By JUSTIN ALLARD – ARTS & LEISURE SECTION EDITOR
During the summer of 2014, Christian Moody, a Creative Writing professor at Centre College, and a fellow professor at Lesley College, Margaret Kimball received a prestigious Writers-in-Residence in Kentucky’s most pristine national forest, Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest.
A collaboration between Bernheim Forest and Sarabande Books, a publishing company based in Louisville, KY, provided Kimball and Moody with the opportunity to stay in the park for several weeks during July and August in a fully-equipped, private cottage. They also had access to the forest’s extensive grounds and gardens.
As part of the residency, the two gave a reading of some of the pieces they had worked on while in the forest on Sept. 28. This reading was held in the park’s Visitor’s Center and was open to the public.
The pair was introduced by the Director of Operations and Outreach at Sarabande Books, Kristen Miller.
“It is only the second year of the Writer-in-Residence program and we received applications from all over the world. Out of the applicants, two stood out. One was a professor from Centre College in Danville, Kentucky, and the other was a professor from Lesley University, in Boston, Mass., who created a beautiful amalgam of art to talk about childhood experiences,” Miller said. “When we found out that the two were, in fact a couple, we decided to produce our very first joint residency. And we were very lucky to have them both.”
Moody read from his novella named “Yolk,” that he has been working on before and during his time as a writer-in-residency. The story involves Ray, a man who works as an egg-yolk anomaly inspector and who has a tenuous relationship with his daughter.
Kimball read a chapter from a nonfiction graphic novel she has been creating in which each chapter explores a different house she inhabited as a child. The chapter she read is one that will be published in Black Warrior Review.
It concerns the apartment she lived in with her dad shortly after her parents separated. The graphic novel was projected on a screen so that the visual aspects of the piece could be enjoyed as well.
After both authors read, the floor was opened to questions which ranged from what kind of conversations two writers have together to how they read each other’s work.
“We overlap when it comes to technique and how to create momentum in a story,” Moody said. “We also have the typical fiction versus nonfiction conversations. We expand what we read. I’ve read a lot more nonfiction than I would have.”
“He reads and edits all of my work along the way,” Kimball said. “But he never lets me read any of his until it’s done.”
The couple was also asked how working in Bernheim Forest influenced their own work.
“First of all, I think being outside changed the way I feel. It made me happier. So, hopefully, I’m a better human and, thus, a better writer,” Kimball said. “It also made me think about inside and outside spaces. I began to think about how they feel different and how they would be expressed differently.”
“I’ve always found myself writing about forests. During my time at Bernheim, I began to write a story about a bunch of hikers in the woods,” Moody said. “There is a holly grove here in Bernheim that was something I became fascinated with. I became interested with all the jobs that the forest requires, too. I’m thinking of writing a story set in a Bernheim-like place full of all the jobs like forest rangers and others. I took a lot of notes while I was here and hope that they turn into something.”
This project was not only special for Kimball and Moody: it also represented the culmination of a project on which recent Centre alumna Danika Isdahl (‘14) worked closely. Isdahl was excited to see her professor among the applicants for the residency.
“It just so happened that I knew Christian Moody was a good writer. I had to hold back so the others could read his work without bias,” Isdahl said. “They really liked it. When Kimball’s work began to be considered, I knew there was a chance we could send both of them to Bernheim so I mentioned they were a couple. After they were selected—and since I knew both Christian and Margaret—it became one of my projects to arrange the reading.”
Sarabande Books is accepting applications for their fall 2015 and spring interns 2016.
The publishing house is also accepting submissions to the Flo Gault Student Poetry Prize. Students may submit up to three poems.