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Ander Monson '97

We Are Knox...

Ander Monson '97


2008 Young Alumni Achievement Award Winner

Major: English

From the Spring 2008 issue of Knox Magazine.

Ander Monson '97 came to Knox with the plan of majoring in physics or
computer science. He tried a lot of other things, some of which worked and many of which didn't, before deciding to pursue English. "By trying -- and often failing -- at this variety of things, I found a fruitful way to exist in the world," he explains.

"I acted (poorly). Wrote plays (poorly). Played disc golf (pretty well). I may have even fired a piece of pottery (which surely turned out horribly). I posted poems in bathrooms and got others to do so. I sang in the choir and Collegium Musicum (fairly well). Took a lot of workshops (which were particularly influential in moving me towards writing). Co-wrote at least one Madrigal dinner. Worked for and then edited Catch. Taught myself PageMaker. Was the first, I think, to put Catch online (using Netscape Navigator). Made embarrassing Web pages that persisted until just a few years ago (haunting Google searches for my name like a ghost). Tried out a psychology major (did poorly). Played Ultimate Frisbee (with a skill level slightly above mediocrity). Learned some ancient Greek. Switched majors finally to English writing (which felt like the right fit). And that’s the major I emerged with."

After Knox, Monson went on to earn a master of arts in English from Iowa State University and a master of fine arts in creative writing from the University of Alabama. He is the author of three books: the novel Other Electricities, finalist for the New York Public Library Young Lions Award and winner of the 2007 John C. Zacharis Award from Ploughshares; the poetry collection Vacationland; and the essay collection Neck Deep and Other Predicaments, winner of the 2006 Graywolf Nonfiction Prize and Great Lakes Colleges Association New Writers Award. Monson’s poems, essays, and stories have appeared in numerous magazines and journals, including American Short Fiction, Ploughshares, Prairie Schooner, and Kenyon Review, among others.

"I do feel that I owe a lot to Knox," says Monson. "We say a lot about the idea of a well-rounded education, which sounds prepackaged, but I feel like by trying all these different things out in this smorgasbord, and by screwing them up variously, I was made more likely to try different things in my future life, which made me more willing to try things, and hence, more successful in spite of my penchant for failures (which still occur regularly)."

Read a Q&A with Monson in the 2008 Spring Knox Magazine.

Read the presentation of Monson's 2008 Young Alumni Achievement Award by Megan Scott '96, editor of Knox Magazine and director of advancement communications.