Monthly Archives: January 2011

The Circus in Winter comes to the Muncie Civic Theater

Last week, I was walking down Main Street when I saw this on the marquee of the Muncie Civic Theater.

Photo courtesy of Cathy Day

Yes, I know this is Muncie, Indiana, not New York City, but it’s still pretty cool to see the name of your book on a theater marquee.

Last year, an amazing group of Ball State students adapted my first book into a musical. This project was sponsored by the Virginia Ball Center and led by Theater professor Beth Turcotte.

To prepare for the full production in Fall 2011, they have been performing concert readings all around the region.
The next one will be Saturday, Feb. 5 at 7:30 PM, a fundraiser for the Muncie Civic Theater. $5 at the door.

I hope you can make it. You’ll be supporting the arts in this community as well as BSU students. And you will enjoy yourself to boot. Seriously, this is a wonderful show. You’ll find yourself humming the songs for days afterward.

Here‘s more information. Please share the link and let others know about his event, too.

Thank you,
Cathy Day

“What am I Reading?” by Professor Brian McNely

The more interesting question is “how am I reading?”

My workflow is constantly evolving, and right now, my reading is largely shaped by the combination of a few different mobile applications and devices.

I try to do 50 pages of research reading every day (more on that here). Consequently, most of the stuff I read is likely to be of little interest to all but the most intrepid grad students in Rhetoric and Writing. I’m assuming here that you don’t enjoy research articles and technical reports about computer-supported cooperative work, distributed writing practices in the workplace, and the direction of ambient, networked writing activities. Like I do.

Some folks love to curl up with a good book of poems or short stories; I’d much rather read the methods section for a well-planned and executed qualitative study. So, I’ll tell you what I’m reading, but I want to talk a bit about how I’m reading, since reading, writing, and publishing practices are currently in the midst of massive change.

Here’s how much of my daily reading is likely to start. I open Google Reader and also browse links shared by folks I follow in Twitter. Thus begins the sifting and winnowing of information from the sources I’ve instructed to hail me each day. Clay Shirky says there’s no such thing as information overload, just filter failure.

So my reading starts with filtering—electing appropriate RSS feeds and Twitter accounts to deliver the things I need to do my job.

When something looks interesting, I’ll click the link and navigate to the article. If it’s more than two or three hundred words, and if it looks really interesting, then the magic starts. I use a bookmarklet that saves the article to Instapaper.

Instapaper is pure genius.

The application takes the article I’d like to save (let’s say it’s this 13,000 word gem of an interview with John McPhee in the Paris Review), strips away all of the banners, ads, and social networking detritus, and then serves up the written word in a clean, customizable interface on the device of my preference.

If something gets Instapapered by me, that means it’s going to my iPad.

Reading on the iPad is amazing, but you know what Instapaper does that makes it even more useful? It downloads and stores every article I save so that I can read them no matter where I am, even if I’m offline (perish the thought!).

Because I don’t want to keep hundreds of articles at all times in my Instapaper application on my iPad (I usually keep around 50 or so), and because I want to keep track of this river of reading for later reference, I made sure to link my Instapaper account with my bookmarking service, Pinboard. So, every time I save an article with Instapaper, that URL is archived for later retrieval on Pinboard.

Pinboard allows me to group items by using tags; here, for example, are all the items I’ve collected that might be used in ENG 213, our Intro to Digital Literacies course…

But I digress, this is about reading, yes?

So, let’s get serious. Research articles, books, annotations of said items. Scholarly work. Instapaper usually isn’t so good for those kinds of things (well, annotations, that is). That’s where iAnnotate PDF and Dropbox come in to play.

If you don’t have a Dropbox account, go get one immediately after finishing this post. Here’s Dropbox in a nutshell: online backup of your files, synced among all of the computers and devices that you use. For free. Never lose a file again. Hard drive crashed? So what—files are in Dropbox. Elephant stepped on your Macbook? No worries—files are in Dropbox. Dog ate your homework? You get the picture. In fact, go sign up now. With this link, you’ll get an extra 250 MB of space.

