The Book Doctors
Jean-Paul and Simone. Anaïs and Henry. Mary and Percy Bysshe. History has given us no shortage of literary power couples, and continuing in this grand tradition are Department of English Professors Ian Stansel and Sarah Strickley, who manage to balance writing, teaching, and raising two young daughters.
The two met as graduate students at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop on the large Victorian porch of The Dey House, a framed photograph of which now graces a wall in their home. The fact that this meeting sounds straight out of a novel seems perfect for the two “book doctors” – their daughters’ favorite way to introduce them to their friends – who now return to Iowa every few years to teach writing workshops.
Stansel and Strickley joined the English department in 2015. Though Stansel had never been to Louisville before, Strickley spent her first five years in the city and has “very vivid memories of rooting vigorously for the Cardinals with a tiny pair of red and black pompoms.” The pair were quickly charmed by both the University and the city. “With the colleagues we have in the English department and the larger College of Arts & Sciences,” says Stansel, “it really feels like winning the lottery.”
The two have very different writing processes – Strickley has recently adopted “very rigorous storytelling structures” and sticks to scheduled writing time at a desk, while Stansel’s new project is coming together “more fluidly and instinctually” as he works from the dining room table. “I always end up at the table,” he jokes. “Maybe it’s the close proximity to food.” Despite differing creative approaches, they agree that their schedules flow nicely around family life, a process made easier by their colleagues. “One of the great pleasures of working at UofL is that we’ve been welcomed into a community of scholars who are also parents,” says Strickley.
Ian Stansel is the author of The Last Cowboys of San Geronimo (2017) and Everybody’s Irish (2013), a PEN/Bingham Finalist for Debut Fiction. He recently completed a new story collection and several screenplays and is currently working on a new novel.
Sarah Strickley is the author of Fall Together (2018). Her short story “Dewey Dell: An American Ghost Story” was recently awarded the Copper Nickel Editor’s Prize for Prose. She serves as faculty editor of UofL’s award-winning online literary magazine - the Miracle Monocle.
To support the creative work and teaching of professors like Stansel and Strickley, go to uofl.me/give-English.