Author Archives: Nicole Ratliff

How to Survive the First Week of School for English Majors (Part 3): Relaxation


As part of the BYU English Society’s 3-Part “How to Survive the First Week of School for English Majors” Series- we have covered tips for success and necessary items for your survival! The last thing that is needed to get you through this week is our top 5 ways to de-stress and get ready for the rest of the semester!

See below: How to Survive the First Week of School for English Majors (Part Three)! And you can find part one and two here!

Grab Your Favorite Book!


What better way to de-stress than picking up your favorite read? Whether it’s a novel, short story, or even magazine article, this will immediately remind you of why you chose to be an English Major. Go to your quiet place as previously mentioned in Part 1 and see the stress disappear right before your eyes!

Book Club, Anyone?


Talk about it, talk about it, talk about it! You have just started diving into your course reading lists, finished your summer books, and let me guess- you can’t wait to share you new insights and favorites with everyone around you? Why not try creating a book club? You’ll have fun getting to know new people while talking about the things you love the most!



Some people doodle. Some people workout. Why not try writing? Put your skills to the test! After all who hasn’t been dreaming since birth about publishing a novel? Write a poem, or flesh out some ideas for writing projects you want to start! Working on your own goals and dreams will help you get motivated and excited again about the future!

Join the English Society


BYU’s English Society is the perfect way to de-stress and make friends. Be apart of a community of people who love English as much as you do! With activities, daily blog and social media posts, and so many other opportunities for fun- you’ll be de-stressed before you know it. Plus the English Society is the BEST society on campus (completely unbiased- promise). Write your email in the comments below to get updates about upcoming activities and follow us on our social media accounts to stay involved!

Stop and Smell the Books?


Most people would say, “Stop, and smell the roses.” But we are more original than that! So stop and smell the books! Take a moment to remember why you love English and literature! Look at all of the awesome things around you:

You attend the best university out there #BYUrocks

You are an English Major

and… You just survived your first week at BYU!


We hope that you enjoyed our 3 Part Series on How to Survive the First Week of School for English Majors and would love to hear your feedback! Tell us all about your first week at BYU and share any of your survival tips. You could be featured in our next post!


Click here to get to our other blog posts! And check out Part One and Part Two!


Have a Great Semester!

Everything You Need to Know: Poetry Slam Edition

Poetry Slam 4

So you’ve successfully made it through most of your first week of the Fall 2016 semester without blowing anything up. Congrats! But before you buckle down for another challenging semester, why don’t you take the time to start the year off right with a Back to School Poetry Slam?


Last year, BYU poets rocked the wall with some killer performances, and the best part of the slams?They aren’t dominated by just English majors. In rare form, kids from all lengths of campus join the Saturday Night Slam Series once a month for some literary good times. Seniors, Freshman, Engineers and Linguists, all frequent the Wall to enjoy hearing their classmates share original raps, poems, soliloquy, rants, and the occasional bouts of unexpected wisdom in the boisterous atmosphere new ideas are often introduced into.

Poetry Slam 1


Slams are where conversations are happening! The history of spoken word poetry is rooted in civil rights and literary innovation, influenced by speech-writing and classic poetry alike. The ultimate goal of poetry slams is to provide an open space for everyone’s voice to matter and be heard, in a fun, competitive environment.


Poetry Slam 2

Everyone’s stories are different. Getting to know BYU means getting to know those stories. Even better, some of those stories are the same as yours. You’re not alone in your frustrations! Who knew?


“You, your roommates, your significant other, his or her little sister, that one guy with a mustache from your Tuesday 10 a.m. class and everyone else on the planet are invited to compete in this epic poetry slam for fame, glory, and phone numbers. All are invited to come prepared with a three-minute poem to present to a panel of distinguished and randomly selected judges and a crowd of adoring fans. This is the event that your children’s children will be asking you about for years to come.” -Saturday Night Slam Series Facebook page.
Poetry Slam 3

The Back to School Slam is This Saturday, Sept. 3, 5:00-7:00

Join us for the fun!


