Every Friday at noon during the semester, the BYU English Reading Series gives students interested in writing a unique place to connect with successful authors and learn how they can succeed with their own writing.
Joey Franklin, an associate professor of English and the instructor of the official English Reading Series course this semester, said since the 1990s, BYU has funded campus visits by writers from a variety of genres to come to BYU and share their work with students.
“We see it as a chance for students to get other perspectives … from a creative standpoint,” Franklin said.
Franklin said one of the best things prospective writers can do is talk to writers, listen to their stories and learn how they develop their writing style and process. He said it is helpful to hear writers talk about how they went from being a university student to a working published author.
“By talking with lots of writers, and listening to writers tell their stories and see them produce their work, students can begin to shape their own path towards professional writing,” Franklin said.
Rebecca Callahan, a masters student studying creative writing, arranges details of the reading series. She said the series is a great way for creative writing and English students to rub shoulders with those in the field.
“Bringing in authors is a good way to also get writing students,” Callahan said, “to meet people who are doing what many of them want to be doing in the future as a profession, and to listen to the types of things that they’re writing and to just build an awareness of what the profession offers.”
Callahan said she believes the reading series adds great value to the campus community and the Utah Valley community at large.
“We’re bringing in different voices, maybe different voices that maybe our students or members of the student body here at BYU haven’t heard before, perspectives that maybe they haven’t heard before,” Callahan said.
Franklin said the reading series celebrates, promotes and sustains literary art in the local community and throughout the country. He also said it is a great way to introduce students to lesser-known writers.
Franklin said the reading series includes a good mix of genres, with about nine or more readers per semester in fiction, nonfiction and poetry. He said there is also a special reading called the Paxman reading series which highlights the work of graduate students on campus.
Franklin said any students who want to learn more about the process and business of writing, as well as how to make it as an author, are encouraged to come to the reading series.
Julia Dixon, an English major who has attended the series a few times, loves being able to hear the author read their work.
“When I read something, I’m really curious as to how the author intended (for us) to hear it, especially like poetry,” Dixon said.
Dixon said it is interesting to hear an author read their poetry the way it was intended.
After the actual reading portion of the hour is over, Franklin said there is time for questions and answers with the author. He said there is also a reception with refreshments afterward which boasts the opportunity to buy one of the author’s books and get it signed by them.
“It’s a little mini party every Friday where we celebrate literature,” Franklin said. “I think if you’re a student who’s interested in publishing (or) interested in the literary world at all, the reading series is a great place to be.”
Dixon said she thinks there are a lot of people who are really interested in writing or even just enjoy reading who come to the series.
“It’s a good place to come for inspiration,” Dixon said. “You can … come and listen to authors give advice and ask questions, and you can use that to improve your own writing or even just for enjoyment, and to improve your reading.”