Liz Stephens, who has a doctorate in creative nonfiction, held a reading of some of her written works at BYU-Idaho June 18.
Stephens started by reading passages from her memoir, The Days Are Gods.
“In The Days Are Gods, Stephens chronicles a move [from L.A. to Wellsville, Utah] that is far more than a shift in geographical coordinates,” according to Amazon.com. “With husband and dogs in tow, she searches for an authentic connection to this [Latter-day Saints religious] community, all the while knowing that as an outsider, she will never really belong.”
Stephens said The Days Are Gods began as an answer to a prompt for a writing competition at Utah State University, where she was working toward her Master’s degree.
“It was good timing because I realized I had so much to say that it wasn’t getting said in my classes, because I was reading memoir in my graduate work,” Stephens said. “And reading about the region, and I suddenly realized I had something to say.”
After the passages from The Days Are Gods, Stephens read one of her essays, “Other Lights.” “Other Lights” describes Stephens’ experiences camping alone with her daughter and coping with her phobia of death during those camping trips.
After the reading, Stephens gave advice for students who are looking to make writing their career.
“I encourage you to start [going to conferences] for contacts and experience just as soon as you can,” Stephens said. “I went and … the acquisitions editor happened to be … in the room where I read those eight pages, and walked to me and handed me her card and said, ‘when this is done, I’d like to see the manuscript.’”
She also gave advice for students who are looking to further their education by going to graduate school.
“I would say two things, and they seem to contradict each other, and one would be follow what you’re really truly excited about,” Stephens said. “At the same time you can be sensible by reading the job descriptions of the kind of jobs you want, and I don’t mean the job descriptions in a list of jobs type of book, I mean where they’re hiring … and see if the ultimate goal of what you’re aiming for already looks good to you.”
Stephens’ work has been featured in “Brevity: A Journal of Concise Literary Nonfiction,” “South Dakota Review” and “Western American Literature.” She received the Western Literature Associations Frederick Manfred Award and was a finalist for the Annie Dillard Award for Creative Nonfiction.