Today in Seven Questions, we introduce Ecotone associate editor Michelle Donahue. In addition to editing, Michelle writes fiction and has published essays and poems. Her prose has been supported by the Kentucky Foundation for Women and has been published in Arts & Letters, CutBank, Porterhouse Review, Passages North, and others. She received an MFA in creative writing & environment from Iowa State and a PhD in literature and creative writing from the University of Utah. Before joining Ecotone in August 2022, she was an editor for Quarterly West, the Adroit Journal, and Flyway: Journal of Writing & Environment.
Michelle is a generous and energetic editor and a fabulous writer (not to mention a surfer and a brewer of beer). We are delighted to welcome her to the Ecotone team!
Co–fiction editor Becca Hannigan interviewed Michelle in fall 2022.
As you settle in to Wilmington and your new roles at Ecotone and in the creative writing department, what do you find most exciting?
I’m most excited by the real commitment to community here. Everyone has been so welcoming, and it’s clear that people are interested in building a nourishing publishing, teaching, and writing environment. I’m honored to be a new member of such a beautiful ecosystem of writers, teachers, students, and editors.
Your degrees are in creative writing and literature as well as Could you share a specific experience, class, or conversation that’s carried you along? To what extent do you view your work as a writer and editor through a scientific lens?
When I was an undergraduate, I spent a semester studying on San Cristóbal Island in the Galápagos. It was such a unique experience that I’ve since tried to write about it, but always fail to capture it, with all of its strange beauty and contradictions. On the one hand, I spent my days lounging on the beach with sea lions who were wholly unafraid of humans. I watched blue-footed boobies perform their goofy mating rituals; I swam with green sea turtles, marine iguanas, manta rays, and reef sharks. It was unreal. But on the other hand, the Galápagos is a brutal, volcanic place, where the equatorial sun can burn unprotected skin in minutes. It’s a place where tourists who come to appreciate the unique life and landscape are also responsible for endangering its existence. I simultaneously loved every second of being there and felt guilty about my presence. I like this idea of an experience “carrying you along,” and my time in the Galápagos certainly has stayed with me in ways that are mollifying and maddening, celebratory and sad.
I think my background in science has changed the way I see the world, which I’m sure has affected the way I write and edit. In science, I was always drawn most to ecology, a discipline that focuses on relationships between the big and small, living and non-living. As a writer and editor, I’m interested in connections, in bringing the macro and the micro together.
You’ve worked as the managing editor for Flyway: Journal of Writing and Environment as well as prose editor for Quarterly West and the Adroit Journal. How and when did you know you wanted to pursue editorial work?
As a younger writer, I wanted to be as involved as possible in any and every good literary community I could find. Editorial work seemed like such a tremendous opportunity to contribute and give back to the literary community, while learning about writing and publishing. Once I started with Flyway, I knew I’d found a lifelong passion.Continue Reading