Chautauqua Opens Series at La Plata Campus July 9, 10, 11
The College of Southern Maryland’s (CSM) Twilight Performance Series returns this summer with a new line-up to include history, music and theater. The free, family-friendly, outdoor series will feature local artists performing a variety of country, traditional bluegrass, Latin jazz and folk music, as well as musical and one-act theater programs at campuses in La Plata, Leonardtown and Prince Frederick.
This year CSM will host Chautauqua at the La Plata Campus July 9, 10 and 11
. Twilight performances will continue at the Leonardtown Campus on Tuesdays, July 16, 23 and 30
; at the La Plata Campus on Wednesdays, July 17, 24 and 31
; and at the Prince Frederick Campus on Thursdays, July 18, 25 and Aug. 1
. All performances will begin at 6:45 p.m.
The annual Chautauqua program includes interactive, family-friendly presentations and is an educational program of the Maryland Humanities Council, presented in partnership with CSM. This year’s theme is “Turning Points in History,” and will feature Chautauquan actors who will portray the historical figures of Rachel Carson, the mother of the environmental movement; Amelia Earhart, the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean; and Jack Roosevelt “Jackie” Robinson, the first African American player in Major League baseball. For background on the figures, visit http://www.csmd.edu/Arts/TwilightSeries/index.html
. Chautauqua will open at 6:45 p.m. with a short concert by local musician Steve Hickman. Beginning as a dancer and musician in the Potomac Country Dancers, Hickman has performed at the Kennedy Center and on a regular basis in Williamsburg and in Alexandria, Virginia at Gadsby’s Tavern. He also performs at dance and music events nationally and abroad.
Twilight performances continue the subsequent weeks with local bands Jackson Murphy Band and Sam Grow; theatrical productions of “HONK!,” “The Fisherman and His Wife,” “Sure Thing” and “The Actor’s Nightmare”; and local Latin ensemble, Ritmo Caché.
The band Jackson Murphy, with former Fitzmaurice band members Maria Fitzmaurice, Brandon Snellings, Mike Simms and Jeff Covert, has opened for country music heavyweights such as The Band Perry, Darius Rucker, Trace Adkins, Dierks Bentley and others. They’ve formed a new band to expand their ever-growing style. Joined by Mark Willis on drums, the band performs everything from traditional country and bluegrass to original songs written by the band. Preview the band at http://www.jacksonmurphymusic.com/about.html
or on its Facebook fanpage at https://www.facebook.com/JacksonMurphyMusic
Sam Grow is a musical jack-of-all-trades—a singer-songwriter, guitarist, pianist, bassist and drummer—who grew up in Southern Maryland. He discovered a passion for music by the age of 5 while watching his father and sister singing and playing the piano. Grow’s father introduced him to artists such as The Righteous Brothers, Sam Cooke, Marvin Gaye, Otis Redding and Elvis Presley, who would influence him throughout his musical career. After singing in the choir at his family’s church for several years, Grow headed into the studio in 2007 to record his debut album. Grow has singles which have earned success on the iTunes Singer/Songwriter charts as well as the album “Reveal” which as a whole record charted at No. 11. He is currently touring the U.S. with a schedule that consists of more than 250 shows a year. Preview Sam Grow’s music at http://www.samgrowband.com/fr_home.cfm
or on its Facebook fanpage at https://www.facebook.com/samgrowfans
Under the direction of CSM Music Coordinator Dr. Stephen Johnson, Latin Ensemble, Ritmo Caché, consists of CSM students and Southern Maryland community members who share a love of Latin-American music. Ritmo Caché plays in a variety of styles including salsa, Afro-Cuban, Latin jazz, Latin pop, bossa nova, merengue and Tejano.
“HONK!” is a musical about a goose named Ugly, whose odd, gawky looks instantly incite prejudice from his family and neighbors. When Ugly is separated from his farm and family, he embarks on a rollicking and harrowing journey where he not only discovers his true beauty and glorious destiny, but also finds love and acceptance.
“The Fisherman and His Wife” is a German fairy tale collected by the Brothers Grimm about a poor fisherman who catches a golden flounder that claims to be an enchanted prince. The fisherman kindly releases it but when he tells his wife of the event she says that he should have asked the flounder to grant him a wish. The fish does grant a wish, and many more that the greedy wife demands until she goes too far with her requests.
