MFA Creative Writing: Fiction, 2007
PhD in Literature & Creative Writing from the University of Cincinnati
BOA Short Fiction Prize winner for her collection of short stories, The Rapture Index: A Suburban Bestiary
Fall 2019 Gettysburg College Emerging Writer Lecturer
How did your major prepare you for the job, the life you have now?
My time at Colorado State helped me develop the discipline and habits of creative practice that have fed me throughout my writing career.
What do you consider to be your greatest accomplishments (both personally and professionally)? How did your experience in the English Department help you with these achievements?
My personal and professional accomplishments overlap—for both I would say publishing my first book (coming out May 14!) and receiving my PhD in Literature and Creative Writing from the University of Cincinnati (a thing that also just happened).
What did you like about the English program? Why did you choose to study here?
I immediately liked the feeling of community and camaraderie of the English Department, and the sense that the professors were generous and down to earth and genuinely interested in their students.
Do you have a favorite or funny story from your time with the English Department?
The only stories I can think of are not appropriate for this platform, and I wouldn’t want to get anyone in trouble. One thing I recall fondly are the interdisciplinary gatherings the department would sometimes hold, bringing together people from disciplines like animal science and the humanities to discuss interesting things. It was so great to hear smart people from the university come together and share their particular angle and expertise.
Was there a specific class, professor, advisor, or fellow student who made an impression on you, helped you, or inspired you when you were at CSU in the English Department? Do you still keep in contact with your classmates or professors?
There were so many professors and fellow students who helped and inspired me; Steven Schwartz, Judy Doenges, and Leslee Becker were all really integral to my growth as a writer—each with different approaches and strengths as teachers and writers. I feel really lucky to have worked with all three of them. Stephanie G’Schwind, managing editor of the Colorado Review was also someone who was a strong mentor for me and helped and encouraged me as a writer and editor. Dana Masden, Viviane Vasconcelos, and Michelle Deschenes were my girls, who formed the backbone of my community and helped me both stay sane and lose my mind in the best ways. I do keep in contact with a few of my classmates and professors; this contact is more seldom than I’d like, but I know we’re still connected. There are so many people who made an impression on me, who helped and inspired me during my time at CSU—too many to mention here.
You recently won the the BOA short fiction prize for your short story collection The Rapture Index: A Suburban Bestiary. Can you tell us a bit more about the book? What was your writing process like for the book?
Loosely based on the medieval bestiary, these stories dig into our current relationship to animals both wild and tame: How do we use animals as symbols and totems, as stand-ins for relationships with other humans? How and why do we demonize certain species of animal while embracing others? How do we define our humanity through the animal? Set mostly in suburbia (and the beach towns that sit right outside), these stories look at how the wild is courted, perverted, and sublimated in places where the taming of said wild is built into the infrastructure, is a large part of the goal. What happens when we try to deny our own animal nature? The “rapture” of the title refers to both the Christian rapture and the sense of intense pleasure. Threaded throughout the collection are shorter pieces that more closely attempt to mimic the style of the traditional bestiary, a kind of catalogue of animals found in a particular suburban town that is used to both instruct residents in how to behave and tell the story of the town—mainly a story of the town’s attempts to control or harness animals and the catastrophic results of these attempts.
My writing process for the book was long and arduous (is there any other way?)—I wrote many stories, revised them, discarded most of them, wrote new stories; then after a while, I realized I’d been writing about similar themes and obsessions and, following the suggestion of another CSU professor (thank you, Matthew Cooperman!), I began to look into the bestiary as a model and think about how this model could help the different stories cohere.
What are you currently working on?
I am currently working on a novel, tentatively titled Lifelike. Again set in a Southern California suburb, the novel follows a family of three as they each set out on separate journeys to find themselves, triggered and haunted by a young girl who drowned in their swimming pool.
What would you like to tell prospective CSU English Department students?
The CSU English Department is a very special place. I feel so grateful to have had a chance to be nurtured there as a young writer. It’s rare and valuable to find professors and administrators who are so smart, invested, and caring. You’ll find rigor and creative support and freedom in the CSU English Department.
What advice do you have for current CSU English Department students?
Take advantage of this time of intellectual and creative freedom. Visit your professors during their office hours. Get to know them. Get to know your fellow classmates. Talk to the office administrators, bring them cookies—they know all the secrets of the world and will help your life immensely.
What are your hobbies or special interests, what do you enjoy doing with your free time?
I’m pretty boring. I spend most of my “free” time (aren’t we always paying for it one way or another?) reading and writing. I occasionally chase my cat around my house or dance around my living room. I like to sing along when my partner (Marty Moran, whom I met at CSU—another gift from the English Department: THANK YOU) plays guitar. I go to the zoo a lot.