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Creative writing instructor Thea Prieto’s debut novella wins international award

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Thea Prieto.
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Portland Community College creative writing and composition instructor Thea Prieto published her debut novella “From the Caves” in 2021 and is quickly gaining recognition for her writing prowess.

“From the Caves” won the Red Hen Press Novella Award in 2019 and was recently awarded the Eric Hoffer Award for the best small press publication, as well as the First Horizon Award – a distinction awarded to superior work by debut authors. The book is also a silver winner in the 2021 INDIES Book of the Year Awards for literary fiction.

Prieto enjoys bringing her passion for creative writing into the classroom at PCC to advocate for and support writers of all types  – from novice writing students who are interested in exploring sci-fi, to those who may be looking for help in finishing their own novels.

“Students often arrive with big ideas and my classes are designed to support all levels and types of creative writing,” said Prieto.

While some students are new to creative writing and starting from scratch, others are building on existing projects with multiple chapters already written. Prieto began her manuscript for “From the Caves” during her own graduate studies at Portland State University.

One of Prieto’s favorite parts about teaching is when her students share their publication credits with her.

“I love to see them continue with their writing after our class is finished and get their work shared and published, either in the PCC literary magazines or out in the community,” she said.  Poster

Prieto helps students engage in writing through their own inspirations, and every term she looks forward to the creativity her students will bring to class. Recently, she has found students showing a lot of interest in sci-fi and fantasy, as well as developing storylines for video games and various RPGs (role-playing games). 

As a child, she loved listening to music and found herself creating mental film strips to accommodate what she was listening to.

“Each song became a scene, and I’d create a story out of it,” explained Prieto. “I could have gone into different fields  – music, film, animation  – but writing just requires paper and pencil. It was the most readily available medium to remember my stories.”

Prieto already has another project that she enjoys working on when she’s not teaching or editing for The Gravity of the Thing, which she serves as editor-in-chief.

Having joined PCC shortly before the college transitioned to remote operations, Prieto is looking forward to supporting students more in person this year at the Southeast Campus. She teaches “Intro and Advanced Fiction Writing and Composition” and serves as a tutor in the campus’ Reading and Writing Center.

“There is a real sense of community at PCC, and I am looking forward to seeing familiar faces on campus again this year,” said Prieto.