Creative Writing professor’s daughters inspire her first published book

By: Nathan Ress

Features Contributor

  Professor Janet McNally has always considered herself a storyteller. Since her childhood she has pursued this dream, writing and reading as much as possible, honing her craft and preparing for the day she would have an audience. Now, that day has come and she enjoys the status of not only published, but also awarded author with her latest book of poems Some Girls.

    McNally got her start within the halls of Canisius College, adding creative writing as a minor the first year the program was offered. After graduating, she continued to study writing, earning an MFA in fiction from Notre Dame. Her primary goal was to write fiction, however with the birth of her first daughter, her focus began to shift.

    “I didn’t have the attention span to write fiction so I went back to poetry, and that’s [the period of time] where a lot of these poems came from,” McNally said.

    Some Girls was written with not only all three of her own daughters, but all girls specifically in mind. It is a book of poems written from the perspective of a woman similar to McNally, a new mother. The book centers on the idea of children’s myths and fairy tales. With this base, however, McNally has tried to expand these fairy tales into something less limiting for young girls. In many respects she has adapted the fairy tale to the modern world, in her own words “retelling and re-imagining them.”

    Some Girls was selected in its manuscript form to be published by The White Pine Press independent publishing group. It is the winner of the 20th annual White Pine Press Poetry Prize, as chosen by the poet Ellen Bass, who helped McNally make many edits and additions to the book throughout the process. Bass herself has remarked that within Some Girls, “The past and the present, the personal and the universal, are braided with surprising and lush language.”

    On Monday, September 21st McNally will be reading selected poems from her book at the Grupp Fireside Lounge at 7p.m. The reading is free and open to the public, and will also feature books available for purchase and signing. McNally will not only read her work, but also give explanations and histories behind each of her poems, offering her listeners personal background as well as context. The reading offers both students and faculty a chance to hear McNally’s work and experience it for themselves. This experience promises to be heightened by the fact that McNally is reading the work, adding her own vocal inflections and rhythms.

    McNally will also be discussing her work as well as the larger topic of girls in fairy tales at the upcoming Buffalo Humanities Festival, “Gender Bender.” This event will take place September 23rd-26th in the Burchfield Penney Arts Center and Ketchum Hall on the campus of SUNY Buffalo State. Registration begins on the 23rd at 10:00a.m. in the Birchfield Penny lobby and McNally will be presenting at 11:00 a.m. in Ketchum room 111.

    Looking further into the future, McNally will be publishing a young adult novel, Girls in the Moon scheduled to be released in the fall by HarperCollins. She plans to write a second young adult novel and continue writing adult fiction as well. She enjoys her role as a multi-disciplinary writer, often switching between poetry and fiction as she develops new ideas.

    For aspiring writers, McNally says, “Read everything. Read widely. Read all the time.” With this in mind, plan to attend her upcoming reading, grab a copy of Some Girls, and dive into McNally’s reimagined fairy tale world.

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