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Retired professor publishes Louisiana inspired collection

Larshell Green

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Retired English professor draws inspiration from Louisiana culture for his
short story collection
Courtesy of Dr. Norman German

Recently retired English professor Dr. Norman German has published a collection of short stories, titled Dead Dog Lying and Other Stories. Most of the stories are set in Louisiana, and include its culture as well as German’s outdoor experiences and other personal events.

“The story ‘Dead Dog Lying,’ set in Hammond and Ponchatoula, is representative of my writing style and themes,” said German. “Plus, it gave birth to a number of characters who reappear in other stories in the collection, so it became the title story to Dead Dog Lying and Other Stories.

German grew up in a middle class neighborhood in south Lake Charles. He later attended McNeese State University where he graduated in 1973 after earning a History degree. At the University of Texas, German earned an M.A. in English and Philosophy. He then returned to Louisiana where he earned a Ph.D. in English at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. 

After being “budget-cut” from Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, Louisiana, German applied for a one year position in the English department at Southeastern. 

“The department head, Dr. Sue Parrill, invited me for an interview,” said German. “In August of 1988, I drove through the last arm of a hurricane to an abandoned campus, and Dr. Parrill was the only person I saw in D Vickers.”

German continued to write while teaching daily and was offered a tenure-track position from Dr. Parrill at the end of the year during his annual evaluation.

“With some luck, a modicum of talent and a lot of hard work, that year I published several short stories, a gaggle of poems and two scholarly articles,” said German.

German officially retired from Southeastern on January 5, 2016.  Before his retirement, German wanted to create many of his stories into a commemorative collection. Because of changes in the publishing industry, German sought out the help of his colleague Dr. Jack Bedell, editor of Louisiana Literature Press, for ideas.

“Right away, he [Bedell] said that UL Press in Lafayette was looking for additions to its Louisiana Writers Series,” said German. “I was fortunate to get a preliminary reader and a later editor who gave me some great advice regarding how to arrange the stories to create an artistic unity.”

German’s collection spans over thirty years of him writing. Instead of focusing on themes in his writing, German allows morals to naturally appear in the characters and their actions. Although identity and self-definition can be seen throughout the collection, German admits that he is also intrigued by self-deception and subliminal motives.

“The stories are aligned so that they start in New Orleans and move west along I-10, then leap into Texas with the last story,” said German. “The stories range from the nostalgia of childhood to the pragmatism and sometimes cynicism of adulthood. I would like to think the stories are a microcosm of Louisiana, seething with snakes, hurricanes, fish, fights, love and the intrigue that occurs when the ne’er-do-well meets the too-good. Taken all together, I hope the stories shine a hard light on society’s misfits: the misshapen in mind and body, including children mystified by the adult world, and grown ups trying—but never quite managing—to get it right.”

German’s Louisiana roots influenced the addition of outdoor experiences, especially fishing, camping and hunting in every story of the collection.

 “In ‘Sportfishing with Cameron,’ a man gets his just reward for fishing in the saltwater tank at the Aquarium of the Americas in New Orleans,” said German. “In ‘Controlled Burn,’ a female game warden who pursues a legendary poacher is named after a road sign—Cecilia Henderson. The entire collection’s stories are strung out along I-10 from Lake Charles to New Orleans, with many characters named after towns: Scott Cankton, Uncle Elton Jennings and Aunt Iota Estherwood.”

Although German draws inspiration for his books from Louisiana culture, his experiences in his childhood and nature, some of his experience in real estate has also inspired some of his work.

“For the next 20 years, I renovated one distressed house per summer, then either used them as rentals or sold them immediately,” said German.  “In addition to providing me with a lot of fodder for writing material, that avocation allowed me to retire when the timing was right. From the story collection Dead Dog Lying, ‘Merger Talks’ and ‘The Threshold of Plenty’ couldn’t have been written without my experience in real estate.”

German is currently working on earning a Master’s degree in Wildlife Biology at McNeese State University. His books can be found on Amazon.com.

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