Tinker Mountain Writers Workshop Hosts Winter Recharge Weekend, Jan. 29-31

Offering both manuscript and “write now” workshops, the Tinker Mountain Writers Workshop (TMWW) at Hollins University is presenting its first-ever Winter Recharge Weekend, Jan. 29-31.

“This is an opportunity to recharge your creativity, reconnect with the Tinker Mountain community of writers, and reframe your work,” said TMWW Director Fred Leebron.

Manuscript workshops, limited to eight participants, enable writers to get feedback on their work and learn what other writers are doing. Write now workshops, limited to ten participants, allow writers to immerse themselves in the craft of writing and generate new work without the pressure of preparing or reading manuscripts.

The Winter Recharge Weekend will be entirely virtual, kicking off with a social session on Friday evening, January 29. Workshops will be held on Saturday and Sunday, January 30 and 31, from 10 a.m. to noon and again from 2 to 4 p.m.

“The weekend is just the right amount of time to affirm your writing and reset for the balance of winter and spring,” Leebron explained.

Workshops include:

  • “All Styles/All Forms Fiction Manuscript Workshop” with Leebron, an award-winning novelist and short story writer. He has founded and directed writing programs in Europe, Latin America, and the United States, and has taught at both the undergraduate and graduate level for nearly 30 years. He also co-authored a textbook on fiction writing.
  • “The Middle Place Manuscript Workshop for Fiction Writers, Memoirists, and Essayists” with Barbara Jones, an executive editor at Henry Holt & Company, where she edits fiction, memoir, and an idiosyncratic short list of nonfiction. Her writings have been published in Salon, The New York Times, and The Washington Post.
  • “Write Now Workshop: Poetry and Nonfiction” with poetry and nonfiction author James McKean, who has published two books of essays and three books of poems. A winner of the Iowa Poetry Award and the X.J. Kennedy poetry prize from Texas Review Press, McKean’s work has also appeared in The Atlantic, Iowa Review, Gettysburg Review, and the Southern Review.
  • “Write Now Workshop for Fiction Writers” with Daniel Mueller, author of two collections of short fiction, a winner of the Sewanee Fiction Prize, and a faculty member at the University of New Mexico and in the low-residency M.F.A. program at Queens University of Charlotte. He is currently working on a memoir.

Visit the TMWW Winter Recharge webpage for more information on the workshops and faculty


“Memorial Drive: A Daughter’s Memoir” by Natasha Trethewey M.A. ’91 Shortlisted for Carnegie Medals for Excellence

The American Library Association (ALA) has announced that Memorial Drive: A Daughter’s Memoir by Pulitzer Prize winner and two-time U.S. Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey M.A. ’91 is one of six finalists for the 2021 Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction and Nonfiction.

The awards recognize the previous year’s best fiction and nonfiction books written for adult readers and published in the United States, and are intended to serve as a guide to help adults select quality reading material. The two medal winners will be recognized at the Reference and User Services Association’s Book and Media Awards event, which will be held online on February 4, 2021. Winners will each receive $5,000. All finalists will be honored during a celebratory event in the summer of 2021 during the ALA Annual Conference.

The ALA calls Memorial Drive “a work of exquisitely distilled anguish and elegiac drama. Trethewey confronts the horror of her mother’s murder through finely honed, evermore harrowing memories, dreams, visions, and musings. She writes, ‘To survive trauma, one must be able to tell a story about it.’ And tell her tragic story she does in this lyrical, courageous, and resounding remembrance.”

Established in 2012, the Carnegie Medals for Excellence are the first single-book awards for adult books presented by the ALA and reflect the judgment and insight of library professionals and booksellers who work closely with adult readers. Made possible in part by a grant from the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Medals are co-sponsored by Booklist, the ALA’s book review magazine.

 

 

 


Hollins Students and Faculty Reflect on Voting in the Historic 2020 Election

Though it’s uttered and written nearly every election cycle, the 2020 U.S. General Election truly might be the most significant in a lifetime. With roughly 100 million early votes already cast, polls opened this Election Day morning, Tuesday, November 3, as the last day to cast ballots. So far, early voting records have been shattered in various states (including here in Virginia), and the 2020 election is on track to have one of the highest voter turnouts ever.

