Oct 8, 2010

Friendly Friday - Annette Lyon

Annette Lyon has been writing ever since second grade, when she piled pillows on a chair to reach her mother's typewriter. A cum laude graduate from BYU with a degree in English, she has had success as a professional editor and doing newspaper, magazine, and business writing, but her first love is creating fiction. Her newest novel, Band of Sisters, is about five women who come together during their husbands' deployment to Afghanistan. 

In 2007 she was awarded Utah's Best of State medal for fiction. Spires of Stone, her fifth novel, was a 2007 Whitney Award finalist for Best Historical Novel, and she's received three publication awards from the League of Utah Writers. She also works for Precision Editing Group.

On the urging of colleagues and friends, she self-published a book on grammar, punctuation and usage, There, There, They're: A No-Tears Guide to Grammar from the Word Nerd. 
Her brand-new release is a bit of a departure: a chocolate cookbook called Chocolate Never Faileth, which is pretty much her life motto. She blogs at The Lyon's Tale.

We Are Vindicated
by Annette Lyon 

For pretty much forever, I've been the butt of jokes regarding my choice of college major: English. Few other majors get so many people poking fun. The sad thing is that in some cases, the teasing is warranted; a lot of English majors don't know what they want to be when they grow up or what they'll do with an English degree when they get it. The classic joke was that we’d end up saying, “Want fries with that?”

Then there are those of us who know precisely what we're going to do with it. In my case, that meant being a writer. To remain practical, I also went into Secondary Education and planned to get a teaching certificate to be a high school English teacher. (I decided in the end to graduate sans certificate, but that's a story for another time.)

But even those English majors who were pre-law or had some other big career plan would get razzed about their major because so many people think that English is somehow easy and has about as much depth as cotton candy—that anyone could do it.

In fact, I had a close family member (who shall remain nameless to protect the innocent . . . or, er, guilty) who was a manager at a company. When hiring employees, she rolled her eyes at anyone trying to apply with a degree as "fluffy" as English (her word, not mine—right in front of me, though).

During my last big semester of college, I had an American Literature class usually taken by seniors. Daring souls who were not English majors could take the class as an Arts & Letters elective, and the semester began with three such students in our class.

Within about a week, two of them had dropped the class because it was too hard.

(Can you hear my maniacal laughter?)

The final non-English student was (and I'm not making this up) pre-med. Not exactly a stupid person, right?

He stuck it out through the entire semester, but boy did he struggle. His returned papers looked like someone had dumped a bottle of red ink all over them. His tests were much the same. As the rest of us would review and compare notes prior to quizzes—discussing American Romanticism and Whitman, maybe—he'd say, "Huh? What does that mean? Where was that? I don't GET it!"

He was used to memorizing answers in science classes. Having to use an analytical side of his brain, find evidence and prove your point with words about killed him as he had to apply literary theories to works we had read. (If I recall, he also said things about the books like, "That character died? When?")

The poor kid just scraped through the class, while I left each day smiling. The class was a challenge (yes, even for the English majors), but I loved every second of it. Yet it was brutally hard for him—and too hard for the other students who didn't even dare try to get through the course.

The pre-med guy is one reason I'll always remember that class; it felt good to see someone gain respect for what I had chosen to study.
Another reason I remember it is because of what happened mid-semester: President Hinckley became the new prophet. (Totally dated myself right there. Yes, I’m old.)

For those of you who don't know, President Hinckley was . . . dun-dun-dun . . . an ENGLISH MAJOR.

My professor, the beloved Richard Cracroft, had heard plenty of put-downs about his chosen field, just like the rest of us had.

I'll always remember what he said the day after President Hinckley was ordained:

"We have an English major as a prophet. We are vindicated!"

Amen, Dr. Cracroft. No one's about to mock that man's English degree.

Watch the book trailer for Chocolate Never Faileth

Annette's Blog:  http://blog.annettelyon.com

Chocolate Never Faileth:

~~Christine says:  Thanks for being my guest this week Annette. And just so you know, I'd love to be an English major. I wasn't able to attend college because I have parents who don't think it's important. They said I could go out there in the real world and get a grunt job and get along just fine. The fact that I wanted to be a writer was dismissed and mocked. Now, after 20 years of helping my husband run our restaurant (grunt work) I'm finally working toward my dream. Not such an easy task when you only have a high school education. Thank goodness for people like you who spread the knowledge through workshops, personal tutoring and your wonderful book on grammar. 

Anyway, thanks for all you do and for being my wonderful guest.


  1. I didn't remember President Hinckley was an English major. I knew I loved him. I'm looking forward to the day I can finish my English degree.

  2. I had the opportunity of 'teaching' (sorry all you real teachers, I use the term very loosely) English in Japan. So you have all my respect. Anyone poking fun at English majors should go to a foreign country and try to teach it. So glad it's my first language!

    I always loved my English classes although, sometimes I felt like the pre-med student...

  3. Great Post! Great trailer! Having just eaten a bowl of cracked wheat and oatmeal covered with chocolate chips, then I'd have to agree that Chocolate Never Faileth!

  4. TOTALLY vindicated! =] Awesome post, Annette, as always. Thanks, Christine for the great guest bloggers!

  5. Loved it--ya for English! At USU our professors spent a lot of time talking to us about how to market ourselves in the career field because English Lit grads do have a lot to offer, besides just teaching. We learn how to write concisely, speak our ideas to a group, pinpoint details, and analyze what is real, truth, or garbage. Sounds like more than the average fast food worker to me. I've tried to assure many a doubting pre-English major that they won't regret the things they learn. Now I have a blog posting I can refer them to as well :)

  6. Definitely vindicated! I remember once hearing a bestselling author say he'd gone to college and received his degree in Byzantine history. After the dramatic pause, he said, "Do you want fries with that?" At least authors are smart enough to love our English majors :)

  7. Great post Annette! See, I'm a blond and I'm just ditzy enough that I didn't even realize it was a degree to mock. Or maybe it was the fact that I started out as a Computer Science major, then moved on to Theater, Dance, Acting, Music, Archaeology, History . . . Can you tell I haven't graduated yet (and I'm old too - 27 mwahahahahaha - yeah, right)? When I do graduate with my English degree, I'll be so happy. =D

  8. I totally know what you're saying. My major was Clothing and Textiles and people don't have a clue what I did to get it or what I do with it. (Maybe it will help with research for a book someday.) But I love chocolate and right now I'm so hungry I could eat the book.