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2021 UWS: Creative Writing Showcase

Schedule-at-a-Glance: Creative Writing Showcase (Friday, April 9)

Event updates

*Any updates about the event and its schedule will be posted here. Please check back regularly.

When: Friday, April 9, 3:00-6:00 PM CDT | Where: On Zoom (registration required to attend)

  • 3:00-3:10: Welcome from the Writing Studio
  • 3:10-3:45: Fiction and Nonfiction Spotlight Panel
  • 3:45-4:30: “Author Talks” Breakout Panels Block 1
  • 4:30-5:15: “Author Talks” Breakout Panels Block 2
  • 5:15-6:00: Poetry Spotlight Panel

Full schedule including presenters, their bios and abstracts available below.

We are excited to have you join us at our first Undergraduate Writing Symposium event as we celebrate Vanderbilt undergraduate authors from across the university and the poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and digital stories they will be sharing and discussing during this event. Registration is required to attend the virtual session and for access to the (password-protected) online gallery of creative work to be available the week of the event.

Registration: Creative Writing Showcase registration form. 

Live captioning will be available throughout the event. All are welcome to register; no e-mail address required. While we hope that you will be able to enjoy the entire showcase, we welcome late arrivals and will help you get to the appropriate breakout room when you are able to join us.

NOW LIVE! View this year’s creative works in our Online Creative Writing Gallery. The password needed to access the gallery will be e-mailed to all registered participants.

Creative Writing Showcase Schedule (Friday, April 9)

3:00-3:10: Welcome from the Writing Studio 

3:10-3:45: Fiction and Nonfiction Spotlight Panel

Panelists: Laiba Fatima and Jenny Gao

Fiction and Nonfiction Spotlight Panel - Chair: Professor Nancy Reisman (English)

"Old Lahore" by Laiba Fatima

Abstract: "Old Lahore" follows the relationship of two young men as one visit's the other's hometown of Lahore. As the two try to keep their sexuality a secret while still trying to spend quality time together, deeper issues about family, race, and self-worth begin to surface. 

Presenter Bio: Laiba Fatima is member of the class of 2021 majoring in English with a minor in Mathematics. She is originally from Lahore, Pakistan, and enjoys watching movies, knitting, and playing her ukulele. 

"Wǒ hái ài ni, even if I'm an ugly crier" by Jenny Gao

Abstract: This nonfiction piece was inspired by the strength, ferocity, and unconditional love of my grandmother who was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease several years ago. It reflects the mirroring between two women who need each other, despite the dark realities they face in aging and accepting death. 

Presenter Bio: Jenny is a member of the Class of 2021 with a dual major in Cognitive Studies and Medicine, Health, & Society in addition to a minor in Creative Writing. In her free time, Jenny enjoys basking in the sun on Alumni Lawn, playing and singing to the ukulele, cooking meals for friends, people watching from rooftops, drawing, and of course, writing.

After graduation, Jenny is pursuing an ABSN/MSN degree at the University of Pennsylvania's School of Nursing since it is her dream to be a psychiatric nurse practitioner. She hopes she can bridge the gap of mental health professionals in the Asian American community since she has witnessed many of her friends struggle to find healthcare providers that share their cultural identity. At Vanderbilt, she currently is a Hustler staff photographer/writer, a member of the Asian American Student Association's Advocacy Committee, and a research assistant at two clinical psychology labs.

3:45-4:30: “Author Talks” Breakout Panels Block 1

Breakout 1A: “Journeys in Fiction #1” featuring Camille Oldani, Krish Shah, William Tippens, and Laiba Fatima

Breakout 1B: “Poetry, Fiction, and Personal Narrative” featuring Dominique Fleming, Jack Hawkins, Ashley Hemenway, and Jenny Gao

"Journeys in Fiction #1" Breakout Panel - Chair: Rebecca Kantor (MFA Candidate)

"Old Lahore" by Laiba Fatima

Abstract: Old Lahore follows the relationship of two young men as one visit's the other's hometown of Lahore. As the two try to keep their sexuality a secret while still trying to spend quality time together, deeper issues about family, race, and self-worth begin to surface. 

Presenter Bio: Laiba Fatima is member of the Class of 2021 majoring in English with a minor in Mathematics. She is originally from Lahore, Pakistan, and enjoys watching movies, knitting, and playing her ukulele.

