Karen Downing

What’s your genre?
Essays

Are you published?
Traditional publisher

What inspired you to become a writer?
I spent many summers working as a lifeguard. To pass the time, I would watch the stories unfold on the pool deck and in the water. Being focused on a mundane locale—a public pool in a park—brought the dramas of life around me into sharp focus. To understand what I saw, I wrote my way toward a richer sense of meaning.

What author do you admire and how have they inspired your writing?
I find myself returning again and again to writing from Thoreau, and each time, finding out something new about him and about myself. Our writing styles have nothing in common, but I respect his sensibility as an essayist.

Name three of your favorite books and their authors
Devotions by Mary Oliver
Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders
Maus I and II by Art Spiegelman

What’s one thing readers should know about you?
I view myself primarily as a teacher of writing and then as a writer.

What one piece of advice would you give to a budding writer?
Write the first draft with your heart and the second with your mind. By embracing the mess and frustration of revision, your will craft a piece of writing others may be interested in reading.

To quote Cheryl Strayed, “I write to find out what I have to say. I edit to figure out how to say it right.”

Author Bio
Karen Downing was a high school English teacher in West Des Moines for 34 years. She received an MFA in Creative Nonfiction from the University of Iowa. She is the Special Projects Coordinator for CultureALL.

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