pamcokeAssociate Professor Pam Coke: B.A., English, University of Northern Iowa; Teaching certification in English and French; Ph.D., Language, Literacy, and Culture, University of Iowa.

Professor Coke teaches courses in adolescents’ literature, intermediate composition, teaching composition, teaching reading, teaching language, and teaching methods. Her research interests include the transition from elementary to secondary school, gender and education, teacher collaboration, and teacher education. She has published articles in English Journal, Statement, SIGNAL Journal, California English, The Ohio Journal of English Language Arts, Academic Exchange Quarterly, and Education.

Faculty Profile: Pam Coke
~by Evelyn Vaughn

What brought you to CSU?

I graduated in a great year before the big crash, so there were still a lot of great jobs at places all over the country. What brought me to CSU were the colleagues. I remember when I went back (I did my graduate work at the University of Iowa), I told my advisor that I was absolutely in love with the people here. CSU was my first interview. To have it be your first was terrifying, and to just feel so at home somewhere when you were just visiting from Iowa — I went back and told my advisor that everyone was fantastic. And she said “Nobody’s really that fantastic, they probably put on a really good show for you.” Well, I’ve been here twelve years and it’s still a pretty good show, so if they’re still putting on a show, they’re sustaining it really well.

What inspired you to pursue a degree in English, the Humanities?

What really inspired me was the opportunity to engage with people, to engage with text, and to engage with ideas. That’s really what inspired me to go into English and the humanities.

What did you want to be when you were a kid?

Teacher, because we used to play school all the time in the basement. But my sister was always the teacher and I was always the student, because I loved the learning. I went into teaching because I love the learning – I never get to stop. I still learn every day. I don’t go to bed until I’ve learned something new for the day.

What special project are you working on right now?

I have two book projects going on right now that are pretty exciting. I finished field research – I did two years of study in schools in rural Colorado, looking at the transition from elementary school to secondary school from the perspective of the students and teachers. I got to follow the same students. As 6th graders, I interviewed them about what they thought middle school would be like. I got to interview the same group of students the next year as 7th graders, and talk with them about what that transition actually looked like for them. I’m working that into a book right now about educational transitions.

The other one is a chapter abstract that I just had accepted for a book on teaching adolescence literature.

What moment in the classroom stands out as the most memorable?

I had a pretty special group in my Teaching Methods class in the fall. A really hard-working, good-hearted group that I will remember. On the last day of class, I shared with them something that happened to me when I was teaching middle school. They talk, when you’re teaching K-12, about the 7 year cycle – approximately every 7 years, you get the class from hell. It was in my 3rd year that I got the class from hell. I went and talked with my boss about how much I was struggling with this group – it was a range of things, there were behavioral issues, there were motivational issues, and I had gone and interviewed their teachers from kindergarten all the way up through 6th grade. I was trying to figure out what teachers tried with them, what worked, what didn’t work – I really was trying to get into the psyche of this group.

Eventually I went and talked with my boss and he gave me a really unusual piece of advice. He paused, and he said “Pam, I want you to go and get a rock.” and I thought, “How big?” And he goes, “I want you to go and get a rock, and I want you to put it on your desk where you can see it every day.” And I said, “Okay, can I ask why I am getting a rock?” And he said, “Yes. I want you to have something on your desk that reminds you that you do not work with rocks. You work with people. A rock you can pick up and move from one place to another. You can break it; you can use it as a tool. You can manipulate the rock. People are not rocks. They have thoughts, feelings, emotions.” To this day, I have a seashell on my desk that reminds me of that.

On the last day of the methods class, I shared that story with my students and I gave them each a rock. We had a Facebook group, and they all posted how much that meant to them. They said “You turned us into the first class that ever cried over a rock.”

What is your favorite thing to teach? Favorite thing about teaching?

My favorite thing about teaching is challenging my students and myself to look at something in a different way. One of the things I love about the humanities is the thinking about the thinking and looking at things from different perspectives. I really love that moment when you can really challenge what somebody is thinking about something. In my Teaching Reading class, I asked my students “What’s going to count as reading in your class?” We all agreed that if I have a print-based book, that’s going to count as reading.

