Getting To Know Jessie
Sherilyn: Your day job?
Jessie: I work as a library cataloger in an academic library. I create the metadata that describes books that are in Spanish, Portuguese, French, and Italian so people can find them in the library’s catalog. I love working with books and information and I love that my job lets me learn new things every day. If I had a bunch of extra hours in the day, I’d clean up the labels and other metadata on Segullah’s website to make it easier to find things, since organizing information is a passion of mine.
Sherilyn: We know you at Segullah as a writer and reader. What brought you to creative writing, and what brought you to Segullah?
Jessie: I studied English at BYU, and while there I fell in love with creative nonfiction, especially the personal essay. The BYU English department also introduced me to the world of Mormon literature. I was a voracious reader while I was growing up and remember the fiction pieces that used to be published in the Ensign and New Era magazines, but didn’t know that there were many other ways to write creatively about the Mormon experience. I joined the Association for Mormon Letters as a student and began reading the creative pieces being published in journals like Irreantum and Dialogue.
In addition to what I was learning in class, I became friends with a number of other English majors who were engaged in creative pursuits. I had never thought of myself as a creative writer, and in fact, I wasn’t very good at writing things besides research papers. Around this time, blogging became popular and many of my writer friends were using this new medium to produce some really lovely work. I also started reading a few of the nationally-known blogs at the time and admired their wit. Like everyone else in 2005, I decided to start my own blog in an attempt to improve my writing and to join the conversations that were happening at the time. Fifteen years later I’m not sure I’ve advanced much as a creative writer. The problem with making friends with exceptionally creative people is that it can make you realize how much you fall short. I wish I could figure out how to be as funny in writing as some of the people I know. I’m much more comfortable reading and commenting on the work of other people.
I can no longer remember whether I found Segullah through the blog or the journal first. The journal was being published for a few years before the blog got started. I was familiar with the writing of some of the founding editors from other publications and I immediately fell in love with the art and writing in the journal and subscribed to the print version until it moved online. I also began regularly reading and commenting on the blog, submitted a few guest posts, and eventually joined the staff on the blog team.
Sherilyn: What is one of your favorite pieces or projects of Segullah’s?
Jessie: That is a hard question because there are so many good things that have been published over the years! I love all three of the books that Segullah has published. Although they are hard to find on our current website, there was an excellent series of writing advice published on the blog about ten years ago. I’d love to dig them out and repost them because they are really lovely and a helpful resource for anyone who is trying to improve their writing.
Sherilyn: What makes Segullah relevant in today’s Mormon literature community?
Jessie: Our focus on promoting the creative contributions of women is vital for the diversity of the community. Segullah has always been a welcoming place for Mormon women who are new to creative writing and art and less well-connected in places like academia and traditional publishers. There has also historically been a lot of fruitful crossover between Segullah and other Mormon arts endeavors, and I hope we can continue to strengthen those connections.
Sherilyn: What can we do better?
Jessie: I would love to find ways to increase conversation and connection, both between creators and their audience and between other creators. The information environment these days has become more focused on consumption of content and superficial engagement, and I sometimes miss the days of lively blog comment discussions and message boards. However, I know that we aren’t going back to those times, so we need to figure out how to increase real engagement through the means we have now.
We can also do a better job of reflecting the diversity of our worldwide church membership, both in the creators we promote and our audience. This has been a concern among the staff for several years now, and while we have been improving, there is certainly more we can do.
Sherilyn: What would you rather be doing right now?
Jessie: At the moment, I’d rather be on the beach in Hawaii. It’s cold and snowy at my house, and this time of year I always start craving green, humid warmth and salty water.
Sherilyn: Segullah’s future in three words?
Jessie: Brighter than ever!