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Liberal Arts Graduates

Katie Bickham, MLA, MFA

What I do now:
I am first and foremost a poet. I have two books of poetry, The Belle Mar (Pleiades 2015) and Mouths Open to Name Her (LSU 2019), and numerous publications and prizes for individual poems. I also work   full-time at Bossier Parish Community College where I teach creative writing and run the literary magazine, Savoir Faire.

My work/job consists of:
I teach creative writing, poetry and drama, women's literature, and general literature surveys to undergraduates. In my capacity as a writer, I give frequent readings and signings, poetry writing workshops, and lectures around the country.

Path to my current career position (how I got from the past to the present):
I was hired at my full-time teaching position immediately upon graduating with my MLA from LSUS. While teaching, I went on to get my MFA in creative writing from Stonecoast at the University of Southern Maine. My thesis from the MFA became my first published book, and the rest is history.

How I got to LSUS (or why I chose LSUS):
Out of high school, LSUS felt like the obvious choice for me. I was very young and wanted to be near family, and I immediately felt both at home and challenged at LSUS. Upon finishing my BA in English, I wasn't sure of my next step, but I was able to connect with the then-director of the MLA program who offered me an assistantship and allowed me to work on creative writing as part of my master's thesis.

Fond memories of LSUS:
Some of the most important friendships of my life were made during my time at LSUS, both with other students and with faculty who have stayed with me long after graduation.

LSUS faculty who helped me:
Helen Taylor, Elisabeth Liebert, John Vassar, Thomas DuBose, Steve Brennan, Dorie Larue, Terry Harris

How LSUS helped me succeed:
LSUS gave me a rigorous and well-balanced education with which to enter the post-graduate world and to be competitive in the collegiate job market. In my MFA degree, I was often more advanced or had a firmer foundation in craft and theory than students who hadn't had the benefit of something like the MLA Program.

Advice to college-bound students:
Don't let anyone tell you that you can't make a living (and a nice one!) in the arts. The world can't just be computer scientists and marketing whizzes (although they're great and necessary!). There is still such a need for people who can not only write well but who can see the connections between disciplines, who can bring a broader understanding of the humanities to the table. If the arts is your passion, and if you are a disciplined student, there is no reason you shouldn't be able to make your way in the world with a degree in the humanities.

Advice to someone who wants to enter my field:
Have a plan! There won't be people standing outside the college to recruit English majors on graduation day. Know going in whether you think you might want to teach or be an editor or a journalist or work in advertising. You can tailor the classes you take, the connections you make with faculty, and the things you read for class (yes!) to the kind of job you want to have after graduation.

Tips on choosing a major or career:
Again, as early as you can, decide what direction you want to go in so you can begin building your curriculum and relationships in that vein.

My toughest professional challenge:
I started my work in the college classroom and in the publishing world at twenty-three. Being taken seriously as a young woman in these spheres can be challenging to say the least.

My toughest personal challenge:
With the exception of the Stephen Kings of the world, most writers are working another job as their primary income. It's sort of like having a job but also having homework for the rest of your life. Beyond graduate school, no one is giving you deadlines or asking for your work, and it can be easy to just say you're tired after a long day and never write another word again. You have to want it beyond just the idea of it or the possible recognition. It has to be part of how you move through the world.

Successes (honors, awards, etc.) in my life:

2019 Reader's Choice Award for "The Blades" in Rattle

2018 John & Suanne Roueche Excellence Award for Innovation in the Community College

2018 Community College Humanities Association (CCHA) 1st Place Southern Regions, Small Colleges, Literary Magazine Competition for Savoir Faire (Faculty Advisor)

2018 Best in Show, Critical Mass Award, Literary Category via Shreveport Regional Arts Council

2018 Honorable Mention, 2018 Sonia Sanchez-Langston Hughes Poetry Contest for "Morning"

2018 Finalist, Rattle Poetry Prize

2017 Finalist, Conniston Prize from Radar

2017 Winner, 43rd Annual New Millennium Poetry Prize for "Shorn"

2017 Community College Humanities Association (CCHA) 2nd Place Southern Regions, Small Colleges, Literary Magazine Competition for Savoir Faire (Faculty Advisor)

2017 Summer Literary Seminars (SLS) Fellowship

2016 Community College Humanities Association (CCHA) 1st Place Southern Regions, Small Colleges, Literary Magazine Competition for Savoir Faire (Faculty Advisor)

2016 Rising Voice Award Winner at Shreveport's First Annual Reconciliation Dinner

2016 Finalist, Knightville Poetry Prize from The New Guard for "The Good News"

2016 City of Shreveport Fellowship via National Endowment for the Humanities Grant

2014 Shreveport Chamber of Commerce 40 under 40 Award Winner

2014 Lena-Miles Wever Todd Prize from Pleiades Press for The Belle Mar

2014 Best in Show, Critical Mass Award, Literary Category via Shreveport Regional Arts Council

2013 Honorary Bill from the Louisiana House of Representatives (HR 27) for Service to the State

2013 Winner, The Missouri Review Editor's Prize for Poetry

I've learned this from life:
Avoid being cynical, practical, or skeptical for as long as you can. The longer you keep the child inside you alive, the longer you'll keep doing what you like without looking behind you to worry who's watching.

What I'd be doing if I had all the time in the world:
Writing romance novels.

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