Category Archives: Interview

Cultivating Creative Identities with Brian Morrison

Brian MorrisonBrian Morrison

Ball State English Professor.

Published writer.

Part of Ball State’s Faculty Reading Series.

On Wednesday the 28th…

Brian Morrison will read with Silas Hansen as part of Ball State’s Faculty Reading Series.

The Faculty Reading Series hopes to bring English professors into the spotlight, showcasing their talents and interests outside of class.

Brian is still a relatively new addition to Ball State, taken on as an assistant English professor in 2013. He was also assistant editor of Black Warrior Review while he received his MFA at The University of Alabama. You can find his poetry in Verse Daily, Copper Nickel, Story Magazine, and other literary journals.

Before his reading on Wednesday, we got to talk to Brian about his role as a teacher and a writer.

How did you become interested in writing?

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An inquiring mind: a new faculty profile of Kristine Kotecki

Welcome to the latest installment of the English department’s new faculty profile series, where we welcome another new member to our family. Be sure to check out past profiles, which include Silas Hansen, Lupe Linares, Molly Ferguson, Laura Romano, and Vanessa Rapatz.

Say hello to Kristine Kotecki.

Photo provided by Kristine Kotecki

Photo provided by Kristine Kotecki

Kristine earned her Ph.D. from University of Texas at Austin in Dec. 2013, and she was most recently a lecturer at the University of Hawai’i at Manoa. Kristine will be teaching courses in world literature, film, media, and digital humanities. In her research and teaching, Kristine focuses on how the past is imagined in contemporary texts. She has written about film festivals, world literature anthologies, neorealist films, fairy-tale films, Eastern European video film exhibits, and anticolonial historiography.

So, how did you get interested in your interdisciplinary research?

I spent an eventful four years between college and graduate school exploring various paths that someone with an inquiring mind and socially conscious disposition might take.

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The spark of recognition: a new faculty profile of Vanessa Rapatz

This week, we bring you another installment of our new faculty profile series. Be sure to check out past profiles, which include but are not limited to Silas Hansen, Lupe Linares, Laura Romano, and Molly Ferguson.

Give a warm welcome to Vanessa Rapatz.

Photo provided by Vanessa Rapatz

Photo provided by Vanessa Rapatz

Vanessa grew up in Minnesota, but has spent the last sixteen years living, studying, and working in California. She received her MA in Literature at the University of California at Santa Cruz, and her Ph.D from the University of California at Davis, where she has served for the past several years as a lecturer teaching classes in Early British literature, topics in drama, and composition. Vanessa is thrilled to return to the Midwest.

At Ball State, she will be teaching courses in Renaissance literature, Shakespeare, gender and performance studies.

How did you get interested in performance studies?

My interest in convents and novices in early modern drama grew out of a combination of taking a graduate seminar at UC Davis and TAing for a Shakespeare course. I started to notice a pattern in which young women were entering and exiting convents frequently in these plays and I began to wonder how that might have resonated on an English stage during a time in England’s history where convents and Catholicism were outlawed. This early question led me to start researching nuns and convents and ultimately involved a trip to England where I was a resident at the Globe Theater and made a side research trip to York where I stayed at Bar Convent, the first convent in England after they were banned in the Renaissance. My London research reinforced my interest in performance and in convent buildings themselves, specifically their remains whether in the form of ruins or re-purposed buildings.

Photo provided by Vanessa Rapatz

Photo provided by Vanessa Rapatz

How would you describe yourself as a teacher?

I think I’m an engaging and enthusiastic teacher.

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Creative + Writing: Aaron Nicely on selling your degree

Say hello to Aaron Nicely, an alumnus of the Ball State English department.


Photo provided by Aaron Nicely

Originally from Cincinnati, OH, Aaron currently resides in Noblesville, IN, though he has also lived in Boston, St. Louis, Muncie, and Ingalls, IN. He graduated from Wabash College in 2006 with a BA in English and a minor in theatre. He then came to Ball State, where he completed his MA in Creative Writing in 2008, and his MA in Literature in 2010.

Currently, Aaron serves as the Director of Digital Marketing at Elbert Construction.

