Since 2010, I have co-organized a monthly mixer group in Edmonton for creative women professionals. I am constantly amazed by their expertise and experience, and thought I would do Q&A’s with them to get their stories – and tips!
Jessica Kluthe’s work has appeared in journals and magazines such as The Malahat Review, Other Voices, and Little Fiction. Her first book, Rosina, The Midwife was released in March and has been on The Edmonton Journal’s list of bestsellers for eight weeks. Two chapters of Rosina were recognized before publication: in 2012, her story “Scattered” won Other Voices’ creative nonfiction contest, and in 2011, her story “Traces” was nominated by the Writers’ Guild of Alberta for the James H. Gray award for nonfiction. Jessica lives in Edmonton where she teaches writing at MacEwan University, and lives with her partner Reid and cat Finnegan in a character home in the Highlands.
What kind of background do you have?
In 2009, I completed a Bachelor of Arts degree at the University of Alberta with a major in English and a minor in creative writing. I knew that I wanted to teach and write, so I applied to the University of Victoria’s Master of Fine Arts in Writing program since it offered a teaching component and presented an opportunity to work with some great writers. After completing my MFA degree in 2011, I moved back to Edmonton; since then, I’ve been teaching writing at MacEwan University and my first book, Rosina, The Midwife was published with Brindle & Glass.
What is the best thing about your job?
I’ve always wanted to be a teacher and I’ve always wanted to be a writer. I feel like I’ve been so fortunate to be in a position that allows me to do both of these things. I am a lifelong learner, and I thrive on deadlines, engaging with new ideas, and exploring those ideas on the page. Teaching at a post-secondary institution, and an ever-growing one at that, provides necessary intellectual stimulation and motivation. I love it! While I put in a lot of hours during the academic year, aside from the time I spend in front of the classroom and holding office hours, I set my own schedule. This flexibility affords me time to write.
And, I really can’t say enough about how privileged I feel to be a part of the academic experience of my students. There is nothing more satisfying than watching a student that had little interest in writing or grammar beautifully place a semicolon. (I’ve even had students confess that I’ve convinced them to read!).
What is your proudest moment?
The moment my book was accepted for publication—I’ll never forget it. I certainly know a lot of great writers looking for a publisher, and I think, like most things, there are a lot of elements at play: timing, what the market is like, the content (and if there have been other books like it), the genre…etc. All this to say, I think there are great writers who should be published (and may find homes for their work) that are not. I had braced myself for a rejection and since I am a rule-abider, I only sent my manuscript to one publisher. I waited about eight months to hear back—as the days went by, I became less hopeful. But, Brindle & Glass, the first publisher I sent my manuscript to because I loved reading the books they had published, accept by book. It happened!
What is a challenge you’ve overcome? How did you do it?
Well, most recently, the biggest challenge I’ve had to overcome was managing my first year of teaching with finishing writing and editing my book. My strategy to make sure I was putting in my best effort—especially as these were both lifelong goals for me—was to really chunk out my time. When I was course planning, I set aside all of my other responsibilities and focused on that. When I was editing (usually evenings and weekends), I focused on that. For me, the trick has been large chunks of time (3 – 4 hours) for each task, rather than moving back and forth between them. I need time to get into the space to be thinking creatively, or objectively, or whatever the given task demands, and I can’t do that in little snippets of time.
Another thing that helped: having a nice-looking to-do list. There’s something satisfying about that! Here’s the one I use.
How do you network? What works best for you?
I do most of my networking online; I spend a lot of time alone when writing, so being able to jump onto a social network and have a conversation can break that up (sometimes to the detriment of productivity). In terms of online networking, I have found my most meaningful connections have been through Twitter.
While my engagement with Twitter began as a desire to network, I’ve really developed some strong, special friendships that exist now outside of that space, too.