Debra Brenegan, Phong Nguyen present at MU’s Creative Writing Program

Creative writing professor Trudy Lewis has known Brenegan and Nyguyen for about four years through a writing group.

Debra Brenegan reads an excerpt from her book "Shame the Devil." The event was hosted by the Creative Writing Program at the University of Missouri

The Creative Writing Program at MU is sponsoring a year-long reading series that is free and open to the public. This series is a continuation of a tradition promoting reading and culture in Columbia.

“The reading series has been going on in some form or another for many, many years,” said Christina George, the administrative assistant at the Creative Writing Program.

Authors Debra Brenegan and Phong Nguyen presented recent works at 2 p.m. Sunday at Perlow-Stevens Gallery in Columbia.

Brenegan’s historical novel featured at the event is titled "Shame the Devil." Brenegan teaches at Westminster College. She attended college at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

She said she found out about Fanny Fern, 19th-century American author and main character of her novel, during her years in college. Brenegan described Fern as her “obsession,” making Fern a very enjoyable topic for exploration in her novel.

Nyguyen’s collection "Memory Sickness" won the Elixir Press Fiction Award. Nyguyen is the fiction editor of "Pleiades" at the University of Central Missouri. C. Scott Moncrieff's version of Marcel Proust’s "Remembrance of Things Past" and Peter Pond, a professor from Providence College, both inspired and influenced Nyguyen in his writing.

Trudy Lewis, a faculty member and professor in the Creative Writing Program, set up the event with the aid of George. Lewis decided to invite Brenegan and Nyguyen as an opportunity to showcase local authors. Lewis has known Brenegan and Nyguyen for about four years through a writing group and said they both were wonderful authors and she was excited to share their work.

Nyguyen said he was happy to be invited because it was another opportunity for publicity for his new book.

“It's a real treat to hear authors read from their own works and talk about them," George said. "It's a nice way to connect with authors."

Brenegan then read two passages from her novel.

“Brenegan has unshakeable faith in the act of writing itself,” Lewis said, comparing Brenegan to Fannie Fern, the main character of "Shame the Devil."

Nyguyen then read his Noir style short story, but it was not part of his featured collection, "Memory Sickness."

“Nyguyen as one of the smartest people I’ve had the pleasure to meet,” Lewis said.

After the readings, there was a Q-and-A period for the authors.

“This ('Shame the Devil') is my first attempt at historical fiction,” Brenegan said.

Brenegan also said she was considering writing another work in the historical fiction genre.

Speer Morgan, director of creative writing at MU, said the event was wonderful.

“Brenegan and Nyguyen are magnificent young writers and a pleasure to listen to,” Morgan said.

George said she thinks people should take advantage of this cultural event.

“While the students and faculty are the primary audience for these readings, they are free and open to the public and we encourage everyone to attend," George said.

She said Columbia has a rich cultural life and she thinks the readings add to that life.

“It was lovely to have some Missouri writers here,” MU graduate student Joanna Luloff said. “It was nice to take a pause on a Sunday afternoon and listen to some writing that breathed historic vision.”

Speakers at future events in this series include Kim Addonizio on April 3 and 4 and Michele Morano on April 12 and 13.

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