The Esselstrom Prize for Creative Writing: Honoring Outstanding Students


Written by Regina Ender

There is no style of writing that Professor Emeritus, David Esselstrom, Ph.D., hasn’t tried. An expert in screenwriting, fiction, and journalism, the recently retired professor has spent his career dedicated to disciplined writing, reading, and inspiring students.

To honor 34 years of teaching, 12 serving as department chair, the English department is establishing an endowment for The Esselstrom Prize for Creative Writing. The prize will be awarded each academic year to an outstanding undergraduate student and provide valuable financial support as well as a competitive edge when applying for prestigious graduate schools and professional positions.

According to Dr. Esselstrom, a writer needs two characteristics to succeed: the intrinsic motivation to write every day and external affirmation to keep going. As a student, winning essay contests affirmed Dr. Esselstrom’s abilities and he hopes this prize provides the same encouragement for students.

“Affirmation does a lot to keep me going,” says Dr. Esselstrom, “I think that’s what a writer needs, they need affirmation. This is the universe saying ‘yes’ to you.”

Now that he is retired, Dr. Esselstrom has committed to write at least 1,000 words a day, plus an entire short story and one film idea every day. Currently, he is working on a low-budget horror film entitled The Bogs Bright. He said the plot came to him and practically wrote itself, resulting in a sort of “brilliant silliness.”

Will you join us in celebration?

A number of generous friends of APU have already given $23,000 toward this endeavor.

Please help us celebrate Dr. Esselstrom by contributing to The Esselstrom Prize for Creative Writing. As the endowment increases, the award opportunity will be provided for more undergraduate students.

“Dr. Esselstrom provides his students with the guidance they need to hone their writing abilities while allowing them creative freedom to explore who they are as writers,” APU English alumna Elena Ender said. “His screenwriting class gave me courage to think outside of the box and challenged me in my writing.”

Note: This information is current for the 2018-19 academic year; however, all stated academic information is subject to change. Please refer to the current Academic Catalog for more information.