Introducing Lydia Conklin, Graphic Fiction & Nonfiction Faculty

Tell us the name of a book or text you’ve marked up and what a reader in 2089 would learn about you from reading your marginalia in that book/text. Kudos to this reader for browsing physical books in 2089!

When I was fourteen I got really into theater. I even somehow shepherded the coolest girls in school to perform in an all-female production of Endgame. I also liked going to book sales, especially ones where you could buy an entire grocery bag of used books for one dollar. I found many gems in those piles that I would never read or have any use for such as The Dysfunctional Male and some book about a dog’s heroic journey. But sometimes I got lucky. I accidentally bought Rubyfruit Jungle, knowing not what it was, and that blew my mind.

I remember buying this play, a slim volume with purple and red line drawings on the cover. It was not a famous play, but I liked it—or really, I wanted to like it so much because I liked the title, which has long since been lost to memory. But I wanted to talk to my friends about it, so I made a heading on the first page: PEOPLE WHO HAVE READ THIS BOOK with a ballpoint line scored under it. And then the list said: 1. LYDIA. I pictured the list filling up with dozens of friends: 2. MATT! 3. VERONIQUE! 4. RAKY! 5. JULIE! 6. GWEN! 7. DUNCAN! 8. JOSH! Number nine could be anyone! A friend I hadn’t even met yet!

I gave the play to one of the above friends, instructing them to please read and fill in their name. But that was the end of it. An alien in 2089 would probably feel sad finding this dead child’s book with the hopeful, yet empty, list. He would probably think I was a lonely kid and I was, sort of. But really the play just wasn’t very good.

Lydia Conklin is the 2015-2017 Creative Writing Fellow in fiction at Emory University. She has received two Pushcart Prizes, work-study scholarships from Bread Loaf, and fellowships from Princeton, MacDowell, Yaddo, Djerassi, Hedgebrook, the James Merrill House, the Vermont Studio Center, VCCA, Millay, Jentel, Lighthouse Works, Brush Creek, the Santa Fe Art Institute, Caldera, the Sitka Center, and Harvard University, among others, and grants and awards from the Astraea Foundation, the Puffin Foundation, the Massachusetts Cultural Council, the Alliance of Artists Communities, and the Council for Wisconsin Writers. Her fiction is forthcoming in Tin House and has appeared in The Southern Review, The Gettysburg Review, Narrative Magazine and elsewhere. She has drawn graphic fiction for Gulf Coast, Drunken Boat, The Florida Review, and the Steppenwolf Theater in Chicago. She holds an MFA from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.