Listening to Author Kate Murphy

By Miranda Estrada

Kate Murphy, a New York Times contributing journalist, writes on various topics but was inspired to write her novel based on conversations she was having with complete strangers. She spoke about how often strangers would dive into to telling her personal details in conversation all because they wanted someone who would listen to them.  Her new book is about why this happens and what to do about it.

Before the event, the Brazos Bookstore staff indicated that Kate Murphy requested that no photographs be taken.  So, we have no photographs of the actual book discussion.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, Brazos Bookstore, Kate Murphy, "You're Not Listening"

With the everyday usage of social media and cellphones often, we find ourselves distracted and always wanting to control the narrative. “You’re Not Listening” takes a unique approach to how to combat this issue incorporating a mix of psychology and science (not that those are mutually exclusive…).

During one of her first interviews (by phone) for the novel, Ms. Murphy recalled how construction on her street forced her to conduct the interview in her closet so that she could hear. During her interview, which was with Oliver Sacks, they began to exchange weather metaphors. She refers to this ability to connect with someone is called “snatches of magic”, but in science, these moments can actually be measured by watching the brain. During these moments, the brain releases chemicals that make people feel good and creates a bond. Ms. Murphy explained that without listening to one another, these moments are few and fleeting, which has caused loneliness all over the world (England recently appointed a Minister of Loneliness…).

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, Brazos Bookstore, Kate Murphy, "You're Not Listening"

Although identifying a problem is the first step to a solution, the audience was eager to learn how we can become better listeners. In conversation, there are two kinds of people: shifters and supporters. Shifters are people who immediately shift the conversation back to themselves, and supporters are people who ask furthering questions about what the other person said. “Everyone is interesting enough if you ask the right questions”, Kate Murphy said, encouraging the audience to become supporters in every conversation. To be better listeners she also challenged us to ask ourselves two questions after every conversation, “what did I learn?” and “how did the other person feel about what we were talking about?”

Ms. Murphy acknowledged that not listening is pervasive, from personal conversations to congressional hearings (the audience laughed at the irony of that one). She spoke honestly that learning to listen is a skill that takes times to develop, like skiing or riding a bike, but one that is necessary to start regardless of age.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, Brazos Bookstore, Kate Murphy, "You're Not Listening"

After the talk, we had the opportunity to speak with Ms. Murphy and thank you for her advice as well as thank the Brazos Bookstore Staff for another great event.

Black Walnut Café

After a full evening of listening, we headed to Black Walnut Café for dinner. We started with a table favorite – chips and queso. Black Walnut Café offers something for everyone and our entrees were a true token of that. Our entrees include the Fiesta Jalapeno Chicken Pasta, Chicken Pesto Bowl, Turkey Croissant Club, and several others.

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With full stomachs we headed back to Huntsville, eager to apply what we learned.

Meg Gardiner Talks Unsub Series

By Maggie Denena

Monday afternoon, Students headed to Murder By The Book in Houston for a discussion and book signing by author Meg Gardiner. True to MBTB style, the book signing was for Gardiner’s newest release, The Dark Corners of the Night, the third book in a murder mystery/detective crime series.  A former attorney and Stanford graduate, Gardiner is also a three-time Jeopardy winner.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, Murder by the Book, Meg Gardiner, Unsub

Gardiner is the author of 15 books, the last three of which have featured Caitlin Hendrix, an FBI Behavior Analyst.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, Murder by the Book, Meg Gardiner, Unsub

Each of these books is based on a real-life serial killer, and her latest features a “Night-Stalker” like killer.

Joining Ms. Gardiner “on stage” was fellow author S. C. Perkins, who asked insightful questions.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, Murder by the Book, Meg Gardiner, Unsub

Sample questions:

  • Are you a plotter or “seat of your pantser”?  This question refers to authors’ different styles of writing.  Some plot out each of their books, almost to the point of where writing is anti-climactic.  Others fly by the seat of their pants, letting each day’s writing take them in a new direction.  Gardiner leans toward plotting.
  •  How much of your time is spend on research?  Gardiner spends extensive time on research, to the point that she compiles mounds of paperwork as background knowledge, while knowing only about 10 percent of it will actually go into the final book.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, Murder by the Book, Meg Gardiner, Unsub

The audience was invited to ask questions as well.  When asked, for example, if she thought of her main character, Caitlin, on an everyday basis, Gardiner said, “yes,” adding that “she is always thinking of what Caitlin would be doing and how she would spend her free time.”

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, Murder by the Book, Meg Gardiner, Unsub

As it turns out, we can all spend a little more time with Caitlin, now that Amazon has purchased the rights to the character and series.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, Murder by the Book, Meg Gardiner, Unsub

Ms. Gardiner was a sharp presenter, offering crisp and entertaining responses to questions, and she was super accommodating following the discussion.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, Murder by the Book, Meg Gardiner, Unsub

As readers of our blog know, we typically tie our event theme into the restaurant we find for dinner , but Gardiner’s discussion did not have a strong regional tie (serial murder is a universal phenomenon).  Therefore, we went for an easy option: since “Dark Corners of the Mind” was set in California, we followed up the signing with dinner at California Pizza Kitchen.  The pizza kitchen served some good sized pizza portions that most of us had to take home in to-go containers (nothing is better than left over pizza for breakfast). Our table had an arrangement of pizza, pasta, and soup!​