English professor Todd Petersen publishes 3rd novel

Southern Utah University English professor Todd Petersen recently published his third novel, "It Needs to Look Like We Tried." | Photo of Petersen courtesy of Southern Utah University, St. George News / Cedar City News
CEDAR CITY — Todd Petersen, an English professor at Southern Utah University, recently published his third novel, “It Needs to Look Like We Tried,” which explores the ways in which our failures work on the lives of others, weaving an intricate web of interconnected stories.

“I would say that the book is about failure and life changing events,” Petersen said. “But I should add that it’s also a comedic book.”

Petersen has been writing seriously for roughly 25 years. He published some poems and stories in the early 2000s and sold his first book, “Long After Dark,” in 2007. His novel “Rift” was released in 2009.

He has plans for his fourth book, “Picnic in the Ruins,” which is set for release in spring of 2020.

Petersen prefers to handwrite his ideas before transferring them onto a computer. He uses a program called Ulysses that allows him to write scenes individually and then weave them back together.

“These days, a writer has to be proficient with computers to do the work,” he said. “Surprisingly this includes social media and writing for the web.”

For his newest book, Petersen’s publicist set up the chance to create a Spotify playlist for the book that was featured on the blog Large Hearted Boy.

“It was really fun to do and helped promote the book.”

Balancing his work as an author with his full-time position as a college professor has been challenging.

“Time has become increasingly more difficult to come by,” said Petersen, who is also director of the university’s project-based learning program. “In addition to my work as a professor and author, I also try to be a good husband, parent, and community member. I often feel like one of those old performers who keeps dozens of plates and bowls spinning on dowels by running back and forth like a crazy person.”

For any aspiring writers, Petersen offers this advice: “Read. Read. Read. Read old stuff and new stuff. Read your competition in the marketplace. Read against your normal habits. Read philosophy and books about physics, photography, and biology. Read books by people who aren’t like you at all. If you stick to the little familiar neighborhood of your regular reading habits, you’ll be less likely to surprise yourself, and if you can’t surprise yourself, you won’t surprise a reader. Without surprise, delight is difficult to accomplish.”

Petersen has also worked as a YMCA assistant program director and literary journal editor. He serves as director of an award-winning experiential learning program at Southern Utah University. He is a member of the National Society of Experiential Education and offers workshops through the organization’s Experiential Learning Academy. He is also a member of the Authors Guild.

Petersen has a Bachelor of Arts in telecommunications and film from University of Oregon, a master’s degree in English from Northern Arizona University, and a doctorate in English with emphasis in fictional rhetoric and critical theory from Oklahoma State University.

Written by NIKKI KOONTZ, Southern Utah University’s director of marketing communication.

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