Class of: 2000
Virginia Reeves is a graduate of the Michener Center for Writers at the University of Texas at Austin. Her fiction has appeared in The Common and The Baltimore Review and has been short-listed for the Tennessee Williams Fiction Contest. After seven years in Austin, Texas, she recently returned to her hometown, Helena, Montana, with her husband, two daughters, and their three-legged pit bull. Her first novel, Work Like Any Other, has been longlisted for the Man Booker Prize.
Visit her website at http://www.virginia-reeves.com.
I (was) a James A. Michener fellow at the University of Texas-Austin. In my three years here, I’ve been fortunate to study with Elizabeth McCracken, Christina Garcia, Margot Livesey, Jim Magnuson, Steven Dietz, and Michael Adams, among others. My colleagues here are extraordinary, and I intend to know them (and exchange work with them) for the rest of my life. To say this program is a gift is an understatement.
In addition to my coursework and writing, I work with an organization in Austin called Badgerdog. Its mission is one of reading and writing, and I am part of its writers in the schools program. This year, I’m teaching in two east side, economically disadvantaged schools. I have never known such rewarding work.
Though primarily a fiction writer, I teach poetry and playwriting as well. There is one poem that I always teach to students of pretty much any age: Gary Gildner's "Dogtoothed Violets". Wherever did I hear of Gildner? How did I come across this book of his poems, Bunker in the Parsley Field? I know exactly when and how. He came to Carroll during my senior year. I am still struck by that moment: meeting a professional writer. He was very modest and humble. I loved his work then. I still love it now. I was already an English writing major at that point, but his visit helped me believe in the path I'd chosen. We do not need huge universities and national book tours to show us that writers exist in the world. Carroll did a wonderful job of showing me this career, of making it real and tangible. It may be a small Catholic college in the middle of Montana, but Carroll is not isolated. I grew up there. I grew into a writer there. I wrote my very first piece of [real] fiction there. I would not be where I am now, had I not been to Carroll first.
I still have relationships with my professors (a decade-plus later). I have relationships (great ones) with professors I never formally had, with professors who came after my graduation and took it upon themselves to mentor me, though they had no obligation. These teachers have never failed to write yet another letter of recommendation for me, or to offer their tireless support and encouragement. I believe that professors come to Carroll to be part of a community. Students do as well.
My advice: If you are drawn to be a writer, you must pursue it. I have tried many other jobs. I’ve taught middle school; I’ve designed curriculum; I’ve designed newspapers. But I have always returned to writing, and Carroll, high on its Helena hill, is a great place to do just that.