"Homecoming" by Camille Oldani

Abstract: This piece is about a woman navigating an uncertain yet magical world where she must learn to be vulnerable with others in order to grow from her painful experiences. Lacey, the protagonist, has one foot in the surrealistic and idealistic world of her father and the other foot in an urban landscape where she is subjected to commodification and disrespect due to her identity as a trans sex worker. Lacey's experience with the world is unique in more ways than one, and she encounters a rare story of hope that helps her appreciate her place of power in the world. 

Presenter Bio: Camille Oldani is a member of the Class of 2021 at Vanderbilt studying sociology, Spanish, and environmental science. Camille grew up in Oakland, California and studied humanities at UC Santa Barbara before transferring to Vanderbilt in 2019. Hailing from a family of artists and storytellers, Camille’s passion for creative writing began at age seven, when she began writing chapter books about magical talking cats. Throughout her life, Camille has been captivated by the influence of gender dynamics on cultural connectedness and spirituality. She writes fiction in order to explore her understanding of misogyny, trauma, empathy, humor, and the natural world through stories that she hopes will inspire feelings of magic and buoyancy in her readers. Camille is pursuing a career in creative writing, sustainable community development, and social work.

"The Enigmatic Battle between True Love and The Loch Ness Monster: A Socratic Dialogue" by Krish Shah

Abstract: My piece is essentially a conversation between "True Love" and "The Loch Ness Monster". The dialogue encapsulates the pursuit of True Love and the circumstances that follow that particular pursuit. The mythical creature, in this case, questions True Love about its existence and is guided through the Socratic method to a vision that prompts action and growth.

Presenter Bio: Krish Shah is a member of the Class of 2024 in Peabody College from Chicago, IL. He is pursuing the pre-medical track with an intended major in Cognitive Science, a possible secondary pursuit in Art History, and a possible minor in Philosophy. In his free time, he very much enjoys creatively writing about his personal experiences as well as those of the people closest to him.

"Atop the Van Rossum" by William Tippins

Abstract: "Atop the Van Rossum" follows Cindy and T.J., a pair of step-siblings that go mountain hiking in Northern California. Their ascent of Candy Mountain proves to be a spiritual experience in more ways than one. This piece explores themes of religion, love, and human identity. 

Presenter Bio: William Tippins is a member of the Class of 2022 and a Computer Science major from Indiana. A proud Mayfield Project member, Will can often be found typing up his next creative work, be it program or prose. When his head isn’t in the Cloud, it’s behind a DM screen, or spitting into a small plastic tube. 

"Poetry, Fiction, and Personal Narrative" Breakout Panel - Chair: Dr. Brad Daugherty (Writing Studio)

"Say Their Names" by Dominique Fleming

Abstract: "Say Their Names" was inspired by the nation-wide BLM marches and protests during the summer of 2020. The title of this piece is the rallying cry that was common during these protests, and the chanting of the protestors is mimicked by the repeating lines and rhythm of the poem. 

Presenter Bio: Dominique Fleming is a member of the Class of 2023 in the College of Arts and Sciences. While her major may be neuroscience, she has a passion for creative writing and often spends her free time either reading or writing. Her poems can be serious and deal with heavy topics like racial/social injustice, or they can be light-hearted and witty, sprinkled with an appreciation for nature. Fun Fact: Dominique may have been born and raised in Northern Indiana, but she’s also 2nd generation American (her maternal grandparents are from the West Indies!).

"Wǒ hái ài ni, even if I'm an ugly crier" by Jenny Gao

Abstract: This nonfiction piece was inspired by the strength, ferocity, and unconditional love of my grandmother who was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease several years ago. It reflects the mirroring between two women who need each other, despite the dark realities they face in aging and accepting death. 

Presenter Bio: Jenny Gao is a member of the class of 2022.

"Insectarium" by Jack Hawkins

Abstract: This poem was written as a submission to get into a poetry course. My goal in this was to capture that strange, somewhat nostalgic mix of loneliness and wonder one might have experienced in childhood. 

Bio: Jack Hawkins, a member of the Class of 2024, comes from Nashville, Tennessee and graduated from Montgomery Bell Academy (MBA) in 2018. At MBA, Jack became interested in creative writing, taking part in the Sewanee Young Writers’ Conference in 2016 and a short story workshop at Vanderbilt Summer Academy in 2017. Now a Junior at Vanderbilt, he is pursuing a major in English (with a focus on creative writing) as well as a minor in Psychology. Outside the classroom, he is a member of the club VandyWrites and has also received recognition as second runner-up in the Dell Science Fiction and Fantasy Writing Award (2021). He started writing poetry recently and is enrolled in Professor Jackson’s poetry workshop. He hopes to keep writing for many years to come.

