Senior English major Samantha J. Jones has won The UT System Board of Regents’ Outstanding Student Award in Creative Writing.
Jones will receive the award May 15 in a reception in Austin. She is one of three students to win the award, including Catherine Cleary of The University of Texas at Austin and Alison Ochoa from The University of Texas at San Antonio.
Jones, who transferred to The University of Texas at Arlington in 2012, won the UT System-wide award for a short story, “Resorts,” she wrote for Senior Lecturer Laura Kopchick’s introduction to creative writing class in Fall 2013. In the story, a female protagonist watches her brother enter rehab and begins a relationship with her brother’s best friend and drug dealer. The lead character nearly follows her brother’s path before ending the toxic relationship, Jones said.
“I’ve had a couple of friends who have gone through that process,” she said. “I knew I wanted to write about this (female) character, but the story that came out wasn’t the story I started to write. The original idea started with the relationship between the lead character and the brother’s best friend, then took a turn from there.”
Professor and Department Chair Bruce Krajewski said he was alerted to the UT Regents award by Beth Wright, Dean of Liberal Arts. He then tapped Kopchick and a group of English faculty members to select finalists and work with students to refine their submission to Austin.
“The award demonstrates that UTA’s creative writing students are, to use one of our university president’s favorite phrases, ‘the best of the best,’” Krajewski said.
Jones, a fan of pulp science fiction novels, said she is drawn to “hard realism” and likens her style to American authors like Kurt Vonnegut and Ray Bradbury. She said she is more interested in straightforward, unflinching prose – even if the story leads her and the reader down darker paths.
“The things I write are usually way more serious than I am,” Jones said. “I tend to be laughing and joking around all the time, but the things I write are often times dark and sad.”
Jones, who plans to graduate in 2015, said she hopes to continue writing and pursue publishing opportunities. She is quick to credit Kopchick’s creative writing class as a catalyst for writing and finding her own voice on the printed page.
“The course was helpful,” she said. “It’s not what you’re used to and that’s a good thing.”
In February 2012, The University of Texas System Board of Regents approved the establishment of the Regents’ Outstanding Student Awards in Arts and Humanities to recognize student achievement in three areas: the musical arts, the visual arts, and creative writing. The awards program is designed to provide a framework that fosters excellence in student performance, rewards outstanding students, stimulates the arts and humanities, and promotes continuous quality in education.
In 2015, The UT System Board of Regents will recognize student excellence in the musical arts. The Call for Nominations will be issued in Fall 2014.
In 2013, The UT System Board of Regents awarded the Regents’ Outstanding Student Awards in the Visual Arts. Bryce Bennett (’13), then a senior at UT Arlington, was selected in the two-dimensional category for his exceptional photographic prints.
(Story by James Dunning/COLA)