Some More Words of Wisdom from Bethany Riggs

Hi, everyone,

Greetings fromEngland! As said in a previous post, I am finishing my student teaching abroad. It has been a really great experience!

There were a few more helpful tips I wanted to give future student teachers of English before they begin the intern semester. Reading and following this list will make your experience run much more smoothly.

1.  Take your PRAXIS tests as soon as you possibly can. This is barely even mentioned at all until your orientation meeting, but you probably have to take around three tests, you cannot take more than two in one day, and they are only offered at certain times throughout the year. It takes four weeks to get scores back, and it costs nearly one hundred dollars per test. You must have passing scores to be certified.

The good news is, WKU has a pretty high pass rate. The bad news is, there are several schools in the state that will not allow people to apply without passing scores. I would recommend buying a study book and taking it as early as possible. This ensures passing scores before it is time to apply, and it is one less thing to worry about while enduring student teaching. Check out the website: and for score info by state.

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Meet the EMW Writing Contest Winners

Remember our Twitter short contest that ended last month? You can read all of the submissions, including our three winners, on this page.

Timothy Phelps, in first place, shares that

I keep a file on my computer called “What If.”  Whenever an idea comes to me, whether it be a fully-formed concept or just a single interesting line I overheard, I put it in my “What If” file.  It’s where I go if I need some inspiration to get my creativity working.  I learned about the EMW contest and looked through my file for something I could turn into a miniature story.

 I got the idea for my Twitter story from a real event.  My mom had taught me how to cross-stitch, but I hadn’t done it since I was seven or eight.  Last Christmas, my eleven-year-old daughter was trying to find something to give her friend.  We found a little cross-stitch set in the craft store, and when I started to help her with it, I discovered it was kind of fun.  I jokingly told my wife how I was going to take up the craft, and she told me in return how completely unsexy that would be.

So, while I didn’t return to the needle and thread, I did get a good idea for a character.  I imagined a man who wanted to cross-stitch so badly that he was willing to hide it from his disapproving wife.  And what better place to keep your secrets than in the closet?  It was an easy choice from the “What If” file for the contest.

My time as an English Major at WKU has been incredible.  I enjoy every aspect of English, writing and reading, so I feel blessed to have the supportive family and opportunity to pursue my goals.  I look forward to completing my degree in a couple semesters, but I also know how much I’ll miss coming to school and being in that environment every day.  Maybe I’ll cross-stitch a giant picture of Cherry Hall for my home to remind me of it.

Abbey Piersma, in second place, tells us that

My piece is a summary of my study abroad in Switzerland last summer.  By being limited to 140 characters that was what I was able to come up with to summarize my time over there.  I was fortunate enough to be able to study abroad with Dr. Davies last summer and study Swiss Literature.  It’s something that I will never forget.

I am currently a senior Creative Writing major and will graduate in December 2012, a semester ahead of schedule.  I have had the pleasure of being co-president of English Club this 2011-2012 school year.  I also served as an editor of Zephyrus for 2 years.  Working in the English Department has allowed me to become very involved with the department and build relationships with professors outside of the classroom.  Though I’m ready to graduate, I will hate to say goodbye when the time comes.

The End

Hello, Darling Readers,

It’s that time of the semester again—finals week. I hope that all is going well for you. Students, I hope that your papers are all done on time with minimal stress and that your exams are not nearly as hard as you thought. Teachers, I hope that your students’ papers are well written, easy to read, wonderful things and that your grading goes well for you.

Good luck to you all!

This internship has been one of the best experiences of my life, all twenty and a half years of it. I’ve been able to connect with so many wonderful people and discover new ways to flex my writing muscles. My current career goal that I’m contemplating is becoming a professional blogger. Yes, there is such a thing.

I strongly suggest that you take an internship at some point during your college career, no matter what your discipline or dream career is.

There was so much that I wanted to do… Much of it was accomplished, but much of it remained fantasies of my brain. I’m sorry for what I didn’t get done, and for anything I may have failed to do for you.

