SueEllen Campbell has three recent publications: “Making Climate Change Our Job,” the lead article in Teaching Climate Change in the Humanities, eds. Siperstein, Hall, and LeMenager, Routledge, 2017; the forward, “Sunrise, Celebration,” to Ellen Wohl, Rhythms of Change in Rocky Mountain National Park, Univ. of Utah Press, 2016; and “The White-tailed Ptarmigan,” an excerpt from Even Mountains Vanish, in The Rocky Mountain National Park Reader, ed. James H. Pickering, Univ. of Utah Press, 2016. She continues her work on the 100 Views of Climate Change website, http://changingclimates.colostate.edu, endeavoring to deal with a backlog of good new accessible sources of information of all kinds.
Harrison Candelaria Fletcher just had a prose poem sequence accepted for the Manifest West anthology on “Women of the West.” The anthology is due out later this year.
Doug Cloud’s article, titled “Re-Writing a Discursive Practice: Atheist Adaptation of Coming Out Discourse” has been accepted for publication in Written Communication. It will be out this April.
Matthew Cooperman’s essay “Notes Toward a Poetics of Drought” is up at Omniverse right now. The essay, part of panel proceedings from a panel organized and chaired by Kristen George Bagdanov (MFA ’15), is a three-part series being run by Omniverse. You can find it here: http://omniverse.us/poetics-of-drought-matthew-cooperman/
From Sue Doe: “I am excited to announce a new online journal, Academic Labor: Research and Artistry. ALRA is published by the Center for the Study of Academic Labor, a CSU center supported by President Tony Frank (see http://csal.colostate.edu/about/tony-franks-statement/) and Dean Ben Withers. We seek to provide perspectives from the social sciences, the humanities, and the arts on contingency, tenure and the future of higher education. Please consider submitting something for the inaugural issue, and please circulate the CFP to your colleagues and distribute it to disciplinary list-servs, journals, websites, discussion boards, etc. Note that the journal invites varied genres, including art.”
Todd Mitchell launched a new program today to encourage literacy, creativity, and caring for our earth by delivering free books and free author visits to underfunded schools in Colorado. If you want to learn more (or become a supporter), check out http://youcaring.com/Books4Change.
Felicia Zamora’s (MFA ’12) poems are in the January 2017 issue of OmniVerse and other poems have recently been accepted in the Raleigh Review, Bellingham Review, and Sugar House Review. Her blogpost “Consideration of Self in Poetry: You & the Page” is up at North American Review, and a new interview with poems can be found online at HocTok.
In Spring 2016, English major Alexander (Alec) Pearson did an internship where he researched department history. He graduated at the end of that same semester, earning his Bachelor of Arts in English with a writing concentration. Alec collected and wrote a lot of material that semester. One thing he did was interview some of our previous department chairs. One of his interviews just so happened to be with John Pratt. At the time, we imagined this biography and interview would be part of a larger series, simply one of a set. We had no idea we’d be using it to honor his memory instead, and yet we are so glad we have it for that very reason.
John Pratt came to the CSU English Department from the Air Force Academy in 1975, and served as the department head until 1980. He was the college’s first Fulbright professor, having spent a year in Portugal in 1974. During his time as chair, he displayed a deep integrity, a great commitment to education, and an ongoing focus on advancing the cause of women within the Department and the university as a whole.
He had a great love of teaching and found time to teach classes even as he fulfilled his duties as department chair, regarding that as his true calling. John Pratt wrote, published, or edited more than eighteen books, and numerous scholarly articles, poems, and book reviews. After stepping down as department chair in 1980 and another Fulbright fellowship to the (then) University of Leningrad, USSR, he returned to teach as a professor at CSU until his retirement in 2002. (Read his obituary for more about his life.)
Interview with John Pratt by Alexander Pearson, Spring 2016
Alec: Would you mind telling me about how you came to join the English Department?
John: All right, I had been serving the Air Force for twenty years, most of which had been with the Air Force Academy in the English department.
Alec: The Air Force Academy has its own English department?
John: Oh yes, it’s a full university. I had been a pilot but they were taking all of us old farts off flying status because, bottom line, they were running out of money and the only assignment I could have gotten was to the Pentagon. And I didn’t want to do that. I found out that CSU was looking for an English Department chair, from outside, so I signed up for it, I went through the selection process and I got the job in 1974. At the same time, I got a Fulbright fellowship to Portugal and I worked out a deal with the department where I could take the Fulbright and then come up as chair. They had never had a Fulbright professor before, so they said fine, so I came up in 75 as chair of the department.
