Tag Archives: Todd Mitchell

Goodbye Summer, Hello Fall, image from Colorado State University.

“Goodbye Summer, Hello Fall,” image from Colorado State University Facebook page.

  • Tony Becker recently had an article, “L2 Students’ Performance on Listening Comprehension Items Targeting Local and Global Information,” published in the Journal of English for Academic Purposes. For those interested in reading the article, it is currently available at http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S147515851630042X.
  • Judy Doenges’ story “Promised Land” was listed in Other Distinguished Stories of 2015 in Best American Short Stories 2016.
  • Todd Mitchell presented two sessions last week at the 40th Rocky Mountain Chapter SCBWI Conference in Golden Colorado. He presented a session on endings, and a three-hour intensive on earning character transformations in young adult and middle grade fiction. He also got to hang out with some legendary young adult authors like the Newbery award winner Richard Peck, and Lin Oliver (the Founder of SCBWI, and the writer and producer of a bunch of TV shows and movies). Over the summer, Todd also served as guest faculty for the Antioch MFA Residency in Los Angeles.
  • Rebecca Snow’s review of Anthony Doerr’s novel All the Light We Cannot See: https://rebeccasnow.co/2016/09/13/doppelgangers-of-darkness-and-light/


Creative and Performing Arts Scholarship Competition in Creative Writing

 Deadline: Friday, October, 7, 2016 by 4:00pm 

  • The Creative Writing Program is conducting its annual university-wide creative writing competition for Creative & Performing Arts scholarships.
  • Students can submit multiple genres. Undergraduate submissions may include one or more of the following genres: three to five poems OR one short story OR one creative essay.
  • Awards are typically $500 per academic year in the form of tuition waivers; awards of $1,000 – $5,000 may be given for special merit.
  • Multiple awards are available.

 Submission Guidelines:

  • Students may submit 3 to 5 poems OR 1 short story OR 1 creative nonfiction essay (not an academic paper).
  • DO NOT PUT NAME OR ADDRESS ON THE MANUSCRIPT. Include only page numbers and title on manuscript.
  • Attach a cover letter stating name, address, phone number, CSU I.D. number (NOT ssn number), and genre.
  • Address manuscripts to: Professor Dan Beachy-Quick, Directory, Creative Writing Program, Eddy Hall, CSU. Campus Delivery 1773
  • Please be sure to either mail OR Hand-Deliver submissions to English Department mailbox in Eddy Hall by Friday, October 7, 2016 at 4:00pm.

Criteria for Award:

  • Must have a minimum 2.4 GPA.
  • Must be undergraduates (working on first bachelor’s degree)
  • Must be enrolled full-time (12+ credits).
  • Should be making satisfactory progress toward a degree, i.e., must have satisfactorily completed 75% of CSU courses attempted and must not have accumulated excessive credits. (See Office of Financial Aid for further details).
  • Must be a U.S. Citizen or Permanent Resident.

The Creative Writing Faculty cannot comment on the writing; manuscripts will not be returned unless accompanied by a stamped, self-addressed envelope.

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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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  • Camille Dungy’s poems have been published in two new anthologies: Of Poetry & Protest: From Emmett Till to Trayvon Martin. (W.W. Norton) and Read America(s): An Anthology (Locked Horn Press). Camille will be a member of the faculty of the Napa Valley Writer’s Conference this summer. The other conference faculty will be Brenda Hillman, Brian Teare, Major Jackson. Applications are still being accepted for remaining spots: http://www.napawritersconference.org/attend-the-conference/apply/
  • Todd Mitchell presented a master class on Earning The Transformation at this year’s Northern Colorado Writer’s Conference last weekend.
  • Neil FitzPatrick was awarded a 2016-2017 fiction Fellowship at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Massachusetts. Fellowships last from October – May, and Fellows receive a live/work space and a stipend.
  • Mir-Yashar Seyedbagheri’s “The Story of A Starry Night” has been accepted for publication in Crab Fat Magazine.
  • Kiley Miller and Michelle Wilk presented last Saturday at the Colorado Wyoming Writing Tutors Conference in Denver. Their presentation was titled, “Power Dynamics: Navigating the Needs and Demands of the Writing Center.”
  • Bill Tremblay will do a reading on Thursday, May 5, at the Wolverine Publick House and Letterpress, 316 Willow St, Ft. Collins, from his just-published book, Walks Along the Ditch: Poems, starting at 8:00 PM.
  • From Publishers Lunch, Fiction: Debut … “Devin Murphy’s (MFA, Fiction ’09) The Boat Runner, the story of a wealthy Dutch family, industrious owners of a lightbulb factory in a small town, whose world is upended over the course of four years during the WWII Nazi occupation; we follow the youngest son through the forests of France, the stormy beaches of England, and deep within the secret missions of the German Navy, as he is confronted with the moral dilemma that will change his life forever—a novel that explores the human cost of war and questions what national borders really mean when weighed against a single human heart, pitched as reminiscent of All the Light We Cannot See and Cold Mountain, to Laura Brown at Harper Perennial, for publication in Fall 2017, by Rayhane Sanders at Lippincott Massie McQuilkin (World English).”
  • Mandy Rose reviewed Lynn Pederson’s book, The Nomenclature of Small Things, for the April issue of Stirring: A Literary Collection. The review can be found here: http://www.sundresspublications.com/stirring/