“Sure Thing” is a one-act classic of contemporary comedy—two people meet in a café and find their way through a conversational minefield as an offstage bell interrupts their false starts, gaffes and faux pas on the way to finding love.
“The Actor’s Nightmare” is a one-act play that follows George who casually wanders into a theater and is suddenly pushed on stage to replace an ailing actor. Unsure of what play is being performed, George stumbles his way through a scene from “Private Lives,” “Hamlet” and “A Man for All Seasons,” until make-believe gives way to reality.
The Twilight series will take place outdoors on the La Plata Campus Fine Arts Building Lawn, the Leonardtown Campus Great Lawn, and on the Prince Frederick Patio. Bring a lawn chair or blanket and a picnic, or purchase food on site. No alcoholic beverages are permitted. In the event of inclement weather, performances will move indoors. On the La Plata Campus performances will move to the Fine Arts Center, on the Leonardtown Campus to Building A, Auditorium, and on the Prince Frederick Campus to the Multipurpose Room in Building B.
Gold, silver and bronze sponsorship levels are available for this year’s Twilight Performance Series. For information on sponsorships call 301-934-7649 or 301-870-2309, 240-725-5499 or 443-550-6169, Ext. 7649 or visit www.csmd.edu/Foundation
. Current support for the series is made possible through Bronze Level sponsorships with Bayside Toyota, CSC, and Research and Engineering Development, LLC; and partnerships with the Leonardtown Business Association and the Maryland Humanities Council; and grant funding from the Arts Council of Calvert County, the Charles County Arts Alliance, the St. Mary’s County Arts Council and the Maryland State Arts Council.
For information on the Twilight Performance Series call 301-934-7703 or 301-870-2309, 240-725-5499, or 443-550-6169, Ext. 7703 or visit www.csmd.edu/Arts
. Chautauqua is a program of the Maryland Humanities Council presented in partnership with the College of Southern Maryland. The Maryland Humanities Council, Inc. is an independent non-profit organization which receives support from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Maryland Division of Historical and Cultural Programs, corporations, foundations and individuals. CSM’s campuses are accessible to patrons with disabilities. Audio description for the visually impaired and sign language interpretation for the hearing impaired are available with a minimum two-week advanced notice. Contact the academic support/ADA coordinator at 301-934-7614.
Saturday, June 8, 2013 12:00 Noon - 6:00 pm La Plata Town Hall
The Charles County Arts Alliance (CCAA) is pleased to announce that ArtsFest 2013 will be held this year on Saturday, June 8, 2013, from 12:00 noon - 6:00 pm
, at the La Plata Town Hall! This annual countywide outdoor event celebrates ALL the arts in Charles County: music, visual art, drama, dance and literature. Now in its 21st year, it is the largest arts festival in Charles County!
ArtsFest is returning to La Plata this year and will once again bring the festivities to the lawn surrounding the beautiful La Plata Town Hall. Last year's ArtsFest in La Plata was well attended by over 2000 individuals from across Southern Maryland. Previous ArtsFests have been held in Indian Head, Cobb Island and Waldorf.
Arts Alliance President Diane Rausch, said, "We are delighted with our continuing partnership with the Town of La Plata, and appreciate their support as our host. We are planning to make ArtsFest 2013 a memorable one!"
Visual artists of all media are invited to display and sell artworks on the lawn at ArtsFest 2013. In addition, arts organizations are invited as exhibitors to display information and encourage participation in their performing, visual and literary arts activities. Also invited as exhibitors are historical, heritage, multicultural and environmental organizations.
ArtsFest 2013 is the Art Alliance's "free gift" to the citizens of Charles County and Southern Maryland. There is no charge to the public to attend. Food and refreshments will be available for purchase throughout the day.
Last year's ArtsFest showcased over 60 artists and exhibitors at the La Plata Town Hall, along with musical and dance entertainment at several locations on the lawn. ArtsFest 2013 promises to be even more spectacular, with several special events taking place throughout the day.
ArtsFest 2013 Registration Forms and additional information are available on the CCAA website (www.charlescountyarts.org
), so please check there for all information needed to participate in this year's festival.
Please save the date and mark your calendars for ArtsFest 2013 on Saturday, June 8!
By Brittanie Krauss
The College of Southern Maryland, Prince Frederick Campus, hosted Maryland’s Poet Laureate Stanley Plumly last month, in a night focused on extra credit and Keats.