After about six months here, I had formed some friendships. I had been visiting all of the department members in class, so I could find out who they were and what they did, because I didn’t know anybody. And one of my colleagues took me aside and said “John, there’s something I need to tell you. You know that our department is pretty well divided up.” And I said, “I know. There are a lot of differences.” “Well, because of your military background, half of the English department thinks that you’re no good, and the other half wants you to shoot the first half.” And that was one of my introductions to the department.
Alec: You said you had a Fulbright professorship in Portugal. Could you elaborate on that, I hadn’t heard of that before.
John: The Fulbright fellowship is a national fellowship, any teacher, any professor can apply for it, and they have Fulbrights in many, many countries, and it’s a year-long fellowship. You may know about the former student, Yusef Komunyakaa, who is going to be reading, and I had a lot to do with getting him accepted here, he was the first black student to be in the Creative Writing program. And he has gotten a Fulbright since, and many other remarkable awards.
John Pratt (on the left) at the recent reception for Yusef Komunyakaa
Another thing, when I was in the military, one of the things you’re supposed to do when you take over a command is start training a successor. I told the department that I’d stay five years as chair, but I didn’t tell them that I’d stay longer. I looked around at that point and found that the only woman who was head of a department was head of Home Economics. All of us were men. In part because I had four daughters, whom I had been training to be as good as men, I looked around and found a member of the department whose classes I’d been to were doing very well, I was very impressed with her, her name was Rosemary Whitaker. So I appointed her as graduate chair, as undergraduate chair, all these various positions, so when I decided to step down after five years, she was a shoo-in. She became the first woman head of a major department, her successor was a woman, the current department head is a woman, and I feel very pleased about that.
Alec: What would you count as your achievements while you were chair of the department?
John: I was just lucky in many cases, I hired some very good professors. There wasn’t a great deal more that was really important. My primary interest had always been teaching, and so I think probably the most important thing was I hired women, I appointed women, and I gave them a much better opportunity.
Alec: Do you have any sort of other amusing anecdotes, or non-amusing anecdotes, about your time as chair?
John: Well, I’d been chair about three years and I received a phone call and a follow-up letter from the UCSB for the job of dean of the faculty there. And I really wasn’t very interested in it, and I’d never been approached in that way before, so I thought I’d head down and see what was going on. So I went out for an interview, and there was a whole group, maybe about ten people, and a woman was head of it. And she introduced me, and she said, John, we think you should know this, this is not an interview. We have looked at your record, we’ve looked at your publications, we want you to come out here as dean of the faculty. That’s definite. And she asked, John, do you have any questions. And I said, there’s the English department and the American Studies department, both of which I would be the dean of — which one would you prefer I taught a course in? And she looked at me with a strange look on her face, and she said, John, I’m sorry, our deans don’t teach. They just administer. And I said, I’m sorry, this dean would teach. And administer at the same time. And she turned around and looked at the people there, then she turned back to me and said, John, I’m afraid we don’t have anything more to say. Have a good trip. They turned me down because I would take one class as a dean, and they said our deans are too busy to teach. And after that I didn’t look into or get asked for anything else. I held a few positions within the department but I just thoroughly enjoyed teaching.
Alec: So what was your specialization as professor and teacher?
John: Well, I started out in American Literature, then I published a couple of novels and quite a few articles.
Alec: Which novels would these be?
John: Two on Vietnam. I started in Vietnam 1969-1970. In the Air Force Academy I called that my ‘Vietnam Sabbatical.’ I served for an outfit called Project CHECO, Contemporary Historical Evaluation of Combat Operations. And we wrote top-secret papers on what the air force was doing in Vietnam and so on. So when I retired I did a novel on the air war in Laos, called The Laotian Fragments. And I did another one, not really a novel, really a collage, called Vietnam Voices. Actual writings from all aspects of the war.
Alec: I’m pretty sure I’ve seen that in the library.
John: Yeah, the library had a major collection. I gave my last collection of books to the department just recently. And these are all books written by English Department people and they’re in the department library now, along with all the other books that I’ve written.
The service for John Clark Pratt will be held on January 30, 2017 at the Spirit of Joy Lutheran Church, 4501 S. Lemay at 1:00pm.
Kaitlyn Phillipsis an English major with a concentration in Education, and was one of our communications interns in Spring 2016. “I hope to one day be the kind of teacher that creates the same sense of community in her classroom that I’ve found here in the university’s English department.”
