Tag Archives: John Calderazzo

Group discusses the classic novel "Beloved" at Wolverine Letterpress & Publick House as part of Rekindle the Classics

Group discusses “Beloved” at Wolverine Letterpress & Publick House as part of Rekindle the Classics

  • On August 28, Pam Coke co-presented the paper “Examining Attrition in English Education: A Qualitative Study of the Impact of Preparation, Persistence, and Dispositions in Teacher Education” with Heidi Frederiksen and Ann Sebald of the CSU Center for Educator Preparation at the 19th International Conference on Education Studies in Paris, France. This research is part of a longitudinal qualitative study on why English Education students do/not stay in their education programs.  If you would like to learn more, you can view the abstract here: file:///C:/Users/pamel/AppData/Local/Packages/Microsoft.MicrosoftEdge_8wekyb3d8bbwe/TempState/Downloads/abstract.pdf
  • Matthew Cooperman’s Spool received two very positive reviews in the past few months, one at Sugar House Review (scroll to second review) http://sugarhousereviews.blogspot.com and one at Mayday Magazine http://www.maydaymagazine.com/issue11reviewburzynskispool.php
  • Camille Dungy was the keynote speaker at the Kentucky Women Writers Conference on 9/15/17. https://womenwriters.as.uky.edu/
  • Sarah Green’s poem “Scar Stars” was selected as the winner of Ghost Proposal‘s Instagram contest, and appears in this month’s issue of Letterboxes.
  • Katherine Indermaur’s poem, “American Bison,” that was just published this morning, at Muse /A Journal: http://www.museajournal.com/2017/09/k-indermaur/
  • Meghan Pipe’s short story “Alternating Current” appears in the Fall/Winter 2017 issue of Nimrod. The story was an Honorable Mention for the Katherine Anne Porter Prize for Fiction.
  • John Calderazzo will tell a story about hiking in the mountains of Bhutan as part of KUNC’s “The Great Outdoors” Live Storytelling Event at Wolverine Farm’s Publick House next Wednesday, September 20, starting at 6 p.m. Further details here: http://www.kunc.org/post/great-outdoors-live-storytelling-event John is also slated to run four workshops for City of Fort Collins’ Climate Action Plan employees on how to use stories to communicate science and environmental research to the public.
  • Ricki Ginsberg’s article, “Opportunities for Advocacy: Interrogating Multivoiced YAL’s Treatment of Denied Identities” was published in English Journal.
  • Four of Colorado Reviews essays made the Notables list in the Best American Essays 2017: CSU MFA Fiction (1992) alum Wendy Rawlings‘s “Portrait of a Family, Crooked and Straight,” Emily Strasser’s “Exposure,” Stephanie Harrison’s “What We Have Left,” and Rose Whitmore‘s “Witness.”
  • Todd Mitchell recently completed two Books for Change author visits to Colorado schools. He was at Dunn elementary last week, and Columbine Elementary School in Boulder this week, speaking with over 700 elementary school students, and giving interactive writing presentations with students and teachers to inspire literacy, creativity, and positive activism. Many thanks to all the kind souls who supported Books for Change, and helped make these visits possible. Todd Mitchell also participated in a YA and middle grade author tea party talk with the fabulous YA author Anna-Marie McLemore (author of Wild Beauty, The Weight of Feathers, and When the Moon Was Ours, a Stonewall Honor book) at Old Firehouse Books.
  • Debbie Vance’s short story, “Tilting at Windmills,” was selected as a semi-finalist for the 2017 American Short Fiction Prize.
  • Mary Crow has had two poems, “Theory of the Angelic Figure” and “Theory of the Human Figure,” accepted for publication by 2river (Fall 2017).
  • Shoaib Alam has recently taken on the role of Chief of Staff at Teach For Bangladesh, a nonprofit based in Dhaka, his hometown. Alam spends his evening writing fiction and is currently hoping to draw the attention of American poets and writers to the ongoing Rohingya genocide currently engulfing Bangladesh. Please get in touch with him to learn more about this crisis. great–shoaibalam@outlook.com.


CSU to launch a Feminist Fight Club with Events & Book Signing on Sept 25

Feminist Fight Club author gives public talk

In keeping with the University mission to improve campus culture and climate around gender and make Colorado State University the best place for women to work and learn, CSU has joined with Feminist Fight Club author Jessica Bennett to establish the first campus chapter of the Feminist Fight Club on Monday, September 25th, 2017.

Purchase a copy of Feminist Fight Club and get it signed by Jessica Bennett!
Book sales and book signing will be available from 10:30-11:30am outside of Ballroom D in the Lory Student Center.

Fireside Chat on Challenging Subtle Sexism in the Workplace with author, Jessica Bennett
1:00-2:15 in Ballroom D of the Lory Student Center
(This event is free and open to the public; no registration required).



Symbols and History of Lynching in America

Symbols of Lynching event flyer

CLA along with the Departments of Communication Studies, Ethnic Studies, and History are working with BAACC and ACT to host a special event during the Diversity Symposium: Symbols and History of Lynching in America. The event is Wednesday, Sept. 27 from 5:30–7 p.m. in the LSC Theatre. It’s free to attend and contributes to the college’s thematic focus on diversity, inclusion, and free speech. Read more about the film and filmmakers here: http://www.aaihs.org/an-outrage-a-new-film-about-lynching-in-the-american-south/

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A great time was had by all at Bruce Ronda’s retirement celebration

  • Harrison Candelaria Fletcher has a lyric essay, “Family Cookbook,” accepted by Florida Review. It’s part of a new collection exploring mixed-ness and in-between-ness.
  • Camille Dungy’s poem, “Natural History,” was awarded a Pushcart Prize and will be played published in the Best of the Small Presses anthology.
  • Joanna Doxey has a poem in the latest edition of the Denver Quarterly (51.3).
  • Jaime Jordan’s Digital Humanities class (E280) has created a blog showcasing some of the digital projects they’ve worked on this semester.  Check it out at https://exploredhblog.wordpress.com!
  • Second year MFA student Claire Boyles had an essay, “Failing at Important Things: A Parallel History,” place as a runner-up in Vela Magazine’s nonfiction contest, judged by Claire Vaye Watkins. The essay is live on the site: http://velamag.com/failing-at-important-thingsa-parallel-history/
  • Cedar Brant won the Academy of American Poet’s Prize for CSU.
  • David Mucklow was accepted and offered a scholarship to attend the Squaw Valley Community of Writers Poetry Workshop this summer, and will be attending at the end of June. A few weeks ago, his poem, “where Deer Creek dies into the Gallatin,” was published on Daily Gramma. You can find it on their site here – http://gramma.press/
  • Mir-Yashar Seyedbagheri’s flash story, “A Bunny’s Kidnapping” has been accepted for publication at “Gone Lawn.”
  • Come celebrate the new 2017 Fort Collins Poet Laureate (our very own Felicia Zamora!) on Sunday, May 7 from 6-8 PM at Wolverine Farm Publick House! Enjoy readings from Felicia Zamora (MFA alumnae), John Calderazzo (professor of English Emeritus), and Michelle Deschenes (MFA alumnae). For more information, please see the event calendar listing or Facebook event page.

