‘Until finally something clicks’: WKU alumna presents book at Visiting Writers Series

Damon Stone, News reporter

Erin Slaughter, a graduate of the creative writing MFA program at WKU, came to Cherry Hall on Thursday, April 13 at 7 p.m. to share a short story from her book, “A Manual for How to Love Us.” 

Several of Slaughter’s stories originated as stories in classroom workshops, some of which she has since revised and published in several different journals, before being compiled into her books. 

Her personal inspiration comes from writers such as Carmen Maria Machado, Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah, Daisy Johnson, Catherine Lacey and many more. 

“I would say that almost everything I read helps inspire or push something forward, usually, and helps unlock something in my writing,” Slaughter said. 

“A Manual For How to Love Us” uses a feminist lens, as every main character in the book is a woman and it delivers commentary on gendered violence and the experience of being a woman. 

“I think in this book in particular, something that I’m exploring is that women are, first of all, not allowed to speak out when something hurts them, or when they’re experiencing something uncomfortable,” Slaughter said. “[…] But they’re also not usually allowed to express anger, so I think that’s something that my characters could do that I’m not maybe great at doing, as a woman. And I also think that relationships between women and men and the dynamics of that is something that’s definitely being explored here.”

Throughout her time as a writer, Slaughter has taken inspiration from various locations that she has lived in, including Bowling Green and the experiences she had when living in the city. Slaughter also took inspiration from her experiences, managing to turn them into a story. 

Slaughter initially started college as a neuroscience major, but she felt that she wanted something else with her life. She decided to change her major upon reading a quote from a poem by Richard Siken and reading through his book, “Crush,” and spending time afterwards writing poetry. 

“I just decided then that I wanted to do writing, and that I was really going to make that hard choice,” Slaughter said. “I really credit that book for inspiring me to be a writer, and inspiring a lot of my voice that’s still in my writing now. If there was a sort of singular, ‘a-ha,’ moment, it was that one.” 

One major factor that helped contribute to her continued passion of writing was the sense of community amongst peers. From this community, Slaughter said she was able to get a great deal of feedback on her work, and in addition, be inspired by other writers’ works. 

“The benefit of WKU for me was that this was a very supportive and friendly environment to explore, and experiment, and try weird stuff, and everyone was on board for the weirdness,” Slaughter said. “[…] That really opened up what was possible for me as a writer, and what I believed writing could be. Later on, when I was in other programs, or around other writers who believed that you have to stay very firmly in one genre and one way, I had a strong enough sense of self to say, ‘no, I don’t believe that.’” 

More recently, Slaughter received her doctorate in Florida, while taking inspiration from the state with her writing and growing her career as a writer – and as a person. This inspiration helped lead to the publishing of her book.

“I feel extremely lucky to have had this book come out with a major publisher,” Slaughter said. “It’s not something I ever expected to happen to me. It’s a dream that is something that I would lottery wish for.”

Slaughter also stated that she faced some resistance to her style of writing, and lost some “wide-eyed innocence,” on writing, with the book being able to play a large role in allowing her to bounce back. 

“For a lot of people, there’s a couple of different fears that come up when you know you want to pursue a life in writing, and I think a part of it is not knowing what that’s going to look like,” Slaughter said. “[…] Any kind of success in writing is not necessarily about genius talent, it’s 90% persistence, and submitting constantly, and writing constantly, and hustling constantly, and really feeling confident enough in your writing to put it out in the world for a very long time, through much rejection, much heartache, without ever looking back, until finally something clicks.”

Reporter Damon Stone can be reached at [email protected].