In this blog post series, we’ll feature contributing authors from our new anthology, Alcott’s Imaginary Heroes: The Little Women Legacy. Today we’ll catch up with Marlowe Daly, who teaches literature, writing, and humanities at Idaho’s Lewis-Clark State College.
Marlowe Daly reads Little Women at the Spalding site of Nez Perce National Park near her home in Idaho. Photo by Anahi Galeano.
If the March sisters were employed where you work, what would their jobs be?
Although Jo and Meg do some teaching, I can’t really picture either of them working at the college where I teach. I’m happy to say that my colleagues are deeply devoted to teaching and make great efforts to continually improve their pedagogy and practice. Meg and Jo, on the other hand, seem to lack a passion for teaching. Even later on, in Little Men and Jo’s Boys, Jo seems more interested in the duties that happen outside the classroom at Plumfield than she is in academic lessons. If I were to choose any of the characters for my colleagues, I think I’d prefer John Brooke, Friedrich Bhaer, or Marmee. They all seem more devoted to teaching; as a result they develop their own innovative methods and achieve some great successes with their pupils.
Amy goes to Europe, Jo goes to New York . . . where did your pivotal “coming of age” moment take place?
When I was a college student, I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to study abroad in Seville, Spain, for a semester. After finishing the semester, I spent several weeks traveling around Europe with a backpack and very little money. This was in the days before cell phones or laptops, so I carried around a fat guidebook (I believe it was Let’s Go, Europe!) wherever I went. I’ve loved many parts of my education, but I think my time in Spain taught me more than any other experience. There is nothing like living in another culture to teach a person to perceive and value differences between individuals and communities. Living in a country where I had to speak in a language other than my native language led me to a deep appreciation for the nuances of language and a greater understanding of the challenges of communication. Traveling alone taught me to be confident and independent. I still enjoy traveling solo. Like Jo, Amy, and Laurie, I experienced difficulties when I left the comforts of home, but these difficulties inspired self-reflection and offered some very humbling opportunities for personal growth.
Jo has both a writing space and a “scribbling suit” in the book. What does your writing space look like? What’s your favorite scribbling suit?
It depends what I am writing. Poems I tend to write by hand in a little journal. I write them wherever I happen to be when I get an idea: on my couch, in bed, in the car (but not while driving), or at a coffee shop. I do the first revision in the journal before typing the poem on my computer. If I’m working on an article or something scholarly, though, I like to be in my office. I usually sit on a big rubber ball, and I might bounce around a bit while I’m thinking through an idea. Sometimes I wear earplugs to turn my focus inward. My desk is always cluttered and there are normally tall stacks of papers and books around me. I like to look out the window and at my bookshelves as I work. I keep photos of family, friends, former students, pets, and favorite authors around me, but sometimes I can’t even see them because my piles are too tall. About twice a year, I put everything away and enjoy the orderly splendor of a bare desk. My desk usually doesn’t stay clean for much more than a week, and I think I probably do my best writing when it’s at its messiest. My favorite scribbling suit is anything that involves “soft pants” with no buttons or zippers.
Tell us about the sisters, or sister figures, in your life.
My sister Kendra is the coolest. She’s a couple years younger than me, and she has lived in Australia, the Philippines, China, England, and India. She’s an incredible teacher, literacy coach, and curriculum developer. She’s ridiculously good at everything. She’s one of those enviable women who run in races and always remembers their reusable bags, and on top of that, she’s bighearted, generous, and funny. When we were younger, I was the uptight one and she was really relaxed. As we’ve gotten older, she’s become a little more disciplined and I’m more laid back. We’ve both found a comfy middle place.
Marlowe Daly teaches American literature, writing, and interdisciplinary humanities
classes at Lewis-Clark State College. She lives with her family in Lewiston, Idaho, where she devotes large amounts of her time to walking along the Snake River with her dog. She has spent years thinking about Louisa May Alcott’s fascination with the problems of being a professional woman writer in the nineteenth century. Marlowe’s work has been published in ESQ, Pedagogy in American Literary Studies, The Blue Hour, Northern Cardinal Review, and Bone Parade.
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