Even though she hasn’t even graduated yet, Kaitlyn fully embodies her commitment to education. In 2015, she joined Far Away Friends, an organization in northern Uganda, as a Development Intern, and has been working with them ever since. “Our mission is to extend quality education into Northern Uganda, and it has been amazing to take my passion for education across the globe.” Kaitlyn believes that education is every child’s best opportunity to better both their communities and themselves.
Kaitlyn was such a great intern, we wanted her to stay, come back and work with us for another semester, but at the same time she got promoted to Director for Development with Far Away Friends, (involved in one of their newest initiatives, OperationTeach),and needed to focus her efforts on that instead. This past summer, Kaitlyn shared some of her experiences working with teachers and students in Namasale, Uganda.
Kaitlyn in Namasale, Uganda with one of Global Leaders Day and Boarding Primary School’s teachers
Recently I caught up with Kaitlyn. I asked her how things were going, and she told me that she was busy with school and still loving her work with Far Away Friends. She also told me that things were tough because they needed to hire two new teachers, and were working hard to find the funding. I asked her to send something for the blog, because we love to brag on the good work of our students and are so happy to share Kaitlyn’s enthusiasm for education. These are the kind of students we have in English, and we feel so lucky that sometimes we pinch ourselves just to make sure it’s real.
I believe in people. I believe in their ability to be kind and helpful. I believe in their willingness to cooperate and give. I believe that we all believe in something greater — bigger — than ourselves, and I believe we’re willing to put in serious work to be closer to that greater something.
It is this push toward that greater something that landed me with Far Away Friends, a nonprofit that partners with the international community to promote sustainable educational, economic, and social development. We work in Namasale, Uganda, a small sub-county in Eastern Africa full of people worth believing in, where we’ve spent the last two years investing in primary education by building Global Leaders Day and Boarding Primary School (GLP). Throughout my friendships with the organization’s founders, Jayme, Chris, and Collines, I have been able to observe their unwavering belief in people, in total strangers across the world that, over the last two years, has built a school, renewed a community, and imbued an ineffably bright spirit into fifteen full time staff members and almost one hundred students.
GLP students taking exams
This belief in and love of people — all people, everywhere — that I learned by watching my amazing teammates work is also what pushed me to study English Education. Anyone who has ever been in a classroom knows that one teacher’s belief in one student can change both lives permanently and for the better, and the impact of that sustained belief in classrooms full of students year after year is something I couldn’t resist. There’s an incredible hope in the opportunity of education, one that fuels the work I do both as an educator and with Far Away Friends.
As an English major, this belief in people is fed by literature; to read about someone else’s experience is to learn to empathize with them, and it is this sustained empathic practice that allows me to do the work that I do in Namasale, Uganda. You cannot partner with a community if you do not understand them, and reading and writing has taught me to actively and empathically listen and learn.
As an English teacher, my belief in people is fed by engaging with passionate educators who include “believing in my students” in their job description. I have never met teachers who do just that better than those at Global Leaders Primary. They see themselves in their students, what they are, are not, and have always wanted to be, and with their spirit and actions consistently prove to their students that they believe they are capable of anything.
At Far Away Friends, we hire these teachers intentionally; we know that by hiring people who believe in people, we’re hiring teachers who believe in their students. We also hire teachers who are members of the community; only those who live and work alongside their students could know what it takes to both thrive within their community, and work hard to make it better. Finally, we know that believing in people inherently involves an immense amount of respect for them, and we show that respect to our teachers by guaranteeing them their right to a fair wage.
This does not come without its challenges. We rely on about forty five people who donate monthly to make sure we can make that happen. Forty five people who don’t know our teachers, have never met our students, but believe fiercely in them — and us — anyway. Without these people all over the U.S. — without that core belief in people, connection, and something greater — we could not do the work that we do.
This year at GLP, we’re adding two brand new teachers to our full time staff; all of our P5 students have moved on to P6, and as they grow, so do we. While this growth is exciting, it also means we must, once again, get vulnerable, and lean on our core beliefs — that people are kind, willing to help, and always reaching for something greater.
My hope is that you’ll join me in these beliefs and sign up to support our teachers through our program OperationTeach, in which we ask people in our community (read: you) to be a part of the community in Namasale, and the extraordinary things that happen when we combine our tendency to reach for something greater with kindness and global connectivity.
To ensure a fair wage for our entire staff, we need to increase our monthly income by about $400 — that’s twenty people at twenty dollars per month — by the first week of February. As Director of Development, it is in part my responsibility to make that happen. In other words, it’s my job to believe in people — to believe that they will listen empathically, and invest in strangers across the world, simply because they believe in people, too.
