Monthly Archives: December 2010

Introducing our Good News series!

This post will be the first in our Good News series, which will highlight our faculty and graduate students’ accomplishments. Without further ado, here’s what our Ball State University English professors and students are doing:

Cathy Day attended the Indiana Historical Society’s Holiday Author Fair on December 4th, the largest book-signing gathering for Indiana-related material, featuring 75 Hoosier authors. The Holiday Author Fair allows visitors to converse with authors, have books signed, and listen to special presentations.

Ashley Ellison’s (PhD program, Applied Linguistics) short essay, “Connecting Memory and Research through Eco-Composition,” has been accepted for publication in the peer-reviewed journal Indiana English. It will be published in an upcoming “Green Issue.” This is Ellison’s first peer-reviewed publication.

Robert Habich’s “Biography, Autobiography, and Memoir,” appeared in the Oxford Handbook to Transcendentalism, edited by Joel Myerson, Sandra Harbert Petrulionis, and Laura Dassow Walls. Dr. Habich also co-directs the Steinbeck Lecture Series with John Straw of Bracken Library. Its next lecture is scheduled for Monday, March 21, 2011 at 7:30 p.m.

Joyce Huff’s “Fosco’s Fat Drag: Performing the Victorian Fat Man in Wilkie Collins’s The Woman in White,” appeared in Historicizing Fat in Anglo-American Culture, edited by Elena Levy-Navarro from Ohio State University Press. Here‘s a link to the book on the OSU blog. Huff also read an excerpt from the chapter at the Midwest Popular Culture Association in October 2010.

Angela Jackson-Brown’s short story “Something in the Wash, ” which appeared in The New Southerner, has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize.

Casey McArdle’s (PhD program, Rhetoric/ Composition) article, “Using Web 2.0 to Foster Community and Public Writing in Composition Classrooms,” was published in the Fountain Head Press book Web 2.0 Applications for First-Year Composition Assignments (December 2010).  He also presented “Working Web 2.0: User Generated Content and Global Writing” at the Watson Conference Louisville in October.

Miranda Nesler has had two essays accepted for publication. The first was “Closeted Authority in The Tragedy of Mariam,” forthcoming (52:2) in spring 2012 in Studies in English Literature. The second was “Review: Renaissance Earwitnesses: Rumor and Early Modern Masculinity,” forthcoming (63:4) in winter 2010 in Renaissance Quarterly.

Chaehee Park (PhD program, Applied Linguistics) has two articles forthcoming in Korea:  “Subject-Verb Agreement: A Corpus Study of the Collective Nouns Majority and Minority” in The New Korean Association of English Language and Literature and “The Use of Polite Verbal Suffix –yo and –yeo in Korean Internet Café” in Linguistic Style of Korean.

Jeffrey Paschke-Johannes (PhD program, Rhetoric/ Composition) presented two papers at the Rhetoric Society of America’s 14th biennial conference in Minneapolis last May: “Burke and Butler: A Merger of Acts” and “Abandoning the Faculties: Association Psychology and Alexander Bain’s Rhetoric”; additionally, he sat on a panel, “The Ghosts of Rhetoric Past: Nineteenth-Century Assumptions and Their Legacies for Rhetoric,” along with Tess Evans and Karen Neubauer.

Craig O’Hara’s short story, “The Corner” was named second runner-up for the Second Annual Marguerite McGlinn Prize for Fiction sponsored by Philadelphia Stories. More info can be found here. His short story “Rodent Town” has been accepted for publication in Altered States, a fiction anthology forthcoming from Main Street Rag Publishing.

Corby Roberson (PhD program, Literature) presented her paper “Pedagogically Fat: A 16-Year-Old Perception of Body Size” on the “The Fat Body in Academics:  What’s a Teacher and Student to Do?” panel at the Midwestern Popular Culture Association conference in Minneapolis last October.

Jennifer Stewart (PhD program, Rhetoric/ Composition) presented her paper “Curriculum Design in Multiple Contexts” on a panel at the 2010 Conference on College Composition and Communication (CCCC).

Trey Strecker delivered the keynote address, “Powers’s Disease: Narrative and ‘The Killing Responsibility of Care,'” for an international conference on “Ideas of Order: Narrative Patterns in the Novels of Richard Powers,” hosted by the Friedrich-Alexander-Universitat of Erlangen-Nuremberg in Erlangen, Germany.

