Apr 19 2011


Published by at 11:30 pm under Interviews

Greetings, Cool Peeps:

This week, I’m jazzed to introduce author Jen Knox. This super fab credit to the female species earned her MFA from Bennington’s Writing Seminars. She works as a creative writing professor at San Antonio College, and has served as Fiction Editor and Workshop Coordinator at Our Stories Literary Journal. Jen is the author of Musical Chairs, a thought-provoking, courageous, and gritty memoir. Jen is also the author of To Begin Again. Join me as I grill Jen for all of the juicy details.

You’ve just published your second book, To Begin Again. What can you tell us about it?

To Begin Again
is a collection of short stories and narrative essays that are, though quite eclectic, similar in that they all deal with some character who is on the verge of transition—specifically, each character is at that last decision before his or her entire life shifts. I think we all have those moments that are somewhat absurd and yet so pivotal. Each of the main characters that make up the stories in TBA is captured right in the middle of just such a life-altering decision, and I zoom in just as or just after the decision is made.

Your first book, Musical Chairs, is a raw and honest memoir in which you talk about mental illness, alcoholism, strip dancing, class definition, identity and so much more. Your work has received stellar praise. This couldn’t have been an easy book to write. Please, tell us about the book and the story behind it.

Writing a memoir is tough-going, at least it was for me. Emotionally, it can be difficult to revisit old memories in the way writing demands you must in order to recall them thoroughly.

Ironically, the parts of my past that were very difficult to revisit were the same ones that seemed to demand place on the page. I suppose this is what happens with the self-study that is memoir—the tough stuff surfaces.

I remember that I began to write Musical Chairs, thinking that no one would ever read my words, and I think this is the only reason I finished. When I attended Bennington, I learned the art of adding cohesion to narrative and, perhaps more importantly, I was introduced to some of the best nonfiction writers. These writers: Joan Didion, Mary Karr, Phillip Lopate and Tobias Wolff to name a few, made me realize the power and importance of creative nonfiction to the world of storytelling. I realized, reading their work and so many others who inspired me, that personal stories deserve to be shared.

Despite the excellent reviews for Musical Chairs, I’m guessing there were people uncomfortable with your story. Have you received reaction that you didn’t anticipate, either positive or negative? How have you dealt with that?

Most negative reactions that have come from Musical Chairs have come from a purely topical point of view. I have received personal emails calling me “amoral” due to the fact that I was a stripper for a short time. I have also had people, women primarily, tell me that I obviously don’t know who I am and that I was obviously deserving of what upsets occurred in my life given that I gave up so much. I think that some people missed the point of my memoir.

I didn’t write Musical Chairs to be shocking, nor did I write it to sell books. I wrote it to share my story, to share it with young women, in particular, who might be in a similar mind state to my own as a young woman. I have suffered from severe anxiety my entire life, anxiety that piqued when I was in my young twenties. What compelled me to trace my story was to try to figure the reason for some of my actions as a fifteen year old runaway on to a young stripper and binge drinker. What I saw, personally, was a pattern of anxiety and irrational behavior. What I saw was my pattern, and this has helped me appreciate my life so much more, and to live with the anxiety that still plagues me from time to time.

Jen, you write both fiction and nonfiction? Tell me, how does the emotional process and delivery change from work to work?

Fiction, to me, is like a vacation. It’s like enjoying the sand and feeling the sun on my shoulders and using bits of life without worrying those bits will come back to haunt me. Much of my fiction comes from real life experiences, both my own and others; but some of it comes from pure imagination, and this is what makes writing fiction so much fun for me. It’s always interesting to me how organic fiction writing is, yet how loose the limitations—how neatly a novel’s ending can be. There is no neat ending to a life in-progress. There is only hopeful speculation.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on social media. I think many of us have a love/hate relationship with it. How do you feel about it?

Social media can suck the lifeblood out of a person. But, it can also offer a person friendships she might never otherwise have had the opportunity to have (like ours). But again, it can be very draining. I recommend that anyone limit the number of hours spent on social media sites each day.

Word has it that you teach Creative Writing. Can you share with us what you consider the most important lessons for your students?

Listen to your reader. Do not be defensive. Consider others’ opinions. Most importantly: read, read, read.

What do you know now that you wish you knew five years ago?

That I might’ve been coming to college from behind, but I was capable of catching up. I remember being so self-conscious about myself in college. I honestly thought I was stupid. Looking back, I wasn’t lacking the tools at all. I was only lacking intellectual confidence.

What do you hope to know in five years that you don’t know now?

What it’s like to have a real vacation.

I’ve been forever called picky, but I maintain that we’re all picky creatures. What are you picky about?

Everything. I don’t eat meat, nuts, non-organic milk; I don’t eat anything with soy, ever; I burn easily, so I don’t like too much sun. I like to go to bed early, wake up early; I like my favorite spot on the couch, but my dog knows this and therefore is always occupying said spot ☺.

