(March 4, 2014)

Acclaimed alumnus visits campus, inspires passion

SHREVEPORT, LA — Centenary alumnus and acclaimed author Steve Weddle '92 recently visited Centenary to meet with classes and present a convocation and book reading of his debut novel, Country Hardball. The book was published by Tyrus Books and has received largely positive reviews from acclaimed sources such as The New York Times and Publisher's Weekly.

Weddle speaks with English students during his visit to Centenary

"I read from two Country Hardball stories, working towards one of the 'sermons' in the book, the one that uses Jesus walking on the water as its text," said Weddle. "I read from that section because it speaks about community and working together as a group, so I felt it only fitting being back at Centenary College that I focus on community."

Weddle's Country Hardball is a crime noir novel-in-stories based on a theme of trying to better oneself in the midst of bad circumstances. He based the novel's setting on his hometown, near the Louisiana/Arkansas border. The characters and the challenges they face in the book are inspired by the people and stories from Weddle's childhood.

"I had a great time chatting with students about Country Hardball," said Weddle. "Some classes were interested in essay-type topics — the role of the impoverished in contemporary southern fiction — while others had specific questions about a number of plot points. Being able to talk face-to-face allowed students to ask questions about why I, as author, would have a character perform a certain action, as well as more general 'where do you get your ideas' questions."

Dr. David Havird, Professor of English and past instructor of Weddle, was instrumental in bringing Weddle to campus.

"I so greatly appreciate that Dr. Havird invited me back, and I thoroughly enjoyed visiting with him and his wife, Ashley, as well as with Dr. Hendricks, Dr. Newtown, Dr. Shelburne, and many others," said Weddle. "It was like old times, except I didn't have a paper due the next day."

One of Weddle's favorite moments during his Centenary stay was reconnecting with another celebrated author, Dr. Earle Labor. Labor, Centenary's Emeritus Professor of American Literature and Director of the Jack London Research Center, is the "premier world-wide Jack London authority" and author of ten books and nearly one hundred articles on Jack London.

"Aside from chatting with all the students and spending time catching up with the English department faculty, I was able to visit twice with Dr. Labor, who had been my advisor when I was a student," said Weddle. "I so enjoyed knowing Dr. Labor when I was a student, and to get the opportunity to chat with him again some two dozen years later was amazing."

Weddle hopes his time on campus inspired students to pursue dreams even if they seem far-fetched.

"I met many writers in classes, though very few would admit to writing," said Weddle. "I hope that if any of them want to continue writing, they can take meeting me as an example that anyone with enough passion and stubbornness can do it."