Have you ever procrastinated on writing an assignment for class? Did you think that last-minute piece would be published? Well, that’s Serah Louis’ story. She wrote a fictional short story for her class, ENG238: Fantasy Literature, less than a week of its deadline. At the age of 21, Louis has successfully become a published student author.
The Medium sat down with the UTM fourth-year biology and professional writing and communications major to talk about her short story “Unveiling the Night,” the publication process, and what it’s like to be a student author.
In September 2019, Louis’ short story was featured in Ricepaper Magazine’s Book Immersion: An Asian Anthology of Love, Fantasy, and Speculative Fiction. “Unveiling the Night” follows 20-year-old Arya, a second-generation South Indian female, who finds out she is a reincarnation of the Hindu goddess Kali, who destroys evil forces.
When asked how she came up with the storyline for “Unveiling the Night,” Louis explained professor Chris Koenig-Woodyard inspired her to incorporate culture into her writing. “He said a lot of people incorporated their culture into their writing […] so I thought that was pretty funky,” said Louis. “He explained ways to standout and make your story unique. So, I think drawing from your culture is a cool idea.”
In the summer of 2018, after Louis wrote “Unveiling the Night,” she decided to submit the short story to different publications and “see what happens.” In December 2018, she received an email from Ricepaper Magazine, who were interested in featuring her story in their upcoming anthology which focuses on Asian writers in Canada.
Louis spent “almost a year editing” with the journal. She said that during the publication process, “one of the things [she] had to edit was the ending [as it] was kind of too abrupt.”
“It’s still a cliff-hanger ending but I had to piece it together,” said Louis.
She continued to explain that the ending was the biggest challenge. “I wanted to keep that cliff-hanger ending but I did not know how to not make it too abrupt; because it can’t just read like the first chapter of a book, it has to be like an actual short story so, there needs to be some sort of closure to it.”
At the launch event Louis had the opportunity to read a chosen excerpt from “Unveiling the Night.” Louis chose a scene between Arya and her Grandma going through the Hindu gods and goddesses because she “felt that was the aspect of the story that audiences can get to know the culture.” Louis explained that she was the only author of Indian descent that was published in the anthology and “thought it was important to explain that, because you usually don’t know the culture […] it’s kind of cool to just get into what the gods and goddesses represent, and [what] reincarnation [represents].”
Louis chose Arya to be reincarnated into the Hindu goddess Kali because “what she stands for is pretty much the opposite of the cultural expectations for women in the South Asian community. She is very volatile, fiery, and violent.”
When asked about her life influences, Louis said that her Grandma has lived with her family since she was born, so they are “very close.” Louis’s Grandma told her bedtime stories when she was younger and thought it was cool to incorporate this aspect into Arya’s life. “That is why I kind of wanted [Arya to have] that really close relationship with her Grandma [who] tells her stories about her culture,” Louis added.
As a student author, Louis explained that holding this title is “difficult in the sense that you want to have time to write for yourself, but then you also have to write for classes, in a writing program, so […] I have no time, but now I’m kind of hoping to set aside time to write for myself and not just for class.”
Currently, Louis is writing and editing for English & Drama Student Society’s With Caffeine and Careful Thought. She will also have some scientific pieces published in PWC’s Compass magazine.