In 1995 RJ Hembree built his first Web page as an Old Dominion University English major. Writers’ Village University evolved from this first website. The initial motivation was to connect with others interested in postmodern literature, authors like Italo Calvino, Jorge Luis Borges, John Barth, Salman Rushdie and Gabriel Garcia Marquez. What he found were like-minded writers, so he began to share what he was learning about writing. This was the beginning of the Web’s first online community and school for writers. By the time he started ODU's MFA program in 1997, WVU had grown from 7 members to over 1,000.
Over the years, his focus changed from writing fiction to writing about writing. He is a relentless researcher on the subject, and always on the lookout for fresh connections and ideas. When one has studied the craft long enough, the redundancy of popular writing texts and creative writing courses becomes clear. There’s so much more to discover about writing and what makes it work (or not work).
Hembree has developed many courses since 1995, covering both conventional and artistic approaches to writing fiction, nonfiction and poetry. In his own words: “My joy is research and discovery, and even more, watching our members grow into fine writers. Many have published, won awards and write professionally. We have a wide variety of experience levels in our membership. My job is to explore ways of bringing out the best in them.”