"Brush" by Ashley Hemenway

Abstract: "Brush" explores the complex, strained relationship between a young gay woman, Sam, and her estranged family. As other relationships in Sam's life begin to fall apart, she grapples with a yearning instinct to return home, chasing the short memories of warmth and safety that exist among her childhood memories of callousness. 

Presenter Bio: Ashley Hemenway is a member of the Class of 2021 from New Jersey majoring in MHS/English with a concentration in Creative Writing. She loves writing poetry, but prose fiction has always been a bit outside of her comfort zone.  She is really inspired to write by family relationships and their perseverance. She hopes to continue to write both poetry and fiction as she pursues a graduate degree in Occupational Therapy next year. 

4:30-5:15: “Author Talks” Breakout Panels Block 2

Breakout 2A: “Journeys in Fiction #2” featuring Cameron Deal, Kaitlyn Hammond, Peter Taylor, and Teresa Xu

Breakout 2B: “Digital Stories in Existential Fiction” featuring Helen Qian and Hyunjeong Lee

"Journeys in Fiction #2" Breakout Panel - Chair: Lara Casey (MFA Candidate) 

"Chilly Autumn Evenings" by Cameron Deal

Abstract: Chilly Autumn Evenings is a suspenseful tale that operates on two different planes of time: the 1960s and the 2010s. Composed in a fiction composition workshop, the piece seeks to address themes of family, generational entanglement, and the persistence of memory and hurt. 

Presenter Bio: Cameron Deal is a member of the Class of 2024 double majoring in Mathematics and Public Policy. He has discovered the art of short fiction more recently, in Prof. Lara Casey’s Fiction Composition workshop. In his free time, you can find him running around Nashville, playing viola, or exploring campus for new study spots.

"Cherry Street" by Kaitlyn Hammond

Abstract: Alistair Darling is haunted, much like the house on the titular road, Cherry Street. He is haunted by his father's unacceptance of his sexuality, and by the romance he craves with his best friend, Michael Bingham, that always seems slightly too far out of reach. 

Presenter Bio: Kaitlyn Hammond, a member of the Class of 2023 is a fiction writer and poet from New Jersey. She is the author of two poetry collections, The Sociopath Stumbles Home and Just Be Human Today, under the name K.B. Hammond. Kaitlyn is currently studying psychology and creative writing at Vanderbilt University, as she prepares for a career in law. When she isn’t writing, you can find Kaitlyn at Centennial Park in Nashville, drinking kombucha and reading a mystery novel.

"The Waiting Room" by Peter Taylor

Abstract: Mr. Cartwell is old and tired man, destined to die an unremarkable death on an unremarkable day. This story traces Mr. Cartwell’s experiences through death, as he struggles to come to terms with the life he forgot he lived.

Presenter Bio: Peter Taylor is a member of the Class of 2023 from outside Philadelphia. He is majoring in Economics and pursuing minors in English and Psychology. In his spare time, he enjoys making music, reading, and writing both poetry and prose. 

"She Will Call Me Sister" by Teresa Xu

Abstract: Written for a history course on Muslims in modern Europe, this paper aims to illustrate the perspective of a hypothetical Muslim living in Europe around the 1970s. It combines imagination and history, drawing on historical evidence and cultural cues to produce a fictionalized memoir about a French Muslim student who grapples with her extramarital pregnancy. 

Presenter Bio: Teresa Xu is a member of the Class of 2023 from Canada studying Sociology, English, and Medicine, Health and Society. She is an intern with the Vanderbilt Institute for Global Health, the president of Narrative 4 Vanderbilt, an editor for the Vanderbilt Historical Review, and a returning student VUceptor. She is thrilled to be presenting at this year’s symposium.

"Digital Stories in Existential Fiction" Breakout Panel - Chair: Professor Laura Carpenter (Sociology)

"Getaway Car" by Helen Qian

Abstract: Written for an honors seminar on existential literature, "Getaway Car" explores how a life of crime might be interpreted if it were built upon bad faith, specifically the longing to be on the move without ever arriving at a destination. 

Presenter Bio: Helen Qian is a member of the Class of 2024 studying Neuroscience and Psychology. She is interested in the workings of human cognition, medicine, and the creative arts, as well as how those aspects of her life might mesh together. Short stories and discovering new words make her happy.