English Department Internship Opportunity



Please join the Department of English and the Creative Writing program at the University of Denver to hear the internationally renowned poet, Raúl Zurita.

When: Monday, May 9th / 7pm
Where: The University of Denver
Sturm Hall / Room 454

Raúl Zurita is one of Latin America’s most celebrated and controversial poets. After Augusto Pinochet’s 1973 US-supported military coup that ousted Salvador Allende’s democratically elected government, Zurita’s poetry sought to register the violence and atrocities committed against the Chilean people and the corruption of the Spanish language. During the dictatorship that lasted from 1973 to 1990, Zurita published a trilogy of books (Purgatory, Anteparadise, and The New Life), wrote poems in the sky above New York City, bulldozed poems in the Chilean desert, and helped to form the art collective “Colectivo de Accion de Arte” that used performance as an act of political resistance. Of his early poetry, C.D. Wright has written: “Under the eyes of church and dictatorship, he began to write and publish his poetry, juxtaposing secular and sacred, ruled and unruled. With a mysterious admixture of logic and logos, Christian Symbols, brain scans, graphics, and a medical report, Zurita expanded the formal repertoire of his language, of poetic materials, pushing back against the ugly vapidity of rule by force.”

Zurita was awarded the Chilean National Prize for Literature, a scholarship from the Guggenheim Foundation, and he has held poetry readings at numerous American universities including Harvard, Yale, Stanford and Berkeley. His books in English translation include Anteparadise (translated by Jack Schmitt), Purgatory (translated by Anna Deeny), INRI (translated by William Rowe) and Song for His Disappeared Love (translated by Daniel Borzutzky). He lives in Chile.

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  • Nancy Henke learned this week that she’s been chosen as a National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Scholar. She will spend two weeks in June at the NEH Summer Institute on “Westward Expansion and the Constitution in the Early Republic,” at the University of Oklahoma.
  • Todd Mitchell will be delivering two sessions at this year’s Colorado Teen Literature Conference in Denver on April 2nd (one session on using a practitioner’s approach to understand and teach graphic texts, and the other on approaches to teaching and improving dialogue and setting in fiction).
  • English Department Website: We’ve added new pages to the website that include listings of the department’s courses — Summer and Fall 2016; Composition (CO), English (E), American Studies (AMST), and Education (EDUC); and links to the current Rambler as well as a Rambler archive. Check them out: http://english.colostate.edu/courses/


Outstanding Literary Essay Awards

DEADLINE IS MONDAY! The English Department’s Literature Program announces the 13th annual Outstanding Literary Essay Awards contest, which recognizes outstanding critical writing and interpretive work in literary studies.  Applicants must be registered graduate or undergraduate English majors or minors.  Awards of $100 for first place, $75 for second place, and $50 for third place will be offered at both the graduate and undergraduate level.  Winners will be honored at the English Department Awards on Monday, April 25, 2016.

Submission Guidelines: Students should submit an essay that represents their best critical work in literary studies.  Undergraduate essays should be no longer than 15 pages and graduate essays should be no longer than 20 pages.  Shorter papers are welcome.  Only one submission is allowed per student.

Eligibility:     (1) Essay should be written for a course taken in the CSU English Dept.

(2)  Writer should be an English major or English minor

Submission deadline is Monday April 4, 2016, at 5:00 p.m.