I believe in people like you, and your willingness and ability to believe in people like me, and our teachers — teachers like Joshua, who lived in refugee camps as a young boy; Sebastian, who organizes dances, speeches, and debates for our students; and Judith, our head teacher, who works tirelessly to provide her staff with trainings and support.
We wish Kaitlyn all the best in her work and studies, and look forward to more updates from her. If we can’t keep her here with us, we are at least comforted by the fact that she’ll go away (far away, friends — see what I did there?) and continue to do good work.
Steven Ray Parker M.A. Literature, 2001 M.Ed. Educational Leadership, 2011
8th Grade English and Yearbook
English Department Chair
Science Olympiad Coach: Write It, Do It Team
Kinard Core Knowledge Middle School
Mentoring Advisory Board: Poudre School District
National Writing Project Fellow
How did your major prepare you for the job, the life you have now?
Having an M.A. in Literature has tremendously prepared me for teaching the content that I do. Core Knowledge schools are rigorous, and we read novels, nonfiction, and poetry that are above grade level. I am able to approach literary works from a theoretical standpoint, without ever having to say, “Hey, kids! Today we’re focusing on this passage from Twelfth Night through the lens of New Historicism.” Although I don’t discuss theory with 8th Graders, I incorporate it through my lessons and how we approach works of Literature. I also gained an incredibly broad repertoire of works and themes from different periods due to the preparation for M.A. Comprehensive Exams.
What do you consider to be your greatest accomplishments (both personally and professionally)?
Many of my greatest accomplishments are centered around kids. I’ve had students win scholarships because of their work. I’ve had students speak at large events because of their work. Whenever one of my students is successful, and they get to experience something outside the four walls of our classroom, I consider that to be an accomplishment that cannot be matched. Personally, making the decision to return to school in 2009 to receive my M.Ed. and Teaching License was a major step for me in my life. Now, I can’t imagine not being a teacher.
How did your experience in the English Department help you with these achievements?
The seminars in the M.A. program were always collaborative. Many of the projects that were presented in my classes were in groups. Learning how to work with a peer, at a high level of trust and knowledge, very much informed how I approach teaching. I also cannot overstress the tools of literary analysis I gained at CSU. Literary theory informs everything I do. Almost all of my professors in my grad seminars encouraged theoretical approaches.
What did you like about the English program?
I enjoyed everything about the M.A. program. I even enjoyed taking the Poetry Comp and the Final Comprehensive Exams! I met amazing people, students and professors, who made my time at CSU truly sublime.
Why did you choose to study here?
During my senior year at the University of North Texas, I had applied to various graduate programs around the country. A few friends of mine had moved from Denton, TX to Fort Collins a year before. They had begun Little Guys Movers in Denton and then looked around the country for a college town where they could do the same. After they moved to Fort Collins, I visited a few times. Like so many, I fell in love with Fort Collins. I added CSU to my list of applications. I was also drawn to the idea of attending a grad program that had a terminal Master’s degree. I wasn’t sure, when I first began my applications, if I wanted to move past an M.A. to a Ph.D.
I was also drawn to CSU because of two particular professors. I knew I wanted to focus on Modernist Poetry in my thesis. I had read articles about Ezra Pound by Dr. Carol Cantrell, and I was impressed by the level of detail and literary theory that informed Dr. Cantrell’s work. I had also read a book of poetry by Professor Laura Mullen. Her poetry, her work with Gertrude Stein, Emily Dickinson, and feminist theory were instrumental in my decision to eventually write about Gertrude Stein and Queer Theory.
When you started graduate school, was eventually teaching at a middle school your goal?
I did not plan on teaching at all, much less at a middle school, when I began my M.A. program at CSU. I started to consider applying to Ph.D. programs. I also thought about finding a job in the field of arts administration. During my second year, I worked closely with Professor Mary Crow, then Poet Laureate of Colorado, in initiating the state’s first Poetry in Motion project, which placed poetry and art placards inside Transfort buses. Running art and poetry contests, working as the liaison between CSU, Poudre School District, and the city of Fort Collins, and planning the celebration for selected poets and artists were all outstanding opportunities, and I became enamored with the possibility of working with artists. In the ten years between receiving my M.A. and going back to school for my M.Ed. and Teaching Licensure, I worked in retail management. During a time of personal change—a health scare and the loss of a dear friend to cancer—I decided to follow my heart. I knew I wanted to work with kids. I knew I wanted to bring my content knowledge of literature and literary theory to a classroom. I knew I wanted to be a teacher who taught about being a citizen in our democracy, about fighting bias, about building self-esteem. Little did I know that teaching was so much more than those things . . . and that it would become a mission, not just a job.
