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The Blue & Gray Press | November 19, 2017

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Alumna poet revists UMW

By SADIE HAGBERG

UMW alumnae Heather Taylor Johnson will be returning as a poet to UMW for the first time since her successful move down under in 1999.

Johnson will be reading her poetry at the William Street Mansion on Friday, Feb. 12 from 7 to 9 pm at the event “A Down under Reading at the Mansion.” The event also showcases other UMW graduates, including a reading by fiction writer James Noll and a performance from Larry Hinkle and the Bucktones.

English Professor Steve Watkins will emcee the event and read from his new book “Goat Girl” that will be published next year.

Johnson graduated from UMW in 1995 with a degree in English and moved to Australia for a change of scenery.

“I needed to be somewhere else,” she said.

While in Australia, Johnson earned a master’s degree in Creative Writing. She always knew she wanted a graduate degree in Creative Writing, but that she had planned on getting a Ph.D. in literature. After completing her master’s degree, however, she realized that creative writing was for her.

“I fit in a little more,” she said.

Johnson always had a passion for creative writing as a hobby, but was a bit surprised that she was able to turn that hobby into something academic and even a career.

Johnson received her Ph.D. in creative writing from the University of Adelaide.

Since living in Australia, Johnson has made a name for herself.  She has published a book of her poetry “Exit Wounds,” with another book of poetry to be published in 2011. She is also the poetry editor for the quarterly literary magazine “Wet Ink.”

But Johnson’s first poem published in Australia was one she had written for Watkins’ Creative Writing class. Since her graduation, she and Watkins have kept in touch.

When Johnson learned that she and her family would be returning to the states, she worked with him to get an event together, hoping to bring accomplished alumni back to UMW for a night of entertainment.

Johnson and her family are currently back in the states for a year long exchange.  Her husband, a teacher, is participating in a full exchange with a teacher from Colorado. The family and their three young children will spend a year living in someone’s home in Colorado while that family lives in their home in Australia.

During this year, Johnson said that her main goal is to get her work noticed and circulated. She will also be teaching an English composition class at a local community college next fall.

Johnson’s “Exit Wounds” and copies of the magazine “Wet Ink” will be on sale at the event on Friday, as well as books and music from the other readers and performers.