Meet Anna Klenke: New York Times runner-up for Modern Love essay contest

If you were flipping through Sunday’s New York Times, you may have stumbled upon the writing of one of St. Olaf’s own. Anna Klenke, a senior English and Norwegian major from Aurora, Ill. was selected as one of four runners-up in this year’s New York Times “Modern Love” College Essay Contest. Anna’s essay, about the beginning of her relationship with her current boyfriend, Matt, is a beautifully written perspective on dating in today’s culture.

Her Campus St. Olaf: What is your essay about?
Anna Klenke: My essay, titled "A Love for the Ages, but Which One?" is about meeting my boyfriend while we both worked in a living history village. I talk about the development of our relationship in the odd context of switching between the 1840s and 2008 and how the different time periods sometimes made it difficult to know how to relate to each other in a meaningful and personal way.
HC: What was the process of entering this contest and writing the essay like?
AK: I had never heard of the “Modern Love” column before, but I received an email from the English department about the college essay contest. I went on the New York Times website to read the winning essays from the last contest, which I really enjoyed, and I decided that the beginning of my relationship had been interesting enough to write about. It was fun to think back almost three years to when Matt and I met, because it was a time of really intense emotions and there are a lot of good memories from that first summer together. The hardest part was deciding what to include in the essay and what could be left out.
HC: How did you react when you found out that you had been selected as a runner-up?
AK: I got an email about a month ago with the title of my essay in the subject line and my first thought was, "That isn't a form rejection letter..." I called Matt pretty much right away, because he was the only one who I had told about the contest. Then I called my parents. Because of paperwork and legal stuff, I couldn't tell many people right away. It was hard to keep such a big secret.
HC: What is it like to be a published writer in the New York Times?
AK: This is my first publication outside of St. Olaf, so any newspaper or magazine would have been incredible, but to have my work in the New York Times is surreal. So much about creative writing relies on luck and having the right person read your work at the right time. I feel incredibly fortunate.
HC: What does your boyfriend think about your essay?
AK: Matt loves the New York Times and is thrilled to have his name there. He thinks the essay is funny, but he admitted that I wrote some things that he never knew I was thinking. I think he's impressed that I put so much thought into analyzing our relationship.
HC: What’s next for your writing career?
AK: I will continue my studies in fiction and creative non-fiction writing on my own and hopefully start working on an MFA in a few years. I may also start blogging for the website, which is an online organization that focuses on social issues such as women's rights, education, and social entrepreneurship.
HC: Finish these sentences:
St. Olaf men are… not grown up yet.
St. Olaf women are…generally really beautiful people (inside and out).
HC: Any advice for St. Olaf women?
AK:Do what makes you happy.