A Calendar of Tales, by You and Neil Gaiman

Recently, Neil Gaiman announced that he was starting a collaborative project. He stated that writing can be very “lonely, it’s just you and the story in your head.” For years, he’s been trying to figure out the best way to have his readers be involved more in his work, and the project that has developed is A Calendar of Tales.

He has teamed up with BlackBerry to create a platform that allows for more interaction between him and his readers. Gaiman will write 12 stories as his part of the project, but each one will be inspired and illustrated by you. As the calendar develops with his ideas and your images, he will continue appearing in this series of episodes.

What is especially interesting about this project is that it creates a union between two things that are starting to be more consistently grouped together: sharing writing through technology. Between applications on phones, the latest tablets, or websites that allow the audience to give feedback, writing has taken on a new front that has increased the amount of collaboration that goes into a piece.

Gaiman states at the beginning of the video, “Good fiction unites us as humans, because it gives us empathy, because it makes us look at the world through other people’s eyes.” After reading about A Calendar of Tales, it seems like we could also say that technology unites us, because it allows us to work with, and learn from, people that we probably would not have had the chance to before.

Source: Open Culture

From Brain Pickings: The Best in Graphic Novels

Storytelling takes many different forms. One particularly interesting type is graphic novels, books that combine words with pictures to convey meaning.

Black and white sketch of old man

Image via brainpickers.org

A group of 130 graphic artists teamed up to tackle some of the great works of literature—Moby Dick, Leaves of Grass, and Wuthering Heights, to name a few—to create what 190 different classic tales would look like if illustrated as a graphic novel. Russ Kick, editor and writer, has combined these illustrations into a Graphic Canon Trilogy. You can see more of his incredible images here. Which books would you like to see depicted?

Fourth Genre, an MSU Journal

Fourth Genre Issue 14.2 coverFourth Genre is one of only a few strictly nonfiction journals, sharing the genre with literary journals such as Creative Nonfiction, River Teeth, and Brevitymag.org. The journal, operating within the Writing, Rhetoric, and American Cultures (WRAC) department here at MSU, publishes a variety of nonfiction authors with work ranging from essays in all forms to memoir to writer as reader, all written in a variety of styles and voices. Writers published in Fourth Genre include Ander Monson, Brenda Miller, Michele Morano, Ned Stucky-French, and Ryan Van Meter, to name a few.

The great thing about Fourth Genre being housed within the WRAC department is that it affords the opportunity for students to be exposed to and involved with a national literary journal with award winning writers and editors. Students interested in the publishing world get first-hand experience while working with people that have years of experience in the field. I had the opportunity to interview Kathleen Livingston, an MSU graduate student, about her experiences working for Fourth Genre to get an idea of what it is that students can take from this nonfiction press. (more…)

From Huffington Post: What Are America’s Best Bookstores?

Image of bookstore front on a sunny day.

Boulder Book Store in Boulder, Colorado (via Huffington Post)

In a turn of good news for independent bookstores, Huffington Post reports that there is increasing interest in purchasing  books locally. Now, it has become about more than just buying the novel; it’s  about going to a place where you can tread across the same brick floors that William Faulkner walked on, or see quotes by Kurt Vonnegut and Flannery O’Conner in the sidewalk outside the shop doors. People are investing in the experience of buying, much in the same way that they do reading. In this comeback of local booksellers, these five bookstores in particular set themselves apart as some of the best in America.

Faculty Profiles: New Fixed-Term Hires

Photo by Lauren Tuski

Dr. John Raucci

To put it simply, WRAC assistant professor Dr. John Raucci is incredibly excited to be here and to be teaching first year writing. Raucci began his education as a communication arts major at Allegheny College and went on to receive an MA in English at Clarion University, and finally on to his PHD in rhetoric and composition from University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. What has driven him through it all is his desire to teach others and show them how fascinating the discipline of rhetoric can be. Raucci glows with praise for the students he’s involved with and for WRAC faculty: “The department is great and this is a very positive environment, where students and faculty alike can creatively engage with the community.” When not teaching, Raucci continues to revise his dissertation and work on an essay about autobiography and writing pedagogy for publication. Raucci brims with enthusiasm as he assures us he will be taking advantage of every opportunity MSU has to offer, including season football tickets.

Photo by Sara McKinnon

Professor Sara McKinnon

Professor Sara McKinnon comes to WRAC from Shawnee State University where she taught composition. She holds an MFA in creative nonfiction from The Ohio State University and an MA in English from Ohio University. Of her experience at WRAC, she says, “I love what [FYW] is doing with their curriculum. Everyone is doing interesting work, and I love being surrounded by that energy and excitement.” McKinnon is busy teaching WRA 140 Women in America and WRA 150 Evolution of American Thought and enjoys helping students “find their voice and feel more confident in their writing.” In her spare time, she is compiling her selected prose poems and lyric essays into a collection exploring suburban ennui.

Photo by Lauren Tuski

Dr. James Davis

Dr. James Davis joins the WRAC faculty as an assistant professor who thinks, “It’s nice to now be able to teach rhetoric in the fullest sense since I’ve always been housed in [other] departments.” Davis received a bachelors in English and education from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, a MA in American literature from the University of South Carolina, and a PHD from Georgia State University in American literature, and composition and rhetoric. He says that one of the most rewarding things about finally being able to teach at the college level is teaching students in his WRA 110 Science and Technology class to think more effectively, efficiently, and innovatively, saying, “I like seeing the lights on and not dimmed.” When not teaching, Davis is trying to decide where his dissertation on teaching students ongoing invention strategies needs to go as a publication. This fall he has also already submitted two literature articles for publication and is in the process of writing a popular culture article on the movie Transformers and an article about how rubrics impact student assessment.

