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Student Spotlight

Real life proves to be more dramatic than fiction for creative writing graduate

Katy Newman

Katy Newman is graduating in four years with and a creative writing degree from the Department of English and nearly a 4.0 grade point average. An A- in her last semester denied her the two-tenths of a point she needed to claim a perfect GPA.

But Newman claimed a perfect victory long before she knew what her final grades would be.

Newman grew up in the tiny town of Little Elm, a suburb of Denton, where the University of North Texas is located. Rather than stay close to home for college, however, she enrolled in CLASS as a freshman in the fall of 2007.

“It was a big move for me that required a lot of courage and bravery from me,” she said.

She set aside her trepidations about living in the nation’s fourth-largest city to pursue her childhood dream of becoming a novelist. UH, unlike many other universities, offers a rigorous creative writing major for undergraduates – and she didn’t have to leave Texas to pursue it.

She soon became involved in everything creative writing and joined the staff of Glass Mountain, an undergraduate journal of fiction of poetry. She also overcame her discomfort with public speaking to share her work in classrooms, writing workshops and public readings.

In the first semester of her second year at UH, Newman developed chronic insomnia that including an episode of being awake for 72 hours that required a clinic visit and sleeping medication.

A week after that hospitalization, the right side of her body went numb, her speech was slurred and she had trouble breathing. Her roommate drove her to an emergency room.

Doctors found her brain was hemorrhaging deep in her left parietal lobe and an aneurysm had formed behind her left eye.

She started anti-seizure medication to manage the neurological conditions caused by the bleeding in her brain. Doctor’s appointments became practically a weekly habit.

Last summer she had surgery to fix the aneurysm, but she and her parents have decided the risks of surgery and radiation to halt the hemorrhaging are too great.

Through it all, Newman has remained in school and continued to write, complete assignments, and take tests.

And her GPA stayed near perfect.

“Without scholarships, I don’t know how I would have been successful,” she said. “Instead of paying for tuition, I’ve been able to save the money I have earned working to cover my day-to-day medical expenses, some of which insurance did not cover.”

In addition to maintaining her part-time job, Newman also continued to work with Glass Mountain and served as fiction editor this year. That job became even more challenging when the journal went national and received submissions from dozens of writers all over the country.

Newman’s senior honors thesis is a 130-page memoir about her family background and experience of living with a brain hemorrhage.

“Not only is the memoir an unexpected achievement of my dreams,” she said, “it tells the story of what I have had to overcome to achieve them.”

- Shannon Buggs