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Magazine On-line [fall 2007]
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Brown is Visiting Writer in Residence

devin brownLearning how to evaluate the suggestions of others and make intelligent use of valid criticism is a lesson that Asbury College English professor Devin Brown, who has joined the Transylvania faculty this year as a visiting writer in residence, hopes the students in his Art of Persuasive Writing class will take to heart.

“Beginning writers are somewhat averse to taking suggestions, but advanced writers are thrilled when someone gives them an idea they hadn’t thought about,” said Brown, who feels this ability to use constructive criticism is key to a writer’s development. “The role of a great editor is to help you say better what you want to say, in the way you want to say it.”

As a published poet, novelist, and literary critic, Brown has seen his own writing improve as a result of astute editing. He feels this real world experience is one of the benefits he can offer Transylvania students in his persuasive writing class and in the two sections of Foundations of the Liberal Arts he is teaching.

To reinforce his point, Brown brought to his writing class galley proofs of a book he’s working on that had about 50 changes marked on them, suggestions from an editor at his publishing house. “I wanted them to see that even though I’m an experienced writer, I don’t just send in my manuscript and there’s nothing to change,” he said.

Brown’s book of literary criticism titled Inside Narnia: A Guide to Exploring The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (Baker) was published in the fall of 2005 just prior to the release of the enormously popular movie, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, which was based on the children’s fantasy novel by C. S. Lewis. Brown suddenly found himself at the center of a whirlwind of media attention as sales of his book, which quickly became known as an excellent guide to understanding the novel and the movie, passed the 40,000 mark.

Brown is also the author of Not Exactly Normal (Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 2005), a novel about a sixthgrader at a New England Episcopal school who learns to accept and appreciate friends who are like him and those who are different.

Brown earned his B.A. in philosophy and religion from Culver-Stockton College, an M.A. in English from Eastern Illinois University, an M.A. in creative writing from the University of Florida, and a Ph.D. in English grammar and linguistics from the University of South Carolina.

It’s especially impressive to Brown that Transylvania has assigned him to the first-year FLA classes as well as the upper level writing course, and that first-year students also take University 1111, a course designed to teach them how to succeed at a liberal arts college. He also took part in the First Engagements program that had all first-year students read and discuss Scott Turow’s book on capital punishment titled Ultimate Punishment.

“Involving me in the FLA classes is Transylvania’s way of saying a writer in residence is not just for upper level students,” Brown said. “When you combine that with the University 1111 course and First Engagements, it says to these new students that as you enter Transy, you’re entering the world of ideas.”

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