I would like to take this opportunity to extend thanks to

My supervisor: Mr. Terry Elliott

The people who helped create this internship: Doctors Angela Jones and Jeffery Rice

Our weekly English Club guest blogger: Michael Miller, secretary of the English Club

The people who provided us with new insight by giving us guest posts: Dr. Elizabeth Winkler, Bethany Riggs, Dr. Jeffrey Rice, Dr. Wes Berry, Dr. David Lenoir, Amy Lindsey, Dr. Molly McCaffrey

Those who participated in our first ever writing contest; the entries were stunning

Our Facebook and Twitter followers

Mr. Eric Wolfe for being so helpful in building some of the technological aspects of the blog

The faculty, staff, and students of the English Department, along with my family, friends, and boyfriend for supporting me through this

My readers; you’re awe inspiring, never forget that


Seanna Lyn Wilhelm

Spring 2012 EMW Intern

P.S. I’m still blogging…find me at I Breathe Words and Lyn’s Notebook.

P.S.S. I made an ePub of what I’ve done this semester; it’s a “Best of Seanna” thing that I created with Anthologize. If I figure out how to attach it in WordPress, I’ll share it with you.

Meet Dr. Jerod Ra’Del Hollyfield

Growing up in the Southwestern Virginia coal town of Appalachia, I spent a lot of time running around the Tennessee,Virginia, and Kentucky state lines. When I finished graduate school, I hoped I would be able to return to the region and teach at a university with a strong English department that prepares it majors for the eclectic careers one can have with an English degree. I left WKU after my visit in February feeling like I’d returned home, and now I am waiting for the day in August when I can officially call it that.

I earned my Ph.D. from Louisiana State University in 2011. Before that, I did my Master’s work at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville where I also went to school for a B.S. in Journalism and Electronic Media two years prior. I began teaching at UT in 2005 and have been an instructor at LSU since 2007 where I teach courses in literature and ethnicity, digital media, British literature, and composition.

At WKU, I will be teaching film and postcolonial literature, including Film Adaptation next fall. Since a lot of postcolonial filmmakers make adaptations to rewrite classic literature from a fresh or previously silenced perspective (Peter Pan’s Neverland means a lot more than flying to an Australian filmmaker), these subjects can overlap. I would love to teach some Australian and Indian films, partly because they are so closely related to Hollywood, but mostly because they do some really awesome things. However, I’m as excited to discuss Hollywood blockbusters and American indies with students. A shortlist of my favorite movies would include: Rebel without a Cause, Band of Outsiders, Cockfighter, Written on the Wind, Ali: Fear Eats the Soul, Sherman’s March, Kiss Me Deadly, Marie Antoinette, Picnic at Hanging Rock, Robocop, A Face in the Crowd, The Searchers, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence, Pineapple Express, and Do the Right Thing. Some of my favorite authors are Charles Dickens, Charlotte Brontë, Salman Rushdie, Philip Roth, Peter Carey, and Zadie Smith.

One of the things I miss most about what those of us down here call the “Up-South” are the caves and mountains. When I’m not in the classroom or at the movies, I’ll probably be exploring these. This way you know that if I’m unexpectedly absent from class, you need to tell someone so I don’t end up like James Franco in 127 Hours. I also like fishing and keeping up with soccer. Recently, I’ve begun interviewing old-guard moonshiners, which I hope I can use a bit more in my classes and research beyond the presentations I gave this year on Burt Reynolds bootlegging movies. If you’d like to talk before the fall, just let me know. I would love to hear your thoughts on English, film, your futures, WKU, and everything in between.

Celebrating the Work of Robert Penn Warren—a Kentucky-born Literary Giant

Dr. Wes Berry, Coordinator of the Robert Penn Warren Center at WKU, gives us details about the Robert Penn Warren room.

Wes Berry teaches American literature, specializing in Southern studies, Kentucky literature, and environmental humanities. In spring 2012 he finished researching and writing a comprehensive book about Kentucky barbecue while eating at over 140 barbecue places in the Commonwealth and interviewing the pitmasters and patrons met during his travels. The book, “Sweet Dreams of Kentucky Barbecue,” will be published in spring 2013 by the University Press of Kentucky. This year he’ll settle into a new role as Graduate Advisor in English at WKU.

On April 19-21, 2012, the Robert Penn Warren Circle—a group of scholars devoted to studying the literary legacy of this famous writer born and raised in Todd Co., Kentucky—once again made the pilgrimage to cave country for a weekend of celebration and book discussions. They came fromTexas, Massachusetts, Washington,D.C., and elsewhere as they’ve done every April since 1991 when the first Robert Penn Warren Circle meeting was held at Western Kentucky University.

