Author Archives: ceceliamwestbrook

A Flash Non-Fiction about Creative Writing

Creative Writing major Cecelia Westbrook describes how she found the right form.

When I declared my Creative Writing major in the fall of 2014, I considered myself a poet and nothing but a poet.

As an incoming freshman, I didn’t have much experience under my pencil. I had taken one creative writing class in high school, and enjoyed the poetry section the most. I even went out of my way to write extra poems, which made my final project grade 115/100.

Cecelia at the  launch party for Tributaries, containing her first publication, the essay “All Babies are Ugly, Except for Me (Just Ask My Uncle).” Top, Cecelia and friends with poet Kaveh Akbar.

If that is what it takes to be considered a “poet,” then I, in fact, was a poet.

Here at BSU, my English 285 class, which is the introductory creative writing course, spent a few weeks on each genre. This was my first exposure to creative non-fiction, which, it seemed to me, was basically taking experiences from your own life and writing them down for other people to read (possibly.) I didn’t know what to do with it. I don’t remember much about what I wrote for this specific course, but I do remember thinking, Can I go back to writing angsty poetry now please? Continue reading

In Print Festival of First Books XIII – Itinerary of Public Events

For over a decade the BSU Creative Writing Program’s In Print Festival of First Books has brought three authors who’ve just published their first book and a literary editor/publisher to campus for a two-day event featuring a reading, classroom visits, and a panel discussion/Q&A on literary editing and publishing.

This year’s festival, to be held in the Student Center Ballroom from 8:00-10:00 p.m. on Wednesday, March 28th and Thursday, March 29th, features poet Carolina Ebeid, fiction writer Nick White, creative nonfiction writer Jan Shoemaker, and editor/publisher Kristen Elias Rowley.

 

Here is a detailed schedule of events:

Wednesday, March 28th

 3 PM

  • Carolina Ebeid: Katy Didden’s ENG 308: Intro Poetry Workshop in RB 290
  • Jan Shoemaker: Jill Christman’s ENG 406: Advanced CNF Workshop in RB 361

8 PM

  • In Print Reading, reception and book signing (*remember to bring your books!) in the Student Center Ballroom

 

Thursday March 29th

12:30 PM

  • Carolina Ebeid: Mark Neely’s ENG 408: Advanced Poetry Workshop in RB 361

 2:00 PM

  • Jan Shoemaker: Silas Hansen’s ENG 406: Advanced Creative Nonfiction Workshop in RB 361

3:30 PM

  • Nick White: Sean Lovelace’s ENG 407: Advanced Fiction Workshop in RB 361

5:00 PM

  • Kristen Elias Rowley: Mark Neely’s ENG 489: Literary Editing in RB 361

8:00 PM

  • Panel discussion, reception and book signing in the Student Center Ballroom

In Print Author: Jan Shoemaker

This week, BSU’s creative writing program hosts its annual In Print Festival of First Books, a two-day event featuring a reading and panel discussion by writers who have just published their first books, as well as an editor from a small press or literary journal.

Today we introduce the third of our featured writers for this year’s festival: creative nonfiction writer Jan Shoemaker.

Jan’s Official Bio

Jan Shoemaker’s essay collection, Flesh and Stones: Field Notes from a Finite World, was published in 2016 by Bottom Dog Press. Her essays and poems have appeared in many journals and magazines. Having recently participated in a community reading of Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself” in northern Michigan, she is increasingly interested in the idea of public readings as a form of political action. She writes and teaches in Michigan, where she lives with her husband and a succession of bed-hogging but well-meaning rescue dogs.

Interviews

Selected Essays

Event Details

Jan will be joined at the 2018 In Print Festival of First Books by fiction writer Nick White, poet Carolina Ebeid, and editor Kristen Elias Rowley.

Jan Shoemaker will also be visiting Professor Jill Christman’s ENG 406 class:

  • Wednesday, 03/28, 3:00-4:15 in Robert Bell, Room 361

She will also be visiting Professor Silas Hansen’s ENG 406 class:

  • Thursday, 03/29, 2:00-3:15 in Robert Bell, Room 361

All In Print events are free and open to the public, but contact Prof. Hansen or Prof. Christman if you would like to sit in on one of their classes.