A majority of CSM students in attendance gave similar reasons for attended the night’s event. “I’m here to support my English teacher,” said Melissa Jenkins of Prince Frederick, while others more bluntly stated the 10 points of extra credit for their English 1020 class as their reason for attending. Others noted that it was required for class participation.
Some, like David Gornley of Chesapeake Beach, were interested in the turn out as much as the speaker. “I was kind of curious,” Gornley said. “I heard recently poetry was a dying art, a lost language and I was curious to see how alive it is.”
Throughout the night Plumly evoked the work of another poet, John Keats, whom Plumly recently wrote a book about entitled “Posthumous Keats”. During the reading Plumly recited “Constable’s Clouds,” what he called “John Constable’s eulogy for Keats,” and spoke of his own time living in England.
“I’ve been everywhere Keats walked, everywhere Keats’s lived,” Plumy said later during a meet and greet session. “To be an expert you have to live there.”
Plumly’s other readings of the night included “Cancer,” “The Jay,” “Prodigal Daughters” and “Wrong Side of the River,” which threaded together themes of life and death and the briefness of time.
“I found more of his depressing poems enjoyable,” admitted Sarah Koch of Huntingtown, whose thoughts echoed others in attendance. “I could more relate to him, his connection to nature is amazing.”
The night also had its humorous moments as well. During the question and answer session an audience member asked Plumly what made him choose poetry as his expressive outlet. “I don’t know what else I would of done, I would have had a half-life…I would have been a criminal,” he replied.
Plumly spoke candidly as well on what it meant to be a poet. “I love really good prose,” he told the audience, “human integrity could not be matched any other way. Writing is the most difficult thing we do.”
Plumly, a University of Maryland College Park professor and author of nine books of poetry, spoke as part of College of Southern Maryland’s ongoing literary series in conjunction with the school’s “Connections” magazine.
Brittanie Krauss is a CSM student and wrote this story as part of the Introduction to Media Writing course.
By Stephanie Davis
The College of Southern Maryland, La Plata Campus, hosted its second Communication Day March 29, kicked off by keynote speaker Roz Plater, a news anchor for WTTG DC, Fox 5.
The Communication Day provided area high school and college students the opportunity to learn about the communication field and to explore related courses offered at CSM.
The theme Communication in the Global Age resonated in presentations and discussions throughout the day. Students heard from professionals working in the communication field, attended sample college classes in the communication discipline, toured the new TV production studio, and participated in a public speaking competition.
Eric Millham, a TV/video production instructor at the Forrest Technology Center, in Leonardtown, returned this year with a group of students in the television/video product program offered at the center.
Millham said the students, several who attended Communication Day last year, looked forward to a private tour of the new TV production studio, which was just a room then. He said the tour gives students the opportunity to see a real working studio.
Roz Plater a Washington, D.C., reporter and Calvert County, Md., native gave the opening keynote address. In her address Plater shared with students that international interest in what is happening in the U.S. offers more media outlets to work in, the impact that technology has had on how information is received from the media, and the importance of networking.
“Always do your best your first time at bat, and every time at bat,” said Plater. “You never know who may be watching or listening and where that may take you in life.”
Plater offered advice to students interested in a career in the communication field. She encouraged students to never stop learning.
During the professional panel discussion panelists were also asked what advice they would give to someone considering the communication field given the diverse global society we live in. All four panelists emphasized the importance of learning another language and embracing other cultures and encouraged students to join a professional group for networking.
Alan Lifton, a panelist with more than 40 years of experience in the television and higher education fields, responded by saying, “Explore and enjoy the world around you and embrace change.”
Lifton encouraged students to follow their heart, be passionate about what they enjoy doing and to go into journalism because they are interested in it.
The Communication Day closed with a public speaking competition by CSM students. The three students participating presented on the issues of pet adoption, social media and interpersonal communication. Sofiya Schug, who was born in Russia and speaks English as a second language, closed her presentation on interpersonal communication with a song.
Schug joked that to make up for her struggle with giving her presentation in English she would sing a beautiful piece in Italian, one of the five languages she can sing in. Schug said that she hoped that she was able to express that there is more to a person than their accent by singing for the audience.
Stephanie Davis is a student at CSM and wrote this story as part of the Introduction to Media Writing course.
