One of my awesome students asked to interview me back in the Fall Semester of 2014. She asked me so many questions and it felt really good to stop and reflect on everything she was asking me. I'm including her full interview here, because of course, as editing and newspapers go, a lot of it was chopped, and not to the student's fault.
Not only did she put a lot of work into interviewing me, but also, the chopped part is so important to me, especially things about my son--who is my big inspiration, along fellow writing freinds, co-workers, and even many of my students, as I continue through my writing life.
I also said a few words about being an Adjunt Professor that didn't make it to print. Hopefully it doesn't sound bad, but it's just the truth. If I was willing to relocate to anywhere, I could probably/maybe land a full-time teaching job, but I love it here in Maine where I am. And for the percentage of Adjunct Professors these days, here is one report to show that most professors are Adjuncts now.
Here is the interview by my former student after it was edited, it's on page nine of The Beacon
And here is the full interview before it was edited and went to press:
What is your Job title?
Well, here at Southern Maine Community College, I'm an Adjunct Professor for the English Department. Outside of the school, I'm a writer, editor, and publisher, and work on various writing projects. I am also an Adjunct Professor for the Creative Writing Department at another University where I teach fiction and publishing courses, and also mentor/supervise a few student Internships.
What do you like about your job?
At SMCC, I like the campus on the ocean, my co-workers, my boss, Kevin Sweeney (a fine poet as well), and of course, the students. Teaching keeps me connected to my own writing as well.
Where are you from?
Maine. My family moved around Maine a lot until my parents divorced when I was in fifth grade. I’m primarily from Millinocket, Dover-Foxcroft, and Portland; I spent the longest times living in these three places.
Did you go to college? If so, where? What did you study?
Yes. I started in 1985, and that didn’t work out well. I ended up leaving school, working full-time for four years in Portland, Maine, and realized I wanted to go back to school. I applied for a job at the University of Southern Maine, was hired in 1991. I attended night classes for years there until I finally decided to go full-time and finish school. I graduated with a BA in Media Studies (concentration in writing), double minors in Educational Studies and Creative Writing (And out of all that schooling, USM squeezed in an another degree for me, an Associate’s Degree in Liberal Arts). I was accepted to graduate school at Columbia College Chicago. Then life happened, and I ended up staying in Maine while taking care of my Mom who had cancer. During that time, USM started the Stonecoast, MFA program in Creative Writing. I attended that program and graduated from the Inaugural Class of 2004.
Is this career what you wanted to do when you were younger?
Writing, yes. Becoming a professor, no. I wanted to become a professor when I was probably a junior in college (a very older junior by the way!) I was a student for many years). Some of my fellow undergraduate classmates and I had aspirations of taking over the English Department at USM one day, and becoming like the amazing professors we had at the time.
Who influenced you to become the professor and/or person you have become today?
The person I have become today, I owe to my Mom, Grandmother, and the rest of the family and friends who helped my mom raise my brother and me. I also had a phenomenal experience with my professors. I think going back to school at USM made me want to become a professor, as mentioned before, because of the incredible professors I had there at the time.
You had talked about in class about Stephen King and some other writers, can you tell me how you knew them and how they impacted you personally?
I have to give my husband, Jim Rand credit for being supportive of me all the time. He’s not a writer, but he understands me even if he doesn’t understand me, if that makes sense. Jim gives me space and time to write when I go into a “zone”. He reads my writing, gives me encouragement, and he just gets me!
I don’t know Stephen King personally, but it seems like every Mainer should. Most of us feel a connection or have an actual link to him in one way or another. I started reading Stephen King novels when I was probably in sixth grade—back in the late 70s to early 80s. I got into my mother’s books when I was supposed to be doing other reading for school, I read Carrie and Salem’s Lot to start, and kept on reading his books; my mom was obviously a fan of his. My brother went to high school with King’s son, Joe Hill, for a time.
Maine writer, Rick Hautala, went to UMaine the same time as King. Rick was an Adjunct Professor at SMCC for many years, a jewel to the school, who passed away about a year and a half ago. His writing is amazing, in fact, Sybil Wilen (also and Adjunct Professor here at SMCC) and I have started our own publishing adventure called: Macabre Maine. We are about to put out a collection of short spooky stories, Haunted ME, by various writers, and we’re dedicating it to the memory of Rick Hautala.
