Monthly Archives: December 2015


In the latest installment of our “Good News” series, the Ball State English Department highlights the accomplishments of our faculty and students.EBuck

Elisabeth Buck
, a Teaching Assistant
and PhD Candidate in Rhetoric and Composition, has been selected to receive the Doctoral Level Excellence in Teaching Award for 2015-2016 from Ball State. She has also been nominated for the  Midwest Association of Graduate Schools (MAGS) Excellence in Teaching award. Congratulations, Elisabeth, on the award and nomination!

Prof. Lyn Jones
 received a Provost Immersive Learning Grant for her “Rethinking the Stories We Publish, Shelve, and Read” project for summer and fall 2016 semesters.

Prof. Adrienne Bliss
presented “Framing Prison Narratives: Confining the Voice” as part of the American Criminology and Penology panel at the 2015 Midwest Modern Language Association (MMLA) Convention in Columbus, Ohio.

Alicia Miller
 and Sara Isaacson, MA TESOL students, successfully presented their research project at Second Language Research Forum, in Atlanta, GA, in October 2015. The conference is a national-level, refereed conference in second language research. The project is based on Alicia’s term paper from a course, ENG 624 Foundations of Second Language Acquisition, she took in Spring 2015. Congratulations, Alicia and Sarah!

ND15-Cover-360.jpg_mediumProf. Katy Didden
presented a paper on Claudia Rankine’s Citizen at the Society for the Study of American Women Writer’s Conference. Didden also had poems accepted for publication by The Kenyon Review and Ecotone.

Prof. Cathy Day
 will be the Writer-in-Residence at Hanover College for the month of March. She will be living on campus, giving public talks, and meeting with students interested in novel-writing. Professor Day was also invited to UNC-Wilmington to be their annual honors spring speaker, and she made the Indianapolis Monthly’s list of Indiana’s current great novelists.

Profs. Debbie Mix, Pat Collier, and Emily Rutter attended the Modernist Studies Association Conference in Boston. At the Distinctly American Lyrics panel, Rutter presented “When ‘I’ Means ‘We’: Gwendolyn Bennett’s and Mae Cowdery’s ‘Heritage’ Poems” and Mix presented “‘We must both be here’: Lyric Poetry and Political Engagement.” Collier presented his own work as well as the award for Best Edition/Edited Collection. In addition to the awards work, Collier was also invited to attend a seminar called “Print Culture and Popularity.”

Alysia Sawchyn, a recently graduated M.A. student, had a nonfiction piece accepted for publication in a special ghost issue of Indiana Review. The issue will be published in May 2016. Sawchyn is currently working on her MFA in creative writing.

Ashley Ford, a regular contributor to ELLE magazine, recently published an essay titled On the Invisibility of Black Pain on Campus.

Abby Higgs had work published in November editions of Salon and The Rumpus. 
Undergraduate Luke Bell had poems accepted for publication by Outrageous Fortune magazine. Congratulations, Luke!

Prof. Peter Davis
recently had poems published in The Awl, Juked, Interrupture, Ampersand, Sixth Finch, Powder Keg, and Poet Lore. More poetry will be forthcoming in Columbia Poetry Review and The Believer. Davis’s book TINA was also reviewed by Stephen Burt in Coldfront.

Profs. Carolyn MacKay
and Frank Trechsel published an article titled “Totonac-Tepehua Genetic Relationships” in Amerindia.

Prof. Jill Christman‘s
new essay “Going Back to Plum Island” appeared in this month’s edition of River Teeth: A Journal of Nonfiction Narrative. Editors have nominated the essay for a Pushcart Prize. Ball State community can access River Teeth through the Project Muse database in our library site.


Kelsey Englert

In 2014, Kelsey earned her M.A. in English with a creative writing focus from Ball State University. She is currently pursuing an M.F.A. in creative writing at West Virginia University.

Two graduate degrees in creative writing. Redundant, right?

