Graduating senior, Naomi Valenzuela aims to earn her place in the editorial world

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Naomi Valenzuela, 20, is a creative writing major with a minor in English and American literature at UTEP graduating at the end of the fall 2020 term. Illustration by Claudia Hernández.

Daniela Ramos, Contributor

Editor’s note: Story was updated on Nov. 23, 2020 at 10:10 a.m. to correct Valenzuela’s age and salutatorian place.

Naomi Valenzuela, 20, is a creative writing major with a minor in English and American literature at UTEP, graduating at the end of the fall 2020 term. 

Starting off at an early college in Fabens during high school, allowed Valenzuela to explore her interests, goals, and abilities. 

“I believe I started with theater, then I switched to communications because I thought that would help me get a better job; in the meantime, I started taking more English classes as electives and, after talking to some advisors and professors, I came to see that that’s what I liked the best,” Valenzuela said 

As an outstanding student in high school, Valenzuela applied for and was awarded the UTEP excellency scholarship, as it was called when it was awarded to her.  

With reading and writing as her two true passions, and creative writing her main interest, Valenzuela’s choice in degrees match her talents and fascinations. However, her initial chosen career was surprisingly somewhat different. 

“I started out in technical writing, and I realized that wasn’t what I wanted to do, and even though I was scared of going into creative writing, I still went for it because I really enjoyed it,” Valenzuela said.  

Technical writing is about a specific subject or topic that involves the presence of instructions or explaining. For example, user manuals, software installation guides, legal disclaimers, company documents, annual reports, or help files.  

Though she didn’t know what to expect from her creative writing classes, Valenzuela said it was all made easier by the professors she had along the way, as well as the great and helpful courses that UTEP offers. 

Despite being awarded other scholarships to make up for the excellency scholarship that vanished, the requirements to continue receiving money remained the same throughout Valenzuela’s years at UTEP, as did her ‘excelling’ academic performance.  

The requirements are to keep my GPA above a 3.5, and amount a total of 30 credit hours per year; they actually just changed my scholarship again and I basically got it for being salutatorian,” Valenzuela said. 

The young writer’s drive, work ethics and academic achievements did not go unnoticed and Valenzuela was given the opportunity to intern at Catalyst Press, a publishing company founded in 2017 that brings voices from around the globe to readers everywhere, according to its website. 

I worked with Ashawnta [marketing manager] on the publicity side of the business; the company focuses on publishing books in the United States that were originally published in Africa,” Valenzuela said. “I also wrote blog posts on literary news and soon after the start of the pandemic I was working on creating online packets for people who would want to look into the books.”  

The internship took place at the start of the spring 2020 semester, and, unfortunately, ended early due to issues at home, Valenzuela said.  

However, her time as intern served as a learning experience; Valenzuela was able to see what it really takes to be a writer and the process of releasing your work to the public.  

I want to eventually work in publishing, so this showed me what goes on behind the scenes and you have to be organized. I was allowed to see what an author has to go through to publish their work,” Valenzuela said.  

As for her next steps after graduation, Valenzuela said she wishes to take some time off, a well-deserved a break from school, which will hopefully allow her to get some writing done and build a professional portfolio.  

For Valenzuela, the main goal is to become an editor at a publishing company, for which she intends to get a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in creative writing at UTEP and take up teaching also, or while she finds the right opportunities that will guide her toward realizing her dreams.  

As a final note, Valenzuela gave her advice to those still in the process of obtaining their degree and any upcoming college students.  

Study what you like, don’t feel pressured by family or relatives to study for money or success. In order to get involved in school and get ahead you need to study what you love, what you’re passionate about,” Valenzuela said.  

Daniela Ramos may be reached at [email protected]