Alumni Spotlight: Cyn Vargas

Alumni Spotlight: Cyn Vargas

photographer: Jacob Boll

photographer: Jacob Boll

Recent Columbia graduate, Cyn Vargas, talks to Marginalia about her new book, her current work, and more. Check Cyn out at her website here. Her book, On The Way, will be published in Spring 2015 from Curbside Splendor. She works in the Office of Alumni Relations here at Columbia College Chicago.

Parker Stockman (PS): Can you tell me a bit about what it’s like to be a post-grad?

Cyn Vargas (CV): It’s still as busy but in a different way. I’m still involved with the lit world and working on my novel, and I have a book coming out. The time I spent on class and homework, they are now spent on that. It’s exciting to have my MFA because it gives me weight in certain places, especially in the teaching realm, which I’d like to get into on the college level. I guess the best thing about life post-grad is that I was able to get my thesis published.

PS: What was the process of getting the thesis published?

CV: My thesis is a short story collection. My last year as a grad student, I took a publishing class with Jotham Burrello. We had to interview a publishing press, and I had “met” Victor Giron from Curbside Splendor via Facebook, but we’d never met in person. I knew I wanted to interview him because he was “Chicago” and local and I loved Curbside. We met and spoke for two hours. I learned about their entire process. He’d said in that interview when I had my thesis done, to let him see it. I kept in touch with him and after I graduated I sent them my book. It was really about making connections and exploring options before the thesis was done.

PS: Was there a push to publish the stories before?

CV: I knew getting the stories published would help me find a publisher for the whole collection. Having an established audience for your work, however small, is more appealing to a publisher than having none at all. Almost half of the stories in my collection have been published before and I won the Guild Literary Complex award for fiction.

PS: That’s helpful!

CV: Definitely!

PS: Can you tell me about being a company member for 2nd Story?

CV: I’ve been an official company member since August. There are 30 of us, all volunteers. As a company, we are trying to forward the mission of sharing stories that have the power to educate, connect, and inspire. We ask ourselves how we can get more people involved with 2nd Story? I’m really happy to be a part of the conversation.

PS: How do you feel the program positioned you for success? How could it have positioned you better?

CV: It positioned me for success because I have close relationships with some of the faculty, and that allowed me to go to some of them to say, “I need your help,” and, “I need your advice on this.” Being able to go to them as mentors was extremely helpful. At one point, I wanted to quit because I worked full time, was a mom full time and with grad school full time and it was overwhelming. I went to Patty McNair, and she convinced me to not quit. That was major for me. I think what could improve overall school-wide is a required business class for all majors. “This is what this degree can get you in the real world, and this is how to use it—this is how to use your writing degree and your film degree and your dance degree.” There are classes in some departments, like freelance applications and publishing, but they are optional when they should be required.