Tag Archives: creative writing

Welcome Prof. Sarah Domet

Sarah Domet

Sarah Domet’s debut novel, The Guineveres, was released from Flatiron Books in October 2016. She’s also the author of 90 Days to Your Novel (Writers Digest Books, 2010). She holds a Ph.D. in literature and creative writing from the University of Cincinnati and will be teaching courses in fiction writing in our creative writing program.

Learn more about her on her website.

What are you currently reading, if anything?

I’m fortunate to have a job that requires me to read. It gives me the chance to conduct independent studies for my creative projects, crash courses on interesting subjects “for the sake of research.” (I put “for the sake of research” in quotes only because I once spent a full day reading about Jarts for one throwaway line in a story. It’s easy to get off track.)

My current novel project, set partly in 1910, features a protagonist who claims to commune with the dead. To better understand this era, I’m reading Through a Glass, Darkly: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and the Quest to Solve the Greatest Mystery of All. This book offers a fascinating glimpse into the spiritualist movement: mediums, seances, lies, frauds, sex, and scandals.

What is a text that you think everyone should read?

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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

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

English Undergrad Brittany Means: “My First Publication Made Me Feel Like Brad Pitt”

Last year I took Pete Davis’ poetry class, and for my final packet I decided to experiment a little bit. While I was at work, I wrote something that was kind of flow-of-consciousness, played around with the format a little bit, and titled it “Books About.” After I turned it in, I abandoned it in the poetry folder on my laptop and forgot about it.

Over the summer, I attended the Midwest Writers Workshop. There were contests being held for fiction, non-fiction, and poetry. Since I had already sent in a fiction piece for something else, I rummaged through my laptop and found “Books About” for the Manny Contest. Knowing that the number of attendees would be in the hundreds, I wasn’t sure about my chances for winning anything, but I went ahead and submitted it. During all of the different events and classes, it sort of slipped my mind that there even was a contest. When they called my name during the award ceremony, I almost had a heart attack. I went up and collected my award and then sat down, feeling pretty darn satisfied with myself. When they called my name again for the overall best manuscript, or R. Karl Largent Writing Award, I was so shocked that it took me a few moments before I could get out of my chair to go get the second award. It was really a shock to me that I could win amidst all of the other wonderful writers attending. There’s a picture of this moment on Cathy Day’s blog, and it looks like I just heard a great joke.

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Interview with Recent Alum Tyler Gobble on Living the Writer’s Life and Winning a Book Award

TGOB

Tyler Gobble graduated from Ball State University in May 2011. He is a multi-hat wearer for Magic Helicopter Press and host of the Everything Is Bigger reading series at Malvern Books in Austin, TX. He has plopped out four chapbooks, with two others called Other People’s Poems (Radioactive Moat) and Collected Feelings with Layne Ransom (Forklift INK) forthcoming, and his first full-length will be out from Coconut Books in the fall of 2014. He likes disc golf, tank tops, and bacon, and yes, in that order. Feel free to mosey a message over to gobble.tyler@gmail.com for whatever reasons.

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Get Ready for In Print 2014 by Reading These Interview Excerpts

The 2014 In Print Festival is coming next week in Assembly Hall at the Alumni Center! On Tuesday, March 18 at 7:30 PM, the visiting authors will read from their work.  The authors, along with editor Jodee Stanley, will also participate in a panel discussion on Wednesday, March 19, at 7:30 PM. By attending the Festival, you will be able to reach out to the writing community and gain insight into life as a writer from experienced authors. To get a taste of who will be speaking at the Festival, take a look at these interview excerpts from the In Print panelists.  Full versions of the interviews can be found in the newest edition of The Broken Plate, which is available for free to all who attend In Print.

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Tyler Fields: How Enhancing My Degree Paved the Road to New York City

In this post, Tyler Fields, the winner of our 2013 Outstanding Senior Award, describes how his experiences and his English degree at Ball State helped prepare him for the New York Arts Program and the three internships that he currently holds at D.A.P./Distributed Art Publishers, Inc., at MAGGY Poetry Magazine, and at the Lauren Cerand publicity agency.

The memory is vague. My honors advisor is asking me what I think I’d like my major to be. “What are your interests?” she asks. This question seems a bit cavalier. After all, my answer could very realistically determine my future career or livelihood. I said, “books.” And with a click of her mouse, my advisor set into motion a series of events, called the Creative Writing Major, which would lead me to a number of opportunities and eventually several internships in New York City. For the next four years, many would ask the infamous question all humanities majors come to know so well: “What are you going to do with that major?” My answers would change over the years from, “I’d like to write,” to, “Maybe I’ll teach,” to, “I have no clue.” Now, as I am working at several internships in New York City and participating in the New York Arts Program, I realize that my Creative Writing degree from Ball State University is exactly what I needed to begin realizing my original desire to surround myself with books. It is because of the opportunities afforded by Ball State’s English Department that I now have a clear and confident reply to anyone who asks, “What are you going to do with that?”

