BYU alumni give advice for aspiring authors

Savannah Hopkinson
Brandon Sanderson fans gather at the Utah Valley Convention Center for the release of his latest book, “Oathbringer.” Sanderson is a BYU alumnus and accomplished author. He also teaches a writing class at BYU. (Savannah Hopkinson)

November is author’s month, and it’s no secret there are many well-known authors who graduated from BYU. Alumni include Orson Scott Card, Brandon Sanderson, and Stephenie Meyer to name a few.

BYU graduates shared what they did in school that helps them as writers now and gave advice for aspiring authors to find success.

BYU alumnus and children’s book author Esther Sumner said she has wanted to be a writer since she was a little girl.

“When I was a child, I used to write my own stories, staple the edges together, and then put electric tape over the edge to make them look like professional books,” Sumner said.

Sumner authored the children’s book entitled, “My Nativity ABCs”. She said she has gained inspiration as her ward’s Primary president for the past several years. During her time at BYU, Sumner said she felt encouragement to pursue her dreams while taking a creative writing class and a 400-level adolescent literature class. She also loved editing for BYU’s newspaper, The Universe.

Sumner said she thinks many writers she has met secretly think they are the next Steinbeck, but Sumner thinks good writing doesn’t automatically happen.

“You have to be willing to research, to write a lot, to read a lot. Natural talent is awesome but natural talent without works is dead,” Sumner said.

BYU alumnus and published poet Jessica Goodfellow said she found BYU classes outside of writing to be useful for her poetry.

“I’m glad that I took a lot of math classes, because they have given me distinctive vocabulary and imagery, differentiating me from a lot of other poets,” Goodfellow said.

Goodfellow said she has also found use in the logic she learned in her BYU philosophy class.

Goodfellow’s book of poetry entitled “Whiteout” is about the death of her uncle while climbing Denali in the 1967 expedition.

“Ideas come from whatever is occupying my mind,” she said.

Goodfellow suggested aspiring writers should read troubled parts of writing projects right before bed.

“Let your unconscious mind do some of the heavy lifting for you — when you wake, your unconscious may have solved the problem for you, or may point you in the right direction,” Goodfellow said.

BYU alumnus Dustin Steinacker wrote a contest-winning short story, published in “L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future Volume 33” and collaborated in a post-apocalyptic novel coming out at the end of the month. The novel is a mix of cross country adventures in a time after aliens have killed most human life.

Steinacker said one of the best things he did as a BYU student was take an auditorium style writing class from Brandon Sanderson and BYU students would do well to utilize unique resources such as professors like Brandon Sanderson and local Utah writers. However, the best advice Steinacker said he could give to aspiring authors is to keep writing.

“Don’t let rejection get you down or an acceptance get you too confident,” Steinacker said.

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