Please submit:

  • TWO clean copies, with no name, address, or instructor’s comments. Only a title and page numbers should appear on the paper.
  • Include with your essay a separate cover letter with your (a) name, (b) address, (c) phone number, (d) e-mail address, (e) university ID number, (f) title of your essay (g) course for which the essay was written and the professor who taught the course, and (h) indicate whether you are an undergraduate English major, minoring in English, or a graduate student at CSU.

Address your cover letter to: Professor Aparna Gollapudi, Department of English, Campus Delivery 1773, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO 80523-1773.  Cover letter and submissions can be dropped off at the English Department Office in Eddy Bldg.


CSU Writes

 This next week, CSU Writes offers a short workshop on academic style:  Suffering from Jargonitis? — For all interested faculty and students.

Have reviewers, professors or friends commented on your superfluous and superior linguistic bravura? Well…you, too, might suffer from Jargonitis.  You are not alone. Most academic writers suffer from Jargonitis at some point in their career. There is a cure and this workshop is part of the treatment. Bring samples of your own work or jargon-filled examples from your academic reading to this session, and we will consider quick fixes and long-term writing strategies to help maintain the well-being of you and your prose.

Tuesday, April 5 (11 – 12:30pm, LSC 376)
Wednesday, April 6 (3 – 4:30pm, LSC 372)


 MA or PhD Programs, Professional Workshop

All students interested in applying to MA or PhD program in English a workshop will be held on Tuesday, April 12th from 3:00-4:00pm in Eddy 107, led by Pam Coke, Aparna Gollapudi and Roze Hentschell. Topics covered will be “Researching programs of interest, entrance exams, the application process, funding, and online resources.



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Wednesday, December 9th: Book Fair at the Fort Collins Barnes and Noble, which will last all day. At 5:00PM there will be two guest authors — the English Department’s very own Todd Mitchell and Daniel Robinson — reading from their books, as well as a book signing.

If the book fair is mentioned on Wednesday at the time of purchase at B&N a portion of the sale (no additional purchase necessary) will go to NCTE@CSU. This fundraisers’ proceeds will be going to help host a miniature conference in Spring 2016.

NCTE Bookfair and Reading

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National Poetry Day was yesterday, (image by Jill Salahub).

  • The Rhetoric Society of America has accepted a panel organized by Doug Cloud titled “Tracing Effect in Social Movement Studies” for presentation at their biennial conference in Atlanta in 2016. The inter-disciplinary panel includes scholars from Kansas State University and Indiana University-Purdue University, Fort Wayne. At that same conference, he will help present a white paper on social movements authored with over a dozen other scholars from English and Communication Studies.
  • Kathryn Hulings is happy to announce that her essay, “Light,” has been accepted to appear in the 18.1 issue of Fourth Genre which will be released in February of 2016.
  • Todd Mitchell will present the Saturday keynote address at this year’s Writer’s Retreat in the Rockies. Todd will also conduct a session on Saturday focused on developing character-driven plots. The retreat is taking place from October 16th-18th in Estes Park. It’s not too late to sign up if you’re interested in meeting editors, agents, and other writers, while having a brisk weekend in the mountains. Visit the Northern Colorado Writers (NCW) website for details.
  • Airica Parker’s poem “Earth” appears in Driftwood Press 2:4, which can be viewed on electronic page 16 here: http://media.wix.com/ugd/d32313_bacfd52dc9144aa5a842ef8ba547f4c4.pdf and purchased in print here: http://www.driftwoodpress.net/#!issues/cnec
  • The Community Literacy Center has been awarded a $500 grant from the Mountain and Plains Booksellers Association to support a special 10th anniversary retrospective issue of the SpeakOut Journal.  Representative writings from each issue published since 2005 are being nominated by our six community writing groups and the project is being coordinated by English major, Sarah Rossi.
  • The Center for Literary Publishing announces the release of two new books: The Business, by Stephanie Lenox, winner of the 2015 Colorado Prize for Poetry, and A Lamp Brighter than Foxfire, by Andy Nicholson, newest addition to the Mountain West Poetry Series. Cedar Brant, KT Heins, Melissa Hohl, Abby Kerstetter, and Katie Naughton each helped bring these books to publication by handling the copyediting, typesetting, proofreading, and cover design. Both books are available from the University Press of Colorado or from Amazon.

