I write. I teach. I’m a good person.
A native of Rochester, NY, Joanna started writing, drawing & performing when she was in elementary school. She wrote her first “book”at age nine (loosely based on her younger brother, Back to the Future and The Oregon Trail), won a lowly third-place prize in a drawing contest for the orange powdered drink TANG & played a town crier announcing the “royal ball” in a sixth-grade production of Cinderella. Believe it or not, this strangely shaped the future of her work. Joanna embraces, above all, nostaligia in her writing, playfulness in her person & inventiveness in all her work.
Joanna kick-started her formal study of English at SUNY College at Brockport in 2001. She bought a car for $800 and drove in snow storms to night classes. This was not safe, but she survived! She established an underground zine, OO*Ah (pronounced “ooh, ah”) while trying to avoid her Master’s thesis, but still managed to earn her MA in English by 2004.
Around this time, Joanna was asked by her former professor, the late & great writer Judith Kitchen, to submit a short essay to a Norton anthology she was editing. In 2005, Joanna’s essay “Clean Slate” was included in this anthology, Short Takes: Brief Encounters with Contemporary Nonfiction.
At the request of a close friend working for a newswire service, Joanna left Upstate, NY (crying on an airplane) to live in San Francisco and proofread press releases. On her days off, she mostly wandered around the Mission district, writing in coffee shops about her observations in tiny notebooks. Thankfully, she met her future spouse during one of these cafe excursions.
While in SF, she was accepted into Pacific Lutheran University’s Rainier Writing Workshop, a low-residency MFA program. On the phone her mother asked, “Why on earth would you need TWO master’s degrees?” Joanna answered the question with a resounding, “I don’t know!”
In 2008, Joanna completed her MFA in Creative Writing with a concentration in Nonfiction. She returned to NY, but this time to NEW YORK, NEW YORK. She cried on the subway. She ate too many bagels. She missed the soft focus of San Francisco so much.
After a year of adjustment, Joanna moved to to Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, and the once-SUNY student became employed as an adjunct of English at CUNY. Destiny! Joanna was promoted to a full-time lecturership in 2014.
Currently, Joanna teaches multiple sections of Freshman composition and Creative Writing (Nonfiction).
(Photo credit: April Lawson)