Bitter Taste of Home

Among the techniques we focus on in our creative writing exercises are character and setting. The piece below, excerpted from a longer story, makes strong use of both.

Bitter Taste of Home 

By Casandra Elder

The engine choked as Gabby sat in the warm, black sedan parked out in front of 123 Applepie Street. She sat there looking at the red brick that formed her childhood home. She hadn’t seen it in nearly four years and wasn’t shocked to see that the only difference was that the evergreen tree, on the corner of the lot, had grown ever so slightly. There was that and there seemed to be more moss roses growing along the side of the house creating a ground of bright flowers and dark green webs.

The rain had just begun to settle in. The front porch was still a light gray made of concrete compared to the sidewalk that led up to the house. Gabby knew that it would only take a strong wind from the north and her mother’s porch would become that ash gray color imitating the sidewalk and street below. It was still early morning. She knew that inside only one person would be awake. She glanced down the street and over to her left to see if her other siblings had made it home yet.

Gabby looked at the green clock that was shining brightly and knew that she had better make it inside before the rain continued to get worse and before anyone else from this shitty little town got a glance at her. She really couldn’t say it was that shitty, but it was nothing in comparison to New York. She had been gone for only two days and was missing the sound of a siren going off and her neighbor’s television blaring too loudly every night as the four small children gathered around it to watch a movie.

She reached behind her and grabbed her small carry-on bag, opened the door and felt the cold air push up against her exposed skin. Little goose bumps had begun to form and she couldn’t help the slight shake that ran down the spine of her back.

“It’s a little cold out this morning isn’t it?”

Dang! I have been caught. Wait, by who? It can’t be… Oh GOD it is. It’s really him. Why? Maybe he won’t recognize me. “It is a little.”

Roy had closed the gap between their two childhood homes in about six strides. He never missed a beat as he opened up the back door to her sedan and pulled out the remaining luggage. Standing and gaping with her mouth open, Gabby felt in her heart that she never should have come back. She should have just sent Ben a large enough check to get him through his first year of rent and hoped that he would have understood.

Roy was standing at the front door now and Gabby had just taken the first of five steps that lead onto the porch. Her black silk shirt was slightly damp and the bottom of her jeans were completely soaked.

“It’s not supposed to rain all weekend, is it?” She was really hoping this rain wouldn’t last her entire trip. She wanted to spend a day out in the pasture doing nothing but staring up at the sky and watching the clouds form into funny shapes, drift apart and form into a new shape.

She moved to New York four days before the wedding because she didn’t want to feel trapped in this town. She no longer yearned for the dream to become another rancher’s wife. She wanted the freedom to do what she liked when she liked. She couldn’t do that in Springs. No one did that in Springs.

Gabby glanced around and began to wonder if everyone in Springs would be able to forgive her and her past actions. She glanced around and figured she would start with the one person that would take the longest to forgive her. She entered the house and went into the kitchen and found two black coffee cups. She poured the hot liquid, added vanilla flavoring into one and stirred it so the color of the coffee was no longer a welcoming black but a soft brown color. She grabbed both cups and walked into the master bathroom. She heard the water click off and saw a delicate hand with a few wrinkles in it grab the towel that hung just outside of the shower. A few moments passed by.

The next words that came out of Gabby’s mouth began to choke her and tears started to pour over her eyelids. She felt that she was the one just getting out of the shower and wished that someone would open up another door or window so the steam wouldn’t feel like it was suffocating her.

“Hi, Mom.” She finally got the words to come out barely above a whisper and felt the cold air rush over her. Both doors were still closed and the master bathroom didn’t have a window in it. Wherever the cold air came from, Gabby was thankful for it.

Her mother took the cup that Gabby was extending out to her and drank a sip before walking into the master bedroom, shutting the door between them. It was a start of forgiveness. A very small start. Gabby took a sip of the dark liquid that filled her cup. It tasted like she remembered. Bitter. Bitter was what this vocation was going to be like.

GRAPE TOOTSIE POPS

In my Creative Writing: Fiction class we often talk about how syntax (the way we form our sentences) can help create voice. The story below–written by one of the students in this class–is a good illustration of what can be accomplished with syntax.

GRAPE TOOTSIE POPS

by Jessica Thiele

Kneeling at the dark casket and folding my hands.  St. Theresa’s, eerie with the lights dimmed and glinting through the stained glass windows, the ghostly silhouette of the Virgin Mary casting a foreboding presence over all of us with outstretched hands and wide, haunted-yet-innocent, all-knowing eyes.  Mama tickling my ear with a soft whisper–“You can say a little prayer, if you want to.”

Touching the cold, clammy hands.  Not wanting to, but being curious and mortified all at the same time.  Daddy standing over the body with his head bowed, thinking I saw a tear fall as he deeply sighed.  I’d only seen my daddy cry once, ever.  I didn’t want to see him cry again.  It twisted me somewhere deep inside.  Don’t cry, Daddy.  Please don’t cry.

Great-Uncle Paul had been the one lying motionless in the casket.  Daddy’s uncle, Grandpa Louis’s little brother.  He had been in the old person’s home in Tilden for some years.  After he’d suffered what Mama and Daddy called a stroke, he had never been quite right in the head again.  I hadn’t understood why I felt sad, because I’d never really known Great-Uncle Paul all that well.  It was just that he had been a real person, and I remembered him talking to me when I was little.  He had lived on Grandpa’s farm in Clearwater, in a little trailer house north of Grandma and Grandpa’s house before he’d had to move to Tilden.

Cousin Katelyn and sister Shaely.  Holding Katelyn’s hand.  Great-Uncle Paul sitting on his blue Honda four-wheeler by the garage.  Him talking, in such a strange way I didn’t know what he was saying, but he always had that little grin on his kind face.  Him reaching out his chapped, knobby, work worn hands and plopping Oreos, rock hard and cold from Grandma’s freezer, in our outstretched hands, or ceremoniously handing us white-sticked tootsie pops–all flavors, but the ones I remember most were grape–wrapped in the same blue as his four-wheeler.

Grandma’s house the day of the funeral.  A girl I’d never seen being there to babysit all us kids.  Playing on Grandma’s front lawn, framed by the brick house and an overcast sky.  Sweet Williams along the lane blushing purple with little flecks of yellow in the centers.  Sitting in a circle on the lawn.  Holding a little cousin.  And then, the cars!  Oh, the cars going by on their way to the cemetery north of town!  So many, many cars!  All the cousins and me waving to all those cars.  A fun endeavor.  Then…the maroon Buick Lesabre slowing and coming to a stop.  Right in the middle of the highway.  Right in the middle of the procession of cars.  Realizing it was Grandma and Grandpa’s car. The back door flying opening.  Uncle Danny yelling at us to go inside.  Trailing the babysitter back into the house, a feeling of ashamedness inside us all, without knowing of what to be ashamed.

To this day, the memory boils inside me and makes me flush with anger.  We were only little kids, ten and eleven years old.  Why couldn’t we wave at the cars?  Some of the people waved back.  It probably cheered them up and made them stop crying.  I don’t understand why Uncle Danny got so angry, only maybe he was so sad he couldn’t help it.

Today, as I walk the well-worn dirt paths around Grandma and Grandpa’s farm tramped down by tractors, four-wheelers, and Chevy pickups, I look toward the chute where so many cattle have been loaded and unloaded.  I remember.  Playing mailman with Grandma.  Sister Shaely and I inside.  Rap, rap, rap at the little door.  Who could it be?  We open the door with a little creeeeaaak.  Grandma!  The mailman.  Bringing bills, milk, whatever we needed.

I pause in my tracks.  Would Grandma go away like great-uncle Paul had?  Would Grandma be lying in a dark casket?  Would I reach out and touch Grandma’s cold, clammy hands?  I shudder.  I suppose Grandma will go away, someday, but she once told me, “Don’t cry when I die; I’ll be with Jesus.”

Maybe then I’ll have my own daughter.  Maybe then she’ll kneel at the dark casket and fold her hands.  Maybe then I’ll tickle her ear with a soft whisper–“You can say a little prayer, if you want to.”

