English Alumna Mary Boothe Named PCAL Inductee Into Society of Distinguished Graduates

Mary Boothe, 2014 English alumna and newest PCAL inductee into the Society of Distinguished Graduates

Mary Boothe, 2014 English alumna and newest PCAL inductee into the Society of Distinguished Graduates

Mary Boothe has had an impressive undergraduate career here at WKU. Her commitment to sustainability, her research, her service, and her international experience combined to make her a deserving recipient of her most recent honor—becoming a PCAL inductee into the Society of Distinguished Graduates.

Mary is heading to law school at William and Mary in Williamsburg, VA in a few months, where she plans to concentrate on copyright and intellectual property right, so I took the opportunity to interview her before she hits the road to start the next chapter in her life.

But first, see what Drs. Hale and Jones had to say about Mary’s achievements: Continue reading

Alumni Alert: Fill Out a Questionnaire for a Chance at $25 Gift Card (Hint: Odds Way Better than Lottery!)

May 19, 2014

Dear WKU English department alumni,

My name is Rob Hale, and I am the new Head of English at WKU.  I arrived in Bowling Green last July, and I finally have a chance to catch my breath and introduce myself to you. You may have received a hard copy of this letter in the US Mail, but I wanted to follow up with an email just in case we have your home address wrong. I also thought it might be easier for you to complete our alumni survey if we provided a direct link in this post.

Dr. Robert Hale, English Department Head

Dr. Robert Hale, English Department Head

Continue reading

Congratulations to the Three Students Who Received Outstanding English Awards from PCAL

Congratulations to Anthony Gross, Jr., Bliss Powers, and Cameron Calvert-Carr, who are joined by English Department Head, Dr. Rob Hale and Dean David Lee of PCAL

From left to right: Dr. Rob Hale, Anthony Gross Jr., Bliss Powers, Cameron Calvert-Carr, and Dean David Lee

Dean David Lee of Potter College of Arts and Letters and Dr. Rob Hale, English Department Head, congratulated our three Outstanding English Majors at the PCAL Awards Ceremony recently. Be sure to congratulate them , too, when you see them!

Outstanding English Major: Anthony Gross Jr.

Outstanding Graduate Student in English: Bliss Powers

Outstanding EST Student: Cameron Calvert-Carr

Successful Interns: Kaycee Hill

Each semester more and more interns pass through the halls of Cherry Hall. Being an intern is a great opportunity not only to the student, but also to get in some networking for your resume. Remember that internships are always available each semester so even if you didn’t make the April 9th deadline for this upcoming Fall 2014 semester, there’s always next time!

This semester one of our interns is Kaycee Hill. Kaycee is a Senior here at WKU, and her major is English Literature. She is currently a ENG 299 Undergraduate Teaching Assistant for Dr. Hollyfield.

What kind of responsibilities do you have?

Provide feedback on course structure and syllabus, recruit guest speakers, mentor students outside of class in office hours, organize student presentation schedules, assisting in grading, teaching class occasionally.

Why did you choose to be an English 299: Teaching Assistant Intern?

I hope to attend graduate school, where I will work as a graduate teaching assistant. This internship allows me to gain experience that is directly related to my success at the next level.

What did you expect going into this internship, and has it met or surpassed those expectations?

I talked a lot with the previous English 299 T.A., so I knew what to expect. Trying to balance the wide range of responsibilities was a little overwhelming at first, but now that I’ve settled in, I like the dynamic nature of the class. The students make my job fun, which helps keep me motivated.

 Do you think it will be a beneficial experience?

This internship has been valuable for me so far because I have a more realistic view of what goes into teaching. I have developed skills that other students only practice after graduation, when there is more pressure to succeed. I’m lucky to have this opportunity.

Have you encountered any situations that you didn’t know how to handle?

I wouldn’t say that I have a perfect record in “situation” handling, but I have never been totally in the dark about what steps to take or where to go for guidance.

What advice would you give to current or future interns?

Talk and listen. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Use your support systems when the internship gets stressful. Establish good working relationships with your professor, your students, and the last person who held your position. All of these people have something to teach you, and part of your job as an intern is to pay attention to the experience.

