The Writing University conducts a series of interviews with writers while they are in Iowa City participating in the various University of Iowa writing programs. We sit down with authors to ask about their work, their process and their descriptions of home.
Today we are talking with Sara Miner, a University of Iowa undergraduate from Donnellson, Iowa. She is majoring in English Education with a minor in music and theatre.
1. Do you have a plan or project in mind for the next semester?
I will be student teaching next semester, so my time for writing will be limited, but I do have a collection of creative nonfiction pieces in the works—just for fun! I’m sure that student teaching will inspire a project of its own, as well. I also just finished my undergraduate honors thesis last semester. My thesis, titled Another Cinderella Story: Evolving Politics and Societal Values in the Tellings and Retellings of the Classic Tale, explores adaptations of the Cinderella story, from Ancient Greece all the way to the modern Disney versions of today. It argues that, while the plot of the story remains almost unchanged, the purpose of the fairy tale changes dramatically with changing social and political times.
2. What does your daily practice look like for your writing? Do you have a certain time when you write? Any specific routine?
I write close to every day, even if it’s just a couple sentences, usually right when I wake up or before I go to bed. A chronic issue of mine is that I always have a lot (too much) to say! This means coming up with a topic is rarely difficult for me, but organizing all my thoughts presents a challenge. I probably spend triple the time thinking about what I am going to write than actually writing it. I edit and pare down what I will write a thousand times in my head and then write it out in just one or two tries.
3. What are you currently reading right now? Are you reading for research or pleasure?
I am currently reading Cris Crutcher’s Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes, which I will be teaching 9th grade students next semester. I also have several books on my reading list, including Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates, Lord of the Flies by William Golding, The Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison, and everything Chimamanda Adichie has ever written that I haven’t yet got my hands on! I have a long list of books to read for pleasure, and luckily my future career as an English teacher means that what I read for pleasure can also be considered reading for professional development! I also always keep a short story anthology and a collection of poems on hand for when I’m between novels.
4. What is something the readers and writers of Iowa City should know about you and your work?
Coming from a rural area with many like-minded people and not much diversity, I strive to write in a way that makes people question their own perspectives and consider viewpoints of people who are different from them. Emotion also plays a very prominent role in my work. When people read my work, I want them to breathe in memories and emotions until they become those feelings entirely. That’s probably why nonfiction has always spoken to me more than fiction—I can feel the emotions more clearly and, because of that, I think my readers can too.
5. Tell us a bit about where you are from—what are some favorite details you would like to share about your home?
I am from the surrounding area of Donnellson, Iowa. Whenever someone asks me where I’m from, I always find myself trying to justify it or apologize: “small town,” “middle of nowhere,” “you probably don’t know it.” Then I begin listing off towns near it until I hit something big enough that people will know, even if it is quite far away from my actual hometown. Donnellson, Iowa is typical of many rural communities in Iowa in many ways, but it is also very special and unique, particularly because of what my family made of it. Growing up, I had a tourist railroad in my backyard that my dad built, mirroring an early-20th century railroad town with a genuine one-room schoolhouse, depot, firehouse, filling station, general store, and other authentic amenities, including, of course, real locomotives and passenger cars that traversed our wooded acreage. People came to learn about history and experience the simplicity of the “good old days.” While we no longer have a railroad in our backyard, the depot still stands, and the years that the railroad was open were definitely some of the most special for me.
Thank you Sara!
SARA MINER is a senior English Education major at the University of Iowa, minoring in music and theatre and pursuing an endorsement in talented and gifted education. She is from Donnellson, Iowa, which has given her a love for the country and the outdoors, but she has a strong affinity for traveling to places that are nothing like her quiet hometown. Sara hopes to work as a high school English teacher in the coming year, eventually pursuing an MA and Ph.D. in English in the coming years.