How to Survive the First Week of School for English Majors (Part Two): Tools for Success


It’s the first week of classes and if you read our How to Survive the First Week of School for English Majors: Part One, you are on your way to success. In addition to those tips, as English Majors you know that you need specific tools to survive this week. To help save you time, we have compiled a list of necessary items for any English Major to get through their first week!

Check out the BYU English Society’s Survival Guide for the First Week of School (Part Two)! And if you missed yesterday’s post, you can read it here!

Sticky Notes


If they aren’t already, sticky notes will be your best friend throughout your journey as an English Major and are especially great to have the first week of class! Choose from a variety of sizes to make notes in textbooks, your planner, and everywhere else! If you haven’t gotten them yet, go now and pick some up! Hurry!


Depending on you and your professors’ preferences, you will either be taking notes electronically or old school with notebook paper and pen. Make sure to check with your professor that laptops and other electronics are allowed in their classroom. And don’t forget to bring a way to take notes, especially on the first day! If you are unsure, grab a small notebook and pen before heading out! And you’ll be ready for anything that comes your way!



What do English Majors love just as much or even more than sticky notes? Pens and highlighters! Especially since they are necessary for annotating, drafting, and writing papers- your favorite things of course! And I bet that you have even a favorite brand of pen, right? So grab one or two before heading out for the day!


Show off your personality with some rad accessories! Get out your glasses and cardigans to make a fashion statement. And even better add “I <3 English” and “I <3 Grammar” pins to your messenger bag and on your sweater! Guys this applies to you too! They will be great conversation starters and you’ll look great too!



This is the most important for your survival. Because as much as you hate to admit it, you have to take a moment away from reading to eat. So make sure to pack some healthy- and even some unhealthy- snacks! You can never go wrong with an apple… or dark chocolate. Both are great choices!


And finally you need a place to store all of your necessities! Just make sure that your backpack has enough room for all of your supplies. But don’t pack too much! As English majors, your backpack will get heavy and fast!


And you are ready to go!

Share with us what your necessities are for the first week of school and as an English Major!

Doubled Booked- Reviews from our Summer Reading Lists

If there’s one thing English Majors love more than reading, it’s summer reading! No worries, or other class assignments. Only you, a list of books you have been dying to dive into, and all the time in the world! With all of our summer reads fresh on our minds, it only makes sense to share your favorite! Check out BYU English Society’s Book Review Officer’s TOP PICKS from their summer reading list! Check back weekly to see more book reviews and submit to us suggestions for books you want review or share your own recommendations and have your review posted on this blog!

Wonder, by R.J Palacio

-Written by: Eliza Howard

Most of you have seen it: the baby blue cover with a black and white face almost filling the entire frame. Yet the shape can hardly be called a face, for the only feature to interrupt the vastness is a single eye on the left. Above it, the word Wonder rests like an eyebrow. 
Given a rare facial deformity from birth, August Pullman is used to the “looks” strangers pretend not to give him. “Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse,” is how he describes himself. With ears comparable to cauliflower, eyes too low on his face, and a mouth that doesn’t seem to work properly, Auggie’s ability to even breathe is the work of 27 surgeries. Yet, on the inside, he assures you he’s nothing special, just an average kid. 
In a demonstration of innate bravery, Auggie leaves the comfort of homeschooling and his beyond-perfect family to enter fifth grade. Just as cruelty and blatant honesty color Auggie’s school year, as do true friendship and loyalty. He is quickly made the target of a bully and is shunned school-wide for carrying the “Plague.” Yet at the cost of also becoming “infected,” true friends come to his aid, demonstrating a quality that makes everyone proud to be human: kindness. 
Wonder explores the basic traits that make us human: the desire to belong, the potential to love and protect family and friends, and the affinity to change. R. J. Palacio creates a story that is anything but cliche in moments such as the school system being challenged by anxious parents, opportunities to defend kindness in an overnight field trip, and the internal conflict between worry and resentment held by his older sister Via. Told from the perspectives of bold fifth graders, protective teenagers, and Auggie himself, the narrative has a raw feeling of truth. 
Wonder is a book I won’t forget. I would recommend it to both children and young adults. Beyond the characters that I swear are real somewhere in the universe and a storyline to match, Wonder pulls at my heart. Expect to laugh and cry with Auggie. I could not help but rediscover what kindness is, and how we as individuals can determine how humanity is defined. 

An Assembly Such as This: A Novel of Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman, by Pamela Aidan

-Written by: Marissa Brown


Have you ever wondered what Darcy was thinking during his varying interactions with Elizabeth? Maybe you want some insight as to why he acted the way he did? I know I did. Do you want an excuse to fall in love with him all over again? Do I even need to ask? In An Assembly Such as This: A Novel of Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman, Pamela Aidan does a masterful job in recreating Jane Austen’s world of Pride and Prejudice but from Mr. Darcy’s point of view. Aidan helps readers relive those awful and beautiful moments from the classic but with a new perspective. She clarifies the structure of Regency England for readers to better understand the situations characters find themselves in. An Assembly Such as This is the first book in the trilogy and unlike a lot of other spinoffs, follows the original storyline instead of trying to create Elizabeth’s and Darcy’s future, and although its three books reinterpreting the one it still doesn’t seem like enough. Aidan intertwines conversations from the original novel and furthers their importance by adding what Darcy thought and felt. What I most respected Aidan for was being able to write in a style similar to Jane Austen yet maintain her own wit and personality throughout the novel. I have a hard enough time doing impersonations for five minutes, I can’t even imagine maintaining another person’s writing style for multiple novels. By far, this book was my favorite summer read, it had all the right parts: romance, intrigue, flowery language, and Mr. Darcy. I give it five stars and two definite thumbs up!

How to Survive the First Week of School for English Majors (Part One): Tips for Success


Back to School. The most exciting, nerve-wracking, and dreaded time of year for students of all ages. Whether you love school or are counting down the days until next summer break, there’s one thing that everyone has in common. You need to survive the next week filled with an exaggerated amount of syllabus pages, finding your way across campus without getting lost, and keeping your sanity.

Check out this: BYU English Society’s Survival Guide for the First Week of School (Part One) especially for You- Our English Majors!

Bed Times are A Real Thing


First things first. You need your rest! As tempted as you are to pull out a book for some late-night reading turned into reading all-nighters… Put the book down! Grogginess is not the way to start off a semester! Set aside a time during the day for reading your favorites to let yourself get a full night’s rest! You’ll be glad when you can wake up for your classes on time AND pay attention in them too!

Make Your Planner Your Best Friend!

Pair up your class syllabus with an awesome planner! Make sure that you schedule in your classes, study times, assignment due dates, and some free time for relaxation! Use sticky notes to allow for changes in scheduling and keep your planner up-to-date!

Find a Quiet Place


The best thing about the first week is being able to explore the campus a little more! Whether you have been at BYU for years or this is your first year, explore your surroundings and find a quiet place! Make this place your reading and studying go-to! Use it for meditation and some time away from the bustle of your crazy schedule! And don’t forget a notebook and pen to write down your thoughts!

Make Friends

Make a special effort in your classes to make friends. Many of your courses will consist of only 10-30 students! Get to know the people in your classes because they will be the ones that will keep you updated when you miss days, form study groups with you, and be there to talk with before and after class. You don’t have to make them your best  friend on the first day, but it’s always nice to walk into the room with a smiling face waiting for you!

Get Motivated

English Society

It’s easy to get discouraged when you see the lists and lists of reading assignments, midterms, and papers due. But don’t let that get you down! Check out the English Society’s Facebook Page every day this week for some inspiration from your favorite professors, authors, and characters! You can do this!


