Screen Shot 2015-09-08 at 10.13.55 AMWhat is your occupation? What were your previous positions?

Professor of Creative Writing at Columbia College Chicago. I am currently the Associate Chair of the Department of Creative Writing. Before becoming a teacher, I worked a number of low-paying odd jobs—at a plastics factory, at a headshop, as a waiter and prep cook at Shoney’s, as an art instructor at a juvenile detention center, and as a flower delivery person. I prefer being a teacher.


What is your new book about?

Marvel and a Wonder follows the relationship between a grandfather and grandson who live in rural Indiana on a failing chicken farm. One day they receive a mysterious gift—a quarter horse—that upends their lives. Soon the animal is stolen and they must search the bleak underworld of the Midwest to retrieve it and some sense of hope and redemption.

MarvelandaWonder1-509x800The boy was still asleep at seven. The grandfather went downstairs, buttered some toast, ate, then puttered off into the field to check on the corn. It was just past his knees now, the leaves a keen, rich green. He squatted there among the rows, poking his fingers deep into the soil, cupping some of it in his palm, taking in the pleasant corruptness of the dirt.

He came inside, started a pot of coffee, and saw the feed store calendar with a red X marking the date. It was the boy’s birthday. The grandfather stared at the X solemnly, went upstairs, got dressed, opened the boy’s bedroom door and saw him snoring facedown on the pillow, then decided to let him sleep.

Do you have a new novel?

I do. It’s called Office Girl. It’s about two young people, Odile and Jack, who, in the last year of the last century, decide to start their own art movement. The art movement only lasts two or three weeks. It’s also a kind of love story.


On Tuesday night, around five p.m., the two of them—Odile and Jack—are in the break room just before their shift starts. And they are staring at each other suspiciously, Odile peering from behind a diet soda pop can, eating a peanut butter sandwich with the crusts cut off. And Jack begins to talk first, asking, “So, are you working tonight?”

“Duh,” she says, smiling, with a mouth full of bread.

“I guess so,” he says.