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Through Rose-Colored Glasses

Photos and video by Brandon Parigo; interview by Stacy Downs; graphics by Sarah Richardson | Strategic Marketing and Communications

Creative writing student communicates hope

Through word and action, Mahryn Barron connects with others. As a freshman earlier this year, she was one of the Kansas City organizers of March For Our Lives, the student-led demonstration in support of tighter gun control. Put simply, she feels like she was born to do what she does.

 

Mahryn Barron, ’21
Program: Bachelor Arts in English with a concentration in Creative Writing
School: College of Arts and Sciences
Organizations: Women’s Center and Pride Alliance
Hometown: Cripple Creek, Colorado

 

 

What influenced you to help lead March For Our Lives?

I was born in Colorado the same school year as Columbine, and mass violence has become far too common since.

I talked to a lot of my fellow students and they talked about how they, too, had created these plans of escape from classrooms. We should only be focusing on our education and on meeting people and forming connections, and instead we have to think about ways to save our lives.

 

 

Why did you choose UMKC?

I chose UMKC for its creative writing and film departments, as well as its diverse student body and its school of entrepreneurship. I also wanted to stay in Kansas City, where my family lives, because of its rich arts and music scenes.

 

 

Why did you choose creative writing?

I chose creative writing specifically because stories are the best way to bridge the empathy gap and experience what another person may be feeling. In addition, I have been working on a novel for about a year now, loosely based on my grandfather’s experiences as a child during World War II, about a Ukrainian-Belgian girl who flees her birthplace of Tsingtao, China when her family is taken prisoner in the Weihsien Concentration Camp. Once docked in America, she writes to a Japanese boy, whom she’d met in Tsingtao, whose father is trapped in the Heart Mountain Concentration Camp in Wyoming following Order 9066. Together, they help each other reconnect to their families by smuggling letters and eventually organize their escapes.

I also write lyrics for songs and am working on a musical EP.

I am a film minor because I have always been interested in visual art, having done oil painting growing up, and the dynamics of a moving image. I have also participated in theatre since I was 9 — partly because there were no movie theaters in my hometown — and have a fondness for acting and directing.

I grew up in a small town in Colorado called Cripple Creek, with a population of 1,000. Technically, I lived in a town called Goldfield, but I had to go to school in Cripple Creek since Goldfield has a population of about only 50. Cripple Creek is a gold-mining, gambling and historic ghost town. I moved to Kansas City in 2014.

 

 

What are the challenges and benefits of the creative writing program?

The challenges of the program include rigorous and consistent writing, daily if possible. I have completed an honors contract around my novel with writer Amie Barrodale.

Benefits include the ability to have my work workshopped. Feedback and collaboration are very important, even though writing is considered a solitary activity.

 

 

How has your college program inspired you?

My college program has inspired me by exposing me to the unique voices and storytelling styles of other students. Additionally, I have been challenged to write in a variety of genres, like non-fiction and short story, which I have done less often in the past. Writing memoirs makes me realize how interesting life is, even if it doesn’t seem so in the moment. Hindsight highlights the bizarre and beautiful things hidden in the stressful moments of life.

 

What’s the best piece of advice you have ever received from a professor?

The best piece of advice I ever received from a professor was from my Women in the Ancient World class, taught by Dr. Cynthia Jones and Dr. Linda Mitchell. They taught me to pay attention to the world as it was and to notice the parallels today. So the saying goes, “the more things change, the more they stay the same,” and we must be observant and proactive to improve the state of the world.

 

 

What do you admire most at UMKC?

I admire the involvement of student organizations in daily life, particularly the ones in which I am most active: the Women’s Center and Pride Alliance. I went on a trip last semester with Pride Alliance to Mizzou for the annual Show Me Pride College Summit of Missouri about LGBTQ+ issues and resources. It was moving to see so many people gathered and able to share their perspectives.

 

What’s your greatest fear?

My greatest fear is losing loved ones, and I fear the miscommunication that can cause rifts between people. That is part of why I am a writer, to serve as a middle ground for honest dialogues.

 

 

What is one word that best describes you?

Hopeful. When I feel down and the world around me is chaotic, I like to sing to myself to make me feel better. I wrote a song about finding “excuses to be happy” amidst stress and heartache. I have a tendency to give negative events more prevalence in my mind, so I try to consciously recognize what is wondrous about our world. It may also be worth noting that I literally wear rose-colored sunglasses. I am careful not to delude myself about the state of the world, though. There are many things in need of improvement, but we can face them together.

 

From across the country and around the world, our students come together in Kansas City to study business, medicine, theatre and more than 100 other academic areas. Roos become leaders in their fields and give back to their communities.

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