Below, Aaron shares his advice on what employers are really looking for, how to “pitch yourself,” and what you can really do with a BA in English.

Tell us about your collegiate journey.

My timeline went kind of like it’s supposed to.

College years

I went to Wabash College to get an English degree and write, which I did.  I won a grant to write a novel.  I got an internship with an ad agency. As a kid I ripped my favorite ads out of magazines and tucked them away in boxes, in books, and dreamed of copywriting.  I wanted to know why and how it worked.  I was incurably curious.

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Making connections: a new faculty profile of Laura Romano

Here’s a familiar face: our very own Laura Romano, who just graduated from Ball State in 2014 with her Ph.D. in Rhetoric and Composition. Now a member of our family as an assistant professor, she will be teaching classes in the Writing Program.

Laura was born in the state of Maine and grew up playing in rocky tide pools, eating lobster and breathing fresh pine tree-scented air. She moved to Indiana nine years ago after her husband was offered a public relations position at Ball State, and she lives in Yorktown with her husband, Anthony, her children Nicholas and Alexandra, and their new puppy, a miniature dachshund named Moxie. She enjoys baking, running, hiking and reading.

Below, Laura takes us through her interests.

How did you get interested in Rhetoric/Composition?

One of my research interests is exploring community rhetorics, particularly using the methods of oral history interviews and ethnographic observation.

This interest began when I was doing my undergraduate work at Bowdoin College. As an English major, I had the chance to write features and human interest stories for the school newspaper, and when I graduated, I was hired as a newspaper reporter. Eventually I was offered a regular column profiling the eldest members of my community, which sparked my interest in oral history.

I then earned a Master’s Degree at the University of Southern Maine, where I was fortunate to have the chance to work at their “Center for the Study of Lives” and use oral history to capture life stories.

Through my doctoral studies at BSU, I broadened this interest to use immersive qualitative research methods to investigate the rhetorics and literacy practices of community. My dissertation dealt with the intersection between digital technologies and identity within a small community in Maine, and I look forward to continuing to research the intersection of identity and digital technologies in the future.

How would you describe yourself as a teacher?

As a teacher, I try to connect with each student.

Writing can be a very personal thing, and when a student trusts his or her professor and knows that this professor has a sincere hope for that student to grow as a writer, then I think there is a greater potential for growth over the course of the semester.

In my classes, I emphasize writing as a process and the importance of revision, as well as the usefulness of collaboration with peers.

I am proud when a student sees that his or her work, even as an undergraduate, can be useful outside of the classroom.

Welcome to the English department, Laura!

Transcending boundaries: A new faculty profile of Molly Ferguson

Say hello to Molly Ferguson, who recently joined our Ball State English family as an assistant professor.

Molly earned her Ph.D. from the University of Connecticut in August 2010 and has been teaching at Lindsey Wilson College in Columbia, KY since 2011. Molly will be teaching courses in postcolonial literature, contemporary British literature, Irish literature, drama, and gender studies. She favors texts with complex narrative techniques, magical realism, and black comedy.

Nashville booksHer research has focused on contemporary Irish literature and ghost stories, investigating how supernatural and folk tales in the writing act as safety valves for the collective anxieties of a culture.

Moving forward, she is working on framing postcolonial writing that draws on the supernatural as human rights speech. Much of her work and teaching intersects trauma theory with feminist and postcolonial theories.

Here, Molly outlines her journey.

How did you get interested in Irish literature and ghost stories? 

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Question Everything: a new faculty profile of Rory Lee

Rory Lee

Rory Lee

Meet Rory Lee, one of our newest assistant professors of English.

Born and raised in Wisconsin, Rory possess an unhealthy affinity for meat and cheese and spends much of his free time voraciously consuming anything related to the Green Bay Packers.  Much to his friends’ and colleagues’ chagrin (or amusement), he’s also a professional wrestling enthusiast.  Rory has two cats, Burger and Doodle. He can be found on Tumblr.

Rory earned his M.A. and Ph.D. in English: Rhetoric and Composition from Florida State University. His dissertation, Now with More Modes?:  The Curricular Design and Implementation of Multimodality in Undergraduate Major Programs in Writing/Rhetoric, explores the curricular and pedagogical presence of multimodality within a select group of undergraduate major programs in writing/rhetoric.

