Monthly Archives: January 2016

ENG299x: Literary Citizenship and Midwest Writers Workshop

Want to get involved at the Midwest Writers Workshop? Interested in professional experience as well as credit? ENG299x: Literary Citizenship is the class for you.

This summer ’16 course is offered from June 20 to July 22. Once the course is over, students will attend and work at the Midwest Writers Workshop national writing conference, from July 21-23.

You may ask, what is a literary citizen, and what does it have to do with professional experience? A literary citizen is an aspiring writer who understands that you have to contribute to, not just expect things from, the publishing world. This course will teach you how to take advantage of the opportunities offered by your local, regional and national literary communities, and how you can best contribute to those communities given your talents and interests. It will also help you begin to professionalize yourself as a writer, or in a writing-related career.

Along with reading and reviewing numerous books (including at least one by the authors attending the Workshop, as well as interviewing writers) you will also be learning how to:

  1. use a professional blog or website as a literary citizen
  2. organize a multi-day literary event
  3. create content for the Midwest Writers Workshop’s e-newsletter, website, and social media
  4. promote the event to local, state, and national constituencies

At the end of the semester, you will apply what you learned and serve as either a Literary Agent Assistant or a Social Media Tutor at the Midwest Writers Workshop.

How to Apply:

Permission for this course is by instructor only. In an email, include a link to your blog or website where it is easy to find a) a third-person bio or “about” page, including a recent photograph of yourself, b) your resume, and c) a page or a post of about 250-500 words explaining why this opportunity will benefit you professionally and what you think you can bring to the service aspect of the course. Do not send attachments–upload the materials to your blog or website.

Send the email to Jama Bigger, Director of the Midwest Writers Workshop, at midwestwriters@yahoo.comApplications are due by March 18, 2016 at noon. Permission for this course is by instructor onlyso get those applications in! You will learn if you have been accepted into the course when you receive your summer registration time ticket. This class can count as an elective or a main course for English majors.

An Interview with Elisabeth Buck

Elisabeth Buck is a Teaching Assistant and PhD Candidate in Rhetoric and Composition. She was 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.

  1. What classes have you taught?

I’ve taught several sections of ENG 103 and 104, and I helped co-teach English 605, which is the second semester teacher practicum course. This semester, I’m also teaching ENG 213, which is Introduction to Digital Literacies.


  1.  What’s been your favorite class?

I’ve really enjoyed all of my classes. Every semester is so different. My students are all so unique and they bring such cool things to the class, but in terms of content I think I’ve had two favorites. The first was when I was teaching in my master’s program and I got to teach a Disney-themed composition course. That was only my second semester teaching. It was great to have that as an experience, and I had so much fun! As for my other favorite, well, I’m really having a lot of fun teaching my 213 class. I’m teaching it on the theme of social media. We’ve had a lot of really cool conversations about social media and the significance of social media to contemporary communications. The students in that class have been awesome. I tell them all the time how much I’m going to miss them next semester.

  1. What are you currently researching?

I’m working on my dissertation right now. It’s about the intersections between digital literacies and writing center scholarship, so I’m really able to bring in my interest in digital technologies, but also my work with writing centers. I’ve had opportunities to interview scholars, I did a survey, and I did a lit review. I’m putting it all together right now and writing a conclusion for it, but my research sort of broadly surrounds social media and pop culture, digital literacies, and also writing program and writing center administration.

  1. How would you describe yourself as a teacher?  

I think when I first started teaching one of the goals I had for myself was that I really wanted to think back to the teachers I admired and the teachers who had a huge impact on my education. I try to think about the attributes they had that I want to emulate in my own classroom– things like being organized, understanding, and clear in terms of assignments, but I also go back and identify things that helped me as a student. I like to think of my classroom and my approach to teaching as trying to remember my days as a student, since I am a student, and to have those traits that I thought were really helpful. I think it’s something that, you know, the further you’ve been away from school, the more you start to forget about.

  1. Do you have a specific assignment or project that you particularly enjoy?

I try to have my students focus on how social media impacts the way information is received and distributed, and also how quickly that changes and how those changes can be really jarring at times. I had my students do a current event presentation. Basically they all signed up for a day in class when they’d present and then picked a current event, something that had happened within the past two weeks, to talk about what role social media played in amplifying or distributing that content. It was really interesting how quickly the topics shifted. At one point we’d be talking about the Starbucks red cup controversy, and then really serious things like The Million Man March or the republican debates that were going on. What I was trying to underscore is that this is the way we receive news on social media. You’ll find a really serious topic followed by something that’s totally frivolous. I really wanted students to think critically about how these things might not exist in the same capacity as they do without social media. That’s been an assignment I’ve really liked from this past semester.

