Alaska's Loss is Our Gain

Editor's Note: Our annual Beacon Award for Teaching Excellence honors one outstanding faculty member each year, based on nominations received from Lighthouse members and participants throughout the year. Our Beacon Award committee has just sorted and tallied all the nominations for 2017, and this year's winner is Rachel Weaver! 

Rachel is the author of the novel Point of Direction, which Oprah magazine called "a strikingly vivid debut novel." She holds an MFA in writing and poetics from Naropa University and serves on the fiction faculty in Regis University's low-residency MFA program. Before she started teaching in 2004, Rachel worked as a biologist for the Forest Service in Alaska, studying bears, raptors, and songbirds. 

One of Rachel's students (and nominators!), Kathy Massman, explains why Rachel is Beacon Award material below. (And don't miss the Beacon Award ceremony at our holiday party on Saturday, December 2.) 

Narrative devices, pacing, dialogue, tension, format, character development—what mysterious terms these are. I had no idea what they meant, let alone how to apply them to my writing. I thought a story was just a beginning, middle, and end. Simple, right? I couldn’t have been more wrong. Through Rachel’s knowledge and guidance—and her endless reservoir of patience, I am learning the craft of writing. Yes, craft. That magical journey we take our readers on with our stories.

Rachel has a straightforward delivery that is easy to understand. Her relaxed manner sets the tone for the class as a safe and supportive environment in which we can make mistakes and receive practical advice, from both her and our fellow classmates, on how to make our work stronger.

Her experiences in the world of writing and publishing are applicable to our own writing, even though we are all working on different kinds of projects in different stages of development. Students are a mix of beginners and experienced writers. No matter, her expertise applies to all of us, and I leave each class having learned something new.

I am Rachel’s perennial student. Like a groupie following a rock band, I scour the Lighthouse offerings to see what classes Rachel is teaching, even if it is a repeat class for me. I return again and again simply because I keep learning from her. I save all her written critiques of my submissions, apply the changes, and can clearly see how they improve my work. They are my roadmap to the finish line.

Her encouragement has given me more confidence as a writer, and I am beginning to believe I can get my project into a structure—with the requisite beginning, middle, and end that contains all the elements necessary to keep a reader interested to the last page.

Wordsworth said, “Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart.” There is no better way to say it, and I give credit to Rachel for my ability to do so.

I am delighted that Rachel has been awarded the Beacon Award for Outstanding Faculty this year.

Alaska’s loss, Lighthouse’s gain!