Meet the Folks in the English Office as they Bid Farewell to Meg McDonald

Fall 2013 English Office Faculty and Staff

Fall 2013 English Office Faculty and Staff

Department Head:

Dr. Rob Hale, Department Head

Dr. Rob Hale, Department Head

Dr. Rob “Rock” (as in Rocky Top) Hale is our Department Head, and has worked for WKU for 5 ½ months. He plans to “relax, work on the house, enjoy my wife and kids, visit my brothers and their families” over winter break.

Fun fact about Dr. Hale: “I’ve shaken hands with Prince Charles, ridden in an elevator with Clint Eastwood, and sat on Lily Tomlin’s lap.”

Composition Director:

Dr. Chris Ervin, Composition Director

Dr. Chris Ervin, Composition Director

Dr. Chris “Loba” Ervin is our Composition Director and has worked for WKU for “4 years, 5 months, and 13 days” (not that he’s counting or anything). His nickname, other than “Loba,” is “Pete Grass,” but you’ll have to have him fill you in on what both of them mean. He plans to “turn a 5.25-pounder into a 7 pounder” over winter break.

Dr. Ervin’s fun fact: “I’m going to win the $400,000,000 Megamillions lottery tonight. My psychic confirmed this just twenty minutes ago. Rob, consider this my retirement notice!”

*Note: I got this quote from Dr. Ervin on Friday, and since no one won, it’s now up to $550,000,000. I assume he has a ticket and we’re rooting for him to win tonight!

 Office Associates:

Kimberly Nessler, Office Associate

Kimberly Nessler, Office Associate

Kimberly “Kimber” Nessler has worked in the English department as an Office Associate “since one week into the start of the fall 2002 semester,” which makes her our longest office resident. Along with the nickname “Kimber” (but NEVER “Kim”), she also answers to “Shivers” because, as Kimberly says, it’s “a play on pirate speak, ‘Shiver me Kimbers!’” As for winter break, Kimberly says, “No trips to Wisconsin planned – too cold!!!”

Fun fact about Kimberly: “When the weather is pleasant, you will find me floating down a river in my kayak.”


Tomitha Blair, Office Associate

Tomitha Blair, Office Associate

Tomitha “Tomi” Blair has been an Office Associate for the English department for 8 ½ years. For winter break, Tomitha plans to “skip the country with Chris Ervin’s mega million lottery winnings.”

Tomitha’s fun fact: “When I was 4 years old, our dog had puppies. I proceeded to take the puppies and place them in the coat closet. I grabbed a flashlight, some snacks, and a blanket then proceeded to join them. I fell asleep. No one could find me, the entire neighborhood was looking for me. I remember hearing my mom yell my name, so I walked out onto the front porch, rubbing my sleepy eyes asking, “What?” I’ve blocked out what happened next!”

 Student Office Workers:

Anthony Gross, Student Office Worker

Anthony Gross, Jr., Student Office Worker

Anthony “T.J.” Gross Jr. has been a Student Office Worker in the English department for 1 year. He’s an English Literature major with double minors in Nonprofit Administration and Teaching English as a Second Language. He’ll be graduating in May of 2014. For winter break, Anthony plans to “go home to Louisville and return to the English office for Winter Term.”

Fun fact about Anthony: “While traveling in London, I nearly broke my toe on a light post and had to sit in King’s Cross Station in 40-degree weather for 8 hours while my friends toured the city. The silver lining? Harry Potter probably did something similar at some point (unfortunately Hermione wasn’t there to fix my toe).”


Meg McDonald, Student Office Worker

Meg McDonald, Student Office Worker

Meg “Princess” McDonald has been a Student Office Worker in the English department for 1 year. She’s an Elementary Education major who’ll be graduating in May of 2014. Over winter break, Meg is “moving back home to Louisville for a short break before student teaching starts!”

Fun Fact about Meg: “Before this job, I worked as a cow mascot at Chick-fil-A only I was too short for the real cow, so they ordered me a Little Girl Cow costume. She had a dress and bow. True Story.”

Ann Reagan, Student Office Worker

Ann Reagan, Student Office Worker

I’m Ann “Arizona” Reagan, and I’ve worked one semester in the English department as a Student Office Worker. I’m an English major with a concentration in Professional Writing and a minor in Computer Information Systems. I’ll graduate in December of 2014. I plan to take some really great naps over winter break! I’ll be back in the office doing web stuff for winter term – if my recent call to report for jury duty on January 7th doesn’t get in the way!

