Ann Byle '84

Major English

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Ann Egner Byle is connected to Bryan College in more ways than one. Not only did she graduate from Bryan in 1984, but her father, also a Bryan grad, met his wife, Ann's future mother, at Bryan—she was the school nurse and I imagine he feigned many stomachaches to visit her. They got married and started a family. When Ann was around age 12, her family went on a vacation and stopped by for a visit at Bryan College. She decided then and there that Bryan was the place for her.

Ann knew she would major in English while still in high school; during her years at Bryan she joined the staff of the Triangle. She found classes to be academically rigorous and credits Dr. Cornelius's teaching style with instilling a good work ethic in her. "If he assigned you ten pages to read and take notes on and you did just that you got a B because that was just average," she explained. "You had to work hard on those daily assignments in order to do well. I learned from those classes that sometimes you just have to put your head down and do it, even if it's not fun; and that has really served me well professionally and as a mom!"

After graduating, Ann moved to Chicago and spent two years working at Moody Publishing writing jacket and catalogue copy. Toward the end of her time at Moody, Ann returned to Bryan for homecoming where her friend and fellow Bryan grad Danny Bice informed her that "all newspapers need good copyeditors!" She followed his advice and, after moving back to Grand Rapids, Mich., where she had grown up, got a job on the copy desk of the Grand Rapids Press, a large daily newspaper. For the next eight years Ann did everything from editing to page layouts. She also became the book review editor which allowed her to work with a lot of freelance reviewers as she prepared the page each week. "All the editing taught me the difference between good and bad writing," she said.

The Byle Family at Tahquamenon Falls in Michigan's
Upper Peninsula.  From left, Ray, Ann, Jared,
Abby, Amy (the dog), Jay, Bree.
During this time, she married her husband, Ray Byle, and together they started a family. She took a new job in the marketing department at RBC Ministries and continued to do freelance book reviews for The Press. After two years with RBC, her husband got a permanent teaching job.  Ann was able to stay home with her children and became a permanent freelance writer, which she has been for the past 13 years. She continues to write for the Grand Rapids Press as well as write book reviews for Publisher's Weekly and articles for several local magazines. Her children are growing up and keeping her life full and busy: Bree is now 19, Abby is 17, Jay is 12, and Jared is 9.

In addition to raising kids and writing freelance, Ann managed to write three books: Plainfield Township, The Making of a Christian Bestseller, and Devotions for the Soul Surfer (with Bethany Hamilton). "Writing a book is a daunting task, especially when you are used to the immediate publishing of newspapers," Ann explained. "Looking back I realize that I could not have done this on my own. God has led me on an amazing journey."

Her collaboration on Soul Surfer came about through a chance encounter with a friend while Ann was at Burger King with her kids. Her friend noticed Ann's teenage girls and realized she would be a great writing partner for Bethany. According to Ann's website: "Bethany Hamilton made national headlines on Halloween morning 2003 when she was attacked by a shark off the coast of her favorite Hawaii beach. She maintained her courage, strength, and most importantly, faith, throughout the months that followed and has become a great example to Christian young women everywhere. In this devotional Bethany writes on topics such as Christian witness, regret, identity, beauty, and family for teen girls in the warm and friendly tone of a California surfin' girl."

Ann continues to write from her home in Grand Rapids (one mile from the house where she grew up). She has several nonfiction books in the works, and is plugging away at a novel.  

Ann and her husband Ray at their
daughter, Bree's, graduation

She encourages recent college grads who are interested in pursuing a career in writing to get a job in a publishing house, a magazine, or a newspaper. "Get a job in the writing business, even if you aren't writing right away," Ann explained. "And keep up your own writing, whether it's poetry or a novel or articles for your church newsletter or community newspaper.  The key is to keep writing and keep learning and to put your time in. Opportunities will come, and God leads through opportunity."