Finding Their Voice in Words

Finding Their Voice in Words

By Rachel Buttner, BA’03

From a London history aficionado who also is the lead singer in a gothic progressive metal band to a Chicago novelist who once tiled her bedroom floor in over 60,000 pennies (all heads up for good luck) and a Xavier University communication professor who studies how being a Harry Potter fan may spur social action, these unique Creighton alumnae share one thing in common: a love of writing.

Erin (E.L.) Johnson, BA’05

As a kid, Erin (E.L.) Johnson, BA’05, left a chocolate thumbprint in her father’s leather-bound J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit. She fell hard for history — both the real and the imagined. A Boston native, she came to Creighton to study the subject. “My teachers were especially inspiring,” she says. “I thought how fun it would be to write stories of what life might have been like for people of those times.”

Then, London called. Johnson went abroad to graduate school, earning master’s degrees in history and medieval studies and a Master of Philosophy, studying 16th century medieval medical remedies.

Combating the loneliness of graduate research, Johnson joined the Hertford Writers’ Circle and founded a book club — now numbering 1,000 readers. She also auditioned for — and now fronts — the metal band Orpheum. When she happened upon National Novel Writing Month, a creative program to write a 50,000-word novel in a month, “I thought, wouldn’t it be fun to write about a witch hunter and set it in medieval England? So I did.”

Last March, Azure Spider Publications published Wolf’s Blood, Johnson’s first historical fantasy novel in the Witch Hunter Tales. “Some writers fear the blank page,” says Johnson, a communications officer for the Institute of Biomedical Science in London, “but I love it; it’s full of possibilities.”

Emily Belden, BA’08

After winning a contest to write for the Chicago Tribune Kids’ News section, Emily Belden, BA’08, wanted to be a reporter. But, while studying journalism at Creighton, she found advertising a better match for her punchy writing style. After copywriting jobs with Omaha ad agencies Ervin & Smith and Turnpost, Belden returned home to Chicago.

Juggling friendships in multiple cities, Belden started a blog to easily share her tales of dating and dining in the city. “That was the hardest part, finding the time to work on something I was excited about,” she says of writing at midnight after a night out, “but the writing part was really easy. I love it.”

With a growing fan base, she turned the posts into Eightysixed: A Memoir about Unforgettable Men, Mistakes, and Meals (Pandamoon Publishing, 2014). A magazine spread in Michigan Avenue gave Belden the big break and film producers and book agents came knocking. No stranger to a bit of fame, Belden’s at-home penny project was covered on the Today show in 2013. She inked a two-book deal with HarperCollins, which published her restaurant rom-com Hot Mess in 2018.

At the Creighton Business Symposium last year, Belden, a keynote speaker, told students, “You can be successful being yourself and focusing on what you’re good at.” Belden’s next book, Husband Material, hits shelves in December.

Ashley Hinck, PhD, BA’08

Ashley Hinck, PhD, BA’08, is most comfortable on the sidelines, she says, “watching social interactions and thinking about social interactions.” She challenged that natural instinct while working on her first book, Politics for the Love of Fandom, published in March by LSU Press. In it, she examines “fan-based citizenship,” civic action stemming from a fan community, in cases such as Disney’s Star Wars-inspired campaign for UNICEF.

The book began as a college paper on the Harry Potter Alliance, a fan-based and activism-oriented nonprofit. An internship at former Omaha Mayor Mike Fahey’s office encouraged Hinck to further explore the fandom-to-politics connection. “I remember that the (communication) professors took my ideas seriously and invited me to develop those ideas,” says Hinck, who hosted a book talk at the Creighton Bookstore in April.

Fieldwork for the book — such as LEGO club meetings and football games — was a bit outside her comfort zone, but the writing was not. “I love the kind of solitude involved in writing. It’s really fun to imagine the future audience and just write,” says Hinck, an assistant professor of communication at Xavier University. “This will be a lifetime of work that I’m really excited about.”