Pamela James is originally from Wichita, Kansas, and has a B.A. in English from the University of Kansas in Lawrence, KS. She moved to Champaign-Urbana, Illinois to attend graduate school at the University of Illinois where she met Steve who had an M.A. in speech, and they’ve been married for forty years. After five cold years in North Dakota, they came to Conway, AR when Steve got a teaching position at UCA. Over the past thirty years in Arkansas, Pam has worked as an accountant, as a technical writer, and, more recently as a part-time teacher (reading, grammar, and basic composition) at UACCM.
GL: As a first year candidate, why did you decide to pursue your MFA? What do you hope to gain after three years with the Arkansas Writers Program?
PM: In semi-retirement, I’m returning to what I most liked to do in the second grade: read and write. I am pursuing the MFA primarily to improve my writing skills and be part of a writing community.
GL: Tell us about your creative work and writing process—do you have a preferred genre or aesthetic?
PM: My writing process needs improvement; taking classes provides some discipline for my undisciplined self. I’m interested in writing both fiction and poetry.
GL: What goals do you hope to accomplish during your time here? How do you hope your writing will be developed and challenged by our students and faculty?
PM: I would like to write a book, although right now I’m unsure if I’m talking novel or chapbook. I always presumed it would be a novel, but now I am less sure. At any rate, I anticipate thesis work will give me both the opportunity and the obligation to finish such a project.
I’ve already taken several creative writing classes as a non-degree student. Others’ perspectives are invaluable. I took the fiction workshop last year and received the best detailed and insightful criticism I have ever had. Writers mostly don’t seem to flourish without a community. At least, that’s been my personal experience.
GL: What’s your favorite piece of writing advice?
PM: Anne Lamott’s advice on knowing that there will be shitty first drafts sticks with me the most. I used to be so disappointed that getting writing “right,” took so long and that I never reached that ideal state of writing fast and well.
I also have learned that there are plenty of words and ideas. I used to believe if I used up a particularly nice phrase, or developed a really good idea, that nothing else would come in to fill the space left behind. Not so. We can be profligate with words and ideas, knowing more will come.
Visit our blog again soon to meet another graduate student from the Arkansas Writers Program.