In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, the Writing University has been continuing our series of interviews with writers in the various University of Iowa writing programs. We ask about their work, their process and their descriptions of home. We are posting them now as examples of our shared community strength during this time.
Today's interview is with Liana Meffert, a third-year medical student in the The Carver College of Medicine's Writing and Humanities Program.
Liana Meffert is a third-year medical student at University of Iowa’s Carver College of Medicine. She has previously been awarded an Academy of American Poets Poetry Prize, Stanford’s Irvin David Yalom Literary Award, University of Iowa’s Carol A. Bowman Creative Writing Award, honorable mentions for the William Carlos Williams Poetry Award, and most recently the F. Sean Hodge Prize for Poetry in Medicine. Her work is upcoming in The Examined Life and The Healing Muse.
1. Do you have a specific project that you will be working on this year?
I’m continuing to work on my humanities distinction track project, one of several different optional tracks students can pursue during their time at Carver College of Medicine. The tracks encourage students to pursue their outside interests through the common thread of medicine. My final project will be a visual display of poetry I’ve composed during my time at CCOM.
2. What does your daily practice look like for your writing? Do you have a certain time when you write, or any specific routine?
I wish I did! We had several months recently during the pandemic when we were kept out of the clinics, and that gave me some time to establish a more regular writing routine. Life was pretty monotonous and I mostly wrote about the birds outside my window and things spotted in my neighbor’s side yard. One thing that has been consistent for me for as long as I’ve been writing has been that I am a morning writer. I always give the hardest/most important task of my day to the morning. Coffee is non-negotiable. I also read every night, which is sort of a passive sibling to writing.
3. What are you currently reading right now? Are you reading for research or pleasure?
Speaking of reading…I just finished Every Day is for the Thief by Teju Cole. Before that is was The Cubans: Ordinary Lives in Extraordinary Times by Anthony DePalma. I guess I’m trying to do more traveling through my reading these days, since real travel isn’t an option. I also have a subscription to a McSweeney’s book release club, where they send the next 6 books they release. It’s fun because I end up reading things I might not otherwise pick up. So far they’ve sent two. They’re sending them faster than I can read!
When you’re a writer, I think you’re always reading for research and pleasure…it’s impossible to avoid.
4. What is one thing the readers and writers of Iowa City should know about your work?
As I’ve gotten further in my medical school education, I’ve endeavored to bridge the gap between medicine and the people we care for. Medicine has such specialized parlance that it can be impermeable at times, at worst becoming a source of disconnect between patient and practitioner. The longer I’m in school, the more confident I’ve gotten about being a voice in the medical community. Especially right now, working in a healthcare profession has meant operating in a very different reality. We’ve got a lot of parallel realities going on at this point, really. I’m just trying to penetrate some of those barriers with a language we all know.
5. Tell us about where you are from—what are a few of your favorite details about your home?
Oh! I always feel like I’m bragging whenever I talk about home. I grew up about an hour north (if you drive fast) of San Francisco in Sonoma County. Sometimes it helps people to also call it the place with all the wine and vineyards. Napa Valley is nearby. Here are a few of my favorite things: a state park with dirt trails so long you can go for hours without hitting the end, my parents’ backyard with my dad’s beehives, living close enough to a big city to spend the day with all the sounds and smells a big city breathes, and return home in time to walk through the neighborhood, spot a doe with her new twin fawns.