When Natalie Keller ’19 was in elementary school, she watched a movie, “Homeward Bound,” which follows the adventures of two dogs and a cat as they search for their owners. For many a child, this movie likely amplified pleas for acquiring pets of their own. For Keller, however, the movie inspired her to pen her first novel, which she describes now, with a laugh, as “‘Homeward Bound,’ but with dragons.”
Keller, an English major from Cleveland, is in the midst of her second summer working as a resident advisor for the Kenyon Review Young Writers Workshop, an intensive two-week program for intellectually curious, motivated high-school students who value writing.
“There was a fantasy element to it,” she said of her earliest stab at creative writing. “I still love fantasy, so that’s carried throughout my life. I go back and read [my early works] and it’s funny because they are really bad. But they’re the seed of what later became my passion.”
That passion for the written word has brought Keller to Kenyon three times over: first, as a Young Writer herself; then, as a Kenyon student; and, finally, as a resident assistant for the same program she credits with helping her find her calling in life.
The College first made its way onto Keller’s radar via best-selling young-adult author John Green ’00 H’16, who sometimes mentions his alma mater on his YouTube channel.
“I thought, ‘John Green is a cool person, and I want to go where he went,’” Keller said. So she attended the Young Writers Workshop and found the experience to be life-changing.
“It’s where I realized that writing is what I wanted to do with my life,” she said. “And it’s a community that I still feel very much a part of — even though it’s been years since I was a participant — because of the support that we extend to each other online and over email.”
Almost as soon as she walked back onto campus as a first-year, Keller applied to the Kenyon Review Associates program, which gives selected students hands-on experience in literary editing, publishing and marketing. In addition to working as an associate, she is an outreach intern for the Review, running writing workshops throughout the year with local children.
As an RA for Young Writers, she lives with students in McBride Residence Hall, enforcing curfews, answering questions and serving as a go-to for anything they need while they are on campus.
“For me, it’s a process of giving back, because I had such an amazing experience during Young Writers and I really want to help these kids have that same experience,” she said. "You see them in the beginning and they are scared, but a few days pass and they find their friends, they find their niche, and they flourish. It’s really incredible to watch.”
Keller’s long-term career goals include working for a literary magazine or journal, as well as writing science fiction/fantasy novels.
“I want the Young Writers to realize that writing doesn’t just have to be a side hobby or something you put on the back burner in your life,” Keller explained.
“Writing really can be a way of life. It’s something you can pour your heart, soul and emotions into. It will be with you everywhere — it’s a comforting safe space for me that I will always have, and I want them to have that, too.”