June will be here before you know it! If you are a visual artist or exhibitor, you don't want to miss the largest outdoor arts festival in Charles County . . . ArtsFest 2012! This year's event takes place on the lawn of La Plata's Town Hall on Saturday, June 9, from 10:00 am - 5:00 pm.
ArtsFest 2012 Registration Forms are available on our website (www.charlescountyarts.org
). Please mark your calendars now and plan to join the fun on Saturday, June 9 in La Plata!
A new online library catalog was introduced on Monday, February 13. The new COSMOS catalog
has a clean and modern look, is easy to use and offers many new features. The site will continue to show materials available from all libraries in Southern Maryland. It can also be used to find and renew library items, as well as request items be placed on hold and sent to a local branch for pick-up. Library users can also continue to use COSMOS to check their personal library accounts. A link to the COSMOS site is available from your library's home page at ccplonline.org
, or you can find COSMOS online at cosmos.somd.lib.md.us
to view our new "how to" videos!
As Poet Laureate of Maryland, Stanley Plumly is available to visit museums, community arts centers and other organizations to speak about modern poetry, his own work and the English poet John Keats (about whom he has recently published a personal biography that has received widespread critical acclaim by reviewers for The New York Times
, Los Angeles Times
, Washington Post
, andThe New Yorker
). A reading is included.
His visit is free, though organizations and schools have the option of offering an honorarium if they wish. If you would like to arrange a visit, please contact Chris Stewart, liaison to the Poet Laureate and program director for literary arts with the Maryland State Arts Council, at firstname.lastname@example.org
Kevin John Grote, La Plata resident and former engineer at the Navy base in Indian Head, has released his second historical novel, “Tyburn”.
“Tyburn”, the second volume published in a series of novels, aptly named Letters of Fire and Sword, is set in the eastern English counties of Kent and E. Sussex, and the City of London during the years 1746-47.
“Tyburn”, embodies a mix of deception, courage, betrayal, and of course, romanticism. The fictional characters interact with real historical figures in actual events from the battlefields in France, to the prisons, coffee houses, theatres, and gaming tables of 18th Century London.
“Tyburn”, is the sixth novel in order in the series which spans the years of 1733 to 1758; from the onset of the Jacobite Rebellion in the United Kingdom, then moving to North America for the French and Indian War.
While Grote has spent an inordinate amount of time on research, the story line is compelling as well. It is the second of a series of (16) novels, with a cast of characters good and bad, which would make Hollywood jealous.
Grote’s writing style is authentic, humorous and, although sometimes abrupt, will leave you in suspense, wondering what’s next. Although an entertaining and relatively easy read, it is a hard novel to put down.
Kevin John Grote was born in 1951, in Latrobe, Pa. His family moved to Southern Maryland in 1968. He graduated from the United States Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn., in 1973. Kevin served as an engineering officer in the Coast Guard on several cutters until 1980. After the Coast Guard, Kevin went to work at the Naval Ordnance Station in Indian Head, Md. Kevin worked for the Navy, until his retirement from Federal Service in 2007. Kevin has a U.S. Patent, and has authored many technical papers on electronic design, software engineering and information systems.
Kevin has been an avid reader his entire life. His favorite authors are Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, Robert Louis Stevenson, Charles Dickens, Bernard Cornwell, Patrick O'Brian and James Fenimore Cooper.
Kevin grew up in an area steeped in the French and Indian War. This series of novels (Letters of Fire and Sword) is homage to that conflict and the struggles in the wilderness.
Both “Tyburn” and “Skye” are currently available on Amazon.com as an eBook for Kindle, and Barnes & Noble as an eBook for Nook, for $2.99, each volume. Both Nook and Kindle have free viewer Apps for PC, IPad, Android and other devices.
Library Card Sign-Up Month is a time when libraries across the country remind parents that a library card is the most important school supply of all. A library card can give children and adults free access to databases of news articles, encyclopedias and test preparation materials, as well as homework help and resources.Do you remember the time when you got your first library card?
In celebration of September as Library Card Sign-Up Month, we invite you to share your first library card experience. How old were you? How did it feel getting your card? How has it made a difference in your life?
We'd love to hear from you! Share your story here
This month, bring a friend - young or old - to the library and let them experience the joy of their first library card, too. Special library coloring books will be given to each child who registers for a library card**. **Both the parent/minor applicant must be present at the time of application. The parent/guardian must present valid identification and proof of residency.
