Tag Archives: SueEllen Campbell


  • Sue Doe’s chapter, “What Works and What Counts: Valuing the Affective in Non Tenure-Track Advocacy,” co-authored with Maria Maisto and Janelle Adsit, was just published in Contingency, Exploitation, and Solidarity: Labor and Action in English Composition. Edited by Seth Kahn, William B. Lalicker, and Amy Lynch-Biniek.
  • Darcy Gabriel has happily accepted a place in the University of Minnesota’s PhD program in Rhetoric and Scientific and Technical Communication (RSTC) starting this fall.
  • SueEllen Campbell’s contribution to the post-election series “Letters to America” in Terrain.com appeared online last week at this link:  http://www.terrain.org/2017/guest-editorial/letter-to-america-campbell/.
  • The Verging Cities, by Natalie Scenters-Zapico—published by the Center for Literary Publishing as part of its Mountain West Poetry Series—has been awarded the 2017 PEN/Joyce Osterweil Award for Poetry. The award, for which the poet receives $5,000, is given in odd-numbered years and recognizes the high literary character of the published work to date of a new and emerging American poet of any age and the promise of further literary achievement. The book’s publishing team was Karen Montgomery Moore, Cedar Brant, Melissa Hohl, Katie Naughton, and Stephanie G’Schwind.
  • Airica Parker’s poem “Disjointed” appears in Central Michigan University’s Temenos: Skin Suits & Bare Bones online and in print. See it here for free on page 29: http://www.temenosjournal.com/current-edition.html
  • Mary Crow has had two poetry acceptances; “Beyond Tahrir” will be published by Hotel America and “Happiness Production Line” will be published by American Poetry Review.
  • Tirzah Goldenberg (MFA – Poetry, Summer 2013) has a recently published book of poetry, entitled Aleph, published by Verge Books.
  • Deanna Ludwin has been nominated for the 2017 Team Fort Collins Wellness & Prevention Lamplighter community service award.

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Image by Paul L Dineen

  • SueEllen Campbell has three recent publications: “Making Climate Change Our Job,” the lead article in Teaching Climate Change in the Humanities, eds. Siperstein, Hall, and LeMenager, Routledge, 2017; the forward, “Sunrise, Celebration,” to Ellen Wohl, Rhythms of Change in Rocky Mountain National Park, Univ. of Utah Press, 2016; and “The White-tailed Ptarmigan,” an excerpt from Even Mountains Vanish, in The Rocky Mountain National Park Reader, ed. James H. Pickering, Univ. of Utah Press, 2016. She continues her work on the 100 Views of Climate Change website, http://changingclimates.colostate.edu, endeavoring to deal with a backlog of good new accessible sources of information of all kinds.
  • Harrison Candelaria Fletcher just had a prose poem sequence accepted for the Manifest West anthology on “Women of the West.” The anthology is due out later this year.
  • Doug Cloud’s article, titled “Re-Writing a Discursive Practice: Atheist Adaptation of Coming Out Discourse” has been accepted for publication in Written Communication. It will be out this April.
  • Matthew Cooperman’s essay “Notes Toward a Poetics of Drought” is up at Omniverse right now. The essay, part of panel proceedings from a panel organized and chaired by Kristen George Bagdanov (MFA ’15), is a three-part series being run by Omniverse. You can find it here: http://omniverse.us/poetics-of-drought-matthew-cooperman/
  • From Sue Doe: “I am excited to announce a new online journal, Academic Labor:  Research and Artistry. ALRA is published by the Center for the Study of Academic Labor, a CSU center supported by President Tony Frank (see http://csal.colostate.edu/about/tony-franks-statement/) and Dean Ben Withers. We seek to provide perspectives from the social sciences, the humanities, and the arts on contingency, tenure and the future of higher education. Please consider submitting something for the inaugural issue, and please circulate the CFP to your colleagues and distribute it to disciplinary list-servs, journals, websites, discussion boards, etc. Note that the journal invites varied genres, including art.”
  • Todd Mitchell launched a new program today to encourage literacy, creativity, and caring for our earth by delivering free books and free author visits to underfunded schools in Colorado. If you want to learn more (or become a supporter), check out http://youcaring.com/Books4Change.
  • Todd Mitchell cover reveal. After years of writing and countless drafts. I’m finally able to share with you the cover for my new book. It’s coming out in August, 2017. Just in time for the new school year. I can’t wait to release this one into the wild, along with several new presentations for schools! Click to read early reviews, preorder a copy, and learn more about why I wrote this book.  lastpanther
  • Sasha Steensen’s essay “Bellwethers: Shame and My Left Breast” is up at Essay Press: http://www.essaypress.org/ep-83/
  • Felicia Zamora’s (MFA ’12) poems are in the January 2017 issue of OmniVerse and other poems have recently been accepted in the Raleigh Review, Bellingham Review, and Sugar House Review. Her blogpost “Consideration of Self in Poetry: You & the Page” is up at North American Review, and a new interview with poems can be found online at HocTok.

