Tuesday, July 29, 2014

River Teeth, Cheryl Strayed, and the University of New Mexico Press to Work Together

From the AU News Center 

Best-selling literary author Cheryl Strayed (Wild, Torch, Tiny Beautiful Things) has joined the team of Ashland University’s River Teeth Literary Nonfiction Prize, which this week signed a five-year book contract with University of New Mexico Press that extends and strengthens the series. Under terms of the new arrangement, Strayed will choose the River Teeth Literary Nonfiction Prizewinner each year from a list of five finalists selected by Joe Mackall, professor of English, and Dan Lehman, trustees’ distinguished professor of English. Sarah M. Wells, administrative director of Ashland’s MFA Program and managing editor of River Teeth, coordinates the prize series, which so far has published twelve well-reviewed books and draws at least 150 full-manuscript entries each year. 

Strayed and the River Teeth editors first discussed the possibility of her serving as final judge when she visited Ashland University last summer as a featured writer for the Ashland MFA intensives. Strayed was also the guest editor for Best American Essays 2013, which picked two River Teeth essays among the 25 in the book—tying Paris Review for the most winners of any journal in America. One River Teeth essay was written by an Ashland MFA faculty member and the other by an Ashland MFA alumnus. “When we met Cheryl Strayed at the Ashland intensives, it was pretty easy to tell that we value the same sort of fire in the writing we love,” Lehman said. “We felt like soul mates. From there we decided to ask if she would ever want to be our River Teeth final judge. And she agreed.” 

In joining the River Teeth team, Strayed has promised vigorous support of the River Teeth prize series with the target to attract even higher-quality entries. “I’ll promote the heck out of it,” she said. The University of New Mexico Press, eager to enhance its already-strong catalog and reputation in literary nonfiction, has joined the team as the new publishing partner—signing a five-year automatically renewing contract for annual prizewinning books with Mackall, Lehman, and Wells this week.  “We are very excited to have this opportunity to work with all of you to bring out the River Teeth prize,” said Elise M. McHugh, senior acquisitions editor of University of New Mexico Press. “We are thrilled.” The 12 previous winners of the River Teeth Literary Nonfiction Prize are found at this link: http://www.riverteethjournal.com/contests/previous-winners. 

Cheryl Strayed’s Wild was the first selection of the Oprah Book Club 2.0 and was on the New York Times best-seller list for months. A film version of the book, starring Reese Witherspoon, is underway. - See more at: http://news.ashland.edu/river-teeth-cheryl-strayed-and-u-new-mexico-press-work-together#sthash.XMFuhw62.dpuf

Alumni Spotlight: Amy Daubenspeck

By Amy Daubenspeck, class of 1992, English major

I am the Executive Director of the Ashland Area Convention & Visitors Bureau. That’s a mouthful, I know. My mission is to promote Ashland, Ohio and the surrounding region as a desirable place to visit, live, work and shop. So, how did an English major get here?

I graduated from Ashland University in 1992 with a degree in English Literature. I never wanted to teach and I always made that very clear. I remember Dr. McGovern applauding me for wanting to study English without attaching a teacher’s certificate to it. Of course, reality set in early with the “now what?”. Thankfully, it was only a few months later that I received a phone call from a man in Mansfield who ran an advertising/marketing agency. Mr. Pete Dignan from Dignan Marketing Services (it would later become Creative Associates) found me through Ashland University’s Career Development Center.

Mr. Dignan practically hired me on the spot! Why? He said it was because I could write and use correct grammar, which he sorely needed out of a copywriter. And that is just what I did. I wrote copy for brochures, sell sheets, radio & TV commercials, press releases, instructional videos and much more. And because our company was small, I was able to participate in all aspects of a job from beginning to end.

