Sunday, February 28, 2016

Editor-In-Chief of Ashland's Branch of the Odyssey Online Discusses Launch

By Dr. Hilary Donatini

Emily Kaiser, a junior English and Creative Writing major talked with me about her adventures in online writing and editing. The interview is below. 

Q: Could you explain the general purpose of the entire Odyssey website and who is eligible to post?

A: Odyssey is a website built on the exploration of new opinions. Oftentimes, the media reports the exact same story with very little variation. Odyssey opens up an outlet for college students to express their opinions on the happenings on the world. Our staff is comprised of students of diverse majors, interests, and backgrounds, united by the desire to share their opinions. Not every article is news-based--in fact, very few of our stories reflect breaking news. But the articles posted by our staff do give a little snapshot of what matters to the students of our campus and college campuses all over the nation.

Odyssey feeds on our society's hunger for social media. That is how it all begins--our Facebook page shares each article, and each writer shares their own article. That's it. From there, people will click on the article, read it, and hopefully share it. There is no marketing to speak of; we can only hope that our friends like our writing enough to share it. Surprisingly, they do: we even have one article (written by the talented Sami Holzman) that is up to 77,000 shares in five days. Not views--shares. That is an absolutely huge readership for an article that was only promoted through unsolicited word-of-mouth.

In order to post on Odyssey regularly, you need to be a member of the staff. It's a simple application process, and it requires little more than 500 words and a little bit of excitement. Go to for more information.

Q: How did you decide to start an AU site and what steps did you take to do so?

A: I actually had nothing to do with the start-up of our branch. Gabby Ater, one of our lovely Contributing Editors, was the one who set this train in motion. She had noticed a plethora of Odyssey articles on her Facebook news feed, so she poked around on their main website until she found a way to request a new branch here at AU. A few days later, a representative from the New York office began contacting department chairs and administrative assistants to send out information on applications. The rest is history.

Q: What kinds of writing can appear on the site?

A: Because the website's success is measured in shares and views, we are often conforming to the fads of social media: open letters, listicles, and opinion pieces tend to be the go-to styles. We do, however, have a sports writer who covers big games and events, and quite a few people take advantage of this opportunity to comment on politics and current events. There is a pretty wide variety within the site--only fiction pieces are off-limits.

Q: Do you consider this a journalism site, or is the site doing something different?

A: I would consider it to be new-age journalism. It's not quite the hard-hitting communication that we tend to associate with the word journalism, but it certainly communicates the thoughts, feelings, needs, and wants of our generation. The marketing strategy of the site rests solely on the shoulders of social media, so it is our job to engage Facebook scrollers to stop, click, and read--just like any journalism site. Every writer wants his or her work to be read, and our team is no different. We want our voices to be heard. We may not always be commenting on the world at large, but we are illustrating what is important to the millennial generation through our work.

Q: What else would you like to share?

A: If you would like to see our articles regularly, please like our page on Facebook: Odyssey at Ashland University. The best way to show support is to read our work.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Recent English Department Faculty Publications

Dr. Hilary Donatini, Associate Professor and Chair
Published "Smollett's Justices" in the 2015 volume of The Age of Johnson: A Scholarly Annual. The article examines the representations of the justices of the peace in the novels of Tobias Smollett (1721-1771), bringing his History of England as well as present-day legal and social history to bear on his techniques of satire.

Dr. Deborah Fleming, Professor of English, MFA faculty
Published a number of new works:
Into a New Country, poetry collection, Cherry Grove Press, January 31, 2016

Towers of Myth and Stone:  Yeats's Influence on Robinson Jeffers, U of SC Press

Dr. Fleming’s poem "Fireflies" was published in The Kerf, fall 2015, p. 26.  Her poem "Jupiter's Monument in a Landscape of Sicily," was nominated for a Pushcart Prize as was "Hagia Sophia," published in 2015 in the journal Colere, Issue 15 (Coe College, Iowa). This is her third Pushcart nomination.

In addition, Dr. Fleming was interviewed on Thursday, Jan. 21 2016, by Prairie Miller on "Arts Express," a production of WBAI, a National Public Radio station broadcast in New York City and San Francisco, about her novel "Without Leave." The interview is archived on the WBAI web site.  Listen to it here: 

Dr. Maura Grady, Assistant Professor of English and Director of Composition
Published an article in the February 2016 McFarland book Revisiting Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood:  Essays on Lessons of Self and Community, a collection of scholarly essays about the long-running television show. Dr. Grady’s contribution was: “Structure and Story in the Operas of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” which examined the history and composition of Mister Rogers’ 13 original episode-length opera productions featured on the show from 1968-1989.   Details and table of contents here:

Dr. Stephen Haven, Professor of English and Director of the MFA program
Published his poem, "On the Verge of What Comes Naturally," in the Winter 2015 issue of Literati Quarterly. Link to journal here: 

Dr. Haven also published several collaborative poetry translations.  Links to most of them are below:

Also, several of Haven’s poems formerly published in print editions of Image were recently archived and made available on the web here:

Dr. Joe Mackall, Professor of English, MFA faculty
Published the following essays:
"The Breathing Green," in the journal Fourth Genre: Explorations in Nonfiction. (Fall 2015, 17.2.). Link to the journal here:

"How to Write about Murder," in the anthology Brief Encounters: A Collection of Contemporary Nonfiction, W.W. Norton, Nov. 2015.

