NMU graduate student featured in writers podcast

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Sam Rush/NW

Rayna Sherbinow

In September of last year, the MFA Writers podcast interviewed Hannah Cajandig-Taylor. Cajandig-Taylor is a poet and flash writer from Columbia, Missouri. She is also in her third year pursuing a master’s of fine arts in creative writing at NMU.

One of her poems is called “Relativity Theory”. It was published in the Summer 2020 issue of Pretty Owl Poetry. The poem is about the McBaine Bur Oak, which is a large, centuries-old tree that serves as a landmark near Columbia.  The co-producers of the MFA Writers podcast read the poem and wanted to invite Cajandig-Taylor to their show. They recognized the tree in the poem because the show’s host, Jared McCormack, is also from Missouri.

Having a shared experience with Cajandig-Taylor provided the perfect opportunity to contact her for an interview about her writing and about NMU’s MFA program. Cajandig-Taylor was happy to participate. She says the podcast is a good resource for anyone looking to attend graduate school for writing.

“It’s hard to know, unless you talk to someone in these programs, what it’s really like,” Cajandig-Taylor said. “Websites don’t always tell everything, so what’s better than getting to interview people?”

Pursuing an MFA at NMU is a challenge. In addition to attending and teaching classes as a part of the program, Cajandig-Taylor works as a bartender to help pay for her education. She remains optimistic in spite of the challenge of balancing teaching, learning, working and writing.

“It’s a labor of love,” she said. “Yeah, I’m tired a lot but I love it and I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else.”

Despite enjoying writing and publishing her work now, Cajandig-Taylor was not always studying creative writing. She initially doubted what she would be able to do with such a degree, and chose to major in education instead.

“I was like, ‘I love English. Maybe I could teach. That would still give me joy,’” she said. “And then I realized that I really just wanted to study writing and literature.” 

Photo courtesy of Hannah Cajandig-Taylor

As a graduate student, she developed an interest in flash writing, which means writing inherently short pieces of prose. Some of her stories are only a few hundred words long.

Recently, she has focused on writing flash fiction about The Weatherman, a character she created as part of a class assignment. She developed the character throughout a semester and enjoyed the process so much that she decided to continue building The Weatherman and his world. 

“I’ve had to do a lot of weird, amateur research on meteorology,” Cajandig-Taylor said. “That’s been really fun, and it’s been fascinating to me.”

She encourages people to write about their interests, regardless of what those interests are.

“Whatever you want to show to the world, and be, just do it 110%,” she said. 

Cajandig-Taylor is currently writing a flash fiction collection about The Weatherman for her thesis project. She would like to have the book published one day. Her work has already been in multiple publications. Her first book, a chapbook of poetry entitled Romantic Portrait of a Natural Disaster, was published by Finishing Line Press last year. Although she enjoys being published, she says not all writers do.

“You don’t have to publish to be a writer,” Cajandig-Taylor said. “I know plenty of writers who aren’t quite as into the public sphere of writing.”

Regardless of what you write, how you write, and whether or not you publish it, Cajandig-Taylor has some advice.

“It doesn’t always have to be pretty and fancy,” she said. “Have fun with it.”More information about Hannah Cajandig-Taylor and her work can be found on her website https://www.hannahcajandigtaylor.com/ . She is also an associate editor for Passages North, NMU’s annual literary journal, which can be found online at https://www.passagesnorth.com/.