Thinking of Grad School?


About two weeks ago I went to a panel discussion about Graduate School programs in the English Department. It was put on by Ball State professors Joyce Huff (General Program), Megumi Hamada (TESOL/Linguistics), Robert Habich (Literature), Micheal Donnelly (Rhetoric and Composition), and Cathy Day (Creative Writing). There was a lot of information shared with me about each individual program and Graduate School as a whole.

General Requirements:

Every institution will have different requirements for GPA and GRE scores, but there are some requirements that every school will require.

  • Letters of Recommendation
  • Scholarly/Critical Writing Sample or Creative Writing Sample (the length will depend on the institution)
  • Statement of Purpose (Vince Gotera of University of Northern Iowa wrote this really awesome informative article about Statement’s of Purpose

Notes about TESOL and Linguistics:

TESOL stands for “Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages” and Linguistics is the science of language; it’s important to note that neither of these require you to be multilingual. There are three kinds of classes that make-up this degree. They are formal linguistics (some examples are semantics, syntax, and phonology & phonetics), applied linguistics (sociolinguistics, psycholinguistics, and discourse analysis), and TESOL (teaching methods, second language acquisition). If you’re looking for more information about the TESOL/Linguistics program, this article by Michelle Bagwell is helpful.

Notes about Literature:


Here’s the back of me(red flanel) at the discussion

One of the most common misconceptions about getting a Masters degree in literature is that you’re going to study a specific period, or individual author. Yeah, that’s not the case, or at least it isn’t at Ball State University. The MA program focuses on teaching a wide array of authors and researching. In a P.h.d degree you’ll probably get more specific. Here’s a video that gives advice about getting an MA in Literature. Even though the woman in the video talks about wanting to be a teacher, Cathy Day gave me some great advice about wanting to be a professor when she told me, “The thing to remember is that college professors don’t only want to “be” professors, ie teachers. We want to “be” writers, philosophers, biologists, chemists, etc. and that’s how you get a job in the academy: on the strength of your reputation and credentials in those areas.”

Notes about Rhetoric and Composition:

The Rhetoric and Composition field focuses on: teaching the history of Rhetoric and Composition, pedagogy, researching, and digital literacy. In a conversation that I had with Micheal Donnelly, he told me that he started off with an MA in English, but when he taught a first year composition class he realized that he had a lot of interest in the Rhetoric and Composition field and decided to make that his focus. There is a lot of emphasis put on how to teach composition to students in this field. This article talks about what a degree in Rhetoric and Composition does for the individual who receives it.

Notes about Creative Writing:

At Ball State, the MA Creative Writing program focuses on a multi-genre approach where students study all of the different styles of creative writing. This approach will vary depending on the institution, some will have a genre-specific program where you have to choose. The goal of these institutions will be to leave with a publishable creative project. The focus will be on teaching craft and technique, as well as revision strategies. Cathy Day shared her advice with the individuals there when she said, “Don’t go into a Creative Writing Graduate School program if you’re not funded, in fact, I forbid it.” If you’re looking for more information about Graduate School programs in Creative Writing, the Literary Citizenship blog created this article with helpful links on information about everything from writing statements of purpose to Post-MFA advice:

I hope this article helps inform you about the different options if you decided to go to Grad School for an English degree. If there are any other questions about grad school, or suggestions about what could be added to make this article more informative let me know in the comments.

grad school

Writing in a New Style

David Foster Wallace's "Consider the Lobster

David Foster Wallace’s “Consider the Lobster

A few days ago, I wrote a piece with a completely different style than anything that I’ve ever written before. I wanted to write a piece that was formatted like a dictionary, with words and definitions on the page, and then my story in the footnotes. They way I approached it was I did research; I read a bunch of different pieces that incorporated footnotes into the story. I read stories by David Foster Wallace, chunks of Jenny Boully’s “The Body”, and T.S. Eliot’s “The Wasteland.” By exposing myself to different ways that the technique could be used, I learned a lot about writing in a way that’s completely foreign that makes it way less scary. I ended up writing something that was completely different stylistically, but I still learned a lot about my writing process. Here are some tips to work on developing your writing style. Has there ever been a times where you’ve tried a new style of writing, and if so, how did you approach it? What do you when you sit down to write; are there any ways that you prepare yourself or do you have a routine?

