How to Succeed as an Undergraduate Creative Writer

Throughout my first year in Virginia Tech’s Creative Writing program, I concentrated on two narrow objectives: pass my classes and become known as an undergraduate creative writer. While I did complete my primary goal, many of the expectations I held for the second task were unachievable, as I didn’t know what I was doing or even how to reach it. I was lucky enough to have my poem “On Neoclassicism and the Numbing of the Negro Mind” published in VT’s research magazine Philologia, but I didn’t maneuver through the writing world to “get known” or even to “get better”. After gaining a blogging position with Virginia Tech’s Literary and Art’s Magazine, Silhouette, participating in virtual open mics over the summer, and listening to the advice from my English professors, I found better ways to make my name known in/outside of my university. Here are three ways to succeed as an undergraduate creative writer at Virginia Tech:


#1 Write Daily, Read Daily.


Daily practice is an intuitive and disciplined dance. Many experienced writers have taught me to dedicate a set time to write or to collect details to write about later. But other methods, such as setting a daily word count, are effective as well. 


Similarly, reading from other creative writers is crucial to developing your craft. In my first semester at Virginia Tech, I attended a poetry reading by writer Clint Smith at the Moss Arts Center, where he mentioned that his best work often comes after reading. I took his words into deep consideration, and since then, I’ve strengthened my writing by reading more. Regardless of how you practice, the point is to find a habit that works for you.


#2 Share Your Work And Find Your Community


Finding a writing-centered club at Virginia Tech is the most accessible way to find your community as an undergrad. You may want to try Tech’s Creative Writing Club, ‘CreativiTea’, which meets to improve and celebrate VT writers at any experience or skill, or you may want to join the Silhouette team when positions open. Even if Virginia Tech doesn’t have the club you’re looking for, other organizations outside of Tech may support your writing. 


Connecting with these outside organizations isn’t difficult, but like daily practicing, is like a dance. I started my navigation in the literary social media world by following magazines related to my interests. I recommend following the Instagram page ‘@artopencalls’ that provides daily opportunities for emerging BIPOC and LGBTQ+ writers and artists. This page introduced me to nearly every writing opportunity I accepted in the summer. 


Otherwise, following Trish Hopkinson on Twitter, along with Duotrope and Submittable, exposes you to different groups. If you see an interesting organization through these pages, see who they follow and where they meet. The chances are that at least one group shares your interests and has an opening for you to participate. And a simple Google search of ‘emerging writer magazines’ or other keywords that indicated what you want from a writing collective provides a bridge to these communities. When you find a suitable group, the following step is necessary:


#3 Publicize Your Writing


After you’ve practiced your writing and found a community that supports you, you must publicize your work to reach a broader audience. If you’ve followed the previous writing hubs, opportunities will flood your social media timelines and you’ll have a fresh pick of opportunities. If you choose to submit and publish your work, you will need to decide which publications suit your writing best. 


Become a frequent reader of the publications you want to feature in, analyzing their pieces for form, diction, subject matter, and more. For example, a literary magazine that publishes short poetry about public settings doesn’t want long-form poetry about mythical animals. That doesn’t suit the magazine. If you provide pieces that are insightful yet within the publication’s artistic conversation, you’re on the right track.


To start, you may want to submit your work to undergraduate and emerging writer magazines such as:



Otherwise, you may want to perform your work through virtual or in-person open mics. I have performed at ‘@openmicrenegades’, a New York-based open mic that has moved to an all-virtual setting, as well as ‘@dmvrenaissanceawards’ that celebrates poetry in the Washington D.C., Maryland, and Northern Virginia areas on Instagram Live. In-person open mics in Blacksburg include ‘Glossolalia’, Virginia Tech’s literary festival, events from CreativiTea, and open mic events at the Milk Parlor.  Regardless, every outlet requires a bit of research and openness, but the options for publicizing your work are endless.


Creative writing requires informed, and intuitive navigation, but above all, it implores writers to be patient. These tips about succeeding as an undergraduate writer are non-exhaustive and don’t lead to instant success. Practice these steps, but don’t expect desired results in a few days of following Submittable (or even after your first polished submission). Remember that writing is exercising, and exercising is a process. You’ve got this.

