Students and faculty members filled the Quay Davis Executive Board Room Wednesday, as senior creative writing majors Mia Aguilera, Mia Alvarez and Daniel Dundas presented their senior projects.
There were both hot chocolate and an assortment of festive cookies provided for the over 20 audience members in attendance. There were also sign-up sheets available for students to sign up for the University’s English Club.
“A capstone senior project is crucial for students in any major—it’s important to highlight what’s been learned during an academic career in a way that is positive and comprehensive,” said Sean Bernard, professor of creative writing. “For creative writing students in particular, the attention to careful revision is especially important.”
The students presented their revision processes for pieces of their choosing from creative writing courses they have taken. They also shared their main writing influences, inspirations and thoughts on what good writing is.
Bernard began the event with an introduction explaining that people do not often get to see what goes on behind the scenes when it comes to the “devotion” that is the creation of art, which is what the event highlighted.
Dundas was the first to step up to the podium and present his senior project. He shared three short stories he had revised for his senior project. One explores a failing relationship — another, a failing friendship. His favorite story of his that he shared was a story about a woman stuck on Earth as a ghost.
This was his favorite both because he appreciated that his clear vision for how he wanted the story to end had not changed through his revision process and also because he found it to be the most personal in terms of its exploration of spiritual, religious and theological themes.
“It’s a ghost story that focuses on the spiritual aspect of what it means to be a spirit,” Dundas said. “Although, it is just one big hypothetical — what happens when you die and you have to choose to essentially surrender your soul to its fate.”
He took inspiration for this story from authors Haruki Murakami and Kiik Araki-Kawaguchi, who both write in the literary style of Magical Realism, which he utilized in his own work.
Aguilera presented her project next. She started by saying she has always loved reading books, highlighting the book “Anne of Green Gables” and the character Jo March from “Little Women.” However, she said she has always been more interested in the idea of writing the stories than reading them.
Throughout her presentation, she discussed six stories she has written. Several of her stories involve characters who have died.
“I think I like how people can still leave a lingering presence in this world even after [they die],” Aguilera said, explaining her reasoning behind this. “But I’m also interested in the afterlife and just kind of imagining what that’s like because I think everyone can interpret that differently.”
The story she chose to revise, “The Transition,” is no exception. It’s about a being who is half man, half goat deciding to transition to hell after years in purgatory as a result of both being lured there and realizing how boring it is to live the same day repeatedly in purgatory.
Throughout her writing and revision processes, she has been focusing on detail and setting to make purgatory and hell sound like believable places as well as adding more depth to the character and impact to the story.
The final project of the day was presented by Alvarez, who said she believes good writing is genuine, empathetic and vulnerable. The story she chose to revise for her senior project and present, “Caregiver,” is all of those things.
She was inspired by her personal life, having watched her grandfather and eventually her mother act as a caregiver for her grandmother and handle the situation with grace. She wanted to explore how someone else might handle a similar situation.
“Caregiver” is about a woman who has been taking care of her ill husband for years dealing with complex feelings of resentment, love and wanting the pain of the situation to be over despite that love.
Her revisions consisted mostly of adding scenes, layering more tensions and conflicts, improving structure and further characterizing the husband.
An earlier version of the story was published in the literary journal Prism Review in 2022.
Olivia Modarelli can be reached at email@example.com.
Olivia Modarelli, a senior journalism major with a concentration in print-online journalism, is a staff photographer for the Campus Times. She previously served as a staff writer and copy editor.