Olivia Tooker

Class of 2015, BA in Writing and BA in Literature

Olivia Tooker

What was your favorite part of studying Creative Writing at UE?

Aside from getting to write and read all the time, my true favorite part of this writing program was getting a chance to read my peers’ work in workshops. Each semester, we developed our writing styles, strengthened our weak spots, and garnered new interests, and the work markedly improved. It was exciting seeing what certain classmates would write about next.

In the beginning, I hated workshops. If a dark part of you pops out during workshops, it can get gritty. Whether that dark part is your huge ego, your trembling fear, or your simple ignorance – and each of those paid me a visit. You created something from your brain and put it on paper, and then you’re asked to put an invisible bell jar around yourself, as if that was protection enough from someone reading what you wrote. What’s worse than already being engaged in the torment and anguish of writing, now someone’s going to know about it?? Read it? Critique it? Offer suggestions? Letting my own fears and indulgences go gave me the opportunity to have fun telling the stories I wanted to tell. The environment created by professors and students make workshop a safe place. Even if the piece was absolute junk.

What did you experience in UE’s CRW department that feels special/unique to our program?

The familiarity between everyone seemed unique to UE's writing program, and the whole university – what scared me off from many large, state schools was a fear of getting lost in the crowd. That didn’t happen at UE. The writing professors were all fantastic, easy to talk to, and , weirdly enough, all hilarious in their own way (in a good way, I swear). The whole department is a bunch of quirks dedicated to making words into art and giving you the tools to do so too.

The same goes for the students. While I only graduated in 2015, I’m still in contact with fellow writing program graduates. A few of us started up a book club and we meet via Skype since we’re miles away from each other – seeking success either near our homes or someplace wildly distant. They, too, are a bunch of quirks working hard on the stuff they love. I love seeing them succeed, as well as other classmates via social media.

What was your favorite Creative Writing class and why?

Workshops were my love, but my senior year I took a nonfiction writing course with Dr. Nikolidakis that I didn’t fully anticipate enjoying. I always loved reading and writing fiction, especially with magic or magical realism. Nonfiction seemed too concrete and boring, which was a dumb way to look at it (I see that now).

In that class, I worked on pieces that challenged me—a letter to a garden statue I broke and lied about, a fractured memoir bit about spending summers in Florida, and a visual and experimental webpage involving a fantasy festival and dressing up in costumes with my mother. Not one time was I bored. You don’t always need dancing zombies or flying, glowing fish to tell a story, despite how much fun it is to make up magic.

What are you up to now?

I am a Library Assistant II (recently promoted!) at the Sebring Public Library in Central Florida. Aside from maintaining the library by checking in and out books, assisting patrons on computers, and shelving materials, I help people find the books or movies they want and I set up monthly book displays! While I try diplomacy when displaying circulation items, I absolutely sneak a few of my favorite books into each display. I love my job.

I am still writing! I write about one article a month for my library system in the local newspaper, the Highlands New-Sun. The Highlands County Library system has a weekly column called Library Lines, but we divvy up the articles on a cycle between two librarians and two library assistants (myself included). While the articles are ultimately to promote library services, circulation materials, and events, we do get creative freedom on topics and angles. Some of my article subjects include: the Krampus demon, fairy tale retellings, volunteer week, Star Wars, Native American Heritage month, magical realism, and Banned Books Week.

I’ve also started to dabble in freelance writing work, but only very recently.

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