Fridays with Friends: Dr. Hurd disturbs the universe

Dr. Crystal Hurd is an English and Creative Writing teacher from southwest Virginia.  Last May, she graduated from East Tennessee State University with a doctorate in Educational Leadership. Her dissertation argued that C.S. Lewis was a Transformational Leader, and that he crafted Transformational characters. After completing her degree, she traveled throughout the Eastern United States sharing her research at such venues as the Colloquium for C.S. Lewis and Friends, the Tennessee Board of Regents Research Conference, the national conference for Ethnographic and Qualitative Research, and the Association of Leadership Educators. Dr. Hurd has been featured on the “All About Jack” podcast as part of the “Essay Chat Series” as well as the “Featured Talk” last week (  She often explores various aspects of Lewis on her blog. Currently, she is a book reviewer for the C.S.Lewis journal Sehnsucht.  She serves as leadership mentor and writing coach for the non-profit organization Develop Africa. In addition, she will be an instructor for the Women’s Empowerment Grant of Rwanda funded by the Tennessee Board of Regents. She is one of several East Tennessee State University scholars which serves on a research panel for the World Education Research Association.  Their collaborative research effort explores Cross-Cultural Leadership.  She is currently composing a book on Lewis’s leadership, which explores how Lewis satisfies the requirements for several prominent leadership theories.

I recently caught up with Crystal to find out about more about what inspires her.

Image of Dr. Hurd courtesy of Lancia Smith (
Image of Dr. Hurd courtesy of Lancia Smith (

Kelly Belmonte: What/Who/where are your consistent sources of inspiration?

Crystal Hurd: Inspiration often sneaks up on me, but I often discover it while seeking deeper answers about my faith.  I love dangerous metaphors, strange similes.  I like to be swept away with words. People who venture into dangerous literary territory, who continually stretch my mind, are my heroes.  I believe that art is one of the great gifts God provides, and people who weave faith and art together are, for me, the most inspirational. Writers and poets like Lewis, Chesterton, MacDonald, and Hopkins are a constant source of inspiration for me.

My favorite poem is “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” by T.S. Eliot.  So much truth in his stanzas – it is a pleading to find significance in our lives, our work. We have all wondered if the Eternal footman is snickering at us. We have pondered those questions, lifted and dropped them on our plate.  I have played the Fool, I have pulled my ragged claws, heavy with grief or responsibility, across the sea floor, and I have realized that every moment has the potential for sanctity.  Yes, I dare to eat a peach…and YES, I dare disturb the universe.

Often my inspiration comes from everyday things, prosaic things. Nature continually illustrates God’s amazing architecture. I love watching flowers peek out from under snow and long stagnant soil. I enjoy watching animals carry on – my dogs as they stare out the window or sleep peacefully, my neighbor’s ducks as they waddle across the road seeking worms, tall and majestic deer as they traipse through the woods. Nature woos me.  It is so beautiful, so educational. The cyclical nature of our world awes me.  I find great wisdom in the simple acts, things that we often take for granted. I draw deep inspiration from my family – my parents, my husband. I sometimes envision my life as a net in a stream.  Many things pass me, cycle through me, move swiftly forward.  My tasks and responsibilities (i.e. daily life) often cause me to ignore or neglect all that is carried on the current, so I must strive to act as a net, capturing a leaf or a twig as it is carried along.  I catch it and analyze it to find great Truth. My goal is to catch as much as I can, discover as much as I can.  No matter what I find in the net, I discover great value.

Even as we age, I think it is supremely important to be humbled by these simple things. I don’t believe you ever graduate to a place where you cannot be astonished. Last weekend, I watched one of my high school students perform “Daddy” by Sylvia Plath for a Forensics competition.  She did an incredible job with her facial expressions, her cadence, her vocal dynamic, her angry pauses – her performance was saturated with so much pain.  I found myself blown away by it, even though I had watched her rehearse it many times.  Even as a teacher, my students perpetually surprise and inspire me.


KB: What artists are you following/do you recommend?

CH: My musical tastes are very diverse.  I typically indulge in electronic bands such as MUTEMATH, Massive Attack (my writing soundtrack), and Swedish House Mafia.  I also adore Brooke Fraser, Coldplay, Michael Jackson, and Lecrae (a very eclectic mix, I know!), In high school, I studied opera, which turned me on to great voices like Josh Groban. Even the ubiquitous stuff sticks to me; I sometimes catch myself humming “Call Me Maybe” by Carly Rae Jepsen.

Concerning writers, I also have a rather extensive list.  It is in no way comprehensive, but here are my favorites:  C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkein, G.K. Chesterton, George MacDonald, Dorothy Sayers, Frederick Buechner, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Madeleine L’Engle, Stephen Lawhead, Anne Lamont, Annie Dillard, Ray Bradbury, Ted Dekker, and Dean Koontz. As an English major, I admire the classic authors and poets, such as Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters, Dostoyevsky, Keats, Lord Byron, Wordsworth, Emerson, Milton. The list continues…

As far as visual artists, my favorites are John William Waterhouse and Arthur Rackham, but I also enjoy Klimt, Edward Hopper, and Jack Vettriano. I love William Blake’s engravings.  I enjoy great photography also.  I use photos and paintings all of the time in my Creative Writing class because so many great works originate from images.

Crystal with "The Searcher" in Belfast
Crystal with “The Searcher” in Belfast

KB: How can readers of All Nine get involved in what you’re doing?

CH: Readers can visit my website to catch up on the latest.  I frequently blog about the three Ls: Life, Lewis, and Leadership. You can also catch me blogging once a month for All Nine, which is a great joy for me.

3 Replies to “Fridays with Friends: Dr. Hurd disturbs the universe”

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