Fun fact about me: My first job was as a performer at Guntown Mountain. One of my gunfighter characters was an outlaw named “Arizona” and the name kind of stuck. I liked being an outlaw, except the good guys always won, which meant I was shot (and usually killed) multiple times a day.

 Meg’s Last Day in the Office:

Meg got balloons and lunch from Mercadito Hispano on her last day in the office.

Meg got balloons and lunch from Mercadito Hispano on her last day in the office.

Friday was Meg’s last day working with us, and we all sure will miss her. She’s got tons of adventures in store, though, so we’re very happy for her.

 Here’s what she’ll be doing between now and graduation:

 “I’m going back to Louisville for 12 weeks to do my student teaching at Farmer Elementary in 5th grade and Kindergarten. Then, I’ll be spending a month in Quito, Ecuador for my student teaching abroad!”

 Here’s what she had to say about working in the English office:

 “I have LOVED my time working here. I’m truly grateful for all the laughs I’ve had in this office over the last year. I will definitely miss my coworkers!”

 We’ll miss you, too, Meg. You’re the coolest non-English person we know. All of us in the English office wish you the best in your future endeavors and hope you’ll stay in touch. And most of all, have fun!

Interview With Dr. Jerod Hollyfield on the Making of His Film “Goodfriends”

gf_posterDr. Jerod Hollyfield has been very busy promoting his film “Goodfriends” on the film festival circuit, and was recently interviewed at the Knoxville Film Festival by The Daily Times and Knoxville.com. You can also visit Dr. Hollyfield’s blog, The Noisy Philistine and be sure to like the “Goodfriends” facebook page to stay up-to-date on the film’s happenings. “Goodfriends” will screen on Tennessee Filmmakers on Tennessee PBS in late 2014.

Before we get to the interview, hear what Drs. Hale and Hovet, as well as Dr. Hollyfield’s screenwriting partner, Jonathan Sykes had to say:

 Dr. Hale on Dr. Hollyfield’s work ethic:

 “In a department with so many faculty members who are active teachers and scholars, Dr. Hollyfield is one of the busiest colleagues I know.  I’ve seen first-hand the care he puts into his classes, and the care he has put into Goodfriends doesn’t surprise me at all.  I look forward to the Bowling Green premier!”

- Dr. Rob Hale, Department Head of English

 Dr. Hovet on “Goodfriends”:

“’Goodfriends’ is a powerful narrative short that treats its subject with sensitivity and respect.  I especially admire the way that Dr. Hollyfield collaborated with the entire team behind the film to create a distinct vision.  It is a great model for our students.”

- Dr. Ted Hovet, Professor of English and Film

Jonathan Sykes on the extensive collaboration to bring “Goodfriends” to fruition:

 “Writing is always something we do at our own pace, which allows us to settle into a natural way of working. We write until it feels forced, then watch movies or read screenplays for input. When it actually came time to start filming ‘Goodfriends,’ it wasn’t just our time anymore, and we had quite a lot less of it to play around with.”

 – Jonathan Sykes, Producer and Screenwriter

Dr. Hollyfield graciously set aside some time during this hectic part of the semester to answer some questions for the blog. Read our Q & A below:

Ann Reagan: What were some challenges you faced in writing/filming/casting “Goodfriends”?

Dr. Hollyfield and his lead actor, Trey Anderson

Dr. Hollyfield and his lead actor, Trey Anderson on the set of “Goodfriends”

Jerod Hollyfield: Apart from the logistical issues caused by a crew spanning seven states, the biggest challenge was finding actors that had the same disabilities as the characters in the film.  We knew that if we were going to tell this story, we needed to put authenticity at the forefront of the production.  Casting Trey as Billy was an easy choice because he’s a friend of mine from high school, but even then, I had to worry about reconciling our friendship with my role as director.  Directing can be hard because you have to push performers to a place you need them to go while, at the same time, making sure the actors discover that place themselves. I’m a fan of multiple takes, especially when dealing with non-professional actors.  They allow the intentional performance to break down until nothing is left but character and emotion.  This isn’t a time you can just pat your friend on the back and say good job.

