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Scripted salvation

Often, the path to recovery can be paved with a pen and paper.

That’s the road that brought author Connie May Fowler to critical acclaim, with novels such as Remembering Blue and When Women Had Wings, which was adapted into an Emmy-winning film by Oprah Winfrey.

She spoke Thursday afternoon in the TECO room in the College of Education building of the challenges she has faced and how it led to her love of writing.

A native of Florida, Fowler had a very troubled childhood and recalled going to the library often as a temporary escape.

“Libraries really saved my life. That’s where I spent every moment in time I possibly could, lost in the stacks and reading and kind of figuring out how to save myself from some bad circumstances,” said Fowler, who is now a professor of creative writing at Rollins College in Winter Park.

Fowler said her parents fought every night, and as a girl, she and her sister would hide in their room and her sister would read to her. She said she can pinpoint different points in her life that helped save her and believes that her sister reading to her was one.

“It gave me hope,” she said. “It taught me that the road to salvation for me would be through writing and reading.”

Fowler shared excerpts from her latest fiction book, The Problem with Murmur Lee, which chronicles the life and death of Murmur Lee Harp as told by accounts from her diverse group of friends, ranging from a former Marine turned transsexual to a bitter yoga teacher.

A review by Random House, Inc. stated, “with poignancy and humor Fowler weaves the voices of Murmur and her friends into a compelling narrative.” It also described the novel as “Fowler’s most rewarding and engrossing work yet.”

Three years ago, her husband, from whom she is now divorced, sued her for half of all her future income. At that time, she was working on the novel, but she was then prohibited by her attorney to write for two years.

Fowler said during that time everything changed, including her concept of the book, so she ended up re-writing the novel from scratch.

She described the feeling of knowing when a piece is complete.

“You know when you’ve nailed it,” she said. “There’s no other better feeling in the world.”

Fowler said she thinks of writing as a sacred act.

“I think that there’s nothing better than putting pen to paper. It slows you down, and you need that contemplation,” she said.

The lecture was organized by the USF Humanities Institute and co-sponsored by the Friends of the Library of Tampa-Hillsborough County and the Tampa Tribune.

One of Fowler’s works was this year’s selection for the 4th annual One Community, One Book: Tampa Hillsborough Reads, a campaign that encourages the entire Hillsborough community to read the same book. According to the Florida Department of Education’s website,, the campaign aims to promote reading, spark discussion and build community.

Senior Brittany Osbourne, who is majoring in creative writing and anthropology, said she learned a lot from the lecture.

“Something that I took from it is to really love and to really enjoy the act of writing and to take the craft and learning the craft very seriously,” she said.