Q&A with Shannon Tharp

Current employer: University of Wyoming

Degrees: Magazine journalism and English writing

Graduated: 2005

By Meagan Flynn

tharpWhether it’s between the shelves or on them, Shannon Tharp can be found in the library. The Drake grad has two books of poetry on shelves—The Cost of Walking (2011) and Vertigo in Spring (2013). And after earning her MFA in creative writing and a graduate degree in library science from the University of Washington, Tharp started as an assistant librarian at the University of Wyoming. While at Drake, she worked as an editor for Drake Magazine and Periphery. Though she didn’t choose the journalism path, everything she learned in the J-school is still a large part of her career nonetheless.

Why did you want to pursue poetry?

I studied it at Drake, and I continued with it afterward. It’s always going to be a part of me. I like some of the independence it grants me, or the solitary time it grants me. It’s something I ultimately have to work on alone, and I like having that time to myself. I’ve always read poetry since I was a little girl. I took a class at Drake that made me start [taking it more seriously]. It’s not going to make a person money, but it’s a life practice.

How does librarianship tie into your work as a poet?

With special collections in an academic library, you work with a lot of rare, old material. I’m lucky I get to work with old books of poems. I think a lot of research and history goes into any writer’s job. So going through those acts and helping other people go through those acts ties everything together for me.

How have the skills you learned as an SJMC student helped you in your job and studies now?

A lot of the skills I learned at Drake, I still use them all now. It’s comparable to what I do as a writer. It’s a huge extension of what I learned in J-school. You have to interview all the time and do your research and get background information. All of those same skills play into what I do now.

What do you remember most about your experience as a Meredith apprentice?

At the outset for me as a sophomore, working and doing what a lot of writers at Meredith would, it taught me some time management and prioritization skills. I was really busy during college. At some point, you figure out what you do and don’t want to do. I think [the Meredith apprenticeship] helped me streamline the kinds of writing I was good at, and it helped me figure out what kind of writing was my strength. Learning that you’re not always going to get to do the flashy articles, it’s hard work. You’re not always going to write about subjects that interest you, but you have to find a way to make it interesting to you.

What has been your proudest accomplishment?

Publishing two books. My second book of poems [Vertigo in Spring, has] been decades’ worth of work. A good handful of [the poems] were written while I was at Drake. To see the progress since I was 21 to 27 or 28—you never think you’ve done a lot of work, so just seeing that I had done a lot of work was a relief.