We had the good fortune of connecting with Tyler Truman Julian and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Tyler Truman, how do you think about risk?
As a writer, I frequently work with the question of risk in mind. In fact, in my poetry collection, Wyoming: The Next Question to Ask (to Answer), risk becomes a central theme of the second half of the book. The speaker of the poems is wrestling with the risk of leaving home and what that’ll mean for him as an individual so rooted to his home. At one point, the speaker announces, “We risk differently / out here.” What does it mean to take a risk in a place like Wyoming where some winter days it’s risky just to get on the road and drive to work? This is a question I wrestled with before moving from Wyoming to New Mexico to further my education. That was a risk I had never encountered before. As someone who is trying to make a living through writing, I believe I have to take risks in order to put myself into the best possible position for success. I am not risk averse, but I also try to take “smart” risks. For example, going to New Mexico State University to receive my Master of Fine Arts Degree paid off because it furthered my goal of writing professionally and opened the door to job opportunities that are conducive to producing writing (i.e. teaching, freelance editing, and community communication work, all of which I am currently doing). Now, because I have this degree, I would not risk my livelihood by quitting my “day job” to write full-time (at least right now), that wouldn’t be a smart risk for me because I have other goals in life beyond writing, like raising a family and buying a house. As a result, I’d say a person who wants to pursue a career a little off the beaten path or who is working on getting into their “dream” job shouldn’t be scared to take a risk, but they should be patient enough to wait for the risk that has the most potential to pay off and move them closer to their goals.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
My writing is very place focused. I’m obsessed with the landscapes we call home, what they do to use as people. I’m interested in exploring what it means to live in the modern West and how our Western legacy impacts the individuals living out here. This is the crux of my semi-autobiographical poetry collection, Wyoming: The Next Question to Ask (to Answer), which was published in 2019 by Finishing Line Press. I am still very proud of that collection and the poems that make up that story, but I’m excited about the new projects I’m working on: a novel and another collection of poems. I think that’s the thing about writing, it’s something I have to do in order to make sense of the world around me, so I always have a new project on the horizon. I love that. It’s not easy. It’s challenging, draining work to make sense of the problems you see around you, at least enough to interrogate them creatively and share them in an understandable way with others. That’s the burden and privilege of writers: to connect people, to be a communicator. I take that seriously. I want to build connection.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
If my best friend were to come to my hometown, Sheridan, Wyoming, I would take them to the Mint Bar and the Brinton Western Art Museum, before driving up Red Grade Road to hike in the Bighorns. In terms of Texas, I am a sucker for history and tourist traps. I love anything with a story, real or completely made up. For example, I’ve been to San Antonio three or four times now, and I’ve also been to the Alamo three or four times! I love the Riverwalk. I love the little bars and restaurants along it. I love the Pearl Brewery. I love the Tower of the Americas. In the Dallas-Fort Worth area, I’d be dragging my friend to the Stockyards and Pioneer Plaza, maybe the Frontier of Flight Museum and the Giant Eyeball.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I can remember the exact moment I was reminded I wanted to be a writer. I say reminded because, by the time I was in college, I had forgotten my childhood dream of becoming a writer. I had pursued different goals and interests that were and still are important to me, but I had forgotten where my passion lay. My mother realized I wasn’t totally happy on the academic and professional path I was on and asked why I wasn’t writing. She then put me in touch with some writers who had local roots but who had also made careers out of their writing by not only publishing work, but also editing, teaching, and conducting writing workshops. Sarah Suzor was instrumental in helping me start on the path I’m on now. Without her, there would be no Wyoming: The Next Question to Ask (to Answer), and I likely would not have gone on to get my MFA. Writers Brandon Hobson and Craig Holden were the mentors behind my newest project, a novel I’ve finished and am actively revising. I’d also be remiss if I did not mention several of my classmates (Brooke Sahni, Tim Loperfido, Katy Ross, and so many others) and my ever-supportive wife, Breanna.
Kelli Campbell, Patrick Stockwell, Breanna Julian