Elizabeth Young (PhD program, Literature) presented her paper “Samuel Johnson’s Fat Cells: An Illustrated Guide to Fat, Food, and National Identity” on the “The Fat Body in Academics:  What’s a Teacher and Student to Do?” panel at the Midwestern Popular Culture Association conference in Minneapolis last October.

It is also worth noting that all four student Fulbright recipients this year were from the Department of English. Those students are as follows:

Steven Jones, a doctoral candidate in English literature, has been awarded a full Fulbright grant to the United Kingdom, the most competitive of all Student Fulbright Grant programs. Jones will use the Fulbright to study the correspondence of two 20th-century authors, letters that are held in the archives at the National Library of Wales.  This research is part of his dissertation on the role of Wales in the British Empire in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Two graduating seniors, Katherine Kovac and Erin Loch, have received Fulbright English teaching assistantships to Germany, where they will teach English as a second language to middle school or high school students. Kovac also plans to develop an American literature book club at her school, and Loch will offer tutoring services and conversation sessions that allow students to practice English skills. Staci Defibaugh received an English teaching assistantship in Romania, where she will teach English as a second language at a university and an educational advising center. Defibaugh will also offer free English tutoring lessons and will create a bilingual craft circle, on knitting and traditional Romanian embroidery and weaving.

The English Department at Ball State is very proud and honored to have such diligent and accomplished faculty and students. Keep up the great work!

Faculty Profile: A Conversation with Professor Cathy Day

Cathy Day

Cathy Day is the newest member of Ball State’s Creative Writing faculty in the Department of English.  She is the author of two books.  Her most recent work is Comeback Season: How I Learned to Play the Game of Love (Free Press, 2008), part memoir about life as a single woman and part sports story about the Indianapolis Colts Super Bowl season. Her first book was The Circus in Winter (Harcourt, 2004), a fictional history of her hometown. I had the opportunity to sit down with Professor Day and talk with about what kind of research goes into her writing, the influence of her hometown on her craft, and writing in different genres.

Since environment seems to be a great inspiration for you, can you tell us about your hometown—Peru, Indiana?

My town was winter quarters for a circus at the turn of the century. There was a guy in the town named Ben Wallace who was a livery stable owner and he got this notion to buy a circus. When the circus was sold, the people who traveled with the circus ended up settling in Peru because it was the closest thing they knew to a home. Some fairly famous circus folk that settled there ended up training their kids how to be performers, and so these kids put on a circus.

When I went to college, people would ask me where I was from and I’d tell them the story of Peru and they’d say, “Wow! That’s really interesting.” The thing about being from a town is you think it’s boring because it’s always around you. That’s been a big thing for my writing and teaching: trying to encourage people to look at the places they’re from for their material. It’s usually all there.

How did you research The Circus in Winter?

I spent the first five or six years reading circus history books. I would be inspired by a photograph or a factoid, and let the story go from there. I think fiction writers research in a very different way than nonfiction writers in that I didn’t have to feel bound by the facts. I would flip through a book or look through a microfilm for something that would catch my interest and go from there. There’s this thing a friend of mine calls “the atrophy of writing” where if you’re looking, as I did, at this massive body of information you kind of pick through it and don’t know what’s going to be interesting.  You just have to trust that the stuff that matters to you will rise to the top and the rest of it will fall away. It’s really overwhelming to look at all that stuff and think, how am I going to get all that in there? And the answer is you don’t.

CiW is being adapted as a musical by the Ball State University Department of Theatre & Dance, slated to be performed as part of their 2011-2012 season. What’s it like as an author to have your work adapted into another medium?

It’s surreal. To actually have a story that’s in your head tangible is awesome, but it’s also very weird. It’s really moving that they’ve created songs, a whole different medium to convey the themes of my book. One thing I was incredibly impressed by was that those songs were very faithful to what I was trying to say in the book. I call them the “truths of my heart,” coming out of someone’s mouth.

You also have a memoir out, Comeback Season: How I Learned to Play the Game of Love. Can you talk about your experiences writing memoir rather than fiction?

The thing I loved about writing Comeback Season was that it helped me learn to write a novel. To a certain point when you’re writing nonfiction, the plot’s already there, you just have to pick what parts to use. It’s a bit like being a documentary filmmaker and you shoot a ton of footage and then you have to go to the editing booth and figure out what to cut.

Is there anything you’d like to say to your new students at Ball State?

