Hoggard Opens 2013-14 Speakers and Issues Series

Master storyteller and Wichitan James Hoggard will kick off the 13th season of Midwestern State University's Speakers and Issues Series at 7 p.m. Tuesday, October 1, at the Wichita Falls Museum of Art at MSU with readings from his new book, The Devil's Fingers & Other Personal Essays.

"The stories reveal all sorts of things," Hoggard said of his collection. "Points of interest, humor - they cover my experiences in other countries and geographies with some great adventures along the way." The adventures include events from Hoggard's childhood, riding in the Hotter 'N Hell Hundred bicycle ride, skeet shooting, and trips to Cuba, Paris, and Middle Eastern countries.

Hoggard said he chose the title essay for a number of reasons. The name itself is compelling, and the essay is about a trip to the Dalquest Desert Research Station near Big Bend National Park in far West Texas - land given to MSU by former professor Dr. Walter Dalquest. Hoggard and other MSU faculty and personnel, including MSU President Jesse Rogers, were on a preliminary expedition to the Dalquest land. The Devil's Fingers are a series of canyons in the rugged area. "There were no pathways. Just walking was a challenge," Hoggard said. During the trip, Hoggard had hurt his leg. He would find out later that it was broken. "That made for some wicked climbing," he said.

Although Hoggard is mainly known for his fiction and poetry, he has ventured into nonfiction before, with Elevator Man: The Story of Bobby Johnson, and Riding the Wind & Other Tales, a collection of essays published in 1997. Some of the essays in The Devil's Fingers previously appeared in magazines. Hoggard has grouped them together and revised them so that they tell a continuing story. Hoggard said that the Speakers and Issues Series seemed like the perfect medium to introduce his new book of nonfiction tales.

Hoggard, MSU's Perkins-Prothro Distinguished Professor English, has taught at MSU since 1966 and is the author of more than 20 books, including poetry, translations, and fiction such as The Mayor's Daughter and Trotter Ross. He is working on a new collection of poems that span his career. Hoggard is a Fellow of the Texas Institute of Letters and a two-time president of the Institute. He retired from full-time teaching this fall, but continues to teach half time.

October 1 is the official release date for The Devil's Fingers & Other Essays. It is published by Wings Press and copies will be available for purchase.

An expert on Native American archaeology, Dr. David Kilby, will speak at 7 p.m. November 14 at the Wichita Falls Museum of Art at MSU for the second Speakers and Issues session. Kilby is an assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology at Eastern New Mexico University. He will speak about "Ice Age Archaeology of the Southern Plains."

The Speakers and Issues Series began in 2001 with the idea of bringing informed and creative speakers to the academic and municipal communities. Since then, more than 20 speakers have come to MSU from all corners of the country. The inaugural speaker for the series was Russian poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko in 2002. Other past speakers include MSU alumnus and physician Dr. Mark Puder; forensic pathologist Dr. Marcela Fierro; arborist William Bryant Logan; biologist E.O. Wilson; Native American poet Jim Barnes; Texas poet Walt McDonald; MSU professors Everett Kindig, Charles Olson and Michael Collins; musicians Eurah White and Jimmie Dale Gilmore; and Wichita Falls physician Dr. Eid Mustafa.

The series is supported by Elizabeth Bourland Hawley, the Libra Foundation, MSU's Prothro-Yeager College of Humanities and Social Sciences, the Wichita Falls Times Record News, KCCU-FM NPR Radio, and KFDX-TV3.

Admission is free; donations are welcome. For more information, contact Dr. Claudia Montoya at (940) 397-4259 or visit www.msutexas.edu/sis.