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Writing to the Extreme

Writing to the Extreme


From amazing ski stunts to heroic rescues, Wayne Johnson describes his life of extreme skiing and exhilarating adventures in his latest book, White Heat: The Extreme Skiing Life, published by Atria Books and Simon and Schuster.

Johnson came to Westminster in 2004 to teach creative writing as a Visiting Faculty member; he writes from his own experience as a first responder with the Park City Mountain Resort ski patrol team and as a competitive ski racer and Nordic jumper.

“I wrote White Heat out of a love of all things skiing—the skiing life I’ve lived,” said Johnson. “Nordic jumping, downhill racing, skiing powder, snowboarding, helicopter skiing, and backcountry skiing—there’s a whole skiing world, a skiing life, if you get far enough into it. It’s a life weekend skiers can never know.”

Johnson was drawn to Westminster because of its location and opportunities. “I’d wanted to get back to the Rockies for some time, so took the position as an opportunity to relocate,” said Johnson. “My wife and I love the area, both the mountains and the red rock country
to the south.”

“Since that first semester at Westminster, I’ve also taught core literature classes and screenwriting,” he continued. “I’ve found my advanced writing students to be highly creative and motivated. From all parts of the country, they’re here in Utah for an adventure, and they’re getting that, on campus and off.”

While not currently employed by Westminster, Johnson still continues to write for top publishers, and he even has Hollywood aspirations. “I am currently working on a number of books,” he said. “For Simon and Schuster, a book on motorcycles and motorcycling, and for Harper Collins, a murder mystery/thriller. I’ve also got a book under contract with Random House, my publisher since 1989. My most recent book, White Heat, has attracted Hollywood attention, so I’m putting together a screenplay based on a chapter in it, one on ski jumping.”

As an experienced and nationally acclaimed author, Johnson had some words of wisdom for those students who aspire to be writers: “My advice for would-be authors is this: Read voraciously and broadly, and out of what you love in those narratives you find you are most moved by, write your own—in your own voice and with your own peculiar, singular vision.”

Johnson is an award-winning author of six novels, including The Snake Game, Deluge, Don’t Think Twice, Six Crooked Highways, The Devil You Know, and White Heat. His awards include the New York Times Book of the Year, Barnes & Noble Great New Writers Series, and the Georgia Shreve Award, among others. He was nominated three times for the Pulitzer Prize, in 1997, 1999, and 2004, and he has won several prestigious fellowships: a Teaching-Writing Fellowship from the internationally acclaimed Writer’s Workshop in Iowa City, the Wallace Stegner Fellowship at Stanford University, and the Chesterfield Writer’s Film Project fellowship from Steven Spielberg’s company Amblin Entertainment.