Lindsay Wilson's journey to the 2018 Nevada Writers Hall of Fame is like a winding road with many zigs and zags. Wilson is one of two Nevada poets receiving the Silver Pen award. The award was added to the Nevada Writers Hall of Fame program in 1996 to encourage excellence among emerging and mid-career writers. Since then 37 Silver Pens have been awarded to some of Nevada's most promising authors.
Wilson grew up in Bakersfield California, the son of two educators. His mother was a 5th grade teacher with an English degree. His father was photography professor at Bakersfield College. His parents separated when he was young.
"My childhood wasn't great," Wilson said. "I grew up in a tough neighborhood and my mom put in long hours with a two hour commute each day. My stepfather was very unkind and cruel. My father, however, was a steady and solid presence in my life. Education was something I liked and appreciated early on. I enjoyed language and tinkering with things."
Wilson turned to poetry after college, but recognized he could use writing as an outlet early on.
"Writing helped me sort through my life," Wilson said. "It helped me think about important events and taught me how to interpret and reinterpret things."
Wilson believes poetry is therapy. It can help individuals learn ways to redefine and reinterpret life events, good or bad.
"Most traumatic events can be interpreted as failure," Wilson said. "You can't change what happened to you, but you can work on reshaping the event, by writing about it, revising it. All therapy involves revision.
He added, "I like using poetry as the vehicle to revise some of the events of my life. I enjoy sharing my experiences with my students by letting them know they have an ally in me. I let them know they can overcome anything if they are willing to work at it."
BECOMING A WRITER
As a young boy Wilson thought he may have in interest in following in his father's footsteps and become a photographer. Wilson grew up in his father's dark room, and worked closely with journalists at his community college newspaper, but something was missing for him.
"I had worked as a photographer for the college newspaper, but in the end, I knew this wasn't the line of work I wanted to pursue," Wilson said. "At the time, I was not a confident writer. I struggled with dyslexia and grammar and had several difficult interactions with my teachers."
Wilson discovered a book his mother had purchased by one of the Fresno Poets and something sparked in him.
"I borrowed a book by Poet Gary Soto that my mom bought at one of his readings and was immediately hooked," he said. "I grew up in Bakersfield and could relate to Soto's work."
After his interest in poetry was sparked Wilson began to focus more seriously on his writing. He graduated from the University of Wyoming with a Bachelor of Social Science degree in 1997, and a Master of Arts degree in English in 2003. He then earned a Master of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing from the University of Idaho in 2006.
In 1997 Wilson began writing seriously. His work was being published, he began editing journals and took a job with AmeriCorps working with migrant children who were reading at a 4th grade level in Washington's apple country. During his time with AmeriCorps Wilson taught Soto's work.
"I knew I could positively impact the lives of the kids I worked with using Gary Soto's work," he said. "Soto wrote about the stories of poor children of color. This exposure to Soto's work was the very first time these kids had ever read stories about people like themselves. It was a very powerful and meaningful experience for both me and those amazing kids."
FROM APPLE COUNTRY TO THE TRUCKEE MEADOWS
Wilson arrived in Reno in August 2006 after accepting a tenure track professor of English position at Truckee Meadows Community College. Wilson used his own life experiences and dealings with instructors and teachers to shape his own teaching style.
"Some of my students come to TMCC with many challenges," he said. "I share my own childhood and young adult experiences with them to help develop a meaningful connection and sense of trust between us.
"I know how difficult life can be. I want each of my students to know that I care deeply about them and their educational goals," he said.
Wilson described his students as great writers with harsh stories. Wilson helps his students work through life issues and challenges in their writing to help them overcome their own painful pasts just like he did.
In his work at TMCC Wilson has served as the editor of TMCC's literary journal, The Meadow, since 2006. In 2016 he won the Board of Regent Nevada System of Higher Education Regents' Creative Activities Award. He has been named a finalist for the Phillip Levine Prize, he has published five chapbooks, and his first collection, No Elegies, won the Quercus Review Press Spring Book Award. His poetry has appeared in numerous journals including The Bellevue Literary Review, Pank, The Portland Review, Verse Daily, and The Missouri Review Online.
