Who Does the Math? Introducing VIDA Counter Jessica Fokken

The people who count for VIDA count because they love literature. It would probably be an understatement to suggest they prefer reading over math. We wanted to learn more about what drives the individuals who make the annual VIDA Count possible. And because we are so grateful to these interns for so generously volunteering their time, we’ve launched a fundraising campaign to pay our Counters.


Tell us a bit about yourself.

I’m a fiction writer originally from the upper Midwest. I’m currently a PhD student at Oklahoma State University, where I study Fiction and Indigenous Literature and serve as the Managing Editor for American Indian Quarterly. My husband and I have two dogs and a cat, and we are expecting our first child in July.


Why did you decide to become involved with the VIDA count?

I see the underrepresentation of women in the literary arts every day as a graduate student and reader, and I’m worried about experiencing it as a writer. I was once criticized by a peer for writing about women too much. Luckily that was not typical of my workshop experience, but no one should have to hear that as criticism. VIDA does interesting, important work. I recently read an interview with Cate Marvin in which she said she noticed herself mentally praising journals for the number of women they included and then realizing it wasn’t that many at all, and I completely understood what she was talking about. I remember a lot of people talking about the Count at AWP 2014 and the conversations the Count generated online. I wanted to help VIDA continue to create those discussions, so when I saw the call for applications for interns, I didn’t hesitate to apply.


Do you have a favorite book/short story?

Yes. I love Jeanette Winterson’s Written on the Body and Michael Ondaatje’s The English Patient, and I’ve really come to love Elizabeth Strout. Melanie Rae Thon and Claire Vaye Watkins are probably my favorite short story writers. This list could continue for a while.


What literary journals would you suggest readers be on the lookout for?

No Tokens. I was really impressed with the first issue at last year’s AWP, and the second issue looks like it’s going to be just as strong.


Jessica FokkenJessica Fokken is a PhD candidate in Fiction and Indigenous Literature at Oklahoma State University, where she is the Managing Editor of American Indian Quarterly. Her fiction has appeared in Midwestern Gothic. She lives with her husband and their dogs and cat in Stillwater, OK.