Q&A with Claire Watkins

Jen Lassen, Editor-in-chief

Our Editor-in-chief spoke with Assistant Professor of English Claire Watkins about winning a Guggenheim Fellowship for her work in creative writing. Out of the 3,500 to 4,000 applications received each year, the Fellowship recognizes men or women who have shown “exceptional capacity for productive scholarship or exceptional creative ability in the arts.” Read on for her responses about her creative work, winning the fellowship, and plans for more writing to come.

Q: Why did you decide to apply for the fellowship?
A: Some other writers encouraged me to apply for it. A few people had read my work, especially those mentoring me, and they encouraged me to apply for the fellowship.
Q: Describe the application process and your application.
A: I submitted a sample from a novel project that I’m working on. It’s a futuristic concept, focused on a water crisis in the Southwest and the aftermath of that crisis. People also wrote letters of recommendation on my behalf about my career trajectory so far.
Q: What prize/recognition did you receive for winning the Fellowship?
A: I won a grant to support my work, but most importantly, I’m now participating in a long, established tradition of being recognized by the Foundation. It’s pretty exciting to look at the list of people who have won; in a small way they are now peers. In a way, it’s like winning a seat at that table.
Q: What do you like most about writing?
A: It’s a really intensely empathetic act. When you’re writing fiction, you have to have in mind experiences who are not you but who are not made up. It’s an important part of being a human being to feel the way the others are feeling; we don’t do this enough.
Q:When did you first truly discover your passion for writing?
A: It was always something I did. When I got really into reading, I got excited about the whole endeavor of writing. In middle and high school, I read what I was supposed to read in grade school. Then, I started reading a lot on my own post high school, and this joy extended into college.
Q: What do you like/dislike about teaching writing?
A: I love teaching writing. No two days in the classroom are the same. Students are creating works that are imaginative, challenging, and exciting. We have fantastic, demanding conversations about their work. Also, they provide me with fresh concepts about texts which are always interesting and welcome.
Q: What are some of your future plans for your work?
A: Immediately, I’d like to finish the long project I’m working on, which is writing the novel. I’ve never tried to write one before. It would mean something significant psychologically and emotionally to me to complete it and hold it in my hand.


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