Rising to Hokie Expectations: Athletic Edition

College athletics can be fun, exciting, and truly a once in a lifetime experience. However, it can also be stressful, hard, and exhausting at times. Knowing how to get ahead of these feelings is key for an athlete to reach their peak of success in their collegiate career. Using the trials and tribulations of those before you is key to enhancing your collegiate career, especially as a freshman. Here are just a few things that college athletics teaches you that are important to know and understand to help your freshman year go as smoothly as possible.


  1. You are still a big fish, but now in a much bigger pond.

Being a Virginia Tech athlete is quite the accomplishment, and you had to prove yourself on multiple occasions to get here. You were most likely a big fish in a small pond in high school, often being one of the best if not the best. However, now that you are here, you are among others who were also one of the best in their area as well. Knowing that you now have to share the spotlight and fight even more to prove yourself can be intimidating. However, knowing that the standards are now raised and using them as motivation rather than defeat will be the key to helping you excel in whatever sports arena you compete in. Use your teammates to push you to be better rather than to compare yourself to and put yourself down.

  1. Setbacks are normal. Learn to embrace them and lean on those around you to support you through them.

You may have had a major setback before college that you had to push through in order to get to this point. Or you may have had pretty much smooth sailing before now. However, odds are that at some point, whether it is your freshman year or senior year, you will face some sort of setback within your college career. It is imperative that you don’t let this low point define you or your career. Remind yourself of the hardships you overcome to get where you are now and rely on the support system around to come back stronger and better than you were before your setback.

  1. Find a healthy balance between school, sports, and social life.

Time management is something that often feels like something that is elementary. Though the meaning of time management itself is not hard to understand, it is often a concept that many people fall short of mastering. Tackling this concept early, and finding a way to put enough time into school, your sport, and your social circle is important to keeping you happy and performing well in all aspects of your life. As many say, a happy athlete is a better athlete.

  1. Fully engage in all aspects of being a Hokie athlete.

The Hokie family is a real and very exciting thing. Once you get to Virginia Tech, you will quickly be immersed in the family-like atmosphere. This feeling of ”home” goes beyond even the campus and heightened within the Virginia Tech athletic department. Feed off of the support you get from Hokie fans and use it to push yourself to be your very best. Create relationships with other athletes and support them in their athletic endeavors and they will do the same for you. Having this community outside of your sport that thinks you are incredible is what will get you through the ruts.

  1. Take advantage of the resources offered to you… and start NOW!

The Virginia Tech athletic department has so many incredible resources to offer to their student-athletes, and the earlier you take advantage of them, the better off you will be both during and after college. Career development, leadership development, and community service opportunities can all be found within the Student-Athlete Development offices and ensure that you are a well-rounded athlete and person. The CAMP staff (Counseling and Athletic Mental Performance) give you a space to share your struggles and worries without being judged and work with you to improve mental state during athletic performance. The sooner you invest in yourself outside of your sport, the sooner you will see it carry over into success in your athletic ability.


Diving into college athletics can be challenging, shocking, and hard. However, using all of the resources around you, being true to yourself, and putting 100% into what you are doing will help you succeed. Reaching your goals and expectations is possible, and working towards them in the right way sooner rather than later will increase your chances of doing all that you want to do within your collegiate career.

The Supplies You Need for Your Next Friends Night In

During COVID it might feel like you have exhausted all your ideas on things to do with your friends without going out, but I’ve done some digging. Here are some ideas I found to help you try something new or put a twist on something you may have already tried.


Idea #1: Basic Paint Night

You can never go wrong with a basic paint night as long as everyone is willing to try something new or just have some fun with some friends. If you want to do something different, you can all try following a Bob Ross tutorial and see how everyone’s paintings turn out.

If you feel like mixing thing up, instead of canvases, use tote bags! There are so many simple ways to make it look good and it can be used after the night is over. See the pictures below for some tote bag inspiration and use some painter’s tape to make some great designs!


