An essay by 2012 fiction alum Katie Runde was recently featured in Catapult. Read an excerpt of Runde’s essay below:
(Photo credit: Rebecca Sanabria)
Writing Your Little Stories in the Shadow of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop
By the time we moved to Iowa City seven years ago, my husband and I had lived in three cities in five years, where I’d held three different jobs, earned one MFA, and miscarried twice before our first daughter was born.
There were only a handful of cities in the US where it was possible to both pay off my husband’s six-figure medical-school loans before we had grandchildren and maybe also find some kind of literary scene. We’d moved here for his job in the ER at University of Iowa Hospital but also for a list of reasons I learned to recite when people asked why we left LA and New York: for the better schools and lower cost of living, for proximity to my Cedar Rapids in-laws. Iowa City also had the bougie bars, restaurants, and breweries that we were used to, plus the shows and art and blue candidate names on yard signs around election time.
It also had the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where so many writers I’d admired had passed through and where a disproportionate number of buzzed-about and brilliant books were born. Because of the Workshop’s presence, the city punched above its weight and attracted famous authors on tour, hosted festivals, boasted several bookstores, and had literary quotes etched into the sidewalk.
Maybe I should have been intimidated, returning here with my handful of third-tier journal publications and the walking stick my MFA program had awarded graduates instead of guaranteed agent contracts, but I was too tired. When we arrived, I was in the sleepless fog of new motherhood and about to get surprise-pregnant with a second baby. I hadn’t written in years, succumbing to the caffeine of Keurig cups, the oxytocin of baby snuggles, and the cortisol that coursed through me when she cried. In 2014, I’d ceremoniously named a long project I’d written “final.docx,” saved it to an old laptop, and never looked at it again. I obeyed the self-protective impulse to leave that project there until I had full-time childcare, or a better brain, or a group of local writer friends to share tea and trauma plots with. I knew that if I started writing again, there would be a vast gap between what the words on the screen were doing and what I wanted them to do, and only tiny slivers of time to spend narrowing that gap.
If I was being totally honest with myself, Iowa City’s reputation as a writers’ town was way higher on my list of reasons for moving than I let on (“Sure would be cool to catch a Prairie Lights reading sometime!” I ’d tell people, like that was all it was). But, when I talked about moving, I never talked about the reemerging ache of my creative ambition.
Read the rest of this essay here: