UH Hilo’s English Club hosts alumnus and author Emil DeAndreis on campus

Returning to his alma mater, author Emil DeAndreis gave concrete, actionable advice for students of creative writing here at UH Hilo.

By Evangeline Lemieux.

Emil DeAndreis pictured
Emil DeAndreis

University of Hawai‘i at Hilo alumnus and former Vulcan Emil DeAndreis, now a published author based in his home state of California, was guest speaker at an English Club event held on campus earlier this month.

The “Meet Your Major” event, held at Mookini Library’s lanai, presented a chance for English majors, minors, and certificate seekers—as well as any student who was interested—to hear readings, listen to music, grab food catered by Aloha Mondays, and even peruse a selection of free books donated by students and staff.

Students who had work to share from creative writing classes were encouraged to read. The content and form of the readings was varied, including poetry, short stories and prose, and even original songs. Much of the work was created in creative writing classes, but work from other English classes was welcomed as well.

Emil DeAndreis’s advice to up-and-coming writers: Write, consistently submit your work, and be an obsessive reader.

Guest speaker DeAndreis was a pitcher with UH Hilo Vulcan Men’s Baseball from 2005-2008. Following graduation, he had just garnered professional interest from a team in Belgium when in the same month, he was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. His dreams of a pro baseball career vanished. A new game plan was needed.

Cover of book: TELL US WHEN TO GO. Background image of San Francisco street.So he pivoted to writing, publishing first Beyond Folly in 2013, followed by the autobiographical Hard to Grip (2017), where he shares his path from a healthy professional baseball hopeful to facing a long-term challenge of a completely other sort.

In addition to his writing, he’s also an assistant professor of English at the College of San Mateo, where he also assists with CSM’s baseball team.

At the UH Hilo event, DeAndreis read from his new novel, Tell Us When To Go, and gave an inspiring talk about writing. As a former student of creative writing who has gone on to publish three books, he was able to give concrete, actionable advice for students of creative writing here at UH Hilo.

He began his talk by giving three key pieces of advice for aspiring writers.

The first, of course, is to write.

The second is to submit work to publications consistently, despite inevitable rejections.

“It is important to look at a rejection as a stop on the journey,” he says. “Everything I’ve ever written that got published underwent years of rewrites, not one rewrite, and it also underwent dozens and dozens and dozens of rejections. This book that just got published last September was rejected a hundred times by agents and publishers. It’s understanding that rejection is just a part of it. It’s not personal, and it’s an indication to you that you can rewrite.”

DeAndreis’s third key piece of advice was to read a lot.

“You have to read. All those wildly successful authors are obsessive readers. What you read in this undergraduate program is very valuable, what you read outside of the program is also very valuable.”

He emphasized in particular the importance of reading current material and staying up to date on what is being published right now.

“The classics are classic for a reason, and we should all be reading them,” he says, “but, read stuff that is coming out now also. Read literature that won awards last year, read the stuff that is coming out now, because that’s what editors are looking for.”

The “Meet Your Major” event

Katina Gronowski pictured
Katina Gronowski

Senior English major and president of the UH Hilo English Club Katina Gronowski was pivotal in organizing the event.

“I would say my experience with putting together the English major event has always been super great,” she says. “The English department is really supportive and always ready to help out in any way they can. I don’t think I would have been able to do this all by myself. ”

Gronowski sees the event as valuable for not only English majors on campus, but also the larger campus community.

“The reason why we created this event,” she says, “was to not only have English majors interact with other students in their major but to also invite the rest of the UH Hilo community to see what our major is about, as well as to inspire other students.”

Gronowski has great things to say about the English major as well. “It has taught me so many valuable skills that have helped me through my life and academics. I have met so many amazing and inspiring people who support me in all of my endeavors.”

After DeAndreis’s talk, students were entertained by live music by student Rob Lowe and creative writing professor Mark Panek, accompanied by his son Kenny. Panek was instrumental in the event’s organization, and intends to continue the tradition in the coming fall 2023 semester.

Story by Evangeline Lemieux, who is double majoring in English and medical anthropology at UH Hilo.

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