On my blog today, I’m talking to the dynamic Kathleen McClung, who describes her writer’s journey!

Kathleen McClung is the author of four poetry collections: A Juror Must Fold in on Herself, winner of the 2020 Rattle Chapbook Prize, Temporary Kin, The Typists Play Monopoly and Almost the Rowboat. Winner of the Morton Marr, Maria W. Faust, and Rita Dove national poetry prizes, her work appears in a variety of journals and anthologies. From 2021-23 she has served as guest editor for The MacGuffin, a print literary journal based in Michigan. She also served as associate director of the Soul-Making Keats literary competition and judged the contest’s sonnet category. In 2018-2019 she was a writer-in-residence at Friends of the San Francisco Public Library. Kathleen teaches literature and writing classes at Skyline College in San Bruno and directed the Women on Writing conference there for ten years. She also teaches privately and at Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) in San Francisco.  Visit her website at www.kathleenmcclung.com

  1. What genres do you work in?

For the past ten years or so I’ve focused mostly on poetry. My three chapbooks and a full-length collection of poems were all published after I turned fifty. I’ve also written short stories, memoir, journalism, speeches and short plays. I value versatility, and as I age, I want to stay nimble and expand my reach.

  1. At what moment did you decide you were a writer?

There were many moments of realization, starting back in my childhood when I loved writing poems and stories and sharing them with my teachers and classmates. I distinctly remember my fifth and sixth grade teacher Mrs. Henderson writing encouraging comments on my mystery stories with multi-colored Flair felt-tip pens she kept in a jar on her desk. I wrote for and edited my high school newspaper and continued writing for my college newspaper and literary magazine; in graduate school I edited the campus literary magazine while taking lots of poetry and fiction workshops. So, I don’t remember a particular deciding moment, just a steady stream of writing for over fifty years.

  1. Who has supported you along the way?

I’m so fortunate that both of my parents were incredibly supportive of my creativity. They met at a poetry reading when they were students at San Jose State in the 1950s and they both enjoyed writing themselves. My mother majored in journalism and my father majored in speech and drama, then changed to psychology. Years later, my grandma Mary helped pay my college tuition, so I think of her as a big supporter too. I’ve also had terrific teachers throughout my education—from elementary school through grad school—and over the years many close friends have been fellow writers, and we’ve mutually supported each other. I want to send a special shout-out to Chris Herlinger, a friend from our newspaper staff days at East High School in Denver in the 1970s. Chris is a journalist and poet who lives now in New York. My friendship with him means the world to me. And I am so grateful for the love and support from my beloved partner Tom McAninley. He listens, speaks his truth, and makes me laugh—sometimes all within a few minutes. I treasure our life together.

  1. Who are your literary influences or inspiration?

Wow! So many people come to mind, but I’ll just mention a few. My mom had a subscription to Ms. Magazine back in the 1970s, and I read the copies that came in the mail to our house. Kids in my junior high called me a “women’s libber,” which I took as a compliment! I was really inspired by writers like Gloria Steinem and Alice Walker. Later in high school I got really into beat poets like Allen Ginsburg and Lawrence Ferlinghetti. In college and grad school I studied poetry with Alan Shapiro and Philip Levine. They both had a huge impact on me. One other writer I have to name is Kim Bridgford, the founding editor of Mezzo Cammin, an online journal of formal verse by women. Kim authored several books of poetry and founded a writers conference in Connecticut called “Poetry by the Sea.” She mentored and supported so many writers, including me, and we were shattered by her death from cancer in 2020. Now, any time I face a challenge or dilemma, I think “What would Kim do?” and a wise decision tends to emerge.

  1. Do you belong to any writing groups or communities, either online or offline?

Yes! I belong to two writing groups in the Bay Area who meet regularly to workshop new poems. Through the worst of the pandemic we met on Zoom; we’re gradually resuming in-person meetings. In one of the groups I’m the youngest member, but in the other group I’m among the oldest. One group is all women; the other is a mix of genders.  I also belong to groups like the Marin Poetry Center and the Ina Coolbrith Circle, and for about ten years I judged sonnets for the Soul-Making Keats literary contest, which Eileen Malone founded thirty years ago and ran gracefully until her retirement earlier this year. One other group I want to mention is The MacGuffin, a literary magazine based in Michigan that I guest edited from 2021-2023. I greatly enjoy working with the poetry staff and managing editor Gordon Krupsky, and we’ve published strong work from writers across the country.

  1. How much to you is writing a solitary activity and how much a communal one?

I definitely need lots of solitary time to work on a piece of writing. I’ve rented a writing office for over fifteen years. I get a lot done there staring out the window at bamboo trees, a weedy yard, and the occasional cat jumping the fence. There’s no wi-fi in this office, so I’m way less distracted and more able to focus on drafting a new poem or reading an actual book. I do, though, crave time with writer friends so I try to meet up in person with people regularly for meals or drinks or walks.  And, as teacher of writing for over thirty years, talking with my students both in and out of the classroom contributes to my writing in all kinds of fruitful ways. My students definitely teach me as much as I teach them.

  1. What’s next for you?

I’m shopping around for a publisher of a new full-length collection of poems titled Questions of Buoyancy, and I’m also finishing up a chapbook of poems inspired by women in movies. I watched A LOT of movies during Covid and wrote about twenty sonnets, villanelles, sestinas and other formal poems on a variety of films ranging from schlocky duds to classics like “Wizard of Oz” to everything in between. Now that my guest editorship at The MacGuffin is ending I’m starting to envision some new book projects, ideally with a broad appeal.  In the coming years I want to keep combining teaching, writing, and editing, and I definitely want to travel more in the U.S. and abroad.

6 thoughts on “On my blog today, I’m talking to the dynamic Kathleen McClung, who describes her writer’s journey!

  1. Anonymous

    I first met Kathleen when we were both undergraduates and I love to see others appreciate her skillful writing!

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