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11 M a l e a P o w e l l DOI: 10.7330/9781607326625.c011 MALEA POWELL is a mixed-blood of Indiana Miami, Eastern Shawnee, and Euroamerican ancestry. She is chair of the Department of Writing, Rhetoric, and American Cultures at Michigan State University, and former director of the Graduate Program in Rhetoric & Writing, as well as a faculty member in American Indian Studies. She is past chair of the Conference on College Composition and Communication and editor emerita of SAIL: Studies in American Indian Literatures. A widely published scholar and poet, her current book project, This Is A Story, examines the continuum of indigenous rhetorical production in North America, from beadwork to alphabetic writing. Powell previously worked at University of Nebraska–Lincoln where she taught American Indian literatures and rhetoric seminars. In her current position at Michigan State, she has taught courses in both technical writing and rhetoric. In her spare time she hangs out with, in her words, “crazy Native women artists & poets, and does beadwork.” Powell’s interview took place on January 30, 2014, via Skype. christine: You say on your LinkedIn profile: “I’m a mid-career academic , a published scholar and poet and editor and mentor of graduate students and a disciplinary leader who’s winding her way towards becoming a romance writer and a beadwork artist.” You are making and doing a lot of stuff. Where does writing fit into the picture? malea: I think I’ve been pretty consistently in the process of trying to figure that out. Early in my career I took writing for granted because I’d always been a good writer in school. I never really had a lot of problems generating ideas. I’d been trained as a poet, and I actually think that helped me not to be worried about what I was doing with my writing. Then when I started to first shift to administrative writing, and then later I started to shift towards romance writing, and I would say in the last couple years I’ve become really aware of just how tenuous our grasp of what we do as writers really is. christine: [laughs] 114   How Writing Faculty Write malea: [laughs] Here’s what I mean. I feel really solid when I’m writing an academic article. I feel like I know what I’m doing, and then to learn how to be a romance writer has taken me all the way back to being a beginner. I have to figure out not just what the industry expects but what the genre expectations are, how to do them well, the difference between what I think is a good scene and what the people might think is a good scene . . . all the things that as an academic that I’m really just not worried about because I have found my groove. christine: Has your writing process changed from doing the academic articles to romance writing? Or is the process still the same, but just harder because you are starting over? malea: I’m suddenly finding, you know, that my odd predilections, [laughs] and my own preferences make it hard for me to get rid of some pretty bad habits I think that I have as a writer. It’s been really humbling to take on a new genre at this stage in the game and to be treated by other writers like what I really am, which is a beginning writer. christine: Tell me about some of these bad habits as a writer. [laughs] malea: What I learned when I first started working on the romance manuscript was that I have a tendency to write in pieces, and while that can be really advantageous to sort of piece scenes together, I don’t have a lot of patience with the kind of what I call the squishy in-between stuff. In an academic article that’s not a problem because there’s not a space for squishy in-between stuff, right? It’s more straightforward: “Here are four things I want to say. Here are the moves I’m going to make.” By the time I make them, that’s as long as it can be. And in a novel you know readers expect more. [laughs] christine: In a romance, readers want a little more buildup or transition probably. [laughs] malea: They do. All that connective tissue becomes really important, and I think it’s one of the differences between a good genre...


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