National Book Lovers Day: Alumni Author Spotlights

In celebration of National Book Lovers Day, we talked to four AlumKnight authors about their latest books, their time at UCF, and what they’re working on next.

Ranging from nonfiction to YA fiction to poetry, these titles offer something for every book lover!

Sara Beg ’14: Salaam, With Love

AlumKnight author Sara Beg '14

About the author:

I am a Pakistani-American Muslim, the firstborn of an immigrant family, born in Orlando. I earned my B.A in Radio/TV from UCF in 2014 and worked for a few years as a freelance writer for Central Florida’s event industry. In 2018, I returned to school for my M.A. in Counseling, earning the degree from Northwestern University in 2020. Since then, I have been practicing in Michigan and Texas as a mental health counselor specializing in anxiety, depression, and trauma.

When I’m not writing or seeing clients, I enjoy watching Bollywood movies and Pakistani serials, reading, and cooking. I currently live in Houston, Texas, with my husband Raheel and cat Beck, and I return to Orlando often to visit my family.

About Salaam, With Love:

Salaam, With Love is a young adult contemporary novel about a Pakistani-American Muslim teenager named Dua. When Dua’s parents compel her to spend the holy month of Ramadan in New York with her uncle’s big family, she’s far from excited. She initially struggles to find her place in the family and to bond with her cousin Mahnoor, but as the days go on, she learns more about herself and her faith, and even falls in love.

Book cover of novel Salaam, With Love by Sara Beg '14

Favorite thing about being a UCF Knight:

Without a doubt, the sense of community. The experiences I had and the friendships I made at UCF all shaped who I am now. I look back at those memories fondly, and I hope I always will.

Up next:

I am currently working on a young adult fantasy inspired by Islamic and South Asian folklore and the Mughal empire. It’s the most ambitious writing project I’ve undertaken so far, so let’s see how it goes.

Samantha Markum ’12: This May End Badly

Headshot of Samantha Markum '12

About the author:

I graduated from UCF in 2012. I currently live in my hometown of St. Louis, Missouri, where I spend most of my time dreaming up new things to write and getting into bed early with a good book. I wish I had more interesting things to say about myself, but unfortunately, I am very boring! I unwind with true crime podcasts, still listen to One Direction, have rewatched The West Wing more times than one human probably should, and I love all things romance — novels, webtoons, movies, TV shows.

About This May End Badly:

This May End Badly follows a high school senior named Doe at her all girls’ boarding school as she tries to stop a merger with the boys’ school across the road and win the century-long rivalry between them before the end of the year. To do that, she enlists the help of her worst enemy’s cousin, Wells, for a fake dating scheme that will help Doe win the prank between their schools and Wells steal back a family heirloom that’s rightfully his. It’s full of great friendships, chaotic teens, semi-terrible problem-solving skills, and some inappropriate (but hopefully funny!) jokes.

Book cover of This May End Badly by alumna Samantha Markum '12

Favorite thing about being a UCF Knight:

Definitely the community! I feel like no matter where you end up after UCF, there is always another Knight somewhere around you, whether you know it or not! Even when I lived in LA, in this small 12-unit apartment building, one of my neighbors was a UCF alum. It’s very cool knowing that you could reasonably run into other Knights pretty much anywhere you go, wherever you end up.

Up next:

I’m currently wrapping things up on my second book, You Wouldn’t Dare, which comes out March 28, 2023. And this one takes place in Florida! It’s set in the very fictional town of White Coral Key, where an accomplished drama queen named Junie is out to save her community theater production, with the help of some very reluctant recruits, and have the summer of a lifetime before she moves in with her mom’s boyfriend and his surly daughter, Tallulah. But having the perfect summer means first fixing things with her friend, Graham, with whom she had a brief fling that went up in spectacular flames last summer. And learning some feelings may have lingered is not on Junie’s agenda (if she had an agenda, that is, but she’s not organized enough for schedules).