Hollins students and faculty shared their experiences voting in what will no doubt go down as one of the most historic elections in U.S. history.

Angelica M. Ramos-Santa ’22, creative writing M.F.A.
I received my ballot in the mail from the Lehigh County office in Pennsylvania. At first, I was excited like, “This is awesome, my vote matters.” But then the reality of how important this election seriously is [set in]. So much is on the line, it truly feels do or die. I opened the ballot and voted. I was nervous about going to actual polls due to pre-existing health conditions. When I sealed the envelope, I felt hope and I hope our generation does the right thing [and] votes for everyone to have an equal chance.

Jessie van Eerden, associate professor, English/creative writing

I requested a ballot very early, online, for a mail-in ballot, in late September. I had never voted that way before and was surprised by the requirement of a witness, but I liked that aspect—having someone bear witness to my exercising of this right we can take for granted. I felt more keenly than usual that I was/am so deeply implicated in the fabric of my country and its institutions, even the institution of the postal service that carried my vote for me into the sea of others’ votes.

Matthew K. Burnside, visiting assistant professor, English/creative writing

I voted by mail extremely early on, along with my wife. We filled out the forms very carefully together, reading aloud instructions back and forth and nervously making sure we got everything perfect, since it feels like any excuse to not have our vote counted this time around could potentially result in invalidation. I’ve never had that fear before but it was palpable this year. My ballot was verified received over a month ago, so that’s heartening. Definitely a tense experience this time around, though! If I were doing it today, I wouldn’t mail it in—I’d deliver to the drop box or vote in person.

Jen Lazar ’21, creative writing M.F.A.

[Jen responded with a haiku of 3-5-3 syllables]

From afar
two envelopes sealed,
we got this

Isabella G. Narducci ’23

I voted in person. It was pretty easy, in and out in like ten minutes. I will say though I was caught a bit off guard by other things that were on the ballot besides the presidency, like for senate positions or on certain bills that I hadn’t heard of. But once I realized I didn’t have to vote on all positions I gave them my ballot and I was off. I voted in the primaries, but this was my first presidential election. I was excited mainly but still nervous because I was worried I’d fill it out wrong or something like that.

Jeff Dingler is a graduate assistant in Hollins’ marketing and communications department. He is pursuing his M.F.A. in creative writing at the university.


New Memoir by Natasha Trethewey M.A. ’91 Earns Praise and Inspires Dialogue

“To survive trauma, one must be able to tell a story about it,” writes Natasha Trethewey M.A. ’91.

In her new book, Memorial Drive: A Daughter’s Memoir, the Pulitzer Prize winner and two-time U.S. Poet Laureate courageously and compellingly faces, after more than three decades, the shooting death of her mother by her second husband and Trethewey’s former stepfather. The murder followed years of domestic abuse.

“The reason that I am a writer is that tremendous loss from when I was 19,” Trethewey relates in an interview with Esquire magazine. But, as her public profile grew during her terms as poet laureate, PBS NewsHour Chief Arts Correspondent Jeffrey Brown notes that the author “saw articles written about her make her mother’s killing almost kind of a footnote.”

Trethewey tells Brown, “And I thought, if that was going to continue to happen, that I needed to be the one to tell her story, so that she could be put in her proper context….”

Esquire calls this summer’s publication of Memorial Drive “a second alignment of the stars” for Trethewey in that it “confronts the murder of her mother as well as our nation’s fraught racial legacy.”

“Not only is it that all of these [race-based topics] are coming to a head right now,” she says, “but also, the pandemic has increased the number of cases of domestic violence. People are sheltering in place often with their abusers because they have no choice. So, to see these things intersecting in such a powerful and traumatic way is difficult, but it also suggests that maybe we’ll be able to have a conversation and a reckoning with it that we haven’t quite had before.”

