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Margrethe Ahlschwede (mar-GRAY-da ALL-swede) is professor of English; director of the West Tennessee Writing Project (WTWP); and with faculty colleagues, facilitator of Voice Lessons: The UTM Faculty Writing Project. Her essays on teaching have been published in Writing on the Edge, the Voice of the National Writing Project, and in Practice in Context: Situating the Work of Writing Teachers published in 2002 by the National Council of Teachers of English; her poems in Zone 3 and Prairie Schooner; and her short stories in South Dakota Review, Tampa Review, Sou’wester, CutBank, Weber Studies, and the Seattle Review.

Margrethe has received the University of Tennessee National Alumni Association Outstanding Teacher Award and from 2000-2002 was the Hardy M. Graham Distinguished Professor in English, the first woman and the first faculty member in the humanities so recognized at UT Martin.

Her Ph.D. and M.A. in English are from the University of Nebraska. She also holds an M.A. in journalism from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, and a B.S. with majors in home economics and journalism from the University of Nebraska. She teaches students in courses in beginning and advanced composition, poetry and fiction writing, and teachers in the annual invitational summer institutes of WTWP. Her teaching is informed by reading, writing, her education in journalism and English, and by her eight years as a member of the Lincoln (Nebraska) City Council.

Born in Denmark, Margrethe has spent most of her life in Nebraska but has lived in Tennessee since July 1992. She began quilting over twenty years ago, her projects gifts for family and friends. Her husband, Bill, a Nebraskan and swine geneticist whose Ph.D. is from N.C. State University in Raleigh, also teaches students in writing courses at UT Martin. Their son, Tom, and daughter, Stephanie, and their families live in Nebraska.


An Open Letter To My Students, Why My Classes Work This Way
Hearing Things, a short story
Nothing Is Here In Martin, Tennessee , a poem
Two Poems After William Stafford's "Fifteen"


I began quilting in 1982 in a sampler quilting class taught by a young mother, Mary Obrist.  Some other classes followed, but until I moved from Lincoln, Nebraska to Martin, Tennessee in July 1992, most of my quilting projects grew out of regular meetings with Sara Dillow, Lois Wilson, and Judy Lane.

Since our mother did not sew, my sister and I learned through 4-H.  We made most of our clothes, including our dance recital costumes when we were in junior high.  A younger sister of our mother, our Aunt Marian, made her own clothes and encouraged us in our sewing.  After her death, Aunt Marian left me a lamp from my mother's family which lights the corner of my sewing table. 

Nearly everything I see is either color or pattern for a quilt or a subject for writing.  My first memory of writing is in 5th grade, typing a newsletter on my father's portable that had the three letters of the Danish alphabet.  I wanted to be a journalist.  And eventually I was.  And eventually I was a teacher and a writer and a quilter.

At the start of the fall semester in 1995, my English Department colleague, Professor Polly Glover, said, we must be a writing group and we must meet once a week to read our writing aloud. And mostly we did. I read aloud from my teaching journal. It was not just in the writing but in hearing Polly's responses to my writing that I was able to understand more clearly what was happening with my students and in my classroom. I am a much better teacher for keeping this journal, and for having had an eager, thoughtful listener.






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