BSU program director finds power in words

Ever since she was young, Elizabeth Gutting knew she wanted to be a writer.


She wasn't just good with words. ("Word" was and is her actual middle name, by the way, passed down to her by her grandmother, Virginia Word.) They became her way of expressing herself; of understanding the world around her.

As a child, Gutting said she felt empowered at the encouragement of her parents to speak her mind. She had her voice.

But as she got older, she found not everyone wanted to hear what she had to say. Finding her voice, Gutting said, would be an ongoing process throughout her life.

She remembers losing that voice for a time 10 years ago, while teaching English on a Fulbright fellowship in South Korea, in exchange for the valuable experience of learning to listen and take in the new and foreign world around her.

But it was while she was there, gaining new skills and experiences, that Gutting said she also found her voice, in a way. Knowing she wanted to continue writing, she made the decision to eventually move back to Washington, D.C., where she would earn her MFA in fiction at George Mason University.

“I knew I still had stories I wanted to tell,” Gutting said in an interview with the Alturas Institute this month.

From there, doors began to open that would guide Gutting to a successful career centered around writing. She joined the PEN/Faulkner Foundation, where she became the program’s director, and spent much of her time introducing D.C. public high school students and other audiences to real writers and authors.

Now the program coordinator of the MFA program in creative writing at Boise State University, Gutting said being a part of the creative writing program has been one of the highlights of her career.

As a woman who has found success doing what she loves, Gutting recognizes how far women across America have come in finding their voices, while acknowledging how far they still have to go.


While she is grateful for the cultural shift that the #MeToo Movement has put into motion in the last couple of years, Gutting said some women’s voices are still elevated over the voices of other women who have not been heard in an active way, such as low-income immigrant women.


“Because I am among the group of women that society is actively listening to at this moment in time - I am white, educated, and in my mid-thirties - I am aware that I’m benefiting even more than many others,” Gutting said. “I think that just means that the women who are being heard need to help champion those who are still not being heard.”

As it stands, Gutting continues to hone her voice through writing, something she said she has never been able to not do. Her goals are to publish the novel she is currently working on, and to inspire her son to pursue his own passions when he grows older.

“I will say that since the birth of my son (he’s now two years old), I often think of the example I want to set for him,” Gutting said. “And I want him to see both of his parents doing what they love, and following their dreams, so that one day, he will do the same.”


Elizabeth Gutting is the MFA Program Director at Boise State University.

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