To celebrate 50 years of coeducation at Kenyon, we’re profiling three dozen of Kenyon alumnae during the 2019-20 academic year. These women, merely a small sample of the thousands of female graduates who have earned Kenyon degrees since 1969, will discuss their undergraduate experiences and how their education in Gambier prepared them for their lives and careers.
The 32nd alumna in our series is author Stephanie (Mannatt) Danler ’06. Danler majored in English at Kenyon and has a Master of Fine Arts degree from the New School. In 2016, her debut novel “Sweetbitter,” based on her experiences in the New York City restaurant industry, was published to significant acclaim, and later adapted into a two-season TV series on Starz. Her second book, “Stray: A Memoir,” will be published in May.
How do you prioritize your life and get things done?
Since I had my first child a year ago, and I’m now pregnant with my second, this question is easy to answer. I prioritize my family, my writing, and then everything else. Everything else means exercise, emails, lunches with friends, meetings about potential projects. None of that can happen unless the first two categories are being served.
Where did you first discover your power?
Writing short stories in second grade that mimicked my favorite writer, Poe, and getting a lot of attention for them. It wasn’t necessarily good attention — they were gothic and macabre and got me sent to the school psychologist — but that’s where I first understood that storytelling was powerful.
Who at Kenyon inspired you?
I adored my professors. Professor Rhodes, Professor Kluge, Professor Lentz, Professor Smith. I was (and continue to be) inspired by the work that David Lynn does at the Kenyon Review. Another thing I loved about Kenyon was that my friends were all outstanding students. Whether they were actors or sociologists or writers, they were stars in their departments and made me work harder.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Finish your writing projects. We all want to revise the first 20 pages of our novels about seven hundred times, but don’t go down that road until you have some sense of the ending. You don’t know what you have — whether it’s strong or weak, or where — until you’ve finished and can hold the entire project in your mind.
How has your worldview evolved since leaving Kenyon?
How has the worldview of a 22-year-old living in a utopian bubble in the middle of Ohio evolved while she became a 36-year-old working writer and mother living in Los Angeles? It’s all changed, every facet of it. Looking back, the solipsism of youth isn’t cute, but it’s necessary. I don’t spend as much time thinking about myself, which is a relief.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Read about the previous woman in our series: Janet Heckman ’76
Read about the next woman in our series: Bridget Brink ’91