Award-winning student writer plots course for publication, teaching

The University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s Ashley Ellsworth has been intent on becoming a short story writer or novelist since childhood.

Ellsworth, who will earn a bachelor’s degree in English with a concentration in creative writing during Fall 2020 Commencement ceremonies, hasn’t shelved those aspirations; her current focus in her ongoing development as a writer, however, is poetry.

Ellsworth, who is from New Orleans, cultivated an intense interest in the form while completing writing assignments as part of her coursework. 

“I was surprised to learn the impact just one sentence can make if it’s tailored the way I need it to be. In poetry, every word choice is super important, and I got hooked on pursuing the perfect word,” Ellsworth explained.

It’s a pursuit at which she’s proven adept.

Her poems – and short fiction – earned Ellsworth the Department of English’s Timothy W. Adams Award for Creative Writing earlier this year. At the urging of several professors, Ellsworth is sifting through her work, picking samples to submit to literary journals.

Like many modern poets, she writes in free verse, which doesn’t adhere to conventional structures or devices such as consistent meter or rhyme patterns. “It doesn’t subscribe to traditional rules of poetry. It’s sort of a new wave.”

Ellsworth shapes words with intent.

“My poems are always really short, really dense, really packed with interesting words, and layered with meaning,” she said.

As much as writing and publishing, Ellsworth is looking forward to teaching. She’s applying to graduate creative writing programs. Once she earns an MFA, Ellsworth plans to obtain certification to teach high school.

She envisions teaching all genres of writing, but believes poetry is an ideal form for learning about many facets of language.

“With poetry, you have to focus intently on how each word functions, sounds, looks on the page. Poetry teaches you to pay really close attention, and that benefits all types of writing. And even speaking,” she explained.  

As a child, Ellsworth’s “fierce love of language” prompted her to read voraciously, and memorize movie dialogue that she recited to her cousins. She began writing in middle school, “filling journals with stories” that brought praise and fulfillment.

“It became clear that it was something I had an aptitude for and that I really enjoyed doing, so becoming a writer was my career goal from that point on,” she said.

Photo caption: Ashley Ellsworth will earn a bachelor’s degree in English with a concentration in creative writing as part of Fall 2020 Commencement ceremonies. She is the winner of this year’s Timothy W. Adams Award for Creative Writing given by the Department of English. Ellsworth is applying to MFA programs, with plans to continue writing and to teach. Submitted photo