Steven with two of his students, essay contest winners, at the recent MLK Day Celebration
Do you have a favorite or funny story from your time with the English Department? Or something you particularly miss?
There are too many “funny” stories that come to mind when I think of those years in the M.A. Program. There is a house on Edwards Street that, for years, was rented out to English grad students. There was a basement apartment in which I lived for a few years; the upstairs apartment had two bedrooms. When I first moved in, Jill Darling and Laura Merrill (now Riehle-Merrill) lived upstairs. While I was there, Trish (Klei) Barribeau and Nicole (Ashton) Harrison also lived upstairs. It was a house where many English grad students gathered, both M.A. and M.F.A. Many lively conversations and MANY late nights.
During my first year in the program, the original 90210 was coming to a close, after ten amazing years! I remember mentioning in Dr. Sebek’s “Methods” course that I can no longer watch anything on television or film and not immediately evaluate it through a critical lens. I knew I was in great company when my peers laughed (with me) when I mentioned that I was using Foucault to break down the systems in 90210.
Was there a specific class, professor, advisor, or fellow student who made an impression on you, helped you, or inspired you when you were at CSU in the English Department? Do you still keep in contact with your classmates or professors?
My advisor, Dr. Carol Cantrell, made an incredible impression on me. Until she retired, she remained focused on current theory. Her work with Modernist Poets informed much of what I did in my thesis. Other professors that I looked to for guidance were Dr. Barb Sebek, Dr. Ellen Brinks, Dr. Sarah Sloane, and Dr. Paul Trembath. I took three classes with Dr. Sebek. We have remained close friends . . . almost twenty years of conversations, bowling, and hockey games. Particular classes that I remember were Laura Mullen’s “Gertrude Stein, Emily Dickinson, and Feminist Theory,” Dr. Sebek’s “Early Modern Women Writers,” Dr. Brinks’ “19th Century British Literature – the Romantics and the Victorians,” and Mary Crow’s “Latin American Poetry.” I am still in contact with many of my fellow students who were in the program during that time. Although most are scattered around the world, I do my best (as do they) to stay in touch. We lost a dear friend in 2010, Kelly Jo (Cockburn) Feinberg, to cancer. Since then, I would say many of my friendships have grown stronger. I value any time that I’m able to see Sarah Dodson-Knight, Amanda (Gordon) Henkel, Amy Marshall Clark, and Eileen Munzo.
What would you like to tell prospective CSU English Department students?
In many ways, the program is what you make it. No one in my cohort was writing about queer theory. I made myself that niche when I wanted to use Gertrude Stein’s poetry to bridge the gap between LGBTQIA Studies and Queer Theory. Find professors who value what you do. They’re there! I’ve become friends with professors that are now at CSU that were not there in 2001. The department is a rich place, flowing with innovative ideas and enthusiasm. Get involved! Even if you are teaching CO150, take on an internship. Explore Fort Collins. Have themed dinner parties. Call everything a “panopticon.”
What advice do you have for current CSU English Department students?
Do not limit yourself when thinking about life after CSU. Keep your mind open. I would have never thought that I’d be teaching middle school. And, now, I can’t imagine doing anything else. And make sure you turn that GS-6 in on time (if that’s still a “thing”).
“My 8th Grade Team- 6 of the 8 are CSU grads.”
What was the last piece of writing you read or wrote? OR, What are you currently reading, writing?
I have been reading Simon Sinek’s books on leadership. A colleague and I are creating a class for new teachers in Poudre School District that will, hopefully, assist them in getting through those first few years . . . years that can often bring disillusionment. Start with Why and Leaders Eat Last are two of Sinek’s books that I believe any teacher, regardless of the age of their students, should read. I’m also reading Here I Am Jonathan Safran Foer and The Stranger’s Child by Alan Hollinghurst.
What are your hobbies or special interests, what do you enjoy doing with your free time?
During the school year, I have limited “free time.” I enjoy attending Colorado Eagles’ games. If I have a chance to see live music in the venues around Northern Colorado, I am filled with glee. I look forward to board game nights and long dinner parties with friends.
Where will we find you in five years?
I will still be teaching. I might be back in Texas, or I might be here in Poudre School District. The dreamer in me sees me teaching English in Cassis, France, my most favorite place in the world . . . a small fishing village on the Mediterranean with multi-hued houses and diving rocks.
