Campus News

May 16, 2011

Student ink: Emory tops list of best colleges for budding writers

A group of undergraduates recently published an anthology of short stories titled "The Emory Pulse."

Emory has been named the top American college for aspiring writers, according to a recent USA Today ranking.

The newspaper's editors, in collaboration with the website, cited Emory's intimate class sizes, accomplished and engaging writing faculty and outstanding guest lecturers. Rounding out the top five were Hamilton College, Johns Hopkins University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and New York University.

"Whenever you're named number one, you can't help but be delighted," says Jim Grimsley, director of Emory's creative writing program. "Our students are working with the masters, which will cut years off their learning process."

Emory's creative writing, English and journalism programs have attracted great literary minds to campus, including Distinguished Writer in Residence Salman Rushdie and English professor Natasha Trethewey, Phillis Wheatley Distinguished Chair in Poetry.

Emory's Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library is home to the Raymond Danowski poetry collection, making the University a top destination for the study of contemporary English-language poetry.

The Richard Ellmann Lectures in Modern Literature have exposed students to authors like Margaret Atwood, Mario Vargas Llosa and Umberto Eco, notes Grimsley, senior resident fellow in creative writing.

Student writing opportunities abound, including student publications like The Emory Wheel, Emory Political Review and The Spoke.

An anthology from the heart

Emory's writing accolades are well deserved, says College sophomore Michelle Izmaylov, who recently joined 18 other undergraduates in publishing an anthology of short stories titled "The Emory Pulse."

"I wanted people to be able to see how much talent there is within the Emory community," says Izmaylov, the Pulse's editor-in-chief.

Marketed as "a creative writing lifeline," the inaugural edition melds realistic and fantasy fiction in 23 original short stories. Story topics include Celtic myth, life after becoming deaf, flunkee grim reapers and gothic and emo stereotypes. 

A double major in chemistry and biology who writes in her spare time, Izmaylov came up with the idea for a student-written, student-designed and student-published anthology to celebrate the writing talent among her peers. Sharing in the responsibilities were College sophomore Alexandra Fuller and College junior Kristin Morgan, both of whom also contributed stories to the anthology.

Izmaylov, who published her first book at age 13, wrote "Butterscotch Love" for the anthology. A love story, it involves a split couple reminiscing about the good times.

Free copies of "The Emory Pulse" are available to Emory students and the book made its debut on online retail giant last month. Through an arrangement between Amazon and Barnes & Noble, the anthology could land on bookstore shelves soon.

All profits will be donated to Children's Healthcare of Atlanta. Morgan has a personal connection to the pediatric hospital, after one of her siblings received treatment there.

After securing funding from Emory's Student Media Council, organizers hope to publish a new volume of the anthology each year. The deadline for 2012 submissions is Dec. 31 and contributors will be selected through a competitive process.

Writing in the digital age

The information revolution has helped Emory's budding writers bypass traditional publishing channels to gain recognition beyond campus. Print-on-demand opportunities level the playing field for solid writers who may be missing the right connections.

While the digital explosion has produced a growing pool of writers, readers are increasingly time-strapped and bombarded from every angle, notes Izmaylov.

"Now, everyone has a chance. But, at the same time, how do you choose?" she says.

Grimsley, for one, isn't worried that novice writers and bloggers water down the profession as a whole. "Good writing will always rise to the top," he says.

"It's not a new phenomenon. People have been calling themselves writers for as long as I've been teaching," he explains. "The digital age just makes it noisier."

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