Below, Rory maps his passions.

What are your research interests within Rhetoric and Composition?

Although I’m deeply fascinated by and interested in rhetorical theory and history, composition theory and pedagogy, and multiliteracy centers, my two primary areas of research are:

(1) the undergraduate major in writing and rhetoric

(2) digital rhetorics/new media/multimodality.

I was able to explore the intersection of both, each of which has become a hotbed of scholarly activity over the last decade, in my dissertation, Now with More Modes?:  The Curricular Design and Implementation of Multimodality in Undergraduate Major Programs in Writing/Rhetoric.

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Stories like my Own: A New Faculty Profile of Lupe Linares

Here’s a small-world story: the first time Professor Cathy Day met new faculty member Dr. Lupe Linares, she asked, “So, where are you from?”

“Oh, this little town near Gettysburg you’ve probably never heard of.”

Prof. Day said, “I lived for a few years in this tiny town called Gardners, Pennsylvania.”

There was a pause. “That’s where I’m from,” Dr. Linares said.

They consulted Google Maps and realized they’d once lived a mile from each other.

Linares received her Ph.D. from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 2013. Her research interests include 20th and 21st century U.S. fiction with a focus in Chicana/o literature.

We asked Linares a few questions about her teaching and her writing projects.

How did you get interested in Chicana/o literature? 

I wasn’t even aware there was such a thing until my second year of graduate school at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Though I am Chicana and though I’d read some of the big ones (Cisneros’s House on Mango Street, Anaya’s Bless Me, Ultima, and excerpts from Anzaldúa’s Borderlands/ La Frontera) early on, I didn’t realize the breadth of the field until I took a class on Chicana Literature and Theory the spring semester of my second year in graduate school.

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What it means to be a man: a new faculty profile of Silas Hansen

Silas Hansen

Silas Hansen

To begin the week, Ball State English brings you the first installment in the new faculty profile series. Be sure to check out past profiles, which include but are not limited to Prof. Susanna Benko and Prof. John King.

Meet Silas Hansen, one of our newest assistant professors of English.

Born and raised in western New York, he graduated from SUNY College at Brockport with a bachelor’s degree in English (with minors in Political Science and Women and Gender Studies) and earned his MFA in creative writing from The Ohio State University. His essays have appeared in Slate, Colorado Review, The Normal School, Puerto del Sol, Hayden’s Ferry Review, and elsewhere.

Below, Silas gives us insight into his creative journey.

How did you get interested in creative nonfiction?

I have always written.

I remember writing my first “personal essay” in the first grade not long after I learned to read. I actually made up about 25-50% of it to make it more interesting. But I didn’t know you could study it, or that it could lead to a job until I was in college.

Until I took my first creative writing class the summer after my sophomore year of college, I never shared my writing with anyone–just a friend or two, and sometimes my high school English teachers if it was for an assignment. At the time I took that class, I was a Political Science major and had signed up to fulfill my fine arts general education requirement. By the end of the class, though, I had changed my major for what was at least the eighth time in two years.

I was hooked.

I enjoyed a lot of the classes I was taking, but I didn’t know I could be that excited to go to class, or to do my homework. I started out writing fiction, but I was a mediocre short story writer at best. I have never been particularly good at inventing characters and plots, so most of my stories were really thinly veiled nonfiction. The characters were always a little flat, and the plots were always a little confusing. I didn’t want my classmates to know they were really about me.

Finally, one of my professors—who knew what the problem was—told me to just try writing nonfiction. I wrote my first real, serious essay for her class—a piece of memoir about working as a dishwasher in a restaurant when I was sixteen, my unlikely friendship with one of the line cooks, and my ambivalence about leaving my small hometown behind—and everything suddenly clicked into place.

It was the first time I felt like I was really good at something, and I knew I needed to stick with it.

How did your creative journey continue into graduate school?

I applied to graduate school right out of undergrad and got into Ohio State’s MFA program.  I got there a few months after I turned twenty-three, thinking I was a big shot, and almost immediately realized just how little I knew about writing.  Thankfully, I had the next three years to study with incredible teachers.