The memoir has resounded with journalists and critics at a number of major media outlets. Along with the profiles in Esquire (which has already named Memorial Drive one of its Best Books of 2020) and on PBS NewsHour, Trethewey has been featured in The New York Times, The New Yorker, the Chicago Tribune, Chicago magazine, and The Atlantic, and heard on NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross. People magazine named Memorial Drive its Book of the Week (while also citing Hieroglyphics by Jill McCorkle M.A. ’81 in the same issue as one of the week’s Best New Books), while the New York Post included it among its Best Books of the Week for the first week of August.

Memorial Drive has also garnered enthusiastic acclaim, both nationally and internationally:

  • “Trethewey’s masterpiece.” – The New York Times
  • “Trethewey has delivered the kind of book that can only come from a writer at the height of her powers, a human at the height of her wisdom and pathos.” – Chicago magazine
  • “An enduring work, beautiful and horrific.” – The Star-Tribune (Minneapolis)
  • “Trethewey excavates her mother’s life, transforming her from tragic victim to luminous human being. She is a living, breathing dynamo, coming of age in the Jim Crow South, breaking out of the restrictions imposed on her.” – The Washington Post
  • “An exquisitely written, elegiac memoir. Memorial Drive is Trethewey’s gorgeous exploration of all the wounds that never heal: her mother’s, her own, and the wounds of slavery and racism on the soul of a troubled nation.” – USA Today
  • “Stunning….As Trethewey revisits her past, she again turns on a light in the darkest of corners, piecing together the memories of her childhood and her mother’s death as the hands of her stepfather. Her pain still feels primal, but the poet confronts shadows to reveal, as she writes, ‘the story I tell myself to survive.’” – Garden & Gun
  • “Three decades ago that masterly American writer Tobias Wolff published This Boy’s Life, his classic memoir of a troubled childhood and a bullying, unpredictably violent stepfather. It’s no exaggeration to say that Natasha Trethewey’s book belongs in the same exalted company.” – The Times (London)

When asked during her Esquire interview what has to happen in publishing so that “stories that hit a variety of identities get to be told on an equally grand scale as those that come from white authors with white characters,” Trethewey shares the story of a young, white college student from South Carolina who was initially dismissive when her professor assigned her class to read the author’s first collection of poems, Domestic Work, which explores the working lives of African-Americans in the pre-civil rights era of the 20th century. But, Trethewey says, after reading the book, “She saw her own family in my family.”

Trethewey concludes, “We need to understand that Black writers, or other writers of color, are telling stories that relate to all of us. They’re not just stories that are only about that select group of people. Humanity is the thing that we all have in common.”

 


Marilyn Chin Named Louis D. Rubin Jr. Writer-in-Residence for 2021

An award-winning author whose books have become Asian American classics and are taught in classrooms internationally has been announced as Hollins University’s Louis D. Rubin Jr. Writer-in-Residence for 2021.

Marilyn Chin, whose most recent book is A Portrait of the Self as Nation: New and Selected Poems, will work with graduate and selected undergraduate students next spring.

Born in Hong Kong and raised in Portland, Oregon, Chin’s other books of poetry include Hard Love Province, Rhapsody in Plain Yellow, Dwarf Bamboo, and The Phoenix Gone, the Terrace Empty. She has also written a book of wild girl fiction, Revenge of the Mooncake Vixen. Her honors include the Anisfield-Wolf Award, the United States Artist Foundation Award, the Radcliffe Institute Fellowship at Harvard, the Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship, two National Endowment for the Arts awards, the Stegner Fellowship, the PEN/Josephine Miles Award, five Pushcart Prizes, and others. In 2017, she was recognized by the Asian Pacific Islander Caucus and the California Assembly for her activism and excellence in education.

Chin is featured in a variety of literary anthologies and appeared in Bill Moyers’ PBS series The Language of Life and in the 2020 series Poetry in America. She has read and taught workshops all over the world and has served as guest poet and lecturer at universities in Beijing, Shanghai, Singapore, Hong Kong, Manchester, Sydney, Berlin, and elsewhere.