 

In Print Author: Carolina Ebeid

Next week, the Ball State creative writing program will host its annual In Print Festival of First Books, a two-day event featuring a reading and panel discussion by writers who have just published their first books, as well as an editor from a small press or literary journal.

In anticipation of this event, we have prepared a series of blog posts highlighting each of the writers whose work will be presented at the festival. Today’s writer: poet Carolina Ebeid.

Carolina’s Official Bio:

Carolina Ebeid is the author of You Ask Me to Talk About the Interior (Noemi Press, 2016). She is a student in the PhD program in creative writing at the University of Denver, and holds an MFA from the Michener Center for Writers. She has won fellowships and prizes from CantoMundo, Bread Loaf Writer’s Conference, the Stadler Center for Poetry, and the NEA. Her work appears widely in journals such as The Kenyon Review, Gulf Coast, Colorado Review, and more recent work appears in PEN America, Bennington Review, and jubilat.

Interviews

Poems

Many of her other poems can be found linked on her website

 Event Details:

Carolina will be joined at the 2018 In Print Festival of First Books by fiction writer Nick White, creative nonfiction writer Jan Shoemaker, and editor Kristen Elias Rowley.

  • Wednesday, 03/28: In Print Reading, 8-10 PM in the Student Center Ballroom
  • Thursday, 03/29: In Print Panel Discussion, 8-10 PM in the Student Center Ballroom
    Carolina Ebeid will also be visiting Professor Mark Neely’s ENG 408 class:
  • Thursday, 03/29, 12:30-1:45 in Robert Bell, Room 361

All In Print events are free and open to the public. Contact Prof. Neely at maneely@bsu.edu if you want to sit in on his class.

February Good News: Publications and Jobs and Plays, Oh My!

Not only was February a month full of love; it was also a month full of awesome accomplishments for our #BSUEnglish faculty, students, and alumni!

Faculty News

Professor Guilherme D. Garcia’s paper “Can you get stress without feet?” (joint work with Heather Goad) was accepted for presentation at the 36th West Coast Conference on Formal Linguistics (WCCFL), held at UCLA this April.

Prof. Kathryn S. Gardiner’s feature-length screenplay “The Regiment” won an Award of Excellence in the 2018 Broadcast Education Association’s Faculty Screenwriting Competition.

Prof. Andrea Wolfe’s round table presentation,“Storytelling across the Domestic Student/International Student Divide” (with Lizz Alezetes and Deborah McMillan), will be conducted at Indiana Campus Compact Service Engagement Summit, in Indianapolis on February 27.

Prof. Peter Davis’s poem “Touching Stuff” was recently published in The Believer. His fourth book of poems, Band Names and Other Poems, is now available from Bloof Books.  He also released a new Short Hand record from his music project. This one happens to be a rap record! Prof. Davis is also judging the 2018 Lucy Munro Brooker Prize for the University of Indianapolis undergraduate poetry prize.

Prof. Angela Jackson-Brown‘s musical Dear Bobby, with music written by Prof. Davis, will have six performances at the Basile IndyFringe Theatre beginning on March 22.

Prof. Emily Rutter’s book Invisible Ball of Dreams: Literary Representations of Baseball behind the Color Line (University of Mississippi Press, May 15, 2018) is now available for pre-order.

Prof. Cathy Day will be teaching this summer at the Chautauqua Institute in Chautauqua, NY. For one week, she’ll lead a series of master classes on the changing business of writing.

Prof. Jennifer Grouling published “Teaching Writing Teachers: An Assignment in Mapping Writing Program Values” in Prompt: A Journal of Academic Writing Assignments.

Prof. Rory Lee published “Surveying the Available Modes of Persuasion” in Designing and Implementing Multimodal Curricula and Programs.

On February 22, 2018, Prof. Victoria Barrett published an op-ed with the Washington Post entitled, “Why I will never carry a gun in my classroom”.

