April 11, 2016 11:00AM
Pittsburg State University’s Distinguished Visiting Writers Series will feature two of the university’s own, this week, when retiring English Department faculty members Kathleen DeGrave and Skip Morris read from their works. The two authors will appear at 8 p.m. on Thursday, April 14, in the Governors Room of the Overman Student Center. The event is free and open to the public.
“Kathleen De Grave’s fiction is as precise and mysterious as the joining of flat-planed walls in a dark room,” said Lori Baker Martin, assistant PSU professor. “Readers will recognize her characters because they’re ourselves and our neighbors, the people we work with, our families and friends.
De Grave said she writes because she wants to understand things.
“People again and again make decisions that seem mysterious to me. I write to try to see the world the way they do, to become them for a little while — as Eudora Welty says, to ‘get into their skin.’ It doesn’t actually work, by the way. The mystery usually just becomes wider. But if anything is worth the effort, this is.”
De Grave has taught in the English Department at PSU for more than 25 years. She’s published two novels, “The Hour of Lead,” which is speculative literary fiction, and “Company Women,” a working-class novel. She’s also the author of a scholarly book, “Swindler, Spy, Rebel: The Confidence Woman in 19th century America.”
De Grave has also published work in several literary magazines. The manuscript of her novel, “In Real Life Women Don’t Play Jazz,” was a semi-finalist in the William Faulkner/William Wisdom Writing Contest. Her novel, “The Unkindness of Ravens,” is upcoming this spring. This novel was originally written by her husband, Earl Lee, but De Grave revised it for publication after his death.
She’s also the author of the “Introduction” to Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle: Uncensored Original Edition.”
De Grave will read from either her short story, “Tin Man,” or an excerpt from her novel-in-progress, “The Hour of Lead.”
Skip Morris will read from his creative non-fiction just after De Grave.
De Grave described Morris’s writing as “refreshingly honest. He writes about difficult personal subjects and his prose recreates on the page the seductiveness of the illusions he had as a young man and the hard experience that pulled him back to the real.”
Morris said he doesn’t write for the money.
“Creative writing — really, all writing — is such hard work, but it’s such a good feeling when I actually put something together that works,” Morris said. “And if I’m honest with myself, I love when the people I respect read my work and compliment me, tell me I’m a good writer.”
Morris joined the Navy during the Vietnam War. After his discharge, he worked in agriculture, as a bartender, as a book clerk, as a broadcast technician, as a student, and eventually, as an English professor at PSU. Morris has been at PSU for nearly 20 years. He enjoys motorcycles, poker, and “the solitude of the high desert wherever he finds it,” but especially in Colorado where he and his wife, Sandy, plan to retire.
Morris will read from his book of essays, “Learning How to Become a Man in America: Personal Essays.” The essays in this book chronicle Morris’s struggles with childhood abuse, alcoholism, and life in general. Morris said the essays “reveal the best, the worst, and the in-between moments of my life.”