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(Source: Tribune News Service)

Around 160 students from all across the U.S. and Canada came to showcase their work in the 32nd National Undergraduate Literature Conference, held annually at Weber State University, with an opening banquet at the Timbermine Steakhouse.

Students submitted to present work ranging from fiction to non-fiction, short stories to poetry. Co-Director Sarah Vause said, “It’s an honor to be a part of something that means so much to people. It’s one of the crown jewels of the university.”

Vause explained that NULC was started by her father, Mikel Vause, as a way to support undergraduate students and to give them the chance to present their works and to show the students that their works and dedication to literature will not go unrecognized.

For other students, the conference means much more than getting the chance to present their ideas in front of fellow writers and literature lovers.

Guest speaker and author Azar Nafisi gave a heartfelt speech on how literature brings people from every background together. She compared the world to a bookstore, and all the people were books. She said a bookstore is the only place where race, religion, gender, sexual orientation and age can exist together with no discrimination.

For BYU-Idaho student Lucy de Leon, her passion for reading and writing brought her to the United States.

Originally from Guatemala, de Leon explained that reading and writing was taboo at home. She said she had always known that she loved reading but discovered that it was her passion when she began working in a small bookstore along with taking a creative writing class during her freshman year of high school.

When the topic of where to go to college came up, both de Leon and her parents agreed that Guatemala was not the right place for her to be, and neither were other schools in neighboring countries.

Although Spanish was her first language, she believed that language should not be seen as a barrier. She taught herself English after learning the basics in school in order to pursue an English degree. “ I knew exactly what I wanted to do and never changed my mind,” de Leon said.

Nafisi later encouraged the audience to keep embracing this feeling that de Leon expressed and to keep literature in their lives. “Literature and art awaken the senses,” she said.

She also tried to inspire the audience to make a difference in their communities. “Artists are here to disturb the peace,” Nafisi said.

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