The title of senior Ari Jindracek’s portfolio, “Ordinary Life, Extraordinary Circumstances” captures their passion for exploring human themes in science fiction settings. Jindracek just completed a feature length screenplay for their Honors project.
“I use sci-fi as a way of telling normal, human stories,” Jindracek said.
The screenplay is set in 2004 after a series of bombings devastates the United States. The idea of tweaking history ties into Jindracek’s love of post-apocalyptic settings.
“I think that’s part of the reason I write so much in these fantastical settings because sometimes the things that the characters do wouldn’t fly in the real world because there’s things like cops and laws, whereas if there’s no central government to the city or police force you could just kind of go for it,” Jindracek said.
Writer-in-Residence Sherwood Kiraly’s Fiction to Film class had a profound impact on Jindracek as a writer. They said Kiraly was a great help in realizing their Honors project.
“I’ll go into meetings with [Kiraly] and I’ll be like ‘I’m stuck on this part of the plot’ and then he’ll say ‘have you considered doing this’ like it’s the most obvious thing in the world and it’ll be like he flipped one switch and fixed the whole story,” Jindracek said.
The protagonist of Jindracek’s Honors project has existed in their head for eight years. While the character evolved over time, the drive to tell this particular story never went away.
“[The main character] changed a lot but has existed for a very long time,” Jindracek said. “I was glad to get a chance to actually get her full story out.”
Next year, Jindracek will start training to become an English teacher in Chicago Public Schools. They plan to continue writing no matter where life takes them.
“I kind of knew since I was 12 or 13 that this was really the only thing I would do,” Jindracek said. “The only thing I really wanted to be doing with my life was English and writing and things like that.”
The most important thing senior Randi Siegrist has learned in her time as a Creative Writing major at Knox is the importance of staying true to her personal vision, she says. Associate Professor of English Barbara Tannert-Smith was the first person to give Siegrist this advice.
“[Barbara] really encouraged me to write what I needed to write about, not necessarily what other people wanted me to write about,” Siegrist said.
Siegrist has been writing stories for as long as she can remember. The works of J.R.R. Tolkien inspired Siegrist to begin writing fantasy at a young age. She first discovered “The Lord of the Rings” when she was six years old.
“I had a dictionary sitting next to me because the words were too big but I loved the stories so much I just had to read it,” Siegrist said.
Stories for Siegrist are also a way of working through emotions. Often, her stories are rooted in real life experiences.
“Often there’s something in my own life that’s bothering me and whether or not I write that situation out exactly, which is hardly ever the case, I write those feelings into my characters and watch how they would work it out and oftentimes it helps me too,” Siegrist said.
Next year, she plans to attend Louisiana Tech University in Ruston, Louisiana to earn her master’s degree in English Literature. She looks forward to becoming a professor.
“My parents laugh and joke about how far I’ve fallen because ever since I was 6 years old until about my senior year of high school actually I wanted to be a lawyer and then I started to get into writing and I thought, maybe being a lawyer isn’t exactly for me anymore,” Siegrist said.
Siegrist came to Knox with a plan to double major in psychology and creative writing. The more she spoke with creative writing and English professors, though, the more she admired the ways in which they helped their students in becoming better writers and people.
“I decided that was probably the best way for me to help people too because I love reading, I love writing, and what better way to help somebody than to share similar love?” Siegrist said.
When senior Hanna Levine began taking creative writing classes at Knox, she did not expect it to turn into a major. She has been writing short stories for fun since she was very young. Her love of writing began in kindergarten, where she initially struggled with reading.
“When I was in kindergarten I had a lot of trouble with reading so my kindergarten and first grade teachers encouraged me to read a lot and I think only after that was I able to kind of see myself writing stories like I was reading,” Levine said.
Levine found herself taking more and more creative writing classes at Knox. Eventually, she decided to double major in Theater and Creative Writing. She developed an interest in poetry just last fall when she took Monica Berlin’s Beginning Poetry Workshop. She appreciates the concise power with which poetry can convey a feeling.
“[Monica] really opened my mind to what poetry can do with images and I like that it’s kind of a much shorter form than fiction,” Levine said. “It lets me get my thoughts out pretty quickly.”
Director of the Center for Teaching and Learning John Haslem has influenced Levine’s writing more than any other professor, she says. Levine recently served as a teaching assistant for Center for Teaching and Learning 101, the first class she took with Haslem freshman year.
“[Haslem] is just so adamant about this notion of critical thinking and that being the value of writing and the value of all the structure and techniques that he teaches,” Levine said. “He teaches you how to write essays, but he also helped me write better descriptions for my fiction as well, because he’s just like let your mind go where it wants.”
This summer, Levine plans to be a summer school teacher in Portland, Oregon, helping children struggling with English. She is also considering traveling to Berlin, Germany, to assist with a study abroad program. She is sure that she will continue writing no matter where she ends up.