Prof. Michael Begnal presented a paper at The Louisville Conference on Literature and Culture since 1900 on the contemporary Irish poet Maurice Scully, titled “Immanence and Ecopoetics in the Poetry of Maurice Scully.”

Retired Prof. Bob Habich contributed an invited post about Ralph Waldo Emerson to OUPblog, conducted by Oxford University Press: “Emerson’s Canonization and the Perils of Sainthood“appeared on May 25, Emerson’s birthday. In October he led a discussion of Henry David Thoreau for the Association of Lifelong Learners.  And in January, Broadview Press published Bob’s edition of the Selected Writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Prof. Lynne Stallings was awarded a VBC Fellowship for Fall, 2018, for a project titled Promoting Assessment Literacy. This project was inspired by one of the recommendations by the 2016 Indiana ISTEP panel, and the subsequent legislation (House Education Act 1003) that was passed in 2017, calling for state funds to create assessment literacy programs that promote “a better understanding of the meaning behind assessment results.” Students from a wide range of disciplines will be recruited  to determine the message and language that would most effectively  ensure that Hoosiers fully understand assessment practices and their implications for Indiana students, schools, and communities.

Prof. Stallings also recently received the Mayor James P. Carey Community Service Award in recognition of distinction in community leadership. The award was presented by the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Dream Team. Her co-honorees were her husband, Daniel Stallings, Yvonne Thompson, and Susan Fisher.

Student News

Cecelia Westbrook‘s non-fiction essay, “All Babies Are Ugly, Except for Me (Just Ask My Uncle)”, has been accepted for publication by the journal Tributaries.

Alumni News

Brandon Buechley, a 2015 Creative Writing graduate, accepted a job at DK Publishing in Indianapolis. He serves as an editorial assistant for Alpha Books.

Daniel Brount (BA English 2016) recently secured a position in publishing. He’ll be a Production/Editorial Assistant at Skyhorse Publishing in New York City.

Nikole Darnell, who graduated in 2017 with a degree in Creative Writing, had her short story “When Tomorrow Comes” published in Potluck Magazine. The story was originally written for her Honors Thesis at BSU, directed by Joyce Huff.

Guilherme D. Garcia on language, linguistics, and critical thinking

Guilherme D. Garcia began teaching linguistics at BSU in January. A native of Brazil, Prof. Garcia has a PhD from McGill University in Montreal. He specializes in Phonology and Phonetics, both of which focus on the speech sounds that make up languages. Among other things, his research focuses on how speakers learn pronunciation patterns and how meter–the sequences of weak and strong syllables–contrast in different languages. Beyond linguistics and teaching, Prof. Garcia is passionate about guitars and photography. In this interview, he talks about his current research, about avoiding biases, and about his role models.

How would you describe your teaching perspective?

I think that the most important skill a student can acquire these days is critical thinking, and that’s the underlying objective of my classes. Once you learn how to filter all the information available, you can be sufficiently autonomous to build your own path in a particular field of study. Since I teach theoretical and experimental linguistics, I often emphasize that our conclusions about a particular theoretical framework should be guided by the data available—and not by our subjective biases towards a particular theory. One important question to ask when we examine linguistic data is whether a different explanation could also account for the patterns we observe. Naturally, that question should be considered outside the classroom as well.

Who are your biggest role models?

My parents taught me all those things you don’t learn at school. Most of everything else I learned from amazing professors and my wife. My PhD supervisor is certainly my academic role model.

Tell us a little about your current projects.

Right now I’m working on a couple of things. I have a paper under revision on whether or not we can generalize patterns in our language which may be inconsistent with what’s observed cross-linguistically (I’ll present this paper at the 41st annual GLOW conference, held in Budapest this year). I have another paper under way (joint work) that compares English and Portuguese, and argues that even though these languages look very similar in terms of their metrical structure, they are actually fundamentally different. I’m also working on an upcoming presentation in Chicago  where I show that a Bayesian approach to data analysis can be particularly useful in the study of Second Language Acquisition. Finally, I’m working with some researchers at McGill University on two projects: one that investigates how prosodic factors can affect how we interpret pronouns in Italian, and one that examines how patterns of vowel deletion in Quebec French can help us better understand the underlying metrical pattern(s) in the language. This project was recently presented at the Annual Meeting of the Linguistic Society of America, held in Salt Lake City this past January.

