UTM’s professional writing and communication (PWC) program allows students to develop cathartic prose and unravel their lives through narrative writing. For the last fourteen years, PWC students have gathered their creative minds to put together Mindwaves, an academic journal of creative non-fiction short stories.
“The PWC students on campus voiced their desire to have an outlet, specifically for them, to share their work,” says Monika Krizic-Fronteddu, editor-in-chief of Mindwaves Volume 14. “Mindwaves gives students the opportunity to publish stories about their lived experiences.”
Mindwaves Volume 14 stands out with its eclectic and raw collection of short stories. “Stories can be as simple as reminiscing about the first pet you adopted, or an interview piece about the Vietnam war.” However, what makes a story stand out “is the writer’s voice and unique writing style,” says Krizic-Fronteddu.
One such unique voice is Elisa Nguyen’s short story, “Ông Bà Ngoai,” that reflects upon the Vietnam War. Nguyen wrote the piece for the Editing Principles and Practice PWC course. The course challenges students to complete a manuscript with a topic of their choice. “I was in a group with two amazing ladies, Bianca and Molly. We are all so close to our families, so we came up with the topic of family history,” says Nguyen.
Nguyen interviewed her grandparents to write her story. “The first interview took two hours. My grandma spoke in Vietnamese and looked at me to see if I understood. While I began to process, she’d repeat her story in English and then turn to my grandpa asking, “did it happen this way, or did it happen that way?” My grandpa would say, “I’m pretty sure it went like this”, and then my grandma would say, “no no no, it went like this,” Nguyen recalls, laughing.
“I found it challenging to work with fragmented memories. I had to answer, ‘how did the streets look? What did people wear?’” Nguyen says. Nguyen depicts Vietnam circa 1974, her grandfather’s wrongful persecution, and the nation’s suffering with beautiful prose.
“The Communists imprisoned Grandpa for six years in a re-education camp located in the jungles of Northern Vietnam. Mom was born in 1974, one year before they took Grandpa away,” writes Nguyen in her short story.
Nguyen pursued publication in Mindwaves after her professor’s encouragement. “I submitted my story to Professor Laurel Waterman, and she left a handwritten note that said, ‘submit this to Mindwaves.’ That day was the last day to submit the story, so I took her suggestion, and I submitted it,” Nguyen says.
Nguyen also praised her associate editor, Brianna Piedra, who helped refine her piece for publishing. “Each writer gets assigned to an editor, and I was assigned to Brianna. She was so open to collaborating.”
Brianna Piedra explains that as an associate editor, “you are in charge of meeting up with your authors. I’d come with printed copies to explain all of the edits.” Grace Kwan, a fellow associate editor, says, “we went through a stage of content editing, where our editor-in-chief gave us notes. We’d ask the authors to revise and make major changes to their story, and then move to copy editing, making sure everything was in ship-shape before moving onto publication.”
“It’s not as scary when you get into it. People are understanding, and it’s actually really fun to work with different people,” Kwan adds. Piedra, who also authored a story in Mindwaves, agrees, saying, “Getting to celebrate and work with other authors and editors makes this an invaluable experience.”
Piedra composed “The New Bedroom,” offering an in-depth look at loneliness stemming from a relationship break. “It’s one of my favourite stories that I’ve ever written. I wrote it for the Making a Book course. The story just came out of me one night, and Professor Robert Price said, ‘I think this is the strongest piece I’ve seen from you.’”
“Pictures from my old bedroom pile on the floor. The thick smell of paint clings to the air. Grandpa texted me several hours ago during second-period English to tell me my room was getting painted the same shade of grey as my bedroom in my old house; they want me to feel at home,” Piedra writes in her short story.
Piedra hopes that readers can take away that “even when you feel alone, you’re not really alone.”
Piedra’s vulnerable storytelling of her personal experience reminds us that creative non-fiction provides a transcendent look at humanity. Mindwaves’ editor-in-chief, Monika Krizic-Fronteddu, credits the PWC program for instilling similar perspectives in herself. “In high school, there was always pressure to come up with the next ‘greatest’ story. When I came to UTM and enrolled in the PWC program, we were challenged to publish work that shows that our lives and our experiences are meaningful. You don’t have to sit there brewing, creating this extravagant story, you can write about your life, and that could mean so much to people.”
Krizic-Fronteddu, in previous years, worked as an associate editor for Mindwaves before taking on her role as editor-in-chief. “As an associate editor, I edited a couple of pieces, and it didn’t feel like enough. I wanted to edit more because I enjoyed reading and working with people so much.”
Krizic-Fronteddu admits that she, like most students, hesitated before applying. “I was nervous, but I am so thankful that I applied. I met so many amazing people along the way, and I got to work with Srivindhya and Professor Price, the faculty advisor for Mindwaves. The opportunity really pushed me out of my comfort zone and helped me develop skills as both a writer and an editor.”
Krizic-Fronteddu worked alongside Srivindhya Kolluru, the editor-in-chief of Compass, a PWC journal dedicated to scientific and historical journalism. “We worked to make sure we were on the same timeline for editing stories.” Kolluru explains that the two of them also sought one another for advice. “When I needed help, Monika was there to help me and vice versa. I needed help with design, so she stepped in. Professor Price was also so helpful—he’s been such a mentor to both of us,” says Kolluru.
“Writers knew that the editors and designers were trying to help bring their story to life. Publishing is really a team effort. You never feel like you are alone,” Kolluru says. “Yes, there’s always room for a piece to evolve and grow, especially with teamwork,” Krizic-Fronteddu adds.
Mindwaves has brought UTM writers together, collectively sharing their honest truths. This experience has undoubtedly shaped the writers of our future and given them a glimpse of what is possible.
“Storytelling is as old as humanity, and all the different ways that stories have been told have changed throughout the years. It’s going to continue to change, but the desire to hear and tell them never will,” says Krizic-Fronteddu. “Our publication shows readers what we’ve learned about life, and what we’ve learned about ourselves. Student stories do matter, and it is important for you to tell your story. Hopefully, it will tell future readers what they can learn about life and themselves as well. Never stop writing.”
The PWC program will be accepting submissions for Mindwaves and Compass soon.