Lauren Gaines’ Novella Cailleach: Senior Thesis to be Unveiled at Denso Gallery with Artworks and Live Reading

Lauren Gaines chose to write a 35,000-word novella for her senior thesis titled Cailleach. Alongside her manuscript, Gaines created four digital artworks and a cover that will be on display at the Denso Gallery at the Clayton Center for the Arts on April 26, 2024, from 6-8 pm. There will be a live reading from the novella at 7 pm.

“Since I was a Design and Writing Communication major, I got lucky,” Gaines stated.

Gaines’ novella is a deep dive into the Scottish witch trials, which spanned about 200 years and resulted in the deaths of nearly 4,000 people, with two-thirds of the victims being women. To put it in perspective, the infamous Salem witch trials only lasted about a single year with around 25 deaths. 

Her inspiration came from a summer studying abroad at the University of Stirling in Scotland. There, she took a class on ”Witchcraft in Early and Modern Scotland” that inspired her to continue a chapter-long project from her “Young Adult Literature” course here at Maryville College. 

The novella focuses on protagonist Maisie Rutherford’s journey of self-discovery. She “finds purpose in sharing the tales of the tormented souls from the witch trials revealed to her through a series of supernatural visions.”

Professor Adrienne Schwarte, future division chair of the fine arts department, was Gaines’ thesis advisor for this project. 

“Lauren is an absolute pleasure to work with,” Schwarte stated. “She’s motivated, creative, very talented in both writing and visual design and illustration, and was always prepared for thesis meetings, meeting milestones for the projects. And even with all of her class and theater work, she was positive and full of energy each week.”

“The best advice I received during the writing process was something I saw online right when I needed it, and it said ‘Your book is never going to be done.’” Gaines shared. “Find a community of writers to help encourage you and lift you up.”

Staying motivated is a hard task for any creative, no matter the field. “I think the main thing that kept me motivated was being so passionate in the subject area. It helped that when I would take a break and go back to it, I would be excited to keep writing…”

“Being a full-time student, working and having such an expansive thesis was extremely difficult. I’m glad I started when I did and worked on it over the summer because it alleviated a lot of the stress that comes with the first draft.”

When asked to offer advice to other students planning their thesis, Professor Schwarte echoed a similar sentiment.

 “Start early. Lauren knew this was the project she wanted to work on when she got back from her study abroad in Scotland, so she had actually already started working on parts of it before she even officially began her senior thesis class.  She had a clear plan and roadmap already ready to go, which made this task possible for her in the two-semester thesis sequence.”

Lauren’s future goals for her career tie in perfectly with this thesis. “My overall goal is to be an author. If I could be a full-time author, writing books all day, it would be a dream come true.” Her thesis also serves as an amazing resume builder. “I’ve already been asked during job interviews about my experience formatting and designing the cover for my book, so it [has] opened the door for a lot of conversation.”

Maryville College’s unique senior thesis requirement for graduation takes many different forms. Students across campus take this opportunity and flourish in their careers. Lauren Gaines’ novella is a shining example of the tried and true Maryville College work ethic.

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