For the month of August we are spotlighting esteemed Pratt faculty member, Gabriel Cohen, who teaches undergraduate and continuing education courses at Pratt Institute. This upcoming fall semester, Pratt’s School of Continuing and Professional Studies (SCPS) launched the Writers Workspace. A new program geared towards students and creative professionals interested in growing and further developing their writing practice. Beginning on October 2nd, Gabriel will be teaching, 1st Chapters: Start Your Novel, a 10 week course that will focus on guiding and preparing budding novelists in taking the first steps towards composing a novel. It will also be useful for writers who may have written some previous drafts.
As a longtime Pratt faculty member, Gabriel Cohen brings with him an extensive and impressive professional and educational resume. He is the author of a literary novel, four crime novels, and a nonfiction book, and was a finalist for an Edgar award. He has written essays for the New York Times, Poets & Writers, and TimeOut New York just to name a few. He is also in his tenth year at Pratt Institute and has previously taught writing at New York University, the Center for Fiction, and Long Island University. We recently had the opportunity to speak with Gabriel Cohen about his life and career. Tune in below to hear all about his background in the creative world, his literary accomplishments and his approach to teaching as an educator.
Pratt SCPS: What motivated you to pursue a career in the creative world?
Gabriel Cohen: I grew up in a family of writers, painters, and filmmakers, so I was exposed to the creative process very early. I studied English in college, then went on to a stint as a musician and songwriter, and did freelance journalism for a weekly newspaper. I shifted to writing mostly novels because I find it enormously satisfying to imagine characters, places, and stories, and then use craft to make them come alive for readers. I love how both fiction and nonfiction promote a deeper engagement with the world and with other human beings. (I especially love researching and writing about New York.)
Pratt SCPS: What would you say has been your greatest professional achievements so far?
Gabriel Cohen: I was excited to write features about this city for the New York Times, including articles about con artists who actually “sold” the Brooklyn Bridge, and about the brash Comments sections on neighborhood blogs. And I was proud to publish five novels, but an especially satisfying aspect of my career was publishing a nonfiction book about how to survive divorce, and then getting letters from total strangers around the world who said that it helped them get through tough times.
Pratt SCPS: When did your Pratt journey begin and what has it been like?
Gabriel Cohen: I am beginning my tenth year of teaching at Pratt. I have enjoyed helping Writing Program students improve their craft, introducing freshman students to nonfiction through explorations of New York City*, and learning about design myself when I teach thesis writing to graduate Design students.
*For example, I take them on a field trip to write about the Fulton Mall. I ask them if they could write about the city if they were deaf and blind, and then I read them an amazing essay by Helen Keller in which she did just that.
Pratt SCPS: What has been the most important lesson for you as an educator in this field?
Gabriel Cohen: I believe that as a professor I have a responsibility to always keep working on learning about education and improving my teaching technique. It doesn’t matter how good a writer someone might be if they can’t help students learn the craft. I started a program at Pratt to enable teachers to get together for informal meetings to share tips about how we can improve as educators.
I teach that writing is an act of communication as well as self-expression, and that as writers we have to learn craft in order to be able to provide vivid, engrossing experiences for readers.
Pratt SCPS: What upcoming courses will you be teaching at Pratt?
Gabriel Cohen: I’ll be teaching a freshman Studio writing course and a novel-writing course for undergraduates, as well as this adult course for the School of Continuing and Professional studies.
If you’re interested in learning more about Gabriel Cohen’s upcoming course at Pratt’s School of Continuing and Professional Studies visit the main website. Make sure to subscribe to our blog stay up to date on all of the upcoming features!