Alumna Spotlight! Kristy Woodson Harvey
Kristy Woodson Harvey is an alumna of ECU and a national bestselling author who focuses on southern fiction. After graduating from ECU with her MA in English and a concentration in multicultural and transnational literature, Kristy went on to produce many great works including “Slightly South of Simple” and “Dear Carolina”. Come and see her speak on March 22, 2018 at the Greenville Hilton!
Where are you from?
I’m originally from Salisbury, NC, but now I live in Beaufort, NC.
What brought you to ECU?
I was graduating from UNC’s school of journalism and had planned to continue with either a master’s in journalism or a law degree. But I was marrying my now husband, who was working in New Bern, and I decided to just take a peek at what ECU had to offer so we could stop our long-distance commute. I read an article about a new concentration in multicultural and transnational literature that was coming to the English master’s program, and I was so intrigued. I decided almost right away that I wanted to do that instead. It was a great choice.
What did you study while you were here, and how did your interest in this area begin?
I received a master’s in English with a concentration in multicultural and transnational literature. Even though I was a journalism major at UNC, I did a lot of English and creative writing, which I absolutely loved. I think reading is one of the best ways to learn about other people and cultures and to expand our horizons, and after years of writing, I wanted to do more of that.
What have you been up to since your graduation?
I actually went to work for Northwestern Mutual in the financial services industry for a bit after I got my master’s. It was perhaps an odd choice, but it was an opportunity presented to me and a chance to have another, completely different life experience. But now I write novels for Simon & Schuster, which is a dream job to say the least!
What recognitions/achievements are you most proud of and why?
My latest novel, Slightly South of Simple, was an instant National Bestseller, and that felt huge to me because I have worked so hard to get where I am. Being an author is about writing, of course, but so much of the job is promotion and marketing. I travel all year long speaking and expanding my audience and love meeting my readers. Two of my books are being considered for film and one was a finalist for the Southern Book Prize. So many amazing things have happened along this journey. I think, at the end of the day, simply being published by a “Big 5” New York publishing house was my dream, and I am so proud that I hung in there, fought the hard fight and made it. My fourth novel, The Secret to Southern Charm, will be released April 3, 2018, and actually, my first North Carolina event will be a fundraiser for ECU’s Joyner Library in March. I’m proud to be able to give back to organizations I support and love with my work. It is incredibly rewarding.
What elements of your education in the Department of English have been most instrumental to your success?
This may sound odd, but for some reason, reading about all of the different cultures I read about during my time at ECU made me realize how special my southern upbringing and childhood were. I realized that I lived in a very unique place and that I wanted to be able to share that with the world. I think that’s one of the reasons I write southern fiction now.
What was most rewarding/exciting about your time in the Department of English?
I loved my professors at ECU and felt like they were so committed to giving me the best experience I could have. Their doors were always open. I learned a lot of practical things there that I still use, like grant writing. And, though I haven’t actually taught English, the courses I took in that field gave me a really strong foundation, and I know I would be able to do that if I ever decide to go down that path. But most of all I think learning about other cultures so intensely changed the way I thought about the world and opened my eyes to other people’s struggles. It was an important lesson, especially at that time in my life.
What would you say to someone considering coming to ECU to study English?
Learning to read and think critically are two of the most important skills I know of for being able to be a part of a workplace environment, no matter what that is, and I definitely received that during my time at ECU. In addition, being a strong writer is a critical skill no matter what area you choose to pursue in the future. The English program at ECU is a large university experience with a small college feel. I got to know my classmates and my professors, and I think that is a critical part of any good education. For me, English has always been a passion and, when you follow your passion, amazing things happen. I’m living proof of that. You will get a broad-based education at ECU no matter what your major, so my advice is always to do what you love. It can’t help but make you a better student.