A year after publishing an award-winning novel, SIUC professor reflects on being a teacher, author and parent

By Anna Spoerre, @annaspoerre

One year ago Wednesday, associate English professor Scott Blackwood published “See How Small,” a fiction novel that has since been named to the New York Times’ Editor’s Choice Pick and NPR’s Best Books of 2015.

Blackwood, who has been teaching fiction at the university since 2012, was nominated Jan. 14 for an American Society of Magazine Editors award for a nonfiction feature writing piece about poverty in Pembroke Township — a small town south of Chicago. The winner will be announced on Feb 1.

Today, Blackwood’s own story includes teaching students while writing and raising a family, made possible thanks to weekly air commutes across the country.


He recently moved back to Austin, Texas, so to make it to class on time, Blackwood leaves his home Tuesday morning and does not return until Wednesday night. With 15-hour shifts, he spends a lot of time in his Faner Hall office, which contains two large bookshelves and a desk covered in papers and books. 

When he was an undergraduate at the University of Texas, Blackwood said he related to students who struggled with writing.

“I don’t think I was a very good writer,” he said. “I wasn’t the golden child.”

In his 19 years since college, Blackwood has published two novels, a short story collection and two nonfiction works. He said he hopes to continue teaching and publishing.

“You’re trying to help people tell their own stories, whether it’s on the page or something they’re trying to overcome,” he said. 

This past year, he began writing a prequel to “See How Small,” a fictitious novel about the experience of a soldier who just returned home from Iraq. 

Blackwood, whose most recent novel took five years to complete, said his busy schedule only allows for sporadic writing.

“If you find something you’re really interested in, you better pursue it … and put your credibility on the line to achieve it,” Blackwood said. “The sooner you can find out what will fulfill you emotionally and intellectually, you should pursue that.”

Anna Spoerre can be reached at [email protected] or 618-536-3325.