UT Alum Receives Prestigious Writing Fellowship

Published: Mar 4, 2009
Yuly Restrepo ’06 originally came to the U.S. from her native Colombia with intentions of becoming a professional Spanish-English translator. She never anticipated that a talent for writing would put her on the path to literary scholarship.

Restrepo, a graduate of UT’s writing program, was recently granted a fellowship to the Iowa Writer’s Workshop at the University of Iowa. The master of fine arts program is one of the most prestigious writing programs in the country, boasting 16 Pulitzer Prize winners and literary heavyweights like John Irving and Flannery O’Connor among its alumni.

“Honestly, I wasn’t at all sure that I would get accepted,” Restrepo said. “I almost had to read the acceptance letter three times before it sunk in.”

The Fellowship grants Restrepo $17,000 toward the first year of the University’s MFA program. In exchange for the financial aid, she is required to work for the university and, in two years, she is to have completed either a novel or a collection of short stories.

A writer of multiple talents, Restrepo’s specialty is in fiction short stories and poetry. She credits her UT education with helping to shape writing style.
Restrepo, a native of Medellin, Colombia, transferred to UT after first arriving in the U.S. to attend St. Petersburg College, where she studied Spanish to English language translation. She took a class in creative writing and was encouraged to pursue a writing degree.

“The professors (at UT) were always very encouraging and responsive to my questions,” Restrepo said. “They always gave very specific feedback about my writing so that I could clearly see what I needed to work on.”

UT’s writing program covers a broad range of specific writing disciplines. Students can focus on creative writing (fiction, poetry and other imaginative forms), professional writing (journalism, public relations, advertising, and information design for technical communication), and writing for the media.

Lisa Birnbaum, one of three UT writing professors who recommended Restrepo for the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, described Restrepo’s writing abilities as “extraordinary.”

“She comes from Colombia, and the best of her stories show us how disruptive the social ills have been in the lives of ordinary families there,” Birnbaum wrote. “She is able to conceive a fresh idea for a story, to shape it with tension and texture, and to bring to it her graceful, descriptive language.”

Since graduating, Restrepo has continued to write while working as a translator for a St. Petersburg multimedia production company.