But then you start to problematize it. Something like Twilight – does that count as much as reading Pride and Prejudice? And then we talked about e-readers – does that count as reading? And I started to lose some students there. Then I said, “How about audiobooks?” And then I lost even more. My husband and I were both reading Divergent by Veronica Roth. I was reading it on my e-reader. He was listening to it on an audiobook. At night, we would come home from work and talk about what we had read. So I said, “So you’re telling me that because I was reading it on an e-reader, I wasn’t really reading it? And because he was listening to it on an audiobook, he wasn’t really reading it?” And yet, we could both sit down and talk about the ideas that Roth was putting forth. I got many angry emails after that class saying, “I thought I knew what reading meant. You’re messing with my head, now I’m thinking about things differently.” And I said, “Good. Now we’re having an education.”

That’s my favorite thing about teaching. When they swear at me under their breath because I’ve made them think about something in a different way, I’ve done my job.

What advice would you give a student taking a class in the English Department?

I would advise a student taking a class in the English department to truly take advantage of the opportunity to engage with that class. By that, I mean do the reading, talk with your professor, go in during office hours, talk with other students in the class, talk with your roommate. Really use this time when you have an audience with which to engage with ideas. I think the most shocking thing to me was meeting people who neither cared to read nor saw the value of reading or writing in their everyday lives. You’re at this great moment where you’re surrounded by people who share those values, take advantage of it. Talk with people, get as many perspectives as you can.

What’s the best advice you ever received?

My best piece of advice is one I still share to students, and I bet I share it at least once a week. One of my mentors who was at the University of Iowa when I was there, when I said that I was trying to think about what I want to be when I grow up, she said “When you’re looking at the big picture like that, look around you, and see how people live their daily lives.” Some jobs sound really exciting, but they have moments of excitement. The rest of it is pretty mundane. She said really look around – how do the people doing the kinds of work you’re interested in, how do they spend their daily lives? She said to find someone you want to pattern yourself after. That’s the way to do your career.

When I interviewed for jobs, that’s exactly what I did. I looked at the people around me. I asked better questions about what their life looked like on a day to day basis. It was the best piece of advice I ever got, and I still give that as career advice. Think about how you want to spend your day to day life, because when you look back at the end, your life is made of individual days. You want to know you spent them well.

What don’t your colleagues know about you?

Every year, I try something that takes me out of my comfort zone, because I like remembering what it’s like to be uncomfortable. On our honeymoon, my husband and I went to Disney World. We went to one of the water parks and we did the plummet, where you drop off into water. That was exhilarating. Two years ago, I took a motorcycle class, I now ride a motorcycle. Last year, it was triathlons. This year, I’ve already done one. That was making my own pasta. Next year we’re going to do foreign travel. Every year, doing something that takes me out of my comfort zone.

What is your favorite word and why?

My husband and I love playing with the word rural. If you just say it, you’re fine. But if you stop and think about it, it’s a simple word that will make you question your very existence.

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The English Department is looking for two new communication interns for Fall semester. We are going to be so sad to see Brianna and Evelyn go. They have done such great work helping us to tell our story and will continue to do so until the end of the semester. And yet, we know that CSU is full of equally talented and personable students, and are confident the right ones will find us, again. Could it be you?

Fall 2014 English Department Communications Internship
Number of positions: 2
Internship term: Fall 2014 Semester, 15 weeks, August 25th – December 12th, 2014
Total credits: 2
Hours: 80 hours (40 per credit hour), approximately 5 per week
Stipend: $250.00
Application Deadline: Wednesday, May 7th by 5:00 p.m.

The English Department is looking for two engaged, self-motivated, responsible, creative, and enthusiastic CSU students, undergraduate or graduate, with good communication and writing skills to help tell the story of the English Department. The interns in this position will help facilitate communication and community with students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends of the English Department.

Interns will spend most of their time researching, interviewing, attending events, writing, and developing content — both for print and online. A major responsibility of this internship will be creating content for the department’s blog, Interns will work directly with the English department’s Communications Coordinator to meet departmental communication needs and complete various content development projects as assigned, including but not limited to creating profiles of people (alumni, faculty & staff, students), programs and projects; conducting interviews; providing event coverage (which would include attendance and photos, along with other modes of recording where relevant); and reporting departmental news and upcoming events.

