Alumni

Literary Citizenship Festival: Select Quotes from Jen Knox

“The more I write, the more I’m noticing patterns of connectivity, as though there is a larger landscape I hadn’t planned on.”

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Jen Knox (’07) is a regular contributor to Fiction Southeast and the author of Don’t Tease the Elephants, a fiction chapbook with Monkey Puzzle Press. Her work has been recognized with several awards and published in over sixty print and online journals. Knox visited Otterbein and read her work on Friday, January 30 in Riley Auditorium.

“Animals are a theme that has been appearing in my writing a lot. We writers, we go through phases.”

“Writing from different perspectives, it’s fun–it’s like playing!”

“Otterbein taught me how to connect–that carries over.”

“If you’re called to do it, you really have no choice, because you’ll be miserable if you’re not doing it.”

“The more I write, the more I’m noticing patterns of connectivity, as though there is a larger landscape I hadn’t planned on.”

“Read the [literary] journals. If you know what their style is, you know whether you’ll fit in.”

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Literary Citizenship Festival: Select Quotes from Becca J. R. Lachman

“For me there’s just something so distilled about a poem that can’t hide.”

Stafford Event, September 20, 2014, ARTS/Wset, Athens, OH

Becca J. R. Lachman (’04) is author of Other Acreage (forthcoming, Gold Wake, 2015); A Ritual to Read Together: Poems in Conversation with William Stafford (ed., Woodley Press, 2013); The Apple Speaks (Cascadia, 2012). She is recipient of a 2011 Otterbein Young Alumni Award. Lachman visited Otterbein and read her work on Friday, January 30 in the Philomathean Room.

“I like to base my writings in research or overheard stories, as many writers do.”

“I had stayed away from William Stafford because I thought he was just another dead white guy I was supposed to be reader, but then I started hearing about his life–he was a conscientious objector during World War II! So was my grandpa! Before I knew it, I fell in love.”

“For me there’s just something so distilled about a poem that can’t hide.”

“Working in writing centers has opened my eyes to my own privilege.”

“I have learned ways to mother in this world.”

“What is our idea of wealth? What is our idea of success? There’s a difference between wealth and being rich. How much money do you really need to make in life?”

Literary Citizenship Festival: Select Quotes from Jennifer Roberts

“Every decision I make is going to affect my creative life.”

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Jennifer Roberts’ (’07) latest play, The Killing Jar, was a Dayton Playhouse FutureFest finalist in 2014. She is also the writer of Beekeeper (Virago Theatre Company, 2011), Factory Farm: A Documentary, which was staged for a Washington, D.C. Planned Parenthood benefit, and numerous short plays staged in the San Francisco Bay area. Roberts visited Otterbein and read her work on Saturday, January 31 in Riley Auditorium.

“Otterbein is where I learned to become…where I found my voice.”

“It’s important to hear women’s voices, to hear women’s stories–often, we’re silent. It’s important that writers show the world we’re living in, a world with strong women.”

“It was the ‘zine and working with Women’s Studies here that led to me working with women’s rights and reproductive rights.”

“Every decision I make is going to affect my creative life.”

“Build your community. You need support and you need to support other people. That is what will bring you success, however you define that.”

Literary Citizenship Festival: Select Quotes from Ladan Osman

“The relationship between light and dark is a philosophical question about truth.”

osman Ladan Osman (’06) is the author of The Kitchen Dweller’s Testimony, winner of the Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets. Her chapbook, Ordinary Heaven, was published by Slapering Hol Press in 2014. Osman has also been awarded several prestigious fellowships in the arts. Osman visited Otterbein and read her work on Saturday, January 31 in Riley Auditorium.

“I find it particularly important to invoke my ancestors–particularly those who are young and gone.”

“I think that each poem has an atmosphere that demands something. I think that a lot about ferns and their relationship with light and darkness. It’s something I take time to meditate on. I myself am very comfortable around plants and seawater. In a way, I am even meditating within the writing.”

“I think the most important truth to consider is inherently inhumane positioning of marginalized people. It’s important for me to assert my authority and to detail the vulnerabilities of occupying that position.”

“I think we have to accommodate the story that demands to be written.”

“The relationship between light and darkness is a philosophical question about truth.”

“In graduate school, I learned not to look at someone’s professional success, but to ask, ‘Are we making a connection?'”

“Be tactical, and be honest with yourself about what you want.”

“It’s okay for it to be lonely. As you get older, it’s harder and harder to find people who care about the work outside of markers of success.”