"The Rosary" by Hyunjeong Lee

Abstract: In “The Rosary,” the narrator who lost her faith long ago finds out her grandmother’s old wooden rosary given to her before she passed away. On seeing it, she reminisces about her late grandmother and imagines her grandmother praying with the rosary. The narrator realizes temporality which has been with the rosary and her religious faith. The faith she once had was the very faith that her late grandmother and other nameless Catholics from all periods and all regions had. Through the rosary, an object which connects the narrator to her grandmother, the narrator comes into realization that her faith is the accumulation of other human beings’ numerous pasts. Indeed, she herself also exists in and through time, constantly living the present while leaving the past behind and aiming for the future. In the end of the digital story, the narrator finally feels the presence of God, an absolute being that exists beyond time. The contrast between black-and-white and color scenes also facilitate the audience to perceive the flow of time.

Presenter Bio: Hyunjeong Lee is from Sejong, South Korea. She is a member of the Class of 2024 hoping to study political science and Asian studies. During free time, she reads, drinks coffee (an espresso lover!), and plays with her dog

5:15-6:00: Poetry Spotlight Panel

Panelists: Julian Darviche, Abi Harrelson, Alex Mills, and Kelly Morgan

Poetry Spotlight Panel - Chair: Maria Isabelle Carlos (MFA Candidate)

"Hands" by Julian Darviche

Abstract: This poem captures a moment with my grandmother, during which I delve into glimpses of her past, focusing on her hands as they reflect a vibrant personal narrative; the poem then gets at my understanding of the effect of time and elements of a more dismal present for her. 

Presenter Bio: Julian Darviche is a member of Class of 2023 studying Human and Organizational Development, English, and Business. Creative writing is a practice that he has loved since he was young, but one he tries to exercise when it feels most right, because he's found that his creative motivation follows no schedule. He most enjoys reading and writing poetry and shorter fiction works, but outside of his literary concentration, some things he relishes are sports, particularly soccer, basketball and skateboarding, time with his friends and family, chess, music and singing, and nature.

"In Return" by Abi Harrelson

Abstract: This poem explores how the themes and patterns that govern human life also govern nature and the existence of living things that we see all around us like trees, animals, and insects. All life adheres to the same fundamental truths, and we can find solace and connection in the natural world if we approach it with this perspective. 

Presenter Bio: Abi Harrelson is a member of the class of 2022 studying creative writing and CSET. She's originally from Georgia but has lived in Nashville for most of her life, so she considers herself a native. Her favorite things to do are read, watch movies, and be outside with the plants.

"Sardines and Spoiled Grapes" by Alex Mills

Abstract: This short collection of poetry is titled “Sardines and Spoiled Grapes.” The first three poems were inspired by Philip Alexander’s childhood in Greece. He spent seven years of his life in a small village called Krioneri, or “cold water.” Contrarily, the fourth poem centers more around his experience in the U.S., hence the title “Marlon Brando.” 

Presenter Bio: Philip Alexander Mills is a Greek-American member of the Class of 2023 at Vanderbilt University studying mechanical engineering and English. His literary interests include surrealism and magical realism. His favorite poet is John Keats. 

"Roses of Cliff Walk" by Kelly Morgan

Abstract: In "Roses of Cliff Walk" I used specific details from my life to interweave the scents, memories, and emotions that combine to create an image of my family. Writing the poem was a process of recalling memories that I know must be significant because my mind still has not let them go. 

Presenter Bio: Kelly Morgan is member of the class of 2022 at Vanderbilt University, where she is majoring in Creative Writing and minoring in Mathematics. Originally from the mountains of Western North Carolina, she has worked as a bookseller and a journalism intern, and she hopes to continue her career in the literary world. She is currently the poetry editor of both the Vanderbilt Review and the SciLit Journal. Her writing has appeared in Vanderbilt Lives, Vanderbilt Review, and Scaffold: A Showcase of Vanderbilt First-Year Writing. In her free time, she enjoys drawing, ballroom dancing, and studying astronomy.

Fill out our Creative Writing Showcase registration form to let us know you are coming and receive the necessary access information!

Online Creative Writing Gallery

NOW LIVE! View this year’s creative works in our Online Creative Writing Gallery. The password needed to access the gallery will be e-mailed to all registered participants.

How do I access the event and the Online Creative Writing Gallery?

All attendees (including student presenters) must complete the Creative Writing Showcase registration form to receive the ZOOM link needed to access the virtual event as well as the password for the online gallery.