By Sarah Lofstrom, Graduate Writer
Welcome Professor Karen Tucker! Dr. Tucker joined the faculty in 2020 after completing her PhD in English and Creative Writing from Florida State University. She also holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Warren Wilson College. Her work has been featured in publications such as Boulevard Magazine, The Missouri Review, The Yale Review Online, Tin House Online, EPOCH, and elsewhere. Her first novel, BEWILDERNESS, emerged from her dissertation and is forthcoming in June 2021 from Catapult Press. It focuses on America’s current opioid crisis. Professor Tucker says that with that novel she is “trying to chip away at persistent social stigmas and coax U.S. policymakers towards decriminalization, while telling what I hope will be a great story.”
Professor Tucker has a clear affinity for fiction writing. On her preferred genre to write in, she says that “once fiction sunk its claws in me, I sunk mine in right back.” One of the main reasons she loves it is that “it’s never easy…you never get bored!” When asked about the challenges of writing in fiction, she simply says that “maybe someday I’ll figure out this whole writing thing once and for all. I hope not.”
She is currently hard at work on her next project, a novel “about a woman who does full-service sex work––meaning she’s not on-camera talent, a club dancer, or a content creator for OnlyFans––but someone who earns her living by selling private in-person sexual encounters.” The novel is concerned not just with the happenings of the main character but also “the individuals who hire her, her relationship with her sister, and the United States’ criminal justice system.”
This commitment to holding space for multiplicity extends to her classroom as well. When asked what her teaching philosophy is when it comes to creative writing, she quoted the great Toni Morrison: “‘The ability of writers to imagine what is not the self, to familiarize the strange and mystify the familiar, is the test of their power.’” She says that for her, “this holds the key to all doors. In my classes, as well as in my own writing practice, we wrestle with this on a near-daily basis––and although it often resembles a down-and-dirty struggle, on the best days it’s clear we’re participating in an incredible spiritual enterprise.”
Once pandemic restrictions ease up, she is eager to “return to [her] people-watching habits. Being cooped up inside is in some ways my dream existence––but I do like to venture forth on occasion, rendered nearly invisible by my baseball cap, sunglasses, and middle-aged body, and see what delights humanity has to offer.”
When she isn’t teaching, people watching, or working on drafts of her new novel, Professor Tucker says “I’m trying to teach my cats English. I admit our conversations have been limited so far, but I remain optimistic.” This semester Professor Tucker can be found teaching Introduction to Fiction Writing and Intermediate Fiction Writing.