English Department Homecoming Event 

We hope you are able to join us for the English department Homecoming event next Friday, October 16th, 2:00-4:00 PM, on our very own third floor of Eddy Hall.  We will be having a *special presentation* at 3:00 PM, outside Eddy 300, and you won’t want to miss it!  Throughout the event, we will be welcoming alumni and other special guests.  Students will be providing guided tours of our newly renovated Eddy Hall.  Did I mention that we will have cake???


NCTE Presents: National Day of Writing At Colorado State University

Come joing NCTE@CSU to celebrate the National Day of Writing! The theme this year is #WhyIWrite. We will be hosting a writing blackout for middle school, hight school, and college students in honor of the National Day of Writing on campus. For 30 minutes, we will sit quietly without electronics and focus on writing. NCTE@CSU will provide snacks, beverages, and prompts. Please come prepared to share ideas and discuss wriitng. We look forward to seeing you there! October 15, 2015 5:30-6:30pm, Eddy 5 (in the basement of Eddy).

NCTE National Day of Writing



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Communications intern Ashley Alfirevic relaxing with a book under the trees on the south side of Eddy Hall, a popular site for such things

English Department Communications Intern Ashley Alfirevic relaxing with a book under the trees on the south side of Eddy Hall, a popular site for such things

  • Gerry Delahunty presented his paper “Amnesty International (AI) and Philanthropic Fundraising (PF) Appeals: A Comparative Move Analysis” at the 26th Annual Scandinavian Conference of Linguistics at Aalborg University, Denmark, on August 20, 2015. His presentation proposal, “Language, Text, and Ideological Opposition in Amnesty International (AI) Appeal Letters on Behalf of ‘Prisoners of Conscience'” has been accepted for the 5th New Zealand Discourse Conference, December 7-9, 2015 in Auckland University of Technology.
  • Debby Thompson’s essay “As She Kissed the Cow” (about human-animal relations) will appear in the fall issue of The Missouri Review.  Her essay “After the Knife” (about school shootings) will be posted on The Kenyon Review Online in the winter.
  • Todd Mitchell presented a session on creating comic books at Fort Collins’s first Comic Con.
  • Aby Kaupang Cooperman was recently named the Fort Collin’s Poet Laureate. An interview and poems can be found in The Courier on pages 9-10. Fort Collins Courier, Summer/Fall 2015 She will conduct workshops, readings and filed trips throughout the upcoming year.
  • Abby Kerstetter had a poem accepted for publication in a forthcoming issue of Tinderbox Poetry Journal. The poem is called “Augury with Deer.”
  • Bill Tremblay’s adaptation of Aaron A. Abeyta’s novel, RISE, DO NOT BE AFRAID [Ghost Road Press, 2003] is a finalist in the Moondance International Film Festival’s screenplay competition for feature films.
  • In August, Felicia Zamora (MFA ’12) won the 2015 Tomaž Šalamun Prize from Verse with her chapbook length manuscript, Of Unkowing. Her manuscript Silence for the Rest of Class was a finalist in the 2015 Tarpaulin Sky Press Book Contest where three of her poems are highlighted on the Tarpaulin Sky website. She was a finalist in the Sonora Review 2015 Poetry Prize and the 2015 poetry prize from Dogwood: A Journal of Poetry and Prose. She has a poem in the recent edition of the Potomac Review, and poems forthcoming in Cimarron Review and Zone 3.
  • The CSU Writing Project (CSUWP) had a busy summer, offering 6 programs that served approximately 100 youth and 25 teachers in the northern Colorado region:
    • The crown jewel was the two-week Youth Science Civic Inquiry institute (YSCI) held at the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery, which helped fifth-graders from Irish Elementary and Putnam Elementary gain literacy skills, social action strategies, and science knowledge around water use and protection issues in Fort Collins. You can read more about YSCI and see the students in action in a recent feature on SOURCE: http://bit.ly/1L6urx8.
    • CSUWP also held three on-campus writing workshops for elementary, middle school, and high school students, a Writers Colony for teachers, and a study group focused on social justice issues in education.

    • Finally, in August, we held our annual summer institute, where teachers (including 6 English Dept. alumni) across disciplines and grade levels honed their skills as writers, teacher leaders, and teacher researchers.

