Interview with Rey Spangler, Class of 2005 and 2007


Rey Spangler



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interview was conducted on July 24, 2023, by Rexton Jones, at the time an undergraduate student at Illinois State University. In the interview, Jones talks to Spangler about various aspects of Spangler's experiences at Illinois State University, their growth as a writer, and their support for LGBTQ+ students.

Spangler recounts moving to Florida at a young age and returning to Illinois at 16, where they experienced culture shock upon entering a in a small-town high school with conservative values. While their family favored them attending the University of Illinois, they chose ISU because of the beauty of its campus and the friendliness of faculty and students. They describe the path they took to getting a bachelor’s degree in politics and government with minors in women’s studies and English, then pursuing a master’s degree in student affairs.

Spangler recalls facing challenges securing on-campus employment due to a lack of knowledge about work-study. Instead, they worked at an orthopedic shoe store off campus, but lost the job due to participating in an anti-Iraq War protest. When not working, they were very involved in the Registered Student Organization PRIDE, eventually becoming president and running their Speaker's Bureau. They also volunteered for PFLAG and the Central Illinois Safe Schools Alliance, which focused on providing support for queer K-12 students.

Several faculty and staff members played significant roles in Spangler’s ISU experience, including Jill Josephson, Julie Weber, Paula Ressler, Becca Chase, Kyle Ciani, Alison Bailey, Chris Breu, and Kass Fleisher. They describe ISU as a safe space where they felt like a whole person, receiving support and finding community not only academically but also as an individual.

Spangler credits their career as an author to two novels they wrote while attending ISU classes they didn’t particularly enjoy. They describe moving to New York City with their wife while being pregnant the semester before graduation and having to decide whether to try to find work outside of the home or parlay their first publication deal into a continuing occupation. While they didn’t learn much of the craft of writing at ISU, they do credit their coursework in helping them learn networking skills and sparking a passion for lifelong learning.

Having now published 23 queer romance novels, Spangler is especially proud of receiving the Alice B. Toklas Medal for career achievement and a Goldie for their first book with a nonbinary romantic lead, as well as being inducted into the Steve and Sandi Adams Hall of Fame at ISU. They feel a profound sense responsibility to pay forward the opportunities they received while at ISU and visit as frequently as they can.

Interview Date



  • Early life and high school: 00:00-03:24
  • Selecting ISU: 03:24-06:45
  • Undergraduate major and minors: 06:45-09:02
  • Job: 09:02-11:02
  • Involvement in PRIDE: 11:02-14:40
  • Influential faculty: 14:40-16:52
  • Negotiating their identity at ISU: 16:52-19:33
  • Major news events: 19:33-23:00
  • Involvement in Bloomington-Normal community: 23:00-24:33
  • Pursuing master’s degree in student affairs: 24:33-28:50
  • Shift towards writing career: 28:50-32:15
  • Developing writing skills: 32:15-35:04
  • Staying connected with ISU and providing philanthropic support: 35:04-38:01
  • Career recognitions: 38:01-40:18
  • Reflecting on ISU experience: 40:18-43:32

Interview with Rey Spangler, Class of 2005 and 2007