Centenary College English professor publishes novel, plans public reading

SHREVEPORT, LA — Dr. Matthew Blasi’s debut novel, Sweet Muffin Ranch, is set for release on September 26. Blasi, assistant professor of English at Centenary, will give a reading from the novel during a book launch event at Centenary’s Magale Library on Friday, September 29, from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. The reading is free and open to the public, with a reception to follow.

Sweet Muffin Ranch introduces readers to the colorful Temmens family, owners of the Sweet Muffin Ranch dog rescue and rehabilitation center in Columbia, South Carolina. When the youngest Temmens son, Gene, returns from a trip around the country, trouble follows in the form of loan sharks, suspicious disappearances, and violent conflict. The novel will be published by Willow River Press and is available for pre-order on Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com.

Blasi joined the Centenary English department faculty in 2022 after earning a PhD in English from Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. He also holds an MFA in creative writing from Rutgers University Camden. He has published fiction and creative nonfiction writing in publications including Gargoyle Magazine, The Arroyo Literary Review, Drunken Boat, and the Superstition Review.

Sweet Muffin Ranch was inspired by Blasi’s time spent working as a dog trainer and by his life-long love of animals, a love modeled and cultivated by his mother, whose passion for rescuing stray and abandoned animals is reflected in Mattie, the matriarch of the Temmens family. Building on this inspiration, Blasi spent about six months plotting, outlining, and exploring characters and setting in hand-written notebooks. The novel eventually went through seven drafts and took more than three years to write.

“It wasn’t my first novel, but it was the first novel of mine that I felt was going to be any good, so I wanted to take my time and make sure I understood the eccentric personalities that populate the story,” explained Blasi. “Compared to writing short stories or creative nonfiction essays, novels eat up considerably more time. The biggest difference is the characters. You spend much more time with the characters in a novel, and that means they have a lot more time to get into your head. I used to find myself having conversations with them – sometimes out loud, which amused my cats, but startled people who figured I was crazy.”

Blasi is currently teaching Introduction to Literature and a literary history course examining Southern Literature. In the spring semester, he will teach basic and advanced creative writing workshops focused on fiction writing, as well as a course on Sports and Literature. He believes that creative writing is a “perfect pathway” to teaching creative problem-solving skills and draws on his work as an author to point to applications for creative writing beyond the classroom.

“Creative writing doesn’t simply make students better writers,” said Blasi. “It makes them problem solvers able to see creative, innovative solutions to problems that defy easy answers. If you can create characters, give them motivations and desires, help them find ways to navigate their conflicts, you can take that kind of perspective–that ability to creatively consider situations outside your wheelhouse–and apply it to graduate school, to the workplace, and to the creation and sustainment of relationships.”

Blasi is currently working on two new projects: an “underdog sports comedy” set in south Florida that explores the intersection of race, gender, class, and sexuality in professional sports; and a scholarly manuscript exploring the concept of white Southern masculinity in American literature from 1980 to 1990. Learn more about Blasi and his work at matthewbrandonblasi.com.

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