Graduating from PLNU in 2005 with a BA in Literature, Katie Manning is returning to campus to showcase her work as a poet. After her time at PLNU, Manning went on to receive her MA and PhD in English and wrote two books of poetry. She is currently an Assistant Professor of Literature at Azusa Pacific University. The Point Weekly catches up with Manning via email before her campus visit.
Point Weekly: What factors influenced your decision to come to PLNU?
Katie Manning: I only applied to PLNU at the last moment. When I was praying about my college decision in February of my senior year, I suddenly felt very clearly that I should attend PLNU. I was surprised! That was not what I’d expected to do. I didn’t hear the voice of God or anything, but it’s one of the few moments in my life where I’ve had a sense of complete clarity about what I should do, and that feeling seems to have been justified.
PW: Talk about some of the professors who influenced you while you were here.
KM: If I start naming names, it might take me a long while to stop… In my own department, I basically stalked the wonderful Bettina Tate Pedersen and took seven classes with her, and her teaching techniques have heavily influenced my own. Rick Hill, my advisor, was the one who first asked me if I’d ever considered becoming a professor. I hadn’t until he asked, and he helped me figure out how to get to grad school. I’ve dubbed him “advisor-for-life.” With his enthusiasm and bow ties, Phil Bowles made linguistics so much fun, and I love that I now get to teach introductory linguistics at APU. Charlene Pate taught me how to teach and gave me opportunities to lead workshops in The Writers’ Studio, and she and Jim De Saegher were so wonderful about opening their homes to students and making us feel like valuable and interesting people.
PW: When did you begin writing, and when did you begin to pursue writing as a career?
KM: I composed my first poem at age four, and my Granny helped me write it down. I wrote poems pretty often when I was growing up, but it wasn’t until I took a creative writing class with Kay Harkins that I started writing daily and thinking about poetry as something that I could pursue more purposefully as a vocation.
PW: What draws you to poetry?
KM: I think it was originally language that drew me to poetry. I loved the sounds of language in nursery rhymes, songs and speech. I still do. I’m also drawn to poetry because I love connecting with people: past writers, current (and potentially future) readers, fellow writers. I see all of my writing as a response to something, so I’m often inspired by existing stories and poems, by art, by history and current events, by dreams, and by my own life experiences. Poetry is a way to talk back and to explore different perspectives.
PW: What are you looking forward to in returning to PLNU this Thursday?
KM: I’m looking forward to visiting with current students and seeing my professor friends. I’m excited about the evening interview and poetry reading in Crill because I’ll get to talk about some of my favorite things — faith, feminism, and poetry — and how they work together. I’m also excited to be near the ocean and to get a pear and almond scone from Con Pane.
PW: What advice would you give to an aspiring writer or poet?
KM: As far as writing advice goes, everyone says that aspiring writers should read a ton and write regularly. This is true. I would add that aspiring writers should make connections with other writers. The work itself can be lonely, so having some sort of community with other writers makes it much more meaningful and fun. Join Manning in Crill Performance Hall on Thursday, September 26, where she will be answering questions and reading her poetry.