by Yuly Restrepo
December 3, 2020
Growing up, it didn’t occur to me that I could become a writer. Like many other kids, I was an avid reader, and I wrote little fantastical stories where I turned my friends into characters. I remember that on my first few attempts, the plot always got out of hand, and I ended up writing myself into corners I couldn’t get out of. I didn’t have a lot of guidance on what to do, and back then there was no such thing as a creative writing program or workshop in Colombia. Even now, when I go back to visit, I have a hard time explaining to my family what I majored in.
After I moved to the US, I decided to take a creative writing course at St. Petersburg College, taught by Dr. Greg Byrd (a former recipient of this grant). That class changed everything for me, and I owe my decision to keep pursuing writing entirely to Greg. I’m a very shy person to begin with, and I had just arrived in the country speaking English as a second language, so I really didn’t think I’d be any good at writing. I thought I would major in foreign languages. In that creative writing class, I wrote a story about a man who’s leaving Colombia for the US to find a better life, but who can’t cope with leaving his wife and daughter behind, so ends up killing them. It was after I wrote this story that Greg began to encourage me to keep writing, and to seriously consider pursuing a writing major.
Greg was only the first person to mentor me and encourage me to keep going with this writing life. Every step of the way, there has been someone like him, and I think this grant is an extension of that. I will start working with my mentor, Roxanne Fay next week, and I’m so excited. Writing can be a very solitary activity, and it’s so important to connect with other writers however we can.