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Northwest Missouri State University


Student Spotlight

Hayley Brown completed her bachelor’s degree in writing at Northwest and will attend Minnesota State University in Mankato in the fall to pursue a master’s degree in creative nonfiction. (Photo by Todd Weddle/Northwest Missouri State University)

Hayley Brown completed her bachelor’s degree in writing at Northwest and will attend Minnesota State University in Mankato in the fall to pursue a master’s degree in creative nonfiction. (Photo by Todd Weddle/Northwest Missouri State University)

May 4, 2019

Brown finds ‘something like love’ for creative writing

By Grace Niemeyer, communication assistant

Hayley Brown started her time at Northwest Missouri State University as an interactive digital media major but found a passion for writing after mistakenly taking a creative nonfiction course.

Brown, a native of Macks Creek, Missouri, graduated this spring with her bachelor’s degree in writing and will attend Minnesota State University in Mankato in the fall to pursue a master’s degree in creative nonfiction.

Brown’s path changed when she enrolled in a creative nonfiction course with Dr. Richard Sonnenmoser, an associate professor in the Department of Language, Literature and Writing.

“I signed up for that class thinking it was a fiction class and I thought, ‘oh gosh. What have I done,’ and I ended up falling in love with creative nonfiction,” Brown said.

Sonnenmoser eventually enlisted Brown’s help to edit and market his memoir, “Sugarblind.” He credits Brown as being both a strong writer and insightful editor.

“It's rare in my line of work to feel like I could write an equally strong letter for a student looking for a job in web design or a student looking to gain admission to a top-tier Master of Fine Arts program,” Sonnenmoser said. “Hayley is multi-talented. She’s one of the most talented writers I’ve ever worked with, but she’s also an incredibly careful and deep thinker.”

Brown used her background in digital media to create a website for Sonnenmoser’s memoir, complete with poetry, music and podcasts.

“Working with Richard has been a hugely beneficial experience for me, not only in helping with his memoir, but also his website and just in sharing work,” Brown said. “It was a really cool learning opportunity to read his manuscript for “Sugarblind.” It's beautifully written, and I wouldn't have had the chance if he didn’t offer to share it with me.”

Brown added, “I’ve learned that’s much of what the writing community is about: meeting people, sharing work, collaboration and the continual pursuit. It’s really about what you choose to share with others.”

Brown changed her major late in her college career and felt behind with little time to improve.

“Being able to help him with his projects, in many ways, brought me up to speed in the literary and writing world, but it also made me much more confident as a writer and thinker.”

Brown and Sonnenmoser attended the Association of Writers and Writing Programs annual conference in March in Portland, Oregon, to market the memoir and promote GreenTower Press, a literary journal supported by the English program at Northwest. Brown completed an internship with GreenTower Press last fall and continues to work with the magazine.

“[The GreenTower Press is] amazing at helping young writers find their circle and community and just hone in on what it is that they want to say,” Brown said. “There are always ample opportunities for students to take on, not just with writing, but with design, photography and publications. It was a really, really great learning experience for me.” 

Last fall, Brown began writing a memoir of her own about growing up and the experiences that shaped her.

“Currently, it’s called ‘Something Like Love,’” Brown said. “It’s sort of a braided collage-type memoir. It weaves together recollections from various times in my life.”

In addition to writing, Brown designs advertisements for the Northwest Missourian student newspaper. She paints and is a member of Sigma Tau Delta, the English honor society.

“My time at Northwest was full of growth and opportunity that I probably wouldn’t have had anywhere else,” Brown said. “It was the encouragement from my professors and the communities I eventually found that provided me with a sense of meaning and direction. I’m super grateful for the people and experiences that have shaped me during my time here, so in that sense, I truly am ‘forever green.’”


For more information, please contact:

Mark Hornickel, Communication Manager
mhorn@nwmissouri.edu | 660.562.1704 | Fax: 660.562.1900

Northwest Missouri State University
215 Administration Building | 800 University Drive | Maryville, MO 64468