Steven Christopher McKnight: A Thrift Store Goblin Appears!

  • Published on: 29th July 2022
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I was asked recently to talk a little bit about my journey getting here, a shortlisted author—and an American one, at that—for the very first Brilliant & Forever to be held in this reality. A little tragic that it happens to occur in a reality where alpacas don’t talk, but at least they’re not rampantly discriminated against, so we accept our petty victories when we can. Anyway. Let’s talk a little bit about me, my absolute least favorite subject to write about, and yet pretty much the only subject I can write authoritatively on.

My story is about the unspoken life of lifeless objects: their deaths, rebirths, the works. So it may not surprise you to learn that for the greater part of post-pandemic life, I’ve worked as a self-proclaimed thrift store goblin, taking breaks between goblin modes to teach English in Ukraine and Slovakia. (Slava Ukraini, btw.) Before all that, I was a prominent memoirist (their delusion, not mine) in Susquehanna University’s acclaimed undergraduate writing program, but then I graduated and Covid hit and the mighty fell. One could say that I am the thrifted thing, thrifted within the bounds of the thrift store to thrift in return. To that I would respond, “Okay, buddy.”

Anyway, these past couple of years, I have been stuck, trying everything I can to reawaken that vital part of me that earned praise from peers and professors. I believed for moments that traveling would do it for me, and it was a rewarding experience. I made friends, fell in love with people and histories, discovered passions and had my heart broken time and time again by historical events beyond my control. (Again, Slava Ukraini.) The things I wrote even in 2019 are foreign to me, and that’s okay. The same bucket used by my grandfather to construct his house, I would use to build sandcastles. The purposes of things change over time. Whatever.

I discovered The Brilliant and Forever on an expedition of sorts, to visit friends old and new across Europe. My travels brought me to Stirling, where an old schoolmate of mine studies at the university there. Hayli McClain’s her name. She’s another shortlisted writer, and possibly the writerliest writer I know. (You can read some of her work here and here.) Anyway, she gifted me a certain novel that her thesis supervisor wrote, one with talking alpacas and a writing festival. “Sounds like Cats,” I said. “I don’t know when I’ll get around to reading this, but I promise I’ll do it as soon as possible.” I’d had a lot of trouble reading things those past few years, and she understood, but within a couple of weeks, I’d finished the book, remembered that Hayli had mentioned a certain festival happening on a certain island, went to my psychological thrift store, and repurposed some memories for memoir’s sake.

I am beyond excited to be reading at the Brilliant and Forever this year, and I am even more excited to hear the stories waiting to be told at Lews Castle. If you see an American dumbass bumbling around that weekend in Stornoway, say hello; it’s probably me. I’ll not make a Seth Macnamara of myself, I hope.


Click here to book your tickets for The Brilliant & Forever Festival on Sat 6 Aug!