Alexandra Ruiz, BFA ’18 and an incoming MFA student in nonfiction, has been named the recipient of this year’s Robert Raymond Scholarship, established by adjunct professor Rosalind Gann to honor her father and encourage diversity in the graduate creative writing program.
Alex’s undergraduate degree comes after many years away from school—working as office manager for a foster care organization, serving as administrative operations assistant and then as budget analyst for the U.S. Geological Survey, and then interning and writing freelance articles for the local Connection newspapers.
“After 10 years in office administration, I needed a change,” Alex explains.” My father and then-husband urged me to return to school and what's more, to study something that brings me joy. After giving in, returning to school and pursuing my BFA in creative writing, I discovered that I felt centered, alive, and more myself than I had in a long time. It’s totally the ‘do what you love and things will fall into place’ cliché.”
Alex joins the MFA community after a final undergraduate year focused on writing nonfiction in the forms of nonfiction course, the advanced nonfiction workshop, and a seminar in true crime writing. Feature writing for the Connection papers also gave her real-world experience in writing and editing for publication, and she’s already been working for two years as a reader at both Phoebe and So To Speak. Building on these backgrounds, she’s excited about the range of opportunities ahead, exploring the breadth of the genre.
“My comfort level with writing nonfiction lies in memoir,” she says, “I grew up with an oral tradition of stories of my family and I appreciate the reflection that comes with trying to share the relevance of even the smallest moments in life to connect with other people, other readers. But I really look most forward exploring the diversity of nonfiction. For example, I’m scheduled to take a food writing course this semester.”
Throughout various forms, her work is driven by persistent and personal themes. “I enjoy exploring how people of different backgrounds communicate (or don’t) with each other,” she explains. “I've always been personally interested in exploring diversity in age, language, ethnicity, sexuality, you name it. I love how those differences, though sometimes big, also work to reflect, or highlight the similarities we have as people, and the universal nature of our collective experiences. Writing is similar to that for me. When done right, the reader moves towards an empathy, a feeling of ‘I've totally been there/done that,’ even if the story or characters in it start off as totally foreign.”
Alex looks forward to continuing to explore various kinds of diversity in her writing and to strengthening her bonds with the community in the years ahead—specifically building writing relationships with her new MFA peers.
“During my BFA I did my best writing when I had a close group of writers to bounce ideas off of, attend readings with and trust in the honest (and critical) assessment of my work in workshops,” she says. “I hope to develop these friendships and others further.”
August 15, 2018