An Emphasis in Creative Writing and Success: New Forum Tells All
Broadway songs have been written about the uses (or potential lack of use) of an English degree. If English majors don’t receive enough questions about how they’ll use their literary education, poets must have it even worse. However, UCI’s incredible Emphasis in Creative Writing has bred incredible writers with illustrious careers. On October 25th, New Forum welcomed back EJ Koh and Carly Joy Miller back to their alum campus to celebrate their recent publications and successful journeys.
Koh’s poetry collection, A Lesser Love, has gone on to win the Pleiades Press Editors Prize 2017. However, Koh has not stopped there. After completing her MFA in Poetry at Columbia University, she is working on her PhD on Literature and Translation at the University of Washington. Carly has also found great success in the writing world. Carly’s poetry book, Ceremonials, has received the Orison Poetry Prize, while her chapbook, Like a Beast, has received the 2016 Rick Campbell Chapbook Prize. In addition, she received her MFA at San Diego State, and is now a founding editor at Locked Horn Press.
Carly’s beginnings at UCI definitely helped her after graduating. After switching from Business Econ to English, Carly knew that she wanted a career in writing. Carly completed her emphasis while serving as Editor for the New Forum. New Forum is UCI’s undergraduate literary journal, which accepts poetry, prose, and artwork. It is one of UCI’s oldest publications. With over twenty years of serving the UCI community, Carly has been able to get her start as an editor on UCI’s campus.
Both EJ and Carly have accomplished a lot since their graduation in 2011. However, EJ did not always know that she would want to be a poet. It was halfway throughout her college career when she spontaneously took a poetry class. After trying out, EJ did a complete switch from International Studies to English. She embarked on her journey through the Emphasis in Creative Writing, UCI’s undergraduate creative writing program.The emphasis program consists of at least two writing seminars and two creative writing workshops. In a creative writing workshop, students bring in their own poetry or fiction. Copies are made for every student in the class, and all students comment on the work while the author is silent. It’s an intimidating experience, but you learn so much and develop a thick skin. This thick skin has definitely helped both EJ and Carly. “I’ve probably received hundreds and hundreds of rejections at this point,” Koh said. However, she encourages the audience to continue writing, and how all of the rejections eventually helped her fine-tune her poetry and select a publishing company whom she loved.
At the table where EJ sat, there was a copy of A Lesser Love and Home Address, which was essentially the book she wrote while at UCI. The Creative Writing Emphasis is complete with a portfolio, which is a collection of all of the poetry, fiction, and essays you wrote along the way. It is published as a manuscript that can be used to apply for MFA programs and publication. Susan Davis, the head of the Undergraduate Emphasis and former professor of both poets, said fondly, “Some of the poems in EJ’s book started off right here in Irvine.” The night was spent in magic as each poet read from their works. As a UCI poet, it was incredibly inspiring for me to see two people, both with MFAs, published books, and awards, to come from my own university.