A Creative Writer’s Survival Guide to College

It’s 1 a.m. and your eyes are about as droopy as the leftover spaghetti you had for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Your computer screen displays exam reviews for amyloplasts, bifacial cambiums, and columella cells, but you can’t even remember what a trichinae is or what it has to do with botany. You long for sleep and after running out of the study comfort food you keep on hand; you decide to just take a little nap.

The next day is full of classes and deadlines, and, if you are taking English, a few papers for good measure. There’s that research project you should be working on, homework that you forgot is due tonight, a friend who tries to get you to go out, and myriad other tasks that keep piling up higher than the trash can in your dorm. (Which reminds me I should really take that out some time… Ah maybe next week!)

Falling Asleep During Class

Essentially this is college. Gone are the days when you could write for hours uninterrupted, had food magically appear in the family fridge, and your high school homework was a joke. There are real commitments now, and things you used to enjoy doing are now thrown in among the metaphorical pile of dirty laundry.

So how do you make time for the things you love? Unless you are majoring in creative writing, (which you can’t here at BYU) you’ll be pulled a hundred different ways during the day, but lets be honest that novel isn’t gonna write itself.

What you have before you in this Survival Guide are my years (weeks) of expert experience in this field (this is my first semester too). This guide has been heavily researched (I wrote it at 2 a.m. last night) and is guaranteed (no refunds though) to make your creative writing life 100x better (give or take two zeros).


#1 Take a Creative Writing Class, and if You Can’t, Join a Club or Literary Magazine.


School is full of commitments. It tries to take your time, energy, sleep, friends, fun, family, country, life… *ahem*. Granted, for most of your first two years your classes will be on archaic subjects and obscure information you’ll never actually use in real life *Cough* microbiology *Cough* math. Hey we’re English majors not engineers, so I can say that! The easiest was to make sure you have time to write is to make it one of your classes. There’s no getting out of it then, you’ll really have to commit. Some of my best short stories were written for a CW class the night before a deadline.
Still if you can’t fit that into your schedule, you should really consider joining a CW club. These are great. No deadlines, nice peers, interesting group discussions, and best of all, FREE* FOOD!

#2 Find Your Routine.


How is it that I can still find time to binge watch Doctor Who, but can’t write a page of fiction or poetry? Well probably because I don’t have this whole college thing figured out yet, but more importantly, because I haven’t allocated my time correctly. If you can watch Youtube, stalk that cute person you think is in your ward on Facebook, or Netfilx and… eat popcorn, you can definitely find time to write. It’s all about getting in a habit and remembering what matters most. For some people that time might be in the middle of the night, others in the morning, me personally I always have the most poetic angst when that super gorgeous girl rejects me. Ha. Haha. Those aren’t tears; they’re just a lot of eye sweat. Jokes on her though, I have a super good limerick after that.

#3 Or, Keep a Regular Journal


Who says journal entries can’t count as creative writing? Journaling can be good for your children, handwriting, sanity, and cholesterol. True story. But seriously, when adventure turns up in your own life, be sure to record it instead of ignore it! Imagine what would have happened if Bilbo and Frodo hadn’t recorded their experiences! Why we would be out of four great books and, and 6… well there would be six less movies. Not sure if that is a good or bad thing.

#4 Eavesdrop°


So you’re on your way to that super boring history class, when you over hear the most bizarre conversation happening to your left. Most respectable people would tell you to mind your own business and ignore it, but we’re creative writers. We sold all our respect when we took a vow of poverty with our career path. Listen in, write it down, and use it in a story. I give you permission too. Sometimes you’ll come across unique gems, for example, I was walking in the JFSB when I heard someone say into a phone; “I’m not going to torture it, it’s just a snail!!” Beautiful. Simply beautiful. I have no idea what in the Krusty Krab it was about, but still, that line will show up in one of my stories.

Join me next time for part two!

-Paul Guajardo


*I am not to be held accountable if your writing group is lame and does not provide vitals. But really if they don’t I would go to a different group. Just sayin’…
°Remember, I am not responsible, legally or otherwise, for any criminal charges of stalking, creeping, or encroaching upon peoples privacy. (But lets be honest the government already does it all the time.)

