Tag Archives: writing

Hanif Abdurraqib: Visiting Poet at Ball State University

Poet and essayist Hanif Abdurraqib will be visiting Ball State University on Thursday, September 27th, 2018 from 7 – 9 p.m. in Teacher’s College (TC) 121.  This event, sponsored by the Ball State English Department, African-American Studies, the Multicultural Center, and the Office of Institutional Diversity, is free and open to the public.

A native of Columbus, OH, Hanif Abdurraqib is the author of The Crown Ain’t Worth Much, his first collection of poems; it was a finalist for the Eric Hoffer Book Prize, and was also nominated for a Hurston-Wright Legacy Award.

His collection of essays, They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us, was named book of 2017 by Esquire, Buzzfeed, Oprah Magazine, NPR, and others.  It addresses many topics such as racial profiling, the n-word, and contemporary music and sports.

Not only does Abdurraqib write poetry and essays, he’s written for the 2016 live shows VH1’s Unsilent Night and MTV Video Music Awards. 

Abdurraqib works as a poetry editor at Muzzle Magazine, an interviewer at Union Station Magazine, and for the poetry collective Echo Hotel. Continue reading

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

Undergraduate Student Morgan Aprill Discusses Her Writing Fellowship and Her Research Project on Tutoring

MorganAprill

Morgan Aprill is an English literature student at Ball State University with minors in Spanish and professional writing. She is entering her senior year as an undergraduate at the university in the fall. In addition to her work on the “Digital Literature Review,” she currently works as a tutor at the English Department Writing Center. She is conducting a research fellowship with two of her professors about tutoring and composition in second languages, with hopes of publishing the findings in a peer-reviewed research journal. She is a recent recipient of the Carol S Chalk Memorial Scholarship awarded to outstanding tutors in the Writing Center.

I was approached by Dr. Kuriscak, one of my previous Spanish professors, and Dr. Grouling, the Director of the Writing Center, at the end of the 12-13 school year. As a Spanish minor, I took Dr. Kuriscak’s Spanish 202 class at the end of my sophomore year. Both professors knew I worked as a tutor in the Writing Center and that I was also in the Honors College, so they thought I was the perfect candidate for the research they were interested in pursuing concerning alternative tutoring methods. Dr. Grouling had been in conversation with Dr. Kuriscak about ways the Center could aid students who were working on writing for their foreign language classes. The professors came up with the idea of trying out a writing fellow who would work with Dr. Kuriscak’s Spanish composition classes. That’s where I came in.

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Microstudies of Microblogging

Here at Ball State, researchers in the Rhetoric and Composition Doctoral Program and the undergraduate program in Professional Writing and Emerging Media have been conducting microstudies of microblogging and other forms of networked writing, using qualitative and mixed-methods approaches to data collection and analysis in order to develop rich profiles of social networking site (SNS) activity.  The 2011 #9ine Collaborative consists of faculty member Dr. Brian McNely, graduate students Emily Crist, Jason Parks, Stephanie Hedge, and undergraduates Melissa Ditty and Sarah Luttenbacher. 

Over the course of several weeks, these researchers explored the fascinating micropractices of everyday SNS use, studying individual, particular cases to learn more about the ways that writing and/as technology function(s) in peoples’ everyday lives. Deliberately small in scale, these studies introduce a starting point for further research into pervasive forms of writing work, hopefully raising some interesting questions for ongoing scholarship of dynamic mediation in practice. The findings shed light on the specific ways that users position themselves online—in the classroom, in relationships, and in the world. 

The resulting white paper—“Microstudies on Microblogging”—is the first of its type to be produced in the department. You can view the paper below, or download it from Scribd. 

Faculty Profile: A Conversation with Professor Cathy Day

Cathy Day

Cathy Day is the newest member of Ball State’s Creative Writing faculty in the Department of English.  She is the author of two books.  Her most recent work is Comeback Season: How I Learned to Play the Game of Love (Free Press, 2008), part memoir about life as a single woman and part sports story about the Indianapolis Colts Super Bowl season. Her first book was The Circus in Winter (Harcourt, 2004), a fictional history of her hometown. I had the opportunity to sit down with Professor Day and talk with about what kind of research goes into her writing, the influence of her hometown on her craft, and writing in different genres.

Since environment seems to be a great inspiration for you, can you tell us about your hometown—Peru, Indiana?