From Jill Salahub, English Department Communications Coordinator: We had so many great applicants for the internship position this time around. Any of them would have been a great fit, which meant we got to pick the best of the best. I am so happy to introduce the English Department’s Communications Interns for Spring 2016 — Katie Haggstrom and Joyce Bohling, (who was also with us last semester, and was so great we asked her to stay on). Just like the position description states, they are creative and enthusiastic CSU students with good communication and writing skills who are super excited to help us tell the story of the English Department. We had our first official meeting last week, and there’s lots of good stuff coming your way! If you have any ideas of what they should be writing about, events they should be attending, people they should profile, etc., send those suggestions my way.
From Katie Haggstrom: “I admit that I’m a cliche English student, but I try to live by Emerson’s quote ‘do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.’ I went from spending my undergraduate years bundling up against harsh Minnesota winters at St Olaf College to studying in Tanzania, London and attending NYU’s Publishing Institute.”
“I will always be a Nebraska native, but I officially moved to Fort Collins in August to begin a Masters in English at CSU. While I’m beginning my second semester, I’m still adjusting to the whole graduate student thing. But I’m amazed at the countless authors, writers, and poets invited to speak at CSU. As your intern this semester, I’m excited to learn more about the different events and speakers on the calendar.”
“If you see me lurking around Eddy (where I seem to live most weekdays), feel free to say hello.”
From Joyce Bohling: “I’m excited to be returning for a second semester as a Communications Intern for the English Department! In the fall, I not only learned a lot about writing for the web, but met some very cool people I otherwise would not have met, learned more about people I already knew, and got to share their stories with all of you. I’m looking forward to another semester of learning all I can about communications and about this department. Don’t hesitate to contact me (or Katie or Jill) if you have a story you’d like to be heard.”
Sue Doe’s co-authored article with Mary Pilgrim and Jessica Gehrtz, “Stories and Explanations in the Introductory Calculus Classroom: A Study of WLT as a Teaching and Learning Intervention,” Volume 27 of The WAC Journal, is now viewable at: http://wac.colostate.edu/journal/vol27/doe.pdf
The Community Literacy Center welcomes Shelley Curry, Sarah van Nostrand, Lizzy Temte, and Alina Lugo as spring 2017 interns.
Kristina Quynn presented in two sessions at the 2017 Modern Language Association Conference in Philadelphia. She presented on “Engaged Reading and Criticism” in a special session about “Feminism, Pedagogy, and the New Modernist Studies.” This session and presentation connects with the MLA Teaching Approaches collection on Modernist Women’s Writing, which is forthcoming 2018. Kristina also organized and presented on a panel about “Narratives of Contingency: Unsettling Trends in the New Academic Novel.” Her paper was titled, “Mimetic Drudgery, Magic Realism, and the New Academic Novel.”
Shoaib Alam’s short story “Wonderland” from his master’s thesis will appear in May/June issue of The Kenyon Review’s KROnline. Alam is back in his hometown, Dhaka, Bangladesh, working with the Teach For All network partner there, Teach For Bangladesh, on partnership development.
As you begin a new semester, don’t be surprised if one of your teachers asks you to start a blog. You might have a theme or project assigned to you to write about, or you might get to choose for yourself. Maybe you’ll share it with the class or even the whole internet, or maybe it will simply be a place to submit homework and your teacher is the only person who will ever see it.
Blogging is an appealing method because it promotes community, allows for “low stakes” writing practice, encourages deeper engagement with the subject matter, and allows students to create a writing space that is their own and thus representative of them in a way that traditional paper writing isn’t. One could also argue that students are better prepared for their careers and lives as citizens through experience with this sort of writing for the web.
Some things you might want to consider when blogging for a class:
If I’m just blogging for class, am I actually learning how to write a blog?
Not exactly. In the same way that most writing assignments for a class are actually the performance of a “real” act of writing, you aren’t fully experiencing blogging when you blog for class. To be “really” blogging, your own interests and intentions would be the only things guiding your choices. It would be your choice what to write about, when to publish, and how to design your posts and your blog. You would also be finding your own audience, independently.
However, when you blog for a class you are gaining experience with the tool, and writing with a purpose for an audience. The things you might miss out on (depending on the focus of the course in which the blogging takes place) are focus on design, specific writing for the web techniques, cultivating an audience, and writing about what YOU want to write about.
Why does blogging matter?
Voice: Blogging provides a platform for writing with authority and authenticity. Blogging gives voice to your particular interests, what matters to you without needing anyone else’s permission or help to publish, share with an audience. Blogging can also give voice to a marginalized experience, your own or that of others.
