Tina Egnoski, MFA '97
What are you currently working on?
I've been writing and publishing steadily since graduating from Emerson. I received the 2008 Black River Chapbook Award, and my fiction chapbook Perishables was published by Black Lawrence Press in 2010. My manuscript In the Time of the Feast Flowers was the winner of the 2010 Clay Reynolds Novella Prize, and the book is to be published by Texas Review Press in January 2012.
I am currently working on a collection of linked stories. They’re loosely based on family stories passed down from my grandmother and mother. During the Depression, my grandmother lived on a small island in the Great Lakes region. My mother, during World War II, worked at the Kellogg’s cereal factory in Battle Creek, Michigan. I’m exploring these particular geographical locations and historical periods to create a narrative about women’s lives in the first half of the 20th century.
Could you describe one person, experience, or series of events at Emerson that shifted the course of your career, and/or that illustrates one of Emerson’s core attributes of creativity, collaboration, risk taking, and excellence?
What I loved about Emerson’s MFA program is that you could pair writing classes with literature classes—and as every writer knows, writing and reading go hand in hand. So, while I was studying the work of Edith Wharton, John Cheever and Raymond Carver in James Carroll’s The American Short Story: Discovering a Vision seminar, I was revising a story for Pam Painter’s fiction writing workshop—and trying to bring it to the level of excellence of the “masters” I was reading. This helped me in so many ways. From Hemingway I learned how to compress language. From Sarah Orne Jewett I learned how landscape becomes a character. Both of these techniques found their way into my own work.
Is there an example of how a faculty member aided you with your career?
Jessica Treadway was my first instructor at Emerson. Two years later, she agreed to be my thesis advisor. She was generous with her time and encouragement. Her critiques of my stories were spot on, as were her suggestions for revisions. When it came time for me to find someone to “blurb” for my first book, the fiction chapbook Perishables (Black Lawrence Press/Dzanc Books, 2010), I wrote to her. Even though it had been ten years since I last worked with her, she heartily offered her support.
Are you professionally connected to other Emersonians?
Yes, I’m professionally and personally connected with other Emersonians. Using social media to stay in contact is so easy and convenient, even when I’m not able to spend much face-to-face time with a fellow student or a former instructor.
What’s the single most important piece of advice you’d like to give to Emerson students?
More than likely, at no other time in your life will you have this amount of concentrated time to focus on writing. Now is the time to write, write, write. Take advantage not only of the time you have but also of the other writers around you, both instructors and fellow students. Show them your work. Ask questions—What’s working in this story? What’s not working?—and listen to what they have to say with an open mind. Read their work and offer constructive criticism with an open heart. It’s not about competition, but camaraderie.