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Sunday, June 16, 2024

A farewell to Davis

Graduate creative writing master’s students to hold farewell reading

The members of the creative writing program at UC Davis have spent the past two years together taking workshop classes, reading each other’s work and growing close as a cohort. Now, their master theses have been defended, their graduation gowns have been ordered and they are preparing to go their separate ways. They will gather as a group for the last time on Wed., June 10, for their farewell reading. The reading will be held on Wyatt Deck in the Arboretum. Each of the students will read a short selection of their work and there will be light refreshments.

Mary-Kathryn Nielsen, a second year poet in the program, describes her fellow graduating program members a unique and diverse group of writers.

“It’s a small program, and pretty quirky,” Nielsen said. “There are people from all walks of life, with insane personalities. It’s people with really different personalities coming together.”

Meagen Youngdahl, also a second-year poet, says that one of the things she will miss most about her time at Davis is her tight-knit circle of writers.

“There’s a lot of passionate people in the creative writing program. I would describe the graduates as very different but in the best way.” Youngdahl said. “There are a lot of things that we’ve gone through together as a group, involving the program and department.”

The graduating creative writing students will also miss being in the company of the talented and distinguished creative writing faculty.

“I’ll miss the professors so much,” Emily Meehan, a second-year fiction student, said. Meehan said that one of the most challenging things about the program was learning how to respond to the oftentimes harsh feedback that her professors gave her.

“You have to have a thick skin, which is really good because that’s what real life is like. The professors are not people pleasers. If they don’t think your work is good, they’ll just tell you,” Meehan said. “But grumpy as they can be, it’s just so great to able to talk to them about your writing or even just about life.”

Nielsen fondly recalls a non-fiction workshop she took with Professor Lynn Freed, a class which ended up being one of her favorite classes at UC Davis.

“[In her class] we read everything, from seemingly boring essays to hilarious memoirs to really sad, devastating essays on the Holocaust,” Nielsen said. “She really attacked our pieces with grace and humility.”

The professors seem to have inspired and positively impacted this year’s cohort, as Nielsen, Youngdahl and Meehan all expressed that they plan on continuing writing after their program ends. Youngdahl will be pursuing a PhD in creative writing at the University of Kansas, Meehan will continue working on her screenplays and will attempt to publish the non-fiction piece she submitted for her thesis and Nielsen will be working at a startup in Berkeley.

All three writers also attended the farewell reading last year and are expecting this year’s reading to be just as bittersweet.

“It’s always a joyous and sad event. People usually cry but are also happy to be together one last time,” Youngdahl said. “I’ll definitely miss my cohort and I’ll also miss the first year writers.”

And now that the second years have gone through the stress of balancing writing, taking classes and teaching, they have some words of advice for the first year writers and the incoming cohort.

“Take a lot more classes than you need to take,” Nielsen said. She said that she would encourage all the creative writers to take advantage of the talented faculty and all the literary resources that UC Davis has to offer.

Meehan advises incoming writers to come in with an open mind, and be open to being changed by different styles of thinking and writing. Youngdahl would like to tell the first years to remain close as a cohort.

“Writing is less lonely when you stay together and you learn from each other,” Youngdahl said.

The reading will be held on Wed., June 10, at 7 p.m. at the Wyatt Deck in the Arboretum. Please visit the Facebook event page for more details.

Graphic by Jennifer Wu.



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