Writing Practice: Blogging is writing that can be regular and ongoing, a great way to start a habit and improve your skills. You publish with the expectation that someone is reading it, expecting it. Maybe you are even lucky enough to get feedback from your readers.
Finding your thing: Blogging can be a way to consider what your thing might be, a way to find it. There are all kinds of stories about artists who were just doing what they enjoy, not thinking about it in terms of it being a project or product, not planning it out or considering how marketable it might be or who the audience is – just having a good time, when they stumble upon “The Thing.” Some small, seemingly random and unimportant thing that ends up being the big thing, the thing that they are known for, paid for, maybe even famous for – The Thing. These are just a few examples:
Hugh MacLeod, cartoonist. “I drew cartoons in college, then got a day job in advertising. I landed a job in NY, and one night just started drawing cartoons on the back of business cards.” Now MacLeod is a highly-regarded author, writing on the themes of innovation, creativity and motivation. He has published two books, is commissioned for his art on a regular basis, gives talks at conferences, is the CEO of a successful company, and sells prints of his work for a lot of money. He doodled on the backs of business cards and found his thing.
Sark, artist, writer, speaker. In a dark moment of her life she wrote a poem in her journal called “How to Be an Artist,” her statement that “we are all artists of life.” Her friend saw it and said “wow, that should be a poster,” so SARK tore it out of her journal and put it on her wall, saying “there, it’s a poster.” Her friend said, “no for the world!” and SARK replied, “I wouldn’t have any idea how to do that.” She found out, and four days later there were orders for hundreds, and she ended up making 11,000 by hand. Now she writes books, makes art, gives talks and workshops. She made a poster and found her thing.
Dallas Clayton, author, illustrator, public speaker, mural painter, and adventure seeker. Clayton wrote a book for his son, and it ended up starting a revolution of sorts, certainly led to a career where he got to work doing what he loved. He says, “Do what makes you happy. Use that to make other people happy.” He’s a guy who wrote a book for his kid, and it ended up being his thing.
Lisa Congdon, artist, illustrator, author. Lisa Congdon didn’t start drawing or painting until she was 30 years old. A former elementary school teacher, she first started making art as a hobby, as a way to de-stress from her work in an education reform non-profit. Five years later she began showing and selling her work. Today, Lisa makes a full-time living as an illustrator and fine artist, along with being a teacher and speaker. She’s the author of six books, with another set to come out later this year. She started making art as a hobby and found her thing.
Austin Kleon, “a writer who draws.” Kleon says, “I’m probably best known for my Newspaper Blackout Poems — poetry made by redacting words from newspaper articles with a permanent marker. I started making them in 2005 when I was right out of college and facing a nasty case of writer’s block. The poems spread around the internet, and in April 2010, Harper Perennial published a best-selling collection, Newspaper Blackout. New York Magazine called the book ‘brilliant‚’ and The New Yorker said the poems ‘resurrect the newspaper when everyone else is declaring it dead.'” Kleon since has written two more books. His work has been featured on 20×200, NPR’s Morning Edition, PBS Newshour, and in The Wall Street Journal. He speaks about creativity, visual thinking, and being an artist online for organizations such as SXSW, TEDx, and The Economist. He started by just doing what he did and sharing it, and “it” turned out to be his thing.
Patti Digh, author and teacher. She recently celebrated the 12th anniversary of her blog. Reflecting on those 12 years, she shared, “Starting this blog saved my life, changed my life, changed my relationship with words and with myself. It opened up space for me to dive into language in a way the business books I had previously written did not. It opened up friendships with people around the world whom I have come to love–people I would otherwise have never met. It was the genesis for my last six books, Life is a Verb Camp, and so much more. It was begun with a single intention: to leave behind my stories for my two children.” She started her blog with a simple intention, and she found her thing.
Audience: Blogging is a way to find your weirdos, your tribe, what Paul Jarvis calls your “rat people” — “You need to find your rat people. Not literally ‘rat people’, unless rats really are your thing. I’m talking about the people that get what you do, appreciate it, and love you for it.” Blogging is a way to build community.
Platform: Blogging provides a central location to give people access to your work, to engage with what you do. This can be a great networking tool, or a resource when you are looking for a job.
What does audience have to do with it?
I’d give the same answer to this as I would about any kind of writing: audience is nothing, and everything. Write for yourself first (this way you aren’t tempted to entertain, you tell the truth, and you sound like yourself). Your writing has to have its origin in you, has to be “from the heart,” real and authentic and honest, fueled by some energy of exigence, a need to say what you have to say – and then the next step of that is you want to be heard, you want to share what you have to say, want to engage with community, have a conversation and build a relationship. Blogging is an effective and easy way to do so.
