Pioneer Spotlight: Dr. Kara Candito
Dr. Kara Candito, associate professor of creative writing and English literature in the department of humanities at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville, has been teaching at UW-Platteville since 2010. Candito earned her Bachelor of Arts from Loyola University in Baltimore, Md., her Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from the University of Maryland College Park, and her Ph.D. in literature with a specialization in creative writing from Florida State University in Tallahassee, Fla.
Candito teaches Freshman Composition I and II, Introduction to Creative Writing, Poetry Writing and Advanced Level Manuscript Workshop. In her free time, Candito enjoys traveling and learning the languages and cultures of different countries, practicing Bikram yoga and catching up on her favorite TV shows.
What is most rewarding about having a career in writing?
There is an incredible sense of community among writers. Wherever I am in the United States or overseas, I know a writer who is in that city or country. We tend to support one another. As a writer, my job is to pay attention to the world and my interactions with it by achieving a mode of constant engagement and empathy.
What is most difficult about having a career in writing?
One of the most difficult things is the economic aspect, especially for poets. There is an incredible amount of pressure and competition for scarce resources. For writers, there is a constant acknowledgement of the possibility of rejection, and that makes writers really good with rejection, or really bad with it.
How did you become interested in poetry and creative writing?
I was always writing as a child. When I went to college, I switched my major several times, but I had a supportive professor who encouraged me to apply to graduate programs in creative writing. Once I got to the University of Maryland College Park, I worked under professor and poet Stanley Plumly, and I learned a lot from him. He motivated me to continue pursuing creative writing and poetry.
Do you have a favorite poem or prose that you have written? Why is it your favorite?
My favorite poem that I’ve written is “Ars Amatoria: So You Want to Marry a Foreign National,” an autobiographically driven sequence poem that deals with the navigation of the U.S. immigration system. In this piece, I explore different dichotomies, such as domestic vs. foreign and self vs. other, while using the language of bureaucracy to evoke intimacy.
Are you currently working on a manuscript or another project?
I’ve been working on another manuscript since September 2013. The title of this project is “So Sorry” and it focuses on issues of cultural, ethnic and national identity, as well as displacement and otherness. I was inspired to write this manuscript by my experiences teaching Chinese TESOL graduate students.
What do you enjoy most about writing?
When I write, I discover surprising elements or something that wasn’t there before. Writing is like an evolution; I am constantly reinventing my voice. I like writing things I didn’t know I could write, and discovering that I couldn’t write things that I thought I could write.
In June 2014, you were awarded the prestigious Pushcart Prize for your poem “Monologue during a Blackout”—the first faculty member at UW-Platteville to win this award. What is the meaning behind the poem? What did winning this award mean to you?
“Monologue during a Blackout” is based loosely on a visit I had to Mexico where I didn’t have water or electricity for a week. The poem is a spontaneous, one-sided conversation that mimics childlike moments of discovery.
Receiving the Pushcart Prize was an honor. It’s a well-known prize in the literary world, and I never thought that I would be included in this group. It’s a milestone as a writer to receive the Pushcart Prize, and it’s a delight to be included in the 2015 volume.
What is the purpose of UW-Platteville’s Visiting Writers Reading Series? How does it benefit students?
The Visiting Writers Reading Series was founded in Spring 2011. There is a rich literary scene in the Midwest, and the purpose of the series is to bring established and emerging writers to campus. I want students to know that writers aren’t just in anthologies and textbooks. I try to pair these events with class visits so students can ask the writers questions. This gives students access to the professional creative writing world, and the individual connections help students be ambitious and feel like they are part of the writing community.
What is the purpose of UW-Platteville’s Student Reading Series? How does it benefit students?
There is a tremendous creative energy on this campus, and the Student Reading Series provides an outlet for that energy and a way for students to showcase their creations. The purpose of the Student Reading Series is for students to share their work and not to critique it; it provides validation and a sense of community on campus. The Student Reading Series takes place at Gina’s Restaurant and Bar on Second Street, which makes the event more social.
Interview conducted by Connie Spyropoulos, College of Liberal Arts and Education. To nominate someone for the Pioneer Spotlight, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
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