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Lilah Hegnauer

Teaching Writer

Lilah Hegnauer taught poetry at the Workshop in 2012 and has been a guest reader in multiple summers.

Where are you living and what brought you there?

I am currently living in Lenox, Mass as the Amy Clampitt Resident in Poetry. This is the best, most generous residency program and I am incredibly thankful to be here. For 6 months, I get to live with my family in Amy Clampitt’s house, among her books and belonging, getting paid to write. 

Where are you working and what do you enjoy about it?

For the past four years, I have taught creative writing and American Literature at James Madison University and at the University of Virginia in the School of Continuing and Professional Studies. I love sharing my love of poetry with students and helping others to enjoy the pleasures of poetry.

What do you find yourself most often reading/listening to lately and why?

I’m currently just about to finish the novel Independent People by the Icelandic novelist Halldor Laxness. It’s such a strange and uncomfortable book, and so beautiful. I started reading it when I was about 5 months pregnant, and now the baby is almost 2 months old… I read novels very, very slowly!I’m also reading Amy Clampitt’s collected letters and poems, trying to immerse myself in the life of this woman whose house I’m living in.Listening to: NPR, whenever I get a moment and Rafi, when the baby wants to dance.

What are you working on right now and what does it represent in the larger body of your artistic accomplishments?

I’m currently plugging away on a project where I write just a little something every day. I started this daily writing in January of this year when I was coming to the realization that as a mother, I’d need to be both strict (write every day!) and gentle (it doesn’t have to be good!) with myself. While I’m at the Clampitt house, my project is to keep writing every day, but also to go back into these past 8 months of daily writing and start the process of crafting actual poems.My second book of poems, Pantry, is about to be published in February after years and years of sending it out and revising and crafting and re-crafting it, so to be untethered from this manuscript is an incredible sense of freedom but also somewhat unsettling… I don’t have to work on that book that I’ve been working on for the past 8 years anymore!

What are your publications, performances, albums, and/or achievements that seem most important to you at this point in time?

Pantry, forthcoming from Hub City Press in Feb 2014, which won the New Southern Voice Poetry Award selected by D.A. PowellDark Under Kiganda Stars, published by Ausable Press in 2005

How would you characterize the influence of your YWW experience in your life?

Before I taught at YWW, my friends who had been teachers there (Joe Chapman and Julia Hansen) would talk about YWW in these superlative terms: life changing, affirming, dynamic, life saving, etc. I used to think that Joe and Julia were just given to this kind of gushing (which they are). But then I taught at YWW for myself in the summer of 2012 and I realized that it’s true—YWW is all those things and more. Being a teenager and a writer, it can be hard to find someone to take your writing seriously—but then you come to YWW and find dozens and dozens of people who will do just that. And from the teacher’s perspective, from my perspective, YWW allowed me to re-imagine my own adolescence and be part of the energy that shapes a young writer. It also allowed me to dream for my own daughter of a time, many years from now, when she might find a community in YWW that values books, reading, and her own writing.

What’s the best advice you can give a Young Writer (in general or in your specific genre)?

Writing can be an incredibly solitary and sometimes lonely craft. It’s important to find a community for yourself, whether in the flesh or crossing the boundaries of time and space. First, find your mentors—those writers who you will learn the most from—and read everything they ever wrote and, if possible, everything they ever read. Having a mentor like Emily Dickinson is a kind of community. And second, find your readers—the people who will read what you’ve written and offer honest but gentle feedback—and let yourself be open to critique.

Where can we find you online?

·         www.lilahhegnauer.com (lots of links to online publications from my website)