Profile: andrea worth, guest alumni editor
Haute Dish editors were thrilled when Andrea Worth, graduate of Metropolitan State University, Education Coordinator at The Loft Literary Center, and award-winning short story writer, agreed to be our first-ever Alumni Editor. Her valuable insight has contributed greatly to our Spring 2007 edition.
As a writer, Andrea’s historical fiction is expressive and lyrical; she loved to tell stories long before she began to write them down. “I have one of those families where somebody is always elbowing somebody else to tell a story, and to tell it funnier and better, and be more entertaining…talking with their arms and with their hands.” Indeed, Andrea’s hands come to life with her tale, and her laugh is great; bright and unexpected. She began to turn her inborn gift for storytelling into the craft of creative writing at Metropolitan State University.
With a two-year degree in occupational therapy and a background working in education, Andrea took Alison McGhee’s Intro to Creative Writing course at Metro State for fun. It hooked her into other writing classes and eventually into a plan for a bachelor’s degree at Metro. “I loved it there…I worked on Haute Dish, I worked in the Writing Center, I pretty much spent all my time there.” Her first published work, “Going to Graceland” appeared in Haute Dish in 1998.
After earning her BA from Metropolitan State University in 1999, Andrea continued to study her craft at Hamline University’s renowned Creative Writing MFA program. She also captured their Outstanding Thesis Award in Fiction for 2005. While working on her MFA, Andrea’s background and love of writing led her to The Loft where she has been an Education Assistant since 2004. During her workdays, she spends a lot of time talking to instructors and students, making sure that everything runs smoothly for them. She gets to hear a lot of students’ stories, from their lives and their writing. One of her favorite aspects of the job is organizing student readings six times each year. Loft student work ranges from “some things that maybe should never be read…to some that are pitch perfect. It’s a lot of fun and the students have a good time and are really supportive.”
Our alumni editor for this edition of Haute Dish, Andrea found the process of selecting pieces interesting, especially with a large group of editors. “I think that you don’t necessarily…have to come to consensus. I think its great when you have a piece where half are yes and half are no. Half & half means passion on both sides; even if you don’t like it, it’s got some merit, and that’s better than having people be lukewarm, because then you’ll have lukewarm readers.”
Andrea works hard on her own writing. She listens carefully for quiet rhythms and responds to the cadences in her characters’ voices. The writing community has taken notice of her skill. In 2006 she received a MN State Arts Board grant and has published almost every year since 1998. Two of her short stories have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. Her favorite piece, Done Gone, was in the Fall 2002 issue of Water~Stone Review. As she tells me about it, Andrea’s hands stir: “It was really, really hot, like 95 degrees, and full humidity. I couldn’t sleep so I sat in the kitchen on the wood floor because it was a little bit cooler, and I wrote it out almost in one chunk and just rearranged some paragraphs. That was great - I wrote it in a week.” Again, the wonderful laugh. “That almost never happens, getting it in one shot. I think that’s why I love that story so much.”
Andrea tries to write every day, filling notebooks with handwritten drafts of “crap writing” then throwing them away. She guesses that about ten percent of that work gets used, in the end. “I don’t really start writing until I get to turn on the computer; then anything that…seems worthwhile will kind of come back to me, and I just start typing.” Done Gone, mentioned above, and Onion Eater, from Blithe House Quarterly, Winter 2005-2006 are lovely examples of Andrea’s well-tuned prose. Writing mostly historical fiction inspired by documentary and non-fiction, her storytelling instinct draws the reader smoothly through the narrative. Her characters have the strong voices of our forebears. They are people who could not imagine the ease that marks our civilization today. Andrea excels at conveying regional accents through strong dialogue and subtle dialect. Her settings are spare and vivid. In the midst of their poverty and struggle, the characters in her stories are human, and noble, and plain.
Andrea’s small, melodic stories are charming and beautifully written. Her work at The Loft has enriched individual students and the larger writing community. Soon her considerable experience will take The Loft’s center stage when she teaches How to Publish Your Short Story on February 17. Working with Andrea on the Spring 2007 edition of Haute Dish has been a pleasure, made even more so by the tenor of her stories and the grace note of her laugh.