Words to Live By

As an aspiring writer, Megan McDowell has already learned one of the most important lessons of being a successful author — write about what you know. She's tapping into her experiences and heritage to get people thinking about things she’s passionate about.

“As a woman who is mostly Scottish but also one-quarter Japanese, I’ve experienced both ethnic and gender discrimination, as have my mother and grandmother,” says McDowell, a sophomore English major in the Honors Program. “That put a fire in me. I realized in college that I have a voice, and I’m going to take advantage of that.”

McDowell was born in Los Angeles and grew up in Big Rapids, Michigan. She moved to Huntsville with her family while in high school. There, she performed in the theatre and first experienced Mobile when she came to town for the Southeastern Theatre Conference, winning third place. She also wrote a play that won the Huntsville Literary Association competition and second place in the Trumbauer Theatre Festival.

At South, McDowell found she enjoyed writing and directing more than performing. Along with plays, she’s written graphic novels and screenplays, although novels are now her main focus.

“My professors at South have been really helpful,” says McDowell. “I love the Cajun and Mardi Gras culture of the area. I’ve grown as a student and found new opportunities.”

Last summer, McDowell spent a month in Japan on a Gilman International Scholarship. She went as part of South’s Asian Studies Program to do research for a novel she’s writing based on her grandmother’s life growing up in World War II Japan.

“It changed my life to reconnect with the culture my mom and grandmother celebrate,” she says. “My grandmother was in Oshima, about an hour from Hiroshima, when the atomic bomb dropped. She still has a scar on her knee from being crushed to the ground by the force of the blast.”

After she graduates, McDowell plans to pursue a graduate degree in library science. She’s also considering a fellowship at Oxford University. Most of all, she wants to express herself and have her writing published. She’s particularly interested in young adult fiction.

“I like writing coming-of-age stories, because I feel with characters that young, their minds are open to change,” she says. “I try to develop characters that speak to diversity — whether racial, gender, or sexuality. These are serious subjects I want people to think about, and maybe make a difference in how they treat others.”

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