Alex Morrison is a graduate student in the MFA program in fiction. He’s also the the Assistant Director of the Community Literacy Center, as well as a consultant in the Writing Center. His staff bio on the Writing Center website says, “He studied Creative Writing and the Biological Sciences as an undergraduate at Johns Hopkins. While in Baltimore, Alex taught four writing workshops to Baltimore City youth. This past summer, he taught a writers workshop to high school students in New York. Alex has also worked as a tutor specializing in the formation of the essay. In his spare time, Alex enjoys fly-fishing and following his two favorite sporting teams: FC Barcelona and the New York Yankees.” Recently, Alex agreed to answer a few questions for us, to share some of his story.
What is the Community Literacy Center (CLC)? What is it doing that we should know about?
The Community Literacy Center is an organization on campus directed by Dr. Tobi Jacobi. Our mission is to create alternative literacy opportunities that work to educate and empower underserved populations. The Center supports university literacy research and outreach that promotes community action and social change. Currently, our largest outreach programs are the SpeakOut! Workshops, which promote individual and community literacy through communication skills and writing. Our volunteers and interns facilitate workshops in sites throughout Fort Collins, including the Larimer County Detention Center, Larimer County Community Corrections, Turning Point Family Center for Girls and Boys, Matthews House, and Remington House.
What is your current role at the CLC?
I am the Assistant Director of the CLC.
What does your typical day of work there look like?
Depending on upcoming deadlines, my days at the CLC can vary. Always, my priority is to provide support to our interns and volunteers. I am in constant communication with them in regards to their needs and concerns. Facilitating writing workshops for underserved members of our community is rewarding, yet challenging, work. As someone who facilitated a workshop at Turning Point last semester, I can attest to the at times overwhelming nature of the process. The workshop space is a very open environment, and a lot of our writers, especially our youth writers, come from challenging pasts. I speak for all of our volunteers and interns when I say it is an absolute privilege to do the work that we do, but it is also vital that we support each other. As the Assistant Director, it is my role to foster that support.
When grant deadlines are looming, I often keep strange hours. You may find me in Ingersoll working on a proposal at 2:00am, which tends to be when I do my best work. (I’m probably dating myself with this obscure, 90s horror reference, but if you want to know what Ingersoll in the middle of the night feels like, think The Faculty). Grant writing is all about revising your proposal and knowing your audience. With a grant upcoming, I’m in constant contact with Dr. Jacobi as to how we want to approach this particular proposal.
Alex hard at work in the CLC office.
I also keep our office (254 Ingersoll) organized, research new funding opportunities, produce monthly newsletters, and, with the help of intern extraordinaire Kristen Mullen, maintain the CLC blog (https://csuclc.wordpress.com/). In all facets of my day-to-day life at the CLC, the Center’s five interns – Chelsea Mitchell, Megan Monacelli, Kristen Mullen, Hannah Polland, and Lara Roberts – provide me with the utmost support, and I wouldn’t be able to do my job without them.
What is one of your favorite things about the CLC?
As I alluded to above, the sense of community fostered within the CLC by those who work here is unprecedented. We all share a goal to better our community through literacy, which breeds an honest and cooperative work environment.
It looks like you are also a consultant in the Writing Center – what is your favorite thing about that work?
I do work as a consultant at the Writing Center. I am also an editorial assistant at Colorado Review and a TA for Thomas Conway’s e311a course, an undergraduate, intermediate fiction workshop. I am so grateful for all of the professional opportunities that I have been granted here at CSU, including my experience at the Writing Center. At any given moment on campus, I’m not sure if there is a more academically diverse space than the Writing Center. I studied neuroscience as an undergraduate, so my favorite moments at the WC are always my consultations with clients from the sciences. Given all of my work in the English Department, I find it refreshing to return to that area of my studies.
This is your first year in the MFA program – what are you currently working on?
I came here working on a large-scale novel about the rise, fall, and possible redemption of the modern American family, and the scale of that project has only grown since. I consider it to be a very long-term piece, and although it is sidelined for now, I find it helpful to be working on multiple things at once. Presently, I am revising my two most recent short stories submitted for workshop, as well as mapping out a second novel that is smaller in scope.
What is your favorite book and/or who is your favorite author?
A difficult question to answer. There are better books, better writers, but the book I come back to most, because of my love for Spain, is The Sun Also Rises. My favorite author, for the chances that she takes, is Jean Rhys.
This feature is called “Humans of Eddy,” but Eddy is currently being remodeled. What are you most looking forward to when the department moves back into Eddy?
When I visited CSU as a prospective MFA student last March, one of the things that drew me to the program was the fact that the entire department had its own building. I am looking forward to bringing that sense of community into the new Eddy.
What’s the most important or interesting thing you’ve learned so far at CSU?
For such a large school, CSU offers its students a staggering number of opportunities outside of the classroom. I do my best to take advantage of these opportunities.
What advice do you have for English majors?
We all know that a BA in English is not the most lucrative degree. It is for that reason that I have the ultimate respect for English majors: they are pursuing what they love. Don’t lose sight of that pursuit, and in the meantime do all that you can to stand out. Take that summer internship in publishing. Set your own writing schedule. Read all kinds of work outside of the classroom. Keep pushing the envelope, both in regards to your own work and in the way you approach the work of others, and you’ll be fine.