Meet Mary Elizabeth Pope, October’s First Literature Edition Lady Lennia! Marybeth was raised in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan. She holds a B.S. and M.A. in English from Central Michigan University and a Ph.D. in English and Creative Writing from the University of Iowa. She currently lives in Boston, Massachusetts, where she is an associate professor of English at Emmanuel College. Her short stories and essays have been featured in literary magazines such as Florida Review, Bellingham Review, PoemMemoirStory, Passages North, and many others. Her short fiction book, Divining Venus, will be published October 17th of this year. As a Michigan native, she spends her summers writing on the Leelanau Peninsula.
What makes you a professional in the literary world?
I’m a professor of English and Creative Writing, and the author of a book of short fiction, entitled Divining Venus: Stories (Waywiser Press, 2013).
If you had a personal mission statement, what would it be?
“You can have it all. You just can’t have it all at once.” This concept has been incredibly helpful to me over the years. For instance, at 23, I knew I wanted to study abroad, to write, to get my Ph.D., and to have a stable and happy personal life. However, I didn’t get married until I was 35. Before that, being single felt a lot like not having it all, especially in the Midwest, where I was raised. However, because I wasn’t married, I was able to study in England, South Africa, and Italy, and travel through Europe and Africa, and also earn my Ph.D.; all of which would have been trying at best, with someone else to prioritize. Now that I am married, I feel like I’ve been able to have so much of what I hoped for, ironically, because for many years, I didn’t have a big part of what I considered “all.”
Where did you attend college?
I attended Central Michigan University for my bachelor’s and master’s degrees, and the University of Iowa for my Ph.D.
What area or genre of Literature do you specialize in? Is there a specific reason why you picked that area?
Lately people have been calling me a fiction writer because Divining Venus is a collection of short stories, but I actually write creative nonfiction too, and a very small bit of poetry. I didn’t choose any of the genres—I feel like they chose me. That’s how stories, essays, and poems come to me, and when they do, my job is to capture them on paper before they slip away.
What has been your biggest struggle in achieving your goals? How are you overcoming it?
My biggest struggle in achieving my primary professional goal— to be a writer and teach writing—has been the tremendous amount of rejection that writers have to face. If you’re going to survive as a writer, you have to be willing to accept rejection as part of the course ,and try not to take it personally. It’s generally not personal—there are so many people all trying to get published, and comparatively few venues in which to publish—but it can feel that way sometimes.
What inspires you?
People who endure inspire me. I worked in a nursing home when I was in graduate school, and the 90-year-olds who had lost parents, siblings, spouses, even children by their age—they all got out of bed in the morning, ate breakfast, sat out in the sun, and still managed to laugh—really laugh. They always gave me hope that perhaps I would one day be able to overcome so many obstacles and still be able to laugh like that.
What would you write for Miss Millennia Magazine’s readers?
I would write Divining Venus, the book I’ve just written. So many of the stories deal with the ways women struggle to balance cultural expectations, personal happiness, and inclination, and I think they might speak to the struggles your readers face, too.
Do you feel like you can inspire women in their 20′s and 30′s? If so how would you go about doing this?
I’m not sure I can inspire even myself sometimes, but many of the stories in my book address female characters in their twenties and thirties struggling to make sense of the often contradictory messages we absorb about what it means to be a woman in our culture. It’s my hope that these stories will help young women feel less alone in their struggle to manage these expectations, and by not feeling so alone, manage them better.
Who does Lady Lennia represent to you?
The women I’ve always admired have been women who have defined success for themselves, even if their version of success doesn’t look like success to others. These are women who are unapologetically themselves, who haven’t lost themselves in the struggle to meet all the expectations of the people around them, and I hope Lady Lennia is one of those women.
Why would you make a great Lady Lennia for the Literature edition?
I hope I’ll make a good Lady Lennia for the Literature Edition because my book Divining Venus might articulate something true and recognizable to your readers about the perpetual struggle of women trying to figure out who they are within their families, jobs, and relationships.
Visit Marybeth at her Website! MaryElizabethPope.com