So… what are you going to do with an English major?

At this point, the question is so familiar, I often catch myself laughing in response, assuming the person posing the question is only joking. But no. More often than not, the question is genuine.

Fret not, fellow English majors! Here at the WKU English Department, we understand your frustration.

That’s why we’ve launched a new suite of webpages called Why English? where you can find plenty of information to bolster your defense next time Great Aunt Linda corners you at the family Christmas party.

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But seriously, it’s a wealth of information for current and prospective students about the advantages of being an English major – especially at WKU.

Check out the Why WKU English? page to learn about publishing opportunities, internships, our outstanding alumni, and much more. The English After WKU? page has all you need to know about the abundance of post-graduate opportunities available to English majors. Read about famous English majors in career fields as diverse as technology, business, design, and beyond, or how English majors make well-rounded graduate, medical, or law school candidates.

Still not convinced WKU is the best place in the world to study English? View the video produced by our very own Drs. Jerod Hollyfield and Judith Szerdahelyi below:

Why English @ WKU? from Jerod Hollyfield on Vimeo.

So, Aunt Linda, the real question is what can’t you do with an English major?

Disclaimer: All of my aunts are actually really great. No real aunts were harmed or insulted in the writing of this post.

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Meet Hannah


Hello! My name is Hannah Good, and I will be your new author of First Floor Cherry for the 2016-2017 school year. Chelsea left some pretty massive shoes to fill, but with a bit of hard work, I hope to do her legacy justice. Her goal in reinventing the English Department weblog was to provide a resource for English student involvement in the department. I share that goal as well, and look forward to connecting the WKU English community in new ways.

First, allow me to introduce myself:

I’m passionate about strong rhetoric, civic engagement, well-curated Spotify playlists, art museums, and great hip hop music.

I’m a sophomore English Major here at WKU with a Professional Writing concentration and a Religious Studies double major. I am also a Gender & Women’s Studies Minor. Though the intersections of these disciplines may not be inherently obvious, the similarities are abundant.
Did you know, for example, that there are thousands of ancient manuscripts which contributed to the formation of the New Testament? Modern editions are making it possible to study these manuscripts in unprecedented scale and detail. It’s way cooler than it sounds – promise.

My long-term goals are to travel the world, read a lot of books, and make people think about the world differently. Afterwards, I’ll adopt a French Bulldog and retire as an eccentric recluse.

In addition to my internship with First Floor Cherry, I’m proud to be the copy editor of the WKU Talisman. See that comma in line three of our most recent article? All me.
I’m also proud to be a member of the Potter College Dean’s Council of Students. There, I work with a brilliant family of Potter College student representatives to spread the word about how great it is to study the arts at WKU. We’re the ones in the black polos at all the Cultural Enhancement Series events.

Something else you might not expect about me is that I’m a marathoner. Yep, that’s 26.2 miles. Last spring, I finished my first ever marathon with my best friend/big sister, Megan. We even got matching tattoos to celebrate. I’m currently training for my second half marathon and plan to complete my second full marathon in the spring. I’m also the founder and co-president of the brand new WKU Running Club.

I hope this introduction allowed you to get to know me, and I can’t wait to get to know you all in turn throughout the semester. So long for now!











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Au Revoir! A Few Closing Words on My Last Day

Alas, the bittersweet time has come for Chelsea to leave the English Office. After four years of studies, I will be graduating from the Honors College a la Magna Cum Laude with a Bachelor’s in English literature and a philosophy minor on Saturday, May 14th. The graduation cap on my head will read: “No, IDK what I’m doing next,” and it couldn’t be more accurate.

I plan to spend the summer attending music festivals and traveling. When fall comes I will then settle down and make some plans for what is next. One thing, however, is certain: the time I have spent at WKU and in the English Department has helped cultivate me into the person I am today, and certainly the person that I will be in the future. I am grateful for the extraordinary professors and faculty that I have encountered along the way, and I will never forget them as I progress into my life and career.

I hope that in leaving my gift to the department will be this blog site, First Floor Cherry. It has been my goal to help foster a community within the department that allows English students and faculty to stay in-the-know and up-to-date with departmental news, opportunities, and happenings. In the future, as I leave and pass on the torch that is First Floor Cherry, I hope that he or she who comes after me will be able to pick up where I left off and further my vision for the site and the department.