Essayist Examines the ‘In-Between’ during Radio Interview with CSM President
The College of Southern Maryland Connections Literary Series will feature Barbara Hurd, an essay writer, as she reads excerpts from her latest book, “Walking the Wrack Line: On Tidal Shifts and What Remains,” beginning at 7:30 p.m., April 1, at CSM’s La Plata Campus, Building for Business and Industry, Room BI-113.
Hurd, who teaches creative writing at Frostburg State University in western Maryland and in the Stonecoast MFA program at the University of Southern Maine, is the author of five books beginning with “Objects in the Mirror” written in 1994 and her latest, “Walking the Wrack Line,” completed in 2008.
Her essays have appeared in numerous journals including “Best American Essays,” “The Yale Review,” “The Georgia Review,” “Orion” and “Audubon.” She is the recipient of numerous awards including a 2002 NEA Fellowship for Creative Nonfiction and winner of the Sierra Club’s National Nature Writing Award and Pushcart
Prizes in 2004 and 2007.
Tickets are $3 in advance and for CSM students with IDs, and $5 at the door for the general public. Proceeds from this reading will be donated to benefit John Lamiman. A former professor and coordinator of developmental English at CSM, Lamiman was injured during a fall in July 2010, resulting in his paralysis. The CSM Faculty Senate Executive Board has established a PayPal account for donations to assist John and Claire Lamiman with their many expenses that are not covered by insurance.
“John greatly supported the Connections programs over the years, and we'd like to make this small gesture of dedicating the evening to him and donating these proceeds to help him and his wife,” said CSM’s Neal Dwyer, a literature and languages professor as well as a coordinator of the college’s Connections programs and literary
In preparation for the Connections reading, Hurd was interviewed by CSM President Dr. Brad Gottfried as part of the weekly radio program, “Southern Maryland Perspectives.”
Question: What got you started as an author?
Hurd: Probably like most writers, I as a kid loved to read. It was the thing I was voracious about from the time I was probably 9 or 10. My mother used to take me to the local library—we lived outside of Philadelphia at that point—and I would come home with stacks and stacks of books. I have a twin sister who was not a reader at all and who used to hide my books so that I would play with her. The deal was always if I would play with her for 10 minutes she’d tell me where she’d hidden my book... most writers begin as great readers at some point.
Question: As an author of three books of prose and two books of poems, do you have a favorite?
Hurd: Oh gosh, probably the favorite is the most recently finished one. Or it’s the one I’m working on. “Stirring the Mud” is probably close to my heart because it was a kind of breakthrough for me. That’s the first prose book that came out in 2001.
I started off as a poet and was doing a lot of that and teaching, of course. What I remember happening was a decision at some point to try what we might call the lyric essay.
When I tried that—this was maybe 10 years ago, 11 years ago—it was enormously freeing for me. I felt like the form of the lyric essay suited my imagination better than did the form of most poems, and so I began quite crazily writing these lyric essays on swamps and bogs. It’s those essays that became the first collection called “Stirring the Mud.”
Question: What precisely is a lyric essay and how does it compare with poetry?
Hurd: That’s a large question, just as creative non-fiction, what is that? Also a large question. I think of the lyric essay as a prose piece that is borrowing heavily from poetic traditions. So there’s great attention to prose rhythms, to all kinds of matters of sound: whether it is alliterations, consonance, assonance kinds of things. It’s also an essay that is probably trying to investigate a reaction, an emotional reaction to it, to an event or a time or a place, less argumentative than say a traditional expository essay.
In form it’s not lineated, so it looks on the page like a prose paragraph…I’ve had a lot of people at readings tell me afterwards, they thought I was reading poems because I do pay close attention to prose rhythms, so just the sound of it, if they hadn’t seen it on the page and they’re simply listening to that language in the air, a lot of people think it is poetry. And I’m fine with that. That suits me quite nicely.
Question: You started off as a poet and later on in your professional career went into prose and lyric essay. Do you go back and forth, or are you primarily now doing the prose? And are there certain themes in your writing that link everything together, or is it just how you’re feeling in that particular time in your life?
Hurd: I’m primarily doing the prose. Every once in a while I start working on a poem. But I’m so much more stimulated by the form of the essay that I seem to end up investigating more interesting things in that form than I do in a poem.