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Graduate School for Creative Writers

Last week, Associate Professor Cathy Day convened a panel on graduate school for creative writing majorsThis panel, featuring creative writing faculty members Jill Christman, Cathy Day, Sean Lovelace, Michael Meyerhofer, and Matt Mullins, addressed common questions and concerns that prospective creative writing graduate students have. Follow the link below to see Cathy’s original post, “Graduate School for Creative Writers,” on her Literary Citizenship blog. The post contains links to resources that are relevant to students thinking about applying to graduate school as well as a complete transcript of the event.

http://literarycitizenship.com/2013/02/24/graduate-school-for-creative-writers/

Grad

Low-Res, High Motivation: an interview with Jill Christman (Part Two) By Cathy Day

Read part one of the interview.

Just ten or fifteen years ago, there were hardly any low-res programs, but they’ve grown exponentially. 

Not just low-residency programs. According to AWP’s statistics, in 1975, there were 24 undergraduate minors, 3 undergraduate majors, and 15 MFA programs nationally, now those numbers are 347, 157, and 184, respectively. It’s staggering, and only the numbers b/w 2009-2010 begin to indicate that we might be reaching saturation, leveling off.

Okay, this is something I think about a lot: Do you think there are more writers today because there are more programs? Or do you think that there are just as many people who want to be writers, but they are simply more visible now, because there are more programs?

That’s a terrific question, Cathy. Ever since we scratched on cave walls, we humans have had the desire to tell our stories. The narrative drive is strong in most of us. Think about it.  How many times—say, at the summer wedding of a friend—have you revealed that you are a writer by profession to another veggie-skewer-nibbling guest who is something else by profession—let’s say he’s a surgeon. How many times have you heard, “Oh! I have a story to tell! I want to write a book, too!”

Once I had a surgeon tell me this during a procedure.

Well, maybe that surgeon at the appetizer table or in the procedure room does have a book in him. But the transition and translation between a book-in-the-head to a book-on-the-page is not a simple task. Turns out, writing is not so easy. Writing takes training (which is not to say MFA necessarily—this can be done on one’s own with great big stack of books), practice, and a whole heck of a lot of work. I have a writer friend who tells these non-writer writers: “That’s great!  Write a draft of your book and I will look at it.”

Wow. That’s a great idea—and awfully generous, too. Do you have any snappy responses of your own?

I have only on one occasion had the opportunity and accompanying chutzpah to reply to a doctor who informed me—at a book reception in Minnesota—that he was “thinking about taking a summer off soon” so that he could write that book he had in him. My reply? “Wonderful! I was thinking of taking a summer off soon to do some surgeries.”

[Cathy laughs ruefully.]

I’m sure this sounds way too flip, but my point is this: For people with lives in full-swing who feel that need to tell their stories, that requirement to write and be heard, low-residency programs are a terrific way to become part of a vibrant writing community.

Okay, here’s my last question. Why do this? Why teach in a low-res program? You already have two jobs: one, being a professor, mentor, and colleague, an employee of Ball State University, and two, being a writer, the self-employed proprietor of your own writing “business.” What are the advantages of taking on another job? Mind you, I’m asking because it seems like almost every writer-teacher I know teaches in a low-res program, and I’m considering doing it myself!

When you lay out all my jobs here in a single sentence, Cathy, it makes me want to lie down and cry—or, at least, rest, but seriously, I ask myself this same question frequently. So why don’t I quit? Those two weeks every summer are vital to my engagement in the art and profession of creative nonfiction writing. My colleagues in the program inspire me, and we spend those weeks in close proximity: if I didn’t see them every summer, I’d miss them terribly. A typical day at Ashland consists of a morning run with one of my colleagues, a 3-hour workshop with fantastic students, a community lunch (where the topics range from manipulating multiple points of view in an essay to whether it’s a good idea to have key lime pie for dessert at lunchtime), afternoon craft seminars (hosted by faculty as well as visiting writers—again, on topics ranging from dealing with difficult material to syntax and setting, always with an eye toward the relationship between poetry, creative nonfiction, and truth), some afternoon writing and rest, dinner together, and an evening reading. It’s summer camp designed exactly for people like us.

It’s good and important to recharge your batteries.

I’m fortunate to teach at Ball State where I also enjoy a community of dynamic, hard-working, innovative writers who take their teaching and writing seriously, but I think it’s important to stretch myself as a teacher and a writer by getting this injection of new ideas and pedagogies every summer.  In the past few years, the Ashland program has hosted writers such as Nathasha Tretheway, Floyd Skloot, Debra Marquart, Brenda Miller, Tobias Wolff, Scott Russell Sanders, Patricia Hampl, Richard Jackson, C.K. Williams, and Bill Kittredge—to name a few—and this means I’ve had the opportunity to introduce Trish Hampl’s reading from The Florist’s Daughter, I’ve eaten dinner with Floyd Skloot as he shared the impetus and structure for one of my favorite essays, and I’ve sat weeping in the audience as Richard Jackson read a new poem that blew my sandals off.  It’s just an amazing experience, and as long as my family can swing it, I’ll do what I can to remain in this generative, supportive, inspiring writing community.  I guess the advice for students and faculty alike here is:  find a program with people you want to spend time with.

