Bryanna Tidmarsh is a writer, editor, and educator currently pursuing her Ph.D. in English Studies at Illinois State University. Originally from Minnesota, she earned an MFA in creative writing from Rutgers-Newark and a BA in English and Writing Communications from Bellarmine University. She has taught courses in children's/YA literature, fairy tales, gothic literature, vampires, and composition at Rutgers University. A recipient of a Joseph F. McCrindle fellowship from Poets & Writers, her poems and essays can be found in Narrative Northeast, Selfies in Ink, and The Volta. She lives in Normal, IL with her partner and 4-year-old daughter.
What other majors/minors/tracks did you have beyond English?
I earned a Writing concentration, combining my love for both creative writing and writing communications. I took every creative writing class I could get my hands on.
What is your current job?
Currently, I'm a Graduate Teaching Assistant at Illinois State University, where I'm working on my Ph.D. in English Studies. I'm also a Part-Time Lecturer for Rutgers University, teaching an online course in Literature and Controversy. My research is in Young Adult literature, fairy tales, and monster theory. I'm also working on my first book of poems, Fake Magic.
Before relocating for a PhD this fall, I was an Assistant in the Program of Creative Writing, working under the current Poet Laureate, Tracy K. Smith.
In what ways was your degree valuable in preparing you for your career?
When working on my undergraduate degree, I learned how to be a student. This might sound obvious or reductive, but learning how to be a good student translates to being a working professional and scholar. In particular, being an English major encouraged me to embrace my curiosity and to become more disciplined. Analyzing literature, developing writing skills, and exercising my voice in the classroom took tons of practice. These skills have been important to my career as an administrator and a college instructor.
My experience working on Ariel, too, helped me hone the skills that were key to me getting an editorial fellowship at Poets and Writers in NYC—experience that later helped me get my position at Princeton. It’s incredible to see that even the organizations you participate in during college can have a huge lasting impact on your career.
Bellarmine was also the first place I felt part of a literary community. It’s so valuable to have people who share your love of books, who challenge you to think about the texts and the world in new ways, and who support you in your goals. I still have so much love for the people I read with at the gazebo or ate chocolate covered strawberries with in Dr. West’s seminar. Now that I’ve recently gone back to school for my doctorate, I've had to once again think about my identity as a writer, researcher, student, classmate, and colleague, and my experience at Bellarmine helped me to be prepared for this.
And while it may sound corny, studying with the English department's stellar faculty helped me to learn what kind of teacher I want to be. Shout out to Dr. Powell, Dr. West, Dr. Gatton, Dr. Hatten, Dr. Hinson-Hasty, Erin Keane, Professor Ruby, Professor Smock, and others. In particular, I realized the importance of women mentors. There were so many times when I thought I wasn't good enough or felt like my ideas and writing weren't valuable. I'm so deeply grateful to Dr. Powell, Dr. West, and Erin Keane for being great examples for me--during my time at Bellarmine and ever since. I try to emulate that for my students as well.
What was your favorite experience as an English major?
Visiting faculty office hours. I feel like I spent hours each week in Dr. Powell's office (forgive me, Dr. Powell!). Words cannot express how meaningful those conversations were to me. I also had a great time working on Ariel, the literary magazine, and there was a super fun poetry slam one year as well, from which I still have a mug!
In terms of coursework, though, my favorite course by far was Dr. Gatton's Vampire Literature. It influenced my current scholarship and taught me that all the things I love are legitimate scholarly pursuits. I've even taught my own courses in Vampire literature for Rutgers University.
Any advice for current majors or those considering an English degree?
Read voraciously. Not just what you think you're supposed to read (or what someone else thinks you're supposed to read!). Read what you love. But also, be open to new ideas. I had a certain idea of what kind of literature I liked and what “wasn’t my thing” going into college, and that stubbornness can leave you resistant to change. Read things that make you uncomfortable. And most importantly, read things by people with identities different from your own, because it makes you a better human as well as a better student.