  1. What do you love most about teaching?

It’s probably sort of a cliche answer to say “the students,” but I think that’s true. It’s kind of hard to describe when you’re a teacher and you see the work your students produce at the end of the semester. You feel so proud of them, especially if they’d expressed hesitancy at any point in the semester, and to be at that end point and be able to look at them and say, “You did it!” It’s been great to see some of the students I taught in my master’s program, some of them still keep in touch with me, and they’ll say, “I just got into a grad program!” Even now that I’ve been here for four years, seeing the students who were freshmen now seniors, it’s been so nice being able to know them and talk to them. As an instructor you’re so privileged to be a part of your students’ lives for however brief a time period. You get to meet so many people, and I really enjoy that aspect.

  1. Can you describe what you believe is your job or goal as a teacher?

I think my classes in general are really pop culture and media oriented. I do that because I really think it’s important for students to be able to think critically about the world around them and think critically about the things they’re constantly exposed to and sometimes barraged with, and to see those things as a really legitimate aspect of communication and discourse. I think, because college can be so scary, it’s really cool sometimes to come into a classroom and say, “We’re going to talk about Yik Yak today.” I think those things really matter and it’s important to have a critical framework to be able to think about these things that students are always going to have to confront. It matters a lot. The very first thing I had my students do this semester was switch names with each other and search for each other online, to sort of prove that your online identity matters. It’s kind of scary to hear what people can find out about you, so you need to work on being conscious of your digital identity. That’s why I frame my classes in that way, because I think that type of writing matters a lot and will matter a lot.

  1. What advice do you have for other teachers?

I think it’s always important to be true to yourself. Some advice that was given to me when I first started teaching was that I have to be really draconian and really strict and harsh or the students would walk all over me, but I don’t want to be that teacher. Everyone has a different style of teaching, and you can’t try to adopt someone else’s style and think it will work for you. It’s really helpful to identify the things you do well and the things you value, and to shape your classroom around that. Don’t just assume because someone else does something that it’ll work for you. The work of composition and writing especially are so context specific.

  1. What advice do you have for students?

I think I was so nervous to talk to my professors as an undergraduate that I missed out on a lot of opportunities to build relationships with my professors, so I do regret not reaching out more. I think I was nervous because I perceived a huge authority gap between students and professors, when now I think a lot of professors would’ve been really receptive to that. I would say take a chance and try to actually speak with your professors. Meet with them, because so many would be willing to help you and be really invested in your academic career. Sometimes you have to be the one to take the first step in forging that relationship.

  1. What has been the most enjoyable part of your time here at Ball State?

It was hard for me because I moved here from Nevada having a very vague conception of what the Midwest was. Now I’m in this position, four years later, where I can say that I am so happy I came. My dissertation chair, Dr. Grouling, and all the administrators here that I’ve worked with, as well as the people in my program, have become some of my best friends, so I think it’s hard to say something really specific. When I graduate in May I know I’m really going to miss it here. It’s really nice to be able to walk away from a place and know you’ll miss it, instead of leaving and saying good riddance. It’s hard for me to pick something specific because the whole experience has been so positive. I would not have received this award if not for the people who supported me in the process. 

11. What does this award mean to you?

In some ways it’s sort of a culmination of roughly four and a half years of teaching, and it’s one of those things where I feel I’ve grown so much as a teacher as well. It’s hard not to remember my very first day in the classroom, being nervous, and I remember my roommate at the time, when I was grading my first round of papers, took a picture of me just lying in all the papers looking so overwhelmed.

I know it’s cliche, but it really is such an honor, and I wouldn’t have gotten here if I didn’t have all these wonderful students. They’re awesome people. Teaching can be really hard at times and sometimes you have to be really vulnerable with your students, but it really has just been such a good experience that I’m really going to miss.

Diana Pharaoh Francis: Fantasy Novelist

Diana Pharaoh Francis (Ph.D. 1999) is a successful fiction writer who taught for 14 years at the University of Montana-Western. She now lives and writes in Oregon, and is the author of over a dozen novels in the fantasy genre.

  1. You earned your PhD in 1999, correct? What was the title? Did you get your BA and MA with us, too? How did your degrees help you make the literary life you have now?

Correct. My diss title was “Models to the Universe”: Victorian Hegemony and the Construction of Feminine Identity, which, if you’re feeling terribly curious, can be read on my website. I obtained my BA at The University of California-Davis, and my MA at Iowa State University. I don’t know that the degrees as such are meaningful, but what I learned, now, that’s another story. I learned research, writing, revision, editing, critiquing, deepened my vocabulary, and I learned to really think and consider diana francisdetails. I also learned to work independently, and to create and follow a schedule in order to complete a long project. I learned to dig deeper, push harder, and that good enough wasn’t good enough. I wouldn’t be the writer I am without that experience.

  1. Please describe a typical day or week in your life now.

I’m not sure there’s such thing as a typical day or week. I’ve been writing about 2-3 books a year, plus some shorter stuff. That means at any given time, I’m drafting fiction. Layered over that is usually some element of another book–revisions, copy edits, proofs, proposals, for instance, not to mention all the other things that crop up like blogging, convention appearances, and so on. I try to write about ten thousand words a week on average, and I have two kids, so I have to be very disciplined so that I get everything done in the time I have. I always feel like there’s more to do than time to do it. It’s the best job ever. Continue reading

Site Visits to Angie's List and Indianapolis Monthly

If you’d like to experience the professional world before actually entering the professional world, we have two great site visits in the next month that may interest you.

