Student Spotlight: R.S. Deeren (MFA '16)

Published on Apr 19, 2016

By Neal Steichen (MFA '17)

R.S. Deeren came from Caro, Michigan to become a MFA candidate in Columbia College Chicago’s Fiction Writing program. Currently in his second year, Deeren came to Chicago for the city setting that was still in his Midwest home.

What drew you towards the field of writing?
I’ve always been a storyteller. I think all people are, from childhood make-believe to calling in “sick” to work. I started putting my stories down when I was a teenager, but I didn’t start taking it seriously until undergraduate. I’d fallen into an artsy group of folks, dated a writer, and feeling at home in this group made me want to develop my craft. There is this constant drive to create that, if you feed it, outweighs any amount of negatives. 

How has Columbia College Chicago helped you achieve your goals?
My goal is to write until I can’t write anymore. What’s crazy about this is how quickly my time at Columbia has influenced and improved my writing.The MFA program here has such a wide range of authors with just as many approaches to teaching the craft of writing. Everyone I work with offers new challenges, and my writing has morphed and grown.

I’ve also always wanted to be a teacher. Now that I’m at Columbia, I’ve had the opportunity to be a Graduate Teaching Assistant for both incoming freshmen and upper-level writing students. Like I said, writing comes first, but everything else will fall in place after that. 

Are there any specific memories of your time at Columbia that have shaped you?
In my second semester, I brought a piece of writing to a workshop and it was panned. Of course, I felt like I had failed. Professor Sam Park, however, encouraged me to keep working on that piece. A few months later, that same piece helped me to win a Luminarts Foundation Creative Writing Fellowship. I’ve had some success publishing my work over the past year and a half and that’s always a great feeling.

Do you have any advice for other writing students here at Columbia?
Like I said, we are all storytellers in some way. If you find that you’re living in these moments frequently, then maybe you should get yourself a pen and notebook and start writing.

If you are already writing, keep going. Don’t write with your end goal being the billion-dollar book deal. Take every bit of advice with a shaker of salt, work with it, and some of those grains may actually be gold.