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English Teacher and BSM Alum Published in National Journal

July 1, 2017

In 2008, the Knight Errant published English Teacher Published in National Magazine, an article written by Kaia Preus (‘09) about BSM English teacher Mrs. Brew. Ironically, Preus is now the published author (and BSM English teacher) to highlight and recognize.

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This summer, Preus was published in Pleiades: Literature in Context, “a literary biannual featuring poetry, fiction, essays, and reviews by authors from around the world.” It was not an easy road to getting her 25 page fiction short story published, making the accomplishment that much sweeter. In fact, Preus dealt with at least 15 rejections along the way. “It was hard the first couple times I got rejected, but now I am used to it. I told my students in my creative writing class that I got another rejection and to give me some applause. They wondered why we were applauding for a failure, and I told them that it's good to encourage yourself (and others) even when you put yourself out there and it doesn't work out as planned ... at least you tried.”

Preus's story, A Dead Woman’s Pass, dives into the journey of Gina, a young woman with a troubled past hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. It is not just a story about her hike but more so about Gina’s journey of friendship. Along the trail she meets Haru who helps her address the hardships she's faced which leads to an inward journey of self discovery. (The fictional storyline was inspired by an experience Preus had last summer when she hiked the trail to Machu Picchu.)

“It was one of those incredible once-in-a-lifetime experiences. When I got home, I was just missing that trip, and I wanted to live in that world for a little longer,  so I started writing about it. I spent pretty much all of last summer working on the story. I was so interested in the characters for this particular story that I felt like they came a little more easily this time.”

This was Preus’s second piece of writing to get published. She had an essay published in the Briar Cliff Review two years ago but she considers this most recent piece a bit more special. “Nonfiction is definitely difficult to write, and there's a lot of technique that goes into it, but there is something really exciting about having a story published that came from my mind that I made it up.”

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Preus’s love of writing began here at BSM as a writer for the Knight Errant. “I truly learned a lot of what I know about writing in high school, and it got me started on this path to where I am now. I remember writing a paper for both Mrs. Brew and Mr. Backen, printing it out and continuing to mark it up over and over again; I have always been ruthless with my own editing,” Preus said as she laughed thinking back on these memories.

After receiving her undergraduate degree from St. Olaf and becoming more “serious” about her writing, she was strongly encouraged by her role model and former professor to attend graduate school. She applied on a whim and received a full scholarship to Hollins University in Virginia where she received her Masters in Fine Arts (MFA). “When someone offers you money to do art, you say yes,” Preus said.

The two year program gave Preus more confidence in her writing, and she began submitting pieces to various publications. These days, she is always working on something and says, on average, she has five to ten stories under review. Preus appreciates the balance her life as a teacher and writer offers. “Writing is this solitary pursuit, and I really like having the summers to commit myself to it. I also enjoy talking with my students about writing and helping them come up with ideas. It feels so good to be teaching back at BSM, and I feel crazy lucky to walk through these doors every day. It's been such a natural transition because I had such a wonderful experience here as a Red Knight!”

BSM is blessed to have such a talented young teacher educating our students. We are thrilled to have a Red Knight alumna and published author as part of our faculty! To read her short story, A Dead Woman’s Pass, click here to subscribe or to purchase the journal. Congratulations Kaia! #BSMProud

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(Here's another great article from the Knight Errant, “English Department welcomes BSM alum to teaching staff.” We are happy you are back!)

 
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