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Seph (Joseph) Murtagh is currently a lecturer in the Writing Department at Ithaca College. Seph has won many essay and non-fiction writing awards, including CAP's "Artist in Community Grant" in 2012. He has served as a reporter for the Ithaca Times where he developed an interest in local politics. He now serves on our Ithaca Common Council and is a firm believer that scholars and teachers should be actively engaged members of the community.
We asked Seph three questions!
What kind of atmosphere do you need to be creative?
The only place where I write is at my desk in my apartment, so I guess this is all I really need to be creative. The desk is small, but the apartment is spacious, well-lit, and quiet, especially in the early mornings, which is when I do most of my writing, a coffee mug near at hand. My other job is as a City Councilman, so above my desk I have the famous photo of Lyndon Baines Johnson talking to Martin Luther King, Jr. in the Oval Office, to give me inspiration while I'm sitting here reading through draft legislation or answering emails from constituents. But the early mornings (and quite early, like 6am) are reserved solely for writing. I'll make coffee, sit down at my desk, switch on Pandora (I cycle between the Bach, Gillian Welch, and Wu-Tan Clan stations), avoid Facebook, and try not to look up until two or three hours have passed.
One annoying thing about my writing situation is that my computer overheats every few hours and I have to hold it up to a fan to prevent it from shutting down. You would think I would buy a new computer, but I've had this computer for several years now, and while normally I find something kind of disturbing about attributing personality traits to machines (naming your car, your cell phone, etc), in this case the computer really does have sentimental value, because we've been through a lot together. A few years ago when I was living in Rochester it was actually stolen out of my car, only to be miraculously returned to me several months later by a hospital janitor who found it in an alley where it had been tucked away for safekeeping along with other stolen merchandise. That, and because I wrote my dissertation on it and an essay that won me $5,000 bucks, are the main reasons I'm reluctant to give it up.
Tell us about your new and upcoming projects.
I'm working on a collection of essays chronicling the lives of men who have spent time in prison. I'm also working on a novel. It's about a hitchhiking trip I took when I was sixteen, where I hitchhiked from Ithaca to coastal Maine to visit a young woman. It didn't turn out well, but you'll have to read the novel to find out why.
Name some things you can't live without!
My girlfriend, coffee, books.