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

A Virtual Tour of the CSC English Department

The best kept secret at Chadron State College is the English department. Yes, I realize that this statement may seem biased coming from an English major, but it has been the highlight of my higher education experience.

As an English Education major, my college experience has been full of

reading

writing

synthesizing

researching

critical analysis

and more reading…

And I wouldn’t trade my major for anything.

The most valuable part of my educational experience has been the classes I’ve taken to fulfill my English endorsement. Sure, I’ll technically graduate with a Bachelor’s of Science in Education, but I identify with English.

Because the English department has made my experience memorable and priceless, let me give you the grand tour.

Before we begin, let me introduce myself. I’m Kelsey and I’ll be your tour guide. These are the most important things you should know about me:

I am…

beowulf

  • A cat lover
  • A CSC Eagle, through and through
  • A self-proclaimed poet. You brave souls can listen to some of my original poems:

Now that I’ve properly introduced myself, we may proceed with the grand tour.

We begin by walking down the long sidewalks of CSC. Many students who may have had late nights quickly ride to class on long boards, skate boards, and other non-motor vehicles with wheels.

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Students know they are near the food (aka The Student Center) when they see the Tower Clock, a hallmark of Chadron State College. They also know how punctual or late for class they are based on the time provided by the giant clock.

imageOld Admin stands on the west side of campus, a building that houses Criminal Justice, English, and Education courses and professors.

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Students know they are outside of Old Admin as they see The Three Muses:

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The doors of Old Admin invite us in, calling us to learn.

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Once we enter the building, we must head up the stairs to second floor…


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On the second floor, we find navigation posts to guide our trip.

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The second floor is THE place to be in Old Admin. Visitors easily identify the second floor with English because it oozes literacy.

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People support literacy by donating their books.

If we look to our left, we can see the portal that connects students and professors:

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Before we enter the portal, visitors are met by catchy English major propaganda and FREE books!

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Enticing, right?

If we are courageous and step through this portal, we first see Brenda. Although Brenda declined an opportunity for a photo shoot for this blog, she graciously allowed me to take a picture of her work station.

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Students love Brenda because she is facetious and has a stapler for our many essay papers. For those of you who use Brenda’s stapler or stop to chat with her, she wanted me to include a warning: DO NOT PUT CRAP ON HER DESK. It makes it dirty:

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Brenda’s dirty desk and handy stapler.

Around the corner, there is a break room complete with a copier, mailboxes, and coffee.

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It’s true: English professors drink coffee.

The offices of our lovely English professors are down the hall.

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This year there is a new student lounge with audiobooks, comfy chairs, ambience, and FREE BOOKS!

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The student lounge.

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Audiobook collection and comfy chairs.

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Free books.

Some of our professors enjoy interior decorating…

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Interior decorator or English professor? You be the judge.

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You could say English professors have an abundance of flavor.

I think the students enjoy it too.

This concludes our time together and now you have seen all you need to see of the English department at CSC. You have been a lovely group and I hope to see you on campus soon! I accept tips…

Story Catcher Workshop Is HERE!

What’s YOUR Story? 

14EnglishStoryCatcherSakai


Download the Final Program 2014

Registration & Costs

Chadron State College Conferencing is pleased to sign you up! Registration will be available at the door on Tuesday, or in advance  by visiting their website:   http://www.csc.edu/conferencing/upcoming/storycatcher/form/index.csc

Workshop Sessions are open to all aspiring writers of all ages and abilities.

(We recommend that High School Participants be at the Junior level or above).

General Registration:  $150

  • All workshop participants must pay the general registration fee, which gains you access to all open workshops and special sessions over the four days.
  • There is no deadline for General Registration, and you do not need to sign up for any specific sessions in advance. However, EARLY REGISTRATION IS ENCOURAGED—as materials and notices will be sent out to registered attendees in advance of the workshop.
  • Students and Mari Sandoz Heritage Society Members Receive a 20% discount

Questions? Fill out the form below…

Work with Words–Get Paid for your Passion!

We are back in session here in English and Humanities at Chadron State College, and we are thrilled to be starting the school year with a brand new batch of enthusiastic majors.

Larissa Hastings (Photo by Daniel Binkard/Chadron State College)As we have been contemplating the start of the 2013-14 school year, I’ve been thinking about what we might say to prospective students considering our programs. At summer orientation, I found myself hawking our wares at information fairs, where a good number of students crinkled their noses at the prospect of a major or minor that would put them front and center in front of more books and more papers. This discipline can be a hard sell to pretty much anyone who is not already passionate about reading and writing, even though it remains one of the best general purpose degrees around. The Chronicle of Higher Education recently published an article that made a very strong case for just such a degree program for students planning careers in law, medicine and even science (here is the link).

But I’m here today not to try and convert unwilling writers and readers into English majors, but instead to encourage those people out there who already have a passion for these disciplines, but who can’t imagine making a career out of them, to consider a future where you get to work with words every day. Where you get paid for your passion!

That is the focus of our new promotional campaign for English and Humanities at Chadron State College. We encourage our students to GET OUTSIDE THEMSELVES while they are at CSC, as the image up top illustrates. Here, one of our students is contemplating the wilderness area right behind campus, pen and  pad at the ready to record her thoughts. As the gallery below affirms, our students enjoy unprecedented access to writing and literary events throughout their college careers. We’ve recently sent students to Portland to attend conferences and share their writing with an international audience. We’ve gone to visit the childhood home of Willa Cather, and we’ve been meeting outside the school year for the Story Catcher  Summer Writing Workshop, where we have been able to bring renowned writers to campus and share their insights and inspiration with writers right here in our region.

But what about AFTER you walk across that stage and get your degree. What then? The future is wide open to you. Evidence suggests that an English Degree can land you a good job in a wide variety of fields. But if you are truly passionate about reading and writing, and THAT is where you want to make your living, then there is no better place to get started than with the training and experiences that our program can provide. We will put you on the path to careers where English and Humanities students excel, and where they can make a living working with words: Promotions, Journalism, Law, Media Relations, Creative Services, Non-Profits, Social Networking, Government, Real Estate, Clergy, Film, Teaching and Writing… these are just a sampling of the jobs where you can truly get PAID FOR YOUR PASSION.

2013 Flash Fiction Winners (Scholastic Day)

Flash Fiction Writing Contest

2013 Scholastic Day at Chadron State College

Thirteen writers competed in our Flash Fiction Contest on April 5.  This exercise challenged aspiring writers to think on their feet and quickly create a short story that engages readers and shows off their imaginative, descriptive and compositional skills. Students were given the following constraints:

  • 2 hour time limit
  • 1000 words or less
  • Submission had to be a single work of original fiction composed from the participant’s own imagination during the exam period

Finally, the writers were provided a prompt that all of the stories had to follow:

Begin a story with this line:

The phone vibrated. I (or character’s name) recognized the name, breathed deeply,  and took a long pause before opening the text message.

The Results:

Each story was scored by a team of judges from the Department of English and Humanities and members of Sigma Tau Delta, the English Honor Society. The criteria for judgment were outlined in a rubric that was distributed with the exam. The papers were then ranked by the combined scores from all judges. The top entries then underwent one more round of evaluation for the final ranking.

The judges were impressed with the uniform creativity and talent illustrated in all of the submissions, especially given the time and length limits. There were many submissions that could easily be revised and shaped into fully-formed stories worthy of wide readership in some form. We want to thank ALL of the participants for sharing their talents with us.

Here are the final results:

(note that the final drafts have been lightly edited to correct obvious surface errors):

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