I remember writing all the time and keeping journals and diaries from a young age; I just never shared them with anyone. My mom’s side of the family was full of hard workers (both woman and men), who were also mostly musicians as well, but only for family and friends. They gathered together often in my great grandparent’s den and jammed on: the fiddle, piano, spoons, guitars, and more. I was exposed to live music all the time. And one writer, my Uncle George. I just really never thought this was anything out of the ordinary, although as I look back, we might not have been rich, but my family was magical to me.
My Uncle George was a writer. When he came back from Vietnam in the early 70s, he had a lot of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder symptoms. He worked at the mill and wrote poetry for the rest of his days, until he passed at the age of 44. He continues to be a huge influence on my writing and me. I have a blog that explains more about him and his writing called: Ghost of the Woods.
I never thought I would go to school for writing though. I fell into the writing world at the University of Southern Maine. In my first creative writing class, my professor suggested that I submit my poetry to a Literary Journal on campus, which I did, and it was published. From there, I continued to take writing courses, and kept meeting and working with professors who I admired, I became close friends with some fellow writing students, and ended up going to the Stonecoast Writer’s conference during my senior year, where I met a lot of published writers.
As a student, I had the honor of working with writers such as: Patricia McNair, Jonathan Lethem, Suzanne Strempek-Shea, Roland Merullo, and so many more. Many other writers I know are former classmates and just writing friends/connections I meet along the way including: Sybil Wilen, Amy Martin, Holly Newstein Hautala, Morgan Callan Rogers and Jeff Foltz, to name a few. They’re all down-to-earth people, which I connect to as a writer.
My greatest mentor is writer, friend, and former professor in graduate school, Roland Merullo. I worked one-on-one with him during my last two semesters of graduate school.
The last semester of graduate school was a whirlwind. During the summer of July 2003, graduate school took place for a week out at the Stonehouse in Freeport and at Bowdoin College. I was feeling particularly ill one day, and that evening, as I walked by writer (and professor at the time), Dennis Lehane, who was outside smoking a cigarette, and into a faculty reading on the Bowdoin campus, I felt physically ill. In that moment, I knew I was pregnant. I was right. It was the best surprise ever. My husband and Mom were thrilled. My mom couldn’t wait to be a grandmother.
Three months later, my mother’s illness progressed; I took two medical leaves of absence from work at USM to care for her over that year, while also doing my graduate work. I wouldn’t trade that time for the world. When I sat with my mom during her chemotherapy treatments and other appointments, she’d read the novel I was working on, and she even gave me advice on parts of it.
My mom passed away in December 2003, just a few days before my final semester of graduate school. I was six months pregnant. I remember telling Roland that I thought I would take a semester off. That didn’t happen. Roland is one of the nicest, kindest, and also toughest professors I’d had—and in a good way. He was always compassionate, and offered to give me a bit of extra time to complete my work each week. Roland told me that I had made it so far in graduate school, and he believed I could make it through the rest of the year. He was right. Writing and reading were my focus, along with my pregnancy of course.
I plowed through writing my academic thesis and my creative thesis. I had my son in March of 2004, with less than four months until graduation. I was able to continue my graduate work, many times with my sleeping son wrapped around me while at the computer keyboard.
I graduated from the MFA program the summer of 2004, and had a healthy four-month-old son by then! I knew I wanted to write and also teach. Roland suggested that I apply to a community college and start there, as he had done that and really liked his experience doing that. So, that’s what I did. I wanted to break away from USM after both attending school and working there over a course of seventeen years.
Southern Maine Community College is a great campus. Just being by the ocean (where I used to go lobster fishing for seven years), and by the sea in general, feels like home. The school itself is filled with history. My co-workers are the best. The programs here are plentiful and fantastic, and I enjoy working with so many different students. Teaching keeps me connected to my own writing.
I’d had dreams of becoming a professor ever since having the professors I had in writing/English courses at USM back in the 90s to 2004. Back then, I thought professors could get full-time jobs at universities, and now, I know that isn’t so, not anymore anyway. Most professors now, are Adjunct Professors. Those who work contract-to contract without benefits and at multiple schools. I really like what I do, or I wouldn’t be here. I also like that I can still have my own writing time. I am working on multiple projects and my first novel, The Ghost In You, was published recently.
As life goes on, and I continue to write and teach, I continue to meet many amazing writers, students, and others connected to writing and publishing. Probably like anyone else who is passionate about what they do, as they continue to grow and meet people along the way.
I took this photo with a crappy flip-phone tracphone a couple summers ago, this is part of Southern Maine Community College, this scenery right here. Yessah, it's glorious to teach by the ocean in Maine.