Reading in Tamagawa Garden

Aislinn Cottell

Aislinn Cottell, Essay Contest Winner in the Upper-Level Category, 2019-2020 

Aislinn Cottell

Can the study of literature result in you yourself becoming an accomplished author? Aislinn Cottell, a recent graduate of VIU, is the living proof. Having recently graduated with an Honours degree in Creative Writing, Aislinn found that English courses frequently “served as a catalyst and inspiration” for her own works of fiction. “I love literature and culture analysis,” she explains, “while my CREW major gave me my creative outlet and stretched my writing skills, I found English classes enriching for my social and cultural knowledge bank.”

As an environmental activist, Aislinn found Janet Grafton’s Children’s Literature course to be particularly engaging. “This course became very much environmentally focused, and the class had a lot of interesting discussions concerning how past ways of living could be used to help build a more sustainable society in the future.” For one of the course assignments, Aislinn wrote a remarkably lucid and original literary analysis. In it, she considered the themes and historical contexts of Louise Alcott’s Little Women and Astrid Lindgren’s Pippi Longstocking, making astute connections between these early children’s classics and an emerging but largely unrecognized motif in contemporary culture called solarpunk. “I was already familiar with the concept of solarpunk,” she writes, “and found it to be very relevant to the idea of constructively linking the past and future.”  

So, what does Aislinn do when she’s not engaging in environmental activism, writing poetry or works of fiction, and spinning out award-winning English essays? Her favourite books and television series include Doctor WhoThe Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and The Malazan: Book of the Fallen—all of which she wholeheartedly encourages others to appreciate. And for any aspiring authors out there who want to be inspired by English courses, Aislinn offers the following advice: 

As someone who only started outlining their essays in the last year of their six-year degree—outline your essays. Surprisingly, it makes things quite a bit easier! Even if it’s only a couple of bullet points per paragraph, and you don’t touch it again until the night before it’s due—do a quick brainstorm and write something down ASAP after it’s been assigned. Your future self will thank you, every time. 

Great advice from an exceptional writer whose future self will undoubtedly be grateful for her present accomplishments.