Emerging Voices is a series of profiles following writers, artists and performers currently studying at UNO. The profiles cover the personalities of these various writers and the projects they’re currently working on. For this installment, Gateway Contributor Jeff Turner spoke to UNO Senior Ren Houston…
Houston is a Senior in the Writer’s Workshop with a Concentration in Fiction and a Minor in Screenwriting.
“I’ve gone through three different writing majors: journalism, English, then creative writing. I was at UNL then transferred to UNO due to personal life changes,” Houston said.
Houston has been through trials which have influenced her writing, including one of her most notable scripts, “Remember Hope.” “My mom has had health issues since 2011. She had wanted to move back to Omaha to be closer to family and for continuing her healthcare plan, and I got my own place nearby hers since I take her to her appointments. I was also coping and surviving from an assault and a depressive episode as a result, and I kind of needed to get away from Lincoln. UNO was my starting over point.”
“Remember Hope” follows a girl named Hope who is admitted to a psychiatric ward after a freak car accident that kills her boyfriend and several of her friends. While nursing her trauma, she meets and begins dating a girl named Scarlett. The story follows the development of their relationship. Houston cites the film “Girl, Interrupted” as an influence on “Remember Hope.” “It was inspired by a series of car accidents that killed four of my classmates in high school. We lived in a small town and these deaths seriously affected the community. The relationship element of the story was based off of a toxic relationship I had been in.”
There is a facet of emotional honesty to Houston’s writing. She shows a willingness to challenge herself and explore uncomfortable facets of her own personal experience. You empathize with Hope close to immediately. Houston is not happy with how she ended the story, where her protagonist breaks up with her abusive girlfriend, and is last seen thinking back to her now-deceased friends the day of the accident. “I’m a perfectionist,” she said.
“I still think about the accidents,” Houston said on the real-life impetus for “Remember Hope.” “I think everyone from my town that’s around my age does. It changed our lives, and we grew up too fast.”
“Cloud Atlas is a favorite” Houston said when asked about her favorite books. “I also love Watership Down.” Despite the autobiographical nature of “Remember Hope”, Houston often gravitates toward science fiction. Her first script, “The Darkest Dawn”, was such a story. “It’s a dystopian story where our world depends heavily on helium. They fight a war by proxy involving prisoners. There is a video game in this world where the players control the prisoners in question, and the prisoners are programmed to be controlled by the players. The story follows a boy named Will as he makes these discoveries about the game.” Houston states that she is still doing a lot of drafting work on “Darkest Dawn.”
Houston remains uncertain of her post-graduation plans, “What I would love to do is just pack a backpack and drive around the United States and maybe Canada. Or travel to Europe. Or maybe just go backpacking. I’ve also wanted to join the Peace Corps since I was 14, so I’ve been looking into that. But more than anything, I just want to be happy.”
Houston will graduate from UNO in May 2020.