Despite the demands of working full time at a college, many of AU’s professors and staff members are actively writing and publishing books. These individuals who inspire students on campus have begun inspiring others through writing.
Dr. Jason Parks, associate professor of English, has dabbled in many different writing forms, but began writing children’s literature within the past few years, partially thanks to his four children and their interest in stories.
“My own children and their love of stories has inspired me most,” Parks explained. “Without their insatiable need for one more chapter, after I’ve already read them ten, is definitely why I have turned to writing children’s literature.”
Parks’s works include a children’s fantasy novel entitled “Wondercurrent,” and “Ari’s Poetics,” a pedagogically-focused mystery novel targeted for 12-16 year olds that teaches the basics of poetry. Additionally, Parks has published a critical essay in an edited collection, as well as many academic journal articles.
Not only does Parks author his own books, but he has created an entire publishing company with his wife, a fellow author, instead of going through a separate publishing company.
“My goal with running the publishing business and being a writer is to make lots of mistakes and learn as much as I can so that I can help support other writers,” said Parks.
Parks continued, speaking on the topic of juggling his work as a professor and his work as an author. “I don’t really think of it as juggling. I try to put everything I do in conversation. I take the same approach to both roles. I just want to learn something new every day. I want to learn from my colleagues and my students. I want to be a better storyteller. I also want to help others.”
Another member of the Department of English, Professor Deborah Fox, described her experience as an author and professor.
“I have to divide my time so that I can devote my full attention and imaginative energy to the work,” Fox explained. “So during the school year, I work on academic and professional projects. But in the summer and over breaks, I give energy and attention to creative projects, such as new poems, essays or chapters for books.”
Fox has written and published a young adult novella entitled “A Star for Robbins Chapel,” along with numerous shorter pieces in anthologies and online magazines. Fox continues to work on novels, novellas and poetry, and hopes to publish a few in 2021.
“Even if no one else ever reads what I’ve written, the act of forming my thoughts or feelings into sentences, and then committing those sentences to the page, keeps me grounded,” said Fox. “For me, writing is a kind of prayer.”
In the Department of Communication and Design Arts, Associate Professor of Cinema and Media Arts Jack Lugar has become a seasoned author.
Lugar began with writing nonfiction, “The Starving Artist’s Diet” and “Hollywood Break-In,” but has recently focused on children’s and young adult novels with his three “Katz Pajamas” books about a cat detective and a fantasy series about a teenage girl who discovers her connection to the world of Norse Mythology, entitled “Sessi and the Gate to Hel” and “Sessi and the Race to Odin.”
He explained that the most difficult part of writing is balancing it with his role as a professor.
“During the school year it’s difficult to find time unless I’m very intentional about it,” said Lugar. “My students come first, so I have to make sure I’m caught up on grading and prepped for classes before I can carve out time for writing.”
Dr. Brian Dirck, professor of history, not only teaches history but writes about it, as well. Dirck’s books primarily focus on American history in the Civil War era, specifically the life and career of Abraham Lincoln.
His most recent book, titled “The Black Heavens: Abraham Lincoln and Death,” looks at how Lincoln understood and processed death. His other books include “Lincoln the Lawyer” and “Lincoln and White America.”
“I aim for careful, nuanced and balanced history, much the same way I teach history classes here at AU,” said Dirck. “There are never any simple answers in history: the past is very complicated. I hope my books reflect that, as well. I try not to give my readers any simplistic, pat answers about Lincoln or his times. He was a complex man, living in a complex age. I hope my readers understand that.”
Director of Residence Life and Student Conduct Maggie Platt has also written and published books.
Platt has had a passion for writing since she was young. She described her most recent book, “Kingdom Above the Cloud,” as “a Christian allegorical fantasy,” aimed toward Christian young adult women.
“I hope readers feel closer to Jesus after reading Kingdom, and I hope they can relate to one of the characters’ struggles and triumphs.” Platt explained, “At the very least, I hope they feel inspired to think about their faith and explore their relationship with God.”