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Would-be writers take note: Beware of taking only English courses. Before a Writers House crowd of about 20 students and Philadelphia residents, author James Morrow, a 1969 Penn graduate, advised aspiring writers to explore the sciences as well as the humanities in their college educations. In a talk Tuesday night, Morrow discussed the connections between a college education and a writing career. He suggested that students take courses in decidedly non-literary disciplines like Psychology, Biology and Physics. "There are so many ideas there," Morrow said, noting that a background in the sciences can later serve as a valuable foundation for stories and novels. English and writing courses should be carefully selected, according to Morrow. He recalled his own studies at Penn under the late author Joseph Heller, who wrote the classic Catch 22. "You get to sit at the feet of great writers," Morrow said. He also advocated writing workshops, noting how his own writing improved as his first drafts were critiqued by his peers. Morrow then read from two of his novels. The first reading was taken from his most recent publication, The Eternal Footman, a story of what happens when God dies. He concluded his readings by reciting an excerpt from his work The Last Witchfinder, which chronicles a fictional meeting between Benjamin Franklin and Sir Isaac Newton. Benjamin George, a freshman at Swarthmore College, attended the event primarily to catch a sneak peek at some of the author's unfinished works. "I came to see what the new book looks like," said George, who listed himself as a fan and is looking forward to the new novel. Other audience members, like Nursing freshman Kristen Lindberg, said they were drawn by the prospect of "hearing an author speak about the process of being published." And while Morrow may not have made the publishing process sound easy, College freshman Jane Lin said she believed Morrow "seemed to represent what most writers say." Morrow also said good "fiction should enrich us in some way" and, in particular, recommended John Gardner's The Art of Fiction as a tool for writing better fiction. Morrow, who called himself a "satirist first and a science-fiction writer second," graduated from Penn with a bachelor's degree in Creative Writing. His first book was published in 1980, and he has since published six other novels, a novella and a collection of short stories. Before he began writing full time, Morrow taught at the high school level. Today, he travels occasionally to colleges and universities across the country -- including nearby LaSalle University, where one of his novels is used in an English course. Citing his influences as Kurt Vonnegut, John Irving and Peter Barnes, Morrow advised the audience and writers of all levels to "not take yourself seriously, but take your work seriously."

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