Low-Res, High Motivation: an interview with Jill Christman (Part One) By Cathy Day

Photo courtesy of Tim Berg

Jill Christman’s memoir, Darkroom: A Family Exposure, which won the AWP Award Series in Creative Nonfiction and was published by the University of Georgia Press in 2002, will be reissued in paperback this fall. Recent essays appearing in River Teeth and Harpur Palate have been honored by Pushcart nominations and her writing has been published in Barrelhouse, Brevity, Descant, Literary Mama, Mississippi Review, Wondertime, and many other journals, magazines, and anthologies. She teaches creative nonfiction in Ashland University’s low-residency MFA program and at Ball State University in Muncie where she lives with her husband, writer Mark Neely, and their two children.

Okay, the big question first: When is someone “ready” for graduate school in creative writing?

My stock answer is that would-be applicants should wait until they have a firm sense of the project they want to tackle; i.e., they should have a draft underway and be committed to completing and revising that manuscript to defend as a thesis at the end of the program.  “The thesis is not the book,” I always reassure my near-deadline MFA students (in the Ashland poetry and creative nonfiction low-res program) and MA students (in Ball State’s Creative Writing program)—but the thesis should certainly be a giant step in the direction of that first book.

That is really good advice. I wish I’d had a firm sense of my project before applying. Did you?

Unfortunately, no. This was not my own degree of readiness when I entered the University of Alabama’s MFA program way back when in 1995; I enrolled as a writer of (thinly veiled autobiographical) short stories and exited with a reasonably polished memoir. The luxury of conceiving and beginning my Big Thing in the midst of my writing program was granted by the fact that while graduation from Bama is possible in three years, they’ll actually keep (read: fund) their students for four fat years. If I’d been in a two-year program, I would have run out of time. That said, the problem with my know-your-project advice is that MFA candidates might feel locked into a project that changes (or evaporates!) as they move into new writing relationships with professors, peers, and texts in their programs. We go into graduate writing programs to challenge ourselves as readers, thinkers, and writers, so new directions should certainly be encouraged, right?

Oh yes. I think that inevitably, the project you think you’ll work on in grad school shifts and morphs and changes. So, does that mean it doesn’t really matter when you go?

Here’s a better stab at a one-size-fits-all answer. You are ready for an MFA program when you’re ready to be there, when spending hours at a desk with a laptop or pencil rearranging words into sentences seems like the only thing worth doing. You’re ready to enter a graduate writing program when you’re writing. Regularly. A lot. One indicator to me that a student will not succeed in a writing program is when she believes that a writing program will make her write. I’m not writing now. There are too many distractions. But when I’m admitted into a program, well, then I will write! Probably not.  In graduate school, there are distractions galore: coursework, sometimes teaching, an infatuating peer group of like-minded writers; if you’re not writing now, I tell these students, you will struggle. Do something else for awhile. If you’re waiting tables and writing, then it might be time to put in some applications.

That’s very good advice. Okay, so to shift a little, what kind of writer is best suited for a low-residency program as opposed to a regular residency program?

Discipline and self-motivation are incredibly important in any graduate writing program, but strike me as particularly essential in a low-res student.  In many ways, a low-residency program most closely emulates the lives of out-in-the-publishing-world writers. In most programs, students submit three or four “packets” of writing to a professor/writing mentor during the course of the low-residency semesters—a practice similar to the way in which writers submit writing to editors or agents for review and critique.

For those reading this who are interested in pursuing a low-res program, describe what that means, “low-res,” and what kinds of residency models are used?

Low-residency models vary; a quick search on the AWP site brings up thirty-seven low-res options.  If you’re the kind of writer who prefers a one-on-one relationship with a writing mentor, you can find that.  If you’re a writer who needs more community and peer-interaction, look for a program that supplements the packet-system with an online learning community with the kinds of discussions and workshops you’d find in a brick-and-mortar classroom. Another key difference among programs is the number of residencies. Ashland’s program uses a one-residency model (two full weeks in summer with an astounding line up of visiting writers to supplement the core faculty), but more common is two one-week residencies, one in summer and one in winter. Think about what works for both your schedule and your learning.

Who are your low-res students at Ashland? What kind of lives do they have?

Multiple high school English teachers, a retired pharmaceutical industry executive, a literature professor, a social worker, a registrar at a private college, a self-employed writer, a bartender/filmmaker, a newspaper journalist, and the owner of a computer consulting business, to name a few.

So for someone contemplating applying to a low-res program, what’s the upside? What are the downsides?

A low-residency program grants students with unmovable families, careers, and homes the opportunity to be part of a writing community. The primary disadvantages, as I see them, are the general lack of funding and financial aid for low-residency programs and the fact that because students aren’t funded through teaching assistantships, writers graduate with no teaching experience. If a teaching position at a university is your goal, and you’re not already teaching, then a low-residency program probably isn’t going to be the best place for you.

Stay tuned for the second half of the interview next week!