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Image by Jill Salahub

  • Next Wednesday, Doug Cloud will be giving a workshop for the School of Global Environmental Sustainability (SoGES) Sustainability Fellows titled “Talking Science with Conservative, Religious and Other Potentially Skeptical Audiences.”
  • Tobi Jacobi participated at the recent Conference on College Composition and Communication (CCCC) through a panel presentation entitled, “Not “All Ellas”: Risking Exploitation in a Prison Public Memory Project,” and a preconference prison teaching workshop (“The Prison Next Door: What Types of Connections Do We Want to Cultivate?”).
  • Michael Knisely’s Boulder’s Rocky Ridge Music Academy photography exhibit runs through April, he will also showcase additional photographs as part of the Month of Photography exhibit at the ACE Storage gallery on north Broadway also in Boulder. A collaboration of poets and visual artist’s exhibit at the First Congregational Church at Broadway and Spruce Streets in Boulder will feature two of his poems. He will also be reading from his poetry work as part of a large poetry reading this Friday for the First Friday Arts event at the First Congregational Church, which runs from 6:30 – 8:00 this Friday evening.
  • Dan Robinson’s paper, The Second Battle of the Champagne & the Inexpressibility Topos, has been accepted for the XVIII International Hemingway Conference in Paris next summer.
  • Morgan Riedl (MA in CNF, 2017) has a piece up on Brevity’s blog.  It’s a hermit crab essay in the form of a workshop critique of Sean Spicer’s press conferences.  You can read it here: https://brevity.wordpress.com/2017/03/30/workshop-comments-for-sean-spicer/
  • Catie Young’s poem “Merrily Merrily M​errily Merrily” is in the new issue of The Volta: ​http://www.thevolta.org/twstbs-poem185-cyoung.html
  • On April 21, John Calderazzo will read an essay at the Sacred Mountains and Landscapes conference at The New School.  The essay will discuss a centuries-old agricultural ritual in the Peruvian Andes he attended in which Quechua people have recently changed their behavior because of the climate change induced shrinking of their glaciers.
  • Felicia Zamora’s (MFA ’12) first book, Of Form & Gather, winner of the 2016 Andrès Montoya Poetry Prize, was released on February 28 from the University of Notre Dame Press. Of Form & Gather is listed as one of the “9 Outstanding Latino Books Recently Published by Independent and University Presses” by NBC News. Her manuscript Galaxy Inside Your Inadequately Small Heart was selected as a finalist in the 2017 Alice James Award and the 2017 Lena-Miles Wever Todd Prize for Poetry. Her poem “In all the pretty roam” was featured on Zòcalo Public Square on Friday, March 17 and her poem “Virgule” was selected by The Georgia Review for publication. Zamora read her poetry for the AKO Collective’s Day Without A Woman recognition event on March 8.
  • Kathleen Willard will be the BreckCreate Breckenridge Creative Arts Tin Shop Guest Artist in Residence for the month of April. In addition to working on her new poetry manuscript, she will give a poetry reading, conduct four poetry workshops, and host a community poetry reading. She hosts Open Studio Hours at the Tin Shop Thursday through Sunday to talk about poetry and share her process. The BreckCreate website has details of her events.

Checkout the English Department’s new lunch counter!  In response to our See Change 2 request for more common space for faculty and staff, we have put the west end of Eddy to work. Two lunch counters are open and ready to entice you out of your offices for lunch and conversation. We will devote the exhibit space above each counter to departmental work on diversity and inclusion for at least the first year.

  • The northwest corner launches this new “Counter Talk” space with an exhibit featuring the 1960 Greensboro lunch counter sit-in and additional images — including two from the Smithsonian’s 2010 50th anniversary celebration.  Look here for some interesting ways to incorporate such moments into your courses: http://americanhistory.si.edu/freedomandjustice.

Stay tuned: Jaime Jordan’s exhibit featuring a moment in her CO150 course will be added next week to the southwest counter.


The English department has FOUR different writing contests running right now. Check out the details here, and submit something!

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The Poudre River this morning (image by Jill Salahub)

The Poudre River (image by Jill Salahub)

  • On October 28th, Tim Amidon, Elizabeth Williams (Communication Studies), Kim Henry (Psychology), and Tiffany Lipsey (Health and Exercise Science) partnered with the Poudre Fire Authority to host a symposium on the intersections of work, knowledge, and safety in the fireservice. Over 70 fireservice leaders from as far away as Oakland, CA and Ontario, Canada participated in interactive, stakeholder conversations designed to help researchers and participants identify the types of human factors that impact firefighter occupational safety and health outcomes. Breakout sessions included discussions on wearable technologies and next generation PPE, post-traumatic stress, the impact of chronic stress, sleep deprivation, and diet on decision making and cognition, how blue-collar traditions and working class identity impact how firefighters value the types of labor they perform, and how the challenges of certifying skills and building learning organizations through training and education programs. The event was sponsored by PFA and Pre-Catalyst for Innovative Partnerships seed funding awarded to the research team by the Office of the Vice President for Research. Tim would also personally thank our student intern Tiffany Lingo and administrative gurus Sheila Dargon and Lilian Nugent for their support!
  • Dan Beachy-Quick has an interview up on the Kenyon Review’s website with: http://www.kenyonreview.org/conversation/dan-beachy-quick/ and a group of linked essays at EuropeNow: http://www.europenowjournal.org/2016/11/30/sunlight-and-arrows-five-invocations-for-the-silent-muse/
  • John Calderazzo will be presenting a talk on “Climate Change and Quechua Ritual” at the Sacred Landscapes and Mountains conference at the China India Institute in New York City.  The talk is based on a trip he took to a glacier-fed basin in the Peruvian Andes. John will also be the judge for the 2017 Eugene V. Shea National Poetry Contest.
  • Sue Doe and Lisa Langstraat’s essay “Faculty Development Workshops with Student Vet Participants: Seizing the Induction Possibilities” will shortly appear in Reflections: Public Rhetoric, Civic Writing, and Service Learning (Volume 16, Issue 2).
  • On November 18, just prior to the start of Fall Break, CO130 faculty welcomed around 75 international students to a Harvest Meal in the Whitaker Room.  It was crazy fun in there, particularly as faculty watered down the soup to make it stretch to meet the larger-than-expected crowd and as Cassie Eddington’s kimchi was pronounced “Superb!” by a Korean student. This event was the brainchild of Karen Montgomery Moore and was assisted by Cassie Eddington, Virginia Chaffee, Kristie Yelinek, Hannah Caballero, Leslie Davis, Sheila Dargon, and Sue Doe.  Thanks go to our Chair, Louann Reid, for her support for this very special and timely event. Thanks also to the front office staff who participated and strongly communicated the department’s support for the diverse students of CO130! Thanks as well to our amazing Eddy custodial staff who not only helped bring food from our cars to the third floor but stuck around late to help clean up the mess!
  • On Saturday, October 15th, the Colorado Language Arts Society (CLAS) hosted its 47th Annual Regional Conference at Metro State University in Denver.  This year’s theme was “For the Love of Teaching: Reclaiming the Classroom.”  CLAS presented CSU’s English Professor Emeritus William McBride with the Legacy Award.  English Education graduate student Jenna (Franklin) Martin shared her presentation, titled “Intercultural Sensitivity in the Middle School Language Arts Classroom.”  Dr. Pam Coke gave a presentation with Cheryl Kula, a fourth grade teacher at St. John the Evangelist Catholic School in Loveland, titled “Hard to Learn, Hard to Teach: Using Problem-Based Strategies in the Classroom.”  A good conference was had by all.
  • On Saturday, November 12th, CSU welcomed high school seniors from around the country to campus to take part in Senior Scholarship Day. English department colleagues led students through a writing workshop, followed by a timed writing competition.  CSU Admissions offered scholarships to the top writers. Our English department team included Tony Becker, Doug Cloud, Pam Coke, Ashley Davies, Katie Hoffman, Tobi Jacobi, Sarah Pieplow, Jeremy Proctor, Catherine Ratliff, and fearless leader Ed Lessor. Thank you, team, for your hard work!
  • On Saturday, November 19th, Dr. Pam Coke presented her research at the National Council of Teachers of English Annual Convention in Atlanta.  Her session, titled “Performing Adolescence on the Page and in the Classroom: Using Adolescents’ Literature to Advocate for Students’ Mental Health,” She helped participants examine critical questions for educators, including: Is it ethical to teach a text that I know can trigger forms of PTSD for students?  Is it irresponsible to avoid such issues in the classroom?  If and when I do teach these texts (and I believe it is irresponsible to omit controversial texts from our classrooms), what can I do to best advocate for the mental health and well-being of the students? The presentation sparked valuable conversation among attendees.
  • Debby Thompson’s essay “Canine Cardiology,” published earlier this year in The Bellevue Literary Review, has been nominated for a Pushcart prize.



