Lakeland University Blog

LU students learn from best-selling author

LU students learn from best-selling author


LU students learn from best-selling author

During the spring semester, Tayler Otten, who graduated in May with a double majoring in English and creative writing, created content for the Lakeland blog. This is the latest in a series of blog stories she’s written. She is working as a copy editor for editing service Pens and Proof, LLC.

Lakeland students had the unique opportunity to learn from and work with a New York Times bestselling author toward the end of the school year.

Lyz Lenz, author of “This American Ex-Wife” and “God Land,” visited Lakeland in March. Her lecture, titled “Writing in an Age of Despair,” encouraged students to write their story, even in the face of critics.

“I want everyone to know that they have a right to tell their own story without asking permission or seeking an apology,” Lenz said. “Their stories matter.”

Lenz has written her own story over the years, both in her recent novels and her daily newsletter. Amid COVID and marital struggles, Lenz turned to her newsletter to share the darkest and most quieted parts of her story to her followers. It was through sheer chance that Lakeland’s Assistant Professor of English Mark Heimermann was one of her many devoted followers.

After reading Lenz’s emotional pieces and finding a connection with her words, Heimermann knew he had to share Lenz’s story with his students.

Resounding approval and interest from his students encouraged Heimermann to push even deeper into his and his students’ connection with Lenz’s writing. Heimermann and LU Assistant Professor of Writing Madeleine Wattenberg brought Lenz to campus as the 2024 Writer’s Studio visiting writer.

“I fully credit Dr. Mark Heimermann for bringing Lyz Lenz to Lakeland,” Wattenberg said. “It seemed like a great opportunity for students to work with a nationally recognized New York Times bestselling author and journalist.”

The goal of the Writer’s Studio is to provide students with the opportunity to learn from and engage with experienced authors. Typically, this involves the visiting writer teaching a master class, working one-on-one with students and partaking in an open mic. However, Lenz went above and beyond during her visit.

Lenz not only attended an additional English class but also had a conversation with each student who approached her.

“She interacted with us in a way that wasn't awkward and almost comfortable,” said writing student Maddie Bentley, who attended Lenz’s master class on humor. “It was really refreshing as someone who is looking to go into a future career that involves writing. It made me feel at home with my decision.”

English student McKenna Stoelb had a similar experience with Lenz, who spoke in her “How We Write” English class and taught a lesson on different ways of creating voice in writing.

“I tend to be shyer in class, and she felt very welcoming,” Stoelb said. “She managed to get engagement from the whole group without being pushy. She was loud, fun, and overall, a great speaker.”

Lenz took her role as a mentor to a new level. With each conversation, she sparked creativity and confidence, something she had to find within herself along her arduous writing journey.

“Writing professionally involves dealing with a lot of rejection,” Lenz shared. “You can't take that rejection too personally. The difference between writers who make it and those who don't isn't talent or skill, it's learning to push through rejection and believing in your work enough to keep going.”

When Heimermann invited Lenz to campus, he knew that Lenz had the experience and skill that would benefit Lakeland students. In the face of rejection and critics, writers must persevere, just as Lenz has done and continues to do. To Heimermann, that is the purpose of having visiting writers like Lenz.

“I think engaging with a visiting writer like Lenz allows students to engage with someone who can speak to both challenges and successes within writing, publishing and journalism,” Heimermann said. “This helps students understand that career paths can unfold in unexpected ways, and it also helps them see the work they are interested in as a profession as well as a passion.”

When Heimermann first started pursuing the idea of bringing Lenz to campus, he had no idea how truly impactful Lenz would be on the students. His goal was to provide students with a mentor, a role model, a connection. What he got, and what the students got, was so much more.

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