I would say that I, probably like most writers, have my obsessions. There are some themes—vaguely, I’d guess I’d say—that seem to crop up over and over again. I’m very interested in the “between.” What’s happening between this and that? What’s happening in that kind of gray shadowy area that we’re probably not looking closely at because we’re looking more intently at either “a” or “b.” But I want to know what’s going on in between those.
So I would say that sense of investigating the “in between” is a major obsession. I would say that maybe this is related: investigating things that seem to spend most of their times in the margin. And I mean that perhaps physically and emotionally, too. The things like swamps and bogs that are not at the center of most people’s minds when you say, “name a gorgeous landscape.” Not too many people say, “Oh, a swamp.” So in terms of the aesthetics of a landscape, swamps and bogs I think are on the edge of that. Things, too, that are small, I’m
interested … and in the minutia—that’s probably another theme that crops up over and over.
Question: Now your most recent book, “Walking the Wrack Line,” what is a “wrack line?”
Hurd: That’s the stuff that’s left behind when the high tide recedes. So it’s the kind of seaweed and shells and bottles and whatever else that high tide might have brought up with it and then deposited on the shore as it receded.
Question: In “Walking the Wrack Line,” there are 19, I don’t know if you call them essays? But each one seems to center around some aspect of something you’ve found whether it’s a bottle and a feather, worms, jellyfish, pebbles. Did that make it easier for you to organize your thoughts?
Hurd: It’s actually the way I decided to write the book, and this was unusual for me in that I made a clear decision to—that I wanted to see what would happen if I could--write a single essay on a single object that had been washed up by the tides whether those were natural objects or man-made. So each chapter does begin with an object that has been washed ashore.
What I didn’t know was going to happen was that in my trying to spin off of those objects, I found myself over and over thinking about the differences between the ways my parents saw the world. They would have been, I suppose, my strong initial influences in terms of “how do we see the world?” They were so utterly different from one another, that that question seems to crop up over and over again in those essays.
It was not my intention to do anything with them at all, but finally I found that kind of interesting, so that here would be an object washed up on the shore, and I would think, now what would my Father’s response to this be and what would my Mother’s response? and to see so clearly how incompatible those responses might have been. And, what does that do to the child who’s standing there in the middle between the two of them?
Question: Were some of these easier to write than others? Did the emotions, the idea of what you wanted to explore, come easier on some of these essays than others?
Hurd: What I want to explore I’m never sure of until I’m in the essay itself, other than here’s this object that is probably by now sitting on my desk and not back on the Jersey shore. And so almost all of those essays in draft form probably began with a very physical description of the object itself. What I’m always watching when I’m
doing that is being alert to language that resonates on more than one level. So even if I’m physically describing the aperture of some snail shell, I’m hearing something else at the same time.
That’s what I’m writing myself toward, I’m writing to get into where the language starts resonating with concerns that are larger than the object itself, and then that gives me my clue about where this might go. But the direction of those essays, none of those gets planned out ahead of time. That’s not how I work. I have to wait and see what the language is doing, and where it’s pointing me.
Question: Some would call you a nature writer. I suspect you’re going to cringe at that but what impresses me—and I have a background in zoology—is the detail when you begin each of these essays, where you really do understand the science and you explain what happens so well. It’s beautifully written but also in very nice detail so the reader understands the dynamic of that organism. I’m thinking about, for instance, the Moon snail and it’s interaction with clams. But how do you feel about it, if someone were to call you a nature writer?
Hurd: Well, you’re right; it’s a term I cringe at a little bit. I think because the reputation of a nature writer is somebody who’s only writing about gorgeous sunsets and, you know, magnificent forests. I’m really to the point where—this will be the first I’ve said this in any public way—but I almost think we’ve got too much reverence in
the nature writing tradition right now, and that’s preventing us from investigating something else other than the beauty out there.
So I cringe only that it seems to carry certain connotations with it. People seem to pigeon-hole a nature writer, and I don’t wish to be pigeon-holed like that.
I think of myself as an essayist more than anything else. So if somebody has to label me, that’s the label I would rather hear, rather than nature writer.
Question: You’ve talked about your parents and the influence they had on this particular volume. Do they influence you in your other works? Do you have other major influences in your professional career?
