Casey Gordon has a lot of diverse talents. As chief information officer at the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University, she’s ultimately responsible for a full-time staff of more than 30 people who ensure the viability of all technology at either school.
But she also …
- has a doctorate in educational administration, chaired the pandemic planning team at Saint Ben’s and Saint John’s, and teaches as a visiting professor;
- operates a travel agency, employing several agents who book cruises and trips to Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida;
- and owns a storage business, continuing a venture that has been in her family for decades.
Now she can add another chapter to her resume, a seemingly unlikely one given her 22-year career in technology: Romance novelist.
Gordon, who has worked at CSB and SJU since 2015 – after spending nine years as director of technology support at St. Cloud State University, in June published her first book. It’s a young adult love story, titled Bet, and completed a life-long goal.
“I’ve probably got about 40 stories that I’ve started,” Gordon said. “Most are young adult or new adult, but they range from fantasy to the supernatural and some have darker themes. I also think it’s cool writing from the perspective of a young character because it’s OK to make mistakes. That’s what happens when you’re figuring out who you are, and it’s a great place to be as a writer.”
Liberal arts education formed foundation for master’s, Ph.D.
Gordon grew up in Millerville, Minnesota, a city of 115 people about 80 miles northwest of Saint Ben’s and Saint John’s.
“I chose a liberal arts school knowing that I was going to come away with a well-rounded education,” said Gordon, who majored in English at the University of Minnesota-Morris – about 50 miles from home – graduating in 2002. “I was going to double-major in computer science, but I preferred learning technology outside of the classroom. I knew that you can do anything with an English degree and, by the time I graduated, I was already getting real-world experience in technology.”
She got a job as an education division assistant and that led to supporting a $3 million grant to train pre-service teachers and those already in area K-12 positions in the latest classroom technologies. Eventually, she became a specialist in instructional technology and user support for UM-Morris’ computing services department.
“I loved the educational environment,” Gordon said. “To work with students and find ways to use technology to help people learn is very rewarding.”
In 2006, almost a decade and a half before many people were forced to adapt to a virtual world, she completed a master’s degree in educational technology from the University of Minnesota-Duluth – without setting foot on the UMD campus. During her time at St. Cloud State she also pursued her Ph.D. from the University of Nebraska. Except for three weeks in Lincoln, she did it all via Zoom and the web. Marriage and becoming mom to two boys delayed her dissertation several years, but she never lost sight of her desire to write. Being eloquent in English is sort of a left brain-right brain juxtaposition with coding, and Gordon needed both for Bet to appear in print.
“Students at liberal arts colleges are highly adaptable and are prepared to navigate diverse experiences and careers using all sorts of different skill sets,” Gordon said. “I’m a living example, and it’s clear in the graduates we’re producing at Saint Ben’s and Saint John’s.”
Characters come to life in Bet
No spoilers here. Gordon hints there’s no love triangle between her three lead characters, but she thinks it’s a story that will resonate for readers who are facing – or have faced – their own life questions related to transitioning from high school to college and becoming an adult. The characters aren’t based on any one person, although she admits there’s a slice of herself in the lead female, Sunny, who likes to learn on her own, through trial and experiment.
Gordon produced the book with Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing. She estimates her expenses totaled about $1,300, including Atticus, Scrivener, Adobe Photoshop and ProWritingAid.
“The ironic thing is that if I wasn’t techno savvy, I would’ve run into a lot more roadblocks,” she said. “That said, I had a lot more fun writing than publishing. Learning how to publish a book is extremely complex. My goal was to have a copy in my hand, regardless of whether anyone ever buys it.”
Bet retails on Amazon for $14.99 in paperback, $21.99 in hardcover and $9.99 as an ebook. And, in just more than two weeks, Gordon has sold 120 copies. Overall, the experience has been very positive. She says she’s not done with the main characters and may produce other books from different genres – time permitting.
“This one took me two years to write,” Gordon said. “When you’ve got kids and a real job, you have to make choices.”
But no matter how successful Bet becomes, she won’t be leaving CSB and SJU.
“I adore working here,” Gordon said. “I’m not going to leave now.”