Research Notes: Looking at Wedding Pictures

Research Notes: Looking at Wedding Pictures

Mrs. Cole Porter Writing


It should come as no surprise that during the school year, I blog a lot about teaching, and in the summer, I blog a lot about writing. Because that’s where my head is.

Last night, I did a little research on the technology that made it possible to print pictures in newspapers and magazines.

In a nutshell: for a long time, it was very hard.

But it got me thinking about how easy it is now. Think about how addicting Tumblr and Facebook are. Think about how addicting it is to be able to Google whatever you want to look at. I mean seriously, how do we even stop ourselves? How do we not gorge ourselves visually every single day? Continue reading

I was doing a little research the other day on Linda Porter’s very public divorce from her first husband. Here are some clippings (posted on my Tumblr) that tell the whole sordid story.

Further evidence of the fame and notoriety Linda brought with her into her marriage to Cole, who was pretty much a nobody when they met.

Back to the book…

P.S. This is the first blog post I’ve ever done from my phone. 

17 years in the tenure track

17 years in the tenure track

Higher Ed

Employment History

1995: I earn my MFA.

1995-1997: For the next two years, I work as a full-time instructor, teaching a 4/4 for less than $20,000 a year.  But I have health insurance for the first time in my life. I’m 26 years old.

Note: Titles for contingent faculty:

  • Instructor
  • Lecturer
  • Visiting Lecturer
  • Visiting Writer
  • Visiting Assistant Professor
  • also: Assistant Professor

1997-2000: I get my first tenure-track job at Mankato State University, now Minnesota State University-Mankato. I work with wonderful people. However, my then-partner gets a job out East.

2000-2005: I get my second tenure-track job at The College of New Jersey, formerly known as Trenton State College. I don’t bring any years toward tenure with me, nor do I think to ask for them. I work with wonderful people. With sadness, my partner and I part ways. In 2004, my first book is published and I receive a positive vote for tenure, but it isn’t official until the Board of Trustees votes on it. In an effort to get closer to family, I go on the job market. Continue reading

Thirteen years later…

Mrs. Cole Porter Writing

Birthday Cake with Number 13 Lit CandlesThree years ago, I wrote this post for my novel-writing students about my progress on my book about Linda Porter. At that point it had been 10 years. Sigh.

Finals are over. I’m back to the novel. I’ve got about 300 pages at this point. I’m not sure how many more I’m going to need because I haven’t made up my mind where to end it. I’ve got a notion. We’ll see if it works!

I’m going to try and go off the grid for awhile so I can get a lot of work done during May and June. Emphasis on “try.”

In the meantime, I thought you might enjoy reading this old post about the circuitous route writing a novel can take. May it inspire you to keep going with your own baggy monster.

A linked story about linked stories

The Circus in Winter

First, an anecdote.

jenny-smithI “met” Jenny Smith when I was teaching at the University of Pittsburgh and she was a graduate student at Indiana University. She’d decided to write her dissertation on the short-story cycle/linked stories/novel-in-stories form, and one of her classmates at IU, Pat Maley said, “You should read The Circus in Winter.”

Pat, you see, had been one of my students at The College of New Jersey, which is where I taught before Pitt.

When I heard that someone from Indiana was writing her dissertation on the linked stories form, I got really excited. I agreed to be interviewed by her. “So, you went to Ball State?” I said. “My brother went there.”

At the time, I had no idea that the book would be adapted into a musical by Ball State students, nor that I’d later end up teaching there.maley_01

Time passed.

Periodically, I wondered, “Whatever happened to that person who was writing her dissertation on the short story cycle?”

The book was adapted into a musical, and Pat wrote about it for Stage magazine. He even came to the NAMT festival so I could hang out with him. He’s a professor now, too, at Centenary College in New Jersey.

Time passed.

And then today, I took a good look at a recent post on our department’s blog. It went up last week, but I hadn’t read it yet. Jenny Smith? Why is that name so familiar. Then I got to the end of the post. Oh! It’s her.

