Alani Casiano has had a love for writing ever since she was young. She went on to join Write for Market, a UNC writing club and has been there for the past four years. She's now the president of the club and has done a lot of work promoting it. (Running time 16:28)
My name is Alani Casiano. I'm an English major here at UNC with a minor in Media Studies, and I'm a senior media graduate in a little over a week.
Alani is the president of right for market, which he joined as a freshman, she found a passion for all different forms of writing when she was younger and has been following that passion ever since. Just a little warning about this episode, the sound is a bit rough, because this was an online interview. But sometimes that's just how it goes. Enjoy.
So can you tell me about your writing journey?
Yeah, I love writing. It's definitely my favorite form of self-expression. I like to say that ever since I learned how to write in school, I've been doing it for fun. Yeah, I first started writing really, for fun when I was seven years old. I would write poems and short stories and songs and things like that. And like, share them with my mom. Writing has always been my favorite creative outlet. And I found that I couldn't express myself in writing, sometimes even better than I can express myself in speech, I feel like. Sometimes it's easier to write things than to say things. So yeah, just throughout my life, I really enjoyed writing. And that kind of drew me into eventually what my major would become. And I first, my love for writing what gave me the interest in pursuing journalism.
So, I started pursuing journals in high school, because I wanted to find a way to use my love of writing, and to make it contribute to something larger than myself and beyond myself and improve other people's lives. And I thought that drill will be a great way to do that. So, I wrote for my High School, news magazine. And when I got to UNC, I wrote through the Mirror the student newspaper, little for a little bit. And now I'm part of Bear News. And I write, like, for better news, and I also am an anchor for better news. And I also work for you as the marketing department as a writer. So, it's just been a lot of fun. I love the writing has definitely kind of led me to where I am.
And like, what is your favorite form of writing? Like, what do you like to write the most?
That's hard to say, actually, I do kind of enjoy writing, like, essays and things like that, like, throughout school, I always kind of enjoyed writing papers, which are just kind of strange, but I thought it was fun, you know, to like, use my writing to, like, prove a point, or like, this is my interpretation of something. And here's why I think I'm right, and I'm gonna prove it, you know, in this five-page paper or whatever, I thought there was something kind of fun about that. So, I always kinda enjoy that. But I also do love creative writing. In my free time. You know, sometimes I'll write poems or short stories and things like that still, and I'm in a creative writing class right now here at UNC. And yeah, I just, I love it. It's where homework doesn't feel like homework, you know, where it's like, worried about something fun that I made up.
So, was it your journalism? Like, did you start to do journalism in like high school and like that type of writing, then?
Yeah, I did. When I was my sophomore year of high school, I joined I took an intro to journalism class was like an elective. And then my junior year, I became a writer for the student newspaper. And then by my senior year, I was copy editor.
And so that's what was that sort of what inspired you to pursue writing? Or was it just like, overall, a love of writing?
Yeah, I think it was just the love of writing, I'd say like, my love of journalism came from the love of writing, that eventually led to me becoming an English major here, because I just wanted to find a way to take something I love and turn it into a career.
And how long has the UNC writing club been around?
So, writing club was created in 2014. I'm not sure by who. But yeah, I've been a part of it since my freshman year of college. So, at the beginning, or in the fall of 2019, is when I joined. And now you know, four years later, I'm on my last semester of senior year, and I've been a part of it for almost four years. And I just love it. You know, I think it's something that's really helped me find my place here at UNC, because it's just a place where fellow, you know, writing nerds and writing lovers can get together and teach each other something about writing. But not only that, like we're all in the club. We're all friends. You know, it's a place to even just hang out and decompress once a week. Like it's something I look forward to. So, yeah, we've been around for many years, and I've been part of it all four years.
Why has it been like being part of a club at UNC?
I love it. And it's funny because I tell some people about this. And they're like, oh, I didn't know about clubs, or like, I've talked to people who like, weren't in clubs in high school. So, they're like, Oh, why would I join a club in college? And I kind of understand because I wasn't really part of clubs in high school either, I was in sports, and I was also in the newspaper, which was kind of a class and a club. It was like a, like a mix of those. Yeah, but I think what made me want to join a club and at UNC, when you're a freshman in college, it can be kind of scary, and you can feel like a fish out of water because you're in a new place, surrounded by new people. That you don't know. And I think clubs that you want to see are a great way to find your community and to not, you know, to be easy to feel alone or be intimidated being in college and starting a new chapter of your life. And I think joining a club and just bonding with people who have a similar interests as you, it is a great way to find a community.