Reviews and Recommendations: Cyrano

By: Starla Eckhardt
Cyrano 1
Many English majors may have heard of the play Cyrano de Bergerac, written in 1897 by French playwright Edmond Rostand. Cyrano, a genius poet and amazing swordsman, struggles with his feelings for the beautiful Roxanne. He lets the handsome Christian take credit for his beautiful letters to her because Cyrano fears that Roxanne would reject him due to his large, ugly nose. BYU’s Young Company, a theatre troop that specializes in abridging and performing classic plays for younger audiences, is currently performing their own version of the classic tale.
    As all Young Company productions are performed in under an hour, they cut some sub-plots and modernize some of the language so it is more accessible to those who have not studied these texts. This performance of Cyrano is very successful and effective in the love story as well as the love of language and rhetoric. This is a major theme of the play (one I’m sure any English major can relate to and would love to watch).
Cyrano 2
    The beginning of the play jumps right into the action as Cyrano (John Walker) gives his famous monologue making fun of his own nose. During this opening act, we are introduced to Cyrano’s mastery of word and rhetoric as he wittily praises Roxanne, makes fun of himself, and ridicules others. When he meets Christian (Bryson Stewart), the man that Roxanne has fallen for, a musical montage ensues, showing Cyrano writing many beautiful love letters on the skill level of Alexander Hamilton. As the mood grows darker in the end of Act 3, Cyrano becomes more frantic in his letters and artful use of rhetoric until the emotions and action climax. The last love letter that Cyrano at the end of the play reads makes the heart melt and tears fall.
    Overall, this play truly inspires a passion for writing and skilled rhetoric in one’s heart. I would recommend that all English students buy a ticket and soak in the beautiful poetry. Remaining performances run at 7 PM this next Wednesday through Friday (October 5th-7th) with two final performances on Saturday, October 8th at 2 PM and 4 PM.
    The BYU English Society will also be sponsoring a Dramatic Reading of Cyrano on October 13th in F430 of the HFAC from 6-8 PM. We will be reading through the most relevant scenes of Cyrano de Bergerac and discussing the differences between the performance and the text. A PDF version can be found online if you bring an electronic device. Come and fall in love with language and rhetoric all over again!

My Story Episode: Lindsay Owens, Digital Humanities Minor


Episode 16 of the BYU English Society’s podcast, My Story, features Lindsay Owens, an English Major with a Minor in the Digital Humanities. Lindsay has always had a passion for writing and creating websites so she decided that she would combine the two and make her dreams a reality. When she faced opposition as she studied programming she decided to change to print and web publishing. As a result of her Digital Humanities Minor she added two more minors one in Graphic Design and another in Creative Writing. Lindsay is taking on the world of web design one print publish at time, and showing the skills that the English Major has given her. With the approach of graduation Lindsay is excited to explore the world of digital humanities even more, and she invites you to do the same! Play the podcast embedded above, and please check out all our episodes featuring stories about how to apply your English Major by visiting the BYU English Society SoundCloud page.

Lindsay’s Interview

My Story episode: Katie Bowman, Shakespeare Intern in the UK

Episode 15 of the BYU English Society’s podcast, My Story, features Katie Bowman, a former acting major turned English major who has done well with extracurriculars. Katie shared with us her experience spent working with English professor Dr. Frank Christiansen as an ORCA-funded researcher. She also told us about her time in Stratford-Upon-Avon in England where she worked as an intern for the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust in the summer of 2016. Play the podcast embedded above, and please check out all our episodes featuring stories of applying one’s English by visiting the BYU English Society SoundCloud page.

Relevant sites


My Internship: As A Technical Writer

By: Shelby Ward

I’m one of those people who usually gets really ticked off when people say, “Oh, you’re an English major? So…what are you planning to do with that?” Um, rule the world, thank you very much. I know that inside, they’re answering their own question: “Not make any money, that’s for sure.” This summer, however, I was able to land a job in an unexpected field PRECISELY because I was an English major with a minor in Digital Humanities. So take that, all you people who turn up your nose at us.


