“I dreamt of water again last night.”
When I first wrote that sentence in Dan Hoyt’s English 771 novel writing class, I wasn’t expecting it to sprout into a project that would lead to an independent study. In fact, when I first started The River Within Us, the novel’s current working title, I only knew that I wanted to pay homage to my family’s Kansan roots and to my Scottish grandmother, who, as my father often tells me, was the best storyteller in our family.
The idea that ended up becoming my 771 project combined my loves of Celtic mythology and the sprawling landscapes of northeastern Kansas to create a Midwestern twist on the magical realism novel. The River Within Us experiments with time, point of view, and two different narration styles to tell of one family’s attempt to free themselves from their curse of the Kelpies, deadly water horses found in Scottish folklore. When my time with Dan’s 771 novel writing course was winding down, I knew I didn’t want my manuscript to find itself drowning beneath a pile of other short stories and writing projects.
After researching ways to keep the novel alive, I applied to work with Dan again through the Department’s independent study program. His careful mentorship helped me craft a curriculum that enabled me to write during the semester on my own time. This allowed me to pursue my desire to finish the project and develop a consistent writing schedule, something that’s been immensely beneficial in helping the novel flourish.
As the independent study comes to a close and I reflect on the work accomplished, I can say that I’ve enjoyed every minute and challenge the independent study has presented. While I know there’s still a good amount of work to do in regard to revision and finishing up the story, I have little doubt that I’ll be writing about Kelpies long after the study concludes.
— Molly James (B.A. ’20)