Joyce Dyer was born in Goosetown (see Goosetown: Reconstructing an Akron Neighborhood), an ethnic community in Akron, Ohio, and moved one mile south when she was five years old to a company town established by Harvey S. Firestone for his rubber workers (see Gum-Dipped: A Daughter Remembers Rubber Town). She earned a BA in English and then went on to receive a PhD in English, with an emphasis in American literature. She began her career by writing scholarly essays, as well as publishing a book about Kate Chopin that won an award from Choice Magazine, but for the past twenty years she has devoted herself to personal writing, especially memoir, literary journalism, and hybrid essays.
Her Books and Other Writing
She is the author of four books, a chapbook, and an edited collection. These include The Awakening: A Novel of Beginnings, In A Tangled Wood: An Alzheimer’s Journey, Bloodroot: Reflections on Place by Appalachian Women Writers, Gum-Dipped: A Daughter Remembers Rubber Town, Goosetown: Reconstructing an Akron Neighborhood, and My Mother’s Singer. Her essays have appeared in numerous magazines, including North American Review, High Plains Literary Review, creme city review, and Stoneboat Journal, as well as in collections and anthologies such as After the Bell: Contemporary American Prose about School (University of Iowa Press), We All Live Downstream: Writing about Mountaintop Removal (Motes Books), Educating the Imagination: Essays and Ideas for Teachers & Writers (Teachers & Writers Collaborative), What’s Normal?: Narratives of Mental and Emotional Disorders (Kent State University Press), Body Outlaws: Rewriting the Rules of Beauty and Body Image (Seal Press), Crossing Troublesome (Wind Publications), Motif 2: Chance (Wind Publications), and Motif 3: Work (Wind Publications).
Teaching Experience and Recognition
She began teaching writing and literature at Lake Forest College in Illinois, but most of her teaching has been in Ohio–at Western Reserve Academy and Hiram College. At Hiram she served as director of the Writing Across the Curriculum program and, later, director of the Lindsay-Crane Center for Writing and Literature. It was at Hiram College that she began an innovative and specialized program in creative nonfiction that made available to students not only courses in basic and advanced technique in creative nonfiction, but also multiple offerings in subgenres of nonfiction, including memoir, literary journalism, humor writing, life writing, and writing about illness. She currently is the John S. Kenyon Professor of English at Hiram College, where she teaches creative writing courses. She has been awarded both the Michael Starr Award for Teaching Excellence and the Vencl-Carr Award for Teaching Excellence by her college and has received several grants from NEH and the Ohio Humanities Council. She represented Ohio as the recipient of the NEH-Reader’s Digest Teacher-Scholar Award in 1990, a year-long sabbatical given to one teacher per state.
Regional and National Programs
Over the past fifteen years she has traveled widely to serve on the staffs of established summer workshops (such as the Antioch Writers’ Workshop and the Appalachian Writers Workshop); to give readings and lectures at colleges such as Otterbein, Mount Union, Muskingum University, and St. Mary’s College of Maryland; to participate in regional festivals (such as the Great Lakes Literary Festival in Sheboygan, Wisconsin); and to participate in educational programs for community members and talented emerging writers. Recently she served as Visiting Writer in Creative Nonfiction for the Northeast Ohio Master of Fine Arts Program in Creative Writing (NEOMFA), a consortial program consisting of Kent State University, the University of Akron, Youngstown State University, and Cleveland State University.
Awards for Her Writing
Her awards include Pushcart nominations in essay, the Appalachian Writers Association Book of the Year Award for Bloodroot, a National Book Award nomination for In a Tangled Wood, the David B. Saunders Award in Creative Nonfiction for her essay “Confessions of a Nail-Biter,” a chapbook prize from Word of Mouth Books for her long hybrid essay My Mother’s Singer (co-winner), first place in the Best of Ohio Writers Contest in the category of Writers on Writing, selection of Gum-Dipped as a Book of the Year finalist by ForeWord Magazine, and the naming of Goosetown as a finalist for the 2011 Ohioana Book Award in the category of About Ohio/Ohioan. She has also received funding from the Ohio Arts Council.
A Personal Note
Dyer and her husband, Daniel, live in Hudson, Ohio, the Western Reserve town where John Brown grew up. The small house they live in is next to a funeral home and directly across the street from the site of the old Congregational meetinghouse where John Brown spoke his vow in 1837 to destroy slavery. It is perhaps no surprise that Joyce Dyer is currently engaged in a long project about John Brown, as well as a collection of essays about living next door to a funeral home.