Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Writer Wednesdays: Jen Knox

Musical Chairs: From Journal Entry to Publication

I’m honored to be here, sharing my story as a writer and as a woman who’s learned to give voice to her past. Here’s a little about me: I am a quiet girl with a lively past. I grew up in Ohio, and I live in Texas with my incredibly handsome husband and my “kids” (a Blue Heeler named Buddy & a cat named Cheese). Currently, I teach English at San Antonio College, and as Fiction Editor for Our Stories Literary Journal. Writing is a sort of spirituality to me. I’ve had numerous short work published, but Musical Chairs is my first published book.

So, how did it all begin? Well, my memoir began to come together long before I knew I wanted to write. It began with journals, some of which resurfaced as I was returning to
school to get my GED. In a therapeutic sense (far from literary), I began to reflect, reading and writing feverishly about my past—years I would've preferred to forget, years I felt compelled to revisit. Many years later, after obtaining a degree and writing constantly, fiction and essays, my past continued to come up in my work; consequently, my book began to take shape. I decided my story needed to be told and finally, I was ready to tell it.

Notes on the Process of Writing a Memoir:

It took five years of rewriting, cutting and adding scenes, and revision; and it took a lot of well-deserved rejection. Writers who
reevaluate their work, rather than just keep submitting until it’s accepted are the ones who grow.

Writing my story was a largely cathartic and difficult experience, but it was also gratifying. I think that the actually publishing process was a far more traumatic experience for me. I remember signing with ATTM Press, feeling elated. Then, a few hours later, wanting to call and cancel. Even though I had been pursing publication for a few months, I was unprepared for the reality of acceptance. Was I really ready to share? This is a story about running away from home, about abandoning family and being unable to keep friends. It is a story that recalls my experience as a stripper—a profession that many people believe is demeaning. I began to worry nonstop about backlash; however, the support from readers has been wonderful. Many people have contacted me and said their daughters’ or their own lives have run parallel paths, and they thank me for writing my story. There have also been many people who have written me expressing pity or their personal diagnoses (none of whom, I must note, were psychologists or psychiatrists). But, this variety of responses—the personal responses that memoir invites—has proven that I now have a voice, which is the very thing I so craved during the times I write about. For that, I am grateful that I told my story. Every woman has an important story to tell; we just have different ways of telling them.

About Jen’s Writing:

Jen Knox is the author of Musical Chairs, a memoir (ATTM Press). She is a graduate of Bennington's Writing Seminars and works as an English Professor at San Antonio College and a Fiction Editor at Our Stories Literary Journal. Her work has been published in Flashquake, The Houston Literary Journal, Short Story American, Slow Trains, SLAB, and Superstition Review. She has earned awards from Glimmer Train's Best Start Competition and The ECC Literary Competition. Jen grew up in Ohio, and lives in Texas, where she is working on a novel entitled Absurd Hunger.

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More information about today's guest can be found on her website, Jen Knox, and you can follow Jen on Twitter, @Jenknox2 . Thank you Jen for being a guest on my Writer Wednesday series and thanks to all who stopped by to enjoy today's post.

Kristin : )

If you would like more info about this series please follow this link: Writer Wednesdays: The Intro


  1. Jen, that was quite the story and if your book is as good as this blog,then you are a definately a Writer with a capital W. You've turned your life around and are eloquent in its telling. Continue the journey and write more for us... Lane Stephens (@Lanecat2 on Twitter)

  2. Thank you, Lane.
    You're right! In many ways, I think writing, the perspective and joy it brought me, saved my confused little ghetto self. I can honestly say the process taught me to own my own voice; and quite possibly the self-examination was a serious wake-up call. I'm hoping some other men and women (especially parents of teenagers, those who suffer from depression or anxiety and teens themselves) read my story and relate in some way that helps them to make new conclusions about their own journeys. Memoirs have done this for me so many times--I only hope to do the same for others.

  3. Wonderful post. I can't imagine how hard it must have been to put your life out there like that, unsure of how it would be received...and even "judged" depending on who read it. I have certain stories waiting to be told "someday" that I don't think I'd have the courage to put out there now.

    I'm not normally a memoir-reader, but yours sounds interesting - I'll check it out. Thanks so much for sharing your story with us. :-)

  4. Jen,
    Enjoyed your book Musical Chairs. I appreciate your authenticity and honesty in telling of your experience. I appreciate a behind the scenes look into the process of how your publication story began. I wish you success with your book and your future ventures.
    Be refreshed,

  5. I was amazed to discover how emotional I felt when I first started writing ~ even haiku. How raw and exposed I became, when others read my words. I cannot imagine what it must feel like to publish a memoir. Your courage leaves me breathless. I look forward to reading it. Brava! Dani {@ddh77 on twitter}

  6. @Jamie D. ~ I think the most important thing to do, when writing nonfiction, is to write it for yourself first. I think when authors write memoir with publication in mind, they lose some sense of authenticity and honest, either by censoring themselves or magnification. Write personal stuff for you, though, you'd be surprised how powerful the experience,,, how worth it!
    @Journalwriter ~ thank you! You are so supportive of me, and you're such a wonderful, talented and candid writer yourself, so peaceful and in-tune with nature (someone the opposite of my narration thus far) that I'm humbled by your continued support:)
    @haikulovesongs ~ it's funny... in graduate school, the poets and memoirists had a certain kinship due to the rawness of those two genres, the emotional nakedness, if you will. I've never been much of a poet, but I think it's one of the most honest and exposed forms of written art.