I was hired on by the department of Continuing Education’s Computer Operations team in April of this year as a technical writer. Talk about a foreign world! My first day on the job was a mess of computers and geeky jargon that made me feel totally out of my league. The guys in my cubicle almost kicked me out when I said I hadn’t seen “Avatar: The Last Airbender”, but then I redeemed myself by whipping out some impressive Harry Potter knowledge. Things got better.

I soon figured out that the developers were there to make everything work; I was there to explain it to everyone else. After looking over the department’s documentation, I saw that the developers were just as scared of good grammar as I was of programming. We needed each other.

My supervisor, the blessed soul that she is, decided that she wanted to give me a new skill set along with a paycheck, so she made me start coding all the documentation myself. I had to learn the programming language and worry about not crashing the whole website. It was terrifying—but so much easier than I thought! I became a valuable member of a team, and my editing skills were what set me apart.
The best part of all of this? In August, I talked to advisors here in the English department and they decided that I could count my job as an internship! Hollaaaa! So now I get to go to work every day, figure out ways to make the developers sound good, learn a few programming tricks myself, AND get credit for it. It’s a pretty sweet deal.
So to all you English majors out there—there are more options besides being a teacher. Technical writing is a growing field and we are in high demand! Don’t wait around for an internship to come to you. Learn the computer skills to make yourself marketable in today’s society and watch the doors open up.

Here are some of my co-workers at their finest, btw. They got really excited when I told them it was going on the blog.

Fun Fact Friday: Underappreciated Alphabet

Written by: Abigail Taylor


As lovers of English, we all have a special appreciation for words and their unique histories.  However, we don’t spend much time thinking about the 26 building blocks that make up the words, sentences, and stories we love so dearly.  I would like to dedicate this Fun Fact Friday to the essential but underappreciated letters of our English alphabet.  Here are 10 fun facts you probably didn’t know about the letters of our alphabet, courtesy of David Sacks and his book Language Visible.

  1. Excellent “E” – The letter “E” is the most frequently used letter in the English language.  “E” beats out the second most frequently used letter, “T,” by almost 30% more usage.Grade E+ written on an exam paper
  2. Hardly Real “H”- Some scholars have argued that we should do away with the letter “H” because it isn’t a “true letter.”  They contest that the letter “H” really doesn’t make any true sound of its own and only serves to “thicken” the sounds of other letters it is paired with.
  3. Juvenile “J”- The letter “J” is a relatively young letter, one of the last to be added to the Roman alphabet.  The letter “I” was used to represent both the “I” and “J” sounds until about 1500 A.D.  At that time, the letter “J” was adopted and “I” no longer had to do double duty.
  4. Lovely “L”-  The sound of the letter “L” is considered one of the most beautiful sounds in human speech.                                               lovely
  5. Momma “M”-  Some scholars believe that the word for “mother” starts with the “M” sound in many languages because that is one of the first sounds that a baby can make.
  6. Popular “P”- Don’t underestimate the letter “P.” One-third of the words in the English language start with the letters “S,” “C,” and “P.”
  7. Rad “R”- The letter “R” is a defining letter.  Linguists use the letter “R” to divide all English speakers into two groups: rhotic speakers, who pronounce “R’s” as they are written, and nonrhotic speakers, who leave out the “R’s.”                      letter-r
  8. Triumphant “T”-The letter “T” has historically been associated with Christ and the crucifixion because of its resemblance to a cross.
  9. Weird “W”-In the early days of the printing press, printers didn’t have a separate stamp for “W” so they literally used two lowercase “U’s” to represent the “W.”
  10. Xtra cool “X”- In medieval times, illiterate peasants often signed official documents with an “X” and then kissed the “X” to show their commitment to the terms of the document.  This practice eventually led to the letter “X” representing a kiss!


