Friday, January 3, 2014

Interview with Jennifer Litt

We're happy to get to know more about Jennifer, and we think you will be as well.


1.What book are you reading now?

Simple Dreams: A Musical Memoir, Linda Ronstadt

2.Have you won any writing contests?

My poem, “Julia Child Skis in Big Sky, Montana” was a finalist for the 2012 Philip Booth poetry contest at Salt Hill Journal, but it was LUMINA that published it.

3.What are your current projects?

I’m writing and editing poems for a chapbook entitled, Strictly from Hunger. The title is an expression my mother used often, swing talk to describe something of poor quality. It also means tolerable in desperate circumstances. I use the expression in my poem, “Mother Superior Gets Porked Again,” to explore the idea of “a hunger unsatisfied by food.”

4.Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.

When I first moved to Rochester in 1990, I took classes at Writers & Books, a literary arts center. I credit that organization for introducing me to the local community of writers. Many of those individuals have become mentors and friends.

5.If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?

Although I primarily write poetry, it’s fiction writers who’ve provided me with sound advice. I attended the Chenango Valley Writers Conference in central New York in 1996 and 1997. Hilma Wolitzer gave a talk about the importance of work (or any kind of job outside of writing) to inform one’s writing. She can make an audience die laughing at the same time she’s offering them her sage insights. She also is the first writer I heard talk about the significance of revision; even when she’d see one of her published books, she wanted to take it off the shelf and continue the revision.

6.What was the hardest part of writing your poem?

I think balancing poignancy with humor. Again, I used an expression from a parent, this time my father. He loves to say, “For the birds,” which means worthless or undesirable. It was enjoyable to play with bird words―actual birds, snow birds and the idiom “for the birds” to give the poem layers.

7.Do you write for a living or a hobby?

Both. I have a writing services business, which means on any given day I could be editing an academic paper, coaching a student on the SAT essay via Skype, writing a grant or editing a memoir-in-progress, my current project. I am working with a retired dentist postgraduate general dentistry instructor/researcher on his family history/memoir, which fascinates me. Who knew stories about dental caries could be so entertaining. I recently edited a cookbook for F. Oliver’s, an olive oil and vinegar store with locations in Rochester, Canandaigua and Ithaca.

I teach college composition in a learning community at Saint John Fisher College. Every writing instructor collaborates with a professor from another discipline to provide a contextualized learning experience. For the past two years I have worked with a sociology professor on understanding gender in America.

I don’t think I write for a hobby; I write for a passion. After years of reading and writing in different genres, I find poetry to be the appropriate vehicle for my voice and lyrical-narrative writing style. The writer Sarah Freligh teaches bi-annual poetry boot camps, and I have generated many a poem from her exercises.

Over the years, I have published poetry, fiction, interviews and film reviews in a regional magazine, Lake Affect. Michelle Cardulla, the publisher, has asked me to write a piece about Susan B. Anthony with a contemporary spin for the magazine’s 20th anniversary.

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