Each semester, hundreds of UT students submit literary projects in their upper division creative writing classes. One of these students used her class project to complete what is now her first published work.
Alicia Wetherington, a May 2013 graduate in interior design, wrote a short story entitled "Hackers Anonymous" in Michael Knight's fiction writing class last spring. The work of young adult fiction features a computer-hacking 14-year-old named Sophia who is able to take control of screens in Times Square.
The story is published in the spring 2013 issue of the Phoenix, UT's literary arts magazine. Once a semester, the Phoenix hosts a showcase featuring the previous semester's artists and writers in the categories of poetry, fiction and art.
Wetherington will be reading an excerpt from "Hackers Anonymous" at the showcase tonight at 6 p.m. in the Mary Greer Room in Hodges Library. Catering will also be provided.
To be accepted into the magazine, the editorial staff at the Phoenix reads all submissions and makes decisions on the works together. Shelby Stringfield, editor-in-chief of the Phoenix, emphasized the search for quality in the magazine's content.
"We look for it to be a literary work – well-written and well-rounded," said Stringfield, a junior in English. "We look for intriguing characters and things that are interesting to read so that our readers will find them interesting to read as well."
Wetherington's short fiction made the cut.
"("Hackers Anonymous") was one of the fun ones from last year," Stringfield said. "We thought that she had a really interesting idea. The editorial process was kind of difficult because she had never been published before and I had never published anything before. We had to figure out how to do that together because obviously the author has a very close connection with their work, where as an editor, you know what the work needs in order for it to be published.
"You have to find a leeway between those two things."
For Wetherington, the editorial process was much different than she expected.
"They said, 'We like your story and we want to talk to you about publishing it,'" Wetherington said. "It was a very pleasant process. I've heard nightmares of people who want to publish your work and they want to change it all up, but I felt it was a very understanding process."
As a piece of young adult fiction, Wetherington said she draws much of her inspiration from the coming-of-age motif so present in this genre.
"I've always enjoyed young adult fiction," Wetherington said. "I like the kind of character who is learning to grow up because they are so very open to possibilities. When someone is that age and learning who they are and what they believe in, it can really become anything.
"Sophia and Wilson are learning what it means to care about something other than themselves; they're learning responsibility."
After publishing in the Phoenix, Wetherington went on to self-publish her work through iBooks, Kindle and Nook, and said she has received a very encouraging response.
"I've sold a few," she said. "I'm in the midst of doing a little marketing for it. The response has been very positive. I've had some adults who don't understand that it's written for a younger audience, but as a rule, it's been very positive. The whole experience has been very surreal."
Wetherington cites her fiction writing class as having a major influence on her writing.
"I still have the stack of workshop papers from my class," she said. "I feel like I need to frame it because that stack of papers is so important to me. That first draft, I just got so much good feedback. It was really wonderful.
"I walked out of that and I got some good and some bad feedback, but it was really just a driving force in the project."
In her story, Wetherington emphasizes the importance of contradictions. Inspired by Douglas Adams' "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy," she uses these paradoxes to deepen her characters.
"Life contradicts itself on a regular basis, and people contradict themselves on a regular basis, so why shouldn't literature," Wetherington said. "There are moments when the characters of Will and Sophia contradict themselves. We as humans contradict ourselves because we're trying to find out who we are and what path to travel. Contradictions have always been fascinating to me because they show a process of experimentation and finding out who we are."
In addition to the readings, there will be a question and answer session with many of the writers, including Wetherington. The audience will get to see what the process was like from a writer's perspective as opposed to an editor's perspective, Stringfield said.
"It's going to be an exciting event," she said. "It's always good if you are part of the creative community at UT to learn more about publishing and be a part of what's going on at here."