He is currently working on publishing another chapbook and poetry book. The content included in these new works is very "Nevada," Wilson said.
OUTLETS FOR CREATIVITY
To further hone his creativity Wilson enjoys gardening and preparing elaborate meals.
"I love food and cooking," Wilson said. "My mom wasn't the best cook, but my dad was a great health-minded cook. He chose and used fresh, whole ingredients. Because of my mom's time-consuming commute to and from work I taught myself how to cook at a young age."
Wilson said his mom would leave him notes with what ingredients were available to him to prepare his dinner. He would get home from school, see the notes and prepare his own meals.
After earning his undergraduate degree Wilson took a job as a maid at a run-down hotel along I-80. His girlfriend at the time had a best friend who waitressed at a restaurant called "The Library." Having a connection to a potential new job, Wilson decided to apply for a job in the kitchen at The Library.
"I may have exaggerated my experience a little bit when I applied to work at The Library, but I knew I was a quick study," Wilson said. "I worked with a lady with a culinary degree and she helped me refine my skills in the kitchen. She taught me so much! Since working for her I've cooked under five extraordinary chefs."
Wilson described The Library's decor as "full of old books."
"I saw a volume of Mark Doty's work, on a shelf at the restaurant and asked my boss if I could borrow it. He let me keep the book and once again, my interest was piqued and my passions were combined!"
Wilson has written poems based on inspiration that flows from his kitchen. He's written a poem called "Preserving" and it explores the idea of canning food.
"There's something so satisfying about growing and cooking your own healthy food," he said. "Cooking, like poetry, engages the senses. It's sensual and exciting. I also really like the community aspect of cooking."
ON THE PROCESS OF WRITING
Wilson describes his poetry as visual and concrete. He recognizes that self-doubt and criticism is part of the process of writing. He says he accepts this and embraces it. The critic in his head is present and loud.
"I like sitting down and writing, but I have learned that all things I write will not work," he said. "The creative process is a very critical process. You have to enjoy the process to become a good writer."
His passion for writing, English and poetry afforded him the opportunity to serve on the Nevada Writers Hall of Fame selection committee from 2009 - 2017. He is also Reno's current Poet Laureate. He uses this position to give others a voice and a stage. He has taught workshops at the Holland Project, has been heavily involved in the local Literary Crawl, hosted a variety of community readings and events and believes strongly in outreach efforts to encourage others in the community to write.
"I am honored to be receiving the Silver Pen award," Wilson said. "To be a part of something so uniquely Nevada is an amazing thing! To be publicly recognized is a gift I will always cherish deeply."
Spend an evening with Lindsay Wilson in advance of the Nevada Writers Hall of Fame event
"Voices of the West: An Evening of Poetry with Reno Poet Laureates Gailmarie Pahmeier and Lindsay Wilson"
Join University Libraries for a special evening with Lindsay Wilson as he and fellow poet Gailmarie Pahmeier share their poetry and perspectives. Come explore what it means to be a voice of the west.
WHEN: Saturday, Oct. 20
TIME: 6:30 p.m. - 8 p.m.
WHERE: Leonard Reading Room, Room 422, Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center, University of Nevada, Reno
COST: Event is free but RSVP's are requested
For questions, or to attend this free event, please RSVP to Robin Monteith at email@example.com or 775-682-5656.
ABOUT THE NEVADA WRITERS HALL OF FAME
University Libraries presents the 31st Annual Nevada Writers Hall of Fame Tuesday, Nov. 13, at 7 p.m. in the Milt Glick Ballroom, 4th floor, at the Joe Crowley Student Union on the University of Nevada, Reno campus. The event's general reception will begin at 6:30 p.m. with the formal program beginning at 7 p.m.
The Nevada Writers Hall of Fame was conceived by former Friends of the University Libraries President Marilyn Melton in 1988. She envisioned two purposes: an annual event honoring Nevada's finest writers, and a stimulus to encourage excellence among emerging writers in the Silver State. Honorees are selected based on their body of work, critical recognition, and a strong connection to Nevada through the themes of their writing or residence in the state.