    • Cindy O’Donnell-Allen also participated (along with Holly LeMasurier from the Museum of Discovery and PSD Literacy Coordinator Kelly Burns) in a design institute for a national cohort of the Intersections Project, sponsored by the National Writing Project and the National Science Foundation. Read more about it: CSU, museum host science/literacy program for local 5th graders.

Upcoming Events

September 16, 2015 Students and faculty are invited for Dr. Ewa Barbara Luczak’s talk “’A Truly Angelic Society’: Eugenics and American Pre-World War II Literary Imagination,” based on her forthcoming book from Palgrave Macmillan. A reception will follow. 
September 17, 2015 NCTE@CSU – 5:30-6:30pm, Eddy 5 “The Life of the Banned Book” 
September 17, 2015 CSU Creative Writing Program – Reading Series, Mary Szybist- 2013 National Book Award for Poetry. 7:30pm Lory Student Center, North Ballroom 
September 24, 2015 Years of Living Dangerously, Episodes 1 and 2, BSB A101, 7-9pm, free. Jointly sponsored by Changing Climates at CSU and School of Global Environmental Sustainability. 



CSU Writes is up and running with “Show Up & Write” sessions (102 Shepardson Hall from 1-2:50 on M-W-F). The fall workshops begin with introductions to writing group participation!!  It would be wonderful to write with you at the sessions or to have you participate in a group! CSU Writes is a new program that organizes and fosters writing groups for faculty, graduate students, and creative/life-writers who write for publication or degree completion. Not only does the program provide a range of writing group options to suit the multiple long-term writing needs of our academic and creative community but CSU Writes also offers workshops, regular drop in writing sessions, and consultations. If you (or your students) are interested in joining a writing group this fall, please, plan to attend one of the introductory workshops on Tuesday 9/15 (in Clark C359) or Wednesday 9/16 (in Clark C358) from 4 – 5:30p.

You can find additional information and sign up for a writing group at: http://english.colostate.edu/csu-writes/

CSU Writes is funded through the RIPPLE EFFECT but is open to all writers in the CSU community.

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image by Jill Salahub

image by Jill Salahub

  • The French edition of EJ Levy’s story collection, Love, In Theory (Editions Rivages, 2015) received excellent reviews in Le Monde, Le Figaro, Elle, and Le Journal Dimanche this summer, and was the featured title in Paris Vogue in August, for which EJ was photographed by fashion photographer/ filmmaker Andrew Dosumnu. She read with novelist Celeste Ng at Ashland University in July.
  • Dana Masden’s short essay “For the Love of Groceries” will appear in the next issue of Fort Collins Magazine.
  • Todd Mitchell’s fourth novel, Species, a middle-grade book that involves giant sea turtles, climate refugees, and mystical encounters with the last living Florida panther, will be published in Winter/Spring 2017 by Delacorte Press (an imprint of Random House).
  • In an article on new books about World War I as well as a review of Dan Robinson’s novel, the Historical Novels Society wrote, “The lessons of World War I are as relevant today as they were one hundred years ago and when we read novels like Death of a Century, we are reminded poignantly of these lessons.” The full article/review can be accessed on historicalnovelsociety.org or on the board outside Dan’s office. Also, Dan will present a paper on Ernest Hemingway’s In Our Time and moderate a panel on the story “Indian Camp” at the 17th Biennial International Hemingway Conference in Oak Park next July.
  • Bill Tremblay’s adaptation of Aaron A. Abeyta’s novel, RISE, DO NOT BE AFRAID [Ghost Road Press, 2003] is a finalist in the Moondance International Film Festival’s screenplay competition for feature films.
  • Kayann Short’s essay, “Soil vs Dirt: A Reverie on Getting Down to Earth,” appears in Dirt: A Love Story, edited by Barbara K Richardson and published by University Press of New England.

