Author and Educator
Loyola University in Maryland
English Literature Major
Lucas Southworth ’01, an English literature major, has written his first book,
a short story collection called Everyone Here Has a Gun, due out by the end of 2013. The Association of Writers & Writing Programs awarded Southworth's work the 2012 Grace Paley Prize for Short Fiction, which offers publication by the University of Massachusetts Press. Southworth, who had been teaching at the University of Alabama, will be an assistant professor of composition, screenwriting, and fiction at Loyola University in Maryland, starting in fall 2013.
Please discuss your upcoming book.
It’s a collection of 11 short stories that I wrote while I was a graduate student at Iowa State and Alabama and then revised after I received my degree from Alabama.
Only after many years of writing whatever came to mind did I look at everything I had produced and began to keep stories in and throw others out. What I thought about as I fit the stories together was whether a story itself can do a kind of violence to its reader by causing discomfort or upsetting certain expectations via suspense or surprise or by subverting certain ways we’ve learned to read in the first place. The stories in the book range from more experimental to more realistic, from narrators of different races, genders, and ages.
How has your Knox experience made an impact on your career?
Knox certainly introduced me to the idea of writing and doing so seriously. It also gave me the confidence and ambition to attempt writing in the first place. Much of this had to do with teachers as well as the other students — everyone was very good at writing and they were also supportive.
Everyone was serious and truthful with each other. At Knox, we learned how to talk about fiction, and we learned to give and take constructive criticism. Most importantly, though, we learned that this was our own art, and we had a duty to pursue it for ourselves. (Photo at right: Lucas Southworth reads some of his work at the Caxton Club, a literary organization at Knox.)
What advice you would give to high school students undertaking their college search?
Do not worry about things like rankings and do not try to plan your life before you come to college. Go to a place that makes you comfortable, and go to a place that gives you time to discover what you’re really interested in. I still believe Knox is good for all of those things.
Describe a memorable class, experience, or professor and the impact on you.
I had lots of fantastic teachers at Knox. I remember amazing discussions in Lori Schroeder's classes, where we really read Shakespeare carefully for the first time. I remember Professor Rob Smith introducing us to writers I still think of as favorites: Poe, Whitman, Hawthorne, and Hemingway. Most of all I remember those evening fiction workshops with Robin Metz. They would start at 7:30 and routinely end around 12:30 or 1.
What surprised you about Knox?
When I look back, I am surprised by how much I learned there. The classes prepared me for graduate studies because by the time I was a junior and senior, we were basically doing the work of a graduate class.
I didn’t know how important it would end up being for me socially either; it helped me get over my initial reticence in social situations.
Mostly, though, I was surprised by how amazing the other writers were and how much agency the teachers gave us to produce and improve at whatever we chose to pursue. The teachers were tireless in giving me the guidance I needed; they kept their office doors open; they invited us over to their houses. Most of all they treated us like equals, which is still what I try to do as a teacher.