Amie Schaeffer, a Salt Lake Community College alumna and Globe staff member, won first place in the 2022 SLCC Publication Center chapbook contest with her poetry book titled “From the Dust of Stars,” a collection of poetry spanning two decades.
Schaeffer, who earned an associate degree in journalism and digital media from the college last year, knew she wanted to write since childhood. Schaeffer frequently wrote poems in response to major life events.
“I don’t write a lot of poetry,” she said. “Only when inspiration strikes me.”
Schaeffer has previously published individual pieces through “Folio,” SLCC’s literary and art magazine, but she never intended to publish her work as a whole collection. However, longtime friend Jeff Metcalf encouraged her to do so whenever she sent him a poem.
“’You need to let these out into the world, let them breathe,’” Schaeffer recalled Metcalf telling her.
Metcalf was Schaeffer’s English teacher when she was 16. He went on to become an award-winning professor, playwright and filmmaker as well as Schaeffer’s mentor and close friend.
“I immediately just loved and bonded with him,” Schaeffer said.
Together, Metcalf and Schaeffer attended writer conferences in Idaho, spending time with poets and writers. Their friendship continued for 25 years.
In 2007, Schaeffer — who had been misdiagnosed with cancer in place of what would be multiple sclerosis — called Metcalf to break the news. Two years later she found out that Metcalf had privately been battling prostate cancer for some time. Metcalf was diagnosed in 2004.
After a long fight with cancer, Metcalf passed away in June 2020. Because of COVID restrictions, he did not have a funeral, and Schaeffer was left feeling a lack of closure.
To fulfill Metcalf’s request, Schaeffer decided to compile her poetry in a book. The entire process, spanning from the collection’s assembly to its submission in November, lasted about a year.
Working with an SLCC publishing studies class, students assisted with various aspects of the publishing process. Oliver Harrington was one of the collaborators.
“We each [collaborated] with the author to create something that really suits the material and matches the author’s vision for their work,” Harrington said.
Many of the book’s collaborators, including Harrington, found Schaeffer’s poetry and story moving.
“Amie has gone through a lot of terrible loss and pain in her life,” Harrington said. “It is near impossible for a person not to be touched by her story.”
Schaeffer recalled the feeling of relief that washed over her when the book was completed.
“I just cried,” Schaeffer said. “I was able to keep my promise.”
Schaeffer subsequently won the first-place position on Jan. 6. Sunni Brown Wilkinson, a judge for the competition, called the book “a sharp, honest mediation on illness, loss, and grief” while also describing it as “a celebration of the human spirit, that light in the night sky that burns on.”
Schaeffer reflected on the book’s creation, saying that it helped her healing.
“I started this so I could keep a promise to a friend, and it ended up helping me find some of the closure I was looking for,” Schaeffer said.
Schaeffer remains friends with Metcalf’s daughter, Bailey Burgess Kreitzer, who will receive her father’s copy of Schaeffer’s book — a promise kept.
The college’s publication center, located in the Academic and Administration Building at the Taylorsville Redwood Campus, will hold an event on Wednesday at 6 p.m. to commemorate and officially release Schaeffer’s collection as well as the work of Becca Harrison and H. E. Grahame – second and third place winners of the chapbook contest.
Schaeffer’s collection will see 130 published copies and Harrison and Grahame’s work will see 65.
The event will offer refreshments, snacks, and free admission to anyone who wishes to attend. Schaeffer, Harrison and Grahame will also sign copies of their work and read some of their poetry.
To learn more about this year’s winning writers and their manuscripts, visit the SLCC Publication Studies website.