The next time you pick up your favorite novel or discover an awesome new word, make sure you take a moment to appreciate the wonderful letters that made those words possible.  If you enjoyed these facts and want to continue reading about the amazing letters that make up our alphabet, be sure to check out Language Visible by David Sacks!  Have an awesome Friday!
Check out more fun facts about the alphabet in:   Language Visible: Unraveling the Mystery of the Alphabet from A to Z by David Sacks

I am an English Major: Austin Jones


The very first word that comes to my mind when I think of Austin Jones is passionate. He loves what he does and wants to tell the whole world about it. At BYU’s most recent poetry slam, Jones stole the show with his performance of the Unapologetic English Major.

We were so impressed by his performance that we couldn’t wait to interview him and get the details on his literary life. Below you can find an insider’s look into our interview with Jones and see that he’s not only awesome while performing, but also he’s an amazing person in real life.

Q: Why do you love being an English Major?
I became an English Major because I thought math and science were boring. What I mean by that is when you learn that 2 + 2 is four everybody gets the same answer. I get four, you get four, the quiet kid in the corner gets four, the professor gets four, and then we just move on to learning something else. But in literature there is never really a right answer. The things we learn aren’t as black and white. Was Gatsby really great? Or was he just a loser? What is a particular poem trying to say about society as a whole? Those questions don’t really have a real answer so we can talk about it forever. Characters, people, situations, etc are so complex that person A and person B can arrive at different conclusions which can ultimately both be accurate; as well, each person in the room can contribute their unique life experiences to the idea giving it yet another interesting layer to investigate. Now that is way better than a class where everyone is hoping to find the same boring answer to a problem.
Then once we arrive at a suitable conclusion we learn how to effectively communicate the answer we arrived at and why we find that particular answer persuasive. I’ll be the first to acknowledge that the morality of Jay Gatsby’s actions does not actually matter in the slightest, nor are Shakespeare musings about love and relationships in sonnet 130 really important to my daily life, but the skills of honest and deliberate analysis and the ability to clearly articulate your findings are the most useful skills that I can think of. At least that’s what I hope the English major will do for my classmates and I.
Q: Could you explain a little bit about your performance and why you chose that topic?
I’m Glad you used the word performance. Slam poetry really is a performance. Some poetry is best read alone on a quiet night, some poetry is best read as a small group sitting in a graveyard, but slam poetry is meant to be performed.  To be honest, if you read my poem out of a book it would probably suck, because I’m not really hoping to just impart a bunch of words to the audience I am hoping to conjure a certain feeling. I want my audience to feel passion, I want them to feel a fire, I want them to feel excitement, and the thing I love about performing slam poetry is that if you do it right, you can become the very personification of the feelings you are trying to convey.
So that’s why I try and get so loud. I tried to start more quiet and conversational and then work myself up until I became more aggressive, loud, and passionate. I flail my arms around a lot and try to make over-the-top movements all to contribute to that same sense.
I’ve actually been thinking about writing this poem for a long time but I was hesitant to because I didn’t want to send the message that slam poetry, or any poetry, is just for English Majors. Great poets can come from any background and one of the points of slam poetry is that everyone has a unique story and point of view to be shared. That being said, I chose this topic because I am often frustrated by the stereotype attached to the English Major as being pointless and a dead end. Like I say in the poem,

“words are powerful.”

