of careers in writing.
The symbiosis of teaching and writing inspires Steiner. Like all successful artists, she discovers by creating. Like all effective teachers, she learns from students.
“I love seeing my students’ skills develop,” she says. “I watch them, pens in hands, thinking, working. I am always delighted by what they write.”
—Linda Loomis ’90 M’97