The poet Adrienne Rich said, “Marilyn Chin’s poems excite and incite the imagination through their brilliant cultural interfacings, their theatre of anger, ‘fierce and tender,’ their compassion, and their high mockery of wit. Reading her, our sense of the possibilities of poetry is opened further, and we feel again what an active, powerful art it can be.”

Chin is professor emerita at San Diego State University and is a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.

 

 


For the Stephensons, the Hollins Experience Is a Family Affair

From his service as a U.S. Army officer and a career teaching high school English to embracing a stint as a stay-at-home father, Kelly Stephenson M.F.A. ’20 had always cherished a desire to someday write a novel.

So, while his daughter Clare was preparing to graduate from high school, Kelly and his wife began seriously considering “the next phase of my life. We were talking about what’s next, and she said, ‘why don’t you apply to grad schools and see where you get in?’ Hollins University was at the top of my list because I knew it had a really strong writing program. I applied, I got accepted, and we decided that it must be fate.”

Two years later, Kelly and his family are celebrating the completion of his Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing from Hollins, which he hopes will be a springboard to becoming a published author. At the outset, however, Kelly admits he had mixed emotions.

“I was terrified,” he recalls. “I was older and I hadn’t been to school in 30 years except to earn my teaching license. It was nerve-wracking, too, because my family wouldn’t join me here,” but remain at their home in Princeton, New Jersey, until Clare finished high school. “I was going to be a geographical bachelor.”

Nevertheless, Kelly came to Hollins motivated to finally begin writing that novel. “I decided at my first tutorial that I had a good idea and I was going to push forward with it. For the first half of my first year, I wrote fervently and completed seven chapters. In the second half, I started revising.”

Kelly states that the amount of writing he completed in his first year at Hollins “was great. The instruction I got from my professors in terms of taking my writing to the next level was wonderful.” And while he missed his family, “having my space to write was fantastic. It really did make a big difference with my writing and what I was able to accomplish.”

One of the attributes of the creative writing program that Kelly praises is its emphasis on the rewriting process. “During my revisions, I was encouraged to deepen my characters’ inner life, and I started assimilating that naturally into my writing. I also learned my strengths and my blind spots as a writer. I was definitely enriched by the instruction I received. I thought I would improve around the edges, but I got the opportunity to not only write a lot, but also to write better.”

Kelly believes the M.F.A. in creative writing at Hollins offers a unique and beneficial approach in other ways. “They have a sense of what the student needs, and one of those things is the fire to write. If you’re just getting slammed, it’s discouraging. They want you to keep doing what you’re doing well. The philosophy during rewrites is not that what you’ve done is a disaster, but how can you build upon what you’ve already done. I had some things worth polishing.”

He adds that he was inspired to pursue writing in different genres. “I wanted to be a novelist, but I was encouraged to write poetry and creative nonfiction, and I have eight good short stories that I’m proud of. Some programs have a tendency to put you into a certain genre.”

Kelly sees further upsides when comparing Hollins to other creative writing schools. “There’s much more competition in those programs between the writers themselves and in getting attention from faculty. At Hollins, it’s not like that. I was never made to think, ‘Oh, I’ve got to write better than this person.’”

Kelly & Clare Stephenson 2
Kelly Stephenson M.F.A. ’20 and his daughter Clare, Hollins’ class of 2023: “Not everyone gets to see their son’s or daughter’s educational experience up close, and I think Clare made a great choice in Hollins.”

The sense of destiny that Kelly and his wife feel led him to Hollins may have also played a role in determining Clare’s college destination. “I had a class in high school that focused on helping you find what you want out of college and where the best fit might be,” she explains. “I was very interested in single-sex colleges, and Hollins kept coming up for me.”

At the same time he was on the Hollins campus with Clare for a visit, Kelly learned that he had been accepted into the M.F.A. program in creative writing. On top of that welcome news, Clare was forming a very good impression of the university. “I liked the feel of community during my tour. The vibe was very comforting to me. It felt good in terms of how women grow into the type of person I wanted to be. As a liberal arts school it really was set up to help me to explore what I really wanted to do in life.”

