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Meet Jenny Sadre-Orafai

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jenny Sadre-Orafai.

Jenny, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
When I was young, my love for reading made me curious about how writers were able to construct imaginary worlds and characters. There’s this great quote by one of my favorite writers Sandra Cisneros — “I wanted to become a writer so I could see my name in the card catalog.” Like Cisneros, I wanted to be among all of my idols.

As a teenager, I began reading magazine interviews with writers, which helped me learn about what the writing life could look like. When I was in high school, I reached out to the editor of a local weekly publication that was distributed in newspaper bins all over Chattanooga to see if he would be interested in publishing my poems. He said yes and I began mailing him poems every week. I was young and didn’t know what was possible really, so I just made opportunities for myself.

I went on to study English and creative writing as an undergraduate at University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. I was fortunate enough to then go back to school right after graduating because I missed being in the classroom, learning. Two years later, I earned my MA in English. After graduating, I took a job at Kennesaw State University, where I’ve been teaching for the past seventeen years.

While teaching full-time, I went back to graduate school and earned my MFA in Creative Writing. I also began serving as the poetry editor at various literary journals. This helped tremendously in how I was able to talk about poetry—what I thought made a poem strong, what kind of effects form had on a reader, how titles informed the poem. I was also writing my own poetry and branching out into other genres like creative non-fiction and fiction.

Has it been a smooth road?
Certainly not. Actually, I was a psychology major before I became an English major. I didn’t really believe that I could pursue my love of literature and writing professionally. I also wasn’t entirely clear on what my plan was after earning my undergraduate degree. When I went back to school, I figured it out as I went along. It didn’t take that much time for me to realize that I wanted to be a professor.

Being a poet and writer hasn’t been the smoothest road either. When I first began sending my work out to literary journals and presses, I received many, many rejections and still do. I’ve learned that rejections make the acceptances even sweeter. I’ve learned that I have to put my ego aside in order to be a poet and writer and especially if I want to evolve. I also have to be teachable. Learning about the craft is constant and I never want to stop knowing more.

We’d love to hear more about your work.
I’m a professor, poet, writer, and editor. I’m also the Executive Director of Georgia Writers Association, a non-profit organization. I’ve been teaching composition, literature, and creative writing courses since 2001. I’m incredibly grateful for the work that I get to do with my students. There’s nothing more rewarding.

I’m the author of five chapbooks and two poetry collections. Later this year, my third poetry collection and one that I co-wrote with poet Anne Champion, Book of Levitations, will be published. My creative non-fiction, fiction, and poetry have appeared in various literary journals and anthologies. One of the best parts of being a writer is meeting other writers and readers at conferences and readings.

I also co-founded and co-edit with poet Komal Mathew the literary journal Josephine Quarterly. I love contributing to the literary community in this way. It’s very important to me that I support other poets and writers and give their work the platform it very much deserves.

In 2017, I became Executive Director of Georgia Writers Association. I’ve enjoyed connecting writers across the state with each other and with writing resources. It’s been a different kind of work from teaching, editing, and writing but one that really allows me to draw on those various roles.

Let’s touch on your thoughts about our city – what do you like the most and least?
I love the diversity in Atlanta. I really enjoy coming back home after being away on a trip. I get to see the city with different eyes every time and it makes me love Atlanta even more.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Photo credit for main horizontal photo: Stephanie Sadre-Orafai, Photo credit for other horizontal photo: Jessica Smith, Photo credit for book cover photo: Platypus Press

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