My final post for July 2015 is an interview with author and teacher, Anna Urquhart, whom I had the privilege of working with for three years. A few months ago during my final week at LC, we took a short break from yearend rituals to talk about teaching, motherhood, writing, and a host of other topics. I am extremely grateful to Anna for answering the series of questions presented to her for this Q & A post.
How long have you taught English and how did you end up in this field? Twelve years. I have an English degree, but initially refused to teach. I started out in the mental health field. A friend mentioned there was an opening for an English teacher at a nearby Christian school. After the interview I knew that was the job for me. I taught at that school for nine years, and have been at LC for three.
What is your favorite thing about teaching (in general) or teaching English? I love being able to empower kids to use their words. Words evoke. I want students to never again be a passive consumer of words.
What is it about words that speak to you? Words are like solving a math problem or equation. By using the same words but arranging them differently, they mean something different. Word choice has a mysterious quality. They are your words, but have a life of their own.
You were a featured author in the book A Pioneer Christmas Collection. Tell me a little about that experience. The setting for the stories is during the westward expansion time. There are 9 stories (novellas) in the book. My story is titled “A Silent Night,” and one of my characters is named after one of my daughters. I started writing in August and finished seven months later. I wrote 38,000 words, but had to whittle that down to 20,000 words. The initial release was in August of 2013, but in September of this year, there will be a re-release of the collection.
What is your main genre of writing? Historical Fiction
You mentioned your children. What is the best thing about being a mom? Seeing them develop into little people. Being a mom is terrifying and humbling to be entrusted with three little lives and to do the job well. It’s an ongoing request for grace. It’s a process of watching them discover who they are and being a part of that.
In your spare time you also host a blog titled The Silent Isle. What is your blog about? The title is from the Alfred Tennyson poem “The Lady of Shalott.” Tennyson is my favorite poet, and “The Lady of Shalott” is my favorite all time poem. My blog is about the effort to find a balance between art and life, which is the plight of any artist.
As we speak, you are in the midst of graduate work. Tell me a bit about that. I’m working towards a Masters of Fine Arts in Writing through Spalding University in Louisville, KY. It’s a low residency program with international study, cultural immersion, and mentorship. I graduate in July in Greece.
NOTE: Several weeks ago Anna not only graduated, but also gave a speech during her graduation ceremony.
As a world traveler, what is your favorite travel spot? I love Scotland. It’s like coming home when I go there. Tuscany is amazing, Paris is amazing, and I love Spain – the first foreign oversees country I visited.
Is there some place you have never been but hope to go someday? Iceland, Amsterdam, Venice, and Nova Scotia.
Who is your favorite author? Do I have to narrow it down to one?
- Flannery O’Connor is my favorite, favorite.
- Nathaniel Hawthorne
- Leif Enger, who wrote Peace Like a River. He was the first writer I read where I noticed that his writing was beautiful and I was swept up.
- Jane Austen
- E.B. White
- John Pipkin – I know him. He is a professor at Spalding. He’s my hero.
- Eleanor Morse
Do you have favorite book? What is it? How many times have you read that book?
- Peace Like a River – read several times
- Mansfield Park – Jane Austen
- Mystery & Manners – Flannery O’Connor
- Charlotte’s Web – E. B. White
- White Dog Fell From the Sky – Eleanor Morse
Do you ever relax, or are you always thinking about writing? I do relax, but I am always thinking about writing – analyzing the story or questioning the writing craft.
If you could give one piece of advice to someone who aspires to write, what would you tell them? I have two slices of advice:
- Read anything and everything you can get your hands on.
- Don’t give up. Keep writing. Ninety percent of writing is revision therefore don’t give up.
One final question: Do you have any new material in the works? Yes, a standalone novel. I’m going through the final draft process and hope to wrap up this phase by the end of the year.
To learn more about Anna please visit her blog at http://www.annaurquhart.com/.