Tag Archives: Virginia Ball Center for Creative Inquiry

Fall Semester is coming up, and we think some of you should drop all of your classes.

By now you should be familiar with all the fantastic work that has come from the Virginia Ball Center. Projects like the Infinite Museum and The Freedom Bus have sparked interest from all kinds of majors, and this fall’s immersive learning opportunity is no different.

Professor Audra Sokol from the Theatre and Dance Department has reached out to BSU English and asked for those English majors who are passionate about both spoken word poetry and the damaging objectification that comes with our culture’s ideal body image. While this project will continue on into the spring semester, it only requires that you dedicate your full schedule for this fall.

In case you don’t know how VBC semesters work: you take this one class, and then appeal to different departments to have the experience “count” for various courses.

We know you’ve already got your fall schedule set. But do not ignore this opportunity! Participating in this project won’t set you back.

Assistant Chairperson Cathy Day says that you can apply this experience for up to two English courses. If you’re curious about this and would like to meet to further discuss this opportunity, schedule an appointment with her through Katie Atkinson at 765-285-8583.

For more information on this immersive learning project, check out the abstract.

The Circus in Winter: A Musical

This Thursday, September 29, The Circus in Winter: A Musical will premiere for the first time ever at Ball State’s University Theatre. This musical is based upon the novel, The Circus in Winter, by assistant professor of English, Cathy Day, and it was written and produced exclusively by Ball State students as part of their Virginia Ball Center for Creative Inquiry semester-long seminar. Below is further information about the performers and the chance to meet with Cathy Day after the October 6th performance.

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Dr. Deborah Mix Introduces Her VBC Seminar on Vernacular Memorials

This semester, I have the pleasure of being a fellow at the Virginia Ball Center for Creative Inquiry.  The idea behind the VBC is to create space for immersive, collaborative, interdisciplinary learning.  The reality of being at the VBC is, well, flat-out fantastic.  It’s the only teaching responsibility I have this semester, and it’s the only coursework my students have (they’re each earning 15 credit hours for the seminar).  We get to meet in a beautiful house; we get to travel to Washington, DC; and we get to work together in ways that regular classes just can’t allow.

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Undergraduate Literary Exchange with the University of Alabama

February 21 and 22, the University of Alabama faculty/writer Brian Oliu and four Alabama undergraduate writers will visit Ball State University to exchange ideas about creative writing, visit our Creative Writing in the Community program, and also visit the Virginia B. Ball Center for Creative Inquiry.

On Tuesday night, February 22, BSU will host a reading where the visiting Alabama writers will showcase their original creative works. The reading is at 7:30 p.m. in Bracken Library, room 104. Please come out and support our visiting authors from the South!

From the end of March to the beginning of April, four creative writing students from BSU will be visiting the University of Alabama and The Slash Pine Poetry Festival, accompanied by professors Sean Lovelace and Matt Mullins. Here’s a short excerpt from Slash Pine Press about their festival:

“In April, The Slash Pine Poetry Festival brings over forty national and regional poets together for a two-day extravaganza of poetry. The festival highlights the public and democratic nature of creative work, refusing to privilege one form or aesthetic over another, and presenting diverse voices in non-traditional, communally-accessible spaces. The festival itself spreads widely across a range of venues, emphasizing that art is intimately connected to place”.

Feel free to check out this firsthand account of the first SPPF in 2009.

The BSU undergraduate students participating in the exchange have started a fundraiser on Kickstarter.com to cover the costs of their trip. Kickstarter features donation increments that award certain prizes determined by the dollar amount. For instance, in the case of these students, poems/stories, chapbooks, and broadsides created by the students themselves number among the prizes awarded. You can view the students’ Kickstarter here.

The Circus in Winter comes to the Muncie Civic Theater

Last week, I was walking down Main Street when I saw this on the marquee of the Muncie Civic Theater.

Photo courtesy of Cathy Day

Yes, I know this is Muncie, Indiana, not New York City, but it’s still pretty cool to see the name of your book on a theater marquee.

Last year, an amazing group of Ball State students adapted my first book into a musical. This project was sponsored by the Virginia Ball Center and led by Theater professor Beth Turcotte.

To prepare for the full production in Fall 2011, they have been performing concert readings all around the region.
The next one will be Saturday, Feb. 5 at 7:30 PM, a fundraiser for the Muncie Civic Theater. $5 at the door.

I hope you can make it. You’ll be supporting the arts in this community as well as BSU students. And you will enjoy yourself to boot. Seriously, this is a wonderful show. You’ll find yourself humming the songs for days afterward.

