Name: Jeff M. Holmes
Place of Birth: Denver, Colorado
Education: Amherst College and University of Iowa (MFA)
Why did you choose to come to Amherst?
'Cause my mom told me I wasn't going to the NBA so I better get a good education... no, but in all seriousness, Amherst was a transformative educational experience that I could not have possibly foresaw. I'm continually thankful that the financial aid and admissions folks were able to make it possible for me to attend.
Most memorable or most influential class at Amherst
There really were too many to pick one. Meeting Amity Gaige and taking her Fiction Writing II class was the catalyst for my career though, and she is one of the single most inspirational people in my life to date. But I have a lot of love for the Russian Department--Professor Rabinowitz, Wolfson and Taubman thoroughly kicked my ass for four years, in the best possible way of course.
I am currently so wrapped up in contemporary fiction that I've gotten away a bit from study, but I am still driven by hip-hop both in its origins, social impact, and conflation with pop culture, capitalism and commerce. I'm also an avid dystopophile. I love the hunger the public has right now for dystopian narratives and the way they coincide with Trump's America at the moment.
Awards and Prizes
Burnett Howe Award for fiction (Amherst), John Leggett Fellow (Napa Valley), Dean's Fellowship (Iowa)
That's like asking someone what their favorite sunset was...crazy. My shortlist: The Stories of Breece D'J Pancake, Pym, Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self, Wind in a Box (poems), Joe Turner Come and Gone (play). Even writing the list pains me 'cause there are so many omissions.
Mat Johnson, August Wilson, Danielle Evans, Breece DJ Pancake, Mos Def... ah, the list is so much longer.
Tips for aspiring writers?
Get lucky. But in the meantime, don't anticipate the market or what you think is going to be in style. Fill your head with what inspired you to write in the first place and try not to self-censor too much--there will be plenty of people to do that for you down the road.
Tell us a bit about your path to becoming an author
As a kid, I wanted to be a rapper (still do), but my homie said I lacked the charisma so I started writing poems and stories instead. I've been blessed enough to run into people who believed in me and gave me tangible steps to get to this point. Amherst is a great place for that, a place where you can be in a room surrounded by so many immensely talented people that can help you out and inspire you while you journey on.
Learn more about How Are You Going to Save Yourself on the author's website.
Photo Credit: Julie Keresztes '12