UHV student accepted into prestigious writing program

University of Houston-Victoria student Danielle Charles was in the middle of dyeing her hair when she received the biggest news of her life.

Danielle Charles

The 20-year-old McAllen native, who will graduate in May with a Bachelor of Arts in English, had applied to nine graduate creative writing programs in the past few months. She had been rejected from eight and thought her biggest goal – the University of Iowa – would pass on her as well, but then she got the phone call.

“I wasn’t expecting the other person on the line to be with Iowa, telling me that I was accepted into their program,” Charles said. “It was such a happy surprise. I cried.”

This fall, Charles will attend the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where she will study for a Master of Fine Arts. The program only admits up to 50 graduate students from a large and impressive pool of applicants each year, about 25 each in the fiction and poetry programs, according to the program’s website.

The program is well known throughout the English literature community and is seen as prestigious and selective, said Anthony Madrid, director of the UHV MFA in creative writing program and assistant professor of English and creative writing.

Madrid helped Charles put together her application to the program, which included a manuscript of 15 poems Charles wrote and letters of recommendation.

Anthony Madrid

“This is a wonderful case of a very special person getting the credit she deserves,” Madrid said. “The odds of getting into the program are stacked against most, but you never know what your chances are until you actually take the chance and apply. It is very satisfactory to see Danielle take her chance and get accepted.”

Charles specializes in poems, though she has also written short stories and scripts. Writing is a part of her daily routine, and there isn’t a day she doesn’t write.

Nadya Pittendrigh, the UHV director of composition and assistant professor of English, describes Charles as a sophisticated speaker who is driven and self-motivated, and who has a hunger to learn and create.

Charles, who enjoys rhyming and rhythm in poetry, almost accidentally created a new form of poetry with how she broke down the words that rhymed, Pittendrigh said. The University of Iowa faculty who pored over her application were at first confused, Charles said, but then found her work to be unusual and interesting.

According to the program’s website, the faculty do not look for any particular style of writing, but strong work that shows “evidence of talent and individuality.”

Nadya Pittendrigh

“She has a lot of original ideas and has a unique way of looking at things, and she is playful and satirical in her writing,” Pittendrigh said. “I am just so proud of her.”

Charles is the oldest of seven in her family and will graduate from UHV this semester at the age of 20 because she was able to earn an associate degree while in high school. She is the first in her family to go to graduate school, and her family is proud and supportive of her decision to earn her graduate degree at the University of Iowa, she said.

“I am so excited to be in an environment where others also have a passion for writing and have time to really focus on just writing,” Charles said. “It’s such a dream come true.”

The University of Houston-Victoria, located in the heart of the Coastal Bend region since 1973 in Victoria, Texas, offers courses leading to more than 80 academic programs in the schools of Arts & Sciences; Business Administration; and Education, Health Professions & Human Development. UHV provides face-to-face classes at its Victoria campus, as well as an instructional site in Katy, Texas, and online classes that students can take from anywhere. UHV supports the American Association of State Colleges and Universities Opportunities for All initiative to increase awareness about state colleges and universities and the important role they have in providing a high-quality and accessible education to an increasingly diverse student population, as well as contributing to regional and state economic development.

Amber Aldaco