Alumni Spotlight: Kase Johnstun

Kase Johnstun (MA ’01) with Mary Van Leeuwen (M.A. 2002) during their time at K-State

Kase Johnstun‘s recent novel, Let the Wild Grasses Grow (Torrey House Press, 2022), has already received a number of accolades: The Women’s National Book Association (WNBA) has selected it for its 2022 Great Group Reads, it’s a finalist for the High Plains Books Award 2022 (we find out on Saturday if it has won), it’s on the 2022 long-list for Reading the West, and it has received Honorable Mention in the 2022 Fiction category from the League of Utah Writers. Kase is also a K-State English alum (MA ’01), as well as serving as a full-time instructor in the department (2012-2013). He offers some reflections of his time as a graduate student below.

When I first walked into a creative-writing classroom at Kansas State, my writing was immature, and this is giving it something. I could barely write a few hundred words, and those were skeletal, only a thin scaffold of what a story or essay should be. I didn’t know how to write or be a writer. That would take me another decade to figure out, but it was in the corners of Hale Library, tucked away in a cubby in the middle of the night, I fell in love books and craft and the beauty of lives between pages.

Let’s just say this: if it weren’t for being accepted into the M.A. program with a Creative Writing emphasis, I would not be a writer today.

If K-State didn’t take a chance on a young man who had only taken one creative writing class in his life previous to my acceptance into the program in 1999, I would not be a writer today.

It’s that simple, so to say that the faculty, my mentors, and my friends who I met at K-State in the creative writing and literature classrooms back in the old Denison building, hold a very special place not only in my heart but also in the nadir of my writing would be an understatement.

I had never attended a workshop before. I had never submitted creative work for fellow students to read before. And I had never critiqued others’ work. I felt nurtured there. Lifted up. Taken seriously. I don’t know if I would have gotten that anywhere else.


Kase Johnstun with Mary Van Leeuwen and their son Lukas in 2022

Kase Johnstun (MA ’01)

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