Morgan Brown is the third senior in the Anchor’s Arts senior spotlight. From Romeo, Michigan, she majors in creative writing and has minors in political science and religion. She shared her experience at Hope College, how she found her path and where she dreams of being in the future.
What was the journey to finding your major? Did you know from your first day or did it take a semester or two?
I knew going in that I was going to be an English major, but I waited until the very last minute to officially declare it because I wanted to make sure. In high school –– even going back to middle school –– creative writing was really the only thing that I enjoyed and felt like I was good at. It was what I was pursuing when I was looking for colleges, and Hope has a really good English program. As I got to know the professors here, that really solidified my decision.
What kind of work do you create?
I used to write almost exclusively fiction, and that was what I was interested in. But as I started writing for fun throughout high school and college I would show things to my parents, and they told me that I was really good at making people interested in the little tiny things in my life. So I thought maybe I should try writing memoir. Rhoda Burton was offering an intermediate memoir class my sophomore year, and through that I realized that I was kind of good at it. Probably better than fiction and definitely better than poetry. I’m terrible at poetry. It was kind of cool to find that niche.
Where do you see your work going?
I think primarily I will end up writing memoir because that is where my passion is right now. I have kind of written a book –– it’s in its first draft phase. It is a memoir of my experience in Ireland; I studied there last spring for a writers program in Dublin. Primarily, the first step that I will take is publishing that, so I think that will set the foundation for the rest of my work.
What kind of art do you like consuming? Any favorite books or paintings?
I guess I really don’t read a lot of memoirs or nonfiction, [besides] what has been required for my classes, so I’ve kind of gotten into it a bit more. Mostly, I am very much a fiction person. I like really imaginative things, and seeing how creative and out there people can be, not even with writing but with all art. I’d have to say The Great Gatsby is my favorite book, which is such a basic answer, but there’s a reason that everyone reads it. It’s that good.
What have you enjoyed about your four years at Hope?
Hope is really unique because it gives you more of an opportunity to build a community than being at a bigger school would. I guess for me my favorite part of being at Hope in any aspect is [finding community] in your major, in your dorm or in your friend group. It gives you an opportunity to form relationships with people –– students and professors –– and that’s my favorite thing looking back. I’ve been involved in a lot of things [with] my major and writing groups and stuff like that, but I also did Nykerk my first two years, and I’ve been involved in a few Bible studies. Hope has given me a lot of opportunities to branch out and do things that I haven’t had the opportunity to do before, and through that I was able to build really close relationships with people.
You are one of the co-editors for Opus (our student-run literary magazine) –– tell me about that. How did you get involved and what have been some highlights from that?
I kind of did Opus freshman year, as in I went to some of the meetings, but I was very much that little scared freshman sitting in the corner not wanting to say anything. I just really wanted to be there. And then I didn’t get involved in it again until they sent out the applications for the co-editor position last year. I thought that if this is something that I really want to do, and if I’m going to be a part of a writing community, then I should get involved with this. And I had a lot of ideas for how to push the journal forward. I applied and got the position, which is one of the best experiences of my Hope career so far. I am so glad that I did it, more than anything I have done at Hope. Just seeing how creative and talented all of Hope’s writers and artists are is so inspiring.
What is the best part about being an English major at Hope?
My favorite part about being an English major is reading all of the work that other people put out. As much as I love writing my own stuff, I really like reading the work that other people make. Workshop groups are another favorite. I’m so shy, so I am totally not a productive member of the group, but I just love seeing everyone’s voices develop. Especially if you’ve been with people in several different writing workshops and you get to see their writing grow –– it is just so inspiring. Everybody has a different voice, and that is so powerful to hear.
What is your favorite class you’ve taken and why?
One of them was definitely Rhoda Burton’s Intermediate Memoir class because that helped me find that niche and become more confident in what my voice was and where my writing was headed. And then also Ernest Cole’s Ancient Global Literature. I took that my first semester freshman year knowing nothing about college, and that was the first class I ever had. I thought college was so cool because I left that class every single day feeling like I learned a world’s worth of information. It was one of those classes that gives you the material but also helps you analyze it and apply it to your own life, and it gives you life lessons beyond what you are reading. That was so inspiring to me. That class really solidified that an English major is what I wanted to do.
What professors would you go to for advice?
I feel like I would go to Rhoda over anyone else. She is my advisor and she has just accomplished so many things that I want to do in the future. She knows my writing better than anyone else, too, so I definitely trust her with advice on that.
Who do you look up to the most?
I would say that my dad is my biggest role model, not even relating to my English major at all but just in life. He has taught me a lot about what it means to work hard and be successful but also to be a good person and put that above everything else. I definitely aspire to be a lot like my dad in that sense.
What is something you wish you knew as an underclassman English major?
I would say the number one thing is being confident in your writing. Not confident to the point of arrogance, but confident to the point of being able to share your work with other people without having panic attacks like I did. Also, realizing that your first draft is always going to be horrible. Or not always, but just don’t feel bad if your first draft is terrible, because you can’t make something better if you don’t get it done. That’s the attitude that I wish I would have developed sooner: just put words on the paper and then worry about making it perfect, instead of freaking out over every minuscule mistake.
Do you have a dream job or any long term career plans?
My number one goal is to get my work published someday. I also, kind of late in the game in my senior year, realized that I would really like to be a professor. I would love to have that opportunity to mentor other creative writing students, tell them all the things I wish I would have known as a student, help them find their voice and be with them as they grow.
How about after graduating? What’s the next step?
It is very hard to search for jobs right now. But I think for this next year I am going to be at home working, and after that I’m planning to go to grad school. Where I am going, I’m not sure, but the plan is to go to grad school and then probably end up doing a Ph.D. program and hopefully be able to become a professor. But I’ve learned that things don’t always go according to plan, so I guess we’ll see.
If you could pick any grad school what would it be?
My number one is the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. That’s my dream program, so we’ll see if i can actually get there. I think I would really like to go abroad. Not only because the programs are only a year, so they would be shorter and cheaper, but also because I loved my abroad experience so much, and I would love the chance to go and actually finish an abroad program.
I think I’ve always had this draw to Europe and I can’t entirely explain what it is. Just something about it feels very ancient and magical to me, which is something that only a person who is very far removed from Europe would say. It is very beautiful, and Ireland specifically is just the perfect place to do a writing program because they are so appreciative of their writers there and the way that writing and the arts can contribute to humanity.
Do you have any more senior wisdom you’d like to share ?
I would just broadly say take advantage of every opportunity that comes your way. I adopted the attitude early on that I was never going to say no to anything, which I definitely wouldn’t recommend to everyone because that’s super overwhelming. But trust that if an opportunity is being placed into your hands that it is for a reason, and take those opportunities and allow them to help you grow. Not just in your field but as a person. I think Hope provides us with a lot of those opportunities in a lot of different ways that I hope every student would be able to take advantage of.