Growing up before the boom of cell phones helped Daniel Metroka's imagination come to life. The Fort Worth, Texas, native came to Oklahoma State University to study creative writing and further develop his love of literature.
"I am so grateful that we grew up before the advent of phones," he said. "We had to read. We had to go outside. We had to create and not just be on an iPad all day. That stuck with me. I remember being 7 and saying that I was going to have a book published by age 10. That didn't happen but still."
Metroka's dream of being a published author hasn't waned over the years. Being in college has exposed him to more literary fiction, something he originally wasn't sure about because of its lack of dragons. Yet the more that Metroka has read and written, the more he has appreciated literary fiction.
"I think my goal is to follow in the footsteps of George R.R. Martin and make the fantasy genre more literary. I am also just going to continue writing literary short stories," Metroka said.
While fiction is Metroka's first passion, he has also developed a love for poetry.
"I like poetry a lot because it helps you become better at commanding words on a page. With fiction, I just love being able to tell stories."
As a member of the Honors Colleges College, Metroka is working on a senior thesis project. For creative writing majors it entails submitting a creative component and then a defense. Metroka is editing two short stories that he wrote in a class, titled "Southern Hospitality" and "Alcohol and Catholicism."
"Southern Hospitality" follows a young gay couple who become subject to a hate crime and how they deal with the aftermath, specifically navigating personal relationships. "Alcohol and Catholicism" deals with the concept of abuse and mercy as an obligation.
"'Southern Hospitality' is more about losing trust and hope in finding a relationship, more so than about getting mugged in the street. The second story, I like to consider a foil, because it has a more uplifting ending," he said.
An additional requirement of the thesis states that he must give an oral presentation, which he did at the 2019 Autumn Arts Gala hosted by the College of Arts and Sciences Student Council. There he read an excerpt from "Southern Hospitality" and even won a scholarship for it.
"I love spaces like The McKnight Center for the Performing Arts. I never imagined that I would be reading on that kind of stage. I was just so honored."
Reflecting on the Autumn Arts Gala led Metroka to think about education as a whole.
"I loved how everyone was on the stage together. It makes me think of ancient Greece, where education was more about balance. You had both Apollo and Artemis, mind and body, which were equally important. The Gala reminded me of that kind of environment."
Metroka is also heavily involved in campus organizations. Since his freshman year he has served on the executive team of Frontier Mosaic, an undergraduate publication at OSU. He also recently co-founded a writing club for undergraduates after seeing a need.
"I took intro to creative writing my freshman year and there were only like 10 people in the class, so we got really close. We got to talking about Welcome Week and the organization fair and how we were all looking for a writing club, but there wasn't one. There is a graduate program, but not one for undergraduates. So, we started one," he said.
Upon graduating in December, Metroka plans to pursue an MFA in either fiction or poetry.
"An MFA is for sure what I want to do, and then hopefully use that to be a professor at some point. I just don't want to leave school."