Many of the articles—and, increasingly, many of the books—that I read are available in PDF format. I upload those files to Dropbox, which means they’re accessible from any internet-enabled device I might use to access them, which means I can choose from hundreds of article or books to read pretty much anywhere.

Because I read so much on my iPad, I use iAnnotate to read the books and articles I have in PDF. Here, for example, is a book that students in my Rhetoric, Writing, and Emerging Media course will read this semester, Program or Be Programmed.

With iAnnotate, I’m able to read in ways that are similar to (but still very different from!) the practices I use when reading an article or a book the old-fashioned way, pen in hand.

I can underline, star important points, and make comments in the margins. Because I type these comments instead of scrawling them in my horrible handwriting, I can actually read my notes later. Best of all, I can save the PDF as is, so that all of my edits and annotations are viewable (and shareable) elsewhere—in my DEVONthink database, for example (but that’s fodder for another post…).

So, what am I reading?

Denise Schmandt-Besserat’s How Writing Came About. A recent article by Clay Spinuzzi in Written Communication. Bill Moggridge’s Designing Interactions. Howard Rheingold’s Tools for Thought. A recent article about multimodal storytelling. Dave Winer’s blog, Scripting News. The tweets of Jan Chipchase and Kevin Marks. Malcolm McCullough’s Digital Ground. Mitchell Duneier’s Sidewalk. And a whole host of other interesting articles in the “Read Later” archive of my Instapaper account…

The Novel Crisis: Professor Cathy Day on Pedagogy and the Disappearing Novel

While the creative writing faculty at BSU are all accomplished writers, they take their teaching duties very seriously. They often dedicate a great deal of meditation to their pedagogy, and write on it as well. In her essay “The Story Problem: 10 Thoughts on Academia’s Novel Crisis” at The Millions.com, Professor Cathy Day discusses how fiction writing is taught at the university level—the short story versus the novel. Here is an excerpt of the essay:

“Typically, workshops prescribe. Here’s what’s not working. Here’s what I had a problem with. Somebody…has to step up and change the default setting, to frame the conversation so that big things can be brought to the table and discussed meaningfully.

But how to you do that?”

You can read the whole essay here.

You could say Professor Day has been trying to change the “default setting” of her fiction writing classes here at Ball State. During Fall 2010, her class participated in National Novel Writing Month. You can read the Ball State Daily News article here.

Book Drum.com and the future of the book

(Photo from Book Drum.com)

For some time now, there has been a lot of discussion, a lot of worry, about the future of the book. People are trying to predict where the book is going, while watching e-readers spread through the populace like oil through water. People are wondering what place the bulky, primitive artifact of the bound book will have in the world, and how it will endure the Digital Age. While it is hard to give a concrete answer to this question, Book Drum.com offers one compelling option.

Book Drum takes selected books and integrates other media with the printed word page by page. For example, if you’re interested in Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar, you can read about the Barbizon Hotel, a women-only hotel that was Plath’s inspiration for the Amazon, described as catering solely to women as well. You can also learn more about people and cultural items referenced in Plath’s book, complete with pictures of these people and things. These multimedia inclusions are called “Bookmarks,” and they sometimes even feature videos, such as one of Plath reading her poem “Daddy,” or a historical video about Coney Island in the 1940’s (both bookmarks for The Bell Jar).

The site also has reviews of the books, detailed descriptions of their settings, and glossaries, which help to further explain the allusions in a text. At Book Drum, anybody can become a contributor, so if you are looking for a new way to explore your favorite books, this is a unique way to do it. Their open policy is why the site has such varied archives—the writers of these exceptional descriptions are just as varied. Of course, the site has its own editors to maintain the legitimacy of the contributions, so you can be sure the details you are reading about have met careful eyes.