We have three SpeakOut Journal Launch events during finals week. We will be celebrating the publication of our Fall 2016 issue of the SpeakOut Journal with a reading by our participants and refreshments. Please contact Tobi Jacobi (tjacobi@colostate.edu) if you would like to attend the readings at the jail or community corrections. We’d love to see you there!

SpeakOut! Youth Groups: Monday, December 12 from 6:45 to 8:15pm at Wolverine Letterpress and Publick House

SpeakOut! @ Community Corrections and Work Release: Wednesday, December 14 from 7:30 to 8:30pm at LCJ Administration Building

SpeakOut! Men & Women’s Groups @ Larimer County Jail: Thursday, December 15 from 6:30 to 8:00pm at the Larimer County Jail.


Greyrock Review: Get your work published!

Fiction: 5,000 word limit, format should be double-spaced, 12 point Times New Roman or Galibri fonts. Two pieces of your best work may be submitted.

Nonfiction: 5,000 word limit, format should be double-spaced, 12 point Times New Roman or Calibri fonts. Two pieces of your best work may be submitted.

Poetry: Up to 5 poems may be submitted, each poem should be placed on a separate page in a single document. If poems have a visual formatting component, please use Adobe PDF files. Otherwise, Word (.doc files) are preferred.

Visual Arts: Any visual art form is accepted, excluding video. Please photography your work and submit digitally. 300 dpi and CMYK colored .TIFF file is preferred.

For more information please visit http://greyrockreview.colostate.edu or email Baleigh Greene at bmgreene@rams.colostate.edu

Submissions accepted from October 3, 2016 – December 16, 2016

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  • On November 16 and 17, Camille Dungy spoke at the University of Arizona Poetry Center as part of their Climate Change & Poetry Series. “Starting in October 2016, the UA Poetry Center features eight world-class poets as they address what overlaps, contradictions, mutual challenges, and confluences the categories of Climate Change & Poetry share with each other; in a series of investigative readings, we hope to offer some answers, some questions, and some new ways of thinking. In this second installment of readings built around a common question, we wonder: what role does poetry have in envisioning, articulating, or challenging our ecological present? What role does poetry have in anticipating, shaping – or even creating – our future?” http://poetry.arizona.edu/climatechange
  • Harrison Candelaria Fletcher’s newest book, Presentimiento: A Life in Dreams, just received a starred review from Kirkus Reviews, whose editors also chose it as a “Kirkus’ Indie Books of the Month Selection” for January. https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/harrison-candelaria-fletcher/presentimiento/
  • Todd Mitchell spoke on the Author Panel last weekend at the Loveland Library Author Showcase. He also spoke with the IRS after they read one of his books (the IRS is the Poudre Library’s Interested Reader Society of teen readers. If you’re interested in finding engaged teen readers, contact the IRS. They’ll give you hope for our future).
  • In recent months, John Calderazzo has run science communication workshops for the School of Global Environmental Sustainability, the Graduate School, the College of Engineering, and the Office of the Vice President for Research. He continues to both volunteer and consult for the City of Fort Collins’ Climate Action Plan. John will also be the Guest Judge for the 2017 Waterston Desert Writing Prize. You can find out more about it here: http://www.writingranch.com/waterston-prize-for-desert-writers/
  • Bill Tremblay’s commentaries on drawings by Norman Olson will appear in Lummox #5, forthcoming 2017.
  • Felicia Zamora’s (MFA ’12) second book, & in Open, Marvel, has been accepted by Free Verse Editions/Parlor Press for publication in 2017. She also has a new poem in Tupelo Quarterly, a poem in a special election issue of Tarpaulin Sky Magazine, a poem accepted at Mid-American Review where she was a runner up for the 2016 Fineline Competition, a new poem accepted in The New Guard where she was semi-finalist in the Knightville Poetry Contest, three poems in the newest issue of Witness Magazine, four poems available in the newest issue of West Branch featuring women and the avant-garde, and she is currently participating in the Tupelo 30/30 Project for the month of November.


2016 Graduate Showcase Awards


English Department Distinction In Creativity Award – The Distinction in Creativity award is presented in Collaboration by the Graduate School and Office of Vice President for Research. This award recognizes the passion and personal contributions of these talented graduate students, and honors their commitment and efforts in their area of work.

1st Place – Kelly Weber

2nd Place – Cedar Brant


College of Health and Human Sciences Excellence in Creativity

Alyson Welker



Greyrock Review: Get your work published!

Fiction: 5,000 word limit, format should be double-spaced, 12 point Times New Roman or Galibri fonts. Two pieces of your best work may be submitted.

Nonfiction: 5,000 word limit, format should be double-spaced, 12 point Times New Roman or Calibri fonts. Two pieces of your best work may be submitted.

Poetry: Up to 5 poems may be submitted, each poem should be placed on a separate page in a single document. If poems have a visual formatting component, please use Adobe PDF files. Otherwise, Word (.doc files) are preferred.

Visual Arts: Any visual art form is accepted, excluding video. Please photography your work and submit digitally. 300 dpi and CMYK colored .TIFF file is preferred.

For more information please visit http://greyrockreview.colostate.edu or email Baleigh Greene at bmgreene@rams.colostate.edu

Submissions accepted from October 3, 2016 – December 16, 2016

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~from English Department Communications Coordinator Jill Salahub

After a brief hiatus, the English department Colloquium has returned. For those of you who don’t know, colloquium is an event where we gather, with fine appetizers and drinks in hand, to enjoy one another’s company and hear about the work that our colleagues are doing. All department faculty and graduate students are welcome, and the event is typically held at the home of Louann and David Reid.


