Lauren Miles (Class of 2020)

photo of Lauren Miles

  • junior major in English: Creative Writing
  • minors in Theatre and Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies 
  • from Dayton, OH
  • participated in Literary London program, visiting Shakespeare's birthplace and interning at traditional English pub theater (Summer 2018)
  • student consultant at the Howe Writing Center
"Trust yourself that you are good and that you're going to do amazing things. I have never met anyone here at Miami, whether inside the Department of English or elsewhere, that won't do good things. They all will — they are amazing, we are amazing. Just keep doing what you are doing!"

Why Miami?

"In the fall of my senior year of high school I went on a bunch of campus visits, and I visited Miami twice. Both times I had a different major in mind, and neither were in the Department of English! The professors I met were very encouraging and kind, and they showed that they wanted me to be the best I could be. There wasn't the kind of pressure I felt at other institutions to follow a specific path — they encouraged me to do what I wanted.

"Moving from home in Dayton to Oxford, I was still learning to drive. I had to go home every other weekend or so to take my driving classes. This was an important bridge for me as I kept my strong connection at home while learning to adapt to being a Miami student. By my first spring semester I finished the driving classes, and I began to feel more at home at Miami.

"I chose my creative writing major just before my first semester, while I was living in Thompson Hall, part of the Social Justice Living Learning Community (LLC). I chose this LLC because I wanted to live with a diverse group of people, and the idea of social justice and helping to make the world a more equitable place is important to me. It was awesome to be among various students doing great things for this campus, and it has been incredible seeing everyone grow."

Best Miami Experiences

Lauren Miles leads a meeting of the Association of Creative Writers.

"Basically the whole English department is wonderful, but two of my favorite professors are professor of English Katie Johnson and associate professor of English Margaret Luongo. Dr. Johnson taught my first Miami literature course as well as a really fun class on literature and film which inspired a lot of the work in adaptation I do now. Professor Luongo was a part of my Literary London study abroad trip in summer 2018 and taught one of my creative writing classes on current creative trends which has greatly shaped my creative practice. She also recommended that I work as a consultant at the Howe Writing Center, where I've learned how to edit and be a good collaborator, among other skills. Both of these professors have shown me that you need to keep learning in order to help others learn more. Regardless of what field I go into, this is what I hope to achieve in my life.

"I would also like to shout out assistant professor TaraShae Nesbit and associate professor cris cheek, who have both really pushed my creative work further, this semester in particular. I am so much more confident in my creative work now than I was a semester ago, and it is largely thanks to being in their classes.

"For Literary London, not only did we see lots and lots of plays, but I also did an internship at a small pub theater in the Chiswick neighborhood called the Tabard Theater. I worked with a playwright who was creating an adaptation of a cute children's book about a family of teaspoons. I was able to see how he collaborated with the theater director and manager and took part in the developmental process, which is an important part of dramaturgy for a new play.

"Dramaturgy involves conducting historical research for theater. For example, if it's Shakespeare, the dramaturg researches the historical contexts of that play, both past and present, as well as Shakespeare's writing process and so on. You write an actor's packet of information for all the actors, directors, and the rest of the creative team so they can do their job as best they can. Learning how to write well in my English and creative writing classes has really helped with that. Learning how to write in different forms and genres has helped me understand structure, which is a huge part of dramaturgy."

Miami and the Liberal Arts

Lauren Miles and friends on a boat cruise during their Literary London experience (Summer 2018).

"The liberal arts allow you to be very flexible in your thinking as you encounter new ideas and theories. There are so many different avenues to go down, and you're encouraged to do a little bit of each. You learn to write well, and with that skill you can do really anything — every discipline requires some sort of writing. This breadth of experience is really useful, helping you be adaptable in the career world.

"I believe there is also a social justice component in the liberal arts that can be really important. Analyzing a play requires you to ask why we are examining that specific play right now. We are always thinking about literature and plays in the context of this current moment. Why this play? Why right now? What makes this play from this year, 10 years ago, 100 years ago, important and relevant today? All these questions coalesce to get us to see where we were, where we are, and where we are going.

"Part of my decision to major in creative writing comes from my experiences in high school, where I took my first creative writing class. It felt really nice to write things that I really wanted, which is somewhat different from how the American public schooling works, where teachers have to follow a federal and state-regulated curriculum. Creative writing allows you to focus on what is important to you. When I started taking creative writing classes here at Miami, I realized there are so many things you can do to gain skills that can apply and be transferred to other fields. You learn to be adaptive, learn form and styles, and write well, all of which will help you in many potential careers. I have definitely made the right choice in following what my heart said to do!"

Interning at an English Pub/Theater in the Heart of London's Theater Scene

The Tabard Theatre, London, UK.

"I was always drawn to the idea of going to the UK — mainly because as a kid I watched British cooking shows! Going to London allowed me to see the art and culture in person, and I realized how different it is from the US. Here, often you have high schools that cut the arts entirely because they don't have the funds, but theater in London is an iconic part of the culture. Cost is still a barrier for many folks, but given the UK's smaller size, the country's theatrical heart is much more accessible than Broadway is for Americans.

"Literary London is a 6-week program that the Department of English runs in coordination with the American Institute for Foreign Study (AIFS). AIFS memberks gave us an orientation tour of London during the first week, and our classes started during the second. Of the three classes offered, I chose a Shakespeare class and one on detective fiction, which included the works of Dame Agatha Christie, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and other British icons.

"On Wednesdays we had class trips, such as walking tours at museums and in locations like Stratford upon Avon (Shakespeare's birthplace), Windsor Castle, the Royal Shakespeare Company, and Oxford University. Stratford upon Avon was a big highlight for me. It's a lovely, quaint town with a deep feeling of history, and walking about I could imagine the people who lived there in the 1600s, maybe even Shakespeare himself. It was really special.

I also spent time interning at the Tabard Theatre, which is a theater on top of a traditional English pub. Pubs in England serve alcohol but are more like a restaurant, developed from the idea of 'public' houses where you could stay the night, get food and drink, and be with the community. I largely answered phones, sold tickets and snacks and things, but I also got to do behind-the-scenes work, like organizing props, cueing lights, and helping with casting auditions. At the same time, the World Cup was going on, so everyone from the neighborhood was at the Tabard to watch the game!

"Getting that dramaturgy experience at the Tabard was great. Dramaturgs make good art managers; they run the theater and decide what plays are being performed. It was really helpful getting that perspective. I had never been behind the scenes or seen the interpersonal aspects of the theater world. I loved feeling like I was making an impact on the workings of the theater, and I know that I can do that same kind of work in the future."

Advice to Students

"My biggest piece of advice is to trust yourself. A lot of people in the arts — especially women, people of color, and LGBTQ+ folks — experience what is called imposter syndrome. You could be really passionate about writing, painting, or anything else you do or make, but you feel that you aren't good enough despite the praise from others. Feeling like a fraud or imposter, you might feel you're not actually that great and that you've only fooled everyone. Joining the Literary London helped me fix that a bit, though nothing can cure it overnight. Receiving strong and positive feedback helped me feel that I actually achieved something and made an impact. That kind of confidence boost really helped me with my imposter syndrome.

"We all make mistakes, of course, so we cannot always do our best work ever. That doesn't mean you are not a good writer or student. Trust yourself that you are good and that you're going to do amazing things. I have never met anyone here at Miami, whether inside the Department of English or elsewhere, that won't do good things. They all will — they are amazing, we are amazing. Just keep doing what you are doing!"

[May 2019]