MFA Writers Reading, featuring Naomi Nix, Val Oswald, Marcus Bjornson, and Whitney Walters
Thursday, April 25, 8 p.m.
The Spirit Room
Tonight, Master of Fine Arts students from Minnesota State University Moorhead’s creative writing program will be sharing their best work of the semester in the spring’s final literary reading. The reading will feature Naomi Nix, Val Oswald, Marcus Bjornson, and Whitney Walters, who will be reading a variety of fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction. I caught up with Marcus and Whitney as they prepare for the event.
JL: Tell me a little bit about yourself:
WW: I grew up in Albert Lea, MN. I went to Concordia College for my undergraduate and majored in English Literature. I am currently in my last semester as a graduate student and teaching assistant at MSUM and will graduate in May.
JL: What is your MFA emphasis?
WW: Creative Nonfiction. My thesis is titled: Piecing Together Another Life.
JL: What are you goals/plans after college?
WW: My goal is to teach writing and/or English at the college level. I plan to continue writing and hope to start getting my work published in magazines and journals.
JL: What about writing appeals to you? Why do you do it?
WW: Writing appeals to me because I can get my thoughts down on paper and organize them, rather than trying to sort them out as they swirl in my head. I remember things better when I write them down, too. I also see writing as a catharsis. It allows me to say things that it is hard for me to verbally say, and I don’t have to share my words with others. That being said, I enjoy the feeling when words come together and express something in a beautiful way. I think writing has become particularly meaningful to me when people read or listen to something I have written and they resonate with what I said. I think good writing brings people together.
JL: Who were/are some of your influences?
WW: Meghan O’Rourke, Joan Didion, Patricia Hampl, Henry David Thoreau, Virginia Woolf
JL: Will you share a preview of what you will be sharing on Thursday night?
WW: This is a poem I will be reading called Old Souls:
It seems we knew
for a long time
that we didn’t belong
here or now.
Aged minds in our young bodies,
we could not keep up
with the making of history.
Better to relax in the shade
and let other energies
Perhaps we didn’t know
the loss of remembering
and the way we would
miss each other.
JL: Tell me a little bit about yourself.
MB: I am originally from Minot, North Dakota. I lived in South Dakota for five years, where I received a degree in speech communication.
JL: What is your MFA emphasis?
JL: What are your future plans/goals?
MB: I would like to get a Ph.D. in creative writing and literature. Eventually, I would like to teach at a small liberal arts college somewhere in the Midwestern/Western United States. I would like to write, travel, learn another language, or maybe give it all up for the woman of my dreams.
JL: Who has influenced you the most as a writer?
MB: The Classical thinkers. Carl Jung. Joseph Campbell. Hunter Thompson when I’m feeling crazy. Cormac McCarthy is a living genius. I think most writers would give a decade of their life to write like Fitzgerald and dream worlds to life like Tolkien.
JL: What do you like best about writing?
MB: I think stories–like music–are just something humans are wired to enjoy. Who doesn’t want to be someone else for an afternoon; have a life-changing adventure in the comfort of their apartment? Ultimately, writing helps me explore and find meaning in this mysterious, wonderful thing called Life.
JL: What will you be reading on Thursday?
MB: I will be reading a piece of fiction titled “Dirty Story.” Here is an excerpt:
Bert Gilbertson was a writer of fiction, a fact that was unfortunate for a number of reasons. Bert was neither famous, nor rich, nor published, and this meant he was struggling. His part-time job at the local post office paid the rent, but his literary pastime was becoming increasingly hard to justify. Thirty had come and gone, thirty-five had passed just as swiftly, forty was looming like a dark cloud on the horizon; and still Bert had nothing to show for his efforts. His most recent fantasy epic, Aztecs of the Narwhal, had been a complete failure, rejected by sixty-seven different publishers; and The Elegance of Guile, Bert’s futuristic retelling of Niccolo Machiavelli’s rise and fall from power, had been a similar disaster. It was perhaps some combination of his financial woes and the approach of his fourth decade which led Bert to a particularly desperate professional decision.
Through wanderings on the internet and discussions in dubious chat-rooms, Bert had discovered the flourishing genre of adult fiction. Sugamama told him she had published three novellas in the past year. Killercoug said her fiction had paid off her kids’ student loans. Dirtygrl236 said she would love to read his naughty stories if only he would edit her explicit poems.
Erotica, or “smut,” as he called it, was the last thing Bert wanted to write. He was an artist, not a pornographer . . . and yet, the bills were piling up, day after day, almost as quickly as his stack of rejection letters. Bert wavered and wobbled until one morning he reached a decision. He would write a dirty story. All he needed was a dirty story to write.
Image via The Spirit Room.