If you're interested in joining a club at UNC. Bear Cave is a student engagement platform that has information on clubs, Greek life events, etc. You can search around and find what suits you. And for those interested in joining Write for Market, you can find more information about it on bear cave as well.
Not how I felt about right from our gate like those people. They're not just my club members, they're my friends. And we we spend time together outside the club. And before and after the club. We always, you know, talk about each other's needs and what's going on. So yeah, we don't really talk about club topics, and we talk about each other. And it's just really nice. They're great people. And it's a great way to make sense, I think joining club.
Can you tell me about your history with the writing club?
Yeah, for sure. So, I found out about them at the Student Involvement Fair that they have at the beginning of every fall and winter semesters. So right at the beginning of my fall semester, of my freshman year, in 2019, I was really eager, you know, to get my feet wet, jump into the UNC community and find my place. So, I signed up for a bunch of different clubs, which I think is good, I think, yeah, people should sign up for a bunch. And then you might only end up going to one or two, but that's okay. And break from work. It was one of them. And, you know, right away, I just, I just fell in love with it. And then I believe it was my junior year, I became the vice president. And now I've been the president for the past year. And it's been a wonderful experience. We're a very casual club, you know, very low commitment, you can come whenever you can, you know, sometimes people have other commitments or something comes up where you just can't make it that day. And that's okay. You know, we don't want people to feel pressured. Again, it's just a fun place to, to decompress, a great way to make friends and something to look forward to at the end of the week. So, I've had such great experience with rocket over the past four years.
What type of writing do you guys do slash a what does a day in the club sort of look like?
Yeah, I'll tell you about it for sure. So, we start every meeting with a 15 minute, we either do a free write of just sometimes someone like usually the President will choose a couple of writing prompts. And we can spend the first 15 minutes writing or, or you can write whatever you want. You don't have to write the prompts. And then after that, if you're comfortable, you can share with the group what you wrote, which is a fun way to get our creative gears turning.
Something else that we've done in the past two or so years, is we'll start some club meetings with, we call it our short story book club, or a poetry book club, where we'll choose a short story or a poem to read before the club. And we spend the first few minutes talking about it, you know, another way to get our creative juices flowing, we like to share our analysis of it like what it means, what techniques in that poem, or short story we really liked. So that's like, warm up, that's the beginning. And then every week, we explore a new writing topic. And that can be anything you know, something I liked about right for market is that we all have creative control, like it very much is a democracy. At the beginning of every semester, we decide on the schedule, and we just, you know, go around with the people the club and say, okay, and would you have any ideas of some things you want to talk about, or learn about or teach in worse market this semester, and then we decide which meetings will have which topic. So, it could be anything from how to write believable dialogue to how to write a good villain, or how to write horror fantasy, write actions to just about anything can be a topic that like work is whatever people in the club want.
And then usually, one person, one or two people who were like, the experts in that thing, maybe they suggested like, oh, I'm really good with poetry and I want to teach a session on poetry, then that person will spend the club kind of presenting on this, sometimes people make like almost formal Power Point. Sometimes people just, you know, talk informally. And it's fun, because what I like about write for market is we all have different skill sets, as writers, like some of us are, like really good at poetry. And some of us are really good at fantasy. So, because we all have different writing strengths and writing experience, it's such a great opportunity for us to teach each other something and we can help each other grow as writers, and a few times a semester are creating workshops, where people can submit their work and the rest of the club members we gave like constructive criticism. Just another way to help each other improve.
So, do you guys mostly just do creative writing or is it like a mixture of creative writing and possibly like professional writing?
We've mostly done creative writing, like fixing it. But I think some of the things we talked about could also apply to, you know, like creative nonfiction. Or I think we've even had one or two lessons about journalistic writing, or one of our members is like a web content writing specialist. So, he taught a session about like, you know, he's like, Okay, you want to advertise this bar soap in like 50 words, do it, you know, because that's like a job you could have as a writer. So, it's mostly been creative writing. But that's just because its what people have suggested, there's always freedom to talk about any other kind of writing, if you'd like.
So, what made you want to become president of the club?
