An interview with Megan Cary

Megan Cary

Megan Cary

SW: Megan, I want to start in the beginning – that beginning when I was introduced to Claire Evangelista.  John Chambers, and I had just finished editing the poems for Whatever Remembers Us: An Anthology of Alabama Literature, and I had a few pictures that my son Jason had taken when we stopped in Montgomery on returning from a trip.  I had asked Claire who might design this book and she told me about you. 

Whatever Remembers Us  Cover, 2007

Whatever Remembers Us Cover, 2007

You were finishing your undergraduate studies at the University of South Alabama.  Claire said:  “Megan Cary is creative and talented and great to work with. You will work well together" – and indeed that came to pass.  We’ve been editing and publishing together now for over seven years.

Was this anthology your first nationally designed book?  And what were your thoughts about this adventure?

MC: Yes it was. Actually, because I was an undergraduate design student at the time, it was really my first “official” design job ever for an actual client. I was very excited and nervous. I wanted to do well and create something beautiful that you, the authors and the readers would be pleased with.

SW: Since that auspicious beginning, you have been an integral part of Negative Capability.  Thanks to Claire and to Fate, Wyre, or Providence – and especially my gratitude to you Megan.  And thank you for designing our fabulous website.  But let’s introduce a backstory.  Tell us about your interest in art and about you chose art as a career. 

MC: For me, there has never really been any other option than art. My earliest memories are sitting with my grandfather at his desk and drawing with him. He was a pastor by trade, but he was also an amazing artist and would spend hours teaching me to draw animals and people while he worked on his sermons.

Megan, age 3, and her grandfather, Rev. Noah E. Johns

Megan, age 3, and her grandfather, Rev. Noah E. Johns

In addition to his lessons, my mother enrolled me in art classes through the Community Activities program from a very early age. In fact, I was too young for the more advanced courses but I looked older and was past the point of stick figures. We may or may not have stretched the truth a bit to get me in the better classes.

Computers, from an early age, also fascinated me. I got my first Apple computer around the age of four. I was using a rudimentary form of design software, “Print Shop,” all through my youth, making signs and banners. I guess if you think about it a certain way, I’ve always been a designer. It was a natural career choice, to combine both my love of computers and art when I graduated from high school.

SW: What did you do after your graduation from the University of South Alabama?

MC: After I graduated, I was lucky enough to immediately get a job with Crown Products, a national supplier of promotional products. I was a designer in their marketing department and created ads, catalogs, websites, managed their social media, and even tried my hand at designing bags and drink-ware. I eventually became a Senior Creative with the company before leaving. I will forever be grateful for the opportunities they provided to me; it was a great learning experience, and I made some wonderful friends.

SW: What I always love is stories – the way certain things happen.  One of my special memories is the publication of Alexis Saunders' two books, especially the last one when you and I drove to Tampa, Florida to put the book in Alexis' hands.  Alexis was a talented young writer who turned to poetry after being diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor.  She had given up her job in editing in New York City and returned home to Florida.  Alexis’s mother and I had been good friends and travelled the nine months of pregnancy together; we went to the same doctor and delivered our babies within a month of each other.  Alexis and my twin sons played together until my move to Mobile, Alabama when the children were two.  Stephanie, Alexis’s mother and I kept up with each other through the years – and when Alexis was diagnosed with a glioblastoma, she asked if she could participate in my poetry class blog.  She was a dedicated and passionate participant – and I asked Alexis if we could publish her poetry book.  We ended up publishing two before Alexis passed away. I was impressed, Megan, with your compassion – and the way you shared my vision of making Negative Capability more than just a means of getting a book into print – namely that of making Negative Capability a home-place for authors, a place where publishing is a shared experience of mutual respect and love.

MC: Thank you Sue, Alexis meant a lot to me. All of the authors I design for do, even though they may not realize it. But Alexis will always have a special place in my heart. She was so strong, compassionate and loving – and extremely talented. I think of her and her family often and miss her very much.

Alexis Saunders

Alexis Saunders

Obituary - Alexis Morgan Saunders (Died March 7, 2010)
Saunders, Alexis Morgan, 34, passed away in the loving arms of her mother on March 7, 2010 after battling brain cancer for almost five years. Alexis was born in Tampa and graduated from Berkeley Preparatory School in 1993 and Vanderbilt University in 1997…read the full obituary

SW: And so you're off to Graduate School. What has your MFA meant to you?

MC: It meant a great deal to me. I was accepted to Savannah College of Art and Design’s graduate program, which was both exciting and daunting. SCAD is a top-ranked design school, which means that the professors and students expect nothing short than the best of out of each other. There were a lot of tears, sleepless nights, and times I questioned my abilities. In the end though, I came out a better designer because I was surrounded and challenged by peers just as passionate about design as I was.

SW: And now you are an Assistant Professor at the University of Mobile. What do you teach? You said you love teaching. Talk a bit about that.

MC: I have always loved learning. The pursuit of knowledge is incredibly important to me, and I realized that I wanted to share that enthusiasm with others. I have been tasked with creating the graphic design program in the Art Department at the University of Mobile. I primarily teach design related classes, though a drawing or painting may be thrown in every once in awhile, which I enjoy.

The best part is that I get to sit down with my students every day, just as my grandfather sat down with me, and share what I’ve learned. I love the University of Mobile because our small classes allow me to give individual attention to each and every student and because of that, we are building a small but mighty community of passionate, talented future designers.

SW: Your book covers, Megan, are amazing.  In fact, you have been called a genius.  What are two or three of your favorite covers – and what about their evolution?

Thank you, but I think genius might be overstating it a bit. I will say that I believe the fact that I’m an avid reader and I always read the work before I design, gives the covers I make more meaning and impact. It’s hard to pick two of my favorite covers. But if I had to narrow it down, the first would be for Barry Mark’s Sounding.

Sounding  cover, 2012

Sounding cover, 2012

Barry wanted to include a picture of his daughter, who died in a tragic automobile accident and a photograph of a sculpture she had made for him. I struggled with how to incorporate these two in a harmonious manner. After much thought, I realized that what the cover needed was exactly the opposite. It needed to be fractured and broken, like the author’s world after his daughter passed away. What I created was raw and, to be frank, uncomfortable. I was very apprehensive sending it to both you and Barry. I was very relieved when the feedback was positive.

My most recent favorite cover is for Rob Gray’s Jesus Walks the Southland. Rob’s book touches on some sensitive topics in the South – religion, race and politics. Rob had a lot of ideas that he shared with me for the cover, one in particular was the idea of having a Jesus-like figure walking down a country road.  I tried this several times and again, it was almost too comfortable for such powerfully questioning material. I merged this idea with the idea of baptism, renewal, purification and transformation. I think it worked well.

Jesus Walks the Southland  cover, 2014

Jesus Walks the Southland cover, 2014

SW: Anything I haven’t asked that you would like to mention?

MC: Just that I would like to thank you Sue, for the opportunity that you have given me. Over the last seven years I’ve had a chance to design over twenty books for the press and gain invaluable knowledge about the publishing industry. Also, I’ve made a wonderful friend.