Q&A with Erin K

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{Movers & Shakers Series part of my weekly e-newsletter, which you can subscribe to here.}

I can’t speak for everyone, but I know that 2017 really kicked my rear into gear about getting more involved with my civic engagement. But how! And where? I’m an introvert! I thrive behind a computer screen or require a counters-width of space between me and the next person.

In comes Erin Kappeler, a Missouri State University professor AND community do-er. Erin runs a weekly “Call Your Rep” chain, where she will email you about a current bill, event, or topic that is occurring, and then give you a script and phone numbers to make the call yourself. She does all the work! For free! And is asking nothing in return (except, you know, maybe take charge of your community, and don’t sit by to watch others do it for you).

I couldn’t wait to feature Erin and all she does for SGF!

Without further ado…

Name: Erin Kappeler

 Current City:  SGF! I just transplanted myself here in August from Boston. I grew up in Iowa, though — my family is thrilled that I’m back in the Midwest.
What did you want to be when you grew up? I had a multi-career life plan all mapped out at age 7: pop star in my twenties, best-selling mystery author and Egyptologist in my thirties, president by my forties. That trajectory still makes perfect sense to me.
What are you now? A professor of American literature at Missouri State University and part-time political agitator with Springfield Indivisible and Planned Parenthood.
How did you get to this point? A series of accidents and some deliberate planning. I worked in publishing for a minute after graduating from college and quickly realized that I missed the intense intellectual engagement that came from being in an academic setting. I only got into one PhD program (Tufts University — major and fortuitous accident), which set me down the path to professorhood. Grad school pushed me to think about identity much more deeply and much more critically than I had before, and today in my teaching and in my activist work I’m committed to working against oppressive ideas and structures (racism, heteronormativity, rigid ideas of gender and sexuality).
Do you get paid to do what you love? Yes and no. I love being a professor with all of my heart — teaching is such a profoundly rewarding and difficult and joyous experience. I wish I was actually getting paid for the anti-Trump resistance work I’m doing (I’m on the steering committee of Springfield Indivisible, I volunteer often with Planned Parenthood, and I run a weekly newsletter that connects people with scripts for phoning their elected officials), but alas, paid protestors are fake news.
Current Projects: Call Your Rep Friend (call script newsletter), personal blog (erinkappeler.com), Springfield Indivisible. Oh, and that whole academic research thing (I’m in the process of turning my dissertation into a book).
What are you reading/listening to/watching/making? 
Reading: Craig Santos Perez, Tommy Pico, Layli Long Soldier. I’m teaching a new course in the fall on contemporary indigenous poets so I’m in the process of putting together that syllabus. These three will definitely be on it — their work is gorgeous.
Listening to: Kendrick Lamar’s Damn and a lot of Tove Lo
Watching: The Americans (oh my goodness I love this show!)
Making: an academic book about the rise of free verse poetry in America in the 1910s and 1920s; summer travel plans; ice cream sundaes
How do you express yourself creatively? Journaling, blogging, writing songs, karaoke or car singing
Have you ever written a fan letter? If so, to whom? Sort of — I wrote a fan email to Julie Klausner once to ask her to wish a friend happy birthday on her podcast. I did tell her how much I love her, though, so I think it counts as a fan letter.
Drink of choice? 
8AM-noon: coffee
noon-5PM: seltzer (preferably coconut LaCroix)
after 5PM: bourbon
Who inspires you and why? People who have lived unconventional lives and who have made beautiful art. I always go back to James Baldwin, Neko Case, and Maggie Nelson when I need inspiration. Pamela Merritt, who founded Reproaction (a reproductive rights org) is so smart and such a badass. My students at MSU — they are so hungry for knowledge and so ready to make a difference in the world.
Favorite tool to stay productive (for example, a set of watercolors, a specific planner or app, an exercise program…) : My physical planner/calendar from Target. For some reason I just can’t plan well with calendar apps. Also running — I write a lot of essays in my head while I’m running.
Something you have learned this year? People are as horrible and as wonderful as you think they are.
How can people find you? Online you can find me at erinkappeler.com, callyourrepfriend.com, on Twitter (@erinkappeler), and on Instagram (@professor_life_mo). In real life I’m probably at The Coffee Ethic.
What can people do to make the world a better place? Commit to something. If you’re white, commit to actively working against white supremacism. If you’re a man, commit to actively working against misogyny. If you’re straight, commit to actively working against heteronormativity and heterosexism.
Brag about yourself. It’s okay. If you don’t, I will. I’m pretty proud of the work I’ve done this year. I moved to Springfield by myself knowing no one, and I’ve found a really wonderful community of people here. I think I’ve done a good job in my teaching, for the most part, and I’ve helped to organize or taken part in a few political actions here and in Jefferson City that were really powerful.
{top image via Erin, taken at the Women’s March in January 2017}
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