“Damn you, Dr. Lawrence. I’ll never be able to throw away a bottle again,” one student said to Dr. Claire Lawrence. A professor of creative writing at Bloomsburg University, Lawrence tries to teach her students the importance of recycling, and the benefits is has for the Earth.
“Kids in my class that don’t recycle something and just throw it in the garbage, I’ll pick it out of the garbage and I chase after them with it and say ‘You really didn’t mean to throw this away, it’s perfectly recyclable, right?’ ” Lawrence says.
It is hard to change a materialistic culture, but Lawrence makes an effort to teach the college age group about the environment.
“Although I have a lot of hope that if I’m starting out trying to get people to be more aware, if I’m starting out with people who are 17 or 18,” Lawrence says, “then they have a whole life of maybe making things greener.”
Lawrence gradually learned to love environmental literature as she studied it in school. It was a gradual process for Lawrence to make a switch into a greener lifestyle.
“I started to make lifestyle changes that went with the literature. I started to realize there were all these things I could do that would make a difference,” says Lawrence.
Making that adjustment, however, wasn’t easy for Lawrence. “When I was younger, I loved to go shopping, I loved new clothes, I loved all that kind of stuff,” says Lawrence. “Now, I think the biggest thing someone can do for the environment isn’t recycling, and isn’t energy saving, it’s not buying stuff. I’ve now come to a point where if people want to buy new stuff, it just seems crazy to me. That shows me how far I’ve come.”
With a consumer-oriented culture, people tend to buy and replace items that don’t need to be replaced. “That’s such a waste because that all goes in the landfill.” Lawrence says. “My refrigerator was 25 years old before I bought a new one.”
Lawrence incorporates her love for the environment with her job as a creative writing professor by teaching a class called Environmental Literature.
“It’s one of my specialties,” says Lawrence. “One of my comprehensive exams in graduate school was on environmental literature.”
When Lawrence started to teach at Bloomsburg, she and Professor Jerry Wemple, Bloomsburg University’s additional creative writing professor, formed the Creative Writing program. “There was no creative writing program before we came, so I was hired with my co-worker simultaneously to start a program.” Lawrence says.
Through their hard work to create a creative writing program, the Bloomsburg University Literary Journal was shaped. However, Warren, the literary journal, is completely run by students.
“I really want it to be a student publication. I want it to belong to the students,” says Lawrence, “If I take control of it, then it doesn’t become a student production at all.”
Making it student-based is one way that Lawrence teaches, especially with Warren. “I really believe in throwing the student out there, and I’m there if anything goes wrong, but, I want the student to learn and do the whole process themselves.”
With two children, a busy career and a concern for the environment, Lawrence still finds time to do the one thing she loves.
“Despite all these things, I also am a writer,” Lawrence says.
She is currently working on a memoir; the first three chapters from her memoir have won major national awards. This summer, she gets to attend the Vermont Studio Art Center for a month, where she will continue to write her memoir.
“There’s an exchange of Bloomsburg’s artists and Vermont Studio Art Center, and I’m the first artist from Bloomsburg to go,” says Lawrence. “I’m really proud of that, and I’m really excited about it.”
Lawrence will continue writing her memoir, in hopes that a publishing company will take it. “I’ve written a draft of it, but once I give it to my agent, I have no control after that.” Lawrence says.
Juggling a busy career, working on making the environment greener, and defining herself as a writer, Lawrence says one thing, “That’s me. That’s a lot of me.”