Discover Your Island

University Authors’ Day: Inspiring Young Students to Embrace Their Inner Writer

February 10, 2017


CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas—On Friday, Feb. 3, poet, musician, and author Dr. Nathan Brown joined 115 students from six Coastal Bend high schools at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi for a workshop on creative, technical and scholarly writing. The evening prior, he had given a keynote reading from his latest work, “Don’t Try,” to a crowd of faculty, staff and students at the Island University.     

This was the 20th Authors’ Day; a tradition began in the 1990’s by the late Dr. Robb Jackson, Professor of English, and Dr. Elisabeth Mermann-Jozwiak, former Professor of English and Associate Dean of the College of Liberal Arts. Over the years, the annual event has hosted other luminaries the likes of Jim Daniels, Linda Hogan and Christina Garcia.

“Inspiration comes from being out in the world,” said Brown, as he encouraged attendees to “write what is real and write every day.”

Explaining his passion for all art forms, he encouraged young students to see the connection between song and poetry with other creative media, using the analogy that “in tennis, the motion comes from the shoulder, and racquetball from the elbow. While the techniques are different, the source of inspiration is the same.”

Brown is the 2012-2014 Oklahoma Poet Laureate, now splitting his time between Oklahoma City and Wimberly, Texas. He holds a Ph.D. in interdisciplinary studies from the University of Oklahoma, combines musical performances into his reading sessions and has published 13 works. 

When asked for advice on writer’s block, Brown stated, “The cure is to write anyway. If I don’t write, I’m miserable. If I get it out of my system and on paper, eventually a great idea rises to the surface.”

At Authors’ Day, the full resources of the Island University’s English Department were brought to bear as faculty, graduate students and undergraduate English majors created a university-style classroom setting for the high school students. Participants not only interacted directly with the guest artist via Q&A time and hands-on instruction, but also received a copy of Brown’s book and had the opportunity to glean both practical and philosophical input from him as well as university faculty and students.

“We hope to expose high school students to a broad base of different types of writing that they may find interesting,” said Tom Murphy, director of the Authors’ Day series and Professional Assistant Professor of English at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. “And while they may not be creative writers, they may discover a type or style of writing that is valuable to them in some aspect.”

The project began initially as a way to reach lower socioeconomic students, but as more students attend each year, the driving force has blossomed into helping all high school students realize the plethora of resources open to them at A&M-Corpus Christi, in addition to recognizing that there is an inherent evolution to one’s writing, over time, as needed for different scholarly and professional situations. 

“We want to open students’ minds to all the possibilities,” Murphy added. “Some students are told they are not good writers, which turns them off, so events like this attempt to help them unlearn those types of experiences. More importantly, we want them to realize that attending a university is not beyond their reach.”