I have enjoyed my time working in the department and the relationships that I have made while being here. I will miss it, surely. Thank you all for reading.

Chelsea McCarty, over and out.


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Memorials of Harriet Martineau by Maria Weston Chapman, Edited by Dr. Deborah A. Logan

Dr. Deborah Logan is a nothing short of an expert when it comes to Harriet Martineau, a 19th century British Victorian writer. She has had 24 different books published on the writer, including a variety of editions of Martineau’s work, collections, and monographs.

Dr. Logan’s interest in Martineau first began when she studied her in graduate school. Martineau’s work contains undertones of early feminist thought covering a range of genres, including interdisciplinary studies, periodicals, and opinion pieces. When Dr. Logan first discovered Martineau’s, she found her work enthralling to study.

This interest that was sparked in graduate school would follow Dr. Logan throughout the majority of her professional career. Studying Martineau extensively, Dr. Logan once received a National Endowment for the Humanities grant to further her research on the author’s known letters, which at the time consisted of a collection of about 3,000. Dr. Logan compiled these letters in a collection of 5 volumes. When more letters were discovered, Dr. Logan published them in another collection.

The new book that Dr. Logan has had published is an edition of Maria Weston Chapman’s biography of Martineau. Chapman and Martineau worked together during the abolition movement; it was for this friendship that Martineau asked Chapman to write her biography. During the 2015 fall semester, while teaching abroad at Harlaxton College in Grantham, England, Dr. Logan gave a lecture on Martineau and Chapman’s relationship, how they represented global citizenship, and her edition of Chapman’s biography.

Dr. Logan has also been working on a book about The Indian Ladies Magazine, a magazine owned, published, and written by a woman in India during the early 1900s. Dr. Logan found the magazine interesting because it is a revealing case of an Indian woman who was the head of her household and held a great deal of power, a contrasting image to the stereotypical Indian female.

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PLEASE Stop Misusing Whom. Seriously. Stop. Just Stop.


Nothing grinds my gears more than the misuse of whom. Without getting too deep into the drama of descriptive and prescriptive grammar, I’ll say that formally whom is the objective form and who is the subjective form. Now, there are times where using one or the other can get sticky and confusing, and that’s understandable. Consider the following sentence:

Did she go to the amusement park with the one who sold salt-water taffy, baskets, and puppies in Las Vegas?

It’s tricky here because “the one” is the object, but the object is being modified by a separate clause. Think about solving this by recognizing that “who sold salt-water taffy, baskets, and puppies in Las Vegas” is a relative clause that is modifying “one.” It thus becomes an adjective clause itself and who, not whom, is required.

There are times when who and whom can get tricky, and that’s all well and good and fine and I’m okay with that. There is no grammar force above that is telling you that you have to know whom in the first place. The whole concept is virtually becoming archaic, anyway. The only people who use whom anymore are individuals that simply know the rule, care about grammar, work in professional fields like law or secretarial positions, are trying to sound presumptuous and know the rule, or—the worst kinds of individuals, mind you—who are trying to sound presumptuous and DON’T know the rule.

These last people are outright terrible. Nothing screams


like people who misuse whom. And you might say, “But Chelsea, aren’t you being hard on people?” Maybe I am, but what I have to say in response to that is what I have already stated above: whom is becoming archaic. No one expects people in the general population to use it anymore. In an extreme and dramatic example, it’s kind of like the word “thou” or “thee.” No one expects you to say: “How art thou on this fine day?” Just like most don’t expect you to say, “With whom were you speaking?” Both are perfectly correct and they convey point and purpose, but you just don’t have to do it. Yeah, it’s great if you know it, and that’s great, really great. Heck, I even use thou sometimes, like when I’m doing my Shakespeare accent. I even use whom sometimes, but only when I am confident about the correct tense. That’s not me being presumptuous though, it’s just me being grammatically correct.

The source of my frustration at this point is a student paper that I was required to read for a class not in the English Department. As I was reading this paper, I kept finding terrible whom mistakes in it. Here are a few examples of them:

“They found that students whom indicated a general lack of control over…”

A college student whom drinks could easily develop an alcohol…”

“This study also suggests for our project that our greatest outreach and target audience should be those students whom live in co-ed dorms.”

