Pittsburg State University assistant English professor Lowell Mick White has set his latest novel, "Professed," at an institution of higher learning.
It's a setting he's known all his life.
"My parents were college people and I grew up in a town much like Pittsburg," he said.
However, White came to Pittsburg in the fall of 2012 after living 25 years in Austin, Texas, where, by turns, he was a lecturer at Texas A&M University and a National Endowment for the Arts artist-in-residence at a federal prison in Bryan, Texas.
"It was a minimum security prison for women," he said. "One of my jobs was to get everybody to find their voice. I tried to help them put their lives into some sort of perspective, what had gone wrong and what had gone right. It was very rewarding."
He's earned a living in a variety of other ways as well, including selling shade trees, working as an Internal Revenue Service bureaucrat.
"I wrote a book in a notebook while I was driving a cab," White said. "The breaks in the narrative, which made it into the book, were when somebody got into my cab."
Having a wide range of jobs can be a good thing for a writer.
"The more people you get exposed to, the more you're going to learn," he said.
For him, writing is all about the story.
"It seems like telling stories is a pretty natural thing to do," White said. "It's kind of the basis of my teaching. Everybody has a voice. I like to write about how we live in America, and how that came to be."
White's first two books are "Long Time Ago Good," a collection of stories published in 2008 by Slough Press, and "That Demon Life," published by Gival Press in 2009.
"Long Time Ago Good" was a finalist for the annual first fiction award presented by the Texas institute of Letters, and "That Demon Life" won the Gival Press Novel Award. White has also been awarded the Dobie-Paisano Fellowship by the University of Texas at Austin and the Texas Institute of Letters.
His work has also been published by a variety of journals, including "Aethlon," Amarillo Bay," Antietam Review," "Broken Bridge Review," "Callaloo," "Cerebration," "Concho River Review, "Dominion Review," "Fiction Warehouse," "Short Story," "Iron Horse Literary Review" and "Prism Quarterly."
Then there's "Professed," which he said is filled with the struggles, rivalries and oddities and weirdness of contemporary American higher education.
"American higher education is under threat from technology, from politics and other things," White said. "But I believe in higher education. A teacher, a book, a student — good things can happen."
He believes good things are happening in Pittsburg, where he teaches creative writing and literature.
"This school takes writing seriously," White said. "I like Pittsburg, I like the atmosphere here. I interviewed at several other places and you could just feel the tension there, but not here. Everybody is every friendly here."