Things like Book Drum.com are glimpses into what path the book can be expected to take, I believe. The internet brings together all forms of media, and I think it was just a matter of time before the same thing was done with the book. Not only does the site offer further understanding of a book itself, but it expands the text and pushes it beyond the boundaries of the page. In the same way people can hear about a band, read their Wikipedia article, their reviews, and watch their music videos or interviews, Book Drum.com allows people to do this with their favorite books, adding so much to an already beloved text.

Here are some tips from Book Drum on getting to know their site:

  • Use the Bookmarks as your companion guide while you read the book, or enjoy them in their own right by subscribing to Bookmark of the Day.
  • The Summary may include plot spoilers, so be careful how much you read!
  • You can pan or zoom all the embedded maps, or switch between regular, satellite and terrain views.
  • Install Spotify, if you can, to enjoy all the music links. Spotify is free, but not available in all jurisdictions.
  • What do you think of the profile? Add a comment to the index page. You will need to register, but it’s quick and free.
  • Inspired to contribute? Why not start off by adding a review to an existing profile? Or, if you’re feeling adventurous, you can create a brand new profile by registering here.

Book Drum is currently holding a $3,500 tournament to see who can create the best book profiles. First, second, and third place prizes are awarded, as well as five runners up. This is a great opportunity to delve into your favorite book and come out rewarded in more ways than one. See the tournament’s page for details.

Keep reading and watching, BSU!

Signed,

Jeremy Bauer

Poetry reading: Peter Davis, Michael Meyerhofer, Jared Sexton, and Todd McKinney

Tonight there will be a poetry reading starring BSU faculty Peter Davis, Michael Meyerhofer, Jared Sexton, and Todd McKinney. The reading will take place at Motini’s in Muncie’s village area, which is a 21+ venue. The event starts at 7:30 p.m. and looks to be a great time. It’s always fun to hear your BSU professors’ own work, so come on out!

Guest Post: The Nurse Who Can Write

Professor Sean Lovelace

Before my employment as an English professor I had another career: RN, Registered Nurse. In nursing, writing was not only necessary; it was at the core of our very system of accountability. One key statement was hammered into students during nursing school, the same doctrine practiced every day as a working nurse: “If it wasn’t written, it wasn’t done.” As staff on the hospital floor, Registered Nurses “chart” their activities into a series of daily nursing notes, a precise record of every medical procedure and interaction with patients. These documents are critical, providing important information to fellow health professionals, the patient, and, in some instances, the legal profession. These notes must be written clearly and accurately. Staff nurses also write admission and discharge reports. They record vital signs. They fill out separate forms for medications, dietary needs for patients, unusual incidents, on and on. Their day is filled with writing.

Another key role for nurses is teaching. Nursing is a profession based on the concept of preventative care. For example, if a person is educated about risk factors such as diet and weight beforehand, they might not develop diabetes at all. This teaching is often done by nurses. Informational materials are usually designed, edited, and written by the very professionals doing the teaching, the nurses.

In my nursing career, I was quickly promoted (partly due to my writing ability) to Charge Nurse and then Nurse Coordinator, an administrative position supervising nurses. My administrative responsibilities were grounded in the written word, including memos, care plans, a variety of reports, grant requests, and any manner of daily, written communications. I even edited the nursing newsletter for the hospital, a duty both important and enjoyable. My ability to write well, to communicate accurately and concisely, was critical to my ability and credibility in every position as Registered Nurse.

To put it simply, nursing is a profession. All professions in this country have reported a pressing need for strong writers, for individuals who can shape words to effect. No matter the vocation, the ability to write is indispensible, and writing very well is fundamental to sustained career success.

Where can a student obtain these important writing skills? In courses offered by the Ball State English department. No matter what your major, BSU offers an opportunity to add an English minor in a variety of writing disciplines: professional writing, creative writing, linguistics, and literature. Once a student leaves the university and enters the larger world, they will find—as I did in nursing—that communication skills are universally appreciated. No matter your present major or future career, the time to learn these skills, to study within and obtain a minor in English, is now.

