B.A. in English, 2012
B.A. in Foreign Languages (Spanish), 2012
Any other degrees:
M.F.A in Fiction, 2017, Vanderbilt University
Favorite memories of being an undergraduate English major:
Pulling all-nighters with friends at the library before papers were due; mentorship from Dr. Anderson; encountering work from fiction writers (Karen Russell! Gabriel García Márquez! George Saunders!) that would shape my sense of what was possible in fiction.
When you graduated with a degree in English from MSU, what were your plans for your future? Has your career path mostly realized those early plans, or have you discovered new plans and goals along the way?
Upon graduating, choosing a career felt weighty and too grand—something I wasn’t quite ready for. I was undecided for a large portion of my undergraduate career and dabbled in classes across majors before focusing on English and Spanish degrees. Right out of college, I wanted a job that would allow me to put my language skills to good use, to be productive and helpful, and also to learn more about myself and others, and so I joined Peace Corps and served as an English teacher, school librarian, and girls’ club leader in Namibia.
Toward the end of my two years of service, it seemed likely that I would pursue a career in international development. But I had also loved the creative writing classes I took as a junior and senior, so I wrote a short story and applied to MFA (Master of Fine Arts) programs with it. To my great surprise, I was accepted, which set me on my current career path. Once I understood that my creativity and varied interests were strengths rather than traits to stifle, the idea of a “career” was far less intimidating and easier to plan toward. It felt less frightening to accept that the path ahead would be a winding one.
What is your current occupation, and what does your work mostly consist of?
I currently write fiction full-time, so my workday consists of writing, reading, and editing. House Gone Quiet, my debut short story collection, will publish in October 2023 and I am currently at work on a novel.
Which skills that you learned as an English major do you use most in your job?
During my time as an English major, I focused on literature and creative writing, and the writing skills impressed upon me during those classes by enthusiastic, knowledgeable, and encouraging professors are probably the most obvious asset to my current career. Through class discussions and papers, I developed a sense of my own voice and learned to follow my curiosity. I also learned to write toward a deadline, to edit my own writing and others’, and to read and think critically.
What additional skills did you need to learn in order to do your job, and how did you learn them?
I worked as a Peace Corps teacher after graduating from Mississippi State, got an MFA (Master of Fine Arts) in fiction from Vanderbilt University, and then worked as a bookseller, an editor, and in marketing. While the MFA gave me the most practical experience toward my current job, those other positions honed interpersonal, inter-cultural, and practical skills that made me a stronger writer as well.
Are there common misconceptions about your career field, which current English majors might share, that you have learned the truth about?
I think there’s a romanticized concept of the ideal author holed up in an isolated cabin somewhere, furiously writing the next Great American Novel with no distractions or interruption. But in practice, most writers have a day-job, and in the best situations, this job feeds their creative work in some way. While it may be harder to prioritize writing while also working full- or part-time, financial stability is often a boon for creativity.
In what ways does your career enrich your life and help you to achieve your personal as well as your professional goals?
I have always wanted to find my own book on a shelf, and I’m closer to achieving that goal every day. Viewing the world through a creative lens hopefully makes me a more empathetic, adventurous, and curious person. I hope these traits translate into my fiction as well.
What advice do you have for undergraduate English majors right now who might want to follow the career path you did?
I’d say to follow your curiosity, to cut yourself slack on and off the page, and to read voraciously.
Updated March 2023