Contributor Interview: Jacqueline Alnes

As part of the launch of our Spring/Summer 2018 issue, Let Us Gather: Diversity and the Arts, we sat down with contributors to talk about their work in the issue and more. The following interview is part of this series. Please visit our website to see the complete list of contributors to Let Us Gather, to purchase the issue, or to subscribe.


Tell us a little about your work in Let Us Gather: Diversity and the Arts: what inspired it, how you came to write it, etc.

I have been an athlete for as long as I can remember. I swam in elementary school through high school. In the water, I felt strong and untouchable. Only out of the water did I feel the tension between my identity as a woman and a competitive swimmer. Moments with coaches over the years left me with a grimy feeling, something amorphous I couldn’t quite identify. I wrote this poem while taking a poetry workshop at Oklahoma State University, where I am working toward my Ph.D. in Creative Nonfiction. Janine Joseph, my professor, and my peers in workshop were instrumental in helping me clarify form and themes in revision.

Do you have a favorite line, image, or scene from this work?

The memory of a coach pulling me aside to examine girls’ legs to see if they had shaved or not is one that haunts me. At the time I explained the moment away by telling myself that analyzing competitors was part of competitive athletics, but, as I insinuate in the line “my name a singling out / my name a sin,” I now feel deeply uncomfortable about what happened.

You were a finalist in the Francine Ringold Awards for New Writers, which means that this is one of your first pieces of published work in your genre. How long have you been writing, and what did being a finalist in the competition mean to you?

I started creative writing during my undergraduate years, and since then I have earned my M.F.A. from Portland State and am working toward my Ph.D. I used to write poetry a lot in college but hadn’t returned to the genre until last year. I can’t tell you how much I love reading poems that sing on the page and reverberate through me. Being named as a finalist in the competition, especially for a poem that means so much to me as an athlete and a writer, was a true honor.

What is your best piece of advice for aspiring writers?

One of my favorite professors once told me to “treat writing like a job,” and I have followed his advice ever since. I wake up at 4:44 every morning to write, and I’ve been in that practice for years. Carving out writing time and honoring that commitment is what has helped me develop most.

Tell us something fun, strange, or interesting about yourself. It can have to do with writing—or not!

I once ran a marathon alone around town as a means of celebrating my 25th birthday. And I ran a personal record!

Jacqueline Alnes is a Ph.D. student at Oklahoma State University. When she’s not writing, reading, or teaching, she enjoys long distance running and baking way too many cookies.

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