We had the good fortune of connecting with Shannon Wolf and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Shannon, can you tell us more about your background and the role it’s played in shaping who you are today?
I’m originally from the UK, specifically a very small town called Ilminster, in the South-West of England. I moved a lot as a child, and I’m a member of a blended family that has felt dysfunctional over the years, to say the least. My paternal family has been in the car business for two generations, and my mother, originally from Scotland herself, is the youngest of ten children, and has been a care worker for adults with learning difficulties since I was a teenager. My mother always encouraged my love of reading and would take me to libraries all over the county as I would often exhaust the local collections. I always wanted to live in America as a child, and first moved here at the age of twenty-six, right before meeting my husband and settling here permanently. My relationship with my upbringing is complex, but I do think a certain need for the “chosen family” has informed my choices and my impulse to move away and work and live independently. I believe I am the writer, the teacher and the woman I am both because and in spite of my background and upbringing, which was not always neat, or easy, but definitely has informed the way I see the world.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I write poetry, fiction, and non-fiction. Fiction was always my first love, and I have two novels of literary fiction in progress, but my Master in Fine Arts (MFA) from McNeese State University was actually in poetry, and my debut collection of poetry Green Card Girl is forthcoming from Fernwood Press in November 2022. I’ve been writing since I was very young but began to take it seriously in my early twenties when I began getting individual pieces published in various literary journals, magazines, and anthologies. As any writer will tell you, it’s never necessarily easy to persevere in writing, but participating in the literary community can be richly rewarding, and the support of my peers has definitely kept me excited and engaged in my work. Typically I write about my immigration journey from the UK, my relationship with my husband, and my family. Place pops up frequently as a theme in my work. Writing does not always (or often) pay the bills, so I’m grateful to have a job that centers learning and writing – I teach English at Arapahoe Community College. I think if I wanted the world to know something about me or my story it would be that when you make a choice to spend time on what you love, whether that’s writing or something else, it doesn’t have to feel like work, and I really treasure the relationship I have with writing. And if you like reading but you’re not a writer, you should check out the free online reading series which I co-curate – it’s called Poets in Pajamas and it runs two Sundays a month on Facebook Live.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
We’re fairly new to Denver – we moved here in May 2021, so we’re still exploring the area and finding all the good spots ourselves. Our favorite bar is the Owl Saloon – it’s right near our house and everyone there is so much fun. They do karaoke on Wednesdays and Saturdays! We love to hike and go off-roading, so Pickle Gulch is a recent favorite. Our favorite thing to do at the weekends is usually hitting the bookstores, so while most people will recommend Tattered Cover (as they should), my preferred spot is Park Hill Community Bookstore – it’s volunteer-run, gives back to the local community, and they have a great selection for very enticing prices! Ask about their membership – it’s excellent!
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Like most of the teachers and writers that came before me, I owe a debt of thanks to my own teachers and mentors. From my very first teacher Andrea Jones who fostered my love of education and reading; to my English Literature teacher Madeleine Birch who advocated for me to attend college when I was skeptical and frankly, insecure; to my university lecturers like David Swann, Graham Mort, Lisa Vandenbossche and many others, I’ve been so fortunate to be supported and nurtured by so many gifted people who believed in my abilities. I think it’s important to always take a moment to reflect on these figures in our lives and credit them for their roles – I am always moving forward but never forgetting who helped me on the journey.
Other: Poets in Pajamas FB: https://www.facebook.com/poetsinpajamas