The MFA is the terminal degree in the field, and will allow me to teach as a creative writing professor upon graduation. For me, the MA was just as important. My undergraduate degrees at Ball State were in landscape architecture and history. I had never taken a creative writing course, but I loved writing stories. I knew very little about MA and MFA degrees, so I applied to Ball State’s program because it is a great school.

I won’t pretend I started the MA with a clear plan for graduate studies, but here are four reasons why stumbling into Ball State’s MA in English kelsey_englert1turned out to be very fortunate for me:

  1. Having time to write is a gift. It is. In both my MA and MFA programs, I’ve had time to write, to mull, to experiment with my craft over and over while being fully funded.
  2.  Teaching is hard. The first two semesters I taught at Ball State, it took up a lot of time, both teaching courses and taking the accompanying pedagogy courses. However, each semester I became better at balancing teaching and writing. When I arrived at my MFA program, while many of my peers were panicking over their first times teaching, I was able to skip the pedagogy course, and spend much less time prepping lessons, both of which meant more time for writing. (See reason number one.)
  3. I knew I would apply to MFA programs for fiction, so when I started at Ball State, I wasn’t very interested in (read as: I was intimidated by) the creative nonfiction, poetry, and screenwriting courses. I quickly learned that writing in other genres made my fiction better. Substantially better. There aren’t many programs that encourage students to dabble in four genres. It was great to be in small classrooms where five to eight classmates and myself moved from genre to genre each semester, and experimented with our writing together. The five graduate professors encouraged us to take courses outside our specialty. There was no rivalry between genres.
  4. Finally, the creative writing professors in the program are positive, encouraging, and create healthy workshop atmospheres. As I applied to MFA programs, I received endless support and advice from them on schools, writing samples, and applications. Publication and professionalization lectures were covered in the classroom, and meetings were held to advise those interested in MFA or PhD programs. We even had someone from the Career Center speak to us about career opportunities for English majors. I felt supported by the community of creative writing professors at Ball State. They are the kind of good people that years later, I still feel proud to call my writing mentors.

Every year, thousands of great writers apply to a limited number of MFA programs. Acceptance rates are low, especially in fully-funded programs. My two years in Ball State’s MA program allowed me to drastically improve my writing, develop a writing sample, and gain a support system to help me get accepted to a competitive MFA program. My time at Ball State was positive and frankly, a lot of fun.

Alum Kelly Kriner on Dr. Richard Whitworth

Kelly Kriner graduated from Ball State in 1989. You can learn more about her through her blog, or you can follow her on Twitter

Ah, anything Walt Whitman brings a smile to my heart. I can thank more than one person for that.

My parents and grandparents talked to me. Seems simple, but they truly gave me my first words. (They will tell you, as would anyone that knows me, that I have a lot of words!) My parents put books into my hands consistently and constantly. I realize just how lucky I am to have grown up in a world where words and books were loved and respected. Over the years I visited many libraries. Mrs. Haycock, Triton Central High School librarian, put books, MANY books, into my hands when my brain wanted more, more, more. She is responsible for my unending love of Rebecca, but also gave me Death Be Not Proud and historical fiction.

Then came Ball State. I remember many days and nights of reading and David__Daniel_and_Molly-_AJ_and_K_schools_visit_Apr09_023writing-comfy leather chairs in the library and learning in the Teacher’s College and the Bell building.

While none of my professors literally pulled a John Keating and jumped to his or her desk to proclaim the joy, or sorrow, of teaching and learning, I would say there were a few that did so metaphorically: some insistently, some through simple prodding, one because she did the exact opposite of what she taught. (“Do as I say. Not as I do.”)

Dr. Richard Whitworth, English methods professor, wrote a letter of recommendation for my BSU Career Center file. In it he notes that I was “fairly regular in my attendance.” I have always loved this reference letter. He is so succinct. So truly, brutally honest in simply stating the facts that when he says he has found me to be “very personable, cooperative and well prepared,” I am thrilled. Still. Today. More than twenty-five years later. And yes. I have a copy of the letter.