Ever since Circus in Winter came out I’ve been trying to come back here as often as I can to kind of give back to Indiana. When I was young, I didn’t know how to become a writer. I didn’t know how to be an artist or to live the life that I wanted because there was absolutely no one in my hometown who lived the way I wanted to live. I left for twenty years and now I want to be that person I would have loved to meet when I was a kid, to be that person to say, “That’s interesting. You should write about it.”

Don’t miss the Annual Undergraduate Writers Gala tonight!

Today is the Annual Undergraduate Writers Gala. For those who have never been to this event before, twenty students will present a piece of their own written work to a panel of judges made up of English Department faculty. This year, the judges are as follows: Rai Peterson, Cathy Day, and Jared Sexton, along with Creative Writing graduate student Audrey Brown. Winners of first, second, and third place will be awarded prizes consisting of literary journals, books, books by BSU professors, and their own reading in the spring.  The Gala will be held in the Atrium, room 175, and is set to start at 7:30 p.m. This event is free and open to the public, so bring your friends and family to celebrate the pursuit of writing! There will also be a free raffle to anyone who would like to participate. Good luck all you wonderful undergraduate readers!

*Readers are to be at AJ 175 by 7:15 p.m.

Student Profile: Nathan Myers

(*A note from the Director of Graduate Studies, Professor Jill Christman:  Ph.D. Literature student, Nathan Myers, has worked for the Department in the past composing student profiles for our website, so when I wanted a profile on him I asked him to write his own.  Knowing Nathan’s background in fiction writing, I also invited him to indulge his artistic liberties.  Happily, he took me up on my invitation; while you’ll recognize an edge of hyperbole here amidst the playful language, you’ll also find a lot of truth about Nathan and his continuing studies in the English Department.  Enjoy.  And thank you, Nathan. –jcc)

Nathan Myers recently began his fourth year working toward a Ph.D. in English Literature.  After completing his master’s degree in creative writing at Ball State in 2007, for which he composed a fictional thesis, he transitioned into the doctoral program, having long been interested in postcolonial literatures.  Nathan says that he is indebted to the English department’s challenging and supportive faculty and values his many opportunities.  In addition to teaching introductory courses in composition and creative writing, he has worked as a research assistant for several faculty members, observing and practicing some overlooked facets of the occupation.

Outside of the multifarious and gratifying commissions completed on behalf of the English department, his zeal for travel has enriched his academic experience and proven to be monetarily agreeable in proportion to its quality of diversion.  He also credits jobs outside of the English department as pivotal to his development as a scholar and writer.  He fondly reminisces in particular about an illuminating job as a shipping clerk for a light bulb manufacturer.  Additionally, he recalls his work as a hospice volunteer without jaundice, despite his premature departure after the unfortunate detonation of a patient who overlooked the disablement of her oxygen tank prior to the ignition of her cigarette.

Having recently completed his comprehensive exams, Nathan plans to continue developing a dissertation that means to approximate the protein [sic] nature of W.B. Yeats.  In his free time he continues to run for fun, re-watch The Decalogue and attempt complex baking projects.  Regarding these confections, hitherto, he has been most successful in the assemblage of tiered tarts and tartlets, preferring the latter because they are comically diminutive.  He has also grown particularly fond of any edible he can adorn with a delectable orange glaze or serve with a delightful beaker of Darjeeling.

Nathan’s passion for baking was cultivated in the wake of his fondness for alliterative couplings.  One Saturday’s indulgence in the pairing of “tea cookies and target practice” stimulated an unlikely fervor for flour and butter.  This passion for alliterative activities was in turn awakened by his admiration for Sue Grafton’s “alphabet series,” a thrilling literary achievement he lauds as an elegant affirmation of alphabetical succession.  He struggles to envisage the ecstasies that await him in “Z” is for Zoophilia, but fears his inability to bear the weight of that terminal journey, long ago commenced and shortly concluded.

Though Nathan routinely and greedily indulges in those luxuries exclusive to Muncie, he hopes to soon explore ancillary topography.  He is doubtful of holding to a lone location and vocation and predicts that a wrangled, latent infantilism typical of latter adolescence will materialize rapidly upon the completion of his Ph.D.

Don’t forget! Today begins the Blank Book and Artists’ Book Ephemera Sale!

