Reading PhD student’s winning story

Last year, Reading PhD student Karina Lickorish Quinn, won the ‘FindAPhD’ 2015 Top Prize Scholarship of £5,000. Karina is undertaking a part-time PhD in English Literature (creative writing) and is in her first year. The FindAPhD Scholarship Scheme asks applicants to submit a piece of work that is able to explain the focus of the student’s PhD and demonstrate why the student deserves the scholarship. Karina won the top prize with her short story, The Anecdotologist. You can read Karina’s winning story on the FindAPhd website, but here she explains how she came up with the idea:

“I am deeply grateful to for choosing me to win their 2015 PhD scholarship on the basis of my short story, The Anecdotologist. I wrote The Anecdotologist exclusively for the competition over the course of a few days in a bit of a frenzy of love and frustration, as is the case with most of my short story writing. The protagonist, Hernán Huaman from Huaraz, and his key dilemma came to me in what I can only give the clichéd label of ‘a flash of inspiration’.

That Hernán came to me in this way is hardly surprising as he contains a great deal of me in him. I, like Hernán, adored books and learning from a young age and decided that I absolutely and without question wanted to earn a doctorate one day. However I have found, as most of us do, that the path towards achieving my dreams has been, and continues to be, an arduous one. There are moments of elation on the mountain-top; more often there are eras of despair down in the valley. Upon reflection I think this is why I instinctively chose the Andean setting of rural Perú – my motherland – within which to explore the theme of desperately striving for a lofty goal.

At the time of writing The Anecdotologist I had already accepted my place at Reading to complete my PhD in creative writing. However I was very anxious about how I was going to afford my study. I was feeling frustrated that I could not study full-time as I could not afford to leave my day job and worried about how I would balance work, study and life. Re-reading The Anecdotologist now, I find it interesting to see how my worries about life barriers impeding my study have emerged in Hernán’s story. Of course, Hernán faces many more barriers to learning than I. Hernán is a reflection of, I suppose, my social conscience and awareness of the many hundreds of thousands – nay, millions – of students around the world who face enormous barriers to their learning goals. Having seen the socio-economic inequality not only in Perú but also in England when I worked as a school teacher in areas of socio-economic deprivation in inner-London, I am very aware of how life barriers can prevent talented young people from achieving their full potential. But I have also seen – and been inspired by – the incredible tenacity and resolve of some of these young people, my ex-students, to keep striving for their dreams. The tenacity and resolve of Hernán was, I think, in part inspired by these students whom I taught.

I am thrilled to be studying towards my PhD at Reading, where I have a brilliant and supportive supervisor, access to excellent learning resources, and a community of talented and motivated fellow students from whom to learn. I wish that every avid learner – every Hernán Huaman from Huaraz – could be as fortunate.”