Clare, who is also an aspiring author (she hopes to double major in creative writing and the performing arts), was accepted at Hollins during Kelly’s first fall at Hollins. She became a residential first-year student during her dad’s second year in the creative writing program, when he also taught an undergraduate class, Fundamentals of Writing Poetry and Fiction.

In order to give Clare space to grow and engage in her education on her own, Kelly says he purposefully kept their interaction on campus to a minimum. “We didn’t see each other that much except on weekends, and that was more as a father and daughter rather than fellow students.” There was the occasional overlap: Kelly shared a faculty office with Visiting Lecturer in English Sydney Tammarine, who taught Clare in a creative writing class (“I made it a point not to talk about Clare with Sydney at all.”), and this spring, they actually shared the same instructor (“Clare had Karen Bender [Hollins’ Distinguished Visiting Professor of Creative Writing] for a class and I had her for a tutorial.”). Still, Kelly says Clare’s first-year experience “was so great. She’s really found a great group of friends who are very nurturing and helped her acclimate into a study routine.”

Clare adds, “It helped that I was close enough to my parents’ apartment in Roanoke where I could come over whenever I wanted.”

When Hollins transitioned to remote instruction in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Kelly and Clare found that their individual academic experiences became a bit more intertwined when they both had to complete their studies for the semester from that apartment.

“I think for Clare it was a weird experience sitting at a kitchen table and me coming in to get a snack,” Kelly says. “Plus, my wife was working in the next room, so we had several people at any given time in the pockets of our apartment.”

Moving forward, Kelly is seeking to finish his novel as well as a memoir about his time as a stay-at-home dad. “I’m taking another year to get a big chunk of writing done with a goal of getting publication. As one of the oldest graduates of the M.F.A. program, I realize I have a narrower window to see my dreams come true.”

Clare is excited to return to campus this fall, and hopes to expand her Hollins experience beyond the classroom. “I’m looking into internship opportunities and considering study abroad.”

“I’m so happy she is here in this kind of environment,” Kelly says. “Not everyone gets to see their son’s or daughter’s educational experience up close, and I think Clare made a great choice in Hollins.”

 

 

 

 

 

 


Nancy Thorp Poetry Contest Recognizes Seven Young Writers

A South Carolina student has captured the top honor in Hollins University’s 56th Annual Nancy Thorp Poetry Contest.

The competition presents scholarships, prizes, and recognition for the best poems submitted by young women in high school. This year, 944 contestants from 650 high schools in 45 states, Puerto Rico, the District of Columbia, and 17 countries in addition to the United States submitted works for consideration.

Luisa Peñaflor, a student at the Fine Arts Center of Greenville, won first place for her work, “This Is Not a Heritage Poem.” She will receive a $350 cash prize; publication in Cargoes, Hollins’ award-winning student literary magazine; ten copies of Cargoes; a renewable scholarship of up to $5,000 provided through the Creative Talent Award in Creative Writing for a total value of $20,000 in scholarship funds over four years (applicable if she enrolls at Hollins); and free tuition and housing for the university’s Hollinsummer creative writing program for rising ninth through 12th grade students.

Six other students earned second place honors in this year’s contest. Each of them will receive publication in Cargoes; two copies of Cargoes; a renewable scholarship of up to $1,000 provided through the Creative Talent Award in Creative Writing for a total value of $4,000 in scholarship funds over four years (applicable if the students enroll at Hollins); and a $500 scholarship to apply toward the Hollinsummer creative writing program.

