Todd Robert Petersen teaches creative writing half-time in the Southern Utah University English Department. With the other half of his time, he directs the SUU Center for Creativity and Innovation. He lives on a tree-lined street close to campus with his wife and three children.
Petersen recently completed a draft of a project called Small World. This novel-in-stories is structured around human networks: a character from one story is featured in a new and enlightening way in the following story. Readers follow these relationships and connections in lieu of an conventional plot. The stories in Small World ask how in our highly-connected world can anyone be lonely?
Through the Creativity Center, Petersen is leading a team of SUU ten faculty, IT staff, and Apple Education specialists to develop teaching strategies and personal productivity practices involving the iPad. The iPadagogy Group is charged with developing a knowledge base and training program that will accommodate a possible 1:1 iPad program at SUU.
After a false start as an undergraduate in the University of Oregon's graphic design program, Petersen went on to complete a degree in film. He worked for a few years on Orcas Island in the San Juans as an outdoor environmental education specialist.
[Map of Residences]
From there, Petersen moved to Flagstaff, Arizona where he earned a Master's Degree in English, with an emphasis in Creative Writing. His thesis, Screaming Down Main Street, was a collection of traditional realist stories set in the American West. After Flagstaff, Petersen moved east, to Stillwater, Oklahoma to study with Brian Evenson. He earned a PhD in English from Oklahoma State, focusing on fictional rhetoric and critical theory. The Tonto Drive-in Theater, Petersen's dissertation, was a book-length collection of "short-short stories" and prose poems.
While at Oklahoma State, Brian Evenson suggested that Petersen gather together a some of traditional realist short stories he'd been writing for workshop that focused ethical and spiritual themes through the lens of Mormonism. These stories came together during Petersen's doctoral work as a kind of side-project.
Petersen completed Long After Dark in 2002, a year after his arrival at Southern Utah University. After a few fruitless years of circulated among publishers, a new Utah Press, Zarahemla Books, picked it up. Stories in Long After Dark have won awards from the Sunstone Foundation. The complete collection won an award of excellence from Salt Lake City Weekly.
The novel Rift developed around a character from of one of the stories in Long After Dark, an aging Utah highway contractor named Jens Thorsen. Rift explores the way religion binds and divides people in small-town America.
Rift won two significant awards in Mormon publishing: the Marilyn Brown Unpublished Novel Award for 2008 and the Association of Mormon Letters (AML) Novel of the Year Award for 2009. Rift was also published with Zarahemla Books.