I know that that is a cliche but I when I say it I don’t want it to sound that way. I’ve been able to spend the last almost four years filling up my head with the words of some of the most brilliant and influential people to have ever lived. That’s changed me as a person for the better and I believe that in some small ways it has begun to give me the ability to persuade other people to think about the world differently. After every performance I’ve had lots of people approach me and tell me how much they like my poems. to those people, I am flattered, but my secret is that if my poems impress you or make you feel anything at all it’s not because I am some awesome genius writer but it is because I have spent a long time absorbing the great work of other people. and that’s something else I love about the English major is the opportunity to just soak up the words of brilliant men and women. 
Q: What are your other hobbies/interests?
I really believe in being well rounded. Of course I love all that other ‘English majory’ stuff too: I love books, theater, poetry and I love Harry Potter. However, I also love sports. I play volleyball, I snow ski, I wakeboard, I hike, I’m training for a half marathon. I play guitar and  bass and even sing when the moods right. I really enjoy going to concerts, especially ones where there is standing room only so I can dance and mosh and whatnot. I absolutely love to cook. Food is a big deal for me. I love to experiment with everything from Chinese food and Indian curry to BBQ and hot wings.
Q: What are the coolest things about you?
-This is actually the third poem I have written that has won the English Society poetry Slam. I was also able to perform a poem for the hunger banquet last year too, So I am starting to gather a stack of poems that I am moderately proud of.
-I served as a mandarin speaking missionary in the Scotland/ Ireland Mission, I know it sounds weird but it was great.
-I love to travel, I did the BYU London center study abroad last fall and lived in Kunming China last summer
-I was actually born in Holland, because my father was in the air force. I’m not sure If I could be president or not……
-I NEVER match my socks.
Q: What do you want people to know about your poetry, poetry slams, and the English major?
Slam poetry is awesome and for everyone! I’ve never met someone who didn’t like it once they gave it a chance
My poetry is important to me. I know that it is a success when I can get the audience to feel something. I love the challenge that that brings. I have three minutes to try and transport you to a different place with a different mood then the one you are currently in and all I get to use is my voice. It is so great when the audience responds with laughs or cheers or whatever because I know that I have hit a nerve. It’s even better when I see that something I have said sinks into someone’s head. Our thoughts are just an amalgamation of ideas from all over the place and I can’t think of a better honor then to have someone allow a thought from my head to germinate in theirs.
lastly about the English Degree….. an English degree is not about becoming your elderly high school English teacher who dinged your grade for having a misplaced comma, or who always corrected your grammar by interrupting you mid-sentence. I’ve never taken a single grammar or editing class at BYU. Sure grammar and commas are important, they are the tools of the trade. Of course a carpenter knows  about saws and wood and safety goggles but you are totally missing the point of what a carpenter is capable of creating if you waste any time at all fixated on his knowledge of saws, wood, and goggles. However, while a carpenter’s finished products are cabinets and tables a writer/poet/speaker/etc. finished product is the material of persuasion: people who have received a new perspective, or who have been persuaded to view the world differently, and when you really think about it, that is a whole lot of power.
AJ 1

Austin is a slam poet, a musician, an athlete, a performer, and an English Major.

If you haven’t seen Austin’s performance yet, check it out here!

Reviews and Recommendations: Stranger Things


Yes. The show that everyone’s been talking about: the one with 5 ten-year-old kids, one of which runs around in a pink dress and hair shorter than any of the boys surrounding her. “Stranger Things,” a new series on Netflix, has become so popular within the past couple weeks it wouldn’t be surprising if a new cult following resulted.

Back in the day when children played imaginative board games, the world of four misfit kids (and eventually the entire town and some obscure part of the government) is literally turned upside down when one of them goes missing. On the other side of town, a runaway little girl sporting a crew cut and a hospital gown shows up at a hamburger joint. It’s not long before the CIA shows up, armed, searching for her. The real adventure begins when Will’s closest friends and relatives puzzle-piece their conspiracy theories together, realizing that he’s not only alive, but has been taken by an untraceable monster: the demi-gorgon.

ST 1

Being a fan of fantasy and kids being sucked into other worlds, I was immediately addicted to this show. From the first episode, the plot twisted in ways least expected. Whether it was an alien abduction, an alternate dimension, or fantasy world that Will had been trapped inside of, the only way to figure it out was just to KEEP WATCHING. When viewers finally figure out what is going on, everything makes sense, leaving out annoying plot holes or bent fantastical rules.

ST 2

#Netflixaddictionisrealguys. Each of the characters were real to me and deliciously hate-able or lovable. It won’t be long before new watchers will find themselves shouting advice to the snarky sheriff with detective abilities rivaling Shawn Spencer (Psych) and the mother who may or may not be going crazy with grief. Some moments in the show were incredibly touching, emphasizing the sweet relationship between mother and child.

ST 3

The child actors were so believable and outshined some of the adult actors out there. For those of you not completely into the alternate dimension plotline, never fear: there is much drama to be had. Romance? Got it. Dysfunctional families and complicated relationships all around? They got that too. I would recommend Stranger Things to anyone aching for adventure. Just make sure to have 8 hours to kill before doing so, because once you begin there’s no way to stop.