Alumni Showcase: Ross Wilcox ('10)
In 2020, Morningside graduate, Ross Wilcox (‘10), published his collection of fictional short stories titled Golden Gate Jumper Survivors Society through 7.13 Books.
The stories cover many different themes, as they follow many different people. Yet, Wilcox says that one of the unifying themes is the idea that humanity pursues truth while consistently failing to achieve it. He explains in one story, titled “Year of Our Lawn,” the townspeople use taxidermied animals to represent elaborate scenes, becoming obsessed with this as they are convinced it's revealing some sort of truth about them. As they believe the scenes more, the more truth they uncover.
“Without spoiling the story, suffice to say that truth ultimately eludes them,” Wilcox says. “ I'm not sure whether we make truth ourselves or we discover truth that is already there, but I do know that in our attempt to harness truth, we learn a lot about ourselves. To me, this makes it worth the effort.”
Publishing the book was “nontraditional,” as Wilcox puts it. He first tried to go through literary agents and large publishers, but found that short story collections don’t sell the way novels do, as “people want a feature-length experience.”
“So, like many writers with a short story collection in hand, I had to turn to independent presses. I submitted to a few of them, and 7.13 Books showed interest. It didn't take long for the Editor & Founder, Leland Cheuk, to offer me a publishing contract,” Wilcox said. “I will always be grateful to him for being the first to take a chance on my work. I just hope there will be more editors who will follow his lead!”
Wilcox’s book not only received the #1 spot in July and August of 2020 on Small Press Distribution, but he has also been approached by a television writer and director about purchasing the rights to the title story. Wilcox has helped them adapt his story elements into a sitcom format series.
“While I am not betting the farm that I will get to work in TV, I am pleased that someone saw enough potential in my work to champion an adaptation of it,” Wilcox said.
His passion for writing isn’t something new. In fact, he pursued English as an undergrad at Morningside. Some of his fondest memories spent here are attributed to the humanities department and events such as poetry slams, Friday is Writing Day, and student readings.
“I also have fond memories of working on the Kiosk Magazine,” Wilcox said. “Reading and evaluating submissions and working with others to develop a coherent literary magazine was a very valuable experience. It helped me tremendously when I attended the University of North Texas and worked on the American Literary Review, UNT's literary journal.”
After graduating from Morningside with a Bachelor’s in English, Wilcox went on to obtain a Masters in English from the University of South Dakota and a PhD in English at the University of North Texas. He currently teaches composition and literature at the University of North Texas in Fort Worth, TX, and very much enjoys doing so.
“I knew that teaching English would be a viable occupation that would keep me plugged into the literary world,” Wilcox said. “And teaching English offers the added bonus of getting paid to talk about and study what I love.”
For those pursuing graduate school, or plan on doing so, Wilcox gives some insight into the importance of being 100% into the area you are mastering.
“If you are going to pursue a graduate degree, be prepared to be poor and watch your friends advance in life while you perpetually stay in limbo. At the end of the night, everyone else will go back to their starter homes and eat leftover lasagna, while you will return to your studio apartment and eat Spaghettios straight out of the can,” Wilcox said. “I am being facetious, but only slightly. If you pursue graduate school in the humanities, you better love the subject you're studying.”
For those interested in purchasing Wilcox’s book, you can find it at https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B08DL4JD1F/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_hsch_vapi_tkin_p1_i0.