Questions and Answers with Instructor Jeff Briggs.
Q: Tell us a little background history on Jeff Briggs?
J.B.: New to Rochester, Minnesota, I moved here with my wife, two dogs and two cats after living in Seattle, Washington, for over 25 years. In Seattle, I was pretty much a water rat: I lived on a sailboat for ten years; then we bought a house not far from the beach. I sailed and kayaked throughout much of the Pacific Northwest. I wrote about boats, I produced boat shows, I sailed boats across oceans and up and down the Pacific Coast. If it had to do with anything boating, I was probably involved. Other than boats, I have always been passionate about baseball and books.
Q: How long have you been teaching?
J.B.: Early Fall Quarter at MSB-Rochester is my first time back in the classroom in 28 years. The last place I taught was at Niigata University, Nagaoka campus, Nagaoka, Japan.
Q: Where did you attend college?
J.B.: I did my undergraduate studies at Lake Superior State University, Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. I completed my graduate work at the University of Denver, Denver, Colorado. I’ve also been fortunate in having been able to study at the University of London and at Oxford.
Q: What was your major?
J.B.: Oh, I’ve been an English major all the way. I love books and words and grand ideas expressed through the tragedies and comedies of everyday life. I have a BA in English Language and Literature and an MA in English Literature. I’ve also studied journalism and creative writing along the way.
Q: Why do you like teaching?
J.B.: I like the opportunity to give back to students. I had some great instructors along the way in helping me develop as a writer and as a person. I can only hope to be such an inspiration to some of my students today.
Q: What did you do prior to coming to MSB-Rochester?
J.B.: Before coming to MSB-Rochester, I had a successful career as a professional writer. I have published over 300 magazine articles in a variety of regional and national magazines. Assignments have taken me as far north as the waters of Glacier Bay, Alaska, and as far south as the Sea of Cortez in Baja, Mexico. I also have been a managing editor of a Northwest boating magazine. I prepared for this position by working as a stringer for the Associated Press and being a contributing editor to another Northwest magazine. I have also written two small nonfiction books and three novels in the Seattle Waterfront Mysteries series. The mysteries are still looking for a publisher, so if you know any publishers . . . Since, like so many writers, I needed to have a day job to support myself, I was also the executive director for a nonprofit boating association for 17 years, producing major floating boat shows among other activities.
Q: What type of music do you listen to? Why?
J.B.: I’m at the age at which “classic” gets put on the front of most of my favorite music: classic rock, classic folk and classical music. But because I live with a music aficionado, I have come to appreciate contemporary artists such as Death Cab for Cutie, the Decemberists and the Avett Brothers.
Q: Favorite film? Why?
J.B.: There are too many to name. I love Roman Polanski’s Chinatown for its taut pacing and deft characterization. It’s a movie that transcends genre. Same with Blade Runner, an early Harrison Ford vehicle that adapted a story from the great Phillip Dick. I adore the epic sweep of David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia and Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy. The list could go on and on.
Q: Favorite book? Why?
J.B.: Again, too many to name. I reread Herman Melville’s Moby Dick every year. I’ve read the Lord of the Rings trilogy a couple dozen times. I am mesmerized by Patrick O’Brien’s Master and Commander series. I love everything from Willa Cather to William Shakespeare, from mystery writer Henning Mankell to sci-fi writer Ray Bradbury.
Q: What do you hope the students will come away with after they have participated in your class?
J.B.: I can only hope that I help remove the fear of writing from some, and for others to inspire them to see writing as a critical element of their professional lives. Along the way, I hope each of my students becomes a better a writer, a better student and a better critical thinker.