Idea #2: Succulent Pot Making Night

I know that during quarantine a lot of people expanded their plants collection. Well, a great way to make these plants more of your own is to decorate your own pots! Alternatively, instead of buying pots, you could use glass jars or old candle holders to create some beautiful homes for your plants.

If you don’t have any succulents, but still want to do this project, the Blacksburg Farmer’s Market sells some on particular weekend. However, if you don’t feel like leaving your house, you get some here. I will attach some pictures of different pot designs below to get you thinking. Also, here are some awesome tutorials for ideas on what to do with the pots:

Extra supplies used in the tutorials:


Idea #3: Rock Picture Holder

This one sounds a little lame, but look at how nice they turn out in the picture below! This can be a quick and easy craft to create with friends that only requires 3 items and can be used later!

You can always grab some rocks from outside, but here are some in case you don’t want to do that. The markers used for the succulent pots can be used for this as well:


Idea #4: Wine Bottle Décor

Wine bottle décor is easy to create. Just grab some paintbrushes, a bottle from your graveyard, and start painting away! Once you’re done,if you want to easily light it up, I’d recommend using some great fake cork string lights:

10 Apps You Should Have as a VT Student

During my 4 years at Virginia Tech, I downloaded a lot of apps with the hope of them making my life a bit better. Some of them were good, many of them were not (at least for my needs). With the input of some friends, I compiled a list of apps we found to be most beneficial during our time at VT. This list is supposed to be unique and targeted so I did not include traditional apps like Uber, Lyft, Amazon, Google Maps, etc. as I assume most students have those already. 

  1. Hooked
    • A great app for local deals. I check this app frequently when I don’t feel like making food. Only one/two dozen local places on here but the deals can be pretty good (often up to 50%) depending on the time. 
  2. Unidays
    • Very popular app/website among students but for good reason. Unidays compiles a significant amount of deals and offerings for college students in one place. If you’re looking at making a big purchase or just want to browse, Unidays likely has a few deals for you.
  3. Kroger
    • I didn’t download Kroger’s app until late my senior year but once I did I realized what I was missing out on. The app unlocks access to additional digital deals while shopping in-store which can start to add up rather quickly. You can also use the app to navigate the store or order pickup and delivery. I have not used Food Lion’s app. It seems to do a lot of the same but it is not as highly reviewed.
  4. Tapingo
    • Tapingo pairs with VT dining services to offer pickup and delivery orders at many on-campus dining spots. Definitely is nice to quickly pick up items in between class and not have to wait in line.
  5. Blacksburg Transit Apps
    • As a frequent user of Blacksburg Transit, I found apps that helped me with the schedule, routes, and bus locations essential. There are several options for this some suck and others are pretty good. I currently have the Blacksburg Transit app and BT Mobile. I found the official transit app to be mediocre so I would recommend getting an alternative as well. Apparently, Google Maps has recently added features to show bus stops and time so that can be an alternative to check out.
  6. Canvas
    • Allows you to see all your class material at a glance on your phone. Really nice for quickly viewing a file or some other material briefly.
  7. Google Calendar or another calendar app
    • I would highly recommend setting up a calendar app to organize your schedule and structure your day. It’ll help you easily plan and lay stuff out. I couldn’t give you a definitive answer on the best calendar app but there are plenty of blogs that will. I have always used Google Calendar.
  8. Mint or some other form of spending management
    • Managing your finances becomes an essential part of being a student. Getting an app like Mint that can help you keep track of everything you spend, your investments, and the rest of your accounts in one place makes life much easier.
  9. Coursicle
    • When its time to do add/drop, Coursicle (or Course Pickle) becomes an essential tool. It allows you to easily add and track courses in the app. You’ll get a notification if the class opens up. Free allows you to add one class while premium costs $4.99 and allows you to add unlimited classes.
  10. A note-taking app
    • Having a note-taking app ready to quickly jot down stuff is essential. I recommend getting something more advanced than the simple built-in notepads. I personally use OneNote on my phone and computer. There are plenty of articles that discuss all the options available.

These are the best apps for VT students I’ve been able to come up with so far. If you have an app you feel was essential during your time at VT please leave a comment below with it and why. I’ll try to add as many as I can in.