Tell us about your background please: I grew up in Mechanicsville, Iowa, and currently live there now. My dad, John Kuehnle, is a CPA and has his office there in Mechanicsville. For most of my life he shared the office with my grandfather. My mom, Michele Finnegan, is a teacher and helps out at the office during tax season when things get a bit hectic in all our lives. I worked at the office myself during high school before I got my current job at Bridge Community Bank. I currently work as a customer service representative at their Mechanicsville branch. My dad’s office has the benefit of being next to the Mechanicsville library, which helps to support my steady reading habit and was an influential place to have at hand growing up.
I have one sibling, my older sister Ruth, who is a nurse at the University of Iowa Hospital and Clinics and will be teaching at the University of Iowa’s College of Nursing next year. I will be living with her in Iowa City next fall when I begin school at the University of Iowa.
I went to North Cedar High School where I was very involved in a score of activities. I was on the volleyball and track teams my freshman and sophomore years and lettered in band and choir all four years. I was involved in the fall musical all four years of high school: twice as a cast member and twice as part of the pit band. I was involved in speech for two year and was in a group that went to All State Speech my sophomore year. I participated in jazz band and choir in my first three years of high school and competed in band and choir competitions all four years. I was involved in Student Council, National Honor Society, and Math Club. I was a staff writer for three years on staff of the school’s newspaper The Scroll and Co-Editor-In-Chief my senior year. I was also a junior volunteer at the University of Iowa Hospital and Clinics for four year during that time.
What is your program of study at Kirkwood and why are you pursuing it?: I am pursuing an AA at Kirkwood with a focus in English. After hopefully graduating this spring, I intend to transfer and pursue a double major in English and Gender, Women’s, and Sexuality Studies at the University of Iowa. I am passionate about both areas and hope to either pursue a Master’s in Library Science or to work in publishing. I also want to continue to work on my writing.
Describe your overall experience at Kirkwood? Any activities or organizations?: My experience at Kirkwood has been great. I started college at a private university in 2010 and it did not work out for personal and health reasons. In 2011, I was started here at Kirkwood and found it worked much better with the way I needed to live in order to maintain my health. Pursuing my career at Kirkwood has helped me grow as a person and become a better student. Many of my classes have led me to become a better community member.
I am a member of Kirkwood’s Phi Theta Kappa chapter Alpha Eta Rho. I’m also on the staff of Kirkwood’s literary magazine the Cedar Valley Divide. I have meet and become friends with some pretty amazing people due to my involvement in these activities. We just finished going through a majority of the submission for the Cedar Valley Divide and I am excited to put the magazine together next semester.
Were you always interested in writing? When did you first realize that you had an interest in it?: I hated writing for a long time. I have dyslexia and an auditory processing issue which made learning to read and spell difficult. Now, of course those are two of my favorite things to do. I realized I was interested in writing, or at least with publishing, when I was involved in my high school’s newspaper staff. I loved the collaborative effort and that I was able to get comfortable with other people seeing my work without having to expose my thoughts in the same way that is done in creative writing. I didn’t really start writing creatively until I took College Writing with Heal McKnight my first semester at Kirkwood. I learned so much that semester that helped me to find my voice as a writer. Being enrolled in Creative Writing and being a part of the Cedar Valley Divide this fall has been very fulfilling creatively. It has challenged me as a writer and an editor and brought back that collaborative effort I first feel in love with.
Who are a few of your favorite authors and why?: Maya Angelou, Margaret Atwood, Amal El-Mohtar, Nnedi Okorafor, and Catherynne M. Valente are some of my favorite authors. All of them write beautiful prose that sounds so good. Amal El-Mohtar has an amazing voice for reading poetry. She does much of the reading on Uncanny Magazine’s podcast and it is hypnotic to listen to. I am drawn to powerfully written prose that often has feminist themes in it and I have found that in all of these authors. I learn more as a writer every time I read their work and as I reader I delight in their vividly rendered imagery and wit.
Where do you see yourself in five years?: In five years I hope to have completed my undergraduate degrees. I will most likely still be living in the Midwest and would like to be working in a field connected to literature and publishing. I will still probably be fostering dogs and so will inevitability still have dog fur on everything I own.