Jane Cox

  • Jane Cox, Academic TransferJaneCox_web

    Jane has been a valued contributor to Illuminations as both writer/poet and as a member of our Editorial Team. When asked about her motivation for writing, her answers were unsparing and wise.

    Illuminations:  In your Volume 13 biography, you wrote, "My wild days are behind me, but I am hoping that my writing days are just beginning." How have you been able to use your past experiences -- some of them traumatic -- to enhance your writing?

    Jane:  I think that the experiences I've had have been instrumental in allowing me to see situations from a broad range of perspectives, which has helped my ability to write from different points of view. Definitely the people I have known--whether in positive or more trying circumstances--have made me see that there are grey areas in everything, and that nothing is purely black or white, good or bad. I use my writing as an outlet to heal from some of the traumas I've encountered; as someone diagnosed with PTSD, it is really important for me to be able to get those confusing emotions out of me and onto paper. So while my writing helps me to heal, my honesty and unwillingness to hide the less pleasant aspects of life also strengthen my writing.

    I:  You mentioned in your Volume 14 biography that you planned to transfer to UNL for a degree in English. How are those plans going, and why have you chosen this major?

    J:  Those plans have been put on hold. I am focusing all of my energy on family, writing, and finding/keeping inner peace. I may go back to school when my children are both school-aged but haven't decided for sure.

    I:  You're obsessed with 19th century Russian literature. Who are some of your favorite writers from this period, why do they appeal to you, and how have they influenced your writing and your life philosophies? What other writers/poets do you enjoy reading?

    J:  I have loved everything I've ever read by both Tolstoy and Dostoevsky. They both have the amazing ability to capture the human experience in a way that is so vivid. When I read their work, I find myself just saying, "Yes." Neither are afraid to show the darkest, most tragic parts of life in a way that makes them beautiful. Neither are afraid of grey areas. I don't know that they've influenced my own writing style much because my style is very much my own. But they have inspired me not to shy away from emotion and ugliness. I also really love a Russian novel called "Novel with Cocaine," by M. Ageyev. It is the author's only known book, and it has been rumored to possibly have been written by Vladimir Nabokov under a pseudonym. Outside of Russian literature, I tend to enjoy reading journals and books of letters. Sylvia Plath, Anais Nin, Hunter S. Thompson, Robert Heinlein, Charles Bukowski, and the authors of the Beat Generation are some of my favorite writers. 

    I:  You write both poetry and prose. Which do you prefer and why?

    J:  I prefer prose because it's easier to organize my thoughts that way. The poems I've written have come to me so suddenly, and so rarely, that they cease to make a lot of sense to me. I get something different out of them every time I read them, which is kind of neat. But I am way more comfortable as a writer of prose.  

    I:  Your writing is very personal and vulnerable. Why is that, and how did you gain the courage to be so open to the reader?

    J:  Once upon a time, close to a decade ago, I was a pretty dedicated blogger. I shared everything, even the most intimate details of my personal life, in a way that made a lot of people uncomfortable. I wrote as myself, but also had an alter-ego that I used to write about the darker parts of my life. My blogs were all encompassing for me at the time. A friend of mine, Audacia Ray, who was my editor at $pread Magazine, knew me initially as a blogger, and she interviewed me for a section about my blogs in her own book Naked on the Internet: Hookups, Downloads, and Cashing in on Internet Sexploration. After her book was released and I read my copy, I realized how narcissistic and bratty I was, and tried to tone down what I wrote about, or hide certain aspects of my life. But it didn't work - all that happened was that I stopped writing completely. It took years for me to open up again, and while I've grown as a person since then, I still only feel comfortable writing about the gritty, real, uncomfortable parts of life. 

    I:  How would you describe your writing style?

    J:  Candid and introspective, yet still matter of fact with a bit of dry wit.

    I:  You've been involved with Illuminations as both a contributor and an Editorial Team member. Why do you think having a publication like Illuminations matters to community colleges?

    J:  I feel that community colleges are so often associated with learning a trade, that people forget that they are an affordable way to get an education in the arts as well. Having a publication such as Illuminations gives community college students a chance to express themselves, to showcase their talents, and discover the talents of their peers. Serving on the Editorial Team was an uplifting experience for me, as was being chosen as a contributor. Both gave me confidence not just as a writer, but as a woman who now knows her opinion and judgment is valued. I hope that prospective students will see that community colleges offer more than highly specific job training.

    I:  You have kids; what do you think parents can do to encourage a love of reading and writing in their children?

    J:  Make books available. Take regular trips to the library. Read daily. Encourage children to ask questions. My parents did all of this for me, and I do with my children as well. One of our favorite things to do is visit a Little Free Library a few blocks away. Books are a huge part of my family's daily life, and my daughter, at age four, is already reading on her own.

    I:  Do you enjoy any other artistic pursuits? Tell us about them.

    J: Aside from writing, I am not very artistic. A lot of my family members have musical talent. My husband is a rapper and artist. I love enjoying all forms of art produced by other people. But as for me, writing is what I stick with.

    I:  What advice would you give a beginning writer or poet?

    J: Stick with it. Write daily. And if you miss a few days, start over again. Observe the world; inspiration can be found anywhere. Own your experiences - they are yours to share, no matter what other people may think of them.

    From "Learning without Teachers,"
    by Jane Cox:

    "As far back as I can remember, my mother never asked questions about me or my life, even on a day-to-day basis, so it wasn't much of a surprise that she didn't seem affected when I began to act differently. She showed lack of concern when I was caught shoplifting and when she discovered I was smoking nearly a pack of cigarettes every day. She didn't seem to notice that the bottle of cheap vodka she kept on top of the refrigerator would get lower even when she hadn't consumed any, which she rarely did. When the bottle was empty, she would replace it, and I would drink it. It was almost like an unspoken agreement. She would enable my behavior, and we wouldn't verbally acknowledge this fact. When I dyed my hair from blonde to dark auburn and started wearing a fake nose ring, she raved about how beautiful I looked. All of these actions preceded my truancy from school, and a better parent may have seen them as warning signs indicating a deeper problem. Looking back, I feel like it must have been obvious that I was experiencing the onset of depression that required intervention, but my mother was either oblivious or in denial."