Jen Knox earned her MFA from Bennington's Writing Seminars. She works as a creative writing professor at San Antonio College. She served as Fiction Editor and Workshop Coordinator at Our Stories Literary Journal.
Jen is the author of Musical Chairs and To Begin Again. Some of her short stories and essays have been published or are forthcoming in Annalemma Magazine, Bananafish, Bartleby Snopes, Eclectic Flash, Flashquake, Foundling Review, The Houston Literary Journal, Metazen, Midwest Literary Magazine, Ramshackle Review, Short Story America, Slow Trains, SLAB, Superstition Review, Used Furniture Review, LITSNACK & Narrative Magazine.
Book club information & updates about Jen's work can be found at: http://www.jenknox.com/
About the memoir
My memoir began to come together long before I knew I wanted to write. It began with journals, some of which resurfaced as I was returning to school to get my GED. In a therapeutic sense (far from literary), I began to reflect, reading and writing feverishly about my past--years I would've preferred to forget, years I felt compelled to revisit. Many years later, after obtaining a degree and writing constantly, both fiction and essays, my past continued to come up in my work; consequently, my book began to take shape. I decided my story needed to be told and finally, I was ready to tell it.
Musical Chairs is an exploratory tale about my family's history of mental health diagnoses and my own difficulty finding a diagnosis for an anxiety disorder. The narrative begins in the summer of 2003, when I began to suffer debilitating panic attacks. In order to understand my anxiety, I reflect on my past, beginning when I ran away from home at age fifteen. I recall years of strip-dancing, alcoholism, and estrangement, and the awkward journey toward reconciliation with my family. I recount these years candidly and examine the decisions that led me to make the choices I did. Musical Chairs, in essence, is a story about identity, class, family ties, and the elusive nature of mental illness.
About My Process:
As for the routine of writing, I would love to say that I sit down for X hours each morning to write, but I don't. My practice includes long periods of non-stop writing, entire weekends spent at coffee shops filling notebook after notebook. These days are valuable, but they are for generating ideas alone, drawing out scenes. The real work comes with reevaluation and revision. It is during this time that I buckle down and put in an hour or two each day. Because I work erratic hours, the amount of time varies. With Musical Chairs, I also spent a lot of time fact-checking, comparing my memories of events with those memories of my family, which is often necessary in memoir, to tell an inclusive and fair (albeit subjective) story.
I feel compelled to write—or think about writing—daily. I love this feeling and surround myself with writing and writers, in hopes that it will continue.
Jen Knox is an exceptionally gifted storyteller, who can take the events of the past and craft them invariably into engaging and compelling narratives.
--Phillip Lopate, Author of Notes on Sontag
In Musical Chairs, expert storyteller Jen Knox has transformed her misspent youth into a seriously entertaining coming-of-age tale. Her rich reflections make sense of a complex past and her darkly humorous voice rings with truth. The art of memoir prospers in Jen Knox’s writing.
--Michelle Mercer, NPR contributer and author of Footprints: The Life and Work of Wayne Shorter and Will You Take Me As I Am: Joni Mitchell's Blue Period
This true tale of grit, survival and eventual rebirth of the psyche is engaging and inspirational, even to a small-town girl like me.
--Gretchen A. Phillips, Pearson Education
With her unique voice, Jen tells the poignant, yet raw, story of her journey to adulthood, living on the streets as a runaway and her ultimate struggle to establish her own identity as a woman who truly values herself. This is one of those books that lingers long after the last page.
--Heather McIntosh, author of Small Animals First
Jen’s a runner, a runaway. Following in the footsteps of her great grandmother, Glory, who defiantly set out on her own near the same young age, and finding commonalities of mental illnesses among the women in her family, Jen must’ve realized her course was set out for her organically.
In the writing of Musical Chairs, a memoir blatant and unapologetic, Jen attempts to make sense of herself within the larger family history. Yet, for all of the similarities Jen discovered between herself and Glory, there is at least one difference: Glory ran away from family, while Jen’s running brought the both of them back.
--Jennifer Lynne Roberts, playwright and writer, author of Beekeeper and Book of Taos
Dr. Randall Radic