The second place winners include:

Emma Rose Gowans: “2 Sides: reclamation & resurrection with my mother”
South Carolina Governors School for Arts and Humanities
Greenville, South Carolina

Hye In Lee: “A Kisaeng’s Sijo”
Bergen County Academies
Hackensack, New Jersey

Uma Menon: “Sonnet for Bilingual Women”
Winter Park High School
Winter Park, Florida
(A second poem by Menon was awarded finalist standing)

Maya Miller: “Two Lefts Then a Right on Orange Grove Boulevard”
Polytechnic School
Pasadena, California
(A second poem by Miller was awarded finalist standing)

Renee Morales: “crumbs, too, are food
Barbara Goleman High School
Hialeah, Florida

Hannah Grace Wehrung: “Man for Hire, Holmdel, 1964”
Douglas Anderson School for the Arts
Jacksonville, Florida

Nancy Thorp, a member of the class of 1960 at Hollins, was a young poet who showed great promise when she was a student. Following her death in 1962, he family established the Nancy Thorp Poetry Contest to encourage and recognize the work of young poets.


Poliner Selected as Finalist for the 2019 Algren Award

Elizabeth Poliner, associate professor of English and creative writing at Hollins and director of the Jackson Center for Creative Writing, has been selected as a finalist for the 2019 Nelson Algren Literary Award, presented by the Chicago Tribune.

Poliner was recognized for her short story, “Sabelle.” She will receive a $750 cash prize and her work is featured on the Tribune’s website.

Named in honor of the American author best known for his National Book Award-winning 1949 novel, The Man with the Golden Arm, the Nelson Algren Literary Award is a nationally recognized contest for original short fiction. Held annually since 1981, the contest received more than 3,000 entries this year. It was judged by Jennifer Acker, founder of The Common, an online literary magazine; Mona Simpson, who won the Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize in 2001; and Jane Smiley, a two-time winner of the Heartland Prize.

Poliner is the author of the novel, As Close to Us as Breathing, winner of the 2017 Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize in Fiction, finalist for the Harold Ribalow Prize for Jewish fiction, and an Amazon Best Book of 2016. She is also the author of a story collection, Mutual Life & Casualty, and a volume of poetry, What You Know in Your Hands. Her stories have appeared in Michigan Quarterly Review, The Kenyon Review, The Common, Colorado Review, and TriQuarterly, among other journals. A member of the Hollins faculty since 2008, she teaches in both the Master of Fine Arts and undergraduate creative writing programs.


“A Woman Of Action,” Lilly Potter ’19 Plans To “Do Something Positive In The World”

To illustrate his daughter’s fearlessness, Lilly Potter ’19 says her dad loves to tell the story of her childhood trip to India for a family wedding. “We encountered a cobra charmer and I just went and tried to pet the cobra. Fortunately, my dad got me away in time.”

The double-major in English and international studies has certainly learned to set boundaries in the ensuing years, but while at Hollins, her curiosity and sense of adventure have continued to flourish. She has devoted January Short Terms to traveling in Japan and Greece and spent full semesters studying abroad in London and Paris. She completed internships with Peace Boat US in New York City; the Diplomatic and Consular Officers Retired in Washington, D.C.; and the Nursing Times in London.  Her community service includes volunteer work last summer with the Costa Rica Animal Rescue Center, where she gained firsthand experience with the inner workings of an international nonprofit organization. The trip was funded in part by Hollins’ Hobbie Trust Fund, which provides financial assistance for students to engage in a research or service project that is clearly connected to ethics or values.

“It’s a testament to Hollins and its flexibility that I was able to fit in so much,” Potter says. “The school made each of these experiences possible. I don’t hear from my friends at other schools that they receive the same support to participate in these kinds of extracurricular opportunities.”

Potter was drawn to Hollins because she says she knew that “Hollins makes good writers and good writers seek out Hollins. I think the ability to express myself orally and through the written word is something with which Hollins has gifted me, along with being able to synthesize different topics that may not have an immediate correlation. Everything connects if you really look for it.”

Believing Hollins has given her “a Renaissance education,” Potter has taken classes in philosophy, gender and women’s studies, statistical analysis, “and a lot of French” in addition to the coursework in her majors. She is also earning a certificate in leadership studies from the Batten Leadership Institute. “That was one of the strongest pulls of Hollins for me. I didn’t see women-centered leadership development courses at other universities.”