Having a Coke

Having a Coke with You

by Frank O’Hara

is even more fun than going to San Sebastian, Irún, Hendaye, Biarritz, Bayonne
or being sick to my stomach on the Travesera de Gracia in Barcelona
partly because in your orange shirt you look like a better happier St. Sebastian
partly because of my love for you, partly because of your love for yoghurt
partly because of the fluorescent orange tulips around the birches
partly because of the secrecy our smiles take on before people and statuary
it is hard to believe when I’m with you that there can be anything as still
as solemn as unpleasantly definitive as statuary when right in front of it
in the warm New York 4 o’clock light we are drifting back and forth
between each other like a tree breathing through its spectacles

and the portrait show seems to have no faces in it at all, just paint
you suddenly wonder why in the world anyone ever did them

I look
at you and I would rather look at you than all the portraits in the world
except possibly for the Polish Rider occasionally and anyway it’s in the Frick
which thank heavens you haven’t gone to yet so we can go together the first time
and the fact that you move so beautifully more or less takes care of Futurism
just as at home I never think of the Nude Descending a Staircase or
at a rehearsal a single drawing of Leonardo or Michelangelo that used to wow me
and what good does all the research of the Impressionists do them
when they never got the right person to stand near the tree when the sun sank
or for that matter Marino Marini when he didn’t pick the rider as carefully
as the horse

it seems they were all cheated of some marvelous experience
which is not going to go wasted on me which is why I am telling you about it

Why We Love Our Classes

photo 1

Creative Writing: Fiction

photo 2

Creative Writing: Fiction

 

 

 

 

Our classes range from critical lectures to fun and exciting workshops here at Chadron State. Each professor is different and it provides for a range of classes and not just straight lectures. We can go into discussions about the meaning behind Wordsworth’s poem “Nutting” or discuss Gareth Hinds’s graphic novel version of “Beowulf.” We can learn about how John Smith really acted or about writing stories.

Our classes also use a range of different instructional methods. You may be asked to tweet about what you have read or discussed in class. You might get to blog about education and English. Don’t be surprised when tables are moved and you are sitting in a square to review a classmates story.

We love our classes because they provide a variety of different styles and teach us what we need to know. Variety is a great way to break the monotonous task of going from class to class. Each professor is different and the classes reflect that. You will be excited to go to class just to see what the professor has in store for you!

As a college student, there will be classes that you love and classes that you hate, but as an English major, I love almost all of my classes.

One of the reasons that I absolutely love my classes is the OPEN DISCUSSION. When you are discussing a piece of literature in class, your professor wants to hear your interpretations and what you think about what you read. They want you to share your opinions and ideas. I don’t know about you, but I like this idea of a classroom as opposed to having someone lecture at you for an hour and put you to sleep.

I also love our classes because our professors are excited about what they talk about! When a teacher is not excited about the material they are covering, class is so boring and awful to sit through. When your professor comes into the room ready to dive into a deep and interesting conversation about the material that you are covering, you want to go to class. Especially when you really have no idea what in the world the conversation can lead to. The professors always seem to have the element of surprise when it comes to class discussion.

Another ginormous reason that I love my classes is that there is not any homework that I find is pointless. As a pre-med major I was constantly doing worksheet after worksheet after worksheet for my classes and I abhorred it, with a passion. It was even more frustrating when the homework did not seem to make sense or correspond with what we were learning. As an English major, I have never done homework for a class that I thought was pointless and did not make sense. Most of our homework is simply reading the assigned piece of literature for the next class period so that we are ready for class discussion. Some of our teachers even have us Tweet what we thought about the reading, and that is pretty exciting stuff.

Being an English major is exciting and fun, especially when you have classes this great.

Why We Love Our Professors

Dr. Coughlin

Dr. Coughlin is a new professor here at Chadron State College. He is just finishing up his first semester of teaching, and the students love him. He is a teacher that doesn’t just stand there and lecture or just holds group discussions. He is always walking around, he breaks up lecturing, discussions, and activities, and he likes making things interesting. When thinking about why people liked Dr. Coughlin so much, I talked to a couple other students about what they liked about him.

Holly A. describes Dr. Coughlin as enthusiastic, happy, and encouraging to new writers. This is definitely the truth. He genuinely loves what he teaches and is always happy. He will joke around and bring up random facts, stories, or even music videos to liven things up and make everyone happy too. Dr. Coughlin is always very encouraging for new writers. He doesn’t tear a story apart when he reads it, he provides genuine feedback. He also never tells a student that their story is bad.