Unfortunately, a health scare in the fall of 2000 led to Mr. Dignan’s retirement and the company closed. In early 2001, I found out about an opening at the Ashland Area Chamber of Commerce. They were looking for someone to run their Convention & Visitors Bureau. Well, funny enough, I knew what that was. The Mansfield/Richland County Convention & Visitors Bureau was one of my best clients. I learned so much from my work with them, that I was able to intelligently discuss ways to promote Ashland as a destination. Even more, I had experience with the tools that the CVB would need to promote the area. And, I could write. I guess there is a pattern here.

So, for the past 13 years I have been immersed in the Ashland community. I strive every day to make it a better place to visit, work, and raise a family. It is not just about putting pretty words on a piece of paper or a striking photograph. It is about building relationships. And it all started with a visit to Ashland College…

Monday, July 21, 2014

MFA Residency in Full Swing

Students and faculty from near and far have descended on Ashland for the annual MFA summer residency. Craft seminars and readings are free and open to the public. Check out the complete schedule and come join us!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Alumni Spotlight: Jason Dutton

By Jason Dutton, class of 2005, Creative Writing and Political Science major; AU MFA 2012

I work for the federal government. I always start there when people ask about my job, because it sounds very cool. I work for the Defense Logistics Agency as a customer account specialist, which means I provide customer service for the military. But if you’d told me nine years ago that I would be doing this job, I’m not sure I’d be thrilled. I would have preferred to hear that I would make a living writing books.

Nine years ago, I would have recently earned my BA in creative writing and political science from Ashland University. I chose Ashland because it was one of two universities in Ohio with a creative writing program, and after I met with Dr. Joe Mackall when I toured AU, he became another major reason I enrolled. Joe was my advisor for four years, as well as my thesis advisor when I returned to AU in 2010 for the graduate creative writing program, and I now consider him a dear friend. Joe was honest and direct with me from the beginning, and three things became very clear to me: Joe cared about my education, he cared about my development as a person, and he believed the former was very important to the latter.

That sort of thinking is what I value most about my time in the AU English department. I read a lot of books and wrote a lot of papers and listened to a lot of lectures, but my education with Joe and with others often seemed more like a conversation. My teachers clearly believed study wasn’t just important to attain a degree, but because reading the work of others and learning to effectively communicate were skills that would serve me well regardless of the direction my life took. I remember being especially impressed a few days after I’d written a column for the Collegian about how so many of us students never really stop to think about why and what we’re learning. After reading my column, Dr. Dan Lehman took time out of his class to explain why what he was teaching us was worthwhile. My education and my opinion never felt more valued and important than they did in that classroom.

So if you’d told me nine years ago that I would be working for the military, having applied for the job because I needed one, I wouldn’t be pleased. But then you’d explain to me that it’s a great and important job, one that provides good pay and benefits, one that I couldn’t have gotten without my degree, and you’d have my attention. And when you told me that my college education enabled me to be a valued employee, one that communicates well and seeks to understand others and still strives to learn every day, then I would be as grateful and happy to have attended AU as I am right now. Especially when I use my spare time to write those books.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

More Employment News

Lindsay Cameron (class of 2014) has accepted a faculty position at Notre Dame - Cathedral High School in Chardon, Ohio. She will teach English, journalism, and yearbook. 

Meg Collier (class of 2014) will be heading overseas in the fall to teach English at LycĂ©e Condorcet in Saint-Quentin, France through TAPIF (Teaching Assistant Program in France), sponsored by the French government.

Congratulations and best of luck to these graduates!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Recent Graduates Land Teaching Jobs

Two graduates of Ashland's Integrated Language Arts program have landed full-time teaching jobs at Ohio high schools. Amanda Eakin (class of 2012) will join the staff at Chippewa High School in Doylestown. David Mohn (class of 2014) will be teaching for Medina City Schools. Congratulations! We look forward to hearing about Amanda and David's journeys as educators. 

If you are an alumnus of the AU English department and want to share good news, write to department chair Hilary Donatini at hdonatin@ashland.edu.