“Writing is absolutely necessary if you want to know something,” says John Sheehy, who came to Marlboro after teaching composition and literature at University of Washington. He explains that writing is an essential part of the learning process because it forces people to organize and present their thoughts with a discipline, something people don’t always do when they are simply reading or talking about what they’ve read. John’s literature seminars cover everything from Faulkner to Emerson, Toni Morrison, Norman MacLean and Cormac McCarthy.

Teaching Philosophy

John helps students determine the strengths of their writing, whether those strengths are found in academic papers or emails to friends, and then capitalize on them, using them as a basis for improving all facets of their writing. “Good writing comes from everywhere,” he says. “Most bad writing comes from bad teaching.” John maintains that email writing discussion groups are an excellent forum for students to critique each others’ work and to present their own. “In email,” he says, “people are unconsciously particular about their tone, content, word choice—essentially their delivery—and they are very aware of their audience. These are really the foundations of all good writing. The job of the writing student is to become aware of these aspects of their writing and to learn how to control them.”

Scholarly Activities

John had a story included in the book The Good Men Project: Real Stories from the Front Lines of Modern Manhood, edited by Tom Matlack. The book features personal essays by a broad range of men, describing their challenges, triumphs, and life-changing moments; John’s story, “Skeff,” describes his relationship with his father. He also had a nonfiction story, titled “Red Line,” published in the fall 2009 issue of Fourth Genre.

John was hired by Marlboro College in 1998


B.A., Montana State University
M.A., University of Washington
Ph.D., University of Washington