Mat Johnson & Sean Smith

“I like saying stuff that hasn’t been said—that hasn’t been articulated. I like saying stuff that will get me in trouble because it’s exciting.”

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2012 Alum, Sean Smith, interviewed author and James Baldwin Fellow, Mat Johnson, during his visit on October 6, 2014. For more of Mat’s work, visit his website.

On Finding Time to Write: “You’re always stealing time. There’s never a perfect time, and so you have this balance because you can’t just sit down and write. You can sit down and type, but you can’t sit down and write.  You have to get into this mode where you’re going to access something good, but at the same time you can’t be so precious about when you’re going to write that nothing ever happens. You have to write through crap.”

On Getting Into the Writing “Mode”: “It’s tricky finding that mode. I like saying stuff that hasn’t been said—that hasn’t been articulated. I like saying stuff that will get me in trouble because it’s exciting. You put something, like, ‘Oh, shit! I can’t believe I just said that!’ You think, ‘What’s going to happen now?’ And that’s fun.”

On Editing: “Usually, I’ll start [writing] a book and I’ll say, ‘Okay, this book is about revenge,’ and then I’ll start telling the story about this guy whose father was killed, and I’ll get two-thirds to the end and I’m like, ‘Oh, crap,  this book is about this guy looking for his missing father, and it’s about fatherly love.’ The story isn’t what you think it’s about, it’s not what you plan it to be—what it is is a culmination of scenes. A big part of writing is realizing that you don’t have complete control over it; you have to step back and realize what you’ve actually written versus what you actually intended. If you try to change it constantly to be what you intended, you can kill the story.”

On Genre: “We talk about literary versus genre fiction; literary comes out of genre fiction to begin with.  When you’re looking at Gulliver’s Travels, when you’re looking at Frankenstein, when you’re looking at a lot of the most important books in the past, we have this collusion. Genres in part are born from literary fiction.  The idea, now, of speculative fiction, of this kind of hybrid of literary fiction and genre fiction–there’s nothing new about it, it’s kind of this re-awakening…no one thinks of Beloved as this ghost story and literary fiction story. No one thinks of 1984 being between literary fiction and post-apocalyptic fiction. So, when they’re successful, they’re taken out of the genre spectrum altogether.”

On Entertainment and its Value in Writing: “I grew up reading comics…the first thing I actually read by my own volition was The Hulk, and that’s when I got into the joy of actually reading, and I didn’t switch to novels until middle school, and that’s where my roots are and not in literary fiction. I think, in part, we don’t think of literary fiction being class-restrictive but oftentimes it is. The fun part of having monsters or having ghosts and zombies is that it attracts a larger audience to the conversation…I do fear that literary fiction has just gotten too damn boring. There are books that bore 99% of the population that I love; I read literary criticism for fun, you know? I know people are bored by that; there are books I love that people just find so dry and that’s fine, but I think this question of entertainment matters. It matters in part because of that class situation. If we start thinking of literature as something that only people that have degrees have access to, that is scary.  If we’re saying that only boring books–only books where there are extended points that you’re going to be bored–are serious, then that hurts literature.”

Lavonne van der Zwaag & Kari Highman

“Spirituality was always a journey of learning … I knew that when I continued asking the same questions about spirituality, I had a new direction to go in for the project.”

Sophomore Creative Writing major, Kari Highman, interviewed 2012 Alum & Fisher Prize Recipient, Lavonne van der Zwaag, at the Fall 2014 Literary Studies Program event, Don’t Read Alone.

Q: What is your writing genre preference?
A: I like to focus on nonfiction. I like it because you can be more open to being vulnerable.

Q: What was your biggest challenge as a writer and how did you overcome it?
A: My biggest challenge during the senior writing project was learning how to put memories from the past down onto paper and asking the honest questions.  As well as how to find my voice and tell a story that was healing to me.

Q: What was the process of the senior writing project like for you?
A: It was great. My original idea was a general story on spiritual aspects in life … but then it became about my personal journey instead.

Q: How did you decide to change your topic?
A: Spirituality was always very prescribed in my life growing up.  It was always a journey of learning … another step on the spiritual path.  I knew that when I continued asking the same questions about spirituality, I had a new direction to go in for the project.  Writing helped me define some of those things.

Q: How has the experience changed you as a person?
A: Now I’m more able to be comfortable with the differences and how much more of myself I was discovering … how much more “me” it had become.

Q: Any other changes you’re more comfortable with now?
A: I’m OK with the ambiguity of it all.  The whole experience was definitely a monumental moment for me.