For these internship positions, some prior reporting or blogging experience and/or education is preferred, as well as an understanding of principles for writing for the web and strong communication skills, both in person and in text. We also prefer applicants who are familiar with the English Department, its programs, people, and events – and who are willing to learn more. Content will be developed in various modes, and therefore skill with technologies such as sound recording and photography, as well as image and sound editing experience is preferred. We are also looking for interns with good people skills, the ability to participate in effective verbal and written exchanges, understanding that as they attend events and conduct interviews and such, they are acting as a “goodwill ambassador” for the department.

Applicants should email or bring a cover letter, résumé, contact information for three references (phone and email), and three writing samples (plus multimedia samples, if applicable) by the application deadline to:

English Department
c/o Jill Salahub: Communications Coordinator
359 Eddy Hall
1773 Campus Delivery
Ft. Collins, CO 80523-1773

Please note: If you hope to earn internship credits through the English Department (E487A & B and E687A-M), for this appointment, the basic criteria are:

  • Must be a CSU English major or minor with junior or senior standing, or a graduate student in one of the English Department programs.
  • Must have completed all lower-division English & communication skills requirements (undergraduates).
  • Undergraduates must have minimum cumulative GPAs of 2.6 and minimum English/Writing GPAs of 3.0. They must have completed CO300 or CO301 with an A or a B. Graduate students must have minimum cumulative GPAs of 3.0.
  • Must have academic advisor’s and internship coordinator’s approval, with required documents signed by intern, internship supervisor, and internship coordinator.

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Summer and Fall 2014 Internships Available!

Unless otherwise noted, the internships listed below are open to qualifying undergraduate and graduate students. Please note that the list is likely to grow with more opportunities, so stay tuned!


  • Social Media Intern, Poudre River Library District (Ft. Collins)
  • Editorial Intern, Bloomsbury Review (Denver, CO)
  • Production Assistant: KRFC 88.9 Poetry Show (radio)
  • Intern, Writing for Peace (Ft. Collins)
  • Editorial Interns, Ruminate Magazine (Ft. Collins)


  • Production Assistant: KRFC 88.9 Poetry Show (radio)
  • Intern, Writing for Peace (Ft. Collins)
  • Social Media Intern, Poudre River Library District (Ft. Collins)
  • Editorial Interns, Bloomsbury Review (Denver, CO)
  • Grading Assistant, NCTE@CSU with Poudre High School (Ft. Collins)
  • Writing Coach and Grader, NCTE@CSU, Fort Collins High School (Ft. Collins)
  • English Department Communications, CSU English Department (Ft. Collins)
  • CSU Community Literacy Center Internship (2 semester commitment and AmeriCorps Stipend offered)


Please contact Mary Hickey, English Department Internship Coordinator, at for more information on these internships and how to apply.

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Camille Dungy, professor of English at Colorado State University, will be honored at a Distinguished Author Reception April 16, 4 – 6 p.m., 108 Johnson Hall on the CSU campus. The reception is free and open to the public, and hosted by the School of Global Environmental Sustainability at CSU.

Camille T. Dungy is the author of Smith Blue, Suck on the Marrow, and What to Eat, What to Drink, What to Leave for Poison. She edited Black Nature: Four Centuries of African American Nature Poetry, and co-edited the From the Fishouse poetry anthology. Her honors include an American Book Award, two Northern California Book Awards, a California Book Award silver medal, and a fellowship from the NEA. In the Fall of 2013, Dungy joined the faculty of the CSU English Department as a professor.

Dungy’s latest book, Smith Blue, offers a survival guide for the modern heart as Dungy takes on 21st-century questions of love, loss, and nature. From a myriad of lenses, these poems examine the human capacity for perseverance in the wake of heartbreak; the loss of beloved heroes and landscapes; and our determination in the face of everyday struggles.

The poems explore the dual nature of our presence on the planet, juxtaposing the devastation caused by human habitation with our own vulnerability to the capricious whims of our environment. In doing so, they reveal with fury and tenderness the countless ways in which we both create and are victims of catastrophe.

In the end, the book demonstrates how we are all intertwined, regardless of race or species, living and loving as best we are able in the shadows of both man-made and natural follies.

