The first time I met Robert Stubblefield was in the University Center, and I was in crisis. I arrived at UM three years earlier with big plans to become a writer. After four semesters, though, I’d done little writing—hadn’t even taken a workshop—and all the extra-curricular fun I was having left me feeling a little caved-in, a little guilty. So I left.
I attempted to apply to a different university, but never finished the application. I went to culinary school but dropped out. I read an article about Iceland in Newsweek and bought a plane ticket on a whim. Being in Iceland was more expensive than getting there. My parents had to wire me money.
My year of searching ended fruitlessly, and I returned to UM in the fall of 2008 feeling as restless and frustrated with myself as ever. That’s when I met Professor Stubblefield. He told me there were still spots in his Montana Writers Live! class, and that he’d love to have me.
In some ways, that was the first important college class I took. Not necessarily because of the content, but because of the community of thought, conversation and inquiry it fostered in the students. A community that spilled out of the classroom into our personal lives. It’s this community that started The Oval, and it’s how I became its third Editor-in-Chief in 2010.
These days I still live in Missoula. I’ve worked as a staff writer at the Missoula Independent, and contributed essays and articles to Headwall, SBNation, and others. I’ve learned to love writing, the work it demands. It’s trite to say you owe any sort of success to a single person or institution. So I won’t. But there’s no way around this: if not for Professor Stubblefield and my peers at The Oval, I might still be searching for something to make me happy. They taught me how to think, how to communicate, and not only how to keep going, but why I should want to.