Dr. Whitworth taught the power of words.

He taught that we must think and use our words, and our actions, with great precision and care. If Dr. Whitworth wrote it, it must be true.

I am sure we learned much beyond what I can attribute to that class and my professor. But isn’t that always the way? As teachers we know that our words, our actions, will likely outlive our students’ memories of where the thoughts were first planted. And that is okay. Whitman’s poem acknowledges a fallen hero who captained a ship that still sails despite the loss of its leader and begs the captain to rise and see the ship riding the very waves he helped fight. Mourns the loss, but also celebrates the victory. Luckily, as teachers of English we do not have to fall to push our students out toward the horizon to set their own sails. Our purpose is to help them sail, fair or foul seas.

Dr. Whitworth taught the content, but what I really remember about his class was he taught us to think, not to judge. He taught a love of words, but he also taught that words belong to the people, all people. He taught me that we should respect our students and their words- where they and their words came from and would take them. It was in his class that I truly came to understand and respect that there is a time and place for formal English but also for informal language; language is a living thing. It changes. It evolves. It fits our purpose if we know it well enough to command it as we will.

Dr. Whitworth taught us to be wary of being too quick to judge our students, and their backgrounds, based on their use of informal language. Instead he proposed that teachers should use students’ vernacular to help them understand and learn that words are powerful, and as such should be used with thought and care. Today we reference that as author’s purpose, word choice, style.

My American Fiction professor made us swear with our hands on the book that as English majors we would one day read- swallow whole and completely- Moby Dick. My Old English prof had the patience of Job. He got us through challenging texts and allowed one student to bring her child to every single class. I took a summer class (maybe Shakespeare?) in which I hung out with grad students talking about the old bard and many other things besides- I don’t remember what I learned, but the feeling of being there and the joy I found in books, writers, and talking about them remains…but it is Dr. Whitworth whose face I see most clearly.

“O Captain! My Captain! rise up and hear the bells;

Rise up—for you the flag is flung—for you the bugle trills;

For you bouquets and ribbon’d wreaths—for you the shores a-crowding;

For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;”

I am not sure how long after each class went through he remembered specific students. I am okay with that. Happy actually, as I don’t feel so guilty for not being able to remember each student and when I had them. But I know that I, like Dr. Whitworth, put my all into my teaching day by day, student by student. I am present in the moment and use my thoughts, my words, my actions, most carefully. I remember Dr. Richard Whitworth as pretty stern, but I also remember he smiled. I remember not word for word what he taught but that he taught me to think for myself. He gave me power. He wrote, “I believe that Kelly has considerable growth potential.” He continues to inspire me to be all that I can strive to be. I can not think of a better tribute to my professor than to write that I too believe I have considerable growth potential and believe that my students benefit every day from what he gave me in my time in his classroom at Ball State University.

Guest Post: Mamadou Djiguimde Presents "Bargaining in Bobo-Dioulasso"

Communities across the world have different norms and rituals. In this 36-minute documentary film, Ritassida Mamadou Djiguimde, a doctoral student in the Applied Linguistics program of Ball State University, offers a linguistic perspective on the cultural practice that is “bargaining.” Bargaining, in the context of Bobo-Dioulasso, the second largest city of Burkina Faso, West Africa, is nothing other than the price dispute that takes place between vendors and customers during service exchanges.

Bargaining is often thought of as a hassle by those who do not truly understand its economic and cultural implications. This documentary makes the case that the speech event of bargaining is not only a cultural artifact, but also an economic artifact that creates an interpersonal relationship between vendors and customers that is good for business. Through its different stages, interpersonal relationships are negotiated, established, and maintained. Ultimately, bargaining reduces the cost of attracting and maintaining customers.

The video above gives deeper insight into this Bobo-Dioulasso tradition.