Good luck on your first week back to school!

And check back tomorrow for Part Two of BYU English Society’s Back to School Survival Series!


6 Times Poetry Looked like Winter

1. Sundays too my father got up early

Winter1 (1)

and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold,

then with cracked hands that ached

from labor in the weekday weather made

banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him.

I’d wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking.

When the rooms were warm, he’d call,

and slowly I would rise and dress,

fearing the chronic angers of that house,

Speaking indifferently to him,

who had driven out the cold

and polished my good shoes as well.

What did I know, what did I know

of love’s austere and lonely offices?

Those Winter Sundays- Robert Hayden


Winter22. The woods are lovely, dark and deep,   

But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
-Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening
Robert Frost
3. The days are short,Winter3 (1)

The sun a spark,

Hung thin between

The dark and dark.

-January by John Updike
Winter 4 (1)4. 
The way a crow
Shook down on me
The dust of snow
From a hemlock tree
Has given my heart
A change of mood
And saved some part
Of a day I had rued.
-Dust of Snow by Robert Frost

5. The giant trees are bendingWinter5

Their bare boughs weighed with snow.

And the storm is fast descending,

And yet I cannot go.
-Spellbound by Emily Bronte 
6. Before the stars have left the skies, 

At morning in the dark I rise

-Winter-Time by Robert Louis Stevenson 

Confessions of an English Major: The Senior Homework-Dozer

By: Chalene Riser

A beautiful part about being an English Major  is the chance to experience the classics. I say that with more than just a little sarcasm.

Don’t get me wrong, I have fallen in love with my fair share of classic literature. I understand that these timeless novels, plays and stories are meant to enrich our minds…but I’m usually dozing off before I can trudge through the archaic language and soggy allusions.

 Falling Asleep During Class dozing 2 dozing 3

That’s were technology comes in. Because the world thinks these ‘classics’ are meant to be ‘enjoyed’ by the masses their audio readings are all online. Here is my little confession—though you may take it as a homework saving tip—when you have to read those coma inducing classics, listen to them instead! But don’t just listen to someone else chug through the reading, go to settings and speed it up. Now I still get through all my readings, but at twice the speed! If you can’t find a audio recording of a play, usually you can find a performance of it on youtube, which can also be sped up. Trust me, it works. I only wish I had discovered this tidbit before my last semester…

Playing Catch Up- My Literary Life

Written By: Nicole Anne Ratliff
“Come on, Nicole.”
“We are going without you!”
“I’m coming, I’m coming!”
I never wanted to be the kid that was left behind. If my sisters could do it, so could I. This was seen in practically every aspect of my life. They took AP classes, were cheerleaders, class presidents, had jobs… And although I was a year behind them, I walked almost perfectly in their footsteps.


Me and My Older Sister, Claire

Growing up, well into my high school years, I followed this path. One of the main aspects of my sisters’ lives that I always admired was their love for literature. As with school and extracurricular activities, I didn’t want to be left behind when they would stay up late on school nights and weekends reading fantastic stories and then discussing plots, themes, rhetorical devices, and sharing reactions to the twists and surprises that came with each page. In the mornings I would then wait for them to come out of their room so that I could be the next one in line to read the book. And while I enjoyed that for a while, it always felt like I was playing catch up. Running and getting so close, but always somehow falling so far behind.
During my junior year of high school everything changed. My sisters were moving on, one was headed off to college and the other was enjoying her senior year. Their interests began to change and I realized that I could no longer follow them like I was so comfortable doing. It was time that I found who I was. During this time I took AP English Language and Composition and I fell in love. I could now pick out all the rhetorical devices in a text, analyze plots and themes, and find my own books to bring to my sisters to read. Not only did I catch up, but it finally felt like the race had subsided. We were now all walking along the same path, helping each other along the way. I was no longer on the sidelines, but rather a participating member engaged in the late night conversations and daily book exchange.