My town was winter quarters for a circus at the turn of the century. There was a guy in the town named Ben Wallace who was a livery stable owner and he got this notion to buy a circus. When the circus was sold, the people who traveled with the circus ended up settling in Peru because it was the closest thing they knew to a home. Some fairly famous circus folk that settled there ended up training their kids how to be performers, and so these kids put on a circus.

When I went to college, people would ask me where I was from and I’d tell them the story of Peru and they’d say, “Wow! That’s really interesting.” The thing about being from a town is you think it’s boring because it’s always around you. That’s been a big thing for my writing and teaching: trying to encourage people to look at the places they’re from for their material. It’s usually all there.

How did you research The Circus in Winter?

I spent the first five or six years reading circus history books. I would be inspired by a photograph or a factoid, and let the story go from there. I think fiction writers research in a very different way than nonfiction writers in that I didn’t have to feel bound by the facts. I would flip through a book or look through a microfilm for something that would catch my interest and go from there. There’s this thing a friend of mine calls “the atrophy of writing” where if you’re looking, as I did, at this massive body of information you kind of pick through it and don’t know what’s going to be interesting.  You just have to trust that the stuff that matters to you will rise to the top and the rest of it will fall away. It’s really overwhelming to look at all that stuff and think, how am I going to get all that in there? And the answer is you don’t.

CiW is being adapted as a musical by the Ball State University Department of Theatre & Dance, slated to be performed as part of their 2011-2012 season. What’s it like as an author to have your work adapted into another medium?

It’s surreal. To actually have a story that’s in your head tangible is awesome, but it’s also very weird. It’s really moving that they’ve created songs, a whole different medium to convey the themes of my book. One thing I was incredibly impressed by was that those songs were very faithful to what I was trying to say in the book. I call them the “truths of my heart,” coming out of someone’s mouth.

You also have a memoir out, Comeback Season: How I Learned to Play the Game of Love. Can you talk about your experiences writing memoir rather than fiction?

The thing I loved about writing Comeback Season was that it helped me learn to write a novel. To a certain point when you’re writing nonfiction, the plot’s already there, you just have to pick what parts to use. It’s a bit like being a documentary filmmaker and you shoot a ton of footage and then you have to go to the editing booth and figure out what to cut.

Is there anything you’d like to say to your new students at Ball State?

Ever since Circus in Winter came out I’ve been trying to come back here as often as I can to kind of give back to Indiana. When I was young, I didn’t know how to become a writer. I didn’t know how to be an artist or to live the life that I wanted because there was absolutely no one in my hometown who lived the way I wanted to live. I left for twenty years and now I want to be that person I would have loved to meet when I was a kid, to be that person to say, “That’s interesting. You should write about it.”

Interview with Christopher Newgent on the independent publishing world, the web’s effect on literature, and balancing work with passion

Christopher Newgent

Christopher Newgent graduated from Ball State with a Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing in 2006. Newgent puts his degree to use trying to improve his city environment of Indianapolis by bringing independent literature to the public at art and music events. He generously agreed to share those experiences with us here at the English Department blog, as well as his experience balancing a working life with creative passions.

Can you share a little about what your job is and what sorts of duties it entails?

I work as a technical writer for Aprimo, Inc., a marketing software company in Indianapolis. My job is primarily writing the online Help—how to perform specific functions in the product. I’m about to start taking over localization efforts, which is business-speak for getting the product translated into other languages.

How did your English major at Ball State prepare you for such a position?

The fact that it had “writing” in the title helped, but it actually took a bit of salesmanship to convince the hiring manager that I could take a creative writing major and succeed as a technical writer. There’s a hefty difference between creative and technical writing, but the overlap exists in consideration of audience and precise language. BSU has professors who really excel at teaching these two aspects—Mark Neely, Sean Lovelace, and Andrew Scott particularly come to mind.

Can you explain a little about Vouched Books—how it came about and what your aims and ambitions are for the project?

Vouched is a project to promote independent literature in Indianapolis. It started with the idea of setting up a flea-market-style book table at literary and art events, and shilling small press books that I’d read personally and wanted to champion. It grew from there to include the Vouched Presents reading series and Vouched Online, where I and a handful of contributors link to work published in online journals that we like—curating our little corner of the literary internet, essentially.

