As a first-generation college student, Jake Maynard ’10 has been breaking boundaries from the moment he first stepped foot on Hiram College’s campus. As a history major with a writing minor, it might seem unconventional to say Maynard took a summer job at a salmon processing plant in Alaska during the summer of 2008, but that experience is what set him on the path to writing his first novel, Slime Line, which will be published by West Virginia University Press later this year. 

Jake Maynard holding a large salmon on a fishing vessel

“One of the things I took from Hiram, aside from a broad skill set, was the ability to learn new things. Having such a wide liberal arts education taught me how to teach myself new things and gave me confidence. Whether it was deciding to work on a commercial fishing boat or going to graduate school and studying creative writing without ever having written any fiction, I felt like I had learned so many skills that I was able to teach myself just about anything,” Maynard said. “It also gave me a new perspective on what education is for. Hiram enabled me to think about education as important for my development as a person.” 

Maynard grew up in Mt. Jewett, PA and chose Hiram because it felt like home in many ways. Having grown up in a small town, it’s easy to assume Maynard is good at observing and making connections with people, which is exactly how he spent his time at Hiram. His novel, Slime Line, first started as an idea in a food-writing course, led by Jeffrey Swenson, Ph.D., interim vice president of academic affairs, dean of the college, and professor of English. The idea later evolved into a short story during Maynard’s time in graduate school. 

Jake Maynard

Having worked three summers in the commercial fishing industry, Maynard knew there was a story to tell in his experiences. While Maynard’s story focuses on “one guy’s maniacal quest to become a shift supervisor at a small Alaskan salmon processing plant,” it also dives deeper to address issues of sustainability and food justice in the salmon processing industry. 

According to West Virginia University Press, Slime Line is, “A trippy and darkly funny portrait of the commercial fishing industry, Slime Line is the tragicomic yarn of one troubled college dropout’s desperate attempts to remake himself into a hard-nosed working man.” 

Throughout the year and a half process of writing Slime Line, Maynard admits the hardest part of the process was transitioning his viewpoint from looking at his novel as a piece of art he had created to a published work being sold on shelves. 

Jake Maynard

“I just love to write and want to put it out into the world. If someone wants to read it and likes it that’s great, but that transition from a piece of art you created to a product can be hard,” Maynard said. 

It wasn’t all hard though. His favorite part of the writing process? Editing. Maynard shares there’s no feeling like sitting down with a draft of your work and going line by line to make it even better.  

Maynard now works as a visiting lecturer in writing at the University of Pittsburgh, teaching the next generation of aspiring writers. He also often shares his talents with Hiram students through his connection with Mary Quade, M.F.A., professor of English, whose class Maynard often visits to share writing advice and career tips. Maynard has also been a judge for several writing contests hosted by Hiram for students. 

His continuing connections to Hiram and career as a college professor both led Maynard to love sharing his experiences and advice with current college students. His advice to Hiram students, “Think less about career and think more about education for its own sake.” 

“Places like Hiram are largely what you make out of them, they reward curiosity. The more curious and intellectually engaged you are, the better your experience will be,” Maynard said. 

Learn more about Jake Maynard and preorder Slime Line before it’s release on June 1, 2024. 

By Taylor Cook