John T. Edge speaks after a screening of the "TrueSouth" episode featuring Athens. (photos: Dayne Young, Grady College)
John T. Edge teaches Grady College MFA students to explore narrative to better understand the world
The words “story” and “narrative” are in most responses from John T. Edge when he is asked about what students learn in Grady College’s MFA in Narrative Media Writing.
It is a simple reminder of the essence and foundation of the low residency graduate program.
Edge has taught in the program since its inception. He mentors three or four students per semester to provide hyper-individualized instruction.
“I act as their first and best editor,” Edge said.
His editing knowledge stems from a vast resume including authoring many books, most recently “The Potlikker Papers: A Food History of the Modern South.” He has written a column for the New York Times, and now serves as a columnist for Garden & Gun and Oxford American. He has won three James Beard Foundation Awards for his writing. He is also the host of “TrueSouth” on the SEC Network, a show that tells honest stories of the modern South.
Edge says his students share common characteristics even if they have interests in different subject matters.
“A hunger for story is first and foremost, a rage to explain, a want to tell complicated, nuanced stories using narrative devices,” Edge said.
He counsels them on what to read to fuel writing and what research is required to become a better writer. He encourages students to apply the same devices found in fiction such as characters and story arc to non-fiction narratives.
“Narrative transforms our understanding of our place and the people who inhabit it,” said Edge.
Grady College MFA narrative instructors have specialized interests including food, health and biography, among others.
“The people who teach in this program have a wide range of expertise,” said Edge. “The crazy quilt we stitch together makes this thing work. That is what our students draw upon.”