Jenny teaches at Concordia University in Chicago and her book Provisional Identities: The American Short-Story Cycle will be out soon with Rodopi. Hooray!

Here is her dissertation, “One Story, Many Voice: Problems of Unity in the Modern Short Story Cycle.”

And here is her article from TriQuarterly“Born in the Workshop: The MFA and the Short Story Cycle.”

Thank you, Dr. Smith, for doing this work.

And thank you universe for bringing her to my little book.

[This is a crosspost between #iamlinking and The Big Thing.]

Last Lecture: You’re part of a small army. What will you fight for?

CW Programs Literary Citizenship Teaching
small army meetup
A small-army meetup led by Chris Guillebeau

At the end of the semester, I write a post which functions like a “last lecture” to my students. Here’s one on that perennial question, “Am I a writer?” And here’s another on “What matters more: story or sentences?” Given that one of my classes was mentioned yesterday on, I thought I’d focus this semester’s last lecture on the topic of literary citizenship and why I teach it.

What comes next? 

I’ve always done a last lecture, even before I had a blog.

For 15 years, I’ve ended my creative writing classes by showing students how to submit work to literary magazines. This is nothing special; lots of creative writing teachers do this. You bring in a huge stack of magazines, show students how to research where to send their work, how to write a cover letter, how to keep track of submissions, how to deal with the inevitable rejections.

I showed students my rejections. I showed them bad cover letters (names redacted) that I’d swiped from a friend who edited a literary magazine. I talked about how long it can take to place a story—months or years. I ended by saying, “If you want to be a writer, this is the next step you need to take.”

Generally, I got three types of reactions:

  1. Some students got excited about the process of taking the next step.
  2. Some freaked out. They said, “Why didn’t you tell us this sooner? We should have been doing this the whole time!”
  3. Some students zoned out.

I want to talk about these three types of students.

The 1’s who get excited

Continue reading

Circus is going to Goodspeed

The Circus in Winter

goodspeed-exterior-webThe good news was announced over the weekend: the musical The Circus in Winter will be produced at Goodspeed Musicals in Connecticut this fall from Oct. 23-Nov. 16.

Oh yeah, I’m going. 

The other bit of good news is that Hunter Foster will be coming on as book writer. Please note:

  • The book is the libretto, the narrative structure that keeps the musical from being nothing more than a disjointed medley of songs.
  • Hunter Foster is an actor and librettist. He’s also the brother of Sutton Foster, Tony-award winning actress who teaches each year at Ball State and who has been a huge supporter of this project.

Goodspeed is known as a launching pad for many Broadway and off-Broadway musicals. You can see the list here.

If you live on the East Coast, or even if you’re just a fan, I hope you’ll take advantage of the opportunity to see the fully produced show, full-size elephant puppet and all.

This is what it looked like when the show was produced at Ball State in Fall 2011.

Circus setThe show is moving forward thanks to the ceaseless efforts of lots of people, namely Beth Turcotte, Ben Clark, and the folks at Center Ring Theatrical, which includes two Ball State grads.

You know what’s funny? All those years ago, my then-agent went to lunch with editor Ann Patty, and when he pitched Circus to her, she said, “I’m from Indiana, actually.” How lucky I am that this book has been helped on its way by so many people from my homestate.

I’m reminded of what Kurt Vonnegut wrote: “I don’t know what it is about Hoosiers, but wherever you go there is always a Hoosier doing something very important there.”

This Blog is a Waste of My Time: Thoughts on the Three-Year Anniversary of The Big Thing

Teaching Writing

waste of timeI’ve been thinking a lot lately about this blog. Last week, I wrote about “lore” and informally trading teaching information vs. formally publishing teaching research.

This blog began because in 2010, I wrote an essay about teaching.  I realized that the default setting of all my classes–of most fiction-writing classes, really–was the short story. I wanted to tweak that default setting. Not just in my own classes. I wanted to inspire other people to tweak theirs, too. Continue reading