By Michelle Boring
Meghan Tutolo, a Pitt-Greensburg-writing-program alumna, sees her writing on labels and signs for a local Italian-foods company every time she walks into a Giant Eagle or Walmart. In September 2014, Tutolo had her first collection of poems published, by Dancing Girl Press, in a chapbook called, “Little As Living.”
“I’m shy about it,” Tutolo said. “You totally put your guts into something. It’s sort of like your diary. Then you put it into this book and say ‘hey, buy me.’ I’m pretty open as a person, but your writing is a whole other dimension of you. It’s personal and intimate and scary.”
Tutolo graduated from the writing program at Pitt-Greensburg, in 2007. Though her intention was to go to the main campus, Tutolo ended up at Pitt-Greensburg by accident. She didn’t know anyone at Pitt-Greensburg, but Tutolo found “her people” when she started taking writing classes.
“When you come in here, you come as one person, and then you leave as a family of writers, of connections, of friends. It’s a good team at the end,” Tutolo said.
After graduating, Tutolo pursued her Masters, in Poetry, at Chatham University, in Pittsburgh, PA. “I went to Chatham because it was one of the two schools in the area that wouldn’t require me to move or take the G.R.E.s. All I knew was that I wanted to keep writing.”
Though Tutolo doesn’t regret her decisions, she said, “I got thrown into a program that was pretty new, and there were no scholarships or funding. I hear the program is much better now, but when I went, it was pretty limited and not too impressive.”
After receiving her Master’s Degree, Tutolo got a job, writing for a food company. “I knew this girl from her work place, and I would go there for coffee. She was talking about how her dad worked for this food company. I asked if he could get me a job selling pasta or olives or something,” Tutolo said. She then handwrote a quirky three-page letter, telling him about her school loans and current retail job. They didn’t have a writer, so they called her.
Switching from writing poems to romanticizing about food wasn’t too difficult for Tutolo. “I always wrote poems in a romantic way. I wasn’t as much of a narrative poet as my professors wanted me to be. I already had this rhythm, this lyrical kind of system of doing things. So putting all these feelings into a little space is pretty much what I do for my job now,” Tutolo said.
“Graphic designers come to me and go ‘I need something that fits in here.’ Sometimes they’re even like ‘can you come up with a heading of three words and one of them has to be this long?’ Some of the things they ask me to do are absolutely insane. Poetry has given me the tools to think about language in that way.”
Just like finding her first job in writing, Tutolo describes getting her chapbook published as a “fluke.” The manuscript was accepted for publication after Tutolo’s first submission. “It’s bratty,” she said. “It’s my first. Usually as a writer, I write something one week, and the next week it is shit. When it’s in a book, I feel like ‘OK, I don’t touch you now. That’s who you are.’ ”
The chapbook, “Little As Living,” consists of poems from one year of Tutolo’s life. “I was going through some stuff and trying to understand it and process it. [The poems] were an exploration of that time but also myself,” said Tutolo.
Tutolo started writing as a teenager. “To this day, I started writing because I was sad. I felt alone. All those teenage things that you feel. I started writing because it helped me to process that. To get through things and understand myself and the world. I still do that, even though I’m not a teenage girl anymore.”
When Tutolo decided to pursue writing, her mom never discouraged her. She’s heard stories from students and friends about how their parents didn’t support them going to school for writing. “I was very independent. I did my own thing and she trusted I could take care of everything,” Tutolo said.
Tutolo didn’t want to tell her mom her chapbook was getting published. “I was like ‘oh god, I have to tell my mom,’ ” Tutolo said. A friend persuaded Tutolo to tell her mom, so Tutolo told her while they were talking about something else. “I was like ‘I got this little book thing published. It’s just some paper with staples in it. It’s not really a big deal, but I wanted you to know.’ ”
The launch party for Tutolo’s book, “Little As Living,” is on Saturday, November 22, at Modern Formations in Pittsburgh, at 7:30 p.m. If you can’t make it to Pittsburgh, Tutolo will be launching her book during Pitt-Greensburg’s Written/Spoken Series on Tuesday, December 2.