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“Boyishly” charm

UMBC lecturer wins award for published poems

Ashley Parks

Staff Writer

Professor Tanya Olson is a new lecturer here at UMBC in the English department. She has received the 2014 American Book Award, which will be officially recognized at the end of October. She describes her inspiration for the title of her book and the overall message behind her poems and offers advice for aspiring writers.

UMBC’s got talent. It’s spread across campus from students to faculty. In each department, there are a number of amazing people who have accomplished and continue to accomplish great things each semester.

Tanya Olson now has the spotlight on her. She has received the 2014 American Book Award for her collection of poems titled “Boyishly.” Olson’s inspiration to title her book came from “Reading Boyishly,” a theory book written by Carol Mavor about mothers and sons in literature. She said, “I thought the adverb was perfect for my book. It separates the identity from the action, being a boy versus doing something like a boy.”

Olson is new to UMBC but she has been teaching for the last 15 years. She is a lecturer in the English department where she teaches English 101 and 393 classes. She took a creative writing course during her undergraduate years and focused on writing academically rather than poetically. It wasn’t until the year 2000 that she really started to get acquainted with poetry. That was when the poems for “Boyishly” were birthed.

Olson said, “I always describe ‘Boyishly’ as the story of America told through voices traditionally overlooked or expected to be quiet. So John Brown, Muhammad Ali, Andre the Giant, and lots of other real men tell their stories.” With her book, she wished to tell the stories of those people who are often ignored or denied their voice. She describes this portion of the American identity to be as significant as the one society truly embraces.

Olson began collecting her poems and won the Boston Review/Discovery award. She made her way through the National Poetry series and was eventually picked up by YesYes Books where she was published.

To aspiring writers hoping one day to see their work in print, she said “I think writers at any stage just need to remember that there are a million different paths to success. What’s important is you find the right one for you, knowing when to trust your internal compass and when to know it’s leading you astray.”

The American Book Award is given to those who demonstrate exceptional literary skill. The recipients are selected from all areas of the literary community. The award is meant to recognize excellence without constraints to the selection process.

The Before Columbus Foundation sponsors the American Book award and will be officially recognizing Olson and other recipients on Sunday, Oct. 26 in San Francisco, California.