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Graduate student Annalise Mabe

Graduate Student Spotlight: Annalise Mabe
[11.19.2015]

TAMPA, Fla. -- Annalise Mabe, a second year Master of Fine Arts student, recently published "Space Taker" in The Boiler; "Bedtime Stories" in Animal; and "Florida Fever Dreams," "On Going Back," "Ripe Hour," "Rotten Ones" and "Waterworks" in Hobart. Heather Fox, the Department of English's newsblog editor, interviewed her about her publishing experiences.

Heather Fox: Would you briefly describe your most-recent publications and talk a bit about your experiences with the publication process?

Annalise Mabe: This summer I taught and took two classes, so it really wasn't much different from a fall or spring semester. However, there was some extra time, and I made use of it by writing, revising, meeting with professors and making a spreadsheet of journals that were accepting work over the summer--journals that I would love to see my work appear in. I had this kind of crazy goal to submit to 50 journals. In actuality, I submitted to about 25.

I tend to be really excited and impulsive about submitting work, which can be a good thing and a bad thing. I simultaneously submitted "Space Taker," a recent nonfiction braided essay, to two good journals over the summer. One journal accepted the piece, so I withdrew it from the other journal. The journal that I withdrew it from, a top-tier journal, wrote back congratulating me but also informing me of their regret. They had wanted the piece, too. So, lesson learned! Simultaneous submissions are okay, but it is paramount to be really intentional and purposeful with these choices so that you don't have to withdraw from a dream journal.

As for the writing process, Ira Sukgrungruang and Heather Sellers were instrumental in the revision choices I made for some of these publications. Both professors have such keen eyes and ears and graciously (over a period of weeks and 13 drafts or so) met with me and took time to ask me important questions like, "Is this section necessary?" or "What if you stayed with this thought?" My recent publications began as rough drafts over the summer and were thoroughly revised and polished before they were sent out to readers and ultimately published in late September/early October.

HF: How do you balance the demands of graduate school--coursework, teaching, service, etc.--with writing and submitting your work for publication? What recommendations do you have for other graduate students who are thinking about submitting their work for publication?

AM: Many people told us upon entering the program, "Your writing comes first. This is what you are here for." I took this advice seriously, but I also think that it is important to work with excellence and to make sure you are doing your best in all areas. To be most honest, a lot of times, I'm able to balance everything, but sometimes a few things on the to-do list just don't get done.

My advice to other graduate students is to make sure that you are submitting work you are proud of and to only submit to journals that you would really love to see your work in. I started publishing without care for where I was submitting, and that was fine at first. But as a writer, you can be choosey about where to send your work. As I've gained confidence, I've definitely changed my mind about the submission/publication process. It isn't a race. The journals will be there. Make sure you are taking the time to work with professors and that you are being thoughtful about each of your choices.

HF: Where do you do most of your writing? Is there a particular "space" that you prefer?

AM: I don't have a particular place or space or ritual. I use the Notes app in my phone to jot an idea down if I don't have a notebook. Often, ideas will come to me when I'm not trying to write; they will come when I'm standing in line at the grocery store or stopped at a red light. My writing comes and goes, usually in accordance with what's bothering me or stressing me out. If I'm super happy, usually there's nothing fruitful that will come in terms of a piece of poetry or creative nonfiction. So, I suppose it's more about when I write than where I write. I write stronger pieces when I'm upset or contemplating some societal flaw or microaggression.

HF: What inspires and/or influences your writing? For instance, are your ideas inspired by certain types of experiences or observations? Or is there a particular writer or group of writers who inspire you?

AM: I'm definitely inspired by observations of everyday conversations and trying to pin-point my current experiences and ideologies as an adult of still semi-formative years. For poetry, Richard Siken and Michael Dickman have been so influential. I wouldn't say that my writing is like theirs, but I would like to say that they have influenced my work, and I have tried to listen and play back to their writing styles. I'm still new to creative nonfiction but love work by Kevin Sampsell, Marion Winik and, of course, Ira Sukrungruang and Heather Sellers. I know that they are faculty here, but, really, we are so lucky to be working with them because their work is incredible (see: "After the Hysterectomy" and "Breathless").

HF: Where do you see yourself as a writer and/or teacher five years from now?

AM: After the program, I see myself continuing to teach and hopefully becoming a visiting professor, working toward associate professor and eventually tenure track. I love teaching, and to continue to teach creative writing would be a dream. I'm also pursuing the Professional and Technical Writing Certificate so that I can teach these courses, as well. Of course, I would still be writing because writing is what I love more than anything (well, it's close to reading), and I hope to have at least one book out that I can say I'm really proud of--a book that resonates with its readers and says something that hasn't been said before.

HF: Are you working on a current project? If so, could you briefly describe it?

AM: Actually, yes. When the top tier journal wrote that they were sorry they missed the chance to take "Space Taker," they encouraged me to send something else. I have been writing and drafting for almost a month now, working on a new piece to send. It's become quite a mess because I feel the pressure of writing something just as good, of this new feeling that says, "You're never going to write another essay as good." So for now, I'm trying not to write towards my expectations and to forget about what journals may want. That isn't where good writing comes from. It comes from listening to an impulse, one that's real and coming only from me. That's the work I have cut out for me now.

-USF-



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