Artist Spotlight: Creative writing student seeks to comfort others through stories

Madelyn DePodesta

Arts & Features Staff Writer

mdepodes@unca.edu

UNC Asheville sophomore Una Holland enjoys creating art through their fantastical words, characters and stories inspired early on by their love of the Harry Potter series.

“When I was in sixth grade, I read the entire Harry Potter series in one week,” creative writing student Holland said. “I loved reading. I had these friends I would talk to online and just talking to people and making different friends all over the world and reading so much got me

Una Holland, sophomore creative writing student at UNCA, writes creative stories incorporating reality with magic and fantasy.

into the idea maybe I want to write.”

Holland writes in a variety of genres, but particularly enjoys implementing magic and fantastical elements into their stories.

“I really love fantasy for the most part,” Holland said. “I love reading it, different science fiction or fantasy novels. I really wanted to write science fiction books and work on making different worlds and other galaxies. But with time, that’s kind of shifted into more of a fantastical idea, or magical realism which is more realistic stuff with just some magical twists put in.”

Taking the typical in their stories and incorporating magic and fantasy persists as the main goal for Holland throughout their time as a writer.

“I’ve been working on this novel for a few years now, and it’s like a modernized retelling of “Lilith” and that’s my main genre that I’ve been dealing with, where it’s a normal kind of idea at the beginning until the supernatural concepts come in. That’s what I’ve been writing the most, and it’s what I love best.”

The Harry Potter series was not the only thing encouraging Holland’s love of writing during this time in their life.

“I started writing in sixth grade because I had my first laptop — I was constantly on it,” Holland said. “I love just sitting and writing. I actually wrote a full book in sixth grade, it was a Harry Potter fanfiction. I have the original book; I wrote it by hand, actually. It’s what kickstarted my entire writing career, so I guess I kind of have to owe it to Harry Potter for being my original inspiration.”

Holland also found inspiration for their writing through many other books and authors they read growing up.

“There’s this one author named Danielle Vega, she wrote these books called The Merciless. Three-quarters of the first book takes place in one night and I just think that style is so interesting,” Holland said. “I’m not a big horror writer, but I wanted to take parts of that book and use it in my own writing. Just taking that style and pace my work in that way.”

LGBTQ+ authors were also a source of comfort for Holland growing up, influencing their writing greatly.

“David Levithan — I just loved his books,” Holland said. “I loved his style and I loved that he was a queer author. I think that was a really, really fun thing to see. I would go to Barnes and Noble and look up on my phone ‘LGBT books in Barnes and Noble’ and just sit there for hours and try to read more and more.”

It is difficult for Holland to pinpoint exactly what, or who, sparked their passion for creative writing and telling stories.

“I could never really pick one specific author or one specific book because there are just so many that I sat down and read,” Holland said. “A conglomeration of so many different authors and writing styles that allowed me to grow.”

The talent and creativity of the aspiring author goes noticed and celebrated by their peers in the English department at UNCA.  

“We were part of a writers club since freshman year of high school, so just seeing their skills develop has been wild,” UNCA English student Jessica Stiehm said. “I remember when we were 14, they wrote this poem called “Ode To Sasha” and it was literally Sasha’s name repeated 12 times changing one letter each line and now, five years later, they’re editing their 85,000 word novel and looking at publishing options. Writing styles change and it’s great.”

Holland’s passion for creative writing is also recognized by the professors they have worked closely with.

They have a fierce imagination!” said Mildred Barya, assistant professor of English at UNCA.

The reason for Holland wanting to write stories stems from the impact reading had on them growing up.

“It’s the idea of wanting to be a voice for other people who love to read when they’re young,” Holland said. “Because I know it was books that got me through a lot of hard times growing up. I would always go to books if I needed advice, or I just needed to sit on my own, and I want to be that book for other people growing up. That’s why I keep writing. I want someone to read my book and be like ‘oh my god, look at this character’ and fall in love with the characters and worlds I’ve created. I want fanfiction written about it.”

Holland strives to have that feeling of comfort and understanding in their novels resonate with anyone who reads them.

“It’s so important to so many people growing up just reading things that they can relate to,” Holland said. “I really just want to help people with that process.”

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