Welcome to Torg Stories!

Dear Reader,

Thank you for stopping by the Torg Stories site. I’m an ex-basketball coach and English teacher turned writer, filmmaker, podcaster, and professor. Originally from a small town called Winamac, Indiana, now I split my time between Asheville, North Carolina where I live with my family and New York City where I teach First Year Writing at St. John’s University in Queens. Torg Stories have found their way into the world taking many forms including…


Click here for Torg books for sale on Amazon

Indiana, basketball, love, divorce, winamac, Indiana, Pat Conroy, book club

Pat Conroy called The Coach’s Wife“One of the best books about basketball and coaching I have ever read with a love story so complicated and wonderful it will have book groups talking about it for years.”

Thanks to Pat. I learned a lot about writing from reading his work, and I’m thankful to be able to keep hearing from him via his books.


MIdwestern Gothic, novel in stories, Winamac, Indiana, basketball, Flannery O'Connor, William Torgerson

Horseshoe is Midwestern Gothic collection of stories with themes about love, sin, guilt, and redemption.

romantic comedy, eighties, John Hughes, Say Anything, Olivet Nazarene University, basketball, college writing, winamac, Indiana, book club

In Love on the Big Screen, Zuke is a college freshman whose understanding of love has been shaped by late-80’s romantic comedies.


morel mushrooms, hunting, Indiana, France Park, Bill William Torgerson, Martin Torgerson

The Mushroom Hunter is about my father and his buddies’ passion for hunting morel mushrooms.

Click here to watch “The Mushroom Hunter” free online.

More Torg Stories films: Christopher’s Garden and For the Love of Books


Introductory Letter to Online Writing Students

Dear Writers Enrolled in Online Composition With Professor Torgerson,

Welcome to the class! I use a metaphor gifted to me by a former professor named Sam to think about my writing and teaching life. It goes, “Writing Floats on a Sea of Conversation.” I didn’t know what the heck Sam was talking about back when he first spoke those words to me, but the phrase has held my interest for the past fifteen years.

Sam and Anne

Sam on the left, who said, “Writing Floats on a Sea of Conversation.”

This idea of conversation works in all sorts of ways. To start off, we are all going to write each other letters in the spirit of what you are reading here. (or in a spirit you prefer) We will do a lot of letter writing in this class because I hope the form will allow you to be yourself. Somehow, many students end up writing in college in some boring voice they consider academic.

Please view the syllabus as a part of the opening to our conversation. I hope you will read  this letter and the syllabus carefully, think over what I’ve said, and say something back to all of us based on what you’ve heard and who you are. Soon, there will be twenty-six voices all in conversation with one another. We’ll do much of this through the use of Google documents. There is something in education called an Electronic Portfolio. Lots of people call these ePorts for short. These ePorts are personal websites on which you will post your writing. Everyone in this class will sign up for Google GMAIL, write in something called Google Documents, and post work on their ePortfolios. I will help you do this. There are lots of tutorials posted online. You can come see me in my office for extra help if you need it. If you have any trouble, I want to help you. Don’t be afraid to email me and ask me questions: torgersw@stjohns.edu

Conversation in the class will continue through your reading of texts written by writers about writing. I’ll ask you to write letters of response. These letters will be the raw materials for the papers you will write. Your assigned papers will be a way to take your letters of response, gather your thoughts, and share them with us in an essay about writing.

When I ask you to read something, keep in mind someone like you and me wrote the text and that writer has a message for us.  Say something back to the writer and to your fellow writers in the class. Try and remember that everything you read and everything you write is a part of a conversation we are all having together about reading, writing, and thinking. The word literacy can cover are work in the areas of reading, writing, and thinking. I hope to empower you to develop your 21st Century Literacy skills.  When we read and write online in conjunction with the screens of our devices, there is a lot at stake: votes are won and lost, money changes bank accounts, and voices are heard and suppressed. Social media and writing on the web allow more ordinary people like us to have voices that must be listened to by big business or government. Writing is a tool that can be used for social change.

Students often tell me this composition course is easy and that it’s hard. (A paradox! How can that be true?) It’s easy because if you read the instructions carefully, do the work, post it on time, and use some of the feedback you receive to plan a revision, you’ll most surely get an “A” or “B.” On the other hand, the class can be hard because you have to be responsible enough to take care of your business. Two times a week you have to read, write, and leave comments on the writing of your classmates. This isn’t the kind of class you can blow off for twelve weeks and then buckle down for a couple of exams and get by with a decent grade. You’ll either be responsible, problem solve, and keep up with the work, or you won’t pass. One of the keys to doing well is staying in touch with me. Be sure to read your emails, work a few days ahead of when assignments are due, and write to me when you have problems. torgersw@stjohns.edu

The technology aspect of this class can be challenging. Mostly we are using Google’s “Drive” and “docs” along with Digication’s ePortfolio platform to do our work and communicate with each other. I will be on the Queens campus at least on Mondays and Thursdays and it might be good to get off to a good start and come in for help setting up Google Documents and the ePortfolio. I’d love to reserve the conference room in the writing center so that we could get together and do this if you need help. There are lots of tutorials online you could also Google. Try something such as “writing in Google docs” on YouTube and be sure to watch more recent videos in case something has changed.

