Each week we will be connecting with our contributors showing where they have been, where they are now, and what’s up for the future.
Name: Courtney Kersten
Title of Piece published in Sweet: 3 Short-Shorts
Courtney resides in Santa Cruz, California, where she is going toward a PhD in Literature at the University of California. You can find out more about her at www.courtneykersten.com.
What are some major accomplishments you have had since your Sweet publication?
I’ve finally read all the books on my shelf that I haven’t gotten a chance to read (though this accomplishment is slowly slipping away as I keep visiting used-book stores and accumulating more to-be-read books). Though I am a native Wisconsinite, I finally went snowshoeing this past winter which felt monumental to me (and so fun!). I’ve also started volunteering with an animal shelter and a native animal rescue center in California, and am taking self-defense classes. I’ve also had the chance to read so many amazing authors, sometimes get published alongside them, and deepen in my practice (and patience) as a writer. In other news, I completed my MFA in Creative Writing at the University of Idaho, started my PhD in Literature at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and then published my memoir, Daughter in Retrograde (University of Wisconsin Press 2018).
Can you tell us about a current/ongoing project that you’re excited about?
These days my writing hours are full of thinking about spirituality, narratives we tell about women and madness, grief, mothers and daughters, and the superstar astrologer of the 1960s & 70s Linda Goodman. All this is to say that my current writing project is a hybrid biography of Goodman combined with critical musings about women, mother/daughter relationships, and grief, among other topics, and my personal journey to find more about Goodman. She is a fascinating and complex figure: simultaneously a best-selling author and a grief-stricken mother who searched for her daughter for years. I’m planning on traveling to Cripple Creek, Colorado, and the Hollywood Cross this summer to conduct site visits and, hopefully, find out more about the her fascinating life.
Who is your favorite author?
So tough to choose! So, I’ll tell you a few. Right now, I’m on a bell hooks kick and have been returning to a few of my favorites about pedagogy (Teaching to Transgress, Teaching Community, among others) and exploring her work about love and women (All About Love, Communion: The Search for Female Love). She’s brilliant. I walk away from each chapter shaken, inspired, and yearning to learn more. She also got her doctorate at UC-Santa Cruz, so I especially feel connected to her work in this way. I’ve also love Jo Ann Beard’s work. She, too, is from the Midwest and I resonate with her work in this way—her descriptions of the land and people are spot-on. Not only do I love her work with scene and place, but her subtle humor and gritty descriptions of love and loss echo my own experiences. Reading her is like talking to an old friend.
What is your favorite poem/essay/book?
It’s always changing. Right now, I am thinking a lot about Margaret Atwood’s poem “The Animals Reject their Names and Return to Their Origins” which challenges our understanding of naming, language, and taxonomy. I am fascinated by animals and am so grateful to be witness to their complex lives and languages. This poem asks us to consider how language itself can be a form of oppression. It encourages me to embrace mystery not only in looking at animals but in life as a whole.
What inspires you to write?
Silence. Long bus rides. Deadlines. Old clips from The Midnight Special. Seeing crows bathe in the rain. Watching the sea lions in the wharf. Hearing stories from strangers. Stories from my friends. Stories from my dad. Filing divorce papers. Heartache. Patience. Rifling through wedding dresses at Goodwill. Finding forgotten grocery store lists on the sidewalk. Looking through the listings for “Haunted Dolls” on Ebay. Reading the “Missed Connections” section on Craigslist. Examining microfilm. Looking inside bathroom cabinets at other people’s dinner parties. Questions. Anger. Mystery. Hope.
What is your favorite sweet?
One of my favorite sweets is made and sold by a lovely place in Menominee, Wisconsin called the Raw Deal. It’s called the “Choco Nilla” raw pie. If you ever find yourself there, this or another one of their fabulous desserts and a cup of coffee—it’s one of my favorite things. Another sweet I love is, I believe, a Scandinavian desert that my grandmother and aunt used to make: a cranberry muffin with butter sauce. It might sound a little strange, but it’s wonderful. You’ll dream about it.
We see that you couldn’t wait, so it must be delicious!!
Thank you, Courtney, for taking the time to reconnect with us. We look forward to seeing more of your work in the future!