Gabriel Tallent ’10
Why did you come to Willamette—and why did you major in English?
The lure of the small northwestern liberal arts university brought me to Willamette (from the San Francisco Bay area). Also, my experience with the students here, who, for whatever reason, were kinder, more engaging, and less affected than other schools I visited.
Tell me about your independent research. Did you collaborate with faculty?
I had many opportunities to collaborate with faculty. I worked with one professor to edit James Thomson’s The Seasons, a long eighteenth-century poem, for example. Other professors were invaluable when it came to my thesis on the eighteenth-century novel and creative writing in general; if writing isn’t independent research, I’m not sure what is!
What were your overseas experiences like?
I never studied overseas. I did, however, spend a lot of time at the library, which was across the Mill Stream from my apartment and contained all the mystery of a foreign shore! During summers, however, I traveled. I backpacked across Scotland, sleeping on the moor in a wool blanket. I also backpacked the John Muir Trail from Yosemite to Mount Whitney with eight pounds of gear. These were very different experiences, but my studies at Willamette informed both of them. Thomson's The Seasons and other eighteenth century poems were very much on my mind in Scotland. I carried a copy of Foucault's interviews up the tallest peak in the continental U.S. because it was the most reading for the fewest words.
You worked in the Writing Center and were a Writing Associate for College Colloquium. How did those activities shape your English Department experience?
The Writing Center gave me access to a degree of faculty feedback I would not otherwise have had. As a first-year student, going into the Writing Center and working with professors and advanced students provided the foundation on which I shaped my academic writing style. Every student should try and defend their first-year writing to a strange and underwhelmed professor they have never met before. When I began to work at the writing center, my perspective shifted. Having to identify and articulate problems in a text made me look at writing in a new way. Before, writing had been the relatively simple medium of thought. After, the nuts and bolts, the ugly mechanics of the thing, became apparent in a way it had never been.
What campus activities did you participate in?
I participated in Ultimate Frisbee and the Outdoor Program. Mostly, I spent a lot of time in the library with large, leaning piles of books, in coffeehouses, and with friends. There were always one-time events like lectures and readings to attend. Once, I even had dinner with novelist John Irving when he visited campus as part of the Atkinson Lecture Series.
What are you doing now?
For two seasons following graduation, I led groups of at-risk high school students into the mountains of Washington to do trail-crew work. Now I’m living in Salt Lake City, where I work at a local restaurant, The Copper Onion. The rest of my time is spent reading, climbing, and writing—especially working on my novel. I have had my story "At Risk" published in Narrative Magazine, and I also attended the Tin House Writer's Workshop on scholarship.