This fall, Potter will be attending William & Mary Law School. “It’s a really good fusion of my love of English and rhetoric and my desire to get out there and do something positive in the world. I’m interested in human rights law, and I’d like to live internationally and work in either the nonprofit or foreign service sectors.”

Professor of English Marilyn Moriarty has known Potter since her sophomore year, when she became Potter’s academic advisor in English. “Lilly is a woman of action, dedicated to her work and animated by a social conscience. She is intelligent and dedicated, works hard but remains modest about her accomplishments, and has the needed character traits to set goals, persevere, and achieve them. In addition to being capable and truthful, she is also tactful and kind. These many qualities convince me that she will make an excellent lawyer.”

When asked what she will miss the most about Hollins, Potter cites “a community that’s small and majority women, one that’s focused on women’s rights. I’m very grateful for the incredible, ferocious, and intelligent women and other people that I’ve met here. They really inspire me.”

 

 

 

 

 


With Gratitude To Her Parents and Professors, Yitazba Largo-Anderson ’19 Finds “The Power Of My Voice”

When deciding on a college, Yitazba Largo-Anderson ’19 needed to look no further than her own family for sound advice. “My dad is a professor and my mom is a librarian, and they value education,” she explains. “They urged me to go to a liberal arts school because they knew it would help me round out who I am as a person.”

The campus beauty and “a really strong creative writing program” are what Yitazba says drew her particularly to Hollins after living most of her life in Phoenix, Arizona. “I came here not knowing what I wanted to study, I’m interested in so many things,” she adds. After taking classes from several disciplines, she chose to major in English with a concentration in multicultural literature and a minor in social justice.

Yitazba describes her Hollins experience as “finding the power of my voice,” and she cites the crucial roles many faculty members have played in that quest. “[Professor of English] TJ Anderson, [Professor of English] Pauline Kaldas, and [former Visiting Assistant Professor of English] Nick Miller challenged me to think differently and critically about literature, how it was going to impact me, and what I was going to take from it.”

Those lessons deeply influenced the ways she has transformed her love of writing poetry.

“Poetry to me is not only something you read or that’s visual. It’s also very sensory. I love doing music with my poetry.”

Yitazba’s talent for expression evolved when she met Mary Eggleston, a voice instructor in Hollins’ music department. “I had never taken voice lessons before, and Mary helped me come out of my shell with singing. I’ve never had someone teach me how to challenge my voice to go higher than it did the week before, or become a sound that carries in a room.” This spring for the first time, she sang opera for a campus recital.

Last year, Yitazba felt another important breakthrough while participating in theatre. “Hollins professors make suggestions to one another about students who could benefit from some activity. [Professor of Anthropology and Gender and Women’s Studies] LeeRay Costa talked to Rachel Nelson in the theatre department about asking me to play a part in a production she was directing. I’m shy and I never considered being on stage, but I loved it. I want to speak my poetry more now in public, and instead of just submitting my work for publication, I’d like to get into slam poetry.”

Yitazba’s roots are Scotch-Irish and Diné (the Navajo Nation’s preferred name, it translates to “of the people”), and while she has always been attached to Native American culture through her grandmother, she never had the opportunity to engage in a serious exploration of Native American studies until she came to Hollins. “It was the first time I had ever experienced a whole class dedicated to Native American women and taught by a Native American woman, [Visiting Instructor of Sociology] Shari Valentine.”

Yitazba will spend the next year engaged in a fellowship at the College of William and Mary’s Swem Library. She’ll be working with their Project Outreach initiative on making inclusivity and diversity more prevalent in academic research. She then hopes to attend law school and focus on some aspect of Native American law, but doesn’t intend to make a legal career her lifelong vocation.

“I’d like to get an M.F.A. in creative writing after law school and eventually teach Native American voice through poetry in conjunction with Native American studies. My parents and my professors have all inspired me – Shari Valentine has especially been a constant source of encouragement, and I want to make an impact on a student like she’s done for me. I want to pass that gift down to someone.”