About Elizabeth


(Photo by Alex Cohan)

When someone asks me how I decide on the subject of my next book, I say, “In some strange way, the next book seems to choose me.” It’s a combination of interest, curiosity, persistence of an idea, a push from some unknown part of myself, a quickening of my spirit when I collide with something totally new to me that I then want to learn more about. The result is some alchemy that becomes the context of my writing life until that book is finished. After I make a commitment to a new project, it’s the same as when someone buys a yellow car and then sees yellow cars all over the streets. I begin to see something related to the subject of my new book everywhere I look. It’s an exciting scramble to capture the research I come across (and agony to give up doing more research when I know it is time to start writing!), watching a shape emerge that then has to get written out and written out and then written out some more. I admit to loving the process of writing in general and books in particular, as demanding, infuriating, surprising, boring, stimulating, exciting and mysterious as that process can be on any given day. 


When someone asks how I decide what to photograph, I say that I am always on the lookout for beauty in the commonplace, the ordinary, the unarranged. Shooting a photo is often an act of gratitude: how could that rut in a red clay country road be so beautiful? Or an act of celebration: the first tiny white blossoms on purple shamrock in the spring. Or a response to surprise: how is that huge tree reflected perfectly in a mud puddle on asphalt? With Eyes Wide Open is a collection of my photographs—caught in the moment with an Iphone—that honor the variety, richness, and beauty of our everyday lives. 

Independent Scholar

When someone asks how I determine what I research and write about as a scholar, I say that interest meets opportunity. The most recent essay began as a request from Craig Johnson, the Grammy-award-winning composer of the contemporary oratorio, “Considering Matthew Shephard,” to introduce this new work to audiences in advance of their hearing the work for the first time.

When someone asks how I came to teach, I say that I needed to demystify the writing process—for myself and for my students. I found in my investigation that music, architecture, mathematics, and many other disciplines share a process that moves from nudges, fragments of ideas, flashes of insight through connecting, ordering, and shaping to a purposeful coherent conclusion.

Yes! You Can Write, now available as an Audible audio book, explains a process of writing that suggests ways to think creatively about any subject as well as how to change your conception of writing as an “ordeal” to writing as a problem solver and idea generator. Writing, the college text that with its spin-offs has sold many hundreds of thousands copies has been used at colleges and universities, including Harvard, Turtle Mountain Community College, University of Minnesota, University of Hawaii, California State University, University of Kentucky, Brunswick Junior College, University of Michigan (Ann Arbor) and hundreds of other colleges and universities

To read about Elizabeth’s professional background and to see her academic resume, please click here:

Professional document and resume