TJC creative writing professor Traci Borum learned to read almost as quickly as she learned to talk.
The first child of a second-grade teacher, Borum’s mother began reading to her as a baby. Her father and grandfather were voracious readers as well, and Borum remembers her father often brought a book to the dinner table.
Borum recalls the moment quite vividly at age 12 when she knew she wanted to be a writer. Her seventh-grade teacher announced a creative writing assignment, and while the other students groaned and complained, a smile broke across her face. It was in that assignment that she discovered her thought process began to shift between reading words to writing stories. She began to tell herself, “I can do this; I can do both.”
Five years later, Borum’s grandmother took her on a three-week tour of the British Isles for a graduation gift. She quickly fell in love with the quaint English countryside with its rolling hills, stone walls, manicured pastures and Cotswold cottages. She especially treasured their visit to the home of William Shakespeare. With that journey, she found the place that would become the setting for her first published novel and the subsequent series. “I want to be there in my mind when I write,” she said.
Borum began writing novels at age 22 and calls her early manuscripts “experiments” as she learned the art of crafting a novel. “Painting the Moon,” Borum’s first published novel, was originally written as a standalone title. “It was not supposed to be a series but I finished the book and thought selfishly, ‘I don’t want to leave; I want to explore more.’” She has now written four novels in her “Chilton Crosse” series and is working on her fifth.
As both a successful writer and full-time TJC professor, Borum enjoys developing natural writing talent that she discovers in her students. Her creative writing class is offered in the classroom as well as online, and fiction and poetry are both included in the course. While some students prefer one more so than the other, “Any type of writing is going to make you a better writer and push you beyond your boundaries,” according to Borum.
Students learn to write dialogue, draft a short story or chapter, create a character profile and journal their thoughts and ideas. Many of the creative writing students are English or education majors, but the class is also a requirement for TJC’s degree in gaming simulation due to the storytelling aspect. The class is also open to members of the community who may want to hone their creative writing skills or those who have aspirations for publishing.
While some of her former students have published their works, Borum said that is not a measure of their writing abilities. “You may write for the rest of your life and never get published, but you are equally a writer as I am; it doesn’t make you less of a writer.”
Borum enjoys discovering and developing natural talent that she sees in her students. “There are times that I stop being a teacher and I become so engaged in reading that it becomes hard to grade,” she admits.
When asked what she is most proud of about her students, Borum said, “They keep writing. That passion is sparked and they keep writing.”
One of Traci’s former students, Tina Bausinger, was published in “Chicken Soup for the Soul.” Two others are pitching movie scripts in Hollywood and several have self-published their works. Many others continue to write for pleasure or in their careers.
Sharleis Dunn, one of Borum’s recent students who is now at the University of Arkansas Fort Smith said, “I have never met such an amazing woman inside and out. There was never a day that she did not show up to class with a smile on her face. She always put forth every effort to ensure that we knew that we were great writers especially when we didn’t believe it. Her class was a safe place to share and we created a bond that still exists till this day. She was an outstanding professor, and one of the reasons that I fell back in love with writing.”
Borum’s creative writing class will meet at 10 a.m. Mondays and Wednesdays and online during the Fall 2018 semester. Classes begin Aug. 27. To register or for more information, go to www.tjc.edu.