3 Ways my Mock Interview Positively Affected Me


The wrinkles just disappear…

Most of the time that I have to involve myself in any high anxiety situation, I go into it so closed minded that it always turns out terrible. And that’s exactly how I felt about this interview going into it. It was required for a class (I’d never volunteer for an interview, or at least that’s what I thought) and it wasn’t an interview for a real position, so I was uninspired going into it. The only inspiration I had was giving myself a goal to act self-composed and confident, but it ended up being a positive experience for me. If you go to Ball State and you’re interested in signing up for a practice interview with the career center, they can be found here.

1. I finally shaved my beard.

After 3 months of being too lazy to trim up my facial hair, I finally had a reason to stop looking like a bum and become more professional. And because making a first impression is important, I felt like it was crucial to look well-maintained. Speaking of maintenance the first problem I faced was that I didn’t have an iron to smooth the wrinkles out of my clothes. With some good advice from my friend Lee Banister (her blog found here), she informed me of a way to navigate the issue. It was keep your clothes in the bathroom with you while you’re in the bathroom and the steam will de-wrinkle them

2. My confidence was boosted

Going into the interview, my biggest concern was that I was going to have problems maintaining eye contact and stumble over my words out of nervousness. Through:

  • the preparation and tips on how to interview effectively that were given to me through my literary citizenship class,
  • my interviewer, John F. Skelton from Merchants Bank in Planfield, Indiana,  and his ability to make the interview into a conversation between casual acquaintances trying to learn more about one another,

I was able to walk in with my head high and maintain eye contact throughout the entire interview. I walked out of the interviewers room knowing that I was clear in my communication and I portrayed that I would be competent in whatever job I was interviewing for.

Mr. Skelton (second on the left) presenting an oversized check at First Merchants Bank. Find his LinkedIn here.

Mr. Skelton (second on the left) presenting an oversized check at First Merchants Bank. Find his LinkedIn here.

3. I learned the importance of preparation

In my interview, the interviewer was a banker and I was interview for a job as a professor, so neither of us had any knowledge about each others field of work. I knew that he was going to ask me if I had any questions for him. I was completely unprepared, I researched about the university I was fake applying for, but I knew he couldn’t have any answers. But, I also remembered that in Lit. Citizenship class, we talked about how it was crucial to have something to ask. I stammered, and eventually asked if the occupational world he entered into was exactly how he thought it was going to be, or if it wasn’t how it differed from his ideas about the banking world. It lead to a nice ending discussion to the interview, so I think preparedness and knowing what to expect is pretty key.

He also asked me the questions:

  • What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses?
  • Where do you see yourself in five years?
  • Tell me a little about yourself?
  • Tell me about a time where you encountered a challenge and how you dealt with it.

If you want some interviewing help, Ball Sate has released this informative 20 minute video. If you need some help with résumés or cover letters, the Career Center offers help. All you need to do is check out this page!

If there were any major highlights about an interview that you’ve had or anything that you’ve learned through interviews, feel free to share them. For tips on how to prepare for an interview, check out Jeff Owens post “Three Interview Tips for the Person with Sweaty Palms.” If you want to read more about about the interviews impact on the students who took advantage of it, check out my classmate Rianne’s post, “Interviews: The good, the bad, the ugly.”

3 Novels that Show the World

In my life, I’ve had a desire to learn what life is like outside of the Americas. I haven’t been able to leave the continent, but I’ve searched for the next best thing; and that is reading about experiences people have in different parts of the world. If you’ve ever wanted to read books that have alternative views on life and leave the reader in amazement then I recommend these three influential books as a good place to start.


1. Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts

Shantaram explores and exposes life in an Australian maximum security prison, the slums of Bombay, the rural towns in India, 5 star hotels, and the seedy underbelly of the city.  Filled with themes of friendship, escape, love, and agony, Shataram’s 933 pages fly by and leave the reader inspired and dignified. Shantaram is a fiction novel that is currently being worked into a movie.


