College Friend

Erika Taylor “SMC doesn’t cater to people with one particular focus or mindset. It really does offer something for everyone.”

“I was 21, or something,” says author and novelist Erika Taylor, “and I’d been feeling really depressed. I really loved cars and mechanics. But I also loved writing. So I decided to take a class about those two things. And whichever one worked out better, that was what I was going to do with the rest of my life.”

Erika’s automotive class met in the grumpy early morning amidst the clang and rumble of the garage. Her writing class, in contrast, was held “in the cool, pleasant hours of evening.” So adverbs won out over torque wrenches and a literary career was springboarded. “I was taking a class with Jim Krusoe and I just fell in love with his style of teaching,” says Erika. “There was nothing authoritarian. I started writing what would turn out to be a novel and began reading pieces of it. And the input I had there got me through. I never would have written my first novel without the help I got in that class.”

Erika’s novel, published by Atheneum, was warmly received by major literary critics and authors. “It’s a book of spiritual truths,” says Erika. “It’s a ‘waitress’ novel about the ghostly quality of life in LA. And I’m proud to say,” she adds, “that it generated four fan letters and one legitimate piece of hate mail.”

Filling her hours between a Rand Corporation study of the homeless and frequent readings at Beyond Baroque—the Venice literary center—Erika is now busily at work on “this and that.” (She doesn’t talk about works in progress.) “But I have to say that finding SMC was a milestone for me. I finally found a place where education felt comfortable.”

Read more stories from present and past years in the SMC Student Spotlight Archive.