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Kimi Cunningham Grant ’02 teaches online, publishes novel during pandemic

Kimi Cunningham Grant ’02 teaches online, publishes novel during pandemic

By Molly McKim ‘23 and Anna Seip

Headshot of a female author in a chair in front of a wooden wall.

What does a fiction writer do during a global pandemic? She keeps writing. In April, Kimi Cunningham Grant ‘02 found out that her third book, “Flight,” will be published, scheduled to come out in late 2021.

She says her favorite part about writing a book would be the beginning days of writing. “When I just write and sort of discover things about my characters, their histories, their secrets, their fears, what they’re capable of, both good and bad. That part of writing tends to feel exhilarating and immersive,” she said.

Her latest novel begins with a man hiding out in a remote cabin in the woods with his young daughter. “When their friend doesn’t show up with his annual supply delivery, a series of irreversible events is set into motion for them,” she said.

After graduating from Messiah with a degree in English in 2002, Grant taught at a private school in State College, Pennsylvania, then attended graduate school at Bucknell University, where she majored in English.

She teaches two days a week as an adjunct at Juniata College, but the pandemic forced her to restructure her spring semester fiction writing class to an online format.

“Wouldn’t you know it, the class was going wonderfully, and we had a lovely community of writers. So, it was disappointing for everyone to have to unexpectedly walk away from that, myself included,” she said. “Luckily, I’d set up the course such that I did all the heavy teaching and in-class writing during the first half of the semester, and the plan all along was to do full-class workshops for most of the second half.”

Now, rather than meeting twice a week, the class uses discussion forums to workshop. Grant also created a “small talk” forum, where she shares bits about her life and asks students questions. “It’s been a big transition, but I think we’re making the most of it,” she said.

For now, in addition to telecommuting, she’ll be working through the edits of her latest book, a welcome project to focus on during this unprecedented time at home.

 

How an alum homeschools

A homeschooler to her children, ages 6 and 9, well before the pandemic, writer and teacher Kimi Cunningham Grant ’02 says she’s hesitant to offer any tips for parents at home with school-age children during the COVID-19 crisis. With some prodding, however, she offers to discuss how she and her family navigate the new normal of pandemic life.

“What works for me won’t necessarily work for others,” she said. “We’re all sort of struggling through this murky and difficult terrain, and we unfortunately have to figure out our own best path forward, based on our unique situations. But there are a few things that I’ve always done, and a few things that I’m doing now. I’ll share those—but please don’t make it seem like I’m offering advice.”

We get outside. We’re probably outside in some form, maybe 360 days a year. Rain or shine, hot or cold—we get out. We take a walk, ride our bikes or read on the porch. If it’s raining, we wear rain boots and old clothes, and I let the boys stomp in puddles.

We have a daily quiet hour. We have a one-hour quiet time in the afternoon, every day that we’re home. The boys are in their room. I make a cup of coffee and use this time to do job work (teaching) or writing work, or, if I happen to be ahead on those fronts, relax.

We have a “Quiet House Until 8 a.m.” policy. My kids stay in their rooms until then. This allows me to get up early and work before they’re up. I’m usually spent by the time they’re tucked in, so late night hours are not productive for me.

I limit my checking of the news. I’m staying informed but not looking obsessively. For me, that means I don’t look at headlines more than once a day right now.

Blame it on Hugh. Because both my husband and I are working from home now, we’ve invented an imaginary co-worker named Hugh. Anything that goes wrong in the house gets blamed on Hugh. For instance, sometimes a crusty plate is left out—obviously, that was Hugh, not one of us!

“Lastly, my daily prayers for a long time have been that I will create a place of ‘belonging and becoming’ in our home (language stolen from the inimitable Sally Clarkson!),” she said, “and that I will be patient and present.”

For more information, visit kimicunninghamgrant.com.