The Knox Student (TKS): Where are you from?
Katya Reno (KR): I’m from Denver, Colorado.
TKS: Where did you go to school?
KR: I got my BA at Knox, and I studied English writing and studio art, and then I went on to get my MFA at Texas State University.
TKS: Why did you choose your major?
KR: Well, at first I wanted to be a lawyer, but then I think it was my advisor, Lance Factor, who encouraged me just to try something fun. Just expand my horizon. That’s definitely how I started getting involved in studio art. I’d never taken an art class and never thought of myself as being an artist, so that was a good thing. It’s also how I got into creative writing. I was also encouraged along that path by Robin Metz. I had submitted a story to Catch when I was a freshman, and I had yet to take any English classes, and it got into the magazine, and Robin found me and said, “Hey, this is a good story, you need to be taking classes!” So he was also a really good mentor. That’s the great thing about Knox. You can explore a lot of different things.
TKS: What brought you back to Knox?
KR: Between my BA and grad school I did work in book publishing. And then after grad school I was also in book publishing and did some teaching, but for a while I’ve been feeling like I wanted to do more teaching. So, this visiting position opened up and it was just a no-brainer, I was just so thrilled to be given an opportunity to come back to my Alma Mater to teach what I love.
TKS: Who inspires you?
KR: When I was here, Robin Metz and Tony Gammit were huge influences to me as real-people mentors. They still are. I met some great people in graduate school, and I had some really fabulous learning experiences with Tim O’Brian and Barry Hannah, so I would say those four have been my biggest mentors. In terms of who I’m influenced by in my work, in terms of right now, my writing, that’s tougher because it changes, but I would say Marguertie Duras is a huge influence for me, George Eliot, Milton. I’m writing a long poem right now, so I’m kind of into the long poems, Milton and Ginsberg’s “Howl.” But it’s kind of kaleidoscopic when it comes to influences.
TKS: If you could visit any country, where would you go?
KR: I would go to Iceland. I like that kind of landscape. It’s kind of stark and rustic, you know? Just big, open spaces. It just seems spectacular, just a lot of empty space. And there is also some amazing music that comes out of Iceland.