English professors share writing experiences

For the first time, the Murray State department of English joined WKMS radio station to hold an event called “Five Writers Talk.”

The session focused on the writers at Murray State, the creative writing lifestyle and the art of teaching writing.

The creative writing faculty at Murray State sat on a panel in the Performing Arts Hall in the Fine Arts Center during the event. Kate Lochte, the station manager at WKMS pulled questions from a box for each guest to answer. The panel consisted of humanities and fine arts professors Squire Babcock, Carrie Jerrell, Ann Neelon, Dale Ray Phillips and Martin Roper, to answer.

Roper, who also serves as Watkins Endowed Chair of Creative Writing, organized “Five Writers Talk.”

“We often talk as professors here, but we don’t talk as writers and human beings,” Roper said. “I thought it would be nice to bring the five faculty to the stage for one night only.”

Roper said the questions are a chance for the writers to really open up about the difficulties and challenges of the creative writing career.

“Rather than being a professor who writes, we are flipping it. Now we are writers who are teaching,” said Roper. “It gives the students the opportunity to hear about the challenges in the writing lifestyle.”

The writers discussed the difficulties of the creative writing inspiration and how to move past writer’s block.

“Reading inspires me probably more than anything else,” Babcock said.

Roper added, “Students inspire me, along with reading the writers I admire.”

In addition to the troubles, the writers spent some time speaking about the line between literary art and trash.

“The line is different for everybody,” Jerrell said.

Others on the panel agreed that grammar and use of language in writing distinguished literature from other writing as well as feeling of the story.

“(The line is where) something pushes the complexity of human reaction, not just the easy sentiment,” Babcock said.

Overall, the questions ranged from “What are your reading habits?” to “Why don’t writers talk about money?” The audience applauded and laughed through the night, enjoying the writers views on the lifestyle.

Before closing, Cassie Benson, junior from Henderson, Ky., received recognition as the first Racer Fiction Writer of the Year for her story titled “The End.”

“I was completely shocked, but very proud and flattered that the judges liked my story,” Benson said.

The award was given to the best story as judged anonymously by the panel of five judges in the English department. The contest consisted of 53 short fiction stories submitted for a prize of $100 cash and $100 for buying trade books from the University’s bookstore.

Because the rankings were so close, Roper decided to donate a second place prize as well. Tracy French, junior from Murray, was awarded $50 dollars for her story titled “Babydoll.”

“I am so honored to be chosen, especially since there was only supposed to be one winner,” French said. “This was my first submission ever, so I was prepared to not even be considered.”

Roper said he would continue to present this award annually at Murray State to cater to the interest students have displayed in creative writing, even outside the department.

“I thought that the competition was a really good idea because it caused a general excitement on campus about writing,” Benson said.

WKMS recorded the event and it will be broadcast at a later date. Podcasts will be available also.

Story by Hunter Harrell, Staff writer.