Julianne Couch was born and raised in Kansas City and studied English and Theatre at Emporia State University. She moved to Laramie in 1992 and began teaching at the University of Wyoming in 1998. In addition to teaching student writers, she freelances for High Country News, Daily Yonder, Sustainable City Network, and other publications.
In 2007 she published her first full-length non-fiction travel narrative, Jukeboxes & Jackalopes: A Wyoming Bar Journey (Pronghorn Press). The photographic companion to the book (with photos by Ronald K. Hansen) was published by the Wyoming State Historical Society in 2009. Julianne’s energy travelogue, Traveling the Power Line: From the Mojave Desert to the Bay of Fundy, was released by the University of Nebraska Press in spring 2013. It was a finalist for the High Plains Book award for nonfiction and was named a Booklist Top 10 title on Sustainability.
In 2016, the University of Iowa Press released her book The Small-Town Midwest: Resilience and Hope in the Twenty-First Century. It was named a Kansas Notable Book for 2017 by the Kansas Library Association. For this book, Julianne traveled to nine small communities in five states to tell the story of the country’s “middle third.” It was that experience that prompted her to want to look at small-town culture in that more intimate and personal way that fiction can offer. That is how the world of Sylvan Grove, Iowa, and the characters who have moved through that place came to be. Along the Sylvan Trail is set in locations from the Mississippi River to the Rocky Mountains, from Iowa to Wyoming and Colorado, the places where Julianne has spent her life.
Julianne moved to Bellevue, Iowa in 2011 to make a new home along the western banks of the Mississippi River.
Visit the author’s page at JulianneCouch.net.
Julianne Couch Revealed
Q. PREVIOUS OCCUPATIONS?
A. I have taught in the English department at the University of Wyoming since 1998. In 2011, I left Laramie for Bellevue, Iowa. That made teaching full-time at UW a bit tricky. Fortunately, I was able to teach a course online each semester. That’s kept me connected to Wyoming and to Laramie. I’m also a freelance editor, and have worked on projects for the UW Alumni Association and the UW Art Museum, which also keep me connected to UW. Previously I worked for a various newspapers and for non-profit organizations.
Q. YOUR FAVORITE PLACE TO LIVE?
A. Right now, my favorite place to live is where I do live, in Bellevue, Iowa, a block from the beautiful Upper Mississippi River. This region is known as the Driftless Area because it was not flattened by icebergs long ago, so the river is lined on both sides with tall limestone bluffs.
Q. FAVORITE MOVIE?
I’m a native Kansan. I’ll go with Wizard of Oz.
Q. WHAT IS YOUR MOTTO OR MAXIM?
A. A character in the Henry James novel The Ambassadors says to another character: Try to be one of the people on whom nothing is lost. I spent a lot of time with that novel because I wrote my master’s thesis on it. I suppose it stuck with me.
Q. WHAT’S YOUR GREATEST FEAR?
A. A recurring nightmare of getting up on stage and realizing I’m in a play but have never attended a rehearsal or bothered to learn my lines. This is an old theatre-major neurosis.
Q. WHAT ARE YOUR OTHER CREATIVE INTERESTS?
A. I am a musician and songwriter, at the “hobbyist” level. I love to sing and play music with anyone who will let me. My main instruments are guitar, ukulele, autoharp, piano with a bit of accordion and Irish whistle when I’ve had time to practice. Actually, I’m not very good at any of these but that matters far less than the enjoyment music brings me.
Q. WHAT’S YOUR BEST QUALITY?
A. Broad intellectual curiosity and the willingness to take risks to satisfy it. And the ability to be happy, wherever I am.
Julianne Couch on Writing
Q. WHO ARE YOUR FAVORITE AUTHORS?
A. Henry James, F. Scott Fitzgerald, John McPhee, George Sanders, PD James
Q. WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE BOOKS OF ALL TIME?
Great Gatsby (Fitzgerald), Lincoln at the Bardo (Saunders), Rising from the Plains (McPhee) Shipping News (Annie Proulx)
Q. IS THERE A BOOK YOU LOVE TO REREAD?
A. A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold.
Q. WHAT COMMENT DO YOU HEAR MOST OFTEN FROM YOUR READERS?
A. That book was really good, but why don’t you write fiction?
Along the Sylvan Trail dips into the lives of linked characters as they confront futures that aren’t clearly dictated by conventional planning. All characters are connected in some way to the small town of Sylvan Grove, Iowa. On a clear day, they can see the water tower or grain silo of the next town up the road, which is both a way in and a path out.