A message from Prof. Rai Peterson:

Take the opportunity to buy hand-made items, including hand-stitched journals, from ENG 444 students, starting next Monday. On Monday, December 6 and 7, we will be selling items in the Atrium in the Arts and Journalism Building, and on Wednesday, December 8 (if we have anything left), we will be at a table in the front lobby of the Robert Bell Building. Come and check out our work! We have blank books selling for as little as $2.00. This is your chance to grab up some holiday gifts that look like you spent much more time and money shopping.

*The sale will take place from 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. both days, ending earlier if the books sell out. Make sure to stop by!

Interview with Christopher Newgent on the independent publishing world, the web’s effect on literature, and balancing work with passion

Christopher Newgent

Christopher Newgent graduated from Ball State with a Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing in 2006. Newgent puts his degree to use trying to improve his city environment of Indianapolis by bringing independent literature to the public at art and music events. He generously agreed to share those experiences with us here at the English Department blog, as well as his experience balancing a working life with creative passions.

Can you share a little about what your job is and what sorts of duties it entails?

I work as a technical writer for Aprimo, Inc., a marketing software company in Indianapolis. My job is primarily writing the online Help—how to perform specific functions in the product. I’m about to start taking over localization efforts, which is business-speak for getting the product translated into other languages.

How did your English major at Ball State prepare you for such a position?

The fact that it had “writing” in the title helped, but it actually took a bit of salesmanship to convince the hiring manager that I could take a creative writing major and succeed as a technical writer. There’s a hefty difference between creative and technical writing, but the overlap exists in consideration of audience and precise language. BSU has professors who really excel at teaching these two aspects—Mark Neely, Sean Lovelace, and Andrew Scott particularly come to mind.

Can you explain a little about Vouched Books—how it came about and what your aims and ambitions are for the project?

Vouched is a project to promote independent literature in Indianapolis. It started with the idea of setting up a flea-market-style book table at literary and art events, and shilling small press books that I’d read personally and wanted to champion. It grew from there to include the Vouched Presents reading series and Vouched Online, where I and a handful of contributors link to work published in online journals that we like—curating our little corner of the literary internet, essentially.

As for ambitions, I should probably sit down sometime and really make a list of them. It’s all sort of grown organically so far, to be honest. I don’t have any dream of opening a brick & mortar bookstore, or making it a financially viable endeavor. I just want to promote some work that I really believe in by people who don’t have much of a budget to promote beyond the internet. And the way I’ve found to do that is to go where people are who appreciate art and words, but likely don’t know independent literature exists. If a legit opportunity arises to make Vouched my full-time career, you can bet I’ll own it, but right now, it’s just a hobby; an exercise in literary citizenship.

How do you balance your working life with your literary pursuits/passions?

Honestly, the only way to find a balance is the classic cliché—show up to the page every day. Make time for it. Ideas will never be the problem. A story can come to you when you’re driving to your aunt’s for Christmas. The problem will be sustaining the drive to sit down when you get home from your aunt’s and punch out a draft without having the deadlines you have in school, the drive to write for yourself instead of a grade. It’s easy to be an idealist in college, to think you’re writing for yourself then, but you’re not, and that’s okay. And you’ll find that out a year or so after graduation. Your life will get busy, you’ll have a new roof to afford, a spouse to adore, maybe kids, college loans, a car that breaks down. And unless you say, “No matter how busy life gets, I will write 750 words a day,” you’ll eventually be reduced to jotting an occasional line on a napkin until one day you wake up and remember you wanted to be a writer once. With all faith, you’ll pull those napkins out from the drawer you were keeping them, and start writing.

Are there any other projects, on the web, personal, or otherwise, that you’re involved in?

For the past almost two years, I’ve been working on founding INDYCOG, a blog that grew into a nonprofit organization that works with Indianapolis to promote cycling. But I’ve recently taken a lesser role in that as I focus more on Vouched and other endeavors.

You seem to be very active on the web, as well as knowledgeable about web-based material. What are your thoughts on the web’s effect on literature and how people are adapting to it?

I’m actually working on an essay/guest post for HTMLGiant discussing the explosion of independent music in the late 90’s due to the internet, and how I see the current independent literary community doing the same thing now, albeit a decade late. I think literature is behind the curve in adapting to the web, likely because of the taboo online publishing has had until recently. But, I think as online journals build their legitimacy, as more and more writers and publishers learn to use the internet to promote and build community, the more opportunities will present themselves to literary authors, especially emerging authors. But let’s face it—romance and celebrity memoirs will always outsell literary works, just like even though you hear all sorts of independent music on commercials and TV shows now, Nickelback still outsells Sufjan.