2. What is the What by Dave Eggers

This novel of fiction follows Valentino Achak Deng’s escape from Sudan on foot, followed by militias and government bombers. The search for freedom is accomplished for Deng and his group, the Lost Boys, and they eventually make it to the United States. The story highlights the challenge, heartache, and promise of living in the United States and Sudan. The mixture of humor and trial throughout the novel lead to a feeling of enlightenment for the reader.


In the Country of Men by Hisham Matar

In the Country of Men follows the life of nine year old Suleiman in Libya during the Qaddafi reign. Suleiman gets caught in the whirlwind of parental issues where his fathers anti-Qaddafi actions lead to terror, while his mothers drug abuse leaves him turning to others. The books depiction of a child caught in a nightmare highlights the anguish of trying to live through political oppression.

If you have any books to add to the list feel free to share in the comments below.

Escaping the Revolving Door

When I was 17, I made my escape from the revolving door of drugs that kept me wandering around in circles. I would push the glass door in front of me, constantly staring at the exit, telling myself I would leave the confined passage I brought myself into. Eventually I did, with a rehabilitation facility guiding me by the hand into the building of adulthood. I had nowhere to start. Throughout the four years of walking in circles, some people stuck by my side, willing to exert more energy into helping me than I was worth, and others vanished. I told myself that there was a way I was going to pay my dues to society. I dedicated my life to a path of helping, and decided to come to school to become a professor.

While on the path to professorship, I entered through the door into the creative writing room. The room started off as being dimly lit; I couldn’t see the sunlight through the windows that would guide me to the gold-tinted world of teaching. Then I wrote my first non-fiction piece. Streaks of light flooded into the room and created steps that ascended closer to the sun than my original goal would’ve taken me. I learned that if I transcribed the experiences that I went through into words that are accessible by any literate person, I could help them learn from my experiences. If I coupled creative writing with the goals that I have already laid out for myself, then the possibility of people who I could possibly help might be endless. I could teach, in the most traditional sense of the word, or I could show the life lessons that I’ve experienced, so if somebody was stuck in a similar circular motion, then they could straighten out and continue forward. But literary citizenship added an entirely different dynamic to the extrinsic value I’ve been searching for.

I view literary citizenship as my ability to both assist other in their goal of becoming writers and introducing stories that could teach into the world of readers who might miss out on the ability to read something influential. My life goal is to help, and literary citizenship allows me to do that.

My Internet Manifesto

I’m a flea in the ever-expanding carpet of the internet. A parasite who wonders through the endless threads, seeing some that excite, some that are outrageous, and some that humble, and some that anger the to the point where I want to start a small fire and let it spread and engulf everything that is found in the internet; but throughout all of the emotions caused by the internet, I keep my mouth shut, and continue to wander. My presence is futile to internet, I’m invisible, I have no voice, and there is no interaction between myself and the rest of the individuals who are either fleas or threads. My hopes are that in the future I can ascend to the role of a thread. A thread that adds to the endless size of the internet; a thread that interweaves itself with other threads and creates a community of threads with one interest. I would prefer not to be to vibrant fluorescent green thread that everybody sees, but I want to have some sort of impact on the carpet and myself.

Right now, if you looked at my social media usage, you would think that I don’t use it. I never post anything, and the only usage I find out of it is the send messages to my roommates when they don’t answer their phones or I’m out of town and want to chat. There are no impressions, and there’s nothing that I would be known for. I’m just a voyeur hiding behind my computer screen seeing the exciting parts of everybody else’s life, but never sharing any information about who I am or what I’m up to.

If I wanted to get a galley of a book with limited copies and a gigantic fan base screaming about their insistence of getting a copy and the massive amounts of others that their reviews influence, I’d be last on the list because of my lack of influence. They’d pass over me like I was a moldy sack of potatoes at a grocery store. I have no influence, no readers of my work, and up until this point I was satisfied with being a voyeuristic parasite because it kept me out of trouble and insults from other users of the web. Recently, I found out that when the insults surface on the internet, which stemmed from something that happened in the non-digitalized world, it was appropriate for me to bite my tongue and hold my words back. If the negativity can happen, regardless of what you put out there for others to see, then why not take the risk. The rewards for including myself in the endless depths of the internet will outweigh the consequences, since the consequences will arise no matter what.