It’s a good time for a symposium in south centralKentucky. T. S. Eliot called April “the cruelest month” in his famous modernist poem “The Waste Land.” Perhaps Eliot would have changed his tune if he’d been dwelling in the land of redbud and dogwood, when baby bluebirds and robins are hatching and the colors burst from the hillsides, everything waking up after the long nap. Of course Eliot, scribbling his melodic verse, could have even made Derby Day—full of loud hats, roses, and mint juleps–sound depressing.

The theme for this year’s symposium was “Robert Penn Warren and Politics, History, and the Politics of History.” Much of Warren’s prodigious literary output dwells on historical events, and his most famous work, All the King’s Men (1946), still ranks as a 20th century masterpiece and one of our best political novels.

Scholars at the symposium discussed Warren’s book-length poem Brother to Dragons (structured as a dialogue between the poet and Thomas Jefferson); Warren’s literary portrayals of Abraham Lincoln; the long poem Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce (a critical treatment of the U. S. government’s violent campaign against the Nez Perce Indians); and the novels The Cave (grotesque psychological fiction centered around a man who gets trapped in a cave in a small Tennessee hillbilly town) and A Place to Come To (Warren’s last novel, dealing with a man from Alabama who leaves his homeland for an academic life in the Midwest, who tries to escape his past but can never quite shake it).

And speaking of shaking it, this last novel begins with the narrator, Jed Tewksbury, telling the story of his father who died while taking a leak off a wagon pulled by a team of mules. Drunken, the father pitched forth from the wagon and the mules pulled the wagon right over his neck. When Jed’s father is later found stiffened by rigor mortis, he’s still holding on to his, ahem, dong (Jed’s words). That’s quite a past to shake off, as you can see.
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Sigma Tau Delta Report

I really appreciate the funding from the PCAL dean’s office, the English department, and the Honors College that enabled our students to attend the International English Honor Society Convention in New Orleans last month.  Our group of five–Shawna Felkins, Madelyn Gates, Audrey Gearhart, Amanda Mitchell, and Rosemarie O’Connor–successfully presented papers in three different genres:  original drama, literary criticism, and original fiction.  Additionally, some of the students also gained experience from chairing sessions.  For the majority, this was their first acquaintance with a scholarly meeting…and surely not the last.

The convention itself was huge, with around a thousand participants from approximately 200 colleges and universities worldwide.  The featured speakers this year were poet Naomi Shihab Nye, fiction writer Anthony Doerr, and Pulitzer-Prize-winner Natasha Trethewey,  whom we particularly enjoyed, for her book entitled Bellocq’s Ophelia  was this year’s Common Reader.   Also making a presentation was songwriter Tom Kimmel, who has written compositions that have been recorded by Linda Ronstadt, Johnny Cash, Joe Cocker, Randy Travis, and a host of others.

Outside the convention, we had the obligatory late-night coffee and beignets at the famed Cafe du Monde, squeezed in a self-guided tour of the French Quarter early one morning, took pictures of the place in Pirates’ Alley where Faulkner lived in 1925, rode the St. Charles streetcar to the Garden District, and even walked about that area until we located Anne Rice’s former house.

The tourist areas–meaning Jackson Square, the French Quarter, and much of Canal Street–were splendid.  But on our way back to Bowling Green, we drove by the Ninth Ward in order to comprehend the otherNew Orleans, the area devastated by Hurricane Katrina.  The devastation is still very much in evidence with houses boarded up, buildings abandoned, and neighborhoods vacant.  It was not a pretty picture, but we all felt that it was important to observe as a corrective and alternative to the Marriott world.  Both worlds exist side by side inNew Orleans, don’t they?


Walker Rutledge

Final Batch of Alumni Updates and Advice

Bobby Deignan

It was never about accumulating data, memorizing formulas, or learning the routine of a mere vocation. We got into English for the roving insight not particular to one discipline or a single calling. We are students of aesthetics, history, rhetoric, and philosophy. We read the likes of Joyce, Faulkner, and Yeats because only writers of that caliber can penetrate to the marrow of our minds. Had we but world and time enough to take in every typeset page, and what would be the worth of study if it didn’t, as Emerson said of the American scholar, lead to action?

