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.
Megan Lenss is pursuing a BS in Geoscience as well as taking independent writing courses with Danny Khalastchi at the Magid Center for Undergraduate Writing and participating in nonfiction workshops.
1. Do you have a specific project that you will be working on this year?
This semester I am focusing on a nonfiction essay that explores the themes of family and religion. The essay is an attempt to analyze how generational changes in religious beliefs affects relationships and family dynamics. It is an incredibly intimate and vulnerable project for me, and I am excited to challenge myself with writing about something that feels so raw.
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 write best in the afternoons, after I have had time to get into my day and my mind is fully awake. When I sit down to write I usually start by reading or listening to some poetry that inspires me. I often pressure myself to write something “good” right away and find myself deleting everything I write in the first ten-ish minutes of writing. I recognize that this pressure and deletion habit is unproductive, so I try to start with timed writing exercises where I set a timer and force myself to write any sort of words for the entire time the timer is running. This usually allows me to warm up and start a good flow. I find that my best writing is usually in the middle of session when I am the most focused on and open towards my work.
3. What are you currently reading right now? Are you reading for research or pleasure?
Most of the books I have read this semester have been for class, with a few Harry Potter nights just for relaxation. My winter break reading list includes Miranda July’s short stories No One Belongs Here More Than You, another attempt at reading The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson, and Robin Wall Kimmerer’s Braiding Sweet Grass.
4. Can you tell us a little about your choice to attend the University of Iowa?
I chose to study creative writing at the University of Iowa because it was an unparalleled opportunity. I get to live in the only city of literature in North America! I felt compelled to learn in the same classrooms where all of the Iowa writing legends have been and share experiences with other young writers. My time in writing courses at Iowa has inspired me to continue the craft and write for the sake of writing itself. I feel grateful to live and learn in a place where creative writing is so uniquely a part of the culture.
5. Tell us about where you are from -- what are a few of your favorite details about your home?
Growing up my family moved a lot, so I tell people I am from the Midwest as a whole. However, the place that feels the most like home to me is Hayward, Wisconsin. My family has a cabin on a lake in Hayward and all of my favorite memories are on the water, swimming, canoeing, reading, or napping. The lake the cabin is on is small and bordered with tall proud pine trees. There’s a large eagle’s nest on an island nearby and loons that sing every evening. The water is crystal clear and chilly; it tastes organic on my lips. In the winter the snow is deep and endless, and when we’re lucky the northern lights dance across the ice. I feel lucky to have spent so many summers up north and because of my connection to the Northwoods, feel an immense responsibility to care for the environment in my future career.