Published novelist reads at Museum of Art

Thirty-five students and faculty fell silent as they waited for published novelist Devin Murphy to begin reading from his latest novel, Tiny Americans. Murphy, associate professor of English at Bradley University in Peoria, spoke self truths about family at 7p.m. April 4 at the Wichita Falls Museum of Art.

Murphy said all students can benefit from attending literary readings.

“It’s a great chance to hear interesting stories about other people’s lives. You might find a new author you like. It’s just a great way to have a cool cultural event. We’re all storytellers naturally, so seeing somebody do it at a high level can evoke your need to tell stories too,” Murphy said.

John Schulze, assistant professor of English, invited Murphy to speak as part of the James Hoggard Reading Series in conjunction with the Speakers and Issues series. Murphy met Schulze in graduate school, and he said Schulze influenced his writing.

Murphy said, “He was a year ahead of me, and he made up a great community of people that were welcoming. He sort of showed everyone that was coming in the ropes. He really taught me how to be a literary citizen, how to be somebody who is a good teacher, a good writer, and a good community member, so I always really admired that, and I still do.”

Murphy said he and Schulze are friends, and he was glad Schulze invited him to share his new book with students.

Devan Bolton, criminal justice senior, said, “I enjoyed the personal reading. It’s nice to actually hear an author read their work, so you can interpret it exactly how they wrote it– how certain characters sound and talk and exactly what tone of voice they picked for certain things.”

Bolton said it’s important for students to take time out of their busy schedule to read and listen to fiction because it can help people better understand themselves.

“Honestly I think it’s important to just explore period. Explore yourself. Explore your sexuality, how you view things, how you exist basically. Find yourself in new and exciting ways. It’s very important. I’ve been doing that since I was a little kid, exploring different facets of realities of the world. It gives you a sense of security on what you see yourself as and what you want to be,” Bolton said.

Caitlin McNeely, graduate student in English, agreed that attending literary readings can bring her into a reflective state.

“It can also help you know more about yourself whenever you see your own ideas reflected in someone else’s work. It can help you connect to someone that’s really different than you. It kind of makes you a better, more thoughtful person,” McNeely said. “It’s a way to connect and to think and to learn about other people and about yourself in the same way that going to a film or seeing art is.”

Haylee Fowler, English senior, also said listening to literature is a good way to get a different perspective.

“My favorite part about the reading was getting to learn about the author’s own experience and kind of knowing their process of how they got to where they are,” Fowler said. “It opens your mind to a different world view. Even if it’s not necessarily related to you, you can still learn something and maybe apply it to your own life.”

Murphy said understanding different perspectives is one of the main things he hopes readers take away from his work.

“Everyone around us is equally fascinating and has a whole range of stories and experiences that you wouldn’t know without delving into who they are as a person. My stories are always trying to get to know different people. I’m trying to create empathy with others.”

Captivated with the story’s plot, Bolton said he was on the edge of his seat.

“I got crazy into it. It’s been a while since I’ve gotten into a book, so I guess I had forgotten how much I miss it. It was a pretty fun experience,” Bolton said.

McNeely said she particularly appreciated the themes in the excerpt of Tiny Americans.

“I liked its focus on family. I thought that was really cool because I think that’s something a lot of us can relate to, those relationships that can be complicated but come from a place of love. I like that that’s a central theme in his work,” McNeely said.

Murphy said his family influenced his work greatly and that his writing combines values of both of his parents.

“I think all people should take a stop in their life, an emotional turn around, and ask about their own families. Where you grew up, the structure of your family. My mom is an artist and an art teacher. She does all kinds of abstract art, so her creativity was always really inspiring. My dad is a philosophy professor, so his reading and abstract thinking was always really interesting. If I think of who I am, it’s very much the merger of those two,” Murphy said.

Copies of Murphy’s books were available for purchase after the reading, and he stayed to sign copies

About the publishing process, Murphy said, “It’s a long process because the bar is really high. The quality has got to be there to even get it in the door. Then you have to find somebody that will fight for the book in a publishing house, and it took me a while. You have to fortify yourself against rejection. If you can do that, you can really keep fighting for what you’re after.”

Murphy’s fiction was published in more than 60 literary journals and anthologies, including The Missouri Review, Glimmer Train, the Chicago Tribune, New Stories from the Midwest and Confrontation.