Faculty Profiles: New Fixed-Term Hires

Photo by Lauren Tuski

Dr. John Raucci

To put it simply, WRAC assistant professor Dr. John Raucci is incredibly excited to be here and to be teaching first year writing. Raucci began his education as a communication arts major at Allegheny College and went on to receive an MA in English at Clarion University, and finally on to his PHD in rhetoric and composition from University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. What has driven him through it all is his desire to teach others and show them how fascinating the discipline of rhetoric can be. Raucci glows with praise for the students he’s involved with and for WRAC faculty: “The department is great and this is a very positive environment, where students and faculty alike can creatively engage with the community.” When not teaching, Raucci continues to revise his dissertation and work on an essay about autobiography and writing pedagogy for publication. Raucci brims with enthusiasm as he assures us he will be taking advantage of every opportunity MSU has to offer, including season football tickets.

Photo by Sara McKinnon

Professor Sara McKinnon

Professor Sara McKinnon comes to WRAC from Shawnee State University where she taught composition. She holds an MFA in creative nonfiction from The Ohio State University and an MA in English from Ohio University. Of her experience at WRAC, she says, “I love what [FYW] is doing with their curriculum. Everyone is doing interesting work, and I love being surrounded by that energy and excitement.” McKinnon is busy teaching WRA 140 Women in America and WRA 150 Evolution of American Thought and enjoys helping students “find their voice and feel more confident in their writing.” In her spare time, she is compiling her selected prose poems and lyric essays into a collection exploring suburban ennui.

Photo by Lauren Tuski

Dr. James Davis

Dr. James Davis joins the WRAC faculty as an assistant professor who thinks, “It’s nice to now be able to teach rhetoric in the fullest sense since I’ve always been housed in [other] departments.” Davis received a bachelors in English and education from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, a MA in American literature from the University of South Carolina, and a PHD from Georgia State University in American literature, and composition and rhetoric. He says that one of the most rewarding things about finally being able to teach at the college level is teaching students in his WRA 110 Science and Technology class to think more effectively, efficiently, and innovatively, saying, “I like seeing the lights on and not dimmed.” When not teaching, Davis is trying to decide where his dissertation on teaching students ongoing invention strategies needs to go as a publication. This fall he has also already submitted two literature articles for publication and is in the process of writing a popular culture article on the movie Transformers and an article about how rubrics impact student assessment.

Johnson Cheu Published in Collection on Why We Cry

Johnson Cheu was recently published in On the Verge of Tears: Why Movies, Television, Music, Art, Popular Culture, Literature, and the Real World Make Us Cry. The collection of essays is a deeply personal investigation of what makes us weep. It does not theorize what crying is, but it identifies weeping as a universally understandable, human language. Cheu’s chapter is entitled “Let’s Go Swimming: (Not) Crying at the Movies.”

“As someone who works in cultural studies, media studies, and disability studies, I was intrigued with the idea of crying, since the idea of pity is such a big stereotype when it comes to disability,” says Cheu. “Let’s Go Swimming: (Not) Crying at the Movies” also explores filmic depictions of disability that Cheu says often include “the idea that one ‘overcomes’ being disabled.” He dislikes that idea. Johnson says, “It’s not like we leave it behind; it’s just something people learn to work with, which, of course, incites another kind of crying in folks and film story lines that’s tied to inspiration.”

Read more about On the Verge of Tears or buy the book on Amazon.com.

Nancy Bunge Publishes Book Detailing Life of a 19th-century Woman

WRAC professor Nancy Bunge’s new book, Woman In the Wilderness: Letters of Harriet Wood Wheeler, Missionary Wife 1832-1892, was recently released by the MSU Press. The book includes letters written to and from Harriet Wood Wheeler, a missionary wife to the Ojibwe Indians, along with documents that help illuminate the letters. Wheeler spent 25 years in Northern Wisconsin and the Bad River Reservation from 1841-1866. Wheeler and her husband, Leonard, were Bunge’s great-great-grandparents, but she was unaware of their achievements until the mid-90s. “I imagine the terminally boring stories my grandmother used to tell during and after Sunday dinners at her house included information about them, but I never listened,” Bunge writes. In the 1990s, desperate for something to read at a hotel in Marquette while traveling, Bunge came across a book titled The Chippewa of Lake Superior. In it, she found the name of her great-great-grandfather, Leonard Wheeler, and learned that he founded a town called Odanah with a few fellow Ojibwe. When she continued traveling the next morning, she found a highway marker praising him for standing with the Ojibwe against removal. Years later, Bunge found over 200 letters written by or for Harriet Wheeler in the basement of a museum in La Pointe, Wisconsin, a village on Madeline Island, one of the Apostle Islands. “From teaching WRA 140 Writing: Women in America, I knew that almost no documents survive from women in general and pioneer women in particular from before the 20th century,” says Bunge.  She knew she had found a very special slice of history. Since then she’s spent many hours editing and extracting the richest moments from the letters. In order to get a sense of the most significant content in the letters, Bunge spent her last sabbatical as a Visiting Scholar at Harvard Divinity School, auditing courses such as The History of American Women and Religion to 1890. Woman In the Wilderness: Letters of Harriet Wood Wheeler, Missionary Wife 1832-1892 offers rare exposure to the life of a 19th-century woman and is the culmination of a project both personally and academically relevant to Bunge. Read more about it or purchase the book on  MSU Press or Amazon.

Update 11/10/10

The book was listed in The Chronicle Review and highly recommended by the Midwest Book Review.