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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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  • SueEllen Campbell and John Calderazzo will be busy at the upcoming American Geophysical Union (AGU) annual conference in San Francisco. SueEllen is a co-convener of three sessions about the need for multidisciplinary approach to climate change education, two oral sessions and one poster session. She will also present a poster at the latter. John will moderate and co-present a workshop, Sharing Science in Plain English; he’ll also co-chair and moderate a panel on The Many Sides of Sharing Science. Both will also talk about science communication with the general public in an informal Ask an Expert forum.
  • Antero Garcia’s most recent book Doing Youth Participatory Action Research: Transforming Inquiry with Researchers, Educators, and Students (co-authored with Nicole Mirra and Ernest Morrell) is out now through Routledge.
  • Antero Garcia has an article in the most recent issue of English Journal with Nicole Mirra and Danielle Filipiak titled “Revolutionizing Inquiry in Urban English Classrooms: Pursuing Voice and Justice through Youth Participatory Action Research.” It can be accessed here.
  • Tobi Jacobi has been appointed to serve a three-year term on the College Composition and Communication (CCC) journal editorial board.
  • An interview with EJ Levy about her fiction and essays appears in the current issue of Superstition Review, which has a wonderful archive of author interviews with Maggie Nelson, George Saunders, Tayari Jones, among others. https://superstitionreview.asu.edu/issue16/interviews/ejlevy
  • Sarah Sloane read from an essay-in-progress about her father, “Sammy Safety,” at the Western Literature Association Conference in Reno, Nevada, on October 15, 2015. She has also collaboratively written an article with artist Joe Joe Orangias and Professor Jeannie Simms (School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston) called “Pink Icons: LGBTQ2 Monuments and their Displacement of Culture,” invited and under consideration by Public Art Dialogue. Orangias, Frank Pega (University of Otega, NZ), and Sloane were collaborators on the Pink Dolphin Monument installation in Galveston, TX: http://pinkdolphinmonument.com Finally, Sloane was one of four winners of a local essay contest, “This is Fort Collins,” held annually by The Coloradoan. Her essay was published online and in the September 2, 2015 weekend edition. She also gave a reading of it at Everyday Joe’s Coffee House.
  • Debby Thompson’s essay “Canine Cardiology” has been accepted for publication by the Bellevue Literary Review.
  • Felicia Zamora’s (MFA ’12) poems have been recently accepted for publication in Columbia Poetry Review, Hotel Amerika, Juked, Meridian, Phoebe, and The Burnside Review. Her manuscript, Silence for the Rest of Class, was a finalist in the 2015 Akron Poetry Prize. Three of her poems are currently highlighted on The Normal School website.

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Changing Climates was founded and is directed by SueEllen Campbell and John Calderazzo, both writers and professors in the CSU English Department. Concerned about the potential impacts of climate change and the lack of knowledge among the public, the initiative began as a project to help those members of the CSU community who are interested in climate change meet each other, learn more about related research and teaching on campus, and share their knowledge. In the past eight years, they’ve conducted multiple lecture series, helped create courses, and most recently hosted a showing of the Emmy Award-winning Showtime video series “Years of Living Dangerously.” We asked SueEllen and John to tell us a bit more about this project, and here’s what they said.

For most of the past decade, we have immersed ourselves in climate change education and outreach. Calling our initiative Changing Climates @ Colorado State, and working with a widespread, informal team of faculty and researchers across campus, we began by organizing talks for the campus and the community—about 120 of them, with speakers from 28 departments and all 8 CSU colleges, for a total audience headcount of over 6,000. Since then, with support from an NSF-funded research center (CMMAP) headquartered in CSU’s Department of Atmospheric Science, we have focused on two related initiatives: helping scientists be more comfortable and effective when they speak to non-specialists and running a website—100 Views of Climate Change—that offers (to interested adults, college-age and up) accessible, high-quality, information about many key aspects of climate change. Our recent efforts include workshops in storytelling and including climate change in English courses.

We both thrive on this work, which we find to be challenging (it’s not what we were trained to do) and immensely rewarding. We love putting our reading, teaching, and writing skills and interests to work on a problem that matters to everyone on our planet.