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Todd Mitchell, Assistant Professor
B.A., English, Oberlin College; M.F.A., Creative Writing, Fiction, Colorado State University

Todd Mitchell currently serves as Director of the Beginning Creative Writing Teaching Program. In addition to overseeing Beginning Creative Writing sections, he teaches Adolescents’ Literature (E405), Teaching College Creative Writing (E607B), Advanced Creative Writing: Nonfiction (E412C), Intermediate Creative Writing: Nonfiction (E311C), Intermediate Creative Writing: Fiction (E311A), Beginning Creative Writing (E210), Twentieth-Century Fiction (E238), Introduction to Literature (E140), and Writing Arguments (CO300). Mr. Mitchell is the author of several novels for young adults and middle grade readers, including; The Secret to Lying (Candlewick Press, 2010, Colorado Book Award Winner), Backwards (Candlewick Press, 2013, Colorado Author’s League Book Award Winner), and The Traitor King (Scholastic Press, 2007, Colorado Book Award Finalist). He’s also a writer for the graphic novel, A Flight of Angels (VERTIGO, 2011). His short fiction, poetry, and essays have been published in national and international journals, and he’s received several awards for his writing, including an Arts Alive Fellowship, a Knight Select Award for Outstanding Fiction, and a Portland State Best Letter award. You can visit his personal writing website at www.ToddMitchellBooks.com.


How would you describe your work in the English Department?

I’m a bit of a cross-curriculum guy. I direct the Beginning Creative Writing teaching Program, which means I help prepare graduate students to teach E210, Beginning Creative Writing, and I observe all the E210 classes taught by graduate instructors. I also teach a graduate course every fall on teaching undergraduate creative writing. Since I write young adult novels and frequently visits elementary, middle, and high schools across the country, I often teach E405, Adolescents’ Literature — an extreme reading course, required as part of the English Education program, that focuses on contemporary young adult books. And I regularly teach undergraduate fiction and creative non-fiction workshops, as well as some beginning literature courses. So I’m part creative-writing, part lit, and part English Ed.

What brought you to CSU?

The tremendous MFA program here (and the sunshine), lured me away from Portland, OR, where I was teaching creative writing in a high school. I graduated from the MFA fiction program in 2002, and didn’t want to leave.

Why are the Humanities important?

I could go on about the importance of the humanities to communication, business, science, and all other disciplines for hours. But the heart of the matter is this: in life, it’s important to keep the “what” and the “why” in balance. Much of education focuses on the “what.” The humanities are one of the few areas where students and teachers are able to focus on the “why.” All “what” and no “why” and you have a life without meaning or direction. As Haim G. Ginott put it in his letter from a principal to teachers on the first day of school, “I am a survivor of a concentration camp. My eyes saw what no man should witness: gas chambers built by learned engineers, children poisoned by educated physicians, infants killed by trained nurses, women and babies shot and burned by high school and college graduates. So I am suspicious of education. My request is: help your children to become human. Your efforts must never produce learned monsters, skilled psychopaths, educated Eichmanns. Reading, writing, and arithmetic are important only if the serve to make our children more humane.” Where better to try and help people become “more human” than in the humanities?

How would you describe the English department to someone considering coming to work and/or study here?

We’re a remarkably friendly department that houses an unusually diverse range of interests and specialties.

What advice do you have for English department students?

Find your passion and follow it. When I was growing up, I never imagined I could make a living as a fiction writer. However, I’ve since learned that there are ways to transform nearly any interest into an occupation if you’re willing to be diligent and creative.

How does being a parent of small children impact your work?

It makes me wonder what I did with all the free time I used to have, and it helps me to use the time I have now much more efficiently.

How does your writing life influence your teaching, and vice versa?

For years I wondered if I was a writer who taught, or a teacher who wrote. Now I see those two things as being inextricably intertwined. I write to teach and teach to write. The things I learn on a daily basis as a practicing writer are essential to the way I approach teaching, and I think students benefit from an inside knowledge of the struggle of writing, creating, and publishing. Conversely, what I gain from interacting with students on a daily basis helps to push me as a writer, and it helps to keep me sane, connected, and balanced. Otherwise, I’d just spend all day typing in my basement, and that rarely ends well.

What special project are you working on right now?

Right now I’m working on three creative projects in three very different genres. One is a middle grade book that engages species extinction through the eyes of an eleven-year-old. Another is a young adult hybrid-text novel about a teenage artist who sees spirits through his art (it’s a hybrid-text, because art makes up part of the narrative). And a third is an alien invasion comic book series that I’m working on with an incredibly talented Irish artist (available online).

What’s the best advice you ever received?

As a writer, the best advice for me was to “write the book you most want to read.” As a student, the best advice I got was from a poem by Lee Upton, who wrote “Our risk is our cure.” And as a teacher, the best advice was from my first teaching mentor who said, “Never stop being a student.”

What is your favorite word and why?

