Category Archives: Guest Posts

Benefits of the English Major: Straight from the Seniors

Prof. Emily Rutter shares some of her Senior Seminar students’ reflections on their learning in the English Major.

This semester, my English 444 students were asked to write autobiographical essays about their experiences as English majors. As a fitting close to the semester for some and to college for others, we wanted to share a few excerpts from those essays, which showcase the many lessons English courses impart and the varied ways in which our students will apply them in the future.

Vanessa Haro-Miracle: When I first signed up for English 308 course, I dreaded the idea of reading poems. As the semester progressed, one of the assignments was to pick a poet and read and analyze their work. I chose Erika L Sanchez because she wrote activist poems about Mexico. Her poems tend to be vivid and gruesome. Moreover, I knew there was a deeper meaning and I was able to grasp it because it was about the ugliness in her and my native country. Reading her poetry was a springboard to find other poems and poets like her.

Kelsey McDonald: Knowing that I can complete complex research papers, comprehend difficult texts, and confidently apply my skills to other aspects in my education and professional pursuits is extremely rewarding.  However, the best lesson I have learned is that the magic of the other worlds I have explored through literature has enabled me to be confident and adventurous in my own world. Reading has played such an important role in my life, and I hope to share my love of it with many students by teaching high school literature after I graduate and join the professional world. Continue reading

Remembering Dr. Ruvoli

On Friday, March 17, 2018, Dr. JoAnne Ruvoli lost her battle with leukemia, leaving behind many loved ones, and leaving the English department poorer from her loss.

I was a new professor at Ball State the same year as JoAnne. We became fast friends; both of us enjoying deep conversation, good books and films, Chicago and Chicago food, and good jokes. Her compassion during my times of need made her irreplaceable when she gently prodded me to come over so she could order what passes for pizza in Muncie. Her kindness, understanding, and good company will be greatly missed.

JoAnne was an accomplished scholar whose contributions to the field of Italian-American literature reach beyond adding to the body of scholarly writing. As a doctoral student at UIC, she diligently navigated a legal maze to bring the late Italian-American writer Tina De Rosa’s papers to the library archives—a feat unheard of for a student. This preserved the unpublished writing of a woman whose body of work explored the neighborhood that once existed where UIC campus rests today. Continue reading

What four moms talk about when they talk about “the talk”

Prof. Rani Crowe’s new film looks at what happens to a non-traditional family, comprised of four lesbian moms and a 15-year-old daughter, when it comes time to talk about sex. BSU student Tynan Drake reports on the film and Prof. Crowe’s vision of honest, helpful talk for young people on the verge of exploring their sexuality.

When 15-year-old Heather decides she is ready to lose her virginity, it is up to her four moms to decide how and when to give her ‘the talk.’ Mom Four is all on board for teaching Heather about sex, but first she must convince the other three moms that it is necessary. As the moms bicker amongst themselves, Heather moves forward with her decision only to discover that even a mature teenage girl still needs her mothers.

Crone Heights Productions’ short film, Heather Has Four Moms, was written and produced by BSU creative writing Prof. Rani Deighe Crowe, directed by her creative partner Jeanette L. Buck, and edited by Bonnie Rae Brickman. The film had its first screening at the Athens International Film and Video Festival in Athens, Ohio, on April 11. The production company’s mission is to put women in front of and behind the camera to produce the diverse stories that more commercial producers are not telling. Continue reading

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

Skills in the city, or how I discovered my career path in the Big Apple

Natali Cavanagh is a senior creative writing major. Last semester, she ventured to New York to do two publishing internships as part of the NY Arts Program.  After graduation, she will be working as a publicity and marketing intern for Little, Brown Books for Young Readers. In this guest post, she describes her work at a journal and a literary agency and talks about how the skills she learned in English classes came to life in this jobs.

My junior year, I, like many of my peers, was wondering where my English degree would take me and what I would pursue after college. I knew I liked books and I enjoyed reading, analyzing, and interacting with stories, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to be a writer or teach English. In Cathy Day’s Novel Writing class, though, we learned a little bit about how the book publishing industry worked and the process a manuscript goes from beginning to end; the more I learned, the more I wanted to know! So last semester, I went to New York through the NY Arts Program and was offered 2 dream positions: working as a social media intern for Guernica literary magazine (which has published pieces by some of my favorite authors like Roxane Gay, Rebecca Solnit, and Zadie Smith!) and an editorial intern at Writers House literary agency (who also represent some of my favorite authors like John Green, Grace Lin, Ingrid Law, and Neil Gaiman!).

