Meet Our Maine Coast College Essay Master Writing Instructor

By: Will Robertson

Ever wondered what it takes to be a Master Writing Instructor on our Maine Coast College Essay Trip? I can tell you it takes much more than just owning a decidedly-cooler-than-average beard and a classy collection of stylish hats (although our instructor does happen to meet those “requirements”). It takes years of experience as a published writer and an educator, and past experience working with college-hopeful students. Our Master Writing Instructor, Colin Cheney, certainly checks all of those boxes and more!

Colin, sporting the beard and the stylish hat!

Back in 2001, when he graduated magna cum laude from Brown University, Colin must have had a premonition that he’d one day be working with an outdoor adventure company, as he majored in Environmental Studies. After graduation and three years in the environmental non-profit sector, Colin turned back to writing and was accepted to NYU’s Master of Fine Arts program in Creative Writing, from which he graduated in 2007. His teaching career kicked off at the same time, as he taught in NYU’s Expository Writing Program for five years after picking up his MFA. Colin’s work as a lecturer at NYU bears many parallels to the work he does today with Apogee, as his teaching focused on rhetoric and composition, with a focus on the development of conceptual thinking — key points in the development of a college essay.

After leaving NYU in 2010, Colin took his teaching and writing talents abroad — to Bangkok, Thailand! Colin taught at the prestigious Shrewsbury International School in Bangkok, where he created American university-style courses in critical thinking and writing, and directed a summer pre-college writing workshop. Colin finished off his teaching time in Thailand as a faculty member with the City University of Hong Kong’s Creative Writing MFA program. In 2017, Colin moved back to his native New England, and now works as a Visiting Assistant Professor at Maine College of Art’s Salt Institute for Documentary Studies, where he teaches writing-intensive seminars in Documentary Theory and Practice. Colin joined us as our Master Writing Instructor in 2018, and helped mold over 40 college essays for our students last summer.

Photo Courtesy Maine College of Art

Colin has an impressive list of published poems and essays, but his magnum opus, if you will, is his book Here Be Monsters (University of Georgia Press, 2010), which was a National Poetry Series selection. Colin has also been awarded a Pushcart Prize and a Ruth Lilly Fellowship for his poetry. Colin, however, is not just a poet; his articles and essays have been published in Slate Magazine and The Bangkok Post (among others) and he is an Emmy-nominated producer of The City Dark, a documentary about the impacts of light pollution. What’s more, he is the founder and host of Poet in Bangkok, a conversation and story podcast about making art in Thailand under military censorship.

Colin’s diverse areas of experience and his extensive teaching pedigree have made him the perfect instructor for our MCCE trips. Colin spends his first couple of days with our groups on topic development and writing exercises with the full group, hitting on the big picture idea of what makes a good college essay. The latter part of Colin’s involvement with an MCCE group centers around one-on-one writing conferences in order to provide each individual student with guidance on their personal essay. We’re thrilled to have Colin back for his third summer of MCCE in 2020 (virtually this time!), and we can’t wait to see the amazing essays that emerge from this summer’s programs!

Colin lives in Freeport, Maine with his wife and two children.