As promised, department faculty and graduate students gathered with fine appetizers and drinks in hand.

After a bit of socializing, typically two faculty present their work, with a discussion following each presentation. Stephanie G’Schwind, Director of the Center for Literary Publishing, facilitates the event — everything from helping to make plates of snacks and welcoming people as they arrive, to introducing the speakers and facilitating the discussion. As anyone who has read an issue of the Colorado Review already knows, she’s a master at bringing voices together, engaging an audience, and keeping things organized as well as beautifully presented.

For this most recent colloquium, the presenters were Assistant Professor Doug Cloud and English Instructor Kristina Quynn.

Doug Cloud presented his in-progress work on how speakers conceal animus toward marginalized groups in public discourse. He shared the results from an analysis of recent “bathroom bill” and transgender-rights discourse, to show how speakers are able to make prejudicial claims about transgender people indirectly. He proposes that understanding and revealing these techniques can help us be smarter consumers and producers of public rhetoric.


Before starting, there was a short lesson from department chair Louann Reid on how to adjust the new leather couch for maximum comfort, which led to an interesting fact you might not know about Doug Cloud — he worked at an IKEA during graduate school. “I used to sell couches and that’s a good couch.”

Once we all got settled, Doug started by saying “I’ll jump right in, like I do with most things — eyes closed, head first.” The title of his talk was, “An Incitement to Essentialism: Recent Conservative and Religious Rhetorics on Transgender Rights and Their Implications.” He said that we often see two sides of an issue as needing to fight each other or remain locked in some sort of opposition until someone “wins,” when actually we could see such engagements as a drug and a bacterial strain or two fencers might approach each other — each on their own “side” but not needing to be at war. Rather they can dance with each other and adapt. “Movements and counter-movements influence one another’s rhetoric.”

Doug considered examples of the rhetoric in petitions written by six different conservative organizations, crafted in response to three events that brought transgender identities into the national spotlight in the past year: HB2 in North Carolina, the bathroom policy at Target, and Obama’s letter to schools about the issue. It was in part a fascinating look at the many ways we try to define gender, and what our definitions reveal about what we value and believe. While Doug admitted, “It’s hard to nail down the effect of any rhetoric or discourse, even tougher to predict what impact it will have,” working with this issue and writing about it is his way of “staying on the bus.” A good discussion followed, and it’s probably safe to say we didn’t answer all the questions involved with this complex issue that night.


Kristina Quynn talked about the phases of CSU Writes so far: where it started last year, where it currently is, and where she sees it going. She touched on the reasons she started CSU Writes (including her own research agenda), the writing productivity research and models of women’s collectives that guide its vision, and some of the wonderful success stories of graduate students and faculty who have participated in CSU Writes organized retreats, workshops, and writing groups.


Kristina’s original search was a personal one, “I was looking for a writing group for myself to support my own work.” Her search led to starting CSU Writes, originally funded through a grant awarded to her by The Ripple Effect. Although the writing productivity research and models of women’s collectives guided her vision of the project, she knew it couldn’t just be for women, that it should be open to everyone — all genders, graduate students and faculty, undergraduates and staff. The project began with Writing Groups, Drop In writing sessions (Show Up & Write), and workshops.

Kristina learned some things early on in the project, about what was needed and by whom, and more importantly about who the project might best serve. She realized that the project should focus on purely academic writing, and refocused the program to support the needs of academic writers (Faculty and Graduate Students) writing projects with the goal of either publication or degree completion. Last year, the project worked with 277 writers, fostered 36 writing groups, held 16 workshops on the 4 topic that writers struggle with most (space, time, energy, and style), had 126 Show Up & Write sessions, and invited one guest speaker. Kristina also published an essay in an edited collection, had another accepted for the MLA Approaches to Teaching Series, had 3 conference paper proposals accepted at MSA & MLA, and has recently finished work co-editing a collection on experimental literature and criticism soon to be coming out at Palgrave Press, thus meeting her original personal goal for the project.

CSU Writes had writing retreats for graduate students that were very popular. Almost too popular. There were 30 spots and after the first few days the first retreat was open for registration, there were 65 applications, and Kristina had to contact me to take down the website submission form. Students who attended practiced writing a lot in healthy, sustainable writing sessions as a writing community. One of the most popular aspects of the retreat was Professor (now Emeritus) John Calderazzo’s session on capturing audience through storytelling.

One of the surprises of the retreats, and of the program in general, is that large numbers of international students who are looking for help for their writing as English Language Learners, that there’s a real need there, but CSU Writes offers support primarily for writing productivity, which isn’t exactly the right fit for student seeking ESL/ELL support.


Kristina describes what she does facilitating writing groups as being the Match.com for academic writers at CSU. She confessed she even used wedding planning software to help her match writers together into workable writing groups. “There’s a lot of romance involved,” she joked. The primary way she matches people is through their schedules, stated interests, and the length of the project they are working on, but admits that whether their writing group will work out over the long-haul or not is another matter — “Chemistry is more of a mystery.”

During the discussion, John Calderazzo asked her, “how do you measure success?” Kristina answered:

  • Are graduate students experiencing speedier time to degree?
  • Can participants see an overall improvement in the writing?
  • Are participating writers feeling more comfortable and content with their writing practice?

She also suggested that measuring success by tying it to grant money is a bad idea.

Kristina talked about what seems to be at the heart of the struggles of academic writers, and what in turn points to the solutions: space for writing, time to write, maintaining momentum and energy. She suggested that accountability to a group and some practical skills, like using the Pomodoro Technique (which Catherine Ratliff introduced at the graduate student writing retreats), and separating drafting from editing, are some of the benefits of CSU Writes. She also asserted that “binge writing is bad” and suggests “writers are putting off large writing projects to the last minute.” She closed with stating, “I suspect that a lot of the crankiness on campus has to do with a lack of writing.”

It was a great event, and a good time was had by all. Stay tuned for information on next semester’s colloquium, and we hope to see you there.

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~from Communications Coordinator Jill Salahub

John Calderazzo and SueEllen Campbell

John Calderazzo and SueEllen Campbell

This past week, John Calderazzo stopped by my office for some chocolate before heading to his last class — the final meeting of his last class ever at CSU. Once he discovered I had chocolate in my office a few years ago, John started stopping by sometimes before class, even helped stock my supply, and we’d spend a few minutes catching up. On this particular day, we talked a bit about how weird it was that he was headed to his last class, what a strange thing to be in the midst of such an ending, such a big transition, how unreal it seemed to both of us. It’s like that quote, “the days go by slow but the years go by fast” — I took my first class as a graduate student with John almost 15 years ago, and just spent the semester on a committee planning our department retreat with SueEllen, and the time between feels more like a few years than the decade and a half it really was, and that’s only half the time John and SueEllen have been at CSU. I still can’t quite wrap my head around an English department without them in it. And yet, that’s exactly what is happening.