Holly A. Pinheiro ’08: The Families’ Civil War: Black Soldiers and the Fight for Racial Justice

Headshot of Holly A. Pinheiro '08

About the author:

I’m currently an Assistant Professor of African American history at Furman University. I’m a proud 2008 graduate of UCF, and I also had the opportunity to return and work as an adjunct professor as I was completing my dissertation. I also graduated from Winter Park High School and Valencia College, which highlight my ties and affinity for Central Florida. Over the past year, I’ve been interviewed by the New York Times, Washington Post, Curiosity Streams, and the History Channel.

About The Families’ Civil War: Black Soldiers and the Fight for Racial Justice:

The Families’ Civil War: Black Soldiers and the Fight for Racial Justice highlights how racism, in and outside of the U.S. Army (during the Civil War), impacted the bodies, economies, family structures, and social spaces that Black Philadelphian families of United States Colored Troops experienced (from 1850 to the 1920s). 

Book cover for The Families' Civil War by Holly A. Pinheiro '08

Favorite thing about being a UCF Knight:

Honestly, I love that UCF has always made me feel valued. The Department of History, more specifically, continues to support me, my family and my research. For instance, Dr. Barbara Gannon has been an invaluable friend and colleague that he has helped me to succeed in academia and refine my scholarship. Dr. Crepeau has already remained a dear colleague and friend. He even attended my wedding a few years ago, which meant the world to my entire family. Finally, the fact that the UCF Alumni Blog has provided me the opportunity to discuss my work means the world to me.

Up next:

I have a number of essays and blog pieces that will be published over the coming months. I am currently working on a second monograph that will focus on all Civil War-era Black Pennsylvanian soldiers (and their families) throughout their training processes at Camp William Penn. For more on work people are welcome to visit my personal website,

Laurie Uttich ’09MFA: Somewhere, a Woman Lowers the Hem of Her Skirt

Headshot of Laurie Uttich '09MFA

About the author:

After 17 years in advertising and marketing, I went back to grad school at UCF for “fun.” After years of writing ad copy, I felt as if my creative writing wasn’t progressing. While earning my MFA in fiction here, I taught composition as a graduate teaching assistant. I fell in love with teaching and convinced UCF to let me stay. I’ve been teaching creative writing (mostly memoir/creative nonfiction and poetry) for 13 years now, and I still enjoy being around students and spending my day talking about writing and books I love.

About writing Somewhere, a Woman Lowers the Hem of Her Skirt:

I started writing poetry in my 40s. Before then, I was afraid of the genre, even though I’ve always read it and loved it. When my parents were both ill (and later dying), I decided to try writing it. I usually write essays and they’re longer and take weeks (sometimes months) for me to complete. I didn’t have the emotional stamina to keep coming back to something longer, but I still needed to write. I found poetry to be fun and freeing in a way that prose isn’t. With prose, I’m careful and speculative. With poetry, I just take an emotion, throw it on the floor, and slam the door on the way out. I think my personality is closer to my prose, but my poetry is my inner badass and I like her better.

Book cover of Somewhere, a Woman Lowers the Hem of Her Skirt by Laurie Uttich '09MFA

Favorite thing about being a UCF Knight:

I love how diverse UCF is. I grew up in a small, rural town in the Midwest and everything felt the same. I love walking through campus and seeing people fence or play a tuba or protest or dance. The energy is contagious, and I missed it so much during the quarantine.

Up next:

I finished my essay collection, Crazy Talk, this summer and I’m looking for a publisher now. I recently started a YA novel and I’ve been having a lot of fun with that. But I’ll never stop writing poetry.

photo of books with text on top that reads "UCF Alumni Book Club"

UCF Alumni Book Club

You can browse listings for over 75 alumni authors on the UCF Alumni Book Club website. If you’ve published a book, let us know! Learn more about the book club and how to join.

Featured Image for the Contact Us Bar
Contact Us