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Saying Deuces: Graduating in 2020 and Beyond, Intern Hope Houtwed

Updated: Jun 30, 2020

Tell us a little bit about your graduating class and yourself. What are your hopes for the future?

Well, we all said “deuces” and went on what we thought would be our last and greatest spring break, only to find that we wouldn’t have another class ever again. It was exciting when the quarantine was only for two weeks, but when it turned into the rest of the semester, a depression set in. Maybe that was the online learning. It was pretty bad. Some instructors felt the need to quadruple the work and reformat everything. I’m glad now that it’s all done with, but I know my class would have given anything to walk at commencement. I myself had been imagining graduation since I was six years old. I wanted so badly to walk as a new graduate, in my blue gown, across Northern Arizona University’s stage. I didn’t get to say goodbye to anyone, and I don’t know how everything went for everyone else, but it makes me sad, knowing that that was something I’ll never get to experience. I know it’s more important that I’m safe and healthy, and so is my family, but I’d worked so hard to find my spot on that stage. My future now is my home here in Kansas City, but more importantly, my time at Flying Ketchup, and what I can do to improve my editing skills.

Oh, that sounds hard. What did you do to celebrate without a college graduation?

My older sister actually planned a little party for me. It was just for close family, but she put blue and gold streamers and pictures of me up everywhere. She had this whole arrangement on the dining table with candies and snacks in glass bowls and these beautifully delicious, sprinkle-tastic, glitter-ific, chocolate chip cookies she had baked. They were incredible. I had been out shopping that whole day, so I had no idea what she'd been up to. We all had a great time together that night, and that little ceremony really meant the world to me.

Well now you are here as a summer intern, and we are so happy. How did you decide that you wanted to be in the world of publishing?

I discovered I was interested in publishing during my time at college. Looking back on my hobbies as a child, I was very much a writer, which is something I still am. However, as I went through classes at NAU, I found myself wanting to help others with their own writing, too, especially when it came to conventions. To me, editing is all about the nitty-gritty: line-by-line, letter-by-letter. I love it. All of it is like an equation to me, so I am determined to be someone who makes sure that a piece of writing’s conventions hit the bulls-eye every time.

What is your favorite thing to read? Growing up? And now what are you reading?

I have always been a hopeless romantic. I don’t really know why, and I often wish I could find a way around it, but I can rarely get through an entire book if there’s not even a flicker of that saucy flame. I think it’s because love is such a motivating factor. You don’t really know what characters in love are capable of until they’re in the middle of all the sword-slashing and/or gun-slinging. All the while, you’re sitting there on the edge of your seat hoping with every crossed finger that everything will turn out okay for the two that would die for one another. My main genre is Dystopian Fiction, though. I’m fascinated by the future and what our actions now could lead to—what our society could become. I admire all the different types of sub-genres, too, because I think of them as blueprints for those kinds of situations. Is it likely there’ll be a zombie apocalypse? Absolutely not. We know that. If there was, however, a bone-chilling pandemic, we’d know to stock up on years’ worth of toilet paper! In all seriousness, there are certain aspects of our society now—technology for one—that can lead to pretty dark futures. I love reading about those kinds of twisted fates and how strong, compelling characters can break free of corruption.

What was your journey like traveling back from Flagstaff, Arizona through the pandemic—when everything was closed?

My boyfriend Chase and I decided to move back home to Nebraska to be with our families during quarantine since everything was so uncertain. However, we weren’t able to take everything with us, so we had to drive to Flagstaff and back to fetch our belongings before our lease endedwhich fell in the midst of the pandemic. My mom, Chase—who’s six-foot-five—and I packed extremely tiny bags and squished ourselves into a two-door, long box pickup truck with a console that flipped down as an additional—and uncomfortable—middle seat: mine. We spent thirty-two hours total in that truck breathing the same air, touching all our shoulders and legs together like a pack of sardines. There were very few open restrooms along the way, so we stopped along the side of the road. When we were hungry, we ate out of the two boxes of cookies my mom and I had made. When we needed gas, we strapped on masks, thick orange painting gloves, and walked around with as much dignity as we could muster. We laughed a lot, too: when the air was too tight in the cab and all the indignation of our situation had momentarily suffocated us; when we tried to stretch, only to hit our heads on the roof; and when we talked too much at once and stopped making any sense from the lack of sleep and deluge of stress. Arriving in Flagstaff brought no reprieve from this. We finally had our own toilet, but there was no time for relaxing. It was go, go, go. In a span of three days, we had successfully moved and cleaned out everything from our three-story house. We squished what we could into the bed of the truck, and sold the rest. Running off of only a couple hours of sleep, we all took deep breaths then got back on the interstate, heading home.

Wow. That was intense. When you aren't having an emergency move...What do you like to do for fun? What are you looking forward to about Kansas City, and why did you choose Kansas City of all the places to go?