What does the English blog look for with submissions?
We love publishing student voices on the English department blog, about a wide range of subjects. Some items are a noteworthy piece of writing, such as a contest winning poem or a particularly interesting multimedia project completed for a class or organization. Other things: book reviews (of local or visiting authors are of particular interest), student profiles, faculty profiles, “What I Learned” (in a class, on a trip, from a book, from a professor), pieces about your experience as a student in the English department, tips for students, reflections on a reading or workshop or other English event. Essentially anything that would be of interest to students, prospective students, alumni, faculty, staff, administration, or friends of English. We also hire two interns every semester to help with English communications, (social media and the blog). If you are interested in submitting something to the blog or in learning more about the internship, contact Communications Coordinator Jill Salahub, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lillian Nugent is new to the English department, started working with us over the summer, and is our Assistant to the Chair. We are so happy to finally officially introduce her to those of you who haven’t already had the pleasure of meeting her!
What brought you to CSU?
Well, what brought me home to Colorado is my granddaughter. I’ve been in higher education for many years. When it came time to start my search, CSU had this position open. It all came together pretty quickly.
What do you miss most about where you lived before?
Friends. It takes time to build relationships. There isn’t anything that can replace the history of living life with someone.
What are you most excited to see or do living in Colorado?
Pouring into my kids and my new granddaughter! I am blessed beyond belief to be a Tutu of two little girls. Having the opportunity to take part in the growing of the next generation is indescribable.
Lillian and her new granddaughter, Jaden
How would you describe your work in the English Department?
I manage the fiscal and personnel operations of the department. This fits perfectly with my background and degrees.
What do you enjoy most about your work?
The people! We have an extraordinary department. Administrators, faculty and staff all work as a team, which is a perfect formula for success. The diversity of thought and skill allows us to accomplish great things, not only for our CSU community, but for the Northern Colorado community and beyond.
What special project are you working on right now?
As a newbie, my first order of business was to organize my space. Now that I feel ‘at home’ I am looking at our systems and processes to see how we might be more effective with less effort. Having less ‘busy work’ will allow for the creative space needed to expand our department exposure and impact on the region.
What’s the best advice you ever received?
Be in the moment! Yesterday is over, tomorrow is yet to come. We have no guarantees in life…enjoy the experience of now.
Lillian and her husband, Joel, overlooking Estes Park (hiking up Hermit)
Why are the Humanities important?
What are we if not human? All that has been created in the world since our arrival is through humanity. Even the discovery of science and technology comes through humans. The amazing diversity of humans is thrilling! How do we get to learn about that? The written word, the spoken word, language, culture, music, drama, and psychology to name a few. Discovering more of who we are, and providing a space for that discovery to be cultivated, only happens when we value our humanity.
What are you currently reading, writing?
I am currently reading The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. Regardless of what your path is, this is an amazing book for opening your creative side – and we all have a creative side!
When you’re not working, what do you do?
I love my people! Spending time with them (husband, kids, grandkids, extended family, friends that are family) is what life is all about. The only thing that lasts through eternity is the love we have. I share my love with them through biking, hiking, cooking, laughing, talking, and sharing our hearts. I also find it fascinating to discover the world through the eyes of my 14 month old granddaughter!
Lillian biking with her husband Joel and a good friend Janice
Dan Beachy-Quick has a set of poems and set of essays nominated for a Pushcart Prize.
Roze Hentschell, currently serving as Interim Associate Dean in the College of Liberal Arts, emceeed the College of Liberal Arts Fall commencement, Saturday December 17th at 5:00 p.m. If you couldn’t be there in person, check out the webcast archives and watch our wonderful graduates receive their diplomas: http://commencement.colostate.edu/webcast-archives/
Congratulations to the 2016-17 CLC interns, Dominique Garnett, Alina Lugo, Sarah Von Nostrand, and Shelley Curry and Associate director, Mary EllenSanger on successfully designing and facilitating six SpeakOut writing workshops. Three evening journal launch parties were held. Watch for the winter copy in January.
Tobi Jacobi’s essay on curating community writing and social action in jail appears in the forthcoming issue of the Community Literacy Journal.
Bill Tremblay has a poem entitled “November 9, 2016,” coming out in the next issue of TRUCK magazine.
Mir-Yashar Seyedbagheri’s “Song of Rachel” has been accepted for publication at The Molotov Cocktail.