Angie’s List is a growing entrepreneurial environment, and has been recognized as one of Indiana’s Best Places to Work. Their mission is to help consumers find the best service providers in their areas; so far they have collected reviews on over 720 services and have more than 3 million members. Angie’s List is one of the most trusted and recognized websites based in the Midwest, and has been transforming how consumers share information since 1995. They are constantly updating what positions and internships are available across various locations, so keep an eye out!

Indianapolis Monthly won the 2014 general excellence award in its circulation category from the City and Regional Magazine Association, and its content not only reflects the interests of Indianapolis, but sparks conversation with its coverage of politics, sports, crime, lifestyle, entertainment, restaurants, culture, and business. Indianapolis Monthly has 209,000+ monthly readers and 41,000 monthly subscribers. Visit their website for more information on available internships.

Go to Cardinal Career Link and RSVP under Events: Employer Site Visits for Angie’s List on January 28, and/or Indianapolis Monthly on February 23. Spots are filling up fast! We hope to see you there!

For more information, check out these flyers:

Indianapolis Monthly

Angie’s List


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


Prof. Jackie Grutsch McKinney delivered the keynote address at the National Conference on Peer Tutoring in Writing in Salt Lake City. Jackie is the current director of the Ball State Writing Center and has conducted extensive research on writing center labor and how technology has changed the functions of writing centers. The theme of NCPTW ’15 was (De)Center: Testing Assumptions about Peer Tutoring and Writing Centers. Congratulations, Jackie!

Prof. Michael Begnal had three poems published in the literary magazine The Pickled Body. One of these poems, “Paris of Appalachia,” was nominated for a 2016 Pushcart Prize.

Matthias Raess gave a poster presentation of “Because formality: The conjunction-noun construction in online text corpora” with Kenneth Baclawski (UC Berkeley) and Justin Bland (Virginia Tech) at the joint annual meeting of the Linguistic Society of America and the American Dialect Society, in Washington D.C.

Dr. Adrienne Bliss presented her paper entitled “Flipping/Flopping, Tech No and Techno” at the Lilly Conference: Evidence-Based Teaching and Learning in Austin, Texas.

Prof. Emily Scalzo published a haiku in the 2015 anthology of Element(ary) My Dear, through Kind of a Hurricane Press.

Dr. Frank Felsenstein‘s essay “‘If You Tickle Us, Do We Not Laugh?’: Stereotypes of Jews in English Graphic Humor of the Georgian Era” was published in No Laughing Matter: Visual Humor in Ideas of Race, Nationality, and Ethnicity

Dr. Mary Lou Vercellotti co-wrote a research paper with Dr. Nel de Jong of Amsterdam, Netherlands, entitled “Similar prompts may not be similar in the performance they elicit: Examining fluency, complexity, accuracy, and lexis in narratives from five picture prompts”. It will be published by Language Teaching Research and is currently available online ahead of print. Mary Lou also presented “Maximizing Students’ Interactions With An Expert” at the Lilly Conference on College Teaching at Miami University in Ohio.

Dr. Robert Habich has published “An ‘Extempore Adventurer’ in Italy: Emerson as International Tourist,” in a collection entitled A Power to Translate the World: New Essays on Emerson and International Culture.



What Does Rhetoric Mean to You?

We’ve launched a new series that we’ve titled “Department Dialogue.” This series offers our professors a platform that they can use to discuss English-related topics that are of interest to both faculty and students alike. We continue the series with responses from the Rhetoric & Writing faculty, who have all answered the same question: what does rhetoric mean to you? 

Professor Paul Ranieri:

So, first, I acknowledge that all communication involves what communication theorists call the communication triangle.  I would portray it as follows:  Imagine a triangle with a circle around it.  The points of the triangle stand for the key elements of all communication: I (the writer/speaker), It (the message), and You (the audience).  That triangle is surrounded by the Context of the message.  Those four elements are included in any human communication.  The relationship among those four elements is Rhetoric.  Any message in any medium or collection of media can be analyzed or planned by thinking through those four elements.

From another perspective, the ancient Greeks were interested in the human element of communication whereby human thoughts find outward expression in words.  That relationship was often called Logos.  So, in brief, Thinking→Words = Logos.  For the ancient Greeks putting one’s thoughts into words then necessitated that you act on those words, thus setting up the relationship, Thinking→Words→Actions.  That relationship defined one’s Ethos or Character, leading Aristotle to say that “character is almost, so to speak, the most authoritative form of persuasion.”

From both this modern communications and this ancient historical perspective comes my interest in Rhetoric: how it has been conceived, the way it is conceived, the way we use it, the way we abuse it, and the way we learn it.

Continue reading