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 was a big fan. May his soul rest in peace!
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.
To start off classes this semester, I had the students sit in groups of five. This meant 5 tables of 5 students each. I asked the students to list each member of their group on the board as well as a detail that might help us to get to know them. After they finished doing that, they listed five “Rules For Writing” that they believed in or had been taught to them in previous classes.
Next, each group read a different text written by a writer about writing. On the first day, I used these texts/excerpts:
Black Boy by Richard Wright.
“Shitty First Drafts” by Anne Lamott
Life by Keith Richards
Ex Libris by Anne Fadiman
“Unlearn to Write” by Donald Murray
The students read the excerpt out loud and answered the following four questions:
What is the writer’s message about writing?
What are some “golden lines” that you think are worth talking about?
How can you apply the ideas here to your own writing?
Does any of what this writer says about writing cause you to rethink any of your own Rules For Writing?
When each group was finished, I counted off by fives at each table. Students moved to a new table and presented the text they had just read to students who had read something different. I want to thank St. John’s University doctoral student Katelynn DeLuca for reminding me about this “jigsaw” method of getting students to move around the room.
In the coming weeks, students will be reading and commenting on texts written by writers about writing. This exercise was a way for all of us to begin to get to know each other and for the students to get acquainted with some of the choices they have for their reading this semester.
Seven years ago I made the switch from high school English teacher and basketball coach to writer and professor. Since that time, I’ve been blessed to have been hired to teach First Year Writing courses at St. John’s University in New York. I write novels, scripts, publish a podcast, and have just sent out my first documentary film for consideration at several film festivals.
Cherokee McGhee Press has published two of my novels. The first, Love on the Big Screen, tells the story of a college freshman whose understanding of love has been shaped by late-eighties romantic comedies. In writing that book, I drew upon my early dating experiences, my time riding the bench of a small-college basketball team, and my devotion to 80s films such as Say Anything and Sixteen Candles. My adaptation of that novel won the Grand Prize of the Rhode Island International Screenplay Competition.
a scene from the novel by artist Keegan Laycock
Horseshoe is my most recent novel and is set in a fictionalized version of my hometown, Winamac, Indiana. It’s a place where everyone knows everybody else’s business. Writer Bryan Fuhurness endorsed the novel by writing, “What Sherwood Anderson would have written if he had a sense of humor.”
I ask my students to write a hybrid research paper we call a Scholarly Personal Narrative. I think of Colin Beavan’s No Impact Man and Joan Didion’s Year of Magical Thinking as examples of this sort of text that combines a personal story with scholarly research. The students also create short documentary films, follow Tweets in their area of interest, and compose ePortfolios as their final writing project.
In order to consider my professional life, I use a metaphor gifted to me by a former professor: Writing Floats on a Sea of Conversation. Given that, I invite you to respond to anything you find here as the first lines of what could be a rewarding conversation. You can get in touch with me via Twitter @BillTorg or write me an email at William.Torgerson@gmail.com