At a special event last week, we celebrated John and SueEllen’s retirement. Current faculty, staff, and students, along with family, friends, and alumni gathered together in the Greyrock Room at the Lory Student Center. There were snacks and something to drink, a cake for later. As people entered, there was a table where they could write a message for John and SueEllen on large index cards which would later be collected into an album. With John and SueEllen by the door, greeting people and being congratulated, it almost had the feeling of a wedding reception receiving line, except in this case it reminded me of the lines from that Mary Oliver poem, “When it’s over, I want to say: all my life / I was a bride married to amazement. / I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms” because it’s this particular kind of wonder and warmth that John and SueEllen embody.

The crowd gathers

Guests 1

Guests 2

John and his brother, Rich

John and his brother, Bill

SueEllen's mom on the far right

SueEllen’s mom Nancy on the far right, friends Nancy and Barry to her left

Sue Russell, Sheila Dargon, and Bev McQuinn

Sue Russell, Sheila Dargon, and Bev McQuinn



After some time eating, congratulating, and catching up, Department Chair Louann Reid opened the presentation portion of the festivities. She started by saying what we were all feeling, “We’re not the least bit happy they are leaving, but so happy they were here.” She gave thank yous for all those involved in planning the event and to all those who attended. She then said about those who would follow her at the podium, “The speeches will be brief even though we are English people — we understand brief; they will be English brief.”

John, Louann, and SueEllen

John, Louann, and SueEllen

Debby Thompson came first. Her task was to “talk about SueEllen Campbell’s career in roughly five minutes,” which early on in her drafting made her realize she’d have to leave a lot out.

In her four books and over 30 articles, SueEllen has written on everything from Samuel Beckett and mystery novels to critical theory, ecocriticism, and nature writing. I want to note how readable, indeed how beautifully written, even her most “academic” essays are, and also how unpretentious. There’s a sense of generosity about them, an invitation to wide and diverse audiences to join the conversation.

Debby went on to say that SueEllen is “probably best known for her foundational and enduring work on nature and the environment” and that her “boundary-crossing between post-structuralism and nature writing is just one example of the true interdisciplinarity that she practices.” She listed just some of the course titles of classes SueEllen taught, a mind boggling range of topics. “To all these courses, SueEllen has brought passion, dedication, and integrity. She’s beloved as a down-to-earth teacher who challenges students to dig deeper and deeper, and to ask tougher and tougher questions rather than settling for answers.” (Her students from her final course, “Literature of Ice and Cold,” were in the back of the room, standing around a table they’d nicknamed “the Arctic Circle”).

Debby closed noting SueEllen’s importance to her personally, as a colleague and a role model, a writer and a scholar.

SueEllen with her students at the "Arctic Circle"

SueEllen with her “Literature of Ice and Cold” students at the “Arctic Circle”

Next up was Steven Schwartz, who also had the daunting task of having only five minutes “to tell you about a man whom I’ve known for thirty years and frankly I love dearly.” He shared that John is “a teacher, an author, a loving husband, a devoted uncle, a world traveler, a backpacker, mountain climber, kayaker, python hunter, a journalist, a national speaker, a field and track enthusiast, a dog lover, an environmentalist, and a man I recently watched do five, count ‘em, five handstands on his 70th birthday.” John is also a storyteller.

John has a remarkable ability to find stories everywhere in the world and shape these narratives, whether on paper or spoken, into illuminating and often entertaining reflections about our existence on this planet. He’s a masterful communicator of the stories that make us most human. They may be small stories, porthole views on our collective experience, or more sweeping ones that investigate societal forces, but they are always told with a commitment to speak out of a passion for the lived life.

Dave Reid, John and SueEllen watch from the audience

Dave Reid, John and SueEllen

Steven went on to share stories from his “John journal,” a record he’s kept of stories John has told him over the years. He talked about John’s impact on his students, sharing an excerpt from something alumnus Steven Church wrote about him. Then Steven talked about John’s writing, by sharing something John had written, saying “I hope you can hear the loveliness in that passage, the yearning and intimacy, the comfort of those words to any reader who has experienced that lost feeling and come out of it by the grace of nature. That is how John came to be among us in Colorado, by way of his heart but also by way of finding his voice as a writer.” He ended by sharing his most recent entry in his “John journal,”

He was telling me recently about his students and how he not only cared about them as writers, but how, in fact, he cared about them first as people. If they became writers, well, that was great, but if they became editors, or grant writers, or reporters or did something else with their lives, that would be fine. “Mostly,” he said, “I’m interested in their happiness, and if I’ve contributed a small measure to that with my instruction, then I’m fulfilled.”

Steven and Debby

Steven Schwartz and Debby Thompson

Atmospheric Science Professor Scott Denning got up to speak about both John and SueEllen next. They’ve worked together doing education and outreach about climate change. He talked about how John and SueEllen taught scientists the importance of speaking from the heart, of story telling, of speaking a truth that “ripples beyond the university to the larger world.” He ended by echoing Louann’s opening statement, saying he was “sorry they won’t be working here anymore, but it’s been so great having them.”

Scott Denning

Scott Denning

Then it was time for the people in question to speak for themselves. SueEllen went first. She talked about how in the past few weeks “reality is getting real,” and that it was the first time since she was about three years old that she didn’t know what she’d be doing next year, but the time ahead was full of possibilities and a new openness. She spoke about how she was “deflected” from law school by way of a graduate degree in English. She said that her formerly shy self never saw herself as a teacher, but her first moment in a classroom another side of herself emerged. As a writer, she turned from modernist fiction to nature writing because of a love of the outdoors, and shifted from academic to personal writing due to a “low boredom threshold.”

SueEllen at lectern 2

While at CSU, she’s taught over 50 different classes and has appreciated the ability to follow her interests. She appreciates the “civility and warmth of the department” and has “felt surrounded by friends.” She ended by referencing a recent New Yorker Cartoon where a couple is standing in the entry of their apartment looking at their mail. One of them reads an invitation and says to the other, “Should we even go to this farewell party if we’ll never see them again?” SueEllen closed her speech by saying, “Thank you for coming to my farewell party. You will see me some more.”

Finally, John stepped up to the podium, saying how good it was to be among so many friends. “I can’t imagine a better present than being here with you all. I’m thrilled and humbled.” He reminisced about his first visit to campus, when he thought to himself, “If I apply here and get the job, will I like it?” 30 years later, surrounded by friends, he can answer that question, “yes, a million times.”

John at lectern

CSU for John has been not so much a job as a place to grow and evolve. He was able to explore his passions and curiosities. He talked about his experiences reading, learning, and doing outreach, about making the world a better place and contemplating the beauty along the way.

He shared the sweetest story about teaching a group of elementary school kids to write poetry. He told them to write a poem about what they are not. Quickly, a student finished the exercise and rushed up to show it to John. The poem was about being the fattest girl ever, 10,000 pounds, about getting sick and dying, going to Heaven and being so fat it broke, and crashed back to Earth. In this way, Earth was filled with Heaven and “no one was ever mean.” He said that the English department was, “Earth filled with Heaven.” “You’ve been my friends, an inspiration and fun to be with too.”