 I found possibility in a graduate-level study of Literature, which took me to the southeastern coast where the interstate narrows to a highway, the highway a road, and the road a gravel lot at the battery for loading and unloading fishing boats–in short, the furthest I could go. Realizing this was symbolic of my formal education, I finished my degree and lit out for a job market that had no niche for a poetry ponderer. Until then, I saw the worth of my study reflected in a graduate school acceptance letter, a successful first day of teaching college writing, and an exciting thesis defense; however, my break with academics and foray into a job market revealed one of the greatest benefits of my education–versatility. We have all the fruits of a decisive major–analysis, introspection, structured argument–with none of the impediments, as when a former zoology student struggles to explain the relevance of their work to a hiring manager of a law firm.

My perspective is this: you are poised for study and for life, and whether you choose inveterate scholarship or spontaneous defection (I use the word humorously as an apostate myself), you can and will flourish. After all, at one time Melville was a customs inspector and Eliot worked in the basement of a bank.

Josh Riddle

I’ve been pretty busy since graduation, but not entirely in the English vein. My degree was a B.A. in English/Secondary Education with a minor in creative writing.  After graduation I continued to work as an instructor at the Sylvan Learning center in Bowling Green, where I have since taken the Director of Education position.  I love teaching on a small scale where I can have a huge impact on individual students, but my true passion is in my music.

I have been playing with a band called The Lost River Cavemen since 2006  <>.  In the last year and a half we have toured from the Gulf of Mexico to New York City and played in almost every state east of the Mississippi. We are currently working on our third studio album, and we are touring to California in April.  I mainly play drums in the band, but I also get to use my ninja-like English skills in the business side of things: emails, promotion, design, sales.

We pride ourselves on being a true D.I.Y. band; we don’t rely on a manager, booking agent, promoter, or any of the other staples of the music industry. We’ve been lucky enough to play with some pretty big names like Ghostland Observatory, Keller Williams, and Fleet Foxes, and we’re working on setting up some shows with The Farewell Drifters. And, of course, our good friends in Cage the Elephant have been very supportive of us and the wholeBowling Green music scene. I don’t really think we will ever become famous, but I do think we will be able to play music on a scale that allows us to live comfortably while we do what we love.

Molly Koeneman

I graduated from WKU in May 2011 with degrees in English Literature and International Business, and I moved toChicagoin October.  Currently, I earn salary as the E-Marketing Specialist at Media Tec Publishing while repping iWish events at night and teaching creative writing camps in the suburbs.

 The story on how I got here started with an uncomfortable conversation with my daddy my sophomore year. It began with, “What can you do with an English degree?” I don’t like saying, “I don’t know.” I would rather lie. So even though I really didn’t know, I rattled off various occupations I could be interested in—paralegal, personal assistant, marketer, journalist. The conversation ended with me exclaiming that I was also going to get a business degree.

To complete a business degree, one must have an internship. The semester before my senior year, I was freaking out, and I was applying to every internship the business school and the English department sent my way. One such application came from a small stationery store in a wealthyChicagosuburb. Theresa Patton, owner of TT Patton, gave the application to her husband’s best friend who works for theUniversityofKentucky, and the application made the short, viral journey to my WKU inbox by some means or another.

In Barrington, I designed and started up a summer creative writing program for middle schoolers. Theresa and I became very close, and I visited her and her husband several time over the next year. She and her stationery store even hosted a book signing when my short story, “The Age of Maturity,” was published in Dr. Bell’s and Dr. McCaffrey’s 2010 Commutability. After graduation, with no other job prospects, Theresa invited me back to run the summer writing camps. This second summer in the area I was determined to meet more people, so I took a sketching class at a local community college.

In class I met Tad Waddington, author of Last Contribution. He and I struck up a friendship. So when former colleges of his, Jerry Prochazka and Stacy Boyle, needed a research temp, Tad gave them my information. The 20-hour-a-week job at Media Tec Publishing was just what I needed to forget my reservations about moving toChicago permanently. I picked up shifts at Theresa’s store and started working for the event company iWish to supplement my income. Money was very tight for a few months, but when the position of E-Marketing Specialist opened up at Media Tec Publishing, I was right there, eager for the opportunity.