SueEllen and John, image from Today@Colostate.edu

SueEllen and John, image from Today@Colostate.edu

Also of interest: “Teaching aliens to talk: How global warming made me change my life,” an article published in High Country News in which John Calderazzo explains the shift that’s taken place in his work and the beginnings of the Climate Change @ CSU project. In the essay he muses, “We could drown in despair or become paralyzed. Or, we could try to do something.”

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Image credit: Colorado State University's Facebook page

Image credit: Colorado State University’s Facebook page

  • Next week, John Calderazzo will present two science communication workshops.  He’ll work on basic communication skills with 20 or so CSU researchers in energy, vet-med, and ecology who will soon present their work at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. to members of Congress, the press, and potential funders.  He’ll also run a science storytelling workshop at CSU Pingree Park campus for the Center for Collaborative Conservation.
  • In June, John Calderazzo will present a talk at ASLE: Association for the Study of Literature and Environment, on his various communication outreach efforts with scientists and their organizations.
  • SueEllen Campbell will be running a half-day, pre-conference workshop on teaching climate change in English and humanities courses at the biannual meeting of ASLE, the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment, at the University of Idaho, in June. Then she will focus on catching up on her backlog of sources to consider adding to the Changing Climates website!   The URL is http://changingclimates.colostate.edu.
  • Matthew Cooperman and Aby Kaupang just returned from readings in L.A., including Cal State San Bernardino, where they addressed the MFA students in a thesis workshop. A long portion of Matthew and Aby’s collaborative hybrid project NOS, is just out in the latest issue of Verse.
  • Antero Garcia has been selected to be a 2015 National Academy of Education/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellow. This fellowship will support his ongoing ethnographic research into learning, literacies, and tabletop gameplay.
  • Along with Lee Nickoson, Kris Blair, and Mary P. Sheridan, Tobi Jacobi edited a special issue of Feminist Teacher on feminist community work (available in June 2015).  She and Mary P. Sheridan co-authored a piece entitled, “Critical Feminist Practice and Campus-Community Partnerships: A Review Essay.”
  • Bruce Ronda’s essay, “’Tender Spirits Set in Ferment’: Transcendentalism and the Aesthetics of Conversation” appears in “Whither Transcendentalism?,” a special issue of Revue Française D’Études Américaines/French Review of American Studies, third trimester, 2014.
  • Barbara Sebek’s paper, “Confounding Local and Global in Frank McGuinness’s Mutabilitie (1997)” was accepted for the conference, “Appropriation in an Age of Global Shakespeare,” which will take place at the University of Georgia in November.
  • Mandi Casolo’s short story “Goat’s Mouth” is a finalist for the national literary journal Arts & Letters Fiction Prize.
  • Anton Gerth was accepted to complete his student teaching abroad at the International School of Düsseldorf in Düsseldorf, Germany for Fall 2015 semester.  This is offered through a partnership with CSU’s STEPP program and the University of Northern Iowa.
  • Natalya Stanko, M.A. student in Creative Nonfiction, had her most recent feature story for Sierra Magazine appear in the May issue.  “Enough Is Enough” profiles a small Louisiana town fighting back against a proposal to build a coal terminal inside its city limits.
  • The Washington Post recently ran a fascinating feature article on Tracy Ekstrand, who took many nonfiction writing courses in the department and who also worked on The Colorado Review and helped start the Slow Sanders writing group in town.  You can read that here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/acts-of-faith/wp/2015/03/27/how-one-woman-climbed-her-way-out-of-scientologys-elite-sea-org/?tid=hybrid_experimentrandom_3_na
  • MFA graduate Matt Goering’s satirical literary journalism story, “The Truth of What’s Really Happening Here,” about UFO “researchers” in Colorado’s San Luis Valley, has been accepted by The Normal School.

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Image by Jill Salahub

Image by Jill Salahub

  • John Calderazzo and SueEllen Campbell are in San Francisco this week attending the gigantic (over twenty thousand attendees) convention of AGU, the American Geophysical Union, as part of their work with ChangingClimates@CSU. John is running and participating in a session about science communication, and SueEllen is doing two talks about the need for a multidisciplinary approach to researching and teaching climate change. Both are also working at the AGU’s “Ask an Expert” booth on the subject of talking about science with the public.
  • Matthew Cooperman’s chapbook Little Spool recently won the Pavement Saw Chapbook Prize. Based in Ohio, Pavement Saw Press will bring out his chapbook in 2015 in an edition of 400. Prices tba, but let Matthew know if you’d like a copy, and he’ll make it happen.
  • Nora Gordon will be going to Ecuador for 27 months to serve in the Peace Corps as a TEFL volunteer.


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