Two events this weekend starring our very own BSU professors!

Looking for a way to round out your first week? Well, we’ve got a couple of events that should help.

This Friday, January 14th, Professor Cathy Day will read from her memoir Comeback Season: How I Learned to Play the Game of Love. The event will be held at the E.B. & Bertha C. Ball Center at 10:00 a.m. Day will discuss the different ways sports have informed her writing, her teaching, and her life (her memoir pairs the Indianapolis Colts comeback season with her experience as a 30-something professional looking for love).

Here’s a breakdown of the event information:

Date: Friday, January 14, 2011
Time: 10:00 a.m.
Place: E.B.& Bertha C. Ball Center, 400 Minnetrista Blvd, Muncie, IN 47303
Cost: No charge, but reservations are required.

*Please call 285-8975 for more information and to make your reservation.

The second event this weekend is Vouched Presents: Matt Bell, Sean Lovelace, Aaron Burch, and Andy Devine. This reading will take place at the Indianapolis Museum of Contemporary Art on Saturday, January 15th, at 7:00 p.m. Matt Bell was part of last year’s In Print Festival, representing the editorial portion of the Q&A panel. He has recently released a book of short stories titled How They Were Found, and is the creator and editor of The Collagist, an online literary magazine. Our very own Professor Sean Lovelace will be reading as well, so this is a great chance to hear his work and pick up a copy of his chapbook How Some People Like Their Eggs. The Vouched Presents reading series is put on by Ball State alumnus Christopher Newgent, who gave us a great interview on his project Vouched Books and how he balances his passion for writing with his working life, which you can read here.

Here’s a breakdown of this event’s info:

Date: Saturday, January 15, 2011
Time: 7:00 p.m.
Place: Indianapolis Museum of Contemporary Art, 1043 Virginia Avenue, Suite 5, Indianapolis, IN 46203
Cost: FREE

Attending events like these can really bolster the college experience, so take advantage while you can!

Welcome back! Guest Post: Johna Picco on tips to getting internships and careers in publishing and marketing

Welcome back, BSU! We hope you’ve had a great break, and are keeping warm and safe in the present tundra that is Indiana. This semester we will be keeping you updated on all English Department events, as well as continuing to feature posts from alumni, students, and faculty. We are excited to start the new year and hope you all share the sentiment. To kick off the new year, we have our first guest post of 2011 from alumnus Johna Picco. Johna tells us about her experiences interning at various presses, leading to her job as marketing coordinator for books and products at the American Medical Association, and also takes times to share some tips on how to get great internships like hers.

***

Johna Picco

Growing up, it was drilled into my head that through hard work and determination, I could do anything. Yet, when graduation and the real world, with its failing economy, came a-callin’, it was my Dad’s polite inquiry about what I planned to do with an English degree that got me thinking. It was undoubtedly an inquiry mingled with concern and skepticism, and I was a bit worried myself.

The first thing I needed to do was to think about what I wanted to do. My initial plan of going to graduate school to obtain a Masters in Library and Information Science (LIS) was nixed when I realized that the lack of funding for public libraries was too frustrating to fight all my life. Then, I heard about a web site called Book Jobs.com, which features literary jobs and internships in everything from publishing to IT. This was my light-bulb moment—or light bulb website.

I applied to numerous publishing internships and was hired as a marketing/publicity intern at The MIT Press and Candlewick Press. So, I left college a semester early, packed my bags, and moved 900 miles across the country to Boston, Massachusetts. My employment at The MIT Press progressed from intern to temp, and finally to full-time employee. And in the meantime, I had also acquired an internship at Jones and Bartlett Publishers.

As an acquisitions assistant at The MIT Press for a little over a one year, I realized that I missed my family and the Midwest, and so, I quit my job. Everyone thought I was nuts, what in this awful economy and all. Luckily, after only five weeks of searching and applying, I found myself hired as the marketing coordinator for the books and products department at the American Medical Association in Chicago.