I worked most closely with Michelle Herman—who always read my work and told me where I was holding back and when I needed to just let myself make a mess in my second draft—and Lee Martin, who taught me everything I know about structure and how to make sense of the mess when I was done. I know a lot of people who feel burned out after finishing their MFAs, or who end up realizing that writing isn’t for them.

I was lucky: I still can’t believe that they let me spend three years doing exactly what I love to do, and then gave me a degree at the end of it.

I love nonfiction because…

  1. it’s like putting together a really good but difficult puzzle without knowing what it’s supposed to look like when I’m done.  I have all of the pieces and I can see what each piece looks like on its own, but I can’t see what they look like together until I’ve tried to put it together.
  2. I love the process of trying to make sense of it all, even when I have to throw it out and start over from scratch.

How would you describe yourself as a teacher?

I think it’s important—especially in a workshop environment—for my students to feel comfortable making mistakes, asking difficult questions, and being honest about who they are and what they think.

For that reason, I try to strike a balance between an environment where we get the work done and ask important questions about the things we read and write. I want to create an environment where we can get to know one another and learn to trust each other as writers, as readers, and as people.

I also try to create a classroom environment where students feel comfortable disagreeing—with each other, and with me. My favorite part of teaching is getting to hear my students’ interpretations and opinions of the work we’ve read.  I have read most of the essays I assign numerous times—so many times that I can probably quote long sections of several of them from memory—but I always learn something new from how my students read them for the first time.

I see my role as one where I teach my students what I know—what the experts have said, what others have done, what has and hasn’t worked so far—and then ask them to think critically about whether or not that rings true for them and their work.

What are you most proud of as a teacher?

A few years ago, I went to a panel on innovative teaching practices for the creative writing workshop at the annual Association of Writers and Writing Programs conference. Michael Martone, who teaches at the University of Alabama, talked about his idea of “success” for a creative writing program: whether or not students are still writing after the class is over—a year later, or maybe twenty years later.

I think there are a lot of measures of success for creative writing programs, and creative writing teachers, but that is definitely the one that means the most to me.  I love it when my students graduate, get jobs, and still write.

That makes me feel like I’ve done something right.

What are you working on right now?

I have been working on a collection of personal essays for the past few years. It started as my MFA thesis, but I cut about 70% from that draft about a year ago. Quite a bit of the manuscript is complete. I resist the temptation to call these essays done just yet, as I’m keeping an open mind about what the finished manuscript might look like. Right now, I am writing a few new essays and revising a couple of older ones.

Once I’ve finished those, I’ll go back and revise the entire manuscript to work more cohesively and to bring some of the older essays up to date.

I write primarily about questions of masculinity: what it means to be a man (particularly a white man) in different places and in different situations—my rural western New York hometown, the Midwestern city where I spent a good chunk of my young adulthood, the classrooms where I teach, the communities in which I claim citizenship—and the ways that my concept of what it means to be a man has been shaped.

Right now I am revising an essay about learning to bake bread, and I’m jotting down notes toward an essay that looks like it might be about participating in a fantasy football league for the first time, my obsession with TV shows and movies about football teams, and my passion for the Buffalo Bills—all of which is complicated by the fact that I know very little (and care even less [except for the above list]) about football.

Welcome to the English Department, Silas!

Professor Craig O’Hara nominated for Pushcart

by Melissa Glidden

Assistant Professor Craig O’Hara’s short story “The Corner” was published by the North Dakota Quarterly in 2013, and nominated for a Pushcart Prize shortly after. In this interview. O’Hara discusses his work, his nomination, and the writing life.

 1. Will you tell us a little bit about “The Corner,” including the inspiration behind it and a little bit about your process while writing it?

“The Corner” is about a prostitute in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City), Vietnam waiting on a Saturday evening for a client of hers who happens to be an American expatriate. The inspiration behind the story came out of the somewhat rough neighborhood I lived in during my time teaching in Vietnam. I know it sounds kind of strange, but sex workers were just a normal part of the community in which I lived. They were among my neighbors and the people I interacted with every day. They were the people I saw while going to the market or having lunch at the food stalls across the street. They were regular people like anyone else in the neighborhood. Continue reading