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Trent Hergenrader

Assistant Professor
2317 Liberal Arts
(585) 475-6370
MA, PhD, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (2013)
BA, University of Wisconsin-Madison (1997)

AREAS OF INTEREST: Creative Writing Studies, Game Studies, Genre Fiction, Digital Pedagogy

My research deals with games and storytelling, using both terms in
their broadest sense. Many of the prompts in my creative writing
classes come from Surrealist parlor games and OuLiPo constrained
writing techniques. While these approaches do not fit some strict
definitions of games--they are non-competitive and have no victory
condition for example--they can steer writers’ imaginations down
unexpected pathways and encourage them to play with language in
productive and enlightening ways. Much interactive fiction and some of
today's narratively-driven videogames are derived from such
experimental writing.

My current research project focuses on the role-playing game, both
digital and tabletop varieties, and how its generous storytelling
capacities can be used productively in fiction writing courses. An RPG
requires the player to customize a detailed character who acts as the
contact point between the player and the fictional world, and the RPG
story emerges from a series of spontaneous choices the player makes on
behalf of his or her character. As the story progresses through play,
the player develops a deep understanding of the character's traits and
motivations that in turn provide a cornerstone for strong fiction
writing. In my RPG-themed classes, students create their own fictional
world, populating a wiki with people, places, and things, and then
marking them on a Google map. The process requires collaboration and
critical conversations about the kind of world and characters the
student writers wish to represent.

I am also interested in genre fiction and what depictions of alternate
realities might tell us about our own world. As a creative writing
instructor I urge students to take advantage of the fresh
opportunities present in genre fiction rather than rehashing the
familiar genre tropes and trappings. My fiction has been published in
The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Realms of
, Weird Tales, and Best Horror of the Year
among other top genre fiction venues.

Finally, I am active in creative writing studies scholarship, which
seeks to promote new ways to think about our discipline. In addition
to game-based approaches, I am interested in ways digital technology
can transform the creative writing classroom. I am co-editing a
collection entitled Creative Writing in the Digital Age, slated
for publication by Bloomsbury in late 2014.


Calypsis: A Hypertext Fiction.

“Narrative Potential of Tabletop Role-Playing Games.” Proceedings for the Games+Learning+Society 9.0 Conference. Pittsburgh: ETC Press. Forthcoming.

“From Meaning to Experience: Teaching Fiction Writing with Digital RPGs.” Dungeons, Dragons and Digital Denizens: Digital Role-playing Games. Eds. Gerald Voorhees, Joshua Call, and Katie Whitlock. New York: Continuum, 2012.

“Gaming, World Building, and Narrative: Using Role-Playing Games to Teach Fiction Writing.” Proceedings for the Games, Learning and Society 7.0 Conference. Pittsburgh: ETC Press, 2011. 111-16.

“Eskhara.” Federations. Ed. John Joseph Adams. Rockville, MD: Prime, 2009.

“The Hodag.” The Best Horror of the Year #1. Ed. Ellen Datlow. San Francisco: Night Shade Books, 2009.