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…
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.
Horseshoe is Midwestern Gothic collection of stories with themes about love, sin, guilt, and redemption.
In Love on the Big Screen, Zuke is a college freshman whose understanding of love has been shaped by late-80’s romantic comedies.
The Mushroom Hunter is about my father and his buddies’ passion for hunting morel mushrooms.
Click here to watch “The Mushroom Hunter” free online.
For an upcoming meeting at St. John’s University where I teach First Year Writing Courses, I was asked to speak about some aspect of my teaching. I decided to share an assignment I’ve been giving the past few years I call “A Writer on Writing.”
Some ways we learn about writing in our course:
We write regularly for an audience we interact with.
We read what other writers have to say about writing.
We write to learn by situating our thoughts and reflections about writing within what other writers have written about writing.
We learn to read like a writer by paying attention to choices writers make in their creation of texts.
Here are some examples of the kinds of texts students take a look at:
Zadie Smith’s “That Crafty Feeling”
Anne Lamott’s “Shitty First Drafts”
Keith Richards’ excerpt from Life about songwriting
Stephen King excerpt from On Writing
Alice Walker interview “Writing to Save My Life”
Mark Doty’s “Souls on Ice”
Amy Tan’s “Mother Tongue”
Do you have favorite texts about writing to recommend?
My introduction to this assignment from the course I taught this summer:
At least in this class, you have been a writer writing with other writers. I want you to claim this identity of being a writer for at least the purpose of this paper. You are the writer saying something about writing in this paper. My impulse to give you this assignment was that you would tell us about your experiences writing in this class while integrating the thoughts of writers you have been reading.
I do want to give you the space to do something different with this assignment if you’d like. Some students in the past have decided to focus on their learning of English, their dislike of writing, their wish to write screenplays, that they do slam poetry, that they speak five languages, or to think about the writing they publish on Twitter or other social media platforms. It’s a wide-open assignment as long as you focus in some way on writing and/or the use of language. Write at least 1,500 words and quote from at least three of the Writer on Writing texts (Peter Elbow counts as one if you want). You’ll use signal phrases, direct quotes, parenthetical citations, and do an MLA works cited page.
Some titles and “Golden Lines” from papers written by students the past few semesters:
I Dare You: I hate what they’ve done to me. They’ve made me into a robot. They’ve made my writing into a Mad Lib. Insert noun here, adjective there, quote here, citation there.” -Tatiana Castellanos
Writing for Me: In high school, we were assigned a paper and whenever it was due we would just hand it in to the teacher hoping to get a high grade. Having classmates listen along as you read your paper was something I’d never done before. Something I realized while writing papers in this class was that I was afraid. In “The Teacherless Writing Class” by Peter Elbow, he claims, “You have to keep from making apologies or giving explanations. For example, ‘I just wrote this last night, I didn’t have much time and didn’t revise it at all’” (101). Even though I felt self-conscious and uncomfortable reading my paper to people who were then strangers to me, I stopped myself from making excuses about my writing and waited for their criticism. What surprised me was the amount of positive feedback they had to say about my paper. -Sharin Chowdury
Learning to Write an Essay: Have you ever been afraid of doing something? For example, have you ever been afraid of talking to people? Or have you ever been scared of opening your mouth and saying something in your head? I have. I am a student from China still trying to learn English. -Xinxin He
Writing Does Not Have to Be a Burden: I remember that my classmate Farzana Haniff wrote in her process essay about how she kept erasing and rewriting her essay about her trip to Guyana because she thought it wasn’t good enough. Then she wrote about how she was able to get over her writer’s block which I think serves as great piece of advice. She wrote, “I decided to just go with my gut and to just continue writing whatever came to my mind. So I completely ignored the ‘delete’ button on my laptop and I just kept typing without even fixing spelling errors.” I thought about what Farzana wrote whenever I encounter the same problem of erasing and rewriting and it has helped me over think less about my writing choices. -Sammie Li
The Little Big Things: The writing process was tricky for me. I wanted to avoid being cliché and dull but when trying to write about something of this content, it can be difficult. During this process the reading from Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott reminded me that no matter how successful a writer is they often feel like they are “pulling teeth, even those writers whose prose ends up being the most natural and fluid” (22). This told me that it was okay that I was having a difficult writing process; I simply had to feel it out and roll with the punches. -Sarah Khan
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
You can link to your Twitter account to another site. Perhaps your blog?
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.
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…
Click inside the box. First write this: @BillTorg
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!
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.
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.
More instructions, guidelines, and assignments will follow.