5 Questions for Hub City's Next Writer-in-Residence
What excites you most about Spartanburg and the Writers House program?
I’m excited to experience a new part of the country, and of course to have so much time to focus on my writing. I also appreciate that the Writers House program asks writers-in-residence to become closely involved with the Spartanburg community. I’m looking forward to getting to know everyone!
We’re a very place-centered organization. You have lived in almost every region of the country: where is home for you? Does the idea of place intersect with your writing?
I grew up outside of Philadelphia, the Phillies are my baseball team, and Pennsylvania will always be a home. But it’s not my only one. The idea of home is complicated for me, mostly because the idea of belonging has always been complicated for me. It used to be something I explored to a greater extent in my writing, but that has dropped away somewhat as I’ve begun to focus more on historical figures. I do find that when I move, I tend to write about the place I’ve just left, so I’ll be interested to see if any Minneapolis/Midwest poems come out of my leaving.
Everyone here was very impressed with your record of community service and engagement. Can you speak to what drives you to give back to the communities where you live?
I really developed my passion for community service in college. When I arrived at Knox, I was in a new part of the country I’d never really experienced before (the Midwest) and, specifically, I was living in a town that used to be a booming center of industry (railroading, in particular) and is now somewhat less booming, though still very vibrant, albeit in a different way.
Knox is tight-knit with a strong sense of community, and the school really encourages students to get involved. During my freshman year, I joined the service organization Alpha Phi Omega (APO) and ended up volunteering in a variety of capacities. When you’re working as part of a larger group like that, you’re able to see first-hand the differences you can make. I also sought out opportunities on my own and, through volunteering with Rainbow Riders, a therapeutic horseback-riding center, I came to realize my passion for working with kids, particularly those dealing with a disability or disadvantage. I was able to combine that with my love of writing when I was in the MFA program at Eastern Washington University, by teaching at-risk high school students through the Writers in the Community program.
I also think that giving back to the community is one of the best ways to get to know a place. You can discover all kinds of things about the richness of the history and the people who live there through volunteering.
You currently work in publishing, at the fantastic Milkweed Editions. What do you enjoy about that work?
I sincerely love working with Milkweed’s authors. It’s been an inspiration to work with such kind, talented writers, and I feel very lucky to have been able to guide their books through the production process and experience what goes on behind the scenes. On the editorial side of things, I enjoy helping manuscripts through the copyediting and proofreading stages, because I’m a bit of a grammar nerd. I’m always the one pointing out where an en-dash should go.
Other than writing, what do you like to do for fun? Where might we see you on a Saturday afternoon?
I love baking and because I have to follow a gluten-free diet, I’m often tinkering around with different recipes. (You know it’s good when no one can tell it’s gluten free.) Brownies and lemon poppy seed loaf are two of my specialties. I also dabble in medium-format film photography, which allows me to play around in a way that digital photography really doesn’t. I also like to explore by walking or biking around, especially when I’m in a new place. I don’t think driving gives you the same opportunity to really take in the little surprises a new town can offer.