At the reading, copies of Dungy’s recent book, Smith Blue, will be available for purchase and refreshments will be served.  For more information, go to

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image by Jill Salahub

  • Dan Beachy-Quick is speaking at the Finding Moby-Dick Symposium at Northwestern University. His  long poem, “Inf-, Inf-” has been accepted by The Seattle Review. And, there’s a new review of his John Keats book at New Pages:
  • Tony Becker, Tatiana Nekrasova-Becker, and Bert Vermeulen have had their proposal, Teaching Content and Language to International Engineering Students, accepted for inclusion at the ACTFL 2014 Convention in San Antonio, TX.
  • Who Are Your Favorite Poets?, a post on the Creative Writing Program blog by Camille Dungy. “When I am asked, as I am almost weekly asked, if I can list my favorite poets, I recount a list of five to ten writers. The list invariably includes Robert Hass and Brenda Hillman. Imagine how excited I am that these two writers are coming to Fort Collins to celebrate National Poetry Month at CSU.” Hass and Hillman are coming to campus April 24th (Lory Student Center, North Ballroom, 7:30 pm). This event is free and open to the public.

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Lauren Alessi, Assistant Director of the Community Literacy Center, is continuing in her third year at CSU. She began studying here in 2011, and is currently a master’s student in the Sociology department. Alessi shared her passion for the work that she does, and gave me more insight as to what the CLC does for the community.

What is your job position and current role at the CLC? I’m the assistant director of the CLC, so my role is to supervise the interns. We have four interns right now as well as the volunteers, and we have about 10 volunteers. I also research and apply for different grants because we are grant funded, and I do a lot of community outreach as well. We have publications that we put out each semester through our program, and so I’ll have people email me about the journals. We distribute them throughout the community and out of state.

What does your typical day of work consist of? A day at the office varies quite a bit. One of the main things we do is the “Speak Out Writing Workshop,” and that’s a weekly writing workshop that takes place at the jail. So some days there will be workshops going on, other days there are many meetings, or if there’s a grant due I’ll be working to get that together; there’s just a lot that goes on from week to week.

What is one of your favorite things about the CLC? One of my favorite things about the CLC is the community readings that we do each semester. Towards the end of the semester when the CLC publication comes out, we have community wide readings at the jail, and local coffee shops for the Turning Point groups. So the writers will share their work, and it has a poetry reading feel to it. With the jail readings, people from the community are allowed to come, and it’s a huge celebration of their work being published in the journal. It’s such a great event, and it’s cool to see them share the work that they’ve written.

Describe Eddy in one word. Traffic-jammed. [laughs]

Favorite book: It’s “The Age of Innocence”, by Edith Wharton. I just really love her voice, the way that she writes, and her kind of command of language; it’s really exciting for me.

Do you have any advice for English majors? Clear your bookshelves!

Please note: this edition of Humans of Eddy was originally published on the English Department’s Facebook page on March 13, 2014. Read more about this series.

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Dr. Anthony Becker is a Assistant Professor in the English Department, where he teaches courses within the TEFL/TESL program and coordinating workshops for the newly-established INTO initiative at Colorado State University. He holds Ph.D. and M.A. degrees in Applied Linguistics from Northern Arizona University and Georgia State University, and an undergraduate degree in Psychology from Millersville University of Pennsylvania. His current teaching/research focuses on second language assessment, research methods in applied linguistics, and meta-cognitive aspects of writing.

Outside of academia, Anthony enjoys being outdoors and spending time with his wife, their son, and a very vocal cat. He is excited to be in Fort Collins and is looking forward to contributing to the great learning environment at CSU.

Faculty Profile: Anthony Becker
~by Brianna Wilkins

What brought you to CSU?

A U-Haul truck [laughs]. But I worked in [Washington] DC for a testing company, both me and my wife; we worked in the same office too. One day she asked me if I saw the posting for this job at CSU, but I wasn’t interested in looking for another job at that time. She was like, “Look you need to apply.”  So first I read the job description, and was like wow, this seems like it was written for me. I submitted my application, did the phone interview, and then finally came out here. Everything just felt very natural, and it seemed easy to adjust to this department; it just seemed like it was meant to be. When I got the call that I was hired I didn’t hesitate; I knew that I really wanted to come here.

tony with his wife and son

Anthony with his wife and son

What do you enjoy most about your work?