Here‘s more information. Please share the link and let others know about his event, too.

Thank you,
Cathy Day

Guest Post: alumnus Sarah Marty-Schlipf writes on her whirlwind life after graduating from Ball State

I’ll be honest: I spent most of my four years as an English major at Ball State “following my bliss,” as they say, without any certainty of what an English major might actually do outside the world of academia.  I followed a lifelong love of words and stories into literature and theatre, and I followed pure fascination into religious studies.  (I was a secondary English education major for awhile—following the need for a “real job”—but after a complicated series of events, I decided that teaching wasn’t for me. I couldn’t have told you then what was for me, exactly, so I just immersed myself in my other studies and hoped I’d figure it out, eventually.)  I took a couple of forays into interdisciplinary studies at the wonderful Virginia Ball Center for Creative Inquiry, first examining the development of charter schools and then looking at the nature of poverty and the means of addressing it in the Muncie community.  And through it all, I loved the learning: the heated discussions in the English, religious studies, and VBC classrooms, the push to think about stories and characters critically and with empathy, and my own developing ability to articulate my thoughts more clearly both verbally and in writing—so much writing.

The closer I came to graduation, however, the less I had any real sense of direction, apart from my general love of learning.

After I graduated in 2008, I spent a year of productive stumbling that included teaching summer swim lessons to little kids; three months volunteering as an artist in Zambia at an economic development center run by missionary friends; interviewing as a finalist for a fellowship at NPR; and a couple of semesters at Ivy Tech Community College as an office assistant, an English tutor, and eventually an accidental adjunct English instructor.  I say “accidental” because one week before the fall classes were to begin, the college asked me to take two last-minute composition courses.  While I felt relatively unqualified for the position, I took it on as a kind of challenge.  It was a chance to find out if I was any good at teaching and if I could enjoy it.  And while it was one of the most difficult experiences I’ve ever had, I discovered that I loved teaching writing to working adults, many of whom hadn’t stepped foot in a classroom in three decades, and many of whom had hated writing and reading (and school, for that matter) for most of their lives.  It was incredibly satisfying to hear my students  discuss different essays, to watch their command of language and their own ideas improve.  “This is a class,” I had told them, “Where you have the luxury of time to think, to discuss, to put your own ideas down, and to understand why they matter.  How often in your busy lives do you get that?”  It was a pleasure to find out, at the end of the semester, that many of them had believed me, that they’d loved the class.  Moreover, in the process of teaching the basics of writing, my own writing improved, and my sense of direction finally sharpened: I wanted to see if I could combine words and stories, arts and literacy, and explore their impact on a community.

I taught another class before marrying, moving to central Illinois, and going back to school. I’m now a graduate student in Antioch University Los Angeles’  MFA in Creative Writing program.  It’s a two-year low-residency degree, which means I’m only required to be on campus in L.A. for two 10-day “residencies” per year, and the rest of the time, I’m writing from home, wherever that may be.  Since my husband and I travel a great deal, “home” has been all over the world.   Antioch’s unique focus on the intersection of art and social change means that we’re required to complete field studies as well, so while I don’t automatically get the graduate teaching experience a traditional MFA program might offer, my field study has given me the chance to shape my own unique teaching experiences here in Illinois: when I’m not on the road, I’m a volunteer teacher for our YWCA’s Adult Literacy program, developing and leading creative writing classes for incarcerated women at our local jail and federal prison.  And when I’m not studying or writing or teaching, I’m employed at our local library, under the mentorship of the library director, learning what it takes to run a nonprofit.

I say all of this because I’ve come to think that sometimes your direction finds you.  Or, in my case, maybe you stumble into it.  I happen to have found satisfying work that combines and explores most of my passions, and in the best way possible, I blame my English major for that.  As a degree, it has certainly opened up a diverse set of opportunities for me in terms of careers, fellowships, volunteerism, and graduate education.  As a learning experience, however, I consider my years as an English student formative because I use the skills I learned in the classroom (the ones I mentioned way back there in the first paragraph) in every one of my activities, often all at once, including:

  • creative and critical thinking and the ability to see multiple sides of a problem;
  • research and analysis skills;
  • clear and passionate communication, both verbal and in writing;
  • the skills to facilitate critical conversations among a diverse group of people;
  • the ability to empathize with—and so relate to, converse, and work with—other “characters.”

I hope you’ve heard this before, but if so, I don’t mind chiming in: in short, my English major—the excellent professors, the classmates, the reading and writing—helped me learn how to think.  I’m not sure I could have acquired a skill more “useful,” in my work and in my life, than that.