As for ambitions, I should probably sit down sometime and really make a list of them. It’s all sort of grown organically so far, to be honest. I don’t have any dream of opening a brick & mortar bookstore, or making it a financially viable endeavor. I just want to promote some work that I really believe in by people who don’t have much of a budget to promote beyond the internet. And the way I’ve found to do that is to go where people are who appreciate art and words, but likely don’t know independent literature exists. If a legit opportunity arises to make Vouched my full-time career, you can bet I’ll own it, but right now, it’s just a hobby; an exercise in literary citizenship.

How do you balance your working life with your literary pursuits/passions?

Honestly, the only way to find a balance is the classic cliché—show up to the page every day. Make time for it. Ideas will never be the problem. A story can come to you when you’re driving to your aunt’s for Christmas. The problem will be sustaining the drive to sit down when you get home from your aunt’s and punch out a draft without having the deadlines you have in school, the drive to write for yourself instead of a grade. It’s easy to be an idealist in college, to think you’re writing for yourself then, but you’re not, and that’s okay. And you’ll find that out a year or so after graduation. Your life will get busy, you’ll have a new roof to afford, a spouse to adore, maybe kids, college loans, a car that breaks down. And unless you say, “No matter how busy life gets, I will write 750 words a day,” you’ll eventually be reduced to jotting an occasional line on a napkin until one day you wake up and remember you wanted to be a writer once. With all faith, you’ll pull those napkins out from the drawer you were keeping them, and start writing.

Are there any other projects, on the web, personal, or otherwise, that you’re involved in?

For the past almost two years, I’ve been working on founding INDYCOG, a blog that grew into a nonprofit organization that works with Indianapolis to promote cycling. But I’ve recently taken a lesser role in that as I focus more on Vouched and other endeavors.

You seem to be very active on the web, as well as knowledgeable about web-based material. What are your thoughts on the web’s effect on literature and how people are adapting to it?

I’m actually working on an essay/guest post for HTMLGiant discussing the explosion of independent music in the late 90’s due to the internet, and how I see the current independent literary community doing the same thing now, albeit a decade late. I think literature is behind the curve in adapting to the web, likely because of the taboo online publishing has had until recently. But, I think as online journals build their legitimacy, as more and more writers and publishers learn to use the internet to promote and build community, the more opportunities will present themselves to literary authors, especially emerging authors. But let’s face it—romance and celebrity memoirs will always outsell literary works, just like even though you hear all sorts of independent music on commercials and TV shows now, Nickelback still outsells Sufjan.

What are some books you’re reading right now, and what are some titles to look for that may be somewhat under the radar?

I’ve just started writing a novel, so I’ve turned my attention to those a bit, reading Cormac McCarthy’s No Country for Old Men. There’s kind of a lack of novels in the small press world. I just started Matt Bell’s How They Were Found, and I recently finished Mark Neely’s Four of a Kind, both of which deserve to be read. If you’ve not read Sasha Fletcher’s When All Our Days Are Numbered yet, then you’re without. And, if you want to learn how to craft a sentence, Scorch Atlas by Blake Butler.

Top five literary blogs…GO!

In no particular order: HTMLGiant, Bark, We Who Are About to Die, PANK Blog, Big Other.

Any parting advice/wisdom you would like to offer to the students of BSU?

You are not alone.

The Annual Undergraduate Writers Gala is here!

Next Tuesday, December 7th, is the Annual Undergraduate Writers Gala. For those that have never been to it before, twenty students will present a piece of their own written work to a panel of judges made up of English Department faculty. Winners of first, second, and third place will be awarded prizes consisting of literary journals, books, and books by BSU professors. The Gala will be held in the Atrium, room 175, and is set to start at 7:30 p.m. This event is free and open to the public, so bring your friends and family to celebrate the pursuit of writing!

IMPORTANT NOTES FOR READERS

Check in with Writers Community officers Tyler Gobble and Elysia Smith at 7:15 p.m., before the Gala. Readers are also expected to submit a bio to be read as their introduction no later than Sunday, December 5th, at midnight. The bio should NOT exceed 75 words and should be sent with your piece in a single .doc to writers@bsu.edu.

We’ve All Been Through This

Stream-of-consciousness commentary on my relationship with writing

More often than not, I can’t just sit down and write. I have found that when it comes to writing and other hobbies, such as drawing, these activities are preceded with a lingering sense of dread, a coil of reluctance that slithers up from my stomach and wraps its tendrils around my wrists. Any attempts to thwart these attacks are met with fierce resistance; my fingers ache with illusory arthritis and my optic nerves throb with irritation, begging for rest.

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