Morrison first to perform at New and Emerging Artists Series

James Morrison’s blunt usage of the words “piss” and “homosexuals” immediately caught the attention of more than 50 students and faculty members.

The English Department and the College of Arts and Humanities hosted their first reading of the Doudna New and Emerging Artists Series in the Black Box Theatre of the Doudna Fine Arts Center Thursday evening.

Morrison, the author of more than five fiction and nonfiction works, performed a live reading of his novel “The Lost Girl,” as well as a piece from his collection of short stories, “Said and Done.”

Chris Hanlon, an English professor and friend of Morrison, described him as an encyclopedia of knowledge and one of the best writers he has ever read.

Morrison, who is also a professor at Claremont McKenna College in Claremont Calif., said he began writing at age 10, and wrote his first novel at age 13, “Cross Town Bus,” about a man who gets abducted by aliens while riding the bus.

Morrison majored in English at Wayne State University in Detroit and received his Ph.D. in English at State University of New York at Buffalo.

Most of his writing took place outside of class.

“I felt I knew everything anyway,” Morrison said.

Morrison had a problem with communicating with his audience through his writing.

“If they really want to see my message, they will come to me,” he said.

It was not until 15 years ago that his writing and views changed.

“When I am writing, I am speaking to others,” he said.

Morrison’s first reading was from his novel written in 2007, “The Lost Girl.”

“The Lost Girl” is about a 13- year-old girl who is trying to find herself in the world.

“I’m writing about the sense of almost knowing,” Morrison said.

Morrison’s second reading was “The Bottom of My Heart,” from a collection of short stories “Said and Done,” written in 2009.

“The Bottom of My Heart” was of a college student’s experience of breakups, relationships, death and sex.

Morrision said his work focuses on the process of learning, and the pain and rapture of childhood.

Matt Schumake, a senior English major, hopes of becoming a writer after graduation and said listening to Morrison read was great.

“He has a calm and pleasant way of conveying the story,” Schumake said.

Morrison advises any student who would like to get their work published to look into getting an agent and working hard.

“With luck and perseverance, it will happen,” Morrison said.

The Doudna New and Emerging Artists Series will present poet Berry Silesky Feb. 2.

Zinika Livingston can be reached at 581-7942 or at [email protected].