Rolling my eyes. This individual shows a clear lack of understanding of the concept of who and whom. He or she should just have avoided using it altogether. It is clear the writer is trying to sound austere and high-brow, but his or her general lack of understanding makes the whole attempt futile and even reveals, at least how I see it, a characteristic of wanting to be arrogant.

Moral of the story? If you are going to use whom—again, which you do not have to do in the first place—then please, for the love of the grammar gods, use it correctly. It saves you from being thought pretentious and ignorant. But, if you want to be pretentious, you might as well be intelligent about it and use grammar correctly.

From the book Grammar Snobs are Great Big Meanies, here is one final helpful excerpt about who vs. whom that might help you avoid making the mistake:

Whenever you’re wondering whether some blowhard is using ‘who’ or ‘whom’ right, plug in just about any other pronoun: I/me, she/her, he/him, we/us. For, ‘With whom are you going to the concert?’ ask yourself, would you say, ‘With he,’ or ‘With him’? For ‘Who is the best grammar-snob slayer of them all?’ ask yourself if it would be better to say, ‘Him is the best grammar-snob slayer of them all,’ or ‘He is the best grammar-snob slayer.’ It’s just that simple. (8)

That’s the basics. For more tips, Google is one url away. My rant is over. Please use whom right or not at all. Much thanks. Have a good day.


Casagrande, June. Grammar Snobs are Great Big Meanies. New York: Penguin Books, 2006. Print.

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Goldenrod Poetry Festival 2016: An Interview with Visiting Poet Gary McDowell

Interview conducted and post written by MFA Creative Writing Graduate Student Lena Ziegler.

On Monday March 28th esteemed poet Gary McDowell will visit WKU for the annual Goldenrod Poetry Festival. Author of such poetry collections including American Amen (Dream Horse Press, 2010), They Speak of Fruit (Cooper Dillon, 2009), and Blueprint (Pudding House, 2005), McDowell is also the co-editor of the anthology, The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Prose Poetry: Contemporary Poets in Discussion and Practice (Rose Metal Press, 2010), and Assistant Professor of English and Creative Writing at Belmont University and has published extensively with literary journals and presses. In a thorough and engaging exchange, McDowell shared some insight into publishing success (and sometimes failures), the role of the contemporary poet, and what subject matter shows up in his work again, and again.


Q/A with Gary McDowell

Q: You are visiting WKU as a poet, but I always like to ask this question. Do you write in any other genres? Are there any genres you have yet to explore that you would like to?  

In fact, I do. I write pretty extensively in the lyric essay as well. I’ve a collection of them that I’m hoping to one day put out in the world. They’ve appeared individually in several publications such as Gulf Coast, Green Mountains Review, Prairie Schooner, Quarter After Eight, Massachusetts Review, and many others. The lyric essay, for me anyway, is an extension of the poems, a longer, more meditative space, but poetic nonetheless. As for genres I’d like to explore, I guess I’m always tossing around the idea of trying to write a novel one day, but it seems such an insurmountable beast.

Q: Has poetry been a lifelong interest? How did you get started writing? Do you remember the first poem you have ever written? 

I’ve always loved telling and writing stories, but poetry didn’t enter my life until I was midway through high school. I got started when a rather tragic death, the first I’d ever experienced, occurred in my family: my stepfather, brain cancer. I turned to poetry via the advice of a counselor at my high school. I found solace in it and started to write my own. I’d ride my bike down to the shores of the Fox River in Cary, IL and write really bad nature poetry. I mean really bad. But it was therapeutic in a way that nothing else, including actual therapy, was. The first poems I wrote were imitations of the poets I was reading: Frost, Poe, Wordsworth. They were bad, but they were essential to me.

Q: For a creative writer of any genre, it can be scary to stand up in front of an audience and share work. What advice might you give to a writer who might be a little more hesitant to participate in a reading? 

My first inclination is to say, “just do it anyway!” But that’s probably not fair as I realize a lot of people do have legitimate fears of public speaking. I used to be that way, but in college I studied (and paid my way through school doing it, really) sleight-of-hand magic. Performing for dozens of people with nothing but a deck of cards, some coins, a handkerchief and my own practiced dexterity taught me a lot about self-reliance, confidence, and the ability to bullshit my way through just about anything. So I guess my advice would be to have confidence in yourself! Be you. Go out there and let your work be what people see/hear.

