In honor of NaRMo, which was created in Geneseo last year, we decided to interview a Geneseo English Department alumni! Erin Koehler graduated from Geneseo in 2015 with a BA in Creative Writing and a minor in Native American Studies. Erin is a lover of reading and writing and was an active member of the Geneseo campus during her time here, even acting as one of the managing editors of Geneseo’s literary magazine, Gandy Dancer! Check out what Erin had to say below:
1. When did you know you wanted to pursue a career focused on reading and writing? Why?
I was pretty late to the game in terms of knowing that I wanted to be a creative writing major. I actually transferred to Geneseo my sophomore year as an undecided major, but ended up registering for all English classes. English had always been my strongest subject in school and I had always loved reading and writing, but I think at the time I didn’t have a lot of confidence in my ability to work towards a creative career. Eventually, passion won out (also I was forced to pick a major). I hope it’s not too much of a cliche, but I’m a big believer in doing what makes you happy. I write because that’s how I’m able to process my experiences, hopes, and fears. I wouldn’t trade that for anything, even when it’s hard (which of course it often is).
2. What was your favorite childhood book? What is your favorite book right now?
My favorite childhood book was and still is Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak. It’s such a classic, but I just remember how it used to entrance me. It was so freeing, especially for a kid who was definitely a bit of a wild thing. I also loved Shel Silverstein. Everything he wrote was magic. I used to read and re-read his poetry especially. He made such emotion out of so little, whether is was funny, or thought-provoking, or sad, and that made me always go back to him.
Right now my favorite books are The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, and more recently I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson. Both books destroyed me in the best of ways. If you’re looking for books that are moving, diverse, emotional, and poetic, these are good examples. They brilliantly demonstrate the way narrative and art shape lives–they’re genius.
3. What is your biggest piece of advice for a SUNY Geneseo English student today?
I definitely don’t feel qualified to give anyone advice, but I will say that it’s important to be patient with yourself. It’s good not to have everything always figured out, because it gives you room to accept the unexpected. Stay open-minded about people and opportunities–you never know where something might lead. To English and writing majors especially my advice is to find a balance in your life to prioritize reading and writing. That’s something I still struggle with, but that goes back to being patient.
4. You worked as a managing editor for SUNY Geneseo’s literary magazine, Gandy Dancer–what do you think the significance of book reviews are in a literary magazine based on that experience?
Being a managing editor for Gandy Dancer was one of the best opportunities I had during my time at Geneseo. I was able to see the hard work and care that goes into publishing creative content. Book reviews are a great way to promote books or collections that might not get mainstream attention. Even the biggest publishing companies rely on reviews to sell and market their product, so why shouldn’t small presses and literary journals do the same? It’s important to give attention to good writing, and reviews are a great opportunity to find books or authors that might have passed you by otherwise.
Thank you so much for taking the time to participate in this interview, Erin! Hopefully Erin’s insight inspired some of you to submit reviews to NaRMo or check out more of our blog posts! #GetReviewing