How did you decide on the work you are focusing on now?

I’m curious to see how we can acquire and generalize subtle aspects of our native (or second) language. By “subtle,” I mean facts about language that we don’t really know exist in speakers’ grammars, but which emerge in carefully designed experiments. This can help us better understand how powerful our language acquisition mechanism is at learning and generalizing linguistic patterns. In the context of second language acquisition, this can help us identify with precision underlying differences between native speakers and second language learners. I also really enjoy analyzing language data and assessing how accurate standard assumptions are given what we actually observe. So my research connects these two worlds: data analysis and linguistics (phonology).

New professor Elisabeth Buck on making the most of PhD studies

Elisabeth Buck received her PhD in Rhetoric and Writing from BSU in 2016. During her time here, Elisabeth worked as a graduate teaching assistant and as the Graduate Assistant Director of the Writing Program and Writing Center. She is now Assistant Professor of English and Faculty Director of the Writing & Reading Center at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth. 

In this installment of Grad School Confidential, Elisabeth talks about how her experiences at Ball State readied her for the academic job market.

One of the best aspects of my job is the opportunity to mentor and advise students. Just the other day, one of my students asked me, “So… how do I go about getting a job like yours?”

Receiving a tenure-track job offer is like finding a unicorn, or catching a foul ball, or *insert other appropriate metaphor about luck/scarcity here.* There are so many super-smart, hard-working, enthusiastic people who, for a variety of reasons, may spend years applying for and never receiving such a job offer. The reality is that working full-time in academia is an increasingly tenuous pursuit, and I remind myself constantly how lucky I am to be here. If you decide then to attend graduate school, I believe strongly that you should be open to many post-grad paths: a graduate degree in English can be versatile and marketable. That said, the specific opportunities and training offered to me at Ball State absolutely prepared me to take on my role at U Mass Dartmouth, for three primary reasons:

Fantastic Faculty Mentors

If you have—or are considering—moving to attend grad school, the community you’re able to build is critically important. Graduate school can be tough on mental health. Seriously tough. It’s important that anyone considering this path do their research about this topic, and know what resources exist on campus. Even if you’re commuting locally, I cannot emphasize enough that to be successful in graduate school, you must have support.

On this note, I met Dr. Jennifer Grouling on my first day at Ball State. During my time there, she epitomized supportive—from her first role as my teaching mentor, through her supervision as my dissertation/exam chair, and, more recently, as my co-teacher and co-author. Dr. Jackie Grutsch McKinney too is one of the most well-known and well- respected scholars in writing center studies. (She’s a three-time winner of the International Writing Center Association’s Outstanding Book Award!) Both Jennifer and Jackie are incredibly encouraging mentors, and I feel so fortunate to have had the opportunity to learn from them. Dr. Rory Lee and Dr. Mike Donnelly also helped me engage critically and meaningfully throughout my exam and dissertation process. Even English faculty outside of my area stepped in to help prepare me for the job market—from offering workshops on personal statements and CV design, to attending mock job talks and research presentations.

Teaching/Administrative Opportunities

One thing that I believe made me successful in my job search is the variety of teaching and administrative positions I was able to hold at Ball State. I served as  the Graduate Assistant Director of both the Writing Program and the Writing Center. In these roles, I explored strategies for programmatic evaluation, supervision, publicity, and assessment—all key to developing a comprehensive administrative philosophy.

Ball State also afforded me the opportunity to teach a variety of classes, including first-year English courses, a Digital Literacies class, and, as co-teacher with Dr. Grouling, a graduate level course, Teaching in English Studies. These pedagogical experiences supplemented my administrative roles, especially with regard to the opportunity to work closely with and mentor fellow graduate students.

Rigorous Research Preparation

When I was a student in Dr. Grouling’s Teaching in English Studies class, I began a research project that eventually became my first peer-reviewed publication. Have I mentioned that Jennifer is supportive? Well, she was there during every stage of this process.

