ASU alumna co-writes a New York Times Bestseller with her sister

With a degree in creative writing from ASU, Brooke Passey helped document her sister's journey to success

ASU alumna Brooke Passey encourages creative writing majors to pursue their dreams after co-writing a New York Times Bestselling book, “The Only Pirate at the Party,” with her sister. 

While the book was originally published on Jan.12, 2016, the paperback version was just released this year in February. 

Passey said she graduated from ASU in 2013 with a degree in English with a concentration in creative writing. Her journey to publication began her senior year when she was approached by her sister, who wanted to write a book.

“At first it started out as a fun project we worked on in our free time,” Passey said. “It was a lot of back and forth and a lot of talking on her end and writing on my end.”

The book was written about Lindsey Stirling, a violinist who started her career on Youtube. Passey said Stirling came to her looking for someone who could write about her journey, perseverance and unconventional road to success.

“She was told by a lot people over and over again that what she did wasn’t marketable and that there wasn’t an audience for she was trying to accomplish in show business,” Passey said.

Passey also said the book aims to bring awareness to the struggles associated with eating disorders. After Stirling publicly opened up about her own struggles with anorexia, she has since used her meet-and-greets as a platform to discuss how she overcame these struggles. Passey said the book gave her a greater reach, in addition to the meet-and-greets.

“This was a huge topic to try and cover in a two-minute conversation, and she never felt like she had the right platform to truly answer these questions and provide the help these girls were looking for,” Passey said.

Passey said she and her sister had to overcome mental obstacles when trying to publish their work.

“Books, they say, are dying down and in order to be published you have to write something crazy good like Harry Potter right off the bat to get noticed or have some amazing breakthrough,” she said. “That was a setback mentally, getting rejection after rejection.”

There were also technical obstacles with opposite time schedules because Stirling was traveling on tour as an artist, Passey said.

“We would talk on the phone or Skype about different topics,” she said. “I would come to the table with a lot of different questions for her, she would spout off information and share stories, and I would take a million notes.”

Passey said she remembers getting the call saying that book publisher Simon and Schuster had picked up the book.

“I run a horseback riding barn, so I was outside feeding the animals, and I dropped everything in my hands and started screaming because it seemed so surreal,” she said.

Passey said she credits her inspiration for writing professionally to an ASU creative writing professor, Melissa Pritchard, who always told students to follow their bliss.

“A lot of times the professors wanted to kind of prepare us for the realities after graduation about the fact that most people don’t get published and most people don’t make it to the mainstream route,” she said. “She basically told us to go out and do whatever we wanted to do.”

For Passey, who wanted to become an author since she was a child, said the publication of her book was a dream come true.

“If you have a dream, keep chasing it and eventually you’ll get there,” she said. “You might not get there exactly when you want to get there, but there is more than one way to get to the end goal.”

Brianna VanSickel, a freshman majoring in English with a concentration in creative writing, said she feels her major's curriculum effectively prepares students for writing after college.

“Creative writing workshops give you a lot of pathways in what you want to do in life,” she said. “We give them a draft and they come back and tell us what we need to work on, and I feel like that’s what it's like in the real world when you’re writing.”

VanSickel said she knows it will be difficult to become recognized like Passey, but not impossible.

“It is going to be hard when I graduate, but if you’re determined enough and ambitious, you can conquer the world if you need to.”

Emily Christie is also a freshman creative writing major who said Passey’s story makes her feel hopeful.

“I think it’s really cool that she was able to take it, make a career out of it, be successful and still like it at the end,” she said.

Christie also said Passey’s achievement breaks stereotypes surrounding creative writing majors.

“There’s a lot of people who think English majors can’t really do anything with it,” she said. “You see these people who are successful and happy with what they’re doing, and you know it’s not a dead end.”


Reach the reporter at kasando1@asu.edu or follow @karismasandoval on Twitter.

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