"The Little Girl at the Door," published in Brevity (Issue 50, Fall 2015).

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

The Things Dan Lehman Carried: Matt Tullis Reflects on the Professor Who Moved Him

By Matt Tullis, Associate Professor, Journalism and Digital Media

When I think about Dan Lehman, my mind immediately jumps to Tim O’Brien. O’Brien’s writing has shaped me as a writer more than just about anyone else. I have read his words over and over and over again and I have, in many ways, sought to copy O’Brien’s style. He is a simple writer, one who values content and thought over the writing itself (the result being amazing writing, in my opinion). My first tattoo — “Stories can save us.” in typewriter font on my left forearm — is part of a sentence from O’Brien’s The Things They Carried, and that sentence will also likely be a postscript on my memoir, should it ever be published.

Why do I think of O’Brien when I think of Dan? Because it was Dan who introduced me to O’Brien’s writing. The first thing I ever read of O’Brien’s was In the Lake of the Woods, a novel about a Vietnam veteran turned politician who thinks he has managed to distance himself from his own presence at the My Lai massacre. We read this in English 427 American Literature, which Dan taught in Fall 1997. It was the first semester of my senior year at Ashland University. I had taken other American Literature courses (two others, actually, in the preceding two semesters), but hadn’t fallen in love with anything we read. Judging from the C+ I got in English 426 in Spring 1997, I’m guessing I didn’t take it too seriously either. I was, for about two-and-a-half or maybe even three years, not a serious student. (Dan knows this as well, because he was my academic adviser and I had to retake English 101, which I failed as a freshman. I ultimately took the class with him as a junior. I got an A.) 

But then I read In the Lake of the Woods, and Dan led discussions in the classroom and, for the first time in my life, I felt like I was starting to get it. I had always, for the most part, understood writing, or so I thought. I had been writing since I was in the third grade. I had also been reading since before that, but in this class, the first semester of my final year as an undergraduate, I finally understood what it meant to really, truly read, to interact with the words on the page, and I was able to get there because of Dan. I read that book so closely, and started making theories as to what really happened, and then going back in the text to find proof that my theory was right. I had never done that before, and it was exhilarating. Indeed, I still do that type of research now as a reporter whenever I am working on something large that requires significant book or archival research. It never gets old. 

The next semester, my final semester, was one that would ultimately set the course my life would take. I took English 302 Writers Workshop Fiction/Nonfiction with Joe Mackall, and for the first time, started writing about surviving childhood cancer, which, quite frankly, I was still pretty much in the process of doing, having been diagnosed at the age of 15. One of the reasons I started writing about it was because that same semester, I took Dan’s class, English 325B Major Writers: Nonfiction Narrative, and we read more O’Brien. In this course, we read O’Brien’s memoir, If I Die in a Combat Zone, and his biographical novel The Things They Carried. For the first time in my life, I read work that really, truly spoke to me. Sure, as a cancer survivor, I hadn’t fought in an actual war. But the emotions, the ideas, they were all there. Later in life, I would even start using war as a metaphor for how my disease was treated. In Dan’s class, we were all encouraged to explore those ideas, to see how the fiction and the nonfiction interacted, to see which had more resonance. For me, while I love The Things They Carried, a book I have read at least five times, the memoir, the account that wasn’t fictionalized, has always seemed more “true,” because it was, well, factual. The people O’Brien was writing about were real people with real emotions and feelings and consequences.

Taking Dan’s classes at the time I had just started seriously considering my illness and my survival was critical. Perhaps it was just luck that the two coincided, but I’ve never thought about my writing about cancer without simultaneously thinking about O’Brien and what he did with his experience on the page. 

I still have the first issue of River Teeth: A Journal of Nonfiction Narrative, the journal that Dan and Joe were planning during my senior year, and published in the Fall 1999 semester. I remember opening it up the first time, and seeing before the editor’s note, which was titled “Facts that matter,” a quote from O’Brien, from The Things They Carried

“Somebody tells you a story, let’s say, and afterward you ask, ‘Is it true?’ And if the answer matters, you’ve got your answer.”

I was excited when I read that, because we had spent time talking about that very idea in Dan’s class earlier in the year. And I remember being excited that the discussions we had in that class were now more concrete, solidified in this journal. And then that journal, over time, went on to become one of the most respected journals in the country, a journal devoted entirely to the genre I have spent my life writing: nonfiction.

Because of all of these reasons, I am sad that students won’t have the chance to take Dan’s classes anymore. But at the same time, I am heartened, perhaps selfishly so, that I still get to work with him on River Teeth. I’ve been helping Dan and Joe find great pieces of literary journalism that should be reprinted in the journal, and they’ve been gracious enough to give me the title Associate Editor in the masthead, something that made me giddy the first time I saw it. This work is just one more thing in my life that would have never happened had I not taken those classes with Dan during my senior year, and for that, I am forever thankful.