Three “Outstanding Graduating Seniors,” Jacque Scott, Daniel Ortega, and Jeremy “JB” Beck, are honored this Spring. Passionate about their work, present in class, active in the department, excelling in their studies, this year’s “OGS” are worthy role models for rising English students.
Jacque: Creative Writing
Jacque seems to naturally excel: “I have always loved reading and writing.” Even as a child, Jacque recounts how she “wanted was a small notebook so that I could write my mom a story.”
Jacque is involved in Sigma Tau Delta, Meacham Writers Workshop, the Sequoya Review, the Writing and Communication Center, and the Association of Writers and Writing Programs conference. She received a SEARCH grant: “I used the grant to interview a few people who survived the 2016 Gatlinburg Fires so that I could complete a short story for my honors thesis. Those interviews are archived in the Special Collections in the UTC Library.” Jacque presented her research at this year’s ReSEARCH Dialogues and has also received multiple travel grants to present at the International Writing Center Association Conference and the National Council of Undergraduate Research Conference.
Jacque was also accepted into the New York State Summer Writers Institute last year and this year into into the Tin House Summer Workshop. These distinctions name only a small part of Jaque’s accomplishments during her time at UTC.
Jacque tirelessly works toward her calling and is often met with creative and motivational roadblocks. “General motivation is a common obstacle I have to work through all the time. I don’t have that ‘I write because if I didn’t, I would explode’ gene. I hear that a lot from other writers, and I don’t get it. There are so many other things I would rather do. I do have to think to write [and] once I get over that initial hump and force myself to get into it, I can write for hours.”
For Jacque, “writing a first draft is hardly ever fun. Writing is hard. I struggle a lot … and because of that, I am a very slow writer.” Her advice is to never relent in your efforts: “pick apart sentences and tweak them until [you] find the right rhythm.”
Writing comes easier to Jacque when “reading a really good book or being out in nature … so that when I come back to the page, I can do so with a fresh perspective.”
Jacque will start a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing at the University of Tennessee Knoxville, a program that only let in two fiction students this year. As can only be expected, Jacque also wishes to get her doctoral degree in Creative Writing make being an author her career.
JB: Rhetoric & Professional Writing
If you’re not familiar with JB, simply talk to him for a few seconds and you’ll have a new best friend. Always kind and respectful to everyone, their ideas, beliefs, and opinions, JB is always engaged in class and diligent about his work; JB is undoubtedly dedicated to learning, seeking answers, and debating issues— any professor’s ideal student.
JB says his passion for writing was inspired by reading screenplays and theatre scripts during his childhood; a specific instance he recalls is when his parents gifted him an annotated screenplay of James Cameron’s Terminator 2: Judgment Day: “I must’ve read that script a hundred times.” JB also tells that he was captivated and intrigued by Wes Craven’s New Nightmare and Last Action Hero. “Being a kid, I loved the idea that writers could create an anti-hero.”
JB’s unique interests keep his work vitalized and filled with inspiration. “Nothing keeps you energized and focused at midnight like blaring Kiss or Van Halen… hearing Paul Stanley belt out a chorus really motivates me.” JB also birdwatches, and is particularly fond of “vultures; I find that watching them feed or circle on thermal updrafts is quite inspiring.” He also plays chess as often as possible.
Despite motivational music and the beauty of vultures, JB still struggles with “fatigue and mental focus.” With every piece, he explained, it is “important to me to master the information [to] master an argument;” a tiring task. JB has continuously and unwaveringly used this strenuous writing technique. “It can be physically draining. You spend your breaks and holidays studying.” JB pursued, though, and his tremendous effort and dedication proved to serve him well— unquestionably worthy of the title “outstanding.”
Hardworking and ponderous, Daniel is passionate about literature, and believes that this track is much more than reading: “a degree in Literature, or probably any humanity, should be a requirement for anyone in the professional world. We are seeing now out of Silicon Valley how important it is to really carefully consider the world we are building. We are seeing how harmful a purely technical education can be, because the systems we erect can have dire, unforeseen consequences.”
Daniel’s passions originated from an exact moment during his sophomore year in high school, when All Quiet on the Western Front. “It was one of the first times I was acutely aware of how powerful good writing can be, how democratic, and how the right choice of words can reach across time and space in ways no other medium can.”
Despite Daniel’s passion for the written word, he concedes that “It’s natural that you won’t always love what you’re studying in a class.” If you do not connect with every piece of assigned literature— stay positive: “everyone has different tastes. Some stuff is harder than others.” Even Daniel occasionally struggles with reading or writing about the texts. His solution is to “try and remember what you loved reading and talking about in class, and write about that.”
Daniel sees literature as a path that leads self-discovery, and claims we should be inspired when writing about texts. “The best papers [are] also the easiest. If a paper is truly laborious, you’re probably not ready to write it.” Literature is everything you make, want, or need it to be.
One of Daniel’s recent accomplishments reveals his ability to adapt within different academic areas: “ [I wrote] an article about some research UTC did with the Aquarium. I didn’t know anything about these fish or what the research involved, but … I can now say I possess more knowledge of the defensive mechanisms of the Barrens Topminnow as it relates to the chemical Chondroitin than 99.99% of the planet.”
Daniel maintained a healthy work-life balance in a relatively simple way and to the delight of the introverted English majors among us: “You know that Meyers-Briggs test question, ‘would you rather go out to a party or stay inside and read a book?’ Well, I recommend you pick the latter.”
So, who are their role models?
JACQUE: “Dr. Sarah Einstein, Professor Sybil Baker, and J. Kasper Kramer.”
“Other writers who inspire me: Aimee Bender, Jhumpa Lahiri, Jorge Luis Borges, Miranda July, and Carmen Maria Machado.”
JB: “Prof. James K. Pickard, Carrie Meadows, and Dr. Katherine Rehyansky.”
“H.P. Lovecraft is a hero of mine and one of my biggest influences is Clive Barker. I also love Bram Stoker, William S. Burroughs, Thomas Pynchon and Stephen King.”
DANIEL: “Absolutely all of my professors inspire me … this was especially true for Dr. Rehyansky.”
Advice and words of encouragement for English majors
JACQUE: “You learn a set of skills that other majors really don’t—empathy, problem-solving, creativity, adaptability, critical thinking, etc.”
“[L]earn to manage time and prioritize.”
“Read, and read a lot… write in the margins, underline sentences, circle patterns of words and images.”
JB: “Constantly read and write. Look at arguments that you don’t agree with, [and] never skip class… The learning process does not end with what goes on in the classroom.”
“Create an armory of analytical skills and remember that building a paper takes time.”
“Train yourself to take handwritten notes.”
DANIEL: “If you’re considering being an English major, it’s because you’re a thoughtful person … You have the opportunity to study writings under some of the best professors in the world. You’re a person open to new ideas. You have come to the right spot; you’re on the right track!”
“I can learn any job I need to, and can answer to any professional challenge that comes my way”
“Do an internship.” “Start early.”