Maryah H. describes Dr. Coughlin as passionate about what he does, really supportive, always willing to help, and he goes out of his way to make sure you’re confident and willing to do what you need to do. Again, so true. He is always there to help and willing to answer questions. He is so supportive, especially when it comes to writing. You can always go in and ask him questions and he will help you with whatever he can. Dr. Coughlin pushes his students, but always thinks about them too. In Creative Writing: Fiction, we do many writing workshops where different students present their work to the class and the class discusses the work. While he knows reading your own work aloud can be terrifying, he does require it on a minimal scale. He is very considerate of the authors and students.

Dr. Coughlin is an awesome professor who will go far here at CSC. If you have the chance try to take one of his classes. You learn a lot and have fun at the same time!

Dr. Tucker

Dr. Tucker is one of the professors at Chadron State College in the English Department, one of the many teachers that we love to have in class. Dr. Tucker teaches Humanities. I had no idea what to expect when I read the syllabus for his class before arriving at class. And I really did not know what to think when I saw the list of books we had to buy,  but Dr. Tucker’s class was definitely one of the best classes that I have taken.

Dr. Tucker was an enjoyable teacher because he made things interesting. He taught you how to analyze a reading in order to find the subtext behind what was actually written. He asked questions that really made you think. There were many times that I walked out of that class with a headache from trying to wrap my head around the things that he asked us in class.

Another thing that I really liked about Dr. Tucker is that he was realistic with us. He knew that we would not start the paper that was due until the morning that it was due, so if we came to class that day we got extra credit points for not being worried about our paper, since we were obviously working on it. He definitely did not tip-toe around the tulips with things either. He is going to give it to you straight and I really like honesty like that from teachers.

Dr. Tucker also has a very interesting lecture style. He keeps you engaged the whole time. I never missed his class unless it was a life or death situation. I loved listening to him lecture. You could learn a lot just listening to him talk. He is a very wise man. I asked a fellow student, Garret Dockweiler why he like Dr. Tucker’s class and he said that he also like how he lectured. Another thing that Garret liked about Dr. Tucker was that he could make any complicated reading seem simple.

Dr. Tucker is one of the best teachers that I have ever had and I highly recommend his class to students.

Dr. McEwen

One of Dr. McEwen’s strongest traits is that he has a keen ability to monitor student progress, see how they can improve, and push them to strive for better results. He dispels valuable nuggets of wisdom during class that applies outside the classroom. Dr. McEwen tells odd jokes and has a good lecturing style that can be appreciated. He is eager to help his students, almost begging them to come in to his office to see him.

Dr. McEwen is a teaching veteran of about 40 years, so he knows what he is doing. He has a large collection of Native American regalia in his office. He likes hot sauces, as told by his collection of Tabasco bottles.

IMG_1810.JPG

Dr. Elisabeth Ellington

Dr. Elisabeth Ellington teaches the English language arts courses usually taken by prospective educators. She teaches extemporaneously, and the students are left to themselves to pursue their own learning in their own way. Don’t ask for specifics about anything because you’ll learn by doing. Prepare to stumble a few times, but the effort is all that counts.

Photo Oct 08, 6 14 53 PM

Dr. Evertson

 

Dr. Wilburn

Dr. Miller

Dr. Miller is an incredible teacher, along with being an amazing person. His classes are about discovering yourself as a writer, and striving to push the comfort zone once you know where you stand. Dr. Miller is invested in each individual student: their writing, their progress, and their development through it all. Dr. Miller’s always leaves students with a choice, not to say there won’t be work to get done (oh the work).

 

Top 10 Reasons To Be an English Major

1. PASSION!!! Your teachers and your fellow students will be passionate about what you are talking about in class.

2.The class sizes are very small and the students are conversational!

3. You get to explore a wide range of human emotions and experiences! Have you ever read Uncle Tom’s Cabin? Talk about emotion!

4.We learn more than just literature, its hidden meaning, and how to draft it. English is implicitly interdisciplinary through the consideration of the human condition. We leave class every day with new thoughts and an ever growing knowledge of the human condition.

5. Critical Thinking

My English classes have helped me become critical. Okay, I realize this may not seem like a great asset, but it is! I’ve learned how to look at the world critically, questioning phenomenons, beliefs, and perspectives.