A lot of people wonder how I’ve done it, and to that I have this to say: with a lot of help, a lot of work, and openness to change (and travel!). Along with the aforementioned, I have a list of ten things that have helped me along the way.

1. Take advantage of professional development and writing classes.

I cannot tell you how many people I’ve met post-college who don’t know how to write a cover letter or résumé. There are plenty of opportunities both on and off campus available to help you sell yourself to a future employer—take advantage of them! I learned this early on: what you take from college is what you put in. No one is going to hold your hand, but they will be there to help you—if you ask.

2. Get involved.

Knowing how to create a cover letter and resume is all well and good, but if you have nothing to put on it, well, that might be a problem. I speak from intern-hiring experience when I say that you need to be involved in college.

3. Listen to your intuition.

Inside everyone is that little voice telling us when something isn’t right. Mine happened to escape in the form of a panic attack during a journalism lecture. Something about what I was studying (journalism) and what I was interested in (literature) just wasn’t lining up. So, instead of staying unhappy and safe, I took the scarier route and switched majors halfway through my college career.

4. Internships, internships, internships!

How do I gain experience when every job I apply for requires experience?!

Most people, myself included, have at one point or another faced this frustrating reality. Solution? Internships! Partake in as many as possible. They don’t have to be exotic or located in some far away location. They don’t even have to be related to your end goal. But they will give you invaluable insight into the workforce, corporate culture, and what to expect when someday you land your first ‘real’or, what I like to call, big-girl job.

5. Get your resume into the ‘maybe’ pile.

I was taught that before you make it to the ‘yes’ pile, you need to find yourself in the ‘maybe’ pile. How? You make your résumé pop. No, I am not talking about the use of color or scented paper—that’s just weird, trust me. I am talking about a well-designed and well-thought résumé. I’m fortunate to possess some basic design talents and the Adobe Creative Suite, but if you don’t have one, or either of those, fear not! Why? Because you go to Ball State, and Ball State is teeming with loads of uber-talented designers who are more than happy to swap their design skills for your keen editorial skills.

6. Network.

In my opinion (for what it’s worth), this is the hardest thing on my rambling list. I consider myself a very social person, but even I have a pretty hard time ‘networking.’ That was until I changed my way of looking at it. Networking doesn’t have to be cheesy and awkward. It can be as simple as talking to someone and telling them about yourself and what you’re looking to do. For instance: I recently attended a wedding and by way of normal chit-chat, found myself being introduced to my date’s cousin, Bob, who worked at Candy Co. as a marketing director. Before I knew it, I was walking away with several business cards and an interview. Moral of the story: networking = talking.

7. It’s a small world—and everything (and everyone) is connected.

My internship at The MITP was a result of my work experiences and activities in college. My temp position was a result of my internships. My full-time job came about because I was a temp and on and on it goes. This same rule applies for people. The workforce is a very small world—do not burn bridges, it will come back to haunt you. On the flipside, if you make good impressions, those too will follow.

8. Identify your weaknesses.

Everyone has things they don’t excel in. The key is to identify what those weaknesses are and devote time to work on them. Your weaknesses tend to be an interview topic, so being knowledgeable about them serves useful on several levels.

9. Learn to ask for and accept help.

In my experience, people are much more willing to lend a helping hand than one would imagine—you simply have to ask. People like to help, simple as that. Just don’t take it for granted or forget to return the favor. And even more important: thank you notes (particularly the handwritten, sent with postage sort)— they go a long way.

10. Get scared.

Some of the most rewarding experiences I’ve encountered have also been some of the most terrifying. Moving nearly 1,000 miles from home and knowing just three people in Boston was scary, but I certainly learned a lot about myself. Quitting my job in one of the worst economies since the Depression and moving back in with my folks was extremely terrifying, but they were also two of the best, and most needed, months of my life. With risk comes reward.