Along with many of us in the crowd, Louann was in tears when she returned to the podium. It’s hard to see good people go. As Louann closed out the speeches, she said that no one had mentioned John and SueEllen’s “productive contrarianism,” how good they are at making us think differently, to reconsider how we are doing things and come up with a better way. She mentioned the Words for the Earth award being created in their honor. The program ended with a standing ovation and more tears, and Louann calling “let them eat cake!”


The cake

I saw John again a few days later, pushing a cart of books down the hallway, in the process of cleaning out his office. He thanked me again for the things I’d posted to the blog, the memories I’d collected, and in reference to the celebration we’d held for them, he said “It was one of the best days of my life.” As we parted, I felt myself still unable to say a real good-bye, unable to believe they were really leaving. In that same way some keep a light on, a fire burning, ever hopeful and prepared for a return, I will always have chocolate in my office, just in case.

A special thanks goes to Stephanie G’Schwind for all the great pictures of the event, some of which were used for this post.

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~From Assistant Professor Todd Mitchell

Sixteen years ago I took a class that changed my life. I think, even then, I knew that something special was happening in John’s graduate creative nonfiction course. Several people had recommended it to me, and I’d never before encountered such an intimate and productive classroom community. Some of my friends were also deeply influenced by John’s class that semester, and a few of them (Steve Church and Justin Hocking to name two) found their voices in creative nonfiction, and have since gone on to publish tremendous books and forge successful careers writing and teaching creative nonfiction.

Todd Mitchell, Justin Hocking, and John Calderazzo

Todd Mitchell, Justin Hocking, and John Calderazzo, together again in April 2014 when Justin returned to CSU for a reading from his award winning memoir

All this was yet to come, though. At the time, I had no idea how transformational John’s creative nonfiction class would be for me. I didn’t know that it would set me on a lifelong path of reading, writing, and teaching creative nonfiction. Or that it would kindle such a passion for a genre that, back then, I knew almost nothing about. To discover such a new approach to writing was, for me, like discovering a new color, and then seeing it everywhere and wondering how I’d lived so many years without ever seeing it before. But these are just some of the ways John’s teaching changed me.

The bigger changes had more to do with how John taught the class. He not only opened our eyes to the wonder and possibilities of creative nonfiction, he enabled the classroom to become a space where deep sharing and deep listening could take place. And he modeled this sort of listening and brave vulnerability himself, often coupling empathy with exploration. I remember many discussions when John would say, “There’s more here. I don’t feel like we’re getting to what’s really going on in this piece,” and then he’d leave it at that. No answers about what he felt was there. Just a statement that unsettled our certainty that we knew what something was.

Because we wanted to impress him, we dug deeper. Tried harder. Questioned more, and ventured further into the unknown. That ability to inspire while not giving answers shows a profound belief in others. As a teacher, John constantly found ways to both speak and listen, to challenge and nurture and bring out the best in others. In doing so, he sparked a strong desire in me to not just teach a subject, but to engage people fully in a way that helps them grow.

When John talks, people listen. I’ve often marveled at how he does this. I think it’s because he invites us on a journey with his words, and he always travels with us. He’s a master of speaking in stories. He gives generously of his own experiences, while avoiding giving answers. In this way, he often shares wisdom without ever fashioning himself as wise or separating himself from others. He’s both the teacher who sends you out into the world, and the monk you meet on the road.

John has transformed me in other ways as well. He, along with his wife, SueEllen Campbell, have forged a life of enacting their visions and their deep concern for the world. In doing so, both he and SueEllen have helped me navigate a similar path. For many years, John and SueEllen graciously listened to me rant about climate change and species extinction, and my grief about all that was being lost in the world. Instead of ignoring this grief, dismissing it, or trying to distract me from it, they compassionately listened and understood. Through such listening and the sharing of their own experiences, they helped me face and transform grief into positive action. They helped me find the transcendent power of deep struggle.

All this is why I secretly think of John as my Yoda.

Image by angelo Yap

Image by angelo Yap

I realize that the comparison to a three-foot-tall muppet might not have much resonance for John. However, for people of my generation, Yoda is more than a wrinkled action figure or a sci-fi cliché. Yoda is a symbol of the quintessential mentor. He’s the mystical voice many of us seek, but only a few are ever lucky enough to find—the voice we carry with us and hear when we’re in a difficult place or the darkest pit.

For me, that voice is John’s. He’s long been there to guide me, both with his presence, and with my memory of his words and deeds. He is my Yoda, and as fans of Star Wars know, there’s no saying goodbye to Yoda. Even when you think he’s gone, he returns to nurture what’s good in others, and to protect the life force of the world.

Yoda is eternal, and the same is true of John and his influence. He carries on in countless ways, through me and through the many students and colleagues he’s worked with. And for that, I am deeply grateful.



Todd Mitchell
May 4th, 2016
(May the 4th be with you!)

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~From Communications Coordinator Jill Salahub


John Calderazzo and SueEllen Campbell

This Thursday, May 5, the English department will be holding a very special celebration. John Calderazzo and SueEllen Campbell are retiring this year, and as sad as we are to see them go, we are sending them off with our best wishes at this upcoming event. To honor them here on the blog, I’ve been collecting memories and well wishes from a few people who studied and worked with them over the years.

I myself had the honor of learning from John as a graduate student, and have enjoyed his company as I stayed on to work in the department, (I will miss your visits to get chocolate and check in, John). I never took a class from SueEllen, but finally got to spend more time with her when we served on a committee together, planning our department’s latest retreat. I will miss their dedication, their wisdom, their laughter, and their kindness, but wish for them only the best of things as they move on. What follows, in no particular order, are more memories and good wishes.

There are lots of wonderful memories I have of John and SueEllen, but the one I’m thinking of is the night they held a “star-gazing party” at their house in Bellevue some years ago in the summer. My son Ben was home at the time, so we went, figuring it had to be a great event. It was. There were maybe a half-dozen telescopes of varying powers of magnification standing in their back yard. We were looking at Saturn’s rings. Weird but it’s literally breath-taking to see such a colorful spectacle. John invited us into the house, the living room, and showed us the improvements he and SueEllen had made on the interior. But what it was–the whole thing–was the joy of sharing an hour with people who were so interested not only in this world but in the solar system. In everything, really. Interest. Enthusiasm. Profound awe. A respect and concern for knowledge. Sharing. Those are the qualities I see in John and SueEllen. Those are the qualities they brought to Colorado State. I’m happy to know that they’ll go on living nearby and being a resource the community of the vitally interested.

~Bill Tremblay, (recipient of the John F. Stern Distinguished Professor award for his thirty years teaching in and directing the MFA in Creative Writing Program at Colorado State University)

I’ll admit, I almost didn’t answer the call [when Jill emailed and asked for memories]. There are others who know him better, I thought. People who are friends with him, who were advised by him, who, you know, actually ENGAGED with professors during their MFA and beyond. I took just the couple of classes…

And then – here’s a measure of how indelibly John Calderazzo gets into the mind of his students (or this student, anyway), I heard him say what he said so frequently in class, referring to writing and to publishing, “Think of writing like a dinner party. You may have all kinds of great things to say, but if you don’t open your mouth, no one’s going to hear them.”

