Three students from Assistant Professor’s Zach Hutchins’s Spring 2014 section of E440: How Books Get Published submitted work to the Center for Documenting the American South which was later published. We caught up with one of those students, Colin Stevens, to ask him about that project, as well as his experience as a CSU student and a writer.
Double Majoring in English (Creative Writing) and Journalism and Technical Communications
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I love to write. I have ever since I was young. About seven years ago now, I saw a documentary called “The Pixar Story,” which went over the history of said animation company up until that point. It was a wonderful movie, but more than that it introduced me to storyboarding – which is a method used in animation and other visual storytelling mediums that allow writers to plot out an entire film with sketches, “stage cues,” and dialogue. Since that point I decided that I wanted to be a storyboard artist/writer, and one day, I hope to land that position in Pixar. Last semester, I also attended the Disney College Program in Florida, essentially working at Disney World, and that comes highly recommended to anyone with a passing interest in working at the company.
What brought you to CSU?
I initially started college by studying film at the University of Colorado, Boulder, but after taking the film writing courses they had to offer, I discovered my Junior and Senior years would mostly consist of me holding a boom mic or operating a camera rig: neither of which I felt useful for my goals. I grew up in Fort Collins, and I had many friends (some from high school, some that I met through those friends in freshman year) that encouraged me to transfer – they were all big proponents of Colorado State. So I transferred, declared my two majors, and haven’t looked back since.
Favorite English class? Favorite English teacher? Favorite assignment or project?
My favorite English courses are always writing workshops, but as far as lectures go, I was a big fan of Adolescents’ Literature (taught by Prof. Todd Mitchell) and American Literature in Cultural Contexts – The Dust Bowl (taught by Prof. Sue Ellen Campbell). I could never pick a favorite professor, though I’m quite partial to Prof. Zach Hutchins and Prof. Leslee Becker (as well as the aforementioned Professors Mitchell and Campbell). This might be a little self-focused, but I really just love writing workshops: the one I’m currently taking (Advanced Creative Writing, Fiction) has allowed me to workshop a large chunk of a novel I’m writing right now, and the feedback I’ve gotten from classmates and from Prof. Becker has been invaluable.
Why is it important to study English, the Humanities?
It’s a little unsettling how so many students are eschewing English and the Humanities in favor of majors that are currently in demand (Engineering, Micro-Biology, etc.). Humanities teach us what it means to be human and how we truly operate and understand each other. I understand the desire to go down a marketable path, though I’d encourage anyone with even a passing interest to minor in English.
How did you find out about the opportunity to publish with the Center for Documenting the American South?
The Center for Documenting the American South (DOC South) submission was actually an assignment in Prof. Hutchins’ American Prose before 1900 class. In it, we read obscure slave narratives that have yet to receive an official introduction in literary databases, and wrote the introductions ourselves. It was a very interesting assignment, one that I worked particularly hard on, and once finished, Prof. Hutchins had us submit them to DOC South directly (he might have done the submitting, I can’t quite recall). A few months ago, he informed me that mine was accepted and is now the official summary/introduction of “The Life of Ben Solomon.”
Why did you submit your work? What was it like preparing it? How did it feel to be selected? What advice to you have for students wanting to get their work published?
It was the second time that I’ve been published (the first time was in last year’s Greyrock Review,) and it always feels wonderful leaving a permanent mark behind whenever you can. It’s given me a drive to submit more work, and it’s definitely encouraged me and reinforced some self-belief in my writing – though, the DOC South piece was more academic that what I normally write. My advice for submitting work is to talk to your professors. They always know of opportunities for students to submit work to. Even then, googling online publications and submitting that way is also a viable option: you can’t let rejection stop you from putting yourself out there. The English department news letter is also really great about letting students know about publishing opportunities, as well as scholarships and writing contests within CSU.
What advice do you have for current students? What do you want to say to prospective students about the CSU English department?
The English department at CSU is wonderful, and it has a wide range of interesting and genuinely life-changing classes – you just have to look through all of them to find a nice fit. Even the lower division classes have been worthwhile for me.
What are you looking forward to most about moving back into a remodeled Eddy Hall?
Next semester, I plan on studying abroad in Dublin, Ireland, so I won’t be able to see Eddy right when it gets finished, but I am excited to see it a year from now. Being scattered across campus has been a bit of a pain, though Eddy needed the remodeling, and any updates to modernize the structure are welcome.
Where will we find you in five years?
In five years, I hope to be working at Pixar. I’ve already gotten my foot in the door through the Disney College Program, and I’ve been working on my writing and sketching skills diligently in order to build a portfolio for the position. I’ll start applying for internships before too long. Though I like to think positive, if this doesn’t work out, I’ve considered doing a Master’s program at CSU. On top of that, I’d really like to get my book published (it’s called “Chien,” so if anyone reads this in five years and it’s out there – go buy it!).