Ginormous*: My Meeting with Author Kathryn Miles

A member of the Arkana staff reflects on spending time with author Kathryn Miles during her recent visit to the University of Central Arkansas campus.

by Greg Smolarz, Scriptwriting Editor

*Ginormous is her favorite word. It took some persistence, but I finally got it out of her.

My introduction to Kathryn Miles was in the form of one of her books titled Quakeland. I opened the book and the first word I saw was persnickety, and this tickled me to no end. I’m a word guy. I love words, and I feel like I knew persnickety was a word before, but it had also been years since I had read the word. So internally I was like, Yeah I could get on board with this, right away. The next day I sat down to read the selections from her book for our class, and it was such a wonderful piece that I grew way more excited about the fact that we were going to be meeting this author later that day for an interview with her to be included in Arkana’s fifth issue. Then the thought hit me, I should post a tweet and see if she responds.

So that’s exactly what I did. It was a casual post, nothing too crazy. I didn’t think too much about it until after I attended a class I’m auditing for another class. Casually walking home, I pulled up my twitter feed to find several updates. I was shocked. Surely, theres no way. But it was. Kathryn Miles had liked, and even commented, on my post. I was elated.

From there it was a hurry up and wait type of situation because we weren’t technically meeting her until four, and it was still early. So I busied myself, prepared my list of questions, and went over them for the umpteenth time. Finally the time came to leave for class, so I grabbed my book bag and headed out.

The anticipation during this first class was excruciating because Pam, my partner in crime for the interview, and I were to go directly from that class to conduct the interview with Kathryn Miles. I was starting to hyperventilate during class I was so nervous.

Finally the time came for us to head up to Thompson 331 at UCA where we would be conducting the interview. Pam and I strategized on the way up about how we would go about conducting the interview. My heart was really starting to pound, but I tried to hide the nervousness the best I could.

DING!

The elevator door opened, and I stepped out to face my destiny for that day. It was like I was floating into the room. Thank god Jack West, Arkana’s Creative Nonfiction Editor, was there to break the tension, “You guys mind if I crash your interview?” She called out.

“Of course not.” Pam and I said in unison.

So we rounded the table to our seats and Kathryn Miles declared, “You must be my new Twitter friend.”

“Yup, that’s me.” I replied with a huge grin.

All the formal introductions were made and due to time constraints we jumped right into the interview. Her answers were incredible, and I’ve conducted a lot of interviews, but this one was one of the best I’ve ever been involved with. She was funny, witty, and loved to laugh. So we interviewed her for about half an hour, and everything went great, until I looked at my phone.

My intention was to record the interview to transcribe it later, but I had a call had come through and knocked the recording app out of sync, so it stopped recording. My heart fell into my chest.

Jack West reassured me that it was going to be ok. I had no choice but to believe her. So on we trudged.

I spent most of the dinner in my head about the recording incident, so I’m not sure I showed up the best that I could have, but everyone else was having a blast, and despite the incident, I was still having fun.

After the dinner, we headed over to the business school for Kathryn’s reading. Social gatherings make me really nervous, but I also like to try and face that fear head on because whenever I do show up I always feel better after. I had a great conversation with John Vanderslice about taking his class next semester. He’s the fiction guy here at my school. So we chopped it up a bit, and now I’m even more stoked to take his class next semester.

After a little more hob knobbing, the reading started, and that’s when we entered the auditorium.

Dr. Jennie Case, Arkana‘s Supervising Editor, provided an excellent introduction, and then Kathryn started talking about her work. She exuded confidence in front of this group of people. It was like she had done this a million times before, and maybe she had, but her speech was intoxicating and her level of engagement with the crowd was through the roof. She really knew what she was doing. It all felt so surreal. It was like I was seeing my dreams come true in front of my eyes because she’s got the life I’m chasing.

All in all, I commend our faculty for doing such a great job in putting this together. As a student, this is the sort of thing I signed up for, although next time I will definitely put my phone on airplane mode for the interview.


Greg Smolarz is a creative writing MFA student at the University of Central Arkansas in Conway. His background is in film, but he jumped ship four years ago to pursue writing full time. He is an unpublished author, but hopes to change that very soon. His biggest accomplishment in the world of film was having a documentary accepted into a small film festival in Prescott, Arizona. One of his favorite quotes states, “My biggest weakness is that I’ll never be the smartest guy in the room, my biggest strength is that I don’t pretend to be.”
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