I just, I love this club so much. And it's done so much for me. And it's been something that's helped me feel like I belong here at UNC. And it felt like a great way to to give back to the club to be a leader, it felt really good that the other members of the club told me they thought I would be good at it. So, everyone was very very welcoming, very much like, oh, yeah, like, you would be a great president, you should do it. And it was time for me presidency, I stepped up and then I got the position. It's been really nice.
What does your role as president of the club look like?
That's the only I do all sorts of things. So, I managed the club schedule. So, at the beginning of the year, when we decide on the schedule, I like make a spreadsheet and like, fill it out with what we choose, I send out the weekly emails or write up an email about, hey, here's what our club, here's what we're talking about this for topic. Here's, you know, the poem of the week if we have one. Here's the Zoom link to join. And, yes, for some emails, also advertise the club. So, I've gone to the student docent fairs in the fall, and in the winter, ever since I've been vice president, actually, I've helped advertise, I created the poster board, if you see any posters or get flyers on campus, those were designed by me. And I put those up. And I also advertise the club in person within my classes, I'll talk about it and encourage my teachers to send an email talking about it. I do all sorts of things.
So how did COVID affect your club specifically?
COVID Completely changed our club, actually. So, we used to meet in person. We used to meet in the fishbowl, which is this, like big conference room and Ross, which kind of looks like a fishbowl. Yeah, so we always met in person, there's continued COVID happen, and we became an online like virtual club held through zoom. And it stayed that way even though you know, the COVID pandemic has, for the most part faded away, and the restrictions that go along with it, we've decided to stay over zoom, because I think it's been a big benefit to the club.
You know, by being club that is held online, we've been able to keep members of the club that aren’t UNC students anymore. So, a lot of our members are actually alumni who, you know, were in the club while they were UNC students and other graduated. Because of zoom now they get to be part of the club. And in that way, we have members all over the country, actually one of our alumni, the other side a country, we have people all over Colorado as well. And I like that a lot because using zoom has allowed our club to diversify and be even more inclusive, because more people, and I liked that we have people across age ranges, you know, we have grad students, alumni and former students, non-students, current students. I like that I'd love to be diverse in that way to appeal to all kinds of people. So overall, I think the changes that came to our club, because of COVID were for the best, and for the betterment of the club. And I think that's why we've stuck to them.
It's probably like, although it sucks is probably an easier club to transition to online, rather than some other ones.
Yeah, just like not a physical club, you know, we can talk about writing digitally. And, and I like it a lot, because we each get to do it from the comfort of our own homes too so no matter the weather to like it's raining right now. You know, rain, snow, none of that stuff stunts our club either.
And you also get to hear from all all sorts of different people from all sorts of different experiences of the alumni and stuff like that. I think that's nice.
Thank you. I agree.
Do you have any advice for somebody who is wanting to start a club or become a president of an existing one?
Oh, I would just say go for it. Definitely. Don't be afraid to join clubs. You know, even if you haven't done it before, I just think it's such a great way to find communities and do it. If you have an idea for a club that doesn't exist at UNC. Yeah, I would absolutely encourage you to create one, you're sure to find a faculty member who will support you. Our faculty advisor is an English professor, and she is just wonderful. And you know she sings great praises about our club and is very supportive. If you're passionate about something, you know, find a faculty advisor who supports you because you do need a faculty advisor to become a recognized club at UNC. adds like a certain minimum number of members as well. Get your friends together who are passionate, get a faculty advisor, and go for it. I think I think it's so much fun we have we have hundreds of clubs on campus, I'm pretty sure. You never know what's out there already or what you could create that could help bring yourself and other people here assist the community.
And then I have one last question, which is if you could do a podcast, what would you do it on?
I don't know. I love pop culture. So, I think I would probably do a podcast on like new movies as they come out. Like I'm subscribed to a lot of movie reviewers on YouTube. I would love to have like a movie revie podcast. That would be fun.
Yeah. And then you get to write about all the movie reviews and just tell people about it.
Yes, that's something I would actually love to do I would love to be a columnist, like wrote movie reviews, like newspapers something definitely I could see myself doing so yeah.
Thank you for listening to Alani Casiano talk about her journey with write for market and what it is like to be a president of a club here at UNC if you're interested in being added to the mailing list for Write for Market the email is firstname.lastname@example.org. This will also be in the episode description. I'm your host Isabella Marcus-Porter, giving you a taste of UNC.