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Joey Hill ’89 Romances Antioch College

Joey Hill ’89 says laughingly, “Sometimes people look at me blankly when I tell them about my books.”  She is the author of four series of erotic romances, both paranormal and contemporary. Her two paranormal series are the Daughters of Arianne and the Vampire Queen series. Her contemporary series are Knights of the Board Room and Nature of Desire. “Most all of my work explores the nature of unconditional love,” she says. “My paranormal work also delves into the shades of gray within good and evil. Being Wiccan, a faith which believes in the sacred magic of sexuality, I also like the fact that the eroticism of my books can be used to heal my characters, as well as bond them even more closely together.”

What brought you to Antioch College? What was your major? I did well academically in public schools, but had emotional difficulty with the institutional nature of it. While at Antioch, I did a term paper on Ivan Illich’s Deschooling Society that reflected my own experiences, though admittedly seen through the eyes of a melodramatic teen (laughs). My psychiatrist suggested my parents look at early enrollment options, and Antioch accepted me at 17. When we came to visit on the prospective weekend, I was enthralled with the freedom and self-determination, the constant open exchange of ideas and challenges to established thinking.

I entered as a creative writing major, because I’d been writing since I was in sixth grade, but wasn’t a good fit for the program, so switched to education. There I discovered that I liked the idea of teaching more than the reality – I had an insurmountable fear of public speaking (chuckles). Due to a strong interest in animal welfare/animal rights, I ended up in non-profit business management. I left writing for about a decade to work in the animal rights/animal welfare field, and then the passion to write returned. In hindsight, I’m glad for that hiatus—it added the richness of life experience to my writing, and gave me the ability to dedicate my time to a vital cause I still support today. I was first published in 2000 and have been writing ever since, hitting my 20th published work this year.

What's your favorite memory of being at Antioch?
Wow, there are a lot of those. Antioch, like most college experiences, offered moments of painful growth and memorable pleasures. During my first year, a group of us jumped in my car and drove overnight to Mammoth Cave in Kentucky. It was the first time I’d ever just “taken off” and done something like that. Funny enough, it’s not the cave that I remember. We parked at an old graveyard, waiting for the cave site to open, since we’d arrived very early. It was overcast and misty, and one of our party, who preferred Goth dress and so was all in black, was wandering through the graveyard, studying the tombstones. I looked into my little Toyota, full of six slumbering, unique personalities, watched the Goth student wander through the tombstones, and felt part of something special, where the world could be more about exploring and understanding than condemning and judging. Because I was there at one of the cycles of hard financial times for the school, I think the students bonded even more closely than I’d seen at other colleges. We were like a commune, making do at our little rundown school!

A few cameo memories:

Sleeping overnight in the pine forest of Glen Helen, the sudden hush as you entered that area, the sense that you’d walked into a magic fairy circle. One of the first books I wrote, Guardian of the Continuum, an early effort, was set at a school I based a lot on Antioch, and it had a “Glen Helen” area.

While they weren’t always pleasurable, the Friday Night forums, where a specific topic was debated with various experts and audience participation, were always mind-stretching experiences, a chance to bring together so many perspectives on one topic. I vividly remember many snapshots from those.

Finally, there was a student who lived in a small shack in the community garden area. I loved to wash dishes – it was therapeutic – so I’d offered to wash his backlog of dishes. He didn’t like to do dishes (chuckles). While he and my boyfriend, Ted Harter, who was a philosophy and religions major and is a wonderful man (we still talk or write once or twice a year!) talked about philosophy and various subjects, I washed and listened. It was dim and quiet, crickets chirping from the garden while their voices rose and fell.

I know these memories seem somewhat quiet and non-climactic, but that was the special nature of Antioch I remember. Antioch was so often volatile, many emotional young people who felt things passionately colliding in the open expression of ideas. That was exciting and amazing, but it also made those quiet moments possible and all the more appreciated. Everything felt balanced and the way they should be, tiny jewels in a greater, far more complicated universe.

Was there a professor that made a huge impact on your life?
There are two that stand out in my mind, though I had many good ones. Hassan Rahmanian was my business major advisor. He was so articulate and insightful and gave me the philosophy of business I carried into my work in nonprofit administration. I joked with him on one visit, mentioning that the one thing his courses didn’t cover was how to handle crazy people in the workforce—and there are a lot of those! He was also very kind and supportive to me during my last year at Antioch, when health issues with my parents made graduation requirements a real challenge.

Stan Bernstein was my student advisor in the first couple years. It was funny—Stan was a science guy, who had no real empathy for animals, and I of course was and still am a strong animal advocate, but I connected with him because he had such a great sense of humor and a strong heart. He always challenged me to look at something a different way. He taught a great Science and Ethics class, the topics of which I remember to this day, like the issue of science vs. weaponry, and subjectivity in scientific experiments, etc. He was kind of nonplused that I would consider the welfare of animals an important use of my time, but I still remember him fondly.

Any stirring words of wisdom about the new independent status of Antioch College?
I hope that it can find the balance between fiscal conservatism/reality and the free spirited environment that spawned so much innovation and creative thinking. So often, humans are creatures of “either/or”—we have a hard time finding a moderate balance between our ideals and reality. A college, being a cloistered environment, suffers from that problem more than most. Three balanced elements usually make for a successful organization, regardless of the type: 1) conservative/intelligent business people, who’ve actually run successful businesses outside an institutional setting; 2) academics/enthusiasts who understand what the spirit or mission of the organization is supposed to be; and 3) good recruiting/marketing staff who are insightful enough to straddle the two different ambitions to bring in the right students and funding. If they accomplish that, then I think Antioch will persevere. Though admittedly, that’s not an easy combination/balance to find!

If you could bring one thing to the future of Antioch College, what would it be?
Tolerance that goes both ways. The most valuable lesson I learned at Antioch was narrow-mindedness doesn’t have a political affiliation. I grew up in the South of the 70s and 80s. Baffling as it was for my fellow students to hear, I’d seen as many examples of black-toward-white racism as I did white-toward-black during those decades. At Antioch, I likewise saw as many instances of those of a liberal nature labeling and classifying those of a moderate/conservative nature, as the reverse.

What I’ve found during the 20 years of my post-college life is that when I first talk to someone and get to know them, I’m looking for what kind of person they are – if there’s a good heart in there, honesty and integrity, a willingness to make life better around them. As a result, their politics, race, religious affiliation, etc. end up being secondary, and actually sometimes quite meaningless. I’m an animal rights person, and yet I’ve met people very vocal in the animal rights movement who were filled with hatred and intolerance. Just as I’ve met avid sport hunters who will listen to anyone’s opinion with an open mind and will give generously of their time to assist those in need. So labeling someone merely by their politics or causes is a way to polarize and shut down avenues for communication.

In short, I think the key to Antioch’s success is cultivating a holistic, rounded tolerance, and recognizing that the treasure it offers is a place for people to grow and change their perspective by healthy, positive interaction. I’m happy to say that I had experiences like that at Antioch. Though I also admit, it was the positive and negative together that helped shape my perspective and give me the foundation I have now.

To read free excerpts and blurbs from Joey Hill’s books, go to her website, www.storywitch.com.