Syzygy. It’s a term from astronomy for when three or more heavenly bodies are aligned. In poetry it means the combination of two metrical feet into a single unit. And Carl Jung used the word in psychology to refer to a union of opposites. So syzygy is a “stars are aligned” sort of coming together, or close union, between two very different things. How romantic is that?

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Chloe’ Leisure’s (MFA, Spring 2006) Chapbook, The End of the World Again

Chloe’ Leisure’s (MFA, Spring 2006) recently published chapbook, The End of the World Again

  • CLA Spring Faculty/Staff Meeting and Awards Ceremony: Three of our MFA students — Abby Kerstetter, Matt Truslow, and Nate Barron — will be featured readers at the College of Liberal Arts Spring Faculty/Staff Meeting & Awards Ceremony on Wednesday, April 8th. Past spring meetings have included entertainment from theatre and music students, and we are proud that Abby, Matt, and Nate were chosen to showcase the liberal arts and the creative writing program this year. Five English department faculty members will be recognized with awards for teaching, research/creative artistry, and service. Please come support not only our department faculty and students but also faculty from the rest of the college. This is always an upbeat and celebratory event. The ceremony from 4:00 pm – 5:30 pm in the Durrell Center Seminar Rooms A & B. There is parking available near Moby.
  • Leslee Becker’s story, “The Continental,” has been accepted for publication in Ascent.
  • Next week, Doug Cloud will be giving at talk in Athens, Ohio at the third annual Ohio University Queer Studies Conference titled, “Coming Out Gay, Coming Out Atheist: Re-Thinking the Long-Term Influence of the LGBTQ Movement(s).” He’ll also lead a workshop for queer students and students of color titled, “Queer in the Workplace, Queer in the World: Some Key Concepts for Talking About Categories of Difference in Public and Professional Contexts.”
  • Roze Hentschell is attending the annual meeting of the Shakespeare Association of America in Vancouver, B.C., where she presented a paper, “‘They Sing’: Comedy, Choirboys, and Actors at St. Paul’s.”
  • A French edition of EJ Levy’s story collection, Love, In Theory, will be issued by Payots & Rivages on May 5, 2015.
  • This week, Nancy Henke learned that she received a Senior Teaching Appointment. She joins 19 other department faculty whose long-term, high-quality teaching and service have been recognized with this honor.
  • Todd Mitchell attended and presented two sessions at the Northern Colorado Writers Conference last weekend (one on developing layered characters, and one on developing engaging conflicts).
  • Todd Mitchell also launched a Kickstarter campaign to support the continued production of a graphic novel he’s working on with the Irish artist, Patrick Mullholland. The story uses a matriarchal alien invasion to explore crucial environmental, social, and political questions. If you’re curious, the first issue is produced and available for free off the Kickstarter page: http://kck.st/1OCQTP9
  • Mid-American Review interviewed Kristin George Bagdanov about her poem in their recent issue here: http://casit.bgsu.edu/marblog/mar-asks-kristin-george-bagdanov-answers/ She will also be reading at MAR’s 35 year anniversary party at AWP next week: Friday, April 10th at 8pm, Gallery13 in Minneapolis.
  • The Moscow Arts Commission and Broadsided Press has selected Kristin George Bagdanov’s poem “Earth Body” as one of the four ASLE-member poems to be broadsided for the “Broadsides on the Bus” program this summer in Moscow, Idaho. The broadside will be on display on the Moscow buses during the ASLE (Association for the Study of Literature and the Environment) conference, and copies of the poem and accompanying original art will be on display in the Transit Center; the broadsides will also be downloadable.
  • Undergraduate Choice Award: The Graduate School partnered with the Office for Undergraduate Research and Artistry to sponsor the Undergraduate Choice Awards through which each category of the Graduate Student Showcase will be judged by a team of undergraduate scholars. This category is designed to expose undergraduates to graduate level scholarship, facilitate the training of undergraduates in the critical analysis of scholarly products, and to reward graduate students whose work is perceived to be among the highest quality by the undergraduate team of judges. Two Graduate students in the Department of English received awards. In the Creative category, Cedar Brant won second prize ($75) for The Hidden Hinge: Mapping Memory and Myth through Poetry, and in the Research category John Whalen won third prize ($50) for The Utilization of Web-based Resources for Computer Assisted Vocabulary Learning

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