So I thought I’d speak up and share that John Calderazzo is one of the main voices of encouragement in my head, the voice I use to tell myself to make the effort to put this into words, to pitch the story that needs to be told, to rewrite this essay or story again so that it engages the people it needs to engage.

He’s also the teacher I think of the most when I’m trying to build a lesson so that students are excited by in-class writing exercises. I think of the evening he came into our creative nonfiction workshop, took off his watch, put it on the floor, and put a concrete cinderblock on the desk above it, extending out into the air above, and then proceeded to tell us a story about how the watch belonged to his grandfather, was one of the few relics left of a person he admired – he never said anything about the brick, just left it hanging there. And then he told us to write about an object so that the reader could feel the brick hanging over it. Ah ha, I remember thinking at the time, yes, that’s exactly what it means to hold a reader in suspense.

I’ve never used this exact exercise in my classes – at least, not yet – but it’s the ideal I strive for: to get students to feel the element I want them to work on, rather than just telling them about it.

So: okay, sure. I may have just taken the two classes. I may not have kept in touch the way I wanted to. But John Calderazzo is one of the professors I think of first when I think of my time in the MFA at CSU. His excitement, his enthusiasm, his quiet energy were central to the MFA program as I experienced it, and shaped the writer I’ve become today.

~Emily Wortman-Wunder, (MFA Fiction, 2003)

I had a rather lackluster undergraduate career, dropping out at one point for a year after failing almost all my classes that semester. When I returned to finish my B.A., I was a better student, and completely inspired by a poetry professor I had. I graduated thinking that at some point, I would pursue an MFA in poetry. In the meantime, I worked at Aims in the Writing Center and did some freelance work. My then-husband was in a writing group with John, and he’s actually the person who suggested I take a created nonfiction workshop with Calderazzo at CSU. So I sent John some of my work and asked him if I could guest-register in his graduate creative non-fiction workshop. It was such a transformative experience, that I signed up for another semester. John finally suggested I bite the bullet and apply to graduate school.

So I did. I knew I wanted to teach full time at a community college because I believed then, and still do to this day, that two-year schools are the last great class equalizer we have left in this country. I was a fervent Marxist in my 20s, convinced that a vibrant, artistic, and productive society depends on economic fairness and opportunity. Interestingly, I’m returning to those roots in my 40s as I see the social, fiscal, and political policies of the last three decades take root and bear fruit. A vanishing middle class, education out of reach for many, and now, Donald Trump as a possible GOP nominee in a presidential race (it boggles the mind)—it brings me back to that particular time in my life, before insurance and mortgages, car payments and retirement plans. Unlike some of my professors over the years, John encouraged me in my goal of teaching at a two-year school. He was less invested in the trappings of academia, and he was more interested in helping me forge the path I wanted. He also knew I wanted to continue writing creatively, so John helped me fashion a degree in Communications Development where I focused on creative non-fiction, composition theory, and critical theory. My two years at CSU, with John as my thesis advisor, were some of the most fruitful and intellectually engaged years of my life. I forged lifelong friendships, I learned how to be a working writer, and I grew into the teacher I was meant to be. John taught us that good stories are everywhere, often in the most mundane places. It’s the writer who makes the ordinary extraordinary. And in fact, John is the professor who most helped me grow out of being a sort of immature writer who tackled “Big Topics” and “Great Ideas” into a writer who could find greatness in a humble or ordinary place. “The personal,” John told us, “is universal.” For a young woman in her 20s, this was a pivotal connection for me to the world, and it made me feel much less lonely—part of a greater human experience.

John is, of course, and incredibly accomplished writer himself, and he took teaching seriously. He invested in his students, shaping their lives in important ways. Sometimes, great writers obtain university teaching positions, and teaching is clearly secondary, a sort of quid pro quo or modern-day patronage. There is a price; the writer becomes more an object of the university’s sales pitch to prospective consumers, the result being students themselves become secondary to the writer’s own work and the university’s reputation. In John’s classes, we never felt that. Our work was as important to him as his own, and some of the writers who’ve emerged from CSU’s programs under John’s guidance are testament to his investment.

Finally, he was unfailingly kind. When discussing the mixed blessing of spell check to my students today, I recall the story of my final thesis submitted for review where I spelled “canon” (the literary one), “cannon” (boom). John, with a smile, told me to never abdicate my own authority over the editing process—to a computer, an editor, or anyone else. “Our words,” he said, “are all we have.”

~Shawna Jackson Van, (MA English: Communication Development, 1998)

*John Calderazzo has the same initials as Jesus and a better beard.

*John Calderazzo has what could best be called mountain wisdom, as in I would climb a mountain for his advice on life or writing. Not coincidentally, he also knows a lot about mountains, particularly exploding ones.

*I believed everything John Calderazzo told me. How many people can you say that about?

*John Calderazzo listened when I talked, which seems like a small thing — but I noticed. It made me feel like what I thought and said was important, and it made me want to have better and deeper thoughts, and share them, as well. Some take authority as a license to stop listening, but John saw it as a vocation to attention.

~Marty Moran, (MFA Poetry, 2007)

As a grad student, I always appreciated SueEllen’s ready smile and that John always had a story in his pocket.

~Liz Warnar Jackson, (MA English: Rhet/Comp, 2002)

Picture this: John Calderazzo is mowing his mountain yard, shirtless and hairy as a silverback gorilla. He kills the engine and stands there, hands on his hips, surveying his domain. His thighs bulge from the short-shorts that only older, confidently anachronistic men will wear. Overhead cirrus clouds paint his name across the sky in broad strokes and a red-tailed hawk glides in the thermals, screeching “JAAAWN!, JAAAWN!” because John Calderazzo has received a phone call, a very important phone call, and on the other end of the line is me. I’m standing in my back yard in Fresno, California watching my dog dig another hole because she’s not a very good dog, and I am listening to John tell me about how he just got done climbing a 16,000 foot mountain in Chile or Argentina or Uruguay and how he’s figured out that his body is uniquely equipped to handle the rigors of mountaineering, that his lungs are like super lungs or something and how he just spent a few days dancing on a glacier with the natives as part of some kind of elaborate fertility ritual. I take a drink of my beer. Then I tell him how I blew my knee out getting up from a chair. I tell him I bought a kayak because I can’t hike or run or really even walk a lot. I tell him that later I might walk to the 7-11 to get some more beer. I tell him it’s kind of a ritual for me. I also tell him that I miss him and, when he says he’s mowing his lawn and looking out at the horizon and thinking of me, I almost cry. Sure, I’m being silly with this story, making John out to seem mythic and god-like. But there’s a lot of truth in that image for me. John may be freakishly short and hairy, but he’s also a giant. He looms over my creative and professional life in so many ways, it’s nearly impossible for me to separate who I am as a writer, a teacher, and person from John’s influence. I know. I know. That’s a lot of pressure. But its true. In February, here at Fresno State, I attended a memorial celebration for Philip Levine, a man who I was lucky enough to call a friend, a man like John in many ways, who once worked in the auto industry, a man whose influence looms large over everything in Fresno, a poet who wrote the songs of the common man. I sat there listening to one poet after another talk about how a single class 40 years ago with Phil Levine had changed his or her life, how they were, in so many ways, still taking that class with Phil. I was pretty sure nobody would say that about one of my classes. But I knew immediately who occupied a similar role in my life. The first class I had with John Calderazzo changed my life. There’s really no other way to say it. A philosophy major who’d spent the three previous years painting houses and fixing toilets for tourists, I was halfheartedly admitted to the MFA Program as a fiction writer and I thought that all creative nonfiction was nature writing. I entered John’s class a blank slate, dumb and empty as a bucket, free from the heavy burden of knowledge and ready to be filled with wonder. John did that for me. He filled my head with wonder. He introduced me to books and writers—Bernard Cooper and Joan Didion, among others—who I still foist on my students today. Cooper is the test, really. If you love Maps to Anywhere, I know we’ll be friends and I know that John would love you, too. Because for all his silverbackness, for all his macho mountaineering shit, at his core, John is the kindest, gentlest, most curious kid I’ve ever had the pleasure to know. He’s better than me. Always. But I’m trying to get there. I still teach the books he taught me, still use the writing activities he used, still think of him nearly every time I step into a classroom—and it’s been ten years that I’ve been trying to be like him. I won’t be dancing on any glaciers anytime soon. But John will always be a part of my teaching and my writing; so while John may be “retiring,” he will never leave. I remember so many things that John has said to me—from the “fuck this” in the margins of one of my essays to his lecture on “deep history,” that still lingers with me today. He dropped a sheet of paper on the floor in our classroom and asked us to consider the layers of history beneath this one single sheet of 8.5 x 11 white paper. And these words I write today, this sheet of paper, is only the surface layer to the history of John’s influence on my life and on the lives of so many students. He goes deep. Way down to the core. And I thank you every day, John, for taking me seriously as a writer, for challenging and inspiring me, and for being my friend. I love you, man.

