Monday, April 13, 2020

In these strange and difficult times, the University of Iowa Press, with the Writing University, is reaching out to its authors to gain perspective, advice, humor and connection. We want to know how they are doing, first and foremost: we are primarily checking in. But we also want to know how they are living (or surviving, or managing) with the pandemic that surrounds all of us. We are a family here -- the press, the authors, the university -- and this is what families do: we check in.


Today's author conversation is with Kendra Allen. Allen is the author of essay collection When You Learn The Alphabet, winner of the 2018 Iowa Prize for Literary Nonfiction for University of Iowa Press. Born and raised in Dallas, TX, Kendra exists as an MFA candidate at the University of Alabama where she is working on her thesis and leading freshman students astray. You can find other works from her in brevity, december, and The Rumpus among others.


1. What book(s) do you recommend for this time of isolation?

I always recommend Sons of Achilles by Nabila Lovelace, a poetry collection, and What About the Rest of Your Life by Sung Yim, a memoir. They're both just really good books. My list in general is just building and building though. I'm currently reading a lot of short stories by Alice Walker and Toni Cade Bambara, particularly In Love & Trouble and Gorilla, My Love. I also have In The Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado to get into and an unprecedented amount of poetry from Faylita Hicks, Donika Kelly, and Xandria Phillips that I can't wait to read.


2. What are 3 good things that happened today?

I Facetimed my mama, I ate some Fruity Pebbles, I found out The Player's Club is on Netflix.

3. What is your isolation playlist?

I've been waiting on this question my entire life. Here's my playlist.

4. Could you share an image of your new “coworker(s)” (pets, kids, etc.) or your new "office" (my desk is literally in a closet)?

Attached a photo of my coworker (and co-reader) below. His name is Zero. He's 14 and an avid napper.


5. Do you have a writing prompts you could share to inspire us?


  •     What do you remember about your birth
  •     Write about a time when blood spilled
  •     How do you love yourself with the mask on/when the mask is off

Thank you for doing this and getting our minds off of reality.





Thanks Kendra!

Established in 1969, the University of Iowa Press serves scholars, students, and readers throughout the world with works of poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction. As the only university press in the state, Iowa is also dedicated to preserving the literature, history, culture, wildlife, and natural areas of the Midwest. The UI Press is a place where first-class writing matters, whether the subject is Whitman or Shakespeare, prairie or poetry, memoirs or fandom. They are committed to the vital role played by small presses as publishers of scholarly and creative works that may not attract commercial attention. For more information, please e-mail


Photo by Galina N on Unsplash