At Guernica, my primary job was to help build social media presence. On a daily level, I made Tweets and Facebook posts to promote pieces from the magazine (new and old); for long term projects, I worked toward making materials (like cultural calendars and workflow templates) that will continue to help the staff long after my time with them. Even though the internship was predominantly remote, the staff meetings were always so much fun; listening to all the fascinating and exciting new projects people were writing, helping create and plan for a new special topic issue (Deserts!), and having the opportunity to work with so many engaging and intelligent people was invigorating.

At Writers House, I worked under Senior Agent Dan Lazar and his Assistant/Junior Agent Torie Doherty-Munro. As an editorial intern, my main job was to read submitted manuscripts and provide editorial feedback: every day when I came in to work, Torie would send me a few partials (a 50-100 page section of a manuscript) and I would tell her whether or not I’d be interested in continuing to read/accepting the manuscript, what was working, and what potentially needed to be changed. Both Dan and Torie represent primarily Children’s/Young Adult books, but I read everything from short, middle-grade manuscripts to contemporary adult, realistic and historical fiction, speculative fiction, and fantasy. Every day I was reading something different! My favorite projects to work on, though, were always manuscripts that I got a chance to see evolve; seeing a manuscript improve after helping give editorial feedback was so gratifying and worthwhile.

I was lucky to be at two places that really encouraged growth and hands-on participation. At Guernica, I was writing and composing social media content every day, interacting and engaging with their online community. At Writers House, I felt that my editorial feedback was valued and that the work I was doing to help bring manuscripts to life was really helping the authors and agents I was aiding. And ultimately, I used every skill that I learned through my English classes: understanding craft and story structure, analyzing character and audience, writing in various styles (for a social media audience, for an individual author, for an agent…), being able to communicate my ideas clearly and concisely. Overall, I’m so grateful for my time in New York, not only for giving me an insider look into the industry I want to be a part of, but also for the opportunity to collaborate, play, and experiment with skills I’ll use for the rest of my professional life.

 

 

Originally written by Natali Cavanagh

Short Film Corner with Rani: Gowanus 83

I really love this 2011 short film, Gowanus 83. At eleven minutes, it is a great example of using genre in short film. It uses the tropes and genre conventions of a gangster film while making them fresh through comedy and specificity of character, plot, and world.

I admire the dialogue in this film. Reminiscent of Tarantino’s writing, it plays with genre expectations and comically subverts character stereotypes. Through comedic dialogue, the film creates the tension of the plot and reveals necessary backstory.

Lastly, Gowanus 83 utilizes the specificity of its world. By setting it in this neighborhood in Brooklyn, it allows the possibility of the interactions of all of these characters and invites the kind of chance and coincidence that can only happen in a city like New York.

Enjoy Gowanus 83!

 

 

Originally written by Rani Crowe

Madisen Ray Petrosky: succeeding with “a positive attitude and a well-written sentence”

Madisen Ray Petrosky graduated from BSU with a BA in English Literature in 2011. After attending the University of Denver Publishing Institute in 2012, she started a career in social media management and nonprofit marketing. She’s managed #GivingTuesday campaigns, website redesigns, and lots of hashtag holidays. She recently took a position in Public Relations. In this blog post, she recounts her journey from an internship to her first job to her exciting new position. And she highlights how her education in English was crucial at every step.

“You do you.” It’s often a throwaway line on social media, but what better way to succinctly affirm individuals who are doing what they love because they love it?

The last time I wrote for the Ball State English Blog was the winter of 2012. I had recently attended the University of Denver Publishing Institute and hoped to go into publishing as an editor or marketer. As optimistic as I was at the time, I knew I needed more experience.

In January 2013, I started a marketing internship at a law firm in downtown Indianapolis. Five months there gave me a crash course in email etiquette, how to navigate an office, and what it’s like to commute in every weather scenario the Midwest can throw at you. I also realized that I didn’t want to move to New York just to enter the publishing industry when I could do a lot of what I enjoyed – writing, researching, posting on social media – right here in Indy. (A trip to NYC a couple years later that laid me out with the flu confirmed that New York is a fun place to visit, but not somewhere I want to live.)

Towards the end of my internship, I interviewed for a marketing coordinator position with Kappa Alpha Theta Foundation. The job description seemed ideal: strong written and verbal communication skills, experience with social media and website management, and knowledge of Greek life, which I had as a previous Sigma Kappa at Ball State. After a short interview process, I was delighted to be offered the job on the second-to-last-day of my internship. I enthusiastically accepted (which is a low-key way of saying I jumped up and down in my tiny apartment and called my mom, screaming).

When I started at Theta Foundation in June of 2013, I had no idea that I was beginning an incredible four-year journey that would teach me so much – and see me rely on what I learned from Ball State so often.