 My story is unconventional and contains a bit more struggle than I’ve set to this page, and it would certainly be a great feat to recreate. From my six months of post-graduation, I have this advice:

    1. Do your best work at every job, even the unglamorous ones like my research job pushing around information in Excel, because you never know who is watching.
    2. Be versatile with your skills and experiences.And always argue when someone condescendingly asks you what can be done with an English degree.

The Coalition Zine

You may have found copies of these spread out on the benches of Cherry Hall. The Coalition Zine is “the official newsletter for the Coalition of Gender and Racial Equality Now and After Graduation.” Last week’s issue, their third, is the first that I’ve really been able to see and read. The writers and creators are doing a wonderful job.

There is a creative piece on the back page of The Coalition Zine; Brittany Cheak’s “What You Can’t Say to Another Woman” was on the back of this issue. To submit a creative piece, email

Meet Dr. Elizabeth Alsop

I’m arriving at Western after a ten-year stint in New York, which I’ve spent working in book and magazine publishing, and more recently, completing my Ph.D. in Comparative Literature at the CUNY Graduate Center. Before that, I lived in Providence, RI, where I received a B.A. from Brown University, and before that, in Washington, DC, where I grew up about ten blocks from the Capitol.

I could not be more excited to be joining the English department at WKU, and in particular, to begin teaching. I had the chance to sit in on two courses during my visit to campus in February, and I left feeling so energized by what I saw and heard in Dr. Langdon’s and Dr. Hovet’s classrooms. As a teacher, one of my primary goals is to engage my students in active and ongoing dialogue – with me, with each other, and with the texts, artifacts, and authors that we encounter. Because my dissertation research explores the function of dialogue in modernist fiction, I am particularly interested in the diverse ways conversation unfolds, both in the classroom and beyond it – in online spaces and blogs, just like this one.

Within the department, I’ll be teaching courses in Film, World Literature, and British Literature – including English 457 next Fall. I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to teach in both the English and Film major. During my visit to Dr. Hovet’s Film 201 class, students asked me to name my favorite movie. This is still an impossible question, but now at least I can provide a longer answer! Here are a few, in no particular order: Paisà, Pather Panchali, Jeanne Dielman, A Woman under the Influence, Mulholland Drive, The Lady Eve, Spirited Away, Kiss Me Deadly, Scenes from a Marriage, and Amarcord.

If I’m not reading, writing, or watching something, I’m often cooking. I smiled when I saw Dr. Rice’s comment below – because I’m something of a “foodie,” too. After college, I worked as an assistant to a food critic, a job whose highlights included a trip to Italy to research mozzarella, and a story on fried chicken, which required me to fry – and taste – at least three batches a day for two weeks. (You can read about that grueling experience here.) I’m hopeful that in Bowling Green, I may finally have the chance to develop my currently nonexistent skills as a hiker, camper, and gardener. I also look forward to more outdoor cooking, and to living in an apartment larger than a very ample closet.

ENG 457: British Literature since 1900
Fall 2012
MWF 1:50-2:45
Prof. Elizabeth Alsop

This course will survey British literature from 1900 to the present day. We’ll cover the major literary movements, from modernism to postmodernism, with particular attention to the shifting notions of personal and national identity that emerge within our chosen texts. We will read work by some of the century’s major writers, including fiction by Joseph Conrad, E.M. Forster, Virginia Woolf, James Joyce, Jean Rhys, and Zadie Smith; poetry by W.B. Yeats, T.S. Eliot, and Philip Larkin; and plays by Samuel Beckett and Brian Friel. Our goal throughout the semester will be to combine close textual analysis with equally close study of cultural and historical contexts. To this end, we will consider additional critical readings by Freud, Lukács, and Said, among others, and screen selected films. Students will be asked to contribute regularly to discussions in class and on our course blog; to write several essays, including an essay-based final exam; and to make at least one oral presentation.

Required Texts (additional readings will be posted online or distributed in class):

•  Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness (1902)
 E.M. Forster, Howards End (1910)
• Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway (1925)
• Samuel Beckett, Endgame (1957)
• Jean Rhys, Wide Sargasso Sea (1966)
• Zadie Smith, White Teeth (2000)