Kara Jackson acted in "Goodfriends" as Del

Kara Jackson acted for the first time in “Goodfriends” as Del

Another very difficult aspect was transitioning Del from the page to the screen. We were so pleased with ourselves when we wrote the character as having Williams Syndrome. Then we realized we needed to find someone who wanted to act that also had a disorder found in only 1 of every 15,000 people. We came up empty locally after weeks of searching, so we contacted some disability nonprofits like the Williams Syndrome Association and the Williams Syndrome Family of Hope. Suddenly, we had people calling from all over the nation.  As soon as I began Kara’s audition, I knew she was our Del. Unfortunately, this also led to what I think is always the hardest issue emotionally that a filmmaker faces during any shoot: telling people that we didn’t choose them for a role, especially when they’ve put themselves out there and been vulnerable. “Goodfriends” was no different.

Postproduction was also hard because I had to break the film apart and delegate: our editor was cutting in Indiana while our VFX artist in Florida was adding a Goodfriends sign to the store exteriors we shot.  We had to wait to deliver this locked cut to the sound artists in Baton Rouge so that they could do the sound mix and add things like the background store noise and music. Then we had to color correct the film in Illinois and do a last pass at the titles. We had a 15-minute working cut ready by December 2012, but Jon and I fine tuned until the end of June.  At that point, it finally felt that we had the film we set out to make…all 10 minutes of it.

AR: I love that the film stars people with disabilities but, as you told The Daily Times, it’s not a “disability movie.” Was it more difficult to write these characters without defining them by their disabilities than a “regular Joe?”


Dr. Hollyfield says the supporting cast “give this film a tension between insider/outsider perspectives on disability.”

JH: The hard part was writing the supporting characters in a way that demonstrated their ambivalence about dealing with Billy. There had to be a balance. If the characters are too mean, they come off as these overwrought caricatures. Jon and I refer to these characters–thanks to comedian Bill Burr–as the “get out of the pool” guy; the one character in most of these “social problem” movies whose only purpose is to stand in the way of the lead character’s dreams.  At the same time, a character who is too nice just kills the conflict of the film or comes across as some sort of savior.  Our goal with the supporting characters was to hone in on the problems of niceness, how at times, it’s really just a surface way to deal with a person who does not fit into our perfect narratives.  Disability studies scholars make the claim that when an “able” person sees someone with a disability, it creates an anxiety that leads one to being overly nice or offering often unwanted assistance as a way to reach social equilibrium. That’s the track we took.  None of our characters are bad people, they are just people who interact with Billy on a day-to-day basis.  We wrote Billy and Del around these characters because, if we tried to write the disabled, we’d be doing the same things of which our characters are guilty.  Jon and I could never know what it’s like to have these disorders and that’s where the actors we chose come in. They give this film a tension between insider/outsider perspectives on disability. They fill out and transform the characters in ways we could never have.

AR: How can people see “Goodfriends” locally? Are there plans to have a viewing on campus or somewhere in Bowling Green?

JH: When a film is on the festival circuit, you have to be very careful when you show it in any given place because most fests function through exclusivity. Premiere status is important at all levels from world to regional to state to city. For example, if we screened our film one night for students at a campus in Portland, Maine, it counts as a public screening in the same town as the (fictional) Portland Annual Festival of International Films. That festival would probably have a rule that the film would be disqualified because it had already screened locally.  The general rule to follow is to let the film run its course on the festival circuit and screen it freely after you finish in a particular region.  When we complete the film’s festival run next year, I’ll be excited to show it on campus if people are interested.

AR: Are you already in the process of making “Goodfriends” into a full-length feature? If not, when do you plan to?

JH: We are in the process of writing the feature version now. However, a lot of our time is currently spent submitting the film and following up with contacts at the places it is screening and could be screening. But as soon as we finish writing it, we hope to start seeking financers and getting things off the ground.  The great thing about being on the festival circuit is that it’s a perfect place to network and find good people to move what is always a longshot toward fruition.

AR: What advice do you have for Film students? Any trade secrets you’d like to share?