Molly, what I’m saying is, I can relate. We’re destined to be long-time friends.

What’s your idea of the perfect day?

Waking early to coffee with cinnamon, honey and milk; writing until my wrists become sore; working out, either yoga or weights; taking a nap then having a nice dinner with my husband; finishing the day by meeting with friends or settling in with my husband for a movie. I’m laid back as they come.

What project is next for Jen Knox?

It’s a secret.

Any parting words for the masses? Any shameless plugs?

Be true to you. And for everyone out there, keep watching my friend, Molly, here. I think she’s a superstar in the making. (You’ll print this right, Molly?)

Oh, and I’d love for you to visit me at any of the following sites:

Jen Knox Blog

Jen Knox Twitter

Jen Knox Website

Jen Knox Amazon Page

13 responses so far

13 Responses to “MEET JEN KNOX”

  1. Melissa Haffneron 20 Apr 2011 at 1:06 am


    Yet again Molly a great interview.

    Jen you are an inspiration to us all. I love the fact that you keep writing, sharing your story is an honor for us. Don’t worry about people think babe, you wrote it for you and that’s the best and only way.

    Your books are a great read and I can not wait to see what is next.

    Hope you get to wake up to your coffee with cinnamon, honey and milk.

    Great interview guys.

  2. Martaon 20 Apr 2011 at 4:16 am

    Yes another great interview Molly, thank you.

    Jen your book Musical Chairs was instrumental in helping me face some of my own reasons for anxiety, panic attacks. I found during reading it that many if not most of my many moves were based on running from the situation.

    While moving waylaid the panic and anxiety it became a pattern that caused its own set of issues.

    When I finally stopped moving I found that the anxiety and panic nearly caused me to have a breakdown.

    Thank you for writing your book and for your friendship. I think you are an inspiration to many of us women.

  3. Sherion 20 Apr 2011 at 5:58 am

    Great interview. Musical Chairs is number one on my to read book. Thank you so much for this interview, Jen’s work has my attention and I must admit , there are now two more books on my “Urgent-Must-read” list!

  4. Robon 20 Apr 2011 at 6:29 am

    Great interview, of one of my favorite writers by one of my other favorite writers. Good questions and good insights!

  5. Beth Hoffmanon 20 Apr 2011 at 9:03 am

    Jen is one of my all-time favorite people and I really enjoyed this interview! Both of Jen’s books are wonderful; she’s incredibly talented. Plus, she’s genuine!

  6. Jen Knoxon 20 Apr 2011 at 9:12 am

    Thank you, Molly!

    Thank you, Beth, Marta, Melissa and Sheri. I am so, so, so honored to be on Miss Molly’s blog, and I do appreciate the support more than you know.

    This writing gig is no easy thing, but something insistent is driving me, and I’m buckled in tight. There’s no getting out now, and I couldn’t be happier. (For the record, there are no metaphors like this in my published works.)

    Sheri, I have an urgent-must-read list, too! Perhaps we can trade notes 🙂

    Love, Jen

  7. Jen Knoxon 20 Apr 2011 at 1:32 pm

    Oh, and Rob, thank you, too. I swear, I didn’t see your comment there before. You’re a pretty awesome writer yourself, Mr. Dinsmoor. Thanks to the super-talented Lisette Brodey for introducing us!

  8. Lisaon 20 Apr 2011 at 2:24 pm

    An exceptional interview Molly.
    Jen, I hope you look back on your life and say ‘I’m a survivor’. What a journey you have traveled.
    It astounds me how people can be so hurtful and nasty e-mailing you with such remarks. I just don’t get where their heads are at.
    So on behave of all the ‘nice’ woman in the world – a round of applause 🙂

    Thank YOU

  9. Stuart Ross McCallumon 20 Apr 2011 at 4:34 pm

    Thank you Molly, for providing your readers with further insight into the life of the exceptionally talented and genuine author, Jen Knox.

    I was fortunate to purchase a signed copy of Musical Chairs when it was first released—-an amazing story which I will always treasure.

    Thanks again,
    Stuart 🙂

  10. Jen Knoxon 21 Apr 2011 at 6:38 am

    Thank you, Stuart and Lisa. I’m so touched by your support. <3

  11. Janeton 25 Apr 2011 at 12:55 am

    Molly, great interview! I definitely agree with Lisa’s comment… Jen, you should be so proud of yourself. Looking back, you are a SURVIVOR! That’s so admirable! I can’t wait to read your book!

  12. Maria Savvaon 26 Apr 2011 at 12:38 pm

    Great interview, Molly & Jen. Musical Chairs is such an honest and inspirational work, and remains one of my favourite memoirs. I’m looking forward to reading To Begin Again 🙂

  13. Martaon 01 May 2011 at 1:47 am

    I loved Musical Chairs and will have to read more of Jen’s work. Great interview Molly and Jen you are both such interesting people.

    Jen your book really was inspirational to me.

    thank you.

Trackback URI | Comments RSS

Leave a Reply