I’d be crazy not to say that I enjoy working with students. Although at times it can be really frustrating because I’m really jazzed and excited about what I’m teaching, and sometimes you just hear crickets, and students are sometimes checking their phones. You think you have a great lesson, but they think otherwise. But it’s great when they (the students) start making connections between things, or when you see that they’re very excited about learning, and genuinely want to know more and begin asking questions. Not just questions like, “Is this going to be on the test?” but questions that challenge the both of you to think and stimulate your mind.

What’s your most favorite class to teach at CSU?

My most favorite is Assessment (E634); it’s a graduate class, and I’m teaching it this semester. For me it’s my background. I’m very passionate about it, and it’s the most interesting because it combines aspects of language learning and math. To me it’s kind of fun, but a lot of students come to my office and get nervous and ask if they need tutoring help because of the math, but I enjoy it because we work through that stuff, and by the end they realize that it’s not so bad.

What advice would you give students taking classes in the English department?

It’s not as boring as you might think. As a student I thought that some English classes were boring, but I really think that the faculty here are incredibly passionate about what they teach; if you come with the mindset that you can learn something, you’ll come out with some new knowledge and insight. I’d just tell them to come with an open mindset, and come prepared to learn.

Tony hiking with his son

Anthony hiking with his son

What’s the best advice that you’ve ever received?

As a child my parents got a divorce, and I became a bit of a troublemaker. My fifth grade teacher noticed some problems, took me aside, and told me that I was trying too hard to fit in; he told me to just be myself. At first I was just like yeah whatever, but that advice has always resonated with me, and I’ve always kept that close to my heart.

What might the English faculty not know about you?

I’m uncomfortable around people in costumes or mascot outfits. When I was younger my parents got someone to dress up in a chicken costume for my birthday, and I cried the whole time. Since that point I don’t like when people dress up, and when I can’t see their face, especially around Halloween; it just makes me very uncomfortable.

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Find this donation box on a table across from the Eddy Computer Lab if you have some books to share

Find this donation box on the table across from the Eddy Computer Lab if you have some books to share

  • John Calderazzo recently spoke on climate change at the Steamboat Springs Library speaker series. Next week he will speak at The Loveland Connection presentation series on “My Joyful & Difficult Life Helping Scientists Talk to the Public.” In June he’ll speak on communication at a meeting of the American Meteological Society. Later in June he’ll co-lead a three-day yoga/creative writing workshop with department M.A. alum and yoga teacher Jessica Patterson.
  • Gerry Delahunty‘s abstract, A Comparative Analysis of the Rhetorical Moves and Stancetaking in Fundraising and Amnesty International (AI) Appeal Letters, has been accepted for presentation at the Societas Linguistica Europaea conference, 11 – 14 September 2014, in Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznań, Poland.
  • Todd Mitchell will be attending and presenting at the Colorado Teen Literature Conference in Denver on April 5th. He’ll be giving a presentation on “Using Creative Nonfiction to Inspire Literacy and Creativity,” and another on “Bullying and Suicide Prevention Through Books.” His novel, Backwards, was recently selected as a finalist for the Colorado Author’s League Book Award in the Young Adult Fiction category.
  • Kristin George Bagdanov presented her paper “Barry Lopez’s Ethic of Desire: Learning to Love the Wasteland” last weekend at University of Wyoming’s graduate conference, Searching for Place: Interpretations of the Environment and Landscape.
  • Bill Tremblay‘s poem, “The Colonel Comes Calling,” from Magician’s Hat: Poems on the Life and Art of David Alfaro Siqueiros, Lynx House Press: 2013 was just published in With Eyes Wide Open: Poems of the New American Century, West End Press, Albuquerque: 2014, which will also feature Sam Hamill, Margaret Randall, Bruce Weigl, Afaa S. Weaver, Teresa Mei Chuc, and Yusef Komunyakaa as well as poets from five continents around the world. Bill will read his poems and do a workshop at the University of South Alabama (Mobile, AL) on April 15-16. Bill will judge a poetry contest and do a workshop he’s calling “The Turn” at Arapaho C.C.’s (in Littleton, CO) annual Writer’s Studio on Saturday. He will read with Leslie Ullman. Call Kathryn Winograd 303 797 5815 for details. Or email:

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Alumnus Justin Hocking (M.F.A., ’02) read from his new book, The Great Floodgates of the Wonderworld, at the University Center for the Arts on the evening of March 3rd. Hocking was the featured author of the Crow-Tremblay Alumni Creative Writing Reader Series.

