Alumni authors return to showcase work

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SVSU hosted five alumni authors for its fourth annual Alumni Author Showcase on Wednesday, Oct. 18.

The event was moderated by SVSU alumnus and current Business and Management Adjunct Professor Jason Wolverton.

Alumnus author Jason Pockrandt graduated in 2010. His book “The Confident Father’s Guidebook: Five Steps to Personal Transformation” took eight years to write after losing his father to a long battle against a prescription pills addiction. He worked with five other fathers to collect advice for how fathers can improve their relationships with their daughters.

“For me, it was always about using my writing as a way to help educate someone else to help them understand that all it takes is confidence to tell their story,” Pockrandt said.

Kelli Fitzpatrick also graduated in 2010. Her short story “The Sunwalkers” won Simon and Schuster’s Star Trek Strange New Worlds contest. She has several other works as well, including a sci-fi short story called “To Stick a Star,” which came in fourth place in the 2016 International NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge.

“I advise a teen reading group in the school where I work,” Fitzpatrick said. “The coolest part (of the writing process) for me was being able to share every step of the publication process with my students as it happened. So as I got feedback on my book, I could say, ‘Look, CBS made a comment on my manuscript.’ It was a very cool moment to be able to share that.”

Chelsea Berg graduated in 2015. She is a history and English teacher who wrote a book about Bay County’s Pine Ridge Cemetery called “Abandoned, but Not Forgotten: A History Etched in Stone” as part of a project with SVSU professor Pat Cavanaugh.

“On the first day of school, when I introduced myself to my students, I had mentioned that I had published a book,” Berg said. “Just the other day, they were supposed to be doing work on their Chromebooks, and I was walking around, and one of my students was looking at my book on Amazon. I didn’t have the heart to tell him he needed to be doing his work, so I pretended I didn’t notice. So that was pretty cool, too.”

Shannon Cooper-Toma graduated in 2006 and is the principal of an early childhood school in Corunna. She co-authored a children’s book called “Benson’s Adventures in Michigan” with Tracy Foster, a 2002 SVSU alumna.

“Our project started with a photo shoot,” Cooper-Toma said. “Tracy does all the photography work for our school. We decided that we would spend the summer traveling with our students, but we quickly realized we couldn’t reach out to everybody. So we decided to take our adventures and put that in a book. And that’s how ‘Benson’s Adventures’ was born.”

Since writing the first book, Cooper-Toma and Foster have written “Benson’s Seasonal Adventures in Michigan” and started a literacy foundation.

“It’s called Benson’s Literacy Foundation,” Foster said. “In six months, since the first time that our first book came out, we were able to donate back over 4,000 books to classrooms, educators and community organizations.”

All the authors present credit their time at SVSU for some of their success as writers.

“When they would talk to me about the creative writing that they were doing or had done in the past, it was very inspiring to me,” Fitzpatrick said.

Reporters Melanie Frasca and Madison Savard also contributed to this story.

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