Project management was a huge aspect of my job at Theta Foundation. Coordinating multiple vendors when designing, printing, and mailing an annual report, or being part of a multi-member team designing a website from scratch–these projects require keeping tabs on the project, the deadlines, and how you can ferry it along. I didn’t always love group projects at Ball State, but unless you work in an office of one, most of what you do will be a group project. You’ll learn quickly that not asking for help when you need it or trying to do too much yourself can be detrimental to your mental health and your career.

In four years of working with incredible individuals at Theta Foundation, I began to think about what was next. I could write about nearly every aspect of Theta Foundation in my sleep, and as comforting as that was, it was time to infuse some variety into my daily work. After having dinner with a friend who worked at a public relations agency, I started to think about working in an agency environment.

No matter what type of agency you work in, there are a few things I can guarantee: it’s going to be a lot of work, you’re going to be busy, and you’re never going to be bored. I was ready for that next step. After submitting my writing samples and navigating the interview process, I was thrilled to accept an account executive position at Dittoe Public Relations in September of 2017.

Now you may be thinking, “Ball State has a public relations major. Shouldn’t you be a PR major if you want to work in PR?” I wondered that myself and said so during my interview. But my interviewer, now my office mentor (and a fellow Ball State grad), said to me: “We can teach you the techniques and the tools used during PR, but the most important skill you’ll use every day is writing.” And writing is something I can do thanks to my English degree.

In addition to writing everything from media pitches to press releases to technical articles, I do a lot of research to be able to write all those items. Being on four account teams for four clients in four different industries, I don’t always know the nuances of the subjects I’m writing about. As was true in Ball State classes or my internship, being able to take a deep dive into a new subject then distill that information succinctly is a vital skill.

Time management and structuring my days are two skills I learned at BSU that I’ve relied on most in my change from Theta Foundation to Dittoe. At Theta Foundation, everything I did was for and about Theta Foundation – every email I sent, blog post I wrote, file I sorted, or brainstorm session I was a part of was for Theta Foundation. But at Dittoe, because it’s an agency, everything I do is divided between four clients and Dittoe itself. You have to able to structure your day, switch tasks – or buckle down – as needed, and have a great attitude during it all. A positive attitude and a well-written sentence will get you far.

I didn’t expect my career would lead me to PR, but I’m completely enamored with it. It takes everything I love about marketing and social media and adds a renewed focus on writing and digging in to my local community. Every single day is different and keeps me on my toes. My English degree gave me the tools to succeed in PR, and I’m delighted that I can be a part of the Dittoe PR team today.

I’m doing me with my English degree. You do you.

 

 

Originally written by Madisen Ray Petrosky

Sometimes, Writers Live ‘In a Lonely Place’

By Anthony Miglieri

There are a whole lot of films, and great films at that, about screenwriting. A few of the best are Barton Fink (1991), written and directed by the Coen Brothers, and Adaptation. (2002), directed by Spike Jonze and written by Charlie Kaufman. However, few films I have ever seen are able to paint such a vivid and violent portrait of a screenwriting artist as the under-appreciated noir piece In a Lonely Place (1950), which was directed by Nicolas Ray, screenwritten by Andrew Solt, and adapted by Edmund H. North from a Dorothy B. Hughes story.  

When this film opens, Hollywood screenwriter Dixon Steele (portrayed by Humphrey Bogart) is bitter and frustrated. He hasn’t had a hit in years and his latest assignment is to adapt a popular novel that Dix is sure is trash. Unwilling to read the bestseller himself, he has a celebrity-obsessed young woman relay the plot to him at his home. Soon after she leaves, she turns up dead and Dix strikes up a relationship with a sultry new neighbor who has doubts about his professed innocence in the case. Continue reading

To the Undecided English Majors

By: Kaitlyn Sumner

So, you’re great at writing an 8-page research paper in under 24 hours. You’re able to finish an entire novel within a night and be ready for a class discussion the next morning. You can relate centuries old rhetorical arguments to modern-day marketing efforts.

The question you ask yourself daily: “What am I even going to do with this?”

Well, we’re going to remind you of three things:

You have skills.

You’ve more than likely heard the timeless question: “What are you going to do with an English degree?” (Another form of this question: “Are you going to teach/be an author, or…?”) This has cropped up multiple instances throughout your college career: a family reunion, a work meeting, an organization event.

You blush, or maybe you get annoyed. It’s literally always the same question, you say to yourself. You have to politely explain that, no, you aren’t going to teach. No, you aren’t going to write novels. And, yeah, you might do something like *insert your goal career here*.

Continue reading