University Center for the Arts, the night of the reading

Justin Hocking was raised in Colorado and California and has been avidly involved in skateboarding and surfing for over twenty years. He created and contributed to the anthology Life and Limb: Skateboarders Write from the Deep End; his work has also appeared in the Rumpus, Orion, Thrasher, The Normal School, the Portland Review, Portland Noir and elsewhere. He is a cofounder, with A.M. O’Malley, of the yearlong Certificate Program in Creative Writing at the Independent Publishing Resource Center, and also teaches in the Wilderness Writing MFA program at Eastern Oregon University. He lives in Portland, Oregon.

Hocking said, in a short feature published in AlumLine, that he was “beyond honored and excited” to be returning to CSU for the creative writing reading series. “I owe so much to the professors and the creative community who supported me during my graduate studies, and I’m looking forward to reconnecting with them.”


Communications Coordinator Jill Salahub attended the reading and has this to share:

It’s been ten years since I’ve seen Justin Hocking in person. We went to graduate school together, were Graduate Teaching Assistants at the same time and friends. As introverts, tenderhearted writers teaching for the first time, we bonded over our shared love of the practice of writing and sense of terror in teaching it, (I heard someone say once that for introverts, teaching is an extreme sport).

Although Justin was a bit grayer than the last time I saw him, (I am too), and Professor John Calderazzo was convinced he’d gotten taller, it felt completely natural and familiar to see him, like no time had passed. We hugged and I told him again how happy I am that such good things are happening to him.

It’s the thing that almost everyone who knows Justin will tell you about him — he’s just a genuinely good guy. You really can’t help but like him. MFA graduate Drew Webster, who formally introduced Justin at his reading, said the first time he met Justin, what he noticed was his “disarming smile” and “generous and unfailing kindness.”

Before Justin started to read from his new book, Great Floodgates of the Wonderworld, he took time to talk about how when he first came to CSU for his MFA, he didn’t really know what he was doing. After, he said, he maybe still didn’t exactly know what he was doing, but he had a lot of friends. I heard him talk a lot that night about how important community has been to him, both personally and professionally.

Justin started reading from the beginning of his book, a section about surfing hurricane waves. (Hear Justin read the first chapter of his book in this podcast on Poets & Writers). From the first line of Justin’s book, it’s clear how it will go: straightforward and deep. “Late summer 2005 and everything’s underwater.” Cheryl Strayed describes it best in her quote on the back cover of the book,

As generous as it is smart, as intimate as it is grand, as illuminating as it is dark. With grace and guts, Justin Hocking dares to go where few men have gone before: not only out to sea, but also into the depths of the human heart.

Next, Justin skipped ahead to read from “Data. Assessment. Plan.,” a section about his first full-time job out of college in Colorado, how he spent the year before beginning his MFA at CSU as a counselor in a residential treatment center for adjudicated boys.

Then was “All I Need Is This Thermos,” the section of the book that describes being carjacked and having his laptop stolen, thus also losing the novel he’d been working on for two years. In an interview with Denver’s Westword, Justin said,

I was robbed at gunpoint in 2006, and went into an emotional tailspin in the wake of this trauma. I was living in New York City at the time, and started spending more and more time surfing out at Rockaway Beach, taking some dangerous risks, paddling out by myself way past sunset. Looking back, I realize I was in the midst of my own night sea journey. This dark voyage is what comprises the memoir’s core trajectory.

He paused during the reading and talked about this “night sea journey.”


He ended with “The White Dead,” a section that lists historical and literary figures who have shared his preoccupation with Moby Dick, including people like David Foster Wallace, Jackson Pollock, and Orson Welles.

After he finished reading, Justin took questions from the audience. He talked about how he’d actually been working on this book for close to seven years, and parts of it had been published elsewhere — most notably, a piece in The Normal School which eventually led to getting this book published. In relation to this, he returned to the importance of the community he found at CSU. In an interview with Oregon Live on The Oregonian, he described it this way,

It’s funny. I moved to New York City with a lot of ambitions toward making connections and meeting agents and editors and all that. I definitely did meet some wonderful people but the connection that partly led to the publishing of the book was someone I went to grad school with who now runs The Normal School, which is a really great creative nonfiction magazine. They ran an excerpt from the book and my current agent read that excerpt. It was the All I Need Is This Thermos piece about getting robbed at gunpoint. It’s one of the crux scenes in the book. He read it and really liked it and then started shopping it around.

