by Alex Grashel
The interview was conducted orally, between Alexander E. Grashel, who was the interviewer, and the interviewee, Professor Brooks Rexroat. The interview took place on Friday, November 15th, 2013 around 8:30a.m in UC Clermont’s student lounge. The East Fork Journal is forever grateful for Professor Brooks Rexroat’s contributions to UC Clermont and the East Fork Journal.
As an ex-journalist, how does writing for a journal compare with writing fiction?
The thing about writing in journalism is that you get to see people on either the best or worst day of their life, which allowed me to gain a lot of empathy and compassion towards the people I was interviewing. When you’re writing fiction, you don’t have to be constrained by the truth and are thus farther removed from the character compared to when you’re talking with a real person.
After being very successful as a journalist, what made you want to become a teacher?
During my first few years as a journalist, I moonlighted as a coach. During my time spent in Chattanooga, Tennessee working for the Times Free Press, I got to a place where even though I loved my work, I really missed interacting with students. My parents were elementary school teachers, so there was some background in the field for me, but I saw an opportunity in higher education to combine my love for writing with my love for teaching together into one career, and it’s been a satisfying move.
How did your involvement at UC Clermont help you in your writing career?
While attending UC Clermont as a post-secondary student, I was a writer for the Lantern. I remember that the faculty really seemed to enjoy my writing and they encouraged me to pursue writing as a career. I look back on it now and I realize how significant it was for them to do that for me. Now I fully understand what it’s like to be a professor: sometimes we get so caught up in marking up papers that we often forget to tell students how good they are. I’m very happy to be able to be in a position that allows me to give back. That’s something that I really enjoy doing. While I was still working as a journalist, I had the opportunity to spend several months working with a family that was handling a loved one’s Alzheimer’s, and the resulting article produced some powerful results in that community. I’ve had a chance to tell stories in both fictional and true formats, and the thing that continues to strike me is that wherever you go, people generally seek opportunities to accomplish some good. My best moments have been the times I’ve been able to help others accomplish that.
How important is it for beginning writer’s to submit their work to journals?
It is a tremendously important for beginning writers to submit their work for review because it allows you to learn how to get published and to be able to get a sense of where you are as a writer. Seek publication, find markets for your readers, and get your work to the best people for your work. Don’t give up. When I was at graduate school at Morehead I didn’t get any of my papers published until the last month I was there, and ironically, I ended up getting one story published per week after that. I will say this; success is more difficult once you get out of school. The more distance there is between you and the editors, the colder the process becomes.
Brooks Rexroat writes and teaches in Cincinnati, Ohio. He holds a B.A. in print journalism from Morehead State University (Ky.) and an MFA in creative writing from Southern Illinois University. His work has been published in Weave Magazine, Midwestern Gothic, The Montreal Review, Best of Ohio Short Stories Vol. 1, and Every River on Earth--Writing From Appalachian Ohio (Ohio University Press, 2014). He was a winner of the 2012 London Telegraph (U.K.) International Short Story Competition. Visit him online at http://www.brooksrexroat.com.