Me and My Older Sister, Harli

Since that year, mine and my sisters’ interests have evolved. While they chose the math and science fields, I decided to take the route of English. With this my world has become one that is filled with the joys of reading and studying all aspects of the English language.
A dominant part of this world is still reading and recommending books to my sisters so that when we all get together we can have discussions like those nights that seem so long ago. I have also moved from doing this with my sisters to other family members, friends, and even random people who I just so happen to strike a conversation with. Sharing the love I have for books, authors, and even writing styles, makes me happy. And the sharing of viewpoints and knowledge is like the cherry on top.


A race is what brought me into this literary world, but it was the knowledge that I gained that kept me here.

Graduate School: The What, When, Where, and How

By: Sarah Bonney

For anyone thinking about a career in academics, graduate school is a must, and even if you’re not, an English MA or PhD can be a valuable addition to your English BA and your ability as a reader, writer, and critic. Although graduate school isn’t for everyone and a graduate degree isn’t necessary for every career, deciding if, when, and where to go to graduate school can be an overwhelming decision. If you’re wondering if graduate school just might be for you, here’s a little information to give you a taste of what graduate school means and how to get your application started.


Master’s Degree- An English MA takes 1-2 years depending on the school. You have the chance to hone your analysis and writing skills as you take classes based on a specialty you select early in your program. While an English BA gives you an overview of English literature and the various genres of English literature, an MA allows you to specialize in a subject of your choice; some example of specialities include Medieval Studies, Creative Writing, 20th Century American Literature, and so on.

PhD- An English PhD takes 4-6 years depending on the school. If you aim to teach at the university level, you will need a PhD. Similarly to an MA, you will specialize, but your research and education will be at a deeper level than that of an MA. In the past, prospective PhD students were required to have completed an MA before applying, but in recent years, many schools have begun allowing students without an MA to enroll in PhD programs. This is dependent on university policy.


While many choose graduate school years after they graduate with their BA as a career changer or a promotion catalyst, going to graduate school right after undergraduate is arguably the easiest transition. However, graduate school can be a beneficial choice at any stage in life, and the decision of when is based on personal circumstances.


After deciding you’d like to attend graduate school, your next big decision is where to apply. There are many factors you’ll want to consider when looking at schools, and it does require some research. Here are some questions to be thinking about when considering a school’s location:

* Geographically, is it somewhere I’d like to live? If you’re considering a PhD, you will be living there for 4-6 years.

* How expensive would it be to live in this area? Living in New York City is a lot more expensive than living in Provo.

* If you’re single and ready to mingle: How big is the YSA ward in the area? You can check this on

* Does this school have faculty members I would be interested in working with? On your application, you need to select faculty members you would like to work with. This is also something you’ll want to address in your statement of purpose. (See “How?”)

Visiting schools is highly recommended before applying. A quick day trip to the campus will give you a better feel for the school than hundreds of hours on their university website.


In order to attend any graduate school, you need to apply and be accepted. Application deadlines range from early December through April during the academic year preceding the year you plan to enroll in a graduate program. Most English graduate school programs require:

1. An online application accessible on their university website

2. A writing sample. Requirements can range from 6-20 pages.

3. A GRE test score. You may also need to take the GRE English Literature subject test, although not all graduate school applications require it.

4. Three letters of recommendation.

5. Statement of purpose. This is your application essay.

6. Transcript(s) from all previously attended universities.

7. Curriculum Vitae/Resume.

8. Application fee. This varies depending on the school.

Some Final Words

Deciding if, when, and where to go to graduate school are intimidating decisions, but if you have questions about whether it could be right for you, there are people on campus reading and willing to help. Make an appointment with an advisor or, even better, stop by one of your professor’s office hours. Any one of them will have an MA, a PhD, or both and will most likely be happy to talk to you about their experiences and your concerns.