What are some books you’re reading right now, and what are some titles to look for that may be somewhat under the radar?

I’ve just started writing a novel, so I’ve turned my attention to those a bit, reading Cormac McCarthy’s No Country for Old Men. There’s kind of a lack of novels in the small press world. I just started Matt Bell’s How They Were Found, and I recently finished Mark Neely’s Four of a Kind, both of which deserve to be read. If you’ve not read Sasha Fletcher’s When All Our Days Are Numbered yet, then you’re without. And, if you want to learn how to craft a sentence, Scorch Atlas by Blake Butler.

Top five literary blogs…GO!

In no particular order: HTMLGiant, Bark, We Who Are About to Die, PANK Blog, Big Other.

Any parting advice/wisdom you would like to offer to the students of BSU?

You are not alone.

Blank Book and Artists’ Book Ephemera Sale!

A message from Prof. Rai Peterson:

Take the opportunity to buy hand-made items, including hand-stitched journals, from ENG 444 students, starting next Monday. On Monday, December 6 and 7, we will be selling items in the Atrium in the Arts and Journalism Building, and on Wednesday, December 8 (if we have anything left), we will be at a table in the front lobby of the Robert Bell Building. Come and check out our work! We have blank books selling for as little as $2.00. This is your chance to grab up some holiday gifts that look like you spent much more time and money shopping.

The Annual Undergraduate Writers Gala is here!

Next Tuesday, December 7th, is the Annual Undergraduate Writers Gala. For those that have never been to it before, twenty students will present a piece of their own written work to a panel of judges made up of English Department faculty. Winners of first, second, and third place will be awarded prizes consisting of literary journals, books, and books by BSU professors. The Gala will be held in the Atrium, room 175, and is set to start at 7:30 p.m. This event is free and open to the public, so bring your friends and family to celebrate the pursuit of writing!

IMPORTANT NOTES FOR READERS

Check in with Writers Community officers Tyler Gobble and Elysia Smith at 7:15 p.m., before the Gala. Readers are also expected to submit a bio to be read as their introduction no later than Sunday, December 5th, at midnight. The bio should NOT exceed 75 words and should be sent with your piece in a single .doc to writers@bsu.edu.

Guest Post: Layne Ransom, undergraduate student, on the value of poetry readings

Layne Ransom

This may sound melodramatic, but I’m indebted to the first poetry readings I attended at Motini’s two-ish years ago for not letting me become a Wheel of Time fan fiction writer. I’m not kidding. Before then, I was oblivious to contemporary literature and mostly read fantasy novels about scantily-clad people waving swords at each other.

From hearing what my peers were doing, I learned two valuable things: being the grammar police isn’t that important, and words, like people, need to cut loose sometimes.

I don’t mean that knowing basic syntax and punctuation isn’t important. I think that’s obvious. But I didn’t realize how little my high school AP-English-encouraged perfectionism had to do with crafting interesting, beautiful, or emotionally engaged writing. I believed that if I knew what rules to follow, then what I did was artful. That my own development as a human being, of working toward being more honest and self-aware, would somehow be vital to producing meaningful writing was not on my radar.

Also, almost everything I’d read consisted of said fantasy novels and the canon of literature classes. Both of these strands of writing, in my experience, took themselves very seriously. (Even when the former rarely gave reasons to do so.) Everything I knew—which wasn’t much—said there was no screwing around in writing, and I believed it. I didn’t allow my words or myself as a writer to be anything but stiflingly serious. I taught my words dinner etiquette and forbade politics, religion, and dirty jokes at the table.

Hearing poems about the Internet and Van Halen was both a slap upside the head and divine permission to not take writing as a whole, my own writing, and myself so damned seriously. Sometimes words just want to eat Taco Bell and play Mario Kart, and I finally realized that wasn’t just okay, that was wonderful. Sometimes I just want to eat Taco Bell and play Mario Kart, and I stopped outright dismissing as worthless the experiences I had normally categorized as trivial or “not good enough” for writing. After this, my writing got better, which made me think more, so my writing got better, and so on and so forth.

I started participating in readings because I was grateful for the marked change they started in me, and wanted to know how having an audience affected my writing. I’m still fresh to it, and owning a stage and microphone feels giddy and criminal, like smashing mailboxes or egging your ex’s house. But reading and writing with people who care about how words inform human experience is strange, cool, and lovely, and I’d be missing out if I weren’t doing it.