UI graduate student paving the way for Native fiction

UI graduate student Cinnamon Spear found her passion in writing about Native American issues.

Maleaha Brings Plenty, Arts Reporter

Cinnamon Spear is a graduate student studying at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, working to get an M.F.A. in fiction. She will graduate from the workshop in May and is excited about that.

However, this year in particular excites her not only because of the impending graduation but also the ability to teach. She teaches the Creative Writing Studio Workshop and loves every second of it.

“That’s been, so far, the most rewarding thing, which is surprising, because going into it, I was a little … hesitant or nervous because I’ve never taught before,” she said. “But now I’m able to create a learning environment where I can cultivate other young writers to be creative and self-reflective.”

For Spear, writing has long been a staple in her life, even when she didn’t think to call herself a writer.

“I had been using writing throughout my childhood to cope with different difficult situations that were happening,” she said. “I had always taken a pen to paper to try to help navigate through situations and figure things out.”

While she has used writing to get her emotions on paper and to help her through difficult times, her career path hasn’t always been toward writing.

She earned a bachelor’s at Dartmouth in Native American Studies. She then joined a pre-med program at Montana State, thinking she’d go into the medical field. She enjoyed science and math, but it wasn’t something she was passionate about, not the way she was passionate about writing.

During a therapy session, her counselor said, “There’s a light in you when you talk about this that I haven’t seen in you.”

At this moment, she shifted her focus and path away from math and science and toward writing.

Her biggest inspiration is her own life. She draws directly from her life and feelings, aiming to create an authentic voice. Unlike most writers, she doesn’t consider herself well-read, but it’s because she doesn’t want her voice to be influenced by any other writers.

“I think I like approaching my writing in a way that is almost un-influenced,” she said, “I like to remain protected from influence.”

She enjoys writing short stories that focus mostly on trauma and self-healing, targeted mostly toward Native American women. Noting the lack of resources that are for Native women in regard to trauma, self-help, and mental health, she hopes to write stories and books that provide guidelines and inspiration for fellow Native women.

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