Dr. Hollyfield and his writing partner, Jonathan Sykes on the set of "Goodfriends"

Dr. Hollyfield and his writing partner, Jonathan Sykes on the set of “Goodfriends”

JH: The most important skill in filmmaking is saying, “I don’t know.” Someone is always more experienced or better, and if you approach making films in a healthy way, you should be open to remaining, in part, a student of everyone around you.  Being a good director is all about knowing the exact moment to give up control, about making sure everyone is motivated to use talents you don’t have and guiding those talents toward what the film is trying to achieve. If I approached the movie with the goal of making sure every word adhered to what Jon and I had on the page, it wouldn’t have had the ability to breathe and we probably wouldn’t be talking about it.

The second most important thing is being well versed in business. Even though they seem edgy, film festivals and indie film companies are businesses, and I think film students should see the process in those terms. Most of our time these days is not sitting around being filmmakers. It’s conducting targeted marketing. It’s writing press releases. It’s keeping up with expenses on Excel so we can file a tax return for our company. It’s all the things the 20-year-old know-it-all version of myself got into film to avoid. But I love doing all of that now weirdly enough. It feels like a natural extension of the writing process in a lot of ways. If I can’t articulate the value of our film to the people who could screen it instead of the 1500-3000 other shorts that get submitted to a festival every year, then I have probably been failing all along as a writer, producer, and director.

Student Success: Ashley Coulter to Join Teach For America


Ashley will graduate from WKU this May with a double major in English Literature and Philosophy and a minor in Women’s Studies

Join us in congratulating undergraduate student Ashley Coulter for her acceptance into the Teach For America (TFA) corps. TFA appealed to Ashley because “I didn’t have to change or present myself in a certain way to be accepted as a TFA corps member. TFA aligned with the person I already am.”

And that person is a born leader and educator. Ashley has done everything from instructing children’s Taekwondo to teaching classes for high school seniors in the Governor’s Scholars Program (and many other things in between). As Ashley said, “I’m passionate about education and teaching and I’m passionate about fighting injustice and inequality,” which is what Teach For America’s mission is all about: to provide an excellent education for kids in low-income communities. They are confident she has what it takes to lead a high school English class.

Ashley is a WKU English Literature and Philosophy double major with a minor in Women’s Studies; as Ashley said, “In other words, I read and write.” These are talents many English majors possess, but Ashley utilized those skills to set herself apart from other Teach For America applicants:

“The first and largest impression the selection committee has is an applicant’s writing. My training in the discipline of English has helped me immensely in this area. I was able to write captivating narratives instead of a monotonous list of my accomplishments. The various styles of writing I have done through my English major allowed me to approach the questions and essays with confidence and creativity. And as a reader, I could anticipate what a general (boring) answer would be and then purposely write something way out in left field so that I would stand out in their minds.”

And it worked! Two weeks after she graduates from WKU this May, Ashley will begin orientation for Teach For America. She’ll be in the classroom teaching English and, as Ashley said, “life lessons” to high school students in Indianapolis starting August 1st of this year. She’ll also be enrolled in a local partner university to complete her Master of Arts in Teaching by the end of her two-year commitment to TFA.

When asked if she had advice for other students who are thinking about applying to Teach For America, Ashley had this to say:

“Be yourself. That’s so cliché it makes me want to vomit, but it’s true. They want down-to-earth, imperfect, hard-working individuals. They want applicants to be honest about their shortcomings. They want to hear what you are nervous or doubtful about. And really, you’ve got to be viscerally passionate about it. I doubt anyone could be a successful corps member if they weren’t.”

Ashley also wanted to give “special thanks to Dr. Dale Rigby for writing an impeccable recommendation and Cheryl Kirby-Stokes for mentoring me through the entire process.”

Our Department Head, Dr. Rob Hale had this to say about her:

“Ashley led orientation activities for our new English Majors in WKU’s MasterPlan program this summer, so I saw her work in front of students first-hand.  She’s a natural teacher and has an engaging classroom presence.  I know she’s going to be a great success in Teach for America.”

Serious About Applying to Graduate School Soon? Dr. Hale is Holding a Workshop for You!

gradappformMany of you have requested information about applying to graduate school, so our Department Head, Dr. Rob Hale has organized a workshop with Drs. Wes Berry, Tom Hunley, and Jeff Rice.  The workshop will be held Wednesday, November 20th at 3:00 p.m. and is designed for students who are in the process of applying or are seriously considering applying during the next cycle (November – March).