He also talked about writing requiring “dumb persistence, grit.” He said something similar in his interview with Denver’s Westword, offering this advice to budding writers:

Take risks, and don’t be afraid to get lost — some of the best writing arises from uncertainty, from stumbling around in the dark. I don’t advocate for intentional suffering, but the beauty of the writing life is that you can transform traumas and difficulties into art. This profession also requires a special combination of sensitivity to the world and people around you, alongside pretty hardcore grit and perseverance.

Justin said that while his book is about “my own messy emotional life,” as the author, crafting it meant engaging in “the dance of intimacy and of distance,” gently guiding the reader to the truth he wanted to communicate, allowing them breathing room as he did so.

Justin said that even though he’d previously worked on writing fiction, with this book “I feel like I found a home in this form [creative non-fiction]…I just wanted to tell the truth.” And “this book is about me and my foibles, my flaws.” When asked what his plans were now that he had finished this book, Justin said “I have a bunch of things on deck I’m really excited about” — a collection of short stories, a novel, and another long form creative non-fiction project.


Justin signed books at the end of the evening, the CSU bookstore selling out of copies while there were still people hoping for one. If you need more convincing that this is a book worth reading, an author worth watching, a genuinely good guy, read more:

In Over His Head: Justin Hocking’s “Great Floodgates of the Wonderworld” in the Sunday Book Review section of The New York Times

“The Great Floodgates of the Wonderworld” by Justin Hocking, a book review on The Boston Globe

Justin Hocking on surfing, trauma and The Great Floodgates of the Wonderworld from Denver’s Westword

Book Notes – Justin Hocking “The Great Floodgates of the Wonderworld” on largehearted boy

Justin Hocking’s Memoir Is About Surfing, Melville, And More an interview on OPB

Justin Hocking’s east-west journey: surfing in New York City, writing in Portland with Oregon Live on The Oregonian

Kirkus Review of The Great Floodgates of Wonderworld

~Jill Salahub

Sponsors of the Reading Series include the English Department and Creative Writing Program at Colorado State University, Organization of Graduate Student Writers through ASCSU, College of Liberal Arts, and the Armstrong Hotel. These events are also sponsored by a grant from the Lilla B. Morgan Memorial Fund, a premier supporter of arts and culture at CSU. Please help grow this fund with a gift at:

All events are free and open to the public. For additional information call 970.491.6428 or e-mail

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Assistant Professor Zach Hutchins received his Ph.D. from the Department of English and Comparative Literature at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where his dissertation earned the C. Hugh Holman Award. His essays have appeared or are forthcoming in journals such as ELH, Early American Literature, Modern Language Studies, Leviathan, Early American StudiesNineteenth-Century Literature, and The New England Quarterly. This semester at CSU, he taught Introduction to American Literature and American Prose Before 1900. In Fall 2014, he’ll be teaching American Literature in Cultural Contexts, American Poetry Before 1900, and Major Authors-World – Columbus Across the Centuries.


Faculty Profile: Zach Hutchins
~by Evelyn Vaughn

Why do you wear a canary yellow suit jacket?

I have owned that coat since I was eighteen. I bought it when I was on my way to college as an undergraduate, so I’ve had it forever. I love it because, although it was originally a four hundred dollar coat, it sat in the Big and Tall shop for so long that they actually gave it to me for twenty dollars! It was still marked at a hundred, but I was the only person that had ever shown any interest in it, and when I started to walk away after deciding a hundred dollars was too much, the owner came after me and said, “Make me an offer.” So that’s how it ended up in my possession. I wear it because I think it emblematizes who I want to be in the classroom. I’m a very energetic and cheerful person, especially in the classroom. But I also want to make students feel comfortable, and I also think it communicates confidence and a welcoming atmosphere.


How would you describe your work in the English Department?

I teach literature, and I teach early American literature in particular. My interest has always been in the intersection of religion and literature, so those are the types of courses that I end up teaching. They also happen to be what I’m currently writing about. Anything from Columbus and New World discovery to American writers from the late nineteenth century, like Melville and Twain and Stephen Crane.


