Meet Krysten Lindsay Hager – 2001 English & 2007 MALS Alumna

Krysten Lindsay HagerKrysten Lindsay Hager (Weller)

2001 BA in English and 2007 Master’s Degree in Liberal Studies

What are you doing now and how did you get there?

I am the author of the Landry’s True Colors Series, a clean reads YA series and also the new ​Star Series. My current titles are True Colors, Next Door to a Star, Best Friends…Forever?, Landry in Like, and the upcoming release, Competing with the Star. I am a former journalist and I also write humor essays. I write for a variety of age groups from middle grade fiction, young adult fiction, new adult, and women’s fiction. My work has been featured in USA Today, The Flint Journal, the Grand Haven Tribune, the Bellbrook Times, and on the talk show Living Dayton.

How did your University of Michigan-Flint education prepare you for what you are doing now or the career you’ve had?

The professors I had would encourage all of us to play to our strengths. Many of them knew I wanted to pursue fiction writing and I was encouraged to approach some of my papers from the point of view of a writer. I took a class on children’s literature that was meant for students in the educational program, but I had emailed the professor and shared with her why I wanted to be in the class and she immediately let me register. When it came time for the final in that class, the students were going to an educational conference to present a project. She took me aside and said that since my goal wasn’t to become a teacher, but a writer, she suggested I work on a young adult novel and turn in part of it for a critique. That was a wonderful opportunity for me and very encouraging.

Who made the biggest impact on your time at UM-Flint? How specifically did they affect your life?

There are several. In fact, I feel you can “hear” a few of my profs in the voice of the Mrs. Albright character in the Landry’s True Colors Series. I think Dr. Jacqueline Zeff, Dr. Amy Sarch, and Dr. Charles Apple opened my eyes to things in the culture and impacted the way I view things. Professor Tom Foster, Dr. Zeff, and Professor Svoboda’s English classes shaped me a lot. Dr. Robertson was the one who suggested I write young adult fiction and [was] very supportive. Bob Houbeck was my thesis advisor, teacher, and I also did an independent study with him. He was wonderful in finding resources for my work and very supportive of my fiction writing as well. I felt very fortunate to have connected with him. I mention several of my professors in the acknowledgements of my book, Next Door to a Star, as well as in my other books.

What experiences did you find especially valuable during your time at UM-Flint?

Getting to do independent studies and work one-on-one with professors like Dr. Zeff, Prof. Tom Foster, Dr. Robertson and Bob Houbeck was very helpful to me in working to become a better writer. I also did a few internships at difference television stations and that broadened my views and gave me great experience as well.

Can you describe an engaged learning experience personally meaningful for your future? 

I took Advanced Creative Writing with Prof. Tom Foster and we had one-on-one time each week with him in his office to go over what we were all working on for our novellas and novels. Having someone to talk to about my story and where it was going and giving me advice was beyond helpful. So often when we start out we’re writing in a vacuum with no one to bounce ideas off of or ask for advice. He told me to let the characters tell me what they want to do and not the other way around. My first published novel, True Colors, was written as result of that class. He gave a quote in class about writing the novel you want to read and I went home and started what became True Colors.

I also used to write a column for the Michigan Times newspaper. I was not a science major, but Dr. Randall Repic was my environmental science professor and I remember him telling the class to check out my columns in the paper. The fact he not only took the time to read my work, but to mention it to others meant a lot to me. He’d often ask about my writing and the fact he took an interest was such a show of support. I never forgot that. Once Dr. Sarch used one of my columns in one of her lectures—it was a piece about an actress talking about the changing body types in popular culture. To have my work shared like that gave me more confidence.

What does UM-Flint do better than any other university? 

At UM-Flint, you aren’t just a number and you have actual professors and not just teaching assistants. I loved that I had access to meet with my professors for advice and that is what sets UM-Flint apart from other universities. Whenever I talk to people about college experiences I am reminded how lucky I was to have such great lecturers and be able to learn from them. Not everyone gets those opportunities.

What advice would you give to an incoming UM-Flint freshman?

My advice would be to have an open mind when taking your classes. I was set on English as my major and doing journalism as a minor, but I took some extra communications classes (past the requirements) and those ended up inspiring me more than the regular journalism classes, so I made COM my minor. I picked up on things in my communications gender classes that influenced my writing such as my young adult books where the girls deal with self-esteem issues especially after seeing media images of what they think they are supposed to look like. In both of my series, I address how the images you see in the media are not one hundred percent accurate. I grew up thinking Cindy Crawford woke up looking like a flawless magazine cover. The communications and gender classes I took helped me to see things about our culture in a new way and I hope that I can share that with my readers who are bombarded by images of female “perfection” in the media as well as how society often views women. I want future generations to be aware of the stereotypes and not fall prey to those expectations.

Another piece of advice I’d give students is to attend all of your classes. I’ve never understood why some college students would just show up at midterms and finals. Personally, I got so much out of the lectures—invaluable information. Going to class and taking notes will help your grades even more than just reading the book and pulling an all nighter. You short change yourself if you don’t make the most of the education you’re getting.

What are your hopes for the UM-Flint of the future?

One thing I enjoyed as a student was when Bob Houbeck brought in different speakers to talk to us. We heard from someone who worked as a speech writer for one of the former governors, the chancellor came in and spoke to us, and in other classes we had different authors come in to speak to us. It was wonderful getting those experiences and I hope that UM-Flint will bring in more and more speakers to share their experiences with the students. For me it was inspiring having authors come to the university to speak. I would like more students to have those opportunities to talk with professionals who are doing what the students themselves strive to accomplish in the future.

Learn more about Krysten’s work on her website: