When I became an Arts Editor at The Brandeis Hoot last year, I set myself a couple of goals to enrich the section. Chief among these was to actually get student art into the newspaper. We cover theater and gallery events when the resources are available, of course, but our direct engagement with student artists has not always been consistent. Over the course of my last two semesters, we’ve succeeded in releasing a series of art spotlights containing beautiful submissions from students working across a variety of visual mediums. We’ve also managed to pick up a consistent comic artist, the wonderful David Shapiro ’24. All of these efforts have gone off swimmingly—better than I could have ever anticipated, in fact—but my greatest and oldest Hoot dream has always been to publish a small column for our campus’s creative writing students.
Fiction doesn’t exactly have a home in a fact-based journalistic institution, so perhaps that column in its purest form will remain a dream. That doesn’t mean, however, that we shouldn’t make an effort to give the students of Brandeis’s creative writing department a voice on our platform. When Cyrenity Augustin ’24, a COVID-19 pandemic-era freshman that hasn’t even taken a class on campus yet, enthusiastically reached out to me about writing stories for the paper, I could not resist. I’ll let the writer speak for herself. Augustin consented to an interview and submitted an array of projects to spotlight. An excerpt from one of her short stories, “Positive Thinking,” is included below the interview.
Q: What are your favorite books or pieces of writing?
A: I love the “Percy Jackson” series, “The Ever Afters” series and “They Both Die At The End,” which sounds very depressing in comparison to the first two. I am also really into webcomics, so that opens up an entire new can of worms! (If you’re looking for some recommendations, hit me up).
Q: Do you have favorite genres or styles?
A: My favorite styles in terms of writing are sci-fi, action and dystopian, the last one being a new development for me. I used to stick with fantasy, and I still love the genre, but I haven’t been writing it as much.
In terms of reading, I love fairy tale remakes (“Ever Afters”), action and adventure plots (both in fantasy and sci-fi).
Q: What sort of writing and/or other creative activities do you pursue beyond the classroom?
A: I am working on a webcomic that I am hoping to start by the end of the year as a personal goal of mine. I am still in the scripting phase, but I have had the idea for a hot second, so I am excited to get it out.
I also have a novel that I am working on, slowly but surely, and a movie script that I am reformatting and editing. I wrote the movie script as a personal challenge for my senior year of high school without knowing anything about screenwriting, so I have to go back and make it actually look like a movie script.
Q: When did you get into writing? What made you fall in love with it?
A: I got into writing in middle school, because I had a friend who started writing stories. I had never realized until then that I could actually write one myself, since I was so used to being on the reading side. I haven’t stopped since. I originally just focused on novels, but I’ve recently branched out into other formats, which has been a lot of fun.
I think my love for writing is attached to my love of reading, which isn’t that surprising. Seeing the adventures that characters embarked on made me want to go on an adventure too, so I made self inserts that could. Over time, those self inserts became fleshed out characters, and my plots and settings became more and more elaborate. Currently, the characters and their relationships are what draw me to writing the most, and how they are affected by the different situations they are in.
Q: What do you dream of writing/creating?
A: Though novel writing is my first love (and I still love it) I am really into visual storytelling, like animated shows, webcomics and graphic novels. I hope to one day be able to turn my ideas into webcomics, and I have a particular idea that I have been planning as a show. I don’t know the first thing about animating, however, so that will definitely take some time.
Q: What do you like to do besides writing?
A: I usually spend my time looking at webcomics, art or anime, but I have also worked on drawing digitally on Procreate. Besides that, I spend way too much time thinking about stories that I have not written. I should probably find another way to spend my time, but it is fun, so I don’t really mind.
Q: Favorite thing to watch?
A: I really enjoy anime, like My Hero Academia and Durarara!! I also love the Marvel movies, and would gladly recommend them without hesitation.
Q: What drew you to Brandeis University?
A: I visited Brandeis University with my sister for her college visit, and I really liked the range of classes that was offered and that it wasn’t a big school. Then, I applied to be a Posse Scholar with the hope of getting picked for Brandeis, and here I am! In terms of meeting expectations, I have been off campus for the first year, so the social experience this year was not what I imagined it was going to be like, but I am hoping that when campus opens up in the fall that I’ll be able to have more connections with people on campus.
Q: At this point, do you think you will continue to pursue the Creative Writing program at Brandeis?
A: Oh, definitely! I took a class with Professor McCauley, and I really enjoyed having a set time with other writers to share and talk about our work. I am looking forward to being in more of these spaces throughout my time here.
The following is an excerpt from Augustin’s sarcastic but heartwarming story of a fateful coffee shop encounter, “Positive Thinking:”
“A bit frosty, isn’t it?” The woman came up to the counter, leaning on it as she smiled. Ted had to stop himself from rolling his eyes as he shrugged in response, mumbling an affirmative. Of course she had to be a talker. He couldn’t understand why customers always wanted to talk to him about personal matters. He just wanted them to order their coffee and go.
“What can I get you?”
Ted punched a few buttons on the screen, preparing to take her order, but was met with silence. After it dragged on a few seconds longer, he looked up to find her staring at the menu above him. Ted watched her for a bit, before the realization of what was happening made him grip his fist in frustration. She had no idea what she was going to order. She wasn’t in a hurry, like everyone else. She was leaning on his counter, staring at the menu with a lazy smile and wasting his time.
She looked at him, laughing at herself a bit before speaking. “Sorry, I heard you. The thing is, I actually don’t know what I want. I was thinking of trying something different from the norm. I mean, I usually get a hot chocolate, but I thought ‘Why not shake it up a bit?’ and now I have no idea what to order.” She stood up straight, giving an almost embarrassed smile as she stuck her hands into her bomber jacket. “Got any suggestions?”
“Well, yeah! I mean, you work here, what do you suggest?”
Ted sighed, putting a hot chocolate in the order as he spoke. “In complete honesty, the drinks are more or less the same to me. I don’t have a preference for any of them. And if you like the hot chocolate, you might as well get it. Why pay for something you might not even like?”
He figured that she would probably just complain about his bad attitude and default to the hot chocolate, and at this point didn’t even mind taking the scolding for it. So, when she laughed, Ted was definitely taken aback.
Read the whole story here.