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Saturday April 1st

From once upon a time to happily ever after: UNC seniors present honors fiction theses

These UNC seniors will read from their honors fiction theses on Thursday in Graham Memorial Lounge. Photo courtesy of Marianne Gingher.
Buy Photos These UNC seniors will read from their honors fiction theses on Thursday in Graham Memorial Lounge. Photo courtesy of Marianne Gingher.

UNC’s Creative Writing Program will present its Senior Honors Fiction Readings on April 19 from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. The event, which will take place in Graham Memorial Lounge, will display the senior theses of the students in the program.

“There are five readers, and they have all been working all year on a year-long thesis project,” English professor Marianne Gingher said. “They will each read, for about 10 or 12 minutes, an excerpt from their work, so (the reading) lasts about an hour.”

The students will read excerpts from their work, which includes collections of short stories and novellas. 

“My thesis is a novella — it’s about 50 pages long, and it takes place in the Soviet Union in the 1980s,” senior Diana Mellow said. “It’s about a woman who, for various bureaucratic reasons, is trapped in this unhappy marriage. She decides to have a baby with another man and basically weave this tangled web of romance and lies, which eventually brings her to the United States.”

Each student’s work is different, and they have been developing their pieces all year. This process has given them time to rework their stories, find their voices and refine their techniques.

“I think the best thing I’ve learned is how to develop a character," Mellow said. "Not that I’m a pro at it by any stretch, but writing a longer piece you really have to think about each of your characters, and what they actually want, and who they actually are. Now when I sit down I’m much more able to channel different characters — rather than thinking, ‘What do I want to happen in this story, and how can I make the characters do something?’ thinking ‘What do I know about these characters, and what they might do given the circumstances?’”

Senior Curtis Coltharp agreed that the thesis writing process, as well as his time at UNC in general, has given him a chance to improve upon his creative writing skills.

“I think that I’m more careful about word choice and things like that, but I also find my point of view has changed because of the classes I have taken as an English major and a comparative lit minor,” Coltharp said. “Having read all the works I’ve read for those classes, and having learned the things that I’ve learned for those classes, I feel like the way that I approach writing has changed.”

Coltharp and Mellow agree that a lot of inspiration has gone into creating their theses, but they hope that their hard work will inspire other students as well.

“We have a really great class of writers I think," Mellow said. "I’m biased, but having edited and read all their work all semester, it’s really good and it’s a huge range. Especially for younger undergraduates who are thinking about taking on a bigger project — if it’s in writing or a different subject — it’s so exciting to celebrate and see what can come of a whole year’s worth of work.”

Gingher said she also thinks that this event could be an opportunity to learn and be inspired by young writers who are “on top of their game.”

“I think people, especially younger writers in the community who are maybe thinking about a creative writing minor, or who have taken one creative writing course and are interested, should come out and hear seniors who’ve done numerous courses and have matured,” Gingher said. “Some of these people I had as sophomores, and they are light years beyond where they were as sophomores.”


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