Find Your Voice: McKayla Conahan

Welcome to Find Your Voice, a series profiling English students and the stories they have to tell. 


As the former Editor-in-Chief at College of Charleston’s National Literary and Arts Journal Miscellanyand current Design Assistant for Cistern Yard NewsSenior McKayla Conahan has always been interested in and in love with Creative Writing–only it hasn’t always been so sophisticated. “I loved reading Jan Brett books with my mom when I was six years old,” she says. It’s how she became fascinated with the marriage of writing and pictures, and how her mother came to tell her if you want more books, you’ll have to make them. Conahan laughs, saying how her mom probably had no idea the impact these words would have on her life and pursuit of poetry.

Originally from North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, Conahan attended the South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities studying Creative Writing. After graduation, she decided on the College of Charleston for its Astrophysics major: the only undergraduate Astrophysics major in the Southeast. But it wasn’t long before the Creative Writing minor became a huge part of Conahan’s undergraduate studies–and life.
Immersive is the world she uses to describe the program’s curriculum and atmosphere: after her Freshman year with no Creative Writing courses under her belt, she took all of them back-to-back-to-back.
Between classes like Professor Heinen’s on Literary Magazines and Publishing, Professor Rosko’s on Advanced Poetry, and Professor Jackson’s on different Poetic and Hybrid Forms, Conahan says she has been guided and influenced by the best Creative Writing faculty and most interesting course subjects she could ask for. Just one summer traveling to Italy for the Creative Writing Spoleto Study Abroad Program, she says, was incredibly eye-opening.
The Creative Writing program and its faculty helped shape who I want to be as a person, and as a writer.
And now, as she finishes her senior year and comes to the end of her undergraduate education here at the College, what’s next for McKayla? The answer certainly seems to have no end or limitation: she’s applied for graduate MFA Creative Writing Programs like the University of Iowa Writer’s Workshop (where she once studied for a summer), University of Michigan, Oregon State University, and Virginia Commonwealth University (to name a few).
Thanks to the guidance of her instructors, she says, she knows what she wants: to write and study poetry, travel, and help shape young minds in the same way her’s was–by teaching the craft of writing, how to polish one’s work, and how the poetics behave.
Currently, though, Conahan is reading good poetry and trying to spread the word: Book of Hours by Kevin Young and Hyperboreal by Joan Kane are what’s in front of her right now. But we know, just like her mom said, that further ahead are the books Conahan will write herself, with training from the Creative Writing minor at the College of Charleston in tow.
The College of Charleston’s outstanding Creative Writing faculty have played an enormous role in helping me further develop myself as a poet, and paved the way for my future.