Author Matt Bell inspires, teaches CMU students at Park Library reading


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A cabin in the woods, ghost children and a giant, scary squid sound like the trappings of a science fiction thriller, are just some of the elements included in author Matt Bell’s novel, which he read from to a captive audience Thursday night.

Seated in an array of red and tan chairs in the Baber Room of the Charles V. Park Library Auditorium, students and faculty were regaled with the contents of Bell’s mystic and vivid novel, “In the House upon the Dirt between the Lake and the Woods,” which was published in 2013.

Bell presented as the final reading in the Visiting Writer’s Series sponsored by the College of Health, Social and Behavioral Sciences.

A Hemlock native, Bell is no stranger to Central Michigan University, having visited previously to read at the Wellspring Literary Series.

Matthew Roberson, professor of English at CMU, introduced Bell and described him as someone the university was lucky to be able to host.


“I started hearing here and there and eventually everywhere about a writer I just had to check out,” Roberson said. “When I started reading his work I realized that all the buzz was completely justified.”

Bell’s novel is an epic, mystic tale of a couple leaving their former life behind for a new life in the woods, where themes of marriage and child rearing come into play amidst some rather strange and terrifying events.

Throughout his mythic writing, Bell maintains a level of tempo, acoustics and fluidity that harkens his writing to that of poetry rather than prose.

“I read aloud a lot as I’m writing,” Bell said. “I care a lot about the acoustics of sentences and the musicality, the belief being that even if you never hear it out loud, that somehow that sound hits the body in a certain way the way that music does.”

An avid reader from an early age, Bell began to come into his own in terms of writing seriously during his early '20s. Now, he continues to write, present his work and even teaches writing classes to those who wish to follow in his footsteps.

Following the reading, students were encouraged to ask Bell questions about his work, his process and elements of his writing. They were given glimpses into Bell’s drafting and revision process, his development of a novel and his opinions on the sharing of one’s work.

Bell said he does not like the idea that writers are mysterious elite people who cannot be understood. By answering questions and sharing his insights, he hopes to encourage students to be confident in their own writing.

“We think all books that we read are made by these magical, super-human people,” Bell said. “I think meeting writers in person shows that anyone can make a book, anybody can write a story. Every book you love was made by a normal person, and you can do whatever they can do.”

Bell continues to travel for readings and his next novel is set to be published next year.


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