As a student, it’s always enjoyable to hear professors tell stories of their experiences prior to teaching. These tales add a different learning element to the educational experience and make the classroom more engaging as well.
However, it’s not very often that a professor writes a whole book about these experiences.
Anthony Moll, an adjunct professor in the English and business communication departments at Stevenson University, has recently published his first full-length book, Out of Step: A Memoir. It is a representation of his time in the military as a young, bisexual, working class, anti-war individual during the era of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” More than that, it is a coming-of-age tale interwoven with desire, passion, and longing for a sense of self.
A common theme found in the book is the notion of ‘escaping one’s past’ and ‘wiping the slate clean.’
“All of my identities mean something to me in some way, for good or bad,” said Moll. “All of those things are part of my writing and is something I talk openly about as a writer and as an educator.”
He continued, “I think it’s important for students to know that their educators are queer and are veterans. I think it’s really important to talk about and for students to hear that their professors have working class backgrounds. This is something I had to arrive at, and part of that was found through active writing and publishing.”
Moll officially began writing his story in 2011; during the next five years, his recollections turned into draft material. He didn’t write any of it down as it was happening, instead using photos and old social media accounts to supplement moments that he couldn’t remember perfectly.
Some of the photos actually made it into the book as ‘chapters.’ However, the actual photographs are not included. Instead, Moll vividly describes the photos he is referencing, including contextual details and meanings that may not have otherwise been noticed by just glancing at the photo. This technique is inspired by a genre called ekphrastic poetry, used to directly respond to visual art.
“These chapters are really meant to show what a photo can unlock; so it is about the photo, but it is about a lot more…it’s about the stories and the people attached to it,” he said.
The overall style of this book leaves two similar (but unique) impacts: the first is that, because of how eloquently the chapters are written, it’s easy to feel transported into that world. Even without any prior knowledge of how the military works, the raw emotions and meanings can still be easily understood and felt. Secondly, it’s relatable: many of the struggles
outlined in the text are reflective of coming-of-age stories to which any age demographic can relate.
Specifically, the chapters titled, “Photo: Children Ardent For Some Desperate Glory,” and “What September Left,” are relevant to students at Stevenson. “Not everyone in the SU community is at those ages, and very few of them are considering abandoning their lives to join the military, but a lot of people recognize the themes of being that age and the people or situations you’re leaving at home,” said the author.
Moll received the opportunity to publish his book after winning the Non/Fiction Collection Prize hosted by The Journal in 2017. Unlike standard publishing procedures where an agent submits work on the author’s behalf, he entered his manuscript into this competition. After being selected to the top 30, the guest judge ultimately named him as the winner, awarding him with a small cash prize and a publishing contract with the Ohio University State Press’ literary imprint, Mad Creek Books.
To commemorate its release, Moll will host a reading and release party on Sept. 25 at 7 p.m. in the School of Design Soundstage. He will also read at the Baltimore Book Festival on Sept. 29 at 5 p.m. on The Ivy Bookshop Stage. Both events are free, and all are welcome to attend.
As for future releases, Moll has already begun to submit drafts to publishers. Specifically, he aims to release a collection of poems within the next year.