Q: Are there any themes as a writer that you come back to time and time again? Why or why not? Are there any themes you are still hoping to explore? If not themes, is there any subject manner that seems to show up time and time again?  

My themes are my subject matter. I suppose this is true of many poets, at least the ones I seem to come back to again and again. I write about fathers and fatherhood in nearly everything. I can’t escape the fact that a huge part of my identity will always be father. I love it. The themes connected to that experience are omnipresent, too: fear, legitimacy, love, hope. As for other themes or subject matters, I think my poetry is more concerned with image than subject matter. The subject of the poem often only arrives after I’ve been chiseling at the images of which the poem is made. Recurring images are plentiful in my work though: rivers, lakes, fishing/fish, father figures, stars/space, birds. All pretty typical things, but my eye/ear turn toward them when I’m writing.

Q: Do you have any regrets with work you’ve written, but specifically work you have published? Does the thought of any earlier work make you cringe? 

 No regrets at all. Sure, some of my early published poems aren’t as competent as the things I’m writing now perhaps—though I suppose that’s completely subjective; not to mention that my newest work is having a really hard time finding an audience; rejections have been plentiful lately. I’m proud of the work I’ve out there in the world, and I hope to continue to be.

 Q: For the MFA course “Reading as a Writer,” students are asked to write an intellectual autobiography detailing significant experiences relating to reading, writing, and literature. Are there some significant experiences, or even just influences, that you could share? 

Oh man, influences are one thing of which I have plenty. It started for me with my first and still favorite poetry teacher: Amy Newman at Northern Illinois University. She instilled in me a work ethic; a responsibility to be a student of poetry always, even when not writing; and the fire to work harder than anyone else. She’s, a lot of ways, my muse. And then there were many more wonderful teachers along the way: Larissa Szporluk, William Olsen, Nancy Eimers, Jon Adams, etc. I’ve been blessed, no doubt. As for other “intellectual influences,” I’d have to make a longer list than you’ve space for, but some of the names at the top would be Tom Andrews, Rilke, Faulkner, Charles Wright, Peter Gizzi, Linda Gregerson, Jack Gilbert, Lia Purpura (maybe my favorite writer in any genre; her On Looking is so stunning as to be impossibly good), Carole Maso, David Baker, Dickinson, Whitman, C.D. Wright (especially Deepstep Come Shining), Marilynne Robinson (I read Housekeeping as a sophomore in college and it changed my life; I dropped my Computer Science major and switched to English), and so many others. This isn’t even to mention all of my poetry friends; the community I feel with other poets, both my contemporaries (like Chad Sweeney, Traci Brimhall, Adam Clay, TJ Jarret, Christina Stoddard, Jennifer Sweeney, Andrea England, Kendra DeColo, Keith Montesano, and on and on) and my teachers is absolutely essential to my “intellectual autobiography.”

Q: What is the value of poetry in a society like ours? What is the role of the contemporary poet?  

You know, I’m not sure. I’m typing this as NPR relays the story of this morning’s terrorist attacks in Brussels. These types of events have become so common in our world today that it’s becoming increasingly difficult to not feel numb to them. If there are any answers to these societal issues, I don’t know if poetry can solve them, but it can damn sure help us cope. And maybe if the right person reads the right poem at the right time, they too can be changed. The role of the contemporary poet is to keep singing, to bring to light their experience of the world so that others can feel connected to this, our human plight.

Q: Describe your poetry in one word. 


 Q: What kind of advice would you give to a writer who has had little success with publication in literary magazines and journals?  

Don’t ever give up. You have to work hard to find the right audience for your work. Think about this: an editor at a prestigious literary journal might get between 10,000 and 20,000 poems every year. So that’s approximately 30-60 poems EVERY DAY. Do you read 30-60 poems every day? If you do, do you ever worry that maybe you’ve skimmed over something worth noting? So much of publishing success—aside from being a talented writer, of course—comes down to timing. You, in a way, have to find the right editor on the right day in the right mood. It’s not easy. Like I mentioned above, even those of us who have had a bit of success publishing work get rejected ALL the time. I got four rejections yesterday, and I bet if I checked my email right now, I’d have another. It’s the game we play to professionalize. It’s important, sure, but it’s not nearly as important as the work you do on the page. Write like hell, send out poems, and be patient. And know your market.