A little about me: I first became an English major as in incoming freshman in 1990 because I was afraid of flunking out. I went to college because I wanted to play basketball, and I wanted to become a basketball coach. Both of my parents were English teachers, and so I figured if I needed help, I could make the two-hour drive home and get some tutoring. (we didn’t have a tutoring center and writing center like St. John’s!) I was so scared of flunking out as a freshman, that I went to the library every night after dinner. Much to my surprise, I made the Dean’s List the first semester. I learned that when I studied every day that I could do well.


my dad Martin, me, and my mom Sue

I did coach basketball and teach high school English for ten years in Indiana and North Carolina. The more I worked at being a teacher reading and writing, the more I began to enjoy quiet time in the mornings more than my time in the gym after school. I decided to quit coaching, go to graduate school, and try and become a writer and a professor. Over the years, I’ve published three novels with one more coming out next year, and I’ve directed two documentary films. It seems like the students I work with are writing more than ever, especially in conjunction with the screens of devices. My wife Megan and I have two daughters ages five and eight. We rent an old farmhouse in Connecticut out in the country and even have a barn and (non-working) outhouse on the property. How an outhouse doesn’t work is a story for another time. After almost ten years of not coaching basketball, I’m back in the gym two days a week helping to coach my daughter’s 2nd grade girls team. It’s wonderful fun!


with the girls in Maine

I make time almost everyday for reading and writing. I enjoy working out, and at forty-three years of age, I still play in a basketball league at our local YMCA. I love to teach because I enjoy learning from the writers I work with, and I thrive on the energy that is created as we all work enthusiastically on projects of our choosing. I believe everyone can learn to write more effectively, and it’s important to do this because I believe writing can be a form of thinking. If this is a thinking class, then it can benefit everyone. If we don’t work to become more powerfully literate thinkers, there are lots of people (especially in digital spaces) who will try to manipulate our thoughts and bank accounts. I look forward to all of the conversations we will have this semester!


Bill Torgerson ncte composition college writing online teaching

To the Students: An Invitation to Twitter

Dear Writer,

Twitter can be used for much more than publishing to the world what you are having for dinner. There’s a metaphor gifted to me from a former professor that goes like this: writing floats on a sea of conversation. Twitter is often about conversation. It’s great for making professional connections, accessing information published by people from all over the world, and participating in discussions including the last presidential election, a major sporting or entertainment event, or finding those who care about what you care about. Just last semester, students used Twitter to find gas for their cars after hurricane Sandy, located potential internships, and exchanged tweets from professionals in their area of major from all over the world. Like Facebook and other forms of social media, Twitter can give you a voice heard by businesses and government organizations.

We’ll begin using Twitter as a way to establish community in our course, access information beyond our classroom community, and perhaps build connections with people who care about the same issues we do.  Follow the directions below to set up your account.



Twitter, college, English, writing, language arts, multiple literacies


  1. Consider if you’d like for people to know who you are on Twitter.  I’m “BillTorg” and that’s pretty obviously me.  If I’m “EightiesDude,” then maybe it’s harder to figure out who I am.
  2. If you already have a Twitter account, you are welcome to use it. The personality and content of your Tweets will depend on the public identity you wish to create. This might be the time to use your St. John’s University email account to start a new approach.
  3. Twitter messages are limited to 140 characters.  The longer your Twitter name, the less room you and others have to exchange messages.  So “BillTorg” works better for me than “WilliamJosephTorgerson.”
  4. You will be asked to write a short bio for yourself.  Think about what it will say.  Some people write a silly one.  My sister’s is, “What’s on the what what?” Mine explains my job and what I do. I often find myself revising mine.
  5. You can link to your Twitter account to another site. Perhaps your blog?
  6. Go to Twitter.com
  7. Fill out the “New to Twitter” box.  Complete the steps. Let me know if there’s additional directions I should have listed here. Help me to revise this document so it can better serve the needs of those new to Twitter.
  8. When you finish setting up your account, you are going to tweet to me. You should see a white box that has this inside:  Compose new Tweet…
  9. Click inside the box.  First write this: @BillTorg
  10. The “@billtorg” is my Twitter name. Put whatever you want after that, something like, “I set up my Twitter account!”  If you want to write something more creative than that, go ahead!
  11. When you tweet to me, I’ll write you back. Do you see that “@ Connect” button at the top of the screen? If you click on that, you’ll see everyone who has tweeted directly to you. That will be how you know I received your tweet. I don’t usually follow students and you shouldn’t feel obligated to follow me. We’ll set up a system to see each other’s tweets related to class.
  12. There’s a lot more you can do with finding tweets and customizing your background.  Experiment by reading and clicking around on the Twitter pages. Two great places to start are the “view my profile page” and “#discover.”  On the profile page, click on the large “edit” tab in the upper right hand corner.  On the “#discover” tab, look all over the page and click around. Be sure to click on the following words and phrases:  activity, who to follow, find friends, and browse categories.
  13. More instructions, guidelines, and assignments will follow.

Write to me with questions:  torgersw@stjohns.edu

If you know about hash tags (more on that later) we will use this one:  #torgchat