ASFA-CW Senior Profile: Emma Camp

Memory Lane

Emma’s Cadence bios through the years:

  • Emma Camp has saved the world seven times, wears glasses, goes to magic school, and loves snakes. She is not to be confused with the high and mighty Harry Potter. (2013)
  • Emma Camp is looking for Alaska. (2014)
  • Emma Camp curses thee and all of thy descendants. (2015)
  • Emma Camp is what makes a Subaru, a Subaru. (2016)
  • Emma Camp’s entire life is just the setup for one big Shakespeare joke. (2017)
  • Emma Camp loves Twitter . . . It’s like owning your own newspaper—without the losses. (2018)

Seven Questions: Past, Present, Future

What is your first creative memory?

My first creative memories are probably from when I was around four or five, when I would constantly perform skits/songs/long nonsensical monologues to just about anyone who would listen. I was constantly making up stories and acting them out with the begrudging help of my little brother — at least until he grew old enough to be a sentient being who could resist my tyranny.

What are your Desert(ed) Island Five favorite books—you, a deserted island, just five books to read—and why?

Ouch. This one’s pretty hard, but at the top of my list for sure Assassination Vacation and Partly Cloudy Patriot by Sarah Vowell. Vowell writes about history like no one else—hilarious, informative, and full of the nerdy enthusiasm I live for. Next, the book that changed the way write poetry: a lesson in smallness by Lauren Goodwin Slaughter. To round out everything out, I’ll pick two plays: Cymbeline by William Shakespeare, and The Lion in Winter by James Goldman. I’m a massive Shakespeare nerd, and Cymbeline is a completely underrated tragicomedy that reads like a medieval fairytale, full of unpronounceable names, long-lost siblings, and an insanely convoluted plot. Conversely, The Lion in Winter is about the family of Henry II shouting ridiculously quotable one-liners at each other. What more could I say?

If you could trade places, Freaky Friday style, with any well-known creative person, who would it be and why?

I would definitely swap places with 14th-century poetess extraordinaire, Christine de Pizan. She was the first woman to make a living solely on writing, and her work in question was largely devoted to defending women’s intelligence and morality. Also, if my books on Medieval costume aren’t evidence enough, I love late 14th-century fashion way too much.

What is your favorite ASFA-CW memory?

My favorite ASFA-CW memory was probably the inaugural department trip to Railroad Park, in my 8th grade year. We all played one huge game of kickball in which I was inexplicably picked first by some very nice seniors, who I think appreciated my raw enthusiasm over athletic ability. It was a wonderful bonding experience with the department community. I also bought the single best snow cone of my life that day.

What’s the hardest thing you had to learn to be successful at ASFA?

I consider myself to primarily be a poet, but last year I went a six-month hiatus from writing poetry. I had reached a point in my work where I wasn’t happy with it anymore—I was forcing myself to conform to a popular aesthetic in the hopes that it would win awards and be published, and while this strategy worked to a certain degree, it made me lose any sense of fulfillment. It wasn’t sustainable. Taking that break forced me to write outside the concept of achievement, which allowed me to feel comfortable enough to explore other genres and really write for myself.

What advice do you have for future ASFA-CW students?

Relax! Life is long, not short, and you’re going to have so much time to learn and grow as a writer. Everything doesn’t have to happen at once. Write for yourself. If your writing stops making you happy, reconsider why you’re writing what you’re writing and how you’re writing it. Feel free to fail and fail spectacularly.

What are your post-ASFA plans?

In the fall, I will attend the University of Virginia as a recipient of the Jefferson Scholarship. At UVA, I plan to major in Women’s and Gender Studies, Economics, and possibly minor in Theatre. In terms of writing, I’d really love to focus on playwriting (hence the interest in theatre). As a career, part of me wants to work in political policy and government, and the other part of me wants to throw myself into the theatre world and attempt to make it as a playwright or costume designer. These areas are pretty disparate, but I’m firmly in the camp that life is very, very long, so (for the time being) I’ll try not to agonize too much about the distant future.

An Excerpt from Cadence 2018

july: madrid

over dinner, my grandmother invites me
to spend the summer with her in Spain

and I can almost see it now: me,
thin-lipped, thin-blooded, waltzing
across some yellow veranda, mountains

on one side, river on the other. landscape like an
open palm. when we go to town, I will pretend
away from myself, give the sun-ripened

boys a name prettier than I am,
folding my hands as if to suggest I
daughtered museum patrons, roundfaced

new englanders with enough money
that money stops mattering. take the day trip
to lisbon, the train to toulouse. such choices

are almost as easy as doing nothing. haven’t you
heard? I’m headed to new haven in the fall,
majoring in something soft, say art

history, say italian literature. I know who dante
is and what bolgia of hell is my favorite, but I’m
aiming for heaven anyway. I will have my eternity

on venus, an existence of milky pink divinity so
warm and so pleasant I’ll forget I ever
breathed in anything but sunlight.

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