Q: When writing a poem, how do you know when you are finished? 

“Poems are never finished. They are only abandoned,” said/wrote, and I likely paraphrase, Paul Valéry. Honestly, a poem is “done” when I feel as though I can’t do another thing to it to make it better. Charles Wright talks somewhere in his lectures/essays about how everything in a poem should add to its overall effect and not take away. So when I’m editing (and editing is NOT proofreading; I’m talking more about rewriting), I look to be sure that everything in the poem is adding to its effect; when I feel as though I can’t do that any longer, I abandon the poem and call it “finished,” if you will.

Q: The world can be both a wonderful and terrifying place. What do you consider the greatest challenges facing coming generations? On the other hand, what gives you hope about the future?

 Wow. Well, I’m no sage, and I’m certainly not aware of all of the atrocities and beauties our world has to offer, but I think one of the largest challenges we face as a species is maintaining our ecology. We are, as humans, ruining our planet. If our leaders can’t agree to do something about global climate change, oil production, natural gas production, and other harmful and deleterious man-made issues, I’m fearful that we won’t any longer have a planet. Clearly this is WAY beyond my expertise, but I nonetheless hope that someone (or someones) much smarter than me are trying to solve these issues. What gives me hope? My babies. The love I have for them. The wonder and excitement with which they experience the world. They are my hope, my entire life, my consolation for knowing what I know.


The Goldenrod Poetry Festival is on March 28th at 7pm in Cherry Hall 125. McDowell will do a reading of his own work, the finalists for the Golden Poetry contest will read their poems, and McDowell will announce the first, second, and third place winners.

The Goldenrod Poetry Festival is sponsored by English Club, and is a yearly event. All students are welcome to submit their own original works of poetry. The top ten poets participate in a private workshop with a visiting poet (which changes each year), who also gives a reading during the Goldenrod Poetry Festival. This event is free and open to the public.


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2016 Sigma Tau Delta Conference

In the early hours of the morning on Thursday, March 3rd, 7 English students and Professor Walker Rutledge, along with his wife, Belita Goad, boarded a plane in Nashville, Tennessee bound for Kansas City, Missouri. After a layover in the compact, stuffy environment of the Kansas City airport, the group boarded another plane bound for their final destination in Minneapolis, Minnesota to attend the International Sigma Tau Delta English Convention.

After a brief debate of whether to take an Uber or a taxi to their hotel, the group of 9 divided and crammed themselves into two taxis. A great many minutes later, they arrived at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Minneapolis. Checking-in, registration, and dinner followed.

Over the course of the next few days, each student presented her individual work on a panel with other students presenting, what the ΣΤΔ conference gods dictated were, works of similar subjects. The work presented showcases an array of talent and scope of interests amongst WKU’s Sigma Tau Delta members.

Bridget Yates presented her poem “Pear Tree,” inspired by William Faulkner’s character Caddy from The Sound and the Fury. ­­­­­She also presented a highly serious short story she had written entitled “Crimson,” about a complex relationship between a daughter and her mother. Normally, students attending Sigma Tau Delta conferences are only allowed to present one work, unless they are presenting on the convention’s common reader book (the book of the conference that represents the year’s theme), in which case they are allowed to read two works. But by some means, sneaky Bridget slipped under the radar to present two works.

Though her name was left off of the original conference schedule, after some mild hassling and embarrassed apologies, Rachel Sudbeck found a panel to present her paper on the common reader, The Soul Thief, by Charles Baxter.

Chelsea McCarty and Madeline Kramer each presented plays dealing with existential subject matter. In Kramer’s, young women are “Searching for Something,” but they don’t know what. In McCarty’s, a man and a woman find each other at “The End of the Line” as they wait to make life choices at the post office. For each reading, other members of the group performed the play for the audience of the session.

Abby Ponder read her short story “Borrowed Purpose,” which recounts a moving experience she had while studying abroad at Harlaxton in England. In the story, she and a friend encounter a homeless individual in Liverpool around Christmastime.

Haley Quinton read “The Party,” a chapter from her novel Olive in Oakgrove. In the novel, a woman returns to her childhood home after 7 years because her father is dying. Continued flashbacks depict events that have strained the relationships between the main family members and how those moments have shaped the novel’s central figure, Olive.

