Is there life after graduating with an English Degree?

Novelist Susan Koefod '81 speaking to students and faculty in Derham Hall. Photo by Michelle Mullowney.
Novelist Susan Koefod ’81 speaking to students and faculty in Derham Hall. Photo by Michelle Mullowney.

Yes. You can have a career, English grads.  That was the message at a recent event at St. Catherine University. It was an honor to be invited back and be among other accomplished professional women who found career homes in many places.

My thanks to Jill Jepson for the invite and to St. Catherine University for hosting!



How Spoken Words Transform Writing


I watched the light filtering through colorful glass panes of the Black Forest Inn as my husband and I dined before Cheap Theatre’s “Oh Hell, a storytelling show,” featuring new performers Danny Klecko and Mike Finley, and Cheap Theatre veterans. More about how their performances went later in the post.

The colored light transformed the dim, old-fashioned interior of the restaurant into a magical place, filtering it without the need of Instagram help.  While there, my husband snapped a shot that I’ve saved as my author photo of the moment. Sitting in that light, in that place, and witnessing spoken word performances for the first time gave me much to consider. As I listened, I thought of whether I’d be up for spoken word sometime, how I could use spoken word techniques in my work, how reading one’s pieces out loud provide feedback you can’t get from just reading off the page.

Danny and Mike performed admirably – Danny, in fact, hit it out of the park, choosing ‘shame’ as his topic: he told both stories and poems about how  he rose above shame when he made his career choice – that of a baker.  He handed out loaves of Saint Agnes bread to select audience members, asking if there were any Republicans in the house who might appreciate the “fruity, Christmassy bread” he designed for then first lady Mary Pawlenty. His performance stunned longtime host Erica Christ, who commented that she had guessed wrong placing Danny so early on the night’s list and wondered how anyone was going to be able to follow him.

Those transformative performances and that transformative light are all part of the transformative year of being a McKnight artist fellow. I’m continuing to transform as an artist, and find inspiration and material everywhere, no longer concerned with what anyone else thinks of my artistic path. Lately I’ve been writing more poetry again, including finishing a children’s book piece that I’ve sent out to as many publishers as I can find. Several poems have found homes, in new June Cotner anthologies, in an upcoming Lief, and others are in process. I submitted my recording of “Singed” (you can hear it on Northern Community Radio – KAXE & KBXE) to another poetry audio contest.  I submitted a new poem for Common Good Books love poetry contest, and had a lot of fun working on that piece with my writing group.

I haven’t abandoned prose either. The novel I wrote in San Francisco is being edited now, and I’ll work those edits in a week-long writing retreat at the Journey Inn, later in April.

Writers fuss too much  about choosing one genre over another, developing  identities to separate their work in the marketplace (or to be able to write it at all) — writing under one  (or more) pen name for prose, maybe another for their poetry, and on. I think that while these choices may help free some artists, they aren’t for me.

I want to express my  artistic identity with a singular vision of an artistic spectrum, an enriching approach that borrows from all the forms I chose to write in – poetry, prose-poems, prose, and any other combination (I’ve even written interior monologs within a novel in a two-columned theatre-like dialog). I like that I don’t have to choose once the kind of artist I want to be and stick within that narrow definition. Most importantly, I’m guided by trying to have as much fun with the writing as possible. Slowing down. Lingering through revision. That’s what it’s all about for now, and what I’m all about for now, artistically speaking.