I think that most current academics will tell you that it is always advantageous to emerge from grad school with at least one refereed publication, if a job in academe is the end goal. Navigating the publishing process can be hugely scary, but my coursework at Ball State—especially the Writing in the Professions course—helped me take important steps that would make my work legible within disciplinary contexts.

It was also this advanced preparation that helped me navigate how to pitch and revise my dissertation into a book, Open-Access, Multimodality, and Writing Center Studies.

In short, I am enormously thankful for my time at Ball State. The combination of highly engaged faculty, unique teaching and administrative opportunities, and an encouraging and thorough research program undoubtedly helped me make it to this point.

Editor’s Note: Elisabeth indicates that she would be happy to hear from students considering graduate school at Ball State. You can reach her at ebuck@umassd.edu.

Robbie Maakestad : Editor, Author, Award Winner

Robbie Maakestad is an Assistant Features Editor for The Rumpus and is writing a biography of place about the City of David archaeological park in Jerusalem. He has an MA in Creative Writing from Ball State and an MFA in Creative Nonfiction from  George Mason University. He has been published or has forthcoming work in Essay Daily, Bad Pony, The MacGuffin, Free State Review, and Bethesda Magazine, among others. In 2017, Robbie was shortlisted for the Penguin/Travelex Next Great Travel Writer Award. Follow him at @RobbieMaakestad.

How did your English major lead to your current position? What skills did you learn as an English major that helped you transition into that job?

Without a degree in English, I certainly would not be prepared to teach or edit as I do now. After getting my BA in English from Taylor University and my MA in Creative Writing at Ball State, I attended George Mason University in Fairfax, VA (where I still live) to get an MFA in Creative Nonfiction. After graduating in May ’17, I started editing for The Rumpus and teaching nonfiction as adjunct faculty at George Washington University (GWU)–both positions that would have been unattainable without the experience afforded by my degrees. Studying English in undergrad forced me to practice critical thought in regard to my own writing and to the writing of others, which has proven essential in both my teaching and editing. Workshop in creative writing courses laid a foundation for leading discussion in my own classroom and for knowing what to look for as I select essays to publish.

What’s a typical day like for you?

Mondays and Wednesdays I teach at GWU in Washington D.C., so I commute an hour into the city by metro, teach two sections of Historical Creative Nonfiction, hold office hours, and put in several hours of my own work before heading home. Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays I head to the library for 8-10 hours and grade, lesson prep/read class materials, and read and edit essay submissions. I’m currently about two-thirds of the way through writing a history of the City of David–an archaeological site in Jerusalem–so I also spend a lot of my library time working on the book, and reading archaeological reports, biographies of archaeologists, and texts about ancient Jerusalem in order to mine the history for a narrative.

Do you have any advice for English majors who are trying to figure out what comes next in their lives?

It’s probably cliché, but if you know what it is that you love to do, position yourself in order to make it happen as your career. Post-undergrad I thought that I might want to teach college English, but I wasn’t sure, so I pursued my MA in order to get teaching experience while getting a writing degree. It turned out I loved teaching at the university level (and I’ve always loved writing CNF), so for me an MFA was the next step in pursuing both of those passions. During my MFA I edited Phoebe Journal where I learned that in addition to writing my own work, I love publishing other writers, so after graduating I found an editing position. Things fall into place eventually; it’s just a matter of networking and gaining experiences that will qualify you for the job that you want eventually.

Melissa Glidden : Freelance Writer, Copyeditor, and Mom

Melissa Glidden has an M.A. in Creative Writing from Ball State University. She has translated her college learning into editing, copywriting, and marketing. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her daughter, knitting, and reading.

How did your English major lead to your current position? What skills did you learn as an English major that helped you transition into that job?

I have a B.A. in English, an M.L.S. (Master of Library Science), and an M.A. in Creative Writing. There are so many skills I gained by studying English that I use today as a copywriter, copy editor, and marketer, but to keep this from getting too long, I’ll just highlight one.

