Ryan Van Meter

Ryan Van Meter
Associate Senior Instructional Professor; Associate Director of the Program in Creative Writing; Minor and MAPH Liaison
Taft 205
MFA, University of Iowa; MA, DePaul University
Research Interests: The Personal Essay, Road Narratives, Visual Art Practices


I write nonfiction and fiction, often centering on issues of identity, longing and desire, family dynamics, and nostalgia. I've published one collection of essays, completed a second, and am revising my first novel.

Writing Profile

I've written personal essays examining issues of sexual and gender identity from childhood to adulthood as well as essays meditating on soap operas, Janis Joplin's apartment in San Francisco, fatherhood and childlessness, among other subjects. In my new collection, I’m wondering about the implications of having denied my truest self for so long and how sustained denial complicated the desire for romantic love, self-acceptance of body image, male friendship, and empowerment, to name a few. I'm also completing a novel based on an anecdote from family history. A road narrative, it depicts a small-town sheriff who brings his entire family along for a prisoner transport trip from Missouri to California and back. Broadly, it is a story about the thin lines between citizen and criminal, and privilege and misfortune, and it wonders why some unlawful acts are ignored while others are paid for seemingly out of scale.

My writing has been published in literary journals such as The Iowa Review, The Gettysburg Review, and Ninth Letter, as well as selected for anthologies like The Best American Essays and The Touchstone Anthology of Contemporary Creative Nonfiction: Work from 1970 to present. I've received residency fellowships from The MacDowell Colony and Virginia Center for the Creative Arts.

Work with Students

No matter what I'm teaching, in my classes, we value process over product. I attempt to instill in my students a sustained practice of careful observation. First and most important, we focus on the observation of the particular, distinctive, and convincing details that create an experience for our readers. This means noticing the world around us, but also noticing the worlds we remember. Noticing metaphorical and/or deeper meanings in published literature as well as in our drafts is another kind of observation that's important in my courses. I believe strongly that skillful writers begin as skillful readers, so I devote the bulk of any class period to the discussion of assigned or peer texts. I also want us to observe ourselves as writers so, in my classes, we'll free-write a lot, share our work with each other often and talk about our experience with exercises and assignments constantly. 

I've taught foundational and advanced courses in fiction and literary nonfiction, and developed courses focusing on oral history, the road narrative, experimental literary nonfiction, and flash narratives.

Selected Publications

  • "An Essay about Coyotes," Winter 2023, The Iowa Review
  • "Anyone He Pleased," September 2021, Brevity
  • “First,” 2021, Advanced Creative Nonfiction: A Writer’s Guide and Anthology, Bloomsbury
  • “Cherry Bars,” 2020, Contemporary Creative Nonfiction: An Anthology, Kendall Hunt Publishing Company
  • "The Hourglass," August 2017, Little Boxes: Twelve Writers on Television, Coffee House Press 


Subject Area: Fiction, Nonfiction