Article By: Piper Hale
Published: Nov 21, 2011
Kerry Burke, from Colorado Springs, Colorado, is working on an M.F.A. from SCAD Atlanta.
Kerry Burke's passion for writing dates back to her childhood, when she filled notebooks with stories and poems about nature. "We lived out in the country," says Kerry, "and while other kids were at the mall, I was out riding and swimming with horses in the mountain lake, or catching crawfish in the river with my brother and sister. We climbed a lot of the rocks in the Garden of Gods - many of them illegally. We'd be gone all day and would return at sunset." Kerry loved scribbling down descriptive poems and accounts of these adventures, all of which her mother carefully scrapbooked.
In the years since, she has developed a portfolio that doesn't have much in common with the homemade scrapbooks from her childhood. She's expanded her writing to encompass a range of genres, from technical writing to personal essays, but while she feels comfortable in all of these writing styles, Kerry prefers memoir.
She first began writing memoir pieces as a young girl, when her father was diagnosed with terminal cancer. In the difficult years that followed, Kerry's journal entries about her experiences with her father became a way of ensuring that she would never forget the time they spent together. When she was 12, her father lost his long battle with the disease. After his death, Kerry says she found that writing about him transformed into "a way of processing and dealing. Writing had always been kind of an escape, but it became therapy."
She still sometimes retreats to writing as a therapeutic exercise, but she prefers now to see it as "a series of creative challenges." In SCAD's writing program
, Kerry says she is often pushed to work outside of her comfort zone. "When you're told to write something you've never ever done before, writing from a perspective you've never thought of before, there's a challenge in it and I like the challenge," says Kerry. "I'm kind of addicted to that challenge."
It was Kerry's pursuit of these kinds of challenges that initially brought her to SCAD two years ago. She had been teaching middle and high school students for nine years, and found that, though she loved teaching, her career was not fulfilling. She looked into SCAD Atlanta's writing program after a friend mentioned it to her, and she applied and enrolled immediately after visiting; the atmosphere, she says, instantly attracted her. "There is a creative energy when you come on this campus," she explains. "You can just feel it walking through the halls." She was also happy about the idea of submitting a writing portfolio instead of taking the GRE. "I am a very poor test taker," Kerry laughs.
Since coming to SCAD, Kerry has tried her hand at a variety of professional writing genres. She published a short piece of fiction in Scan magazine and became a news editor for SCAD Atlanta's student newspaper, The Connector
. In her most recent internship, she wrote articles and other content for clients like WikiHow, Georgia Tourism, Home Depot and Internap. She also wrote content for a curriculum publishing company as a freelancer.
Recently, Kerry had what she describes as a "redefining yourself moment" when a friend was introducing her to a group of people. Someone asked Kerry what she does for a living, and before she could say, "I'm a grad student," her friend answered for her, "She's a writer." As soon as she heard this, she realized it was true. "I get goosebumps thinking about that now," she says.
Kerry has finished her classes, but is still working on her thesis. Since leaving SCAD, Kerry has combined her love of writing and education as a curriculum writer for The Mendez Foundation.