Why do you have an interest in religion and literature?

I’m Mormon. I grew up in a very religious household. Sometimes I tell people that I was raised by the last two Puritans, and that’s not a bad description for my parents. A good example would be in high school, every morning, before I went to high school at 7 AM, from 6 to 7 I was in an early morning Bible or scripture study class that was run by the LDS church. So I got up every day at 5 AM in order to take a Bible study class. Religion has always been part of who I am. As for the books, well, when I was a small child and my mom wanted to punish me, she wouldn’t ground me, she would take away my books. I would be sent outside, or to a friend’s house to play.


What brought you to CSU?

From the moment I set foot in Fort Collins, I just loved the place. I was blown away by the friendliness of the department and of my colleagues. I’ve heard anecdotally about other English Departments that are less friendly and collegial, so everything about my first visit to Fort Collins and my interactions with the department signaled to me that this was a place I wanted to be.


Why did you pursue a degree in English?

One of the pieces of advice I received as an undergraduate and that I value highly was the encouragement to do what I love as opposed to doing what I thought other people would love. Nobody thinks of English as what other people would want to see you doing, but I decided that I would do what I loved, and what I loved happened to be literature. As a result, I think I’ve worked much harder at my job than I would have if I had gone into a field that I was less enthusiastic about. I wake up every morning with a smile on my face because I know that I get to come to campus and teach and read and write about great books. I can’t imagine anything that’s more exciting in terms of a profession. That has made me much more successful than I think I would be if I had gone into a field that was a grind and that I didn’t enjoy so much.


Why are the humanities important to learn?

The first thing I would say is that the decline in the humanities, I think, is greatly overstated. More people read now than have ever read in the history of the world. More Americans read than have ever read in the history of the nation. To say that the humanities are dying, or are on the decline, I think is a vast oversimplification of what’s a very complex cultural shift. That being said, why the humanities matter — I think one of the best ways to think about this is to recall Thomas Friedman. He wrote a book called The World is Flat in which he talked about how the world is shrinking because of technology that makes it easier for interpersonal interactions to occur as well as digital and technologically mediated interactions. This means that we’re increasingly interacting with people from other cultures, with different backgrounds, who we can’t necessarily understand intuitively, but what they’ve now demonstrated scientifically is something that anyone who has ever read a fabulous novel can tell you intuitively – and that is that the humanities increase our empathy for others. That empathy, that ability to understand what is important to and what drives others is an invaluable skill not only in monetary terms, but also in interpersonal relationships and the quest to be good human beings.


What sort of special projects are you working on right now?

My first book is coming out in June, which is very exciting for me. It encapsulates my interest in religion and literature. It’s called Inventing Eden, and is a whirlwind tour of 17th and 18th century transatlantic relations between Britain and New England, and the focus that those colonists had on the idea of Eden and trying to recapture the perfections that they associated with it.


When you’re not working, what do you do?

I would say that close to a hundred percent of the time that I am not working, I am either spending time with my family or spending in church pursuits. One of the things that I spent a lot of time doing this past fall – as a result of those floods that devastated surrounding communities – I spent a lot of Saturdays, like 6-7 hours a day in Loveland doing flood relief with my church. When I’m at home with my family we play a lot of board games. I’m a board game nut!


What’s one thing you dream of being able to accomplish at CSU?

When I was an undergraduate there was a teacher, his name was Steve Walker, who made all the difference in the world to me. He knew me by name and he believed in my capacity to do great things. I’ll never forget him. There are a lot of things that I work with on a day to day basis, and I regard those as being of some importance. But the reason that I became a teacher, the reason that I’ve always regarded it as the best of professions, is the hope that someday, some student that I had would remember a moment in class, or out of class, or in a series of classes as having made some sort of difference in their life. The relationships and human interactions, those are, I think, ultimately the things most worth accomplishing. Everything else just fades away. In 100 years somebody else will have written a new book about Eden, and nobody’s going to read mine anymore, and you know what? I’m okay with that. In 100 years if there’s a couple of people who I made a difference to as a teacher, or as a friend, or as a colleague, or as a mentor, the fruits of their life, whether it be their children or the things that they accomplish or the people that they influenced, that will live on. It’s the human connection, that’s the thing that matters most. If I accomplished something like that while I was at CSU, I’d be happy.


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