After oodles of English classes (over 30 credits to be exact), I consider myself a critical thinker. I can consider perspectives, evaluate them, and then reevaluate my own beliefs.

Without reading a variety of authors and genres, I honestly am not sure if I would have the critical thinking skills that I have now. I am grateful for the skills I have gained through my English courses.

6. The Other English Majors

It is hard to find someone that doesn’t share an interest or two with you. I have made awesome friends in the English department! It is fun and exciting every day! Plus, who else would understand all of your literary jokes!!!

IMG_1840.JPG

7. #cats – Let’s face it. We all love cats and we all love sharing our cat pictures on Twitter!

8. Social media in class! We love to Tweet and we love to eat and we LOVE to blog!

9. Beowulf!! It is the most epic reading you will ever get to read whilst being an English major. Seriously, thank your British Literature teachers if you have this opportunity!

10. Picture books and read alouds! Every now and then you will be lucky enough to have a teacher read a great children’s book to you aloud during class.

 

Top 10 Reasons to Come to Chadron

Photo CC by Jimmy Emerson

Photo CC by Jimmy Emerson

Out on the plains, Chadron State College is an academic oasis bustling with thought and creativity. Our Youthful minds are ready to change the world. In a sense, it’s not far removed from a monastery. Chadron is an environmental change for most, and usually for the better.

As students of Chadron State College, not only do we love my school, but we love this town. This is a great place to be, so all of us have compiled a list of why someone should consider coming to Chadron.

1) The Small Town Atmosphere

The town of Chadron is extremely embracing of the students of CSC. They are welcoming and helpful! Everyone here is very friendly, and it is a close knit community. Especially inviting to the students of CSC are the local churches. They have college lunches, they offer help with move in days, and they host on campus activities. From the beginning, we have always felt right at home.

2) The Big Event

Every year in the Spring, the students and faculty of CSC get together for the Big Event. It’s a college-wide community service project to help local business, both in Chadron, and in nearby towns. Students volunteer their services for projects like painting, cleaning yards, planting trees. There are clean-up groups and heartfelt visits to nursing homes. It is a great way for the students to give back to the community. We give thanks for the wonderful people of Chadron’s support in our education, as well as all of the warm welcomes.

3) Cleo’s Daily Grind

If you are looking for a great cup of coffee, Cleo’s is definitely the way to go. They have handy dandy little punch cards, and if you go on Tuesday, you get two punches. Two punches people! There is homemade whip cream, chocolate covered coffee beans, and beautiful decor.

4) The Bean Broker

The Bean Broker is another coffee shop, also with great coffee. However, they have many different styles of entertainment. Open mic nights, bands, and Jazz Birds performances on a regular basis. It is a fun and relaxing environment, and a great place to hang out!IMG_1746.JPG

5) Wild’s Bar and Grill

We can honestly say that Wild’s is one of the best places that any of us have eaten in town. Visitors from home can expect to be taken here for dinner. Not only is the food fantastic, but it isn’t too expensive. Broke college students don’t have to worry about their piggy banks.

6) Chadron State Park

If you are a person of the outdoors, you should definitely come check out the State Park. It is absolutely beautiful. You can camp, hike, and do all sorts of outdoor activities.

7) Walmart

Walmart is only a few blocks away from the campus and it is so convenient! It is awesome that we do not have to travel far to get the things that we need.

8) Nature

Chadron State Park is a great asset to the area. Hiking, hunting, camping, grilling, and other shenanigans are never out of the question. We love exploring the hiking paths in both the state park and the national forest. The famous “C Hill” sits behind campus and also has hiking paths with beautiful views. Chadron brims with nature and that’s why we love it.

1620555_10204911082558754_1794752082545673218_n

9) The People

The people are great! Everyone is friendly and happy. Walking by a person who doesn’t give you a passing smile is an impossible task. It is also difficult to walk across campus and not see someone you know.

10) College Expansion

The Chicone Events Center hosts its first event, a basketball game, this weekend. The Armstrong just built an incredible weights facility for their athletes. A new housing unit, Eagle Ridge, welcomed its first students this year with three more apartments to be added soon. There is also a new Rangeland Management Complex being built. Chadron State College is expanding and growing!

IMG_1823.JPG