To Wit: Flash Interviews–Jennifer Pullen

Jennifer Pullen received her PhD from Ohio University, her MFA from Eastern Washington University, and her BA from Whitworth University. Her fiction, non-fiction, and poetry has appeared in journals and anthologies including: Behind the Mask (Meerkat Press), Gravel, Phantom Drift Limited, Lunch Ticket, and F(r)iction. Her chapbook A Bead of Amber on Her Tongue, won the Omnidawn Fabulist Fiction Award. She grew up running wild in the forests of Washington State, but she now lives and works in Ohio as an Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at Ohio Northern University, where she teaches creative writing, fantasy and science fiction, gender studies, and environmental writing. She has two cats who sometimes help her with book reviews and sometimes just help her remember to take a break in a sunbeam.

1. What writer do you want to be when you grow up?

I want to be Ursula Le Guin when I grow up. I’m continuously in awe of her range as a writer, her fiction, her non-fiction, her criticism, it was all amazing. And she was so feisty! She wrote an essay called “The Space Crone” about aging, womanhood, as well as being a thinker and writer. I aspire to someday be a space crone!

2. What’s your favorite thing you’ve ever written?

The first short story I ever published in non-undergraduate literary journal was called “Four Views of Penelope.” It started out as a poem in an MFA form and theory of poetry class. I broke it out of lines, and then added more sections. I will never forget the day I got that acceptance, it was on the day I was packing up to move across the country to start my PhD. That story will always be tied to that feeling of validation and elation.

3. Who do you trust with your drafts and why?

My spouse and my friend Lindsey from my PhD. They both get my weird wacky brain in different ways. Lindsey really understands my aesthetic as a fellow writer, and my spouse is an astute reader, and my biggest fan. My cat Widdershins is also vital help with my drafts. He has purrfect taste in literature. (He likes to try to eat the paper when I finally print something out, yes, I know, I made a terrible pun).

4. What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever gotten?

I’ve received two pieces of writing advice that are basically gospel for me:

Read broadly and deeply, don’t rule out any genre or category of book. Every book will teach you something different. 

Talent will only get you so far. The real secret to becoming the best writer you can be is persistence and the belief that you are never done growing.

5. What’s your go to recommendation to read when somebody says “I’m not sure about this whole nonfiction thing?” Why? What do you hope it shows them? What about it excites you?

It depends upon why they say they aren’t into nonfiction! If they are someone who doesn’t like memoir, and thinks that that is all that nonfiction is, I direct them to something like Diane Ackerman’s A Natural History of Love, if they think that nonfiction is only informational writing, then I direct them to a memoir like Drew Lanham’s The Home Place. If someone thinks they know everything nonfiction can do, I direct them to some of my favorite really formally innovative works, like anything by Sarah Minor, or Sofia Samatar’s Monster Portraits. What excites me about nonfiction is its elasticity. The essay is a form always becoming.

Keep Reading

Jennifer Pullen, “Seeking Joy in the Classroom: Nature Writing in 2020,” Assay 7.2

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