Hurd: Well, certainly other writers, I would say. Both my parents are deceased now, but, my Mother was certainly very tuned to the aesthetics of all kinds of things and I think I’ve absorbed some of that. And my
Father—and here’s the dichotomy—my Father had no interest in such things, but was a real adventurous spirit and a practical problem-solver. So just in terms of my makeup and what I tend to pay attention to and how I respond to things, they’re both certainly highly influential, [but] in terms of the writing itself: no. I think they probably read my books, but they weren’t particularly literary people. So, the literary influences for me have been those writers who raised the bar for me, and when I first discovered them, excited me tremendously and made me want to be a writer.
Question: Who would be your top-two writers that had the greatest influence on you?
Hurd: The first one was Annie Dillard. In 1974 she published a book called “Pilgrim at Tinker Creek,” and in 1975 I rather haphazardly pulled that book off of a bookshelf in the local library. I’d never heard of her; I’d never heard of the book, though it had just won the Pulitzer.
I had a baby at the time that was two or three months old. I remember just thumbing through that book and realizing I could not take the chance of reading it at this point in my life because I had just had a baby and my life had changed radically enough with the birth of my daughter and I couldn’t allow it to be changed radically by reading this book, which I knew it would do. So I didn’t read it then. I waited eight or nine years, I guess, and then read it and was astounded by the sentence-making in that book. That became a book that was one of those held out as something to reach for.
The other writer I would say is Loren Eiseley, who was trained as an archeologist and anthropologist, taught at Penn for many, many years and was one of the first people to take his academic knowledge and turn it into gorgeous essays for the layperson. [He] got a lot of criticism for doing that, but his essays are just wonderfully melancholic and descriptive and, again, he’s a superb sentence-maker.
Those two, I would say, remain still after 30 years at the top of my list.
Question: You were a faculty member and you still teach in Maine as well as at Frostburg. What are some of things you tell aspiring writers?
Hurd: Probably the first piece of advice is read, read, read. I don’t know how many students when I would say that, say they don’t want to be influenced by somebody else. And I would say, “Please be influenced.” I mean, that notion that I want to develop my own unique voice uninfluenced by anybody else is a death knell for a writer.
I think as writers we’ve got to read as much as we can. We have to learn what’s been done. We have to see the way people have broken the rules, and finally at some point, perhaps, to break a few ourselves, but not until we know what we’re doing.
So reading, reading all kinds of things—and not just in your own genre or not even in whatever the canon might be that’s part of the curriculum—but I would say, read everything that interests you and even some stuff that doesn’t interest you. Figure out why.
The other thing I would say to aspiring writers is: figure out a way to bear that horrible question that we ask in writing workshops, which is, “so what?,” “who cares? “ Nobody likes to hear that question about work that you’ve produced, but it’s an invaluable question. And it’s a question that makes you think about “what do I need to do
with this material to transform it so that it’s interesting to somebody else?”
So many writers think that their own lives are inherently interesting. The bad news is they’re wrong about that. They might be interesting to friends and family, of course. If you’re really trying for an audience
out there who knows nothing about you, then it’s your obligation as
the writer to do something with that material so that it engages them.
For the complete transcript of this interview or to listen, visithttp://www.csmd.edu/News/MediaResources/barbarahurd.html
Completing the Connections series this spring will be readings by contributors to the spring literary magazine, beginning at 7:30 p.m., May 6, at the La Plata Campus, Business and Industry Building, Room BI-103. The event is free.
For information on Connections, study guides and author links visit www.csmd.edu/connections
. Books featured are available at any CSM College Store or online at www.csmd.edu/CollegeStore
“Southern Maryland Perspectives,” is a half-hour talk show that features local issues and guests. The same show airs Sundays at 7 a.m. on WKIK 102.9 FM, 7:30 a.m. on WYRX 97.7 FM and 8 a.m. on WSMD 98.3 FM.
Since CSM’s Connections began in 1990, the program has featured US Poet Laureate Kay Ryan, National Book Award winners Tim O'Brien and Robert Stone, Pulitzer Prize winning poets Yusef Komunyakaa and Henry Taylor, and Maryland Poet Laureates Lucille Clifton and Michael Glaser.
CSM’s campuses are accessible to patrons with disabilities. Audio description for the visually impaired and sign language interpretation for the hearing impaired are available with a minimum two week advanced notice. If you are interested in these services, please contact the academic support/ADA coordinator at 301-934-7614.