Be sure to RSVP with Dr. Hale via email at rob.hale@wku.edu by Tuesday, November 19th if you’re serious about applying to graduate school and would like to attend the workshop.

And for those who have a little more time, Dr. Alison Langdon is holding a series of workshops during the spring semester for juniors who are planning to apply next year.

In the meantime, here’s Dr. Langdon’s ideal timeline for applying to graduate school:

Spring of junior year:

  • Literature, Creative Writing, and EST students—take Senior Seminar/Capstone if possible
  • Begin researching programs
  • Speak to professors about providing letters of support
  • Start studying for the GRE

Summer between junior and senior year:

  • Hone your writing sample
  • Continue researching schools and narrow down choices
  • Take GRE (do so by August so there’s time to retake it if necessary)

Fall of senior year:

  • Professional Writing students—take Capstone course (students in other concentrations should also take Senior Seminar/Capstone if they haven’t already)
  • Write personal statement and get feedback, then revise
  • Provide professors with materials needed for letters of support (see Dr. Hughes’ and Dr. Jones’ guide to requesting letters of reference)
  • Submit applications to chosen programs

David Bell’s CEMETERY GIRL Wins Le Prix Polar International de Cognac

Congratulations to Associate Professor David Bell who just received the prestigious Le Prix Polar International de Cognac for CEMETERY GIRL.  The award is given to the best crime novel published by a non-French author, and recent winners include Peter May for THE LEWIS MAN, Jeffrey Archer for PRISONER OF BIRTH, and Karin Slaughter for INDELIBLE.

When asked about this latest accolade, Bell said, “I was nominated in a category with some amazing writers including Dennis Lehane, Jeffrey Deaver, and Linwood Barclay. I can’t believe I won.”

Le Prix Polar International de Cognac is a juried prize with a distinguished panel evaluating all of the nominees.  WKU Head of English Rob Hale was excited to hear the news. “I was thrilled to see Dave recognized for his fine work.  To be nominated with such an esteemed group of crime writers is an accomplishment in itself, but to win is truly outstanding.”

CEMETERY GIRL was first published in English in 2011.   So far, the book has been translated for publication in France, Italy, Taiwan, China, and the UK.  Bell published NEVER COME BACK in 2013, THE HIDING PLACE in 2012, THE GIRL IN THE WOODS in 2009, and THE CONDEMNED in 2008.

Bell’s celebration is just beginning:  “It’s nice to be recognized by such a distinguished group. And a trophy and a bottle of cognac are on the way!”

Greetings From the New Department Head

Dr. Robert Hale, English Department Head

Dr. Robert Hale, English Department Head

Dear English majors,

I’m Dr. Rob Hale, and this past July became the head of the English department. Some of you may have been here when Dr. Schneider was head, and I’m sure most of you remember Dr. McMichael, history professor and assistant dean, who served last year during the interim period. I hope to build on the excellent work they did and help our faculty continue to improve our programs in creative writing, English for secondary teachers, linguistics and teaching English as a second language, literature, and professional writing. Since I teach one course each semester, I won’t interact with most you on a day-to-day basis like most of your professors, so I thought it might be helpful for me to introduce myself.
I’ve been teaching English for about twenty-five years now, first as a high school teacher at Brentwood Academy in Nashville where I taught English and speech and coached the forensics team; then as a graduate student at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge; next as a professor at Texas A&M-Kingsville where I also directed the first- and second-year English program; and most recently as a professor at Monmouth College in Illinois where I served as department chair, chair of faculty senate, coordinator of 19th-century studies, and communication across the curriculum coordinator at various times from 2000-2013.
My academic specialty is British romanticism, but I have taught a variety of courses on 19th- and 20th-century British literature and culture as well as countless sections of first-year composition. I wrote my dissertation on representations of mothers in William Wordsworth’s poetry and have published articles on his work, the poetry of Scottish playwright and poet Joanna Baillie, and the work of African American poet Langston Hughes. I’m particularly interested in 19th-century literature, history, and culture. I enjoy helping students make connections across disciplines and studying those intersections myself.
I invite you to come by Cherry 135 and introduce yourself to me. If I can assist you as you navigate the major, please do not hesitate to ask for help. I am eager to meet all of you over the coming months.
                                                                                      All best wishes,
                                                                                      Dr. Hale