Courtney George presented an analytical paper about John Donne’s balance of sex and religion in his poetry. Of attending the conference for the first time, George said:

It was really amazing to see so many people come together for a love of English. It was clear that everyone was very passionate and eager to talk about different ideas.

While in Minneapolis, the group visited the Minneapolis Institute of Art, a museum known for its Period Rooms that offer not only windows to the past, but quite literally physical doors where one may step into rooms of the past. Fitting for a visit from a group of English lovers, the museum had on display a dual-Jane Austen room, made up of MIA’s Queen Anne and Georgian Drawing Rooms. The display highlighted the author’s habits as well as scenes from her beloved work Emma.

Several of the students on the trip had studied or lived abroad in Britain, so when the group stumbled upon a restaurant called Brit’s Pub, they felt right at home. The pub was outfitted with traditionally British wall hangings, including an abundance of plates, picture frames, and paintings of Winston Churchill and Queen Elizabeth. A person of legal drinking age could order a Strongbow on tap, and even pay for it in pounds! And, of course, a British pub wouldn’t be complete without the timeless fish and chips meal at the ready–and British candy for sale at checkout! The pub was a definite highlight of the weekend, bringing back bittersweet British memories for many of the group. They ate there twice.

At the end of the weekend, the group retraced their steps, first flying back to the stuffy, squashed half-crescent Kansas City airport, and then on to Nashvegas. In all, the weekend and the convention was a success. The trip was made possible by generous funding of donations, awards, and grants from WKU’s Honors College, English Department, Potter College of Arts and Letters, Student Government Association, and individual student Honors Development Grants. While none in the group were given official awards from the convention, each had an outstanding presentation receiving compliments from audience in her session. At heart, they are all winners.

Any individuals interested in attending future Sigma Tau Delta conventions should contact Professor Walker Rutledge at for information about WKU’s chapter of the organization. The convention is held yearly in March at rotating locations. Next year’s convention will be held in Louisville, Kentucky.

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A Trip to Sundance

Earlier this year, Dr. Ted Hovet and English MA graduate assistant Brenna Sherrill led a group of 16 students to the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. The class arrived in Park City on January 20th and left January 27th, after attending the first 6 days of the festival.

Kennedy Higdon, an English literature graduate who attended the trip as her last undergraduate course, commented on the festival, saying,

“Going to Sundance was an amazing opportunity for me. Even though I’m an English major, I still got to take part in a lot of things relevant to my major, and got to learn a lot about film as well. Reviewing plot points, characterization, and structure in movies is pretty similar to reviewing them in literature, so it was a fun transition to be able to make while comparing the two. Apart from that, the experience itself was so rewarding, from exploring Park City to meeting celebrities, to making a lot of new friends. I’m so glad I went and I would encourage anyone who was interested to seize this awesome opportunity!”

Students in the course were eligible to choose from English, film, or popular culture credit. It was taught in two sections: the first, a study of the history of Sundance and independent film, was completed online before the trip began; the second was the on-site portion completed at the festival itself. For the course’s classwork, Dr. Hovet assigned journal entries, film viewing, and five reviews from events at the festival.

Dr. Hovet’s end goal of the course was for students to walk away with an in-depth, personal experience of knowledge of American independent film, a knowledge and awareness that there is more out there than simply Hollywood-style film.

While at the festival, students were encouraged to attend films, panels, and workshops where filmmakers and people in the industry were discussing film in 2016. Dr. Hovet suggested students to talk to people in lines and exchange business cards, fostering a network through contact with people in the industry.

As with any new experience, the students assuredly had to prepare for what could be a cultural shock. Dr. Hovet, however, said that the students handled the new environment well. He commented that due to the laid-back, friendly atmosphere of Sundance, students found it relatively easy to talk to people and meet actors.

Patera Cook, another student who attended the festival this year, said of the experience,

“Everyone was really friendly, especially the stars. If you ran into someone you had seen in a film on Main Street and had any questions about the film, they were always excited to talk about their work. Everyone wanted to know about students’ interests in film.”

Each student, Dr. Hovet said, saw roughly a dozen films. Some saw more, and some saw less, but all were required to see at least eight. He encouraged students to try to go to films in different categories, to gain a more wholesome experience of the festival.

