You were a transfer student to Willamette, right? Why move to WU—and why major in English via the creative writing concentration?
Right! I spent my first year at a junior college in my hometown of Santa Rosa, CA. I took classes mainly in the arts and humanities during that first year and realized I wanted to go to a small school where I would be able to engage in conversations with students and faculty about the subjects I’m passionate about. That being said, I still applied to Willamette on somewhat of a whim, not applying to any other schools and not knowing too awfully much about it. When I was accepted, it felt like the right thing to do in my life at the time.
I realized during my year at junior college that I wanted to major in English, and I had always loved to write, but until I took a poetry class at WU, I hadn’t even considered working that into a concentration. Being able to talk about poetry and participating in that collaborative environment was entirely new to me. I remember being so excited that I could take classes where we all just talked about pieces of writing that affected us in different ways. Before attending WU, my writing existed solely in my journal, which didn’t provide too much room for growth and improvement. After taking that first poetry class, I wasn’t afraid to share my work anymore, and I knew I wanted to pursue writing in a more focused manner.
You received a Learning By Creating Summer Grant in 2015. Can you tell us a bit about your project and what the experience was like?
The Learning by Creating Grant was one of the most valuable opportunities I’ve experienced at WU. My project partner Emily Palmgren and I proposed a trip called “Writing Trains” based loosely on the Amtrak Writer’s Residency. For eight weeks of our summer we travelled up and down the West Coast to Portland, Seattle, Vancouver B.C, San Francisco, Eugene, and a few other places in between. While we were in these cities we explored the local literary cultures and worked on pieces of our own. We wrote poetry, lyric vignettes, and collaborative pieces. The pieces explored themes of female friendship, sexuality, and conversation, and culminated in a chapbook titled Pure Gold Thighs. The trip was really valuable for learning how to create a cohesive body of work and also gave us time to focus solely on our writing, a rare and wonderful gift.
Care to share one of your poems with us?
Sure thing! This one’s called “Peel”:
I woke up, peeling.
Peeling sunburnt skin off of my slanted, slightly too-big nose.
I stumbled to the trash bin to throw the skin away, decided it was too precious.
A piece of myself, separated!
I put it in my favorite oil-slick blue box.
I can’t stop peeling now.
I peeled 45 oranges today, just to feel the sting of rind in my eyes.
I rubbed the peels in my hair—
also precious. Those went in the box, too.
I woke up, peeling eggplant paint off the wall, fingers bloody.
Even somnambulant pleas are peeled.
Last, I peeled all the bark off of my favorite willow tree,
The one he planted
with his back to me.
Do you have any insight/advice for current or prospective WU students (and especially English majors)?
I think what stands out to me the most are the relationships with both faculty and students that I’ve built within the English department. There is a veritable buffet of opportunities if you’re willing to open yourself up to it! Talk to your professors! They’re the people who are going to be able to provide you with guidance and perspective when you feel aimless, confused, or need support. Four years really does go by very quickly, and I think it’s important to take advantage of all the opportunities available at WU. Take time to try out classes that challenge you, and don’t be afraid to change your mind. Above all, do what makes you feel alive.
What campus activities have you been involved in?
The thing about WU is that it’s so easy to get involved. Compared to high school, where I mainly read books in the hallway and ate my yogurt without a spoon, I would say I’ve been very involved at WU. I have also learned how to use a spoon! I’ve found that there are opportunities here at a smaller school that maybe wouldn’t have been as available at a larger one. I primarily have been involved in the Housing and Community Life department, serving as a Resident Assistant for two years now. I’ve participated in a program put on by the Theatre Department called 24 Hour Theatre (where you write a play in 12 hours), and I currently am the Blog Editor and Coordinator for Willamette’s Green Dot Blog, which deals with interpersonal violence prevention and bystander intervention. I’ve gone on trips with the outdoor club, worked at the school’s information desk, and have been lucky enough to meet visiting authors and poets through the English department.
This is your last semester at WU. What's the future got in store?
Right now I’m focusing on writing my thesis collection and appreciating the time I have to write. I’ll be continuing my blogging position with Green Dot through the summer, and then I plan to move to Seattle with my future dog Adele for a while before attending graduate school in Sweden. I’m ultimately interested in pursuing a service-based profession in education while finding a balance and allowing myself time to write. Also I plan on becoming low-key famous.