Spotlight on BPR news and engagement intern Charlie Smith
BPR is pleased to announce that UNC-Asheville Senior Charlie Smith has joined our team as a summer intern. Charlie is pursuing a BA in Creative Writing specializing in creative non-fiction. Charlie’s been a leader on campus, managing social media for orientation and co-leading “Justice for All,” a community engagement initiative that introduces younger students to social and environmental justice organizations and historical sites in the Asheville-area. Charlie will be working on content for newscasts, newsletters and social media as well as developing a community engagement project. The BPR internship is part of UNCA's SECU Public Fellows program (learn about the 2021 cohort here), which connects talented undergraduate students with local non-profits and agencies to provide them with on-the-job experience and a way give back to the community.
What drew you to an internship at BPR?
I was drawn to this field because I’ve always loved radio. We used to listen to this country station 94.7 and it was fun to hear the morning hosts joke around with each other. I loved hearing the updates about what was going on inside of the world of country music. I also think my love of podcasts that I formed when I got to college also drew me to this field. I mainly listen to comedy and fantasy podcasts, but I do enjoy the news medium in audio form. I think it makes it easier to listen to current events while you do something else, especially since there’s always something to do in the fast-paced world we live in. I am also always excited to experience a new form of writing since writing is in everything.
Audio forms like radio and podcasts are a great way to entertain the mind while your body goes through the motions of life.
Describe one of your pieces of writing that you’re proud of.
I wrote this piece called “On Dictionaries and Scrabble Pieces,” and it’s a creative nonfiction piece where I wrote vignettes/flash pieces of writing separated by negative dictionary definitions which correlated to the negative perceptions I was receiving from my peers and family. It was an experimental and reflective piece about when I was in elementary school and used to play scrabble with an afterschool caretaker. It was where I learned the purpose of words and how you use them. I learned to appreciate just how similar words can have radically different meanings. It also explored my joy in flipping through the pages of a dictionary in order to find a word and seeing all the ways that word can be used. Craft-wise, I am proud of its structure of it. I loved how it gets darker and darker and the definitions just get crueler and crueler. It was a piece I didn’t think would work but I was glad when it did. I wrote it for a creative nonfiction class and want to try to get it published somewhere.
What have you learned as you’ve explored creative nonfiction? Do you have any particular areas of interest?
I’ve learned how experimental I can get with the genre. It’s a genre with not a lot of rules. There are even debates on how true something can be, like how creative nonfiction writers will fill in small details that the memory cannot replicate. I love writing about my life, just because a lot of the crazy things that have happened in the short amount of time that I have lived. I also like writing about comedy and how to be funny around a tragic event, the sort of delicate balance of punching up humor and self-depreciation. I think switching to writing nonfiction will be an interesting learning experience, writing within the lines instead of outside of them and as well as writing for the ear instead of for the eye.
What are you excited about doing while at BPR?
I am excited to learn how to work with audio programs and learn how to write for the ear. Up until now, I have only been writing for what an audience can read instead of what an audience can hear, and I think learning that distinction can aid in my writing skills. I love the idea of getting back into community spaces and going to different events.
What’s on your summer reading list?
I would love to read more memoirs, fantasy, and LGBTQ+ fiction novels. If you looked at the number of books in my audio library and the unread books in my personal library, you would be able to see just how overly ambitious I can get when it comes to a reading list in general. The books at the top of my list right now are May the Best Man Win by ZR Ellor, John Dies at the End by David Wong, and Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas. I also have one of my professors’ books, When Ghosts Come Home by Dr. Wiley Cash. I went to one of his readings, and his teaching has also had a big impact on my writing so I think it would be cool to dive into one of his works.
You are graduating this summer. Any words of advice for incoming first year students?
From failure, we grow, and if I kept winning and being successful at everything I did in college, I would not be where I am today.
My advice is to get used to the feeling of failure. I failed so many times at so many things in college. I tried to follow the advice of trying everything in college. On the one hand, it led to me expanding my horizons. On the other hand, it also led to moments of failure. I feel so grateful for all the times that I have failed. I am even grateful for that D I got in physics because I learned at my very core, science is not my thing.
The thing about failing is that you learn even if you feel like you’ve hit absolute rock bottom, the world keeps going on around you. It’s a strange comfort to know that life keeps going even if you bomb that test or mess up at your job. It can also make for a funny story later, which is also a plus side if you’re aiming to expand your comedic social skills.
Anything else you’d like to share?
I’m so excited about this opportunity. It’s going to be an awesome summer.