This was Dr. Hovet’s third time leading a class to Sundance, and when asked what particular aspects of this trip stuck out to him from the rest, he commented on the quality of the films and the festival’s character. Some critics of the festival, he said, had begun to fear that it was getting too close to Hollywood, but this year, it firmly regained its footing in the indie world. The films and the filmmakers, he commented, were far more diverse than they had been in the past.

Of the festival, Dr. Hovet remarked,

“The WKU Study Away trip to the Sundance Film Festival is a great opportunity for students to experience first hand the premiere independent film event in the United States. In addition to viewing, students in this course attend workshops and panels, meet filmmakers, and learn about the latest developments in the world of film. It is an ideal way to combine academic and professional experiences.”

Dr. Hovet and Dr. Dawn Hall, an English professor at South Campus, developed the course together three years ago. Because of a newborn 4-month old, Dr. Hall had stayed home from the festival this year. The two have hopes of continuing to offer the course in the future because of its diversity and success. Dr. Hovet also discussed plans to lead a class to an international festival in Edinburgh, tentatively, in June of 2017.

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Gettin’ Visual

This gallery contains 4 photos.

Over the weekend, some students in Professor Ron Demarse’s FILM 382 production class shot a film in Cherry Hall 124. Photos courtesy of Dr. Hovet. 

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2016 Writing & Reading Series: an Interview with Robert Lopez

Interview conducted by MFA Creative Writing Graduate Student Lena Ziegler


Lopez will be visiting WKU on Thursday, February 25th at 7:00pm in Cherry Hall 125.

This Thursday kicks off the start of the 2016 Writing & Reading Series at WKU with visiting writer Robert Lopez. Author of the novels Part of the World and Kamby Bolongo Mean River as well as multiple short story collections including Good People, released in January of this year, Lopez shared some insight on his creative writing techniques and reading experiences.

Q: Throughout your career you have published a great deal of fiction, between novels and short story collections. Do you write in any other genres? Are there any genres you have yet to explore that you would like to?

A: I’ve written the odd essay or two and years ago would scribble on poems from time to time. Not sure I’ll get back to poems, but I can see myself working on some essays at some point. I’ve written one full length play and adapted one of the novels into a one-man play. Might give that another go, too. I think I might like to try a television series. There is some great work being done in television and it seems like an interesting form. Not sure it will ever happen, but it’s a good fantasy.

Q: Are there any themes as a writer that you come back to time and time again? Why or why not? Are there any themes you are still hoping to explore?

A: I never think about theme as a writer. I never set out to explore anything in fiction, never have an idea of what exactly is going on until something is under way, and rarely then. I write sentences, try to have them feed off each other, inform each other, and theme happens naturally because I’m human and those human messes and problems come out.  

Q: Do you have any regrets with work you’ve written, but specifically work you have published? Does the thought of any earlier work make you cringe?

A: I guess I’m lucky in that I can answer this question with a clear, No. I’d probably edit some of the older fiction, perhaps, a word or two or a sentence or a paragraph. But I wouldn’t make any substantive changes to the work and I don’t regret anything I’ve published.  

Q: For the MFA course “Reading as a Writer” taught by Dr. Brown, students are asked to write an intellectual autobiography detailing significant experiences relating to reading, writing, and literature. Are there some significant experiences, or even just influences, that you could share?

A: Well, reading Hemingway’s “A Clean Well-Lighted Place” made me want to write a story. Reading Raymond Carver made me want to be a writer. These days I’m afraid I don’t respond in the same way to either. But, I’m still grateful to them. Reading Beckett changed a lot for me, as did reading David Markson. 

Q: If you’re reading a new book, how many sentences, paragraphs, or pages do you give the book to hook you?

 A: It has to happen immediately. If I’m not drawn into the voice in the first sentence or two I surrender and move on with my life.

Q: What would you say to a writer struggling to find their voice, or even a character’s voice?

A: I would say keep at it. Try different voices on, radically different voices and see how they feel. I would say read a broad range of writers to see who you can steal from. 

Q: As a creative writing professor, what are some of the primary issues in student writing that come up again and again?

A: Some writers play it safe, they make things up. I don’t like to read fiction that feels like it’s made up. I want to read the blood and guts, I want the urgency. 

Lopez will be visiting WKU on Thursday, February 25th at 7pm in Cherry Hall 125.

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