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 Sam Eliasen, an English and Creative Writing major and the Editor-in-Chief of INK LIT Magazine.
Sam Eliasen is a freshman studying neuroscience on the pre-med track. He’s editor-in-chief of Ink Lit Mag for the fall 2020 semester, and he’s dedicated to amplifying student voices and finding community through writing. Classic fiction is one of his favorite genres, and he loves to write creative non-fiction. In his free time, he likes hiking, swimming, and spending days at the local lake.
1. Do you have a specific project that you will be working on this year?
I don’t have any super-intensive projects that I’m working on right now, but I do have a goal. Since I’m fully online this semester, and am living at home, I’m hoping to get down anything that I’ve ever wanted to write about childhood.
In January, I’m coming to campus, and I know things will get busier and busier. I don’t want to look up someday and realize that I’ve forgotten parts of my early life in the hustle of day-to-day studying. So right now, while I’m still clinging to the last real elements of childhood, I want to write about them.
2. What does your daily practice look like for your writing? Do you have a certain time when you write, or any specific routine?
This is probably a terrible practice, but I love to brainstorm while I drive. I live about 20 minutes out from the nearest big town (where I used to go to school, and where I currently work and volunteer), so most days I have some quiet, uninterrupted time in my car. I put on music that fits the mood and let things thoughts come to me. I find that it’s helpful to be pre-occupied with driving and looking at the scenery- it takes me out of my head a bit, and really lets me develop ideas without worrying about how they’ll turn out. Then, when I get where I’m going, I frantically type everything into my phone notes. That way, when I sit down at my computer to really develop an idea, I have some honest inspiration to work from.
3. What are you currently reading right now? Are you reading for research or pleasure?
A month ago, I started reading Dostoyevsky’s Notes from Underground for fun, and I’m dead-set on finishing it when I have the time. The last few weeks have been really busy though.
For my French class, I’m reading Michel Tournier’s Vendredi ou la vie sauvage in its original text. It’s a retelling of the Robinson Crusoe story with special emphasis on psychological development, and an impactful critique on European colonialism. I really love it so far, and I won’t spoil anything in case anyone wants to read the English translation.
4. Can you tell us a little about your work with INK Magazine?
So Ink Lit Mag is UI’s freshman literature and culture journal. Though we have a strong connection to the Iowa Writers LLC, we’re open to first-years across the board- for staff applications and magazine submissions alike. For this edition, I’m editor-in-chief, though staff reapplies and rotates on a semesterly basis.
I get to work with the whole team by organizing meetings, checking on the progress of the magazine, and doing a lot of behind-the-scenes work. At Ink, we really try to stay away from the editorial power structure to create a collaborative atmosphere. Our editors and contributors are the lifeblood of the magazine.
I’m really grateful to have the opportunity to amplify first-year voices in a university culture that sometimes sweeps them under the rug, and I’m so fortunate to have found such a beautiful community to work with-- even if it is virtual this semester.
5. Tell us about where you are from -- what are a few of your favorite details about your home?
I live in LeClaire, Iowa, on the Mississippi River.
But I’m really from a small town in Illinois where I grew up. I spent most of my life in an 1864 colonial house with tall ceilings, peeling paint, and grooves on the doorstep from years of people coming and going. Though my family has since moved, that place will always be my home. I miss laying in bed at night and listening to the foundation shift… it terrified me as a kid and comforted me as a teenager. There’s nothing quite like it.
Thank you Sam!