Succeeding as an English student—whether you’re studying literature or writing—requires you to look at an object (like a novel, short story, or poem) and see it for more than face value, for more than just the words on the page, or the chronological list of events that unfold in a story.

For example, if you ask the average person what the Harry Potter series is about, they’ll probably tell you it’s about a bunch of wizard kids doing wizard kid things and saving the day. But ask an English student, and they’ll tell you it’s about friendship, bravery,       sacrifice, and so on. An English student won’t just tell you that Harry Potter is a wizard boy who survived an attack by a really bad guy. They’ll tell you something about how Harry is a symbol of mankind’s ability to leverage kindness, bravery, and morality for the betterment of humanity in spite of our innate flaws and imperfections!

Copywriters (and editors, and marketers) need to be able to see A.) the product (a can of Coke) and B.) the audience (the person choosing between Coke and Dr. Pepper) for more than what they really are. Successful English majors are majorly good at this!

What’s a typical day like for you?

In addition to any copywriting work that comes through my agency Burgeon, I have a full-time job as a copywriter for a company based in San Francisco—a company that used to be one of my freelance clients! Both roles allow me to work remotely, so I can literally work from wherever I want.

Usually, I get up at 6 A.M., and drop my daughter off at school by 8 A.M. Until I leave again to pick her up by 3 P.M., anything can happen!

Typically, I have a to-do list of things that need to get done—maybe some copyediting for a client’s website, or an email marketing campaign. Sometimes, I have a phone meeting either with an agency client or someone from work.

Between all of that, I run errands or try to do something a little fun, like eat lunch at a restaurant or knit.

The greatest value of working remotely is that you aren’t forced to be in one location from 8 to 5 each day, so whether you get 30 minutes or 4 hours of downtime, you can use them more productively. You can take off all those annoying “administrative” life tasks, like waiting in line at the B.M.V., or you can give yourself an extra 20 minutes to craft the-most-perfect froyo treat at Berrywinkle. You know…priorities.

Some days, my daughter is with her father, which means I have more hours in the day to finish work. Other days, I may have a lot of interruptions like emails, phone calls, texts, or last-minute work requests. Other days still, I may simply be having difficulty concentrating, or I may be out of town (usually in San Francisco where my partner lives, and my company is based) which can mix things up even more.

The only thing that is truly consistent—I get to spend my days playing with language, meaning, sounds, and finding ways to connect people with products that have the potential to improve their lives.

Do you have any advice for English majors who are trying to figure out what comes next in their lives?

For starters, know that it is very hard to make it in whatever industry or career you’re considering. There is a lot of rejection, and not a lot of money.

Some people would call this bad advice, but here’s mine: do whatever you want to do.

Most people know, deep down, what it is they want to do, and who it is they want to be. What do you do when you’re procrastinating? What tasks do you procrastinate, and what tasks do you not procrastinate? What’s something you loved doing as a child, or were always really good at?

It’s things like that that motivated me to work on my website, tweak my portfolio, and spend hours marketing myself when, perhaps, it would have been easier to just keep doing what I had been doing (and I’ve had several less-than-fun jobs.)

Sometimes, I got exhausted and quit for a few days. Sometimes, I cried. Sometimes, I still cry! But I never lose sight of my motivation and the things that got me where I am today.

Be smart. Make a living. Do the right thing by working hard, supporting yourself, and being generous to the people who rely on you. But don’t ever let anyone tell you that you can’t do something. Your professors didn’t—their journeys were long and sometimes arduous, and now they make a living writing and studying things they love.

You can too. 🙂

 

November Good News: Prof. Grutsch McKinney’s Awards and More!

In between Halloween and Thanksgiving, check out how much good news we have to share!

Prof. Jackie Grutsch McKinney won the 2017 International Writing Centers Association Outstanding Book Award for two of her books: Strategies for Writing Center Research and The Working Lives of New Writing Center Directors (co-authored with Becky Jackson and Nikki Caswell). Nikki earned her MA from Ball State in Rhetoric and Composition in 2008. To be considered for this award, one’s work must show the qualities of compelling and meaningful writing, sensitivity towards situations where writing centers exist, and strong research and representation on writing centers. Congratulations!

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