~Steven Church, (MFA Creative Writing: Fiction, 2002)

Of all of the teachers I have had in my life (and there have been a lot!), John was the one who took me far outside of my comfort zone to reveal things I could do as a writer that I was way too scared to try on my own. More specifically: As a literature-focus graduate student, I was curious about writing. I enrolled in John’s creative non-fiction workshop graduate course, and upon seeing what pool of incredibly talented, outgoing writers I had joined, I immediately withdrew from the class after the first day. I was terrified and intimidated–no way could I sit among these experienced MFA writers (I had never done a creative writing workshop before) and give valuable feedback, let alone share my novice writing with them. That night, I got a phone call at home from John. He listened to my emotional story about feeling completely underprepared for a workshop like that. Then, he spoke to me with compassion, generosity, concern, and with a gentle push for me to reconsider my decision. He saw potential in me that I did not. He wanted me to be brave. His words lifted me up, and I re-enrolled in the workshop. It was a challenging class, but in all the right ways. His teaching methods and his classroom environment were inspiring and encouraging, which enabled me to make myself vulnerable and grow as a writer more than I could have imagined. There are not enough or adequate words to express my gratitude for how his encouragement and personal concern for me changed the course of my life during and after that. I’ve gone on to write more and to teach writing. To top things off, after that course I experienced my greatest joy as a writer: one of the stories I wrote and revised for his course was published in Holding Common Ground, and experience that never would have happened without him.

SueEllen was my mentor, guide, and personal support through my entire graduate school experience at CSU. I could not have accomplished what I did without her. Her guidance got me through my fear of teaching for the first time, the demands of graduate school, and my research, writing, and revising of my final project. The countless hours she spent listening and coaching me through my teaching and writing led her to feel like family to me. One of my many favorite memories was the opportunity she gave me to teach in her Nature Writing class. That experience–designing my lesson plan to teach the Mary Oliver literature I was most passionate about–shaped the course of my life. I have since made teaching literature and writing my career. The lessons and experiences I learned from SueEllen helped me step into and begin my career. She believed in me and gave me the courage to do what I love. I am forever grateful that I had the opportunity to work with an amazing, inspiring, kind, and gracious woman who turned my graduate school experience into one of the greatest highlights of my life.

It is hard to summarize all that these two amazing teachers have done–at the personal level, in the department, the college, the community, and in the world. Their knowledge, curiosity, and care of their students and the natural world have shaped many lives. Above all, their life’s dedication to be environmental educators, writers, and stewards have been the greatest inspiration. Mary Oliver’s words describe perfectly the life that John and SueEllen show for the rest of us to learn from and follow: “Instructions for living a life. Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.” She also has words that describe this moment in their lives and all that they’ve accomplished: “When it’s over, I want to say: all my life I was a bride married to amazement. I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.”

Thank you from the bottom of my heart, John and SueEllen!

~Amanda (Gordon) Henkel, (MA English: Literature, 2001)

If you haven’t already seen it, check out this recent CLA Magazine article about a new award being created in honor of John and SueEllen, Words for the Earth.

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Fort Collins Discovery Museum, image by Jill Salahub

Fort Collins Discovery Museum, image by Jill Salahub

  • Dan Beachy-Quick’s book of poems, gentlessness, has been named a finalist for the Colorado Book Award in Poetry.
  • Dan Beachy-Quick’s poem, “Endangered Species,” is up today at the Academy of American Poets Poem-a-Day site: https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem-day
  • SueEllen Campbell and John Calderazzo spent the week of spring break at the University of Montana and in Missoula.  SueEllen read a personal essay and talked about dealing with the emotions raised by the idea of climate change and ran a workshop about teaching climate change in the humanities. John led a community writing workshop on the subject of health. Both were partly sponsored by the Health and Humanities Institute, and SueEllen was also sponsored by the department of English. SueEllen also interviewed faculty and students in the university’s climate change minor for a program review.
  • Camille Dungy’s poem “because it looked hotter that way” is a featured women’s month selection on Poets.org, the online archive for the Academy of American Poets, https://m.poets.org/poetsorg/womens-history-month
  • Roze Hentschell is attending the annual meeting of the Shakespeare Association of America conference in New Orleans, for which she wrote a seminar paper, “Reimagining a New St. Paul’s Cathedral.”
  • Tobi Jacobi’s essay “Austerity Behind Bars: The ‘Cost’ of Prison College Programs” appears in Composition in the Age of Austerity, a new collection edited by Anthony Scott and Nancy Welch (Utah State University Press).
  • Leif Sorensen presented a paper on pulp magazines as incubators for contemporary popular genre categories at the meeting of the American Comparative Literature Association in Boston.
  • Leif Sorensen’s book, Ethnic Modernism and the Making of US Literary Multiculturalism just came out from Palgrave Macmillan. The book focuses on the remarkable careers of four ethnic fiction writers: Younghill Kang, D’Arcy McNickle, Zora Neale Hurston, and Américo Paredes and shows how their works played a crucial role in the development of what we now call multiethnic literature in the US.
  • On April 2nd, Sasha Steensen will give a reading at the Ivy Writers Series, a bilingual reading series in Paris, France.
  • Neil Fitzpatrick’s story “The Future of Statues” is featured in the latest issue of A Public Space. He’ll be reading in Manhattan on April 6 with another Emerging Writer Fellow and their mentors. Here’s the link to the issue: http://apublicspace.org/magazine/issue_24. And the event: https://www.facebook.com/events/982453681849010/.

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