What activities were you involved in while a student, both within the RC and elsewhere on campus?
I was a part of the LGBT Forum in the RC, the Film Lovers Union (FLU), The Writers' Community and WolverineSoft.
What are some highlights of your career - or side projects - that you’re most proud of?
I'm most proud of co-founding a video game design studio and publisher in Shanghai with my boyfriend of 7 years--who is also a UofM graduate! He studied Art History in LS&A, and we met on campus and have been together ever since.
Our company is called Merfolk Games and it's based in Hong Kong, but has a development studio in Shanghai. We're currently making a mobile, grand strategy empire-building game called CryptoCrusades that is entirely built on blockchain technology and uses cryptocurrency. I'm so proud of our game, proud to be its Narrative Designer, and proud to run an LGBTQ-owned company in Asia where LGBTQ representation is needed.
I'm also proud to have written and designed a poetry book called The Order in Which They Went. It was the thesis for my MFA degree at The University of Baltimore. It focuses on humanizing queerness among familiar environments and experiences.
What are you doing lately that you’re passionate about?
I'm currently a PhD Student in Creative Writing at The University of Southern Mississippi. I'm an Assistant Editor of The Mississippi Review, the Drama/Hybrid/Experimental Texts Editor of Product Magazine, and a Co-Founder/Poetry and Fiction Editor of QuestLog. I'm particularly excited about QuestLog, which is a online literary website that publishes creative and critical context that is inspired by or related to video games. The goal is to carve out a space for game studies within the digital humanities. I'm dedicated to publishing LGBTQ content, which is far too underrepresented in the publishing industry. I've made a point to solicit work from LGBTQ writers and organizations.
I'm also recently been inducted to the LGBTQ Writers Caucus for the Association of Writers and Writing Programs! This is a new endeavor, but it's to make sure LGBTQ folks are represented at the AWP conference and in the writing world.
What about it makes you so passionate? What is the underlying reason or cause you’re doing what you’re doing?
My current goal is to be a writing professor, though I admit that writing has brought me to many careers over the years and I'm aware of the dismal academic job market. Regardless, I'll always be an author. Poetry is my way of processing my place in the world and teaching writing cultivates that opportunity to others. At times, the mind can be a difficult place to navigate, especially as thought becomes more complex under mental illness and lived experiences. It's not easy to conceptualize intersecting identities and experience, but writing brings order and structure to thought. For me, poetry is a primary mode processing and I do my best to write and publish content that invites people into my world.
All of my endeavors, from my days in neuroscience, to video games, to academia have been deeply connected to writing. It's a key part of existence and is unfortunately often viewed as a technical practicality over a fine art. I want to bring the art back to writing in various spaces: within the classroom, within virtual experiences like video games, on the page and read aloud. In short, poetry and other forms of writing need to be taught as forms of art, so that students can wield it as a variable tool for their own means.
How does something you did in the RC relate to this?
The RC cultivated many of my ideas about writing and the way it can be taught. I took poetry workshops and first year writing courses with Lolita Hernandez and Ken Mikolowski, the poetry professors at the time. They were never simply concerned with the analysis of the poem, but the experience of it. I remember Ken had us write daily journals of anything: a traditional journal, the same word over and over, whatever it took to fill out a whole page. The process was immensely freeing for me. In fact, I still do it today. I hadn't realized until then that writing is purely an act of creation, and as my writing skill develops, so too does the depth of what I create. Though I had been writing poetry for years, I hadn't thought of writing as art in this way. I'd always used writing for practical purposes.
The RC was a dynamic and flexible experience. I met other authors, met people who thought critically about the world around them, I was allowed to study both Biopsychology, Cognition and Neuroscience and Writing. It was a place of immense growth - from the LGBT forum, to individual conversations I had with peers, to the closeness I still have with my professors. I even called Lolita from Shanghai for advice on PhD programs and for help with a recommendation. The RC has dramatically altered the course of my life and the ways in which I perceive it.
If you could have dinner with anyone, fictional or real, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
This is always such a tough question and I've never really had an answer to it until putting it in the frame of context within the RC. Frankly, I'd like to sit down and have dinner with both of my RC poetry professors: Ken Mikolowski and Lolita Hernandez, even though we're scattered all over the world. I feel like I'm finally able to have a conversation with them about writing that reflects how I feel about it. They were there when these ideas were still forming and they contributed greatly to my growth. But now, I'd just love to enjoy a meal and chat with a little more confidence in my ideas. They'd probably tell me to stay open to the world, not to overthink so much, and not get to consumed in the academic side of things, which is something Lolita mentioned before I decided to get my PhD. I just know there's still so much more to learn from those two and still such good company to be had.
What’s your favorite food to make, and why?
Fried rice is trusted and true. It's the first meal I learned from a close friend and housemate at Michigan when trying to figure out how to live on my own. The ingredients can change, the spices can change, and the flavor spans the whole spectrum depending on how I do it. It's one of the most variable, satisfying and filling dishes I've made.