I’m not a wild child by any means. Adrenaline for me is like that cousin you see once every five years at family reunions. I like spending my time cooking, or baking, and hanging out with friends, especially if we’re grabbing a tasty bite to eat. I read and write as much as I can, and I love TV shows and movies. Chase and I—both from small towns—had planned on working our way around Nebraska (after I graduated in Flagstaff), and then we dreamt about one day living in the marvelous and utterly magnificent Kansas City. We both have always loved it here because we came here as children for fun vacationslike during Christmas timeand Chase's family are huge Chiefs fans. During all the stressors of quarantine, Chase and I got to a point where we asked each other, “Why not Kansas City right now? Why wait?" So I applied for Flying Ketchup Press the day I graduated, and we began looking for open rentals. Now we’re here, and everything is perfect. Even our cat is happier.

You wrote a beautiful essay when you submitted your writing sample to us about your generation and why they still enjoy reading books like Dystopian Fiction, Fantasy, and other creative genres at this time. Tell us more about that. Why do you think that is?

Like I said in the essay, I believe that our generation—and the subsequent ones to come—are passionately fixated on our future. We know that Mother Earth’s clock is ticking, and it’s ticking fast. While that can often be subject to disregard, people my age generally grit their teeth, stare off into space for a minute, and then spend hours figuring out what big company is to blame and then take efforts to try and shut them down. We grew up reading about Katniss in The Hunger Games and Offred in The Handmaid’s Tale and Tris in Divergent (etc., etc.). The list goes on, and we read incessantly about how characters from all different backgrounds, of all different strengths, found the corruption in their societies, and how they brought them crumbling to the ground. It’s no wonder Generation Z has blossomed into revolutionary rebels. These authors crafted examples of strong, determined characters that influence readers to fight for a better, more balanced world. That’s why fiction—namely Dystopian Fiction can be so utterly powerful.

Tell us a little bit about why you love copy editing and how you first learned that you enjoyed and had a gift for grammar and things that are hard for a lot of people, including writers?

I have my mom to thank for my passion for the written word. Although she’s now retired, she was an English teacher, and she started teaching me words when I was six months old. I wrote my first book—"The Backwards Book"—when I was two and I read chapter books to my mom’s pupils before I began preschool. All throughout my education, I begged teachers for books to read during lunch and I prowled through libraries like a jaguar at night. I never stopped reading and I never stopped writing. One day—at some point in elementary school—my teacher asked a question and I noticed that all the other kids in my class had written the same answer on the board…all spelled wildly incorrect. The part that got to me was that the answers didn’t even carry the same errors. They were different. I was the only one who spelled the answer right, and I couldn’t believe it. It was so obvious to me because my mom taught me how to sound out words and how to spell them all based on those sounds: phonics. After I noticed in that instance, the errors kept piling up everywhere. It seemed like they were multiplying right in front of me. I would see them in notes, texts, emails—even things my teachers had written. Many people don’t think that grammar matters, as long as you get the point across. At a young age, I held on to the knowledge that we have grammar and conventions for a reason, so I began editing. I edited in my head, under my breath, and even on scraps of paper…just so I would know. At this point now, I see grammatical errors from miles away; they stick out to me like Rudolph’s nose in a Flagstaff blizzard. My second-to-last semester at NAU, in my editing and publishing capstone, we all went around the room and chose a peer to thank for things they did for us during the course of that class. It was nearing the end of class and my friend Katie raised her hand. “I want to thank Hope.” Me? I poked my head out just to make sure she had said my name. “She always helped me with my grammar and spelling, and she showed me new techniques that I started using. She definitely saved some of my writing. So, thank you, Hope.” That’s when I smiled deep inside and I thought, “What if I turned my editing into a career?”

Where did you grow up? Tell us a little bit about life in the heartland.

I was born and raised in good ol’ Grand Island, Nebraska. I liked that it was small and homey, but also big enough that you didn’t have to drive for hours to find a good bite to eat or go shopping. Growing up there was wonderful, and quite unique. As children in Central Nebraska, our parents would take us to Kool-Aid Days in the summers and sledding down Tornado Hill in the winters. The Nebraska State Fair moved to Grand Island in 2010, and going there during the tail-ends of summers was the best kind of sweltering heat treat. My dad always says that Grand Island has everything you could ever need. I agree with him now, but I grew tired of the plains during my teen years. We traveled a lot when I was young, so I knew I wanted to go out of state when it came time for college. Living in Arizona for four years was quite an experience, but the heart of the Midwest eventually called me back home. While I appreciate Grand Island, it’s great having moved to Kansas City to trade the flatlands for hills and overgrown vegetation. Oh, and the BBQ!

So you just moved to town, just graduated, and you’re starting out without much in a new place. Anything we can do for you? What can Kansas City do to help new grads at this time?

I think my favorite part about moving here to Kansas City is how much everyone is willing to help. Whether it’s people you know or even your new neighbors, those in this community will direct you to the right anything and everything. People never stop recommending Chicken N Pickle. We’ll go there, I promise! In truth, everyone is in a weird place right now. This year has not been kind to any of us, and we have no idea how to navigate this new world. There’s a lot that people my age need, but all I ask for this summer is guidance, sympathy, and a damn good air conditioner.

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