Growing up in a tiny cobblestoned town in England, I dreamt wistfully of America: living there, going to school in lockered hallways, maybe even becoming a cheerleader. Everything seemed brighter and louder there—perfect for a girl who was shushed every time she removed her head from a book. Yes, I read the obvious paperbacks: The Saddle Club, The Baby-Sitters Club, and, perhaps a little transparently, the 1980s Scholastic collection, Cheerleaders by Caroline B. Cooney. And so my English days were filled with books that acted as a buffer, a hold steady until I could escape this funny little island and make it to New York or wherever. Every Christmas, I absorbed Louisa May Alcott’s Jo March into my soul, sitting with my back against the cast iron oven in my mother’s kitchen, sure that somehow, one day I would be an American writer.
In my early twenties, I flew back and forth to New York and Pennsylvania, attending writing retreats and pouring away paychecks in indie bookstores. I never expected that landing a temporary gig as a nanny would finally get me to the United States long-term, or that after meeting a boy from Buffalo (and marrying him) I would end up in Louisiana, pursuing my joint MA-MFA at McNeese State University. I still read Little Women every year. This year, I found a vintage edition of Little Men with ornate illustrations in a bookshop in Hattiesburg, Mississippi—I lost my breath when I saw it and fingered the scarlet binding all the way home. Next year, when I graduate, my husband is shipping my book collection from England. I’m counting the days.
I’m not an American quite yet but I keep my sweet little green card tucked safely in my handbag beside whatever book I’m devouring each day—today, it is Bernardine Evaristo’s Girl, Woman, Other. Yesterday, it was Brit Bennett’s The Vanishing Half. When I’m not teaching English composition to Louisianan undergrads, I’m revising my novel, working on my poetry collection, and soliciting submissions as Non-Fiction Editor of The McNeese Review. Lately, I’ve been working on my literary citizenship: expanding my roster of book reviews out from my little Instagram grid (@helloshanwolf) and into literary magazines like Prairie Schooner and Bridge Eight.
In December 2020, I was honored to be a resident at the Sundress farm in Knoxville, and I continue to be impressed by the work that this team has been putting out into the world. The Wardrobe (their manifestation and promotion of women, non-binary, and genderqueer writers) is so special. The Sundress team’s every impulse serves to foster brilliant work and nurture creatives at every turn. So I’m thrilled to begin 2021 as Sundress Publications’ social media intern. I’m no American cheerleader but just watch: I’ll shake my figurative pom-poms for every title and every event. I can’t wait to get to work.
Shannon Wolf is a British writer and teacher living in Louisiana. She is currently a joint MA-MFA candidate in Poetry at McNeese State University. She is the Non-Fiction Editor of The McNeese Review and she also holds an MA in Creative Writing from Lancaster University. Her poetry, short fiction, and nonfiction (which can also be found under the name Shannon Bushby) have appeared in The Forge and Great Weather for Media, among others.