bob2018a

RJ Hembree

In 1995 I built my first Web page as an Old Dominion University English major. I was managing editor for The Mace and Crown at the time, and one of our journalists told me about this thing called the Web. I’d taken philosophy courses online at NOVA, so was familiar with Gopher and newsgroups, but the WWW and HTML was news to me. Writers’ Village University evolved from this clumsy, first website. The initial motivation was to connect with others interested in postmodern literature, authors like Italo Calvino, Jorge Luis Borges, John Barth, Salman Rushdie and Gabriel Garcia Marquez. What I found were like-minded writers, so began to share what I was learning about writing. This was the beginning of the Web’s first online community and school for writers. By the time I started ODU's MFA program in 1997, WVU had grown from 7 members to over 1,000.

Over the years, my focus changed from writing fiction to writing about writing. I’m a relentless researcher on the subject, and always on the lookout for fresh connections and ideas. When one has studied the craft long enough, the redundancy of popular writing texts and creative writing courses becomes clear.  There’s so much more to discover about writing and what makes it work (or not work). 

I’ve developed many courses since 1995, covering both conventional and artistic approaches to writing fiction, nonfiction and poetry. My joy is research and discovery, and even more, watching our members grow into fine writers. Many have published, won awards and write professionally. We have a wide variety of experience levels in our membership. My job is to explore ways of bringing out the best in them.