Geographic Connection to Pennsylvania: State College, Centre County
Author Heather Bryant taught English Composition and Creative Writing at Pennsylvania State University.
Born in October of 1959, Heather Corbally Bryant was raised in a family that valued literacy and reading. Bryant, an English Professor and accomplished writer, attended Harvard University and the University of Michigan, earning her BA and PhD degrees. Her recently published works include her poetry collections, Cheap Grace (2011) and Lottery Ticket (2013). She is also the author of the, Through Your Hands (2011), a novel, and the academic book, How Will the Heart Endure: Elizabeth Bowen and the Landscape of War (1992). Bryant taught English Composition and Creative Writing at Pennsylvania State University and is currently preparing for a teaching position at Wellesley College in Boston.
On October 12, 1959, Heather Corbally (C.) Bryant was born to Douglas Wallace Bryant and Rene Kuhn Bryant in Boston, Massachusetts. Bryant, a third generation college woman, comes from a line of scholarly and literary thinkers. Her mother studied with Arthur Miller at the University of Michigan and wrote two novels, training young Bryant to be observant and "to make stories out of what [she] saw going on in the world around [her]." Additionally, Bryant's father was the Director and Librarian of Harvard Libraries, instilling in her an inclination to ask questions and be curious, as well as teaching her to revere books. As a child, Bryant had the opportunity to touch a copy of the Gutenberg Bible and dig the first shovel of dirt during the groundbreaking for Harvard's design library.
Bryant majored in History and Literature at Harvard University, graduating cum laude in 1981. Her honors thesis, "Sight and Sensibility: A Study of Ruskin, Turner, and Praeterita," won the John Ruskin Prize. She also worked on the university's literary magazine, The Harvard Advocate. The week of her graduation, Bryant wrote a poem called "The Garden Party" that was published by Christian Science Monitor and earned her a prize from the journal.
After graduation, Bryant taught English for a year at Phillips Academy Andover, a preparatory school. This was followed by an additional English teaching stint at Middlesex, where she also served as Associate Director of Admissions for two years. She then pursued her Master's and Doctorate degrees in Modern British and Irish Literature at the University of Michigan, earning many accolades during her time there. Bryant won an outstanding teacher award, in addition to earning a Rackham Dissertation Award and a Rackham Fellowship. The fellowships enabled her to conduct research for her dissertation in England, Ireland, and New York City. Bryant's dissertation and first academic book, How Will the Heart Endure: Elizabeth Bowen and the Landscape of War, won the Donald R. Murphy Prize for best first book at the American Conference on Irish Studies and was published by the University of Michigan Press in 1992. She also worked on the Cornell Yeats Series, specifically The Island of Statues.
Bryant moved from Ann Arbor, Michigan, to Boston to teach writing at Harvard University, where she continued to be recognized for her outstanding teaching. She taught freshman English at the college from 1990 to 1993. Her twin children, Douglas and Phoebe, were born in 1994, and her son Walker was born in 1996. In 1995, Bryant returned from her leave and taught English to adults at Harvard's Extension School until 2005. While teaching at Harvard's Extension School, she also worked at Wellesley College as a Visiting Assistant Professor in the Writing Program from 2003 to 2005. Bryant and her family then moved to State College, Pennsylvania, where she began teaching English Composition and Creative Writing at the Pennsylvania State University.
Throughout her decades as an English professor, helping writers grow and find their own voices, Bryant has continued to pursue creative writing. On why she writes, Bryant reflects, "I think I write because I can't not write. I write because it's how I think, how I see the world, how I remember things, how I figure out what I think, what I want to leave behind." Bryant also reflects on how she enjoys writing in a variety of genres, since each serves a different purpose: "poems to help me sharpen my insight and sense of language play, novels to tell stories, and creative nonfiction to give a shape to the story that is my life continuing to develop over time."
In 2011, Bryant's first published novel, Through Your Hands, won the Rising Star and Editor's Choice awards. The novel centers on Joy and Gregg, a couple whose first child, Bean, is stillborn, and delves into how they struggle to heal after the tragedy. The poignantly written book explores the challenges of teen pregnancy and the miracles of adoption. Bryant's first chapbook, Cheap Grace, was also published in 2011. Caroline Collins of Verse Wisconsin says of Bryant's recent chapbook, Lottery Ticket (2013): "These are poems to turn over in our minds, poems that begin in quiet splendor, gather weight and emotion, and build to a kaleidoscopic beauty."
Bryant is currently working on a creative nonfiction piece, Rediscovering My Father, which is an exploration of "genetics, family history, and the passage of time in attempting to address the central question of who we are and why we become that way." Bryant believes that, to some degree, fiction is a translation of what we see, feel, and know. She has also completed a novel about a girl who drowns after a prep school party, The Girl Who Went Missing, and is circulating her book-length poetry collection, Horses, Twilight.
In 2013, Bryant gave poetry readings in Ft. Lauderdale and at Folio Bookstore in San Francisco, the Palmer Museum at the Pennsylvania State University, the Green Drake Gallery, and Webster's bookstore in downtown State College, PA. She also participated as a distinguished guest of Pennsylvania State's Schreyer Honors College, giving a seminar to honors students during the spring of 2014. She and her three children are preparing to leave State College for Boston in August 2014, where she will return to teaching writing at Wellesley College, the alma mater of Hillary Clinton.
"The biggest advice I can offer [writers] is to write every day, to write as much as possible," Bryant says. "I have no real routine — but I have kept up my practice of writing a poem a day since August 15, 2003 — consequently, I now have over 4,000 poems!"
Many poems by Heather C. Bryant appear regularly on Medium, Twitter, Weebly, Facebook, and her personal web site, heathercorballybryant.com.
Through Your Hands. Bloomington, IN: iUniverse Inc., 2011.
Cheap Grace. Georgetown, KY: Finishing Line Press, 2011.
Lottery Ticket. Madison, WI: Parallel Press Series of the University of Wisconsin, 2013.
How Will the Heart Endure: Elizabeth Bowen and the Landscape of War. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 1992.
Bryant, Heather Corbally (C.) Email correspondence. 3 July 2014.