A Talk with Pulitzer-nominated Writing Center Coordinator

March 20, 2018
By: Jessica D'Aquila '18

What is your position at The University of Scranton? 
I am the coordinator of the Writing Center in the CTLE. I also adjunct in the English department, and as of this year, I coordinate ESL support in the CTLE.

How do you balance your life as a professor, Writing Center coordinator and author? 
I had to learn a while ago that I cannot write while I'm teaching. I just can't make the space in my brain for it. While classes are in session, I'm very busy both physically and mentally, and I just can't find the time to dedicate to a writing project. So, I write mostly on breaks -- especially in the summer. Now, I do make an exception when something just grabs me -- as it sometimes does. 

Outside of your job at the University, you are a very successful writer. From books to poetry to creative nonfiction, what is your favorite genre to write and why?
I love, love, love to write memoir. But, I was trained for most of my life as a poet. Then I discovered folks like Bev Donofrio, Mary Karr, and Nick Flynn, poets who were writing memoir. It led me on my path to what I do now. I truly believe that every writer would benefit from a background in poetry. Poetry teaches how to use language. It is an economy of words. 

Your memoir, Fat Girl, Skinny, was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. What was your reaction to the nomination?
Well, it was a real honor. I mean, really, any press can nominate any author, but because my press was so small it really cost her quite a bit of money and effort to submit the nomination. So, I was really honored that they had that much faith in my book.

Can you tell us a little more about your writing process?
I am a big fan of revision. So while in poetry I might get away with writing something and finding it acceptable after only one of two drafts, with longer prose, I have to give it at least four or five drafts. With Fat Girl, Skinny, I ended with 17 drafts. As for the process itself, I write best early in the morning. I'll sometimes come to work an hour early, close my door and turn on some Leonard Cohen or Ryan Adams and type away. I used to write at night when I was younger, but having kids will change your clock.

We love to ask professors about their Sundays. What does a 'Sunday in the Life' look like for you?
Usually, Sundays are saved for walking the dog, maybe some antique shopping, and hanging out with my husband. My daughters play soccer, so my Saturdays are usually reserved for them. Sundays are mine. 

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