We’re All Victims of This Unavoidable Internet Trap: What You Need to Know…A guest post by Elizabeth Raynal

Elizabeth Raynal is a senior at Southern Oregon University, studying English and Outdoor Adventure Leadership

As the internet expands into a virtual marketing front, businesses are shifting their outreach tactics subtlety, yet more aggressive and effective. Any social media sight open to advertisers is littered with click bait headlines, and as technology advances, the headlines are getting harder to resist. Linguistically, there are a multitude of click bait approaches, often accompanied by digital attractions intended to maximize reader curiosity. This paper dissects the psychological appeal to click bait, and what journalists are doing to increase reader interest.

We’re All Victims of This Unavoidable Internet Trap: What You…

This statement is just an example of what many psychologists and linguistics have studied in order to understand why certain online headlines and posts become so dire to read (or watch) by online users. The internet has become a leader in communication and is constantly advancing to share more information to more people. And through the invention of social media, an immeasurable number of businesses and media networks have developed a new way to increase consumers and revenue—Clickbait. According to the Journal of Social, Technological, and Environmental Science, “Click Baiting is one of the many strategies used by online news journalists with the intent of making their headlines more attractive and, therefore, obtaining more clicks” (Alves 197). This new phenomenon shows little academic research or well-developed data; however, scholars have concluded that the formula behind clickbait includes forward-reference strategies and relatable terminology which urge readers to satisfy their curiosity and succumb to headline links.

While we scroll through various forms of information-based social media, particularly Facebook and Twitter, there is one factor that predicts our next click: Curiosity. According to the Educational Psychology Review: “More than half of definitions [on curiosity] included the need for knowledge or information as a defining feature of curiosity. This suggests that thinking and reasoning about the knowledge one has and the knowledge one desires may be required at either a conscious or automatic level in order for curiosity to arise” (Grossnickle 52). One must measure the information they know in accordance with what they want to know, then the level of curiosity will be determined. This is where journalists publish articles that appear like never before seen information to intrigue readers. For example, W Magazine posted an article titled: “The 25 Most Daring Dresses of All Time” (Petrarca 2017) in reference to celebrity award shows. The awards had already been aired, but the article was posted just after the season was wrapping up in January, so it was still a relevant topic. Readers may have seen an award show and wanted to relate to what they had seen, or were curious about what they may have missed. An article as menial as this, in relation to hard news, still catches the attention of readers. This is a concept psychologist George Loewenstein explores: “The key to understanding curiosity seeking lies in recognizing that the process of satisfying curiosity is itself pleasurable” (Loewenstein 90). This means that by coming to a resolution, one experiences relief and gratification. W Magazine readers likely have shown interest in similar media genres, and journalists used linguistic tactics to heighten their curiosity and lure them into reading such articles.

The most common form of click bait occurs in what linguists refer to as forward-reference. Jonas Blom and Kenneth Hansen explain that, “forward-referring headlines are considered phoric because the reader needs to locate the entities that are being referred to later in the full text or discourse, i.e. ‘needs to look elsewhere’ in order for the headline to make sense” (Blom & Hansen 92). Most headlines point readers in a specific direction, but intentionally omit the main point of the article. This arises curiosity and urges people to read further. The art of forward-referencing is separated into two factors: Deixis and cataphora. Both are similar tactics pointing to a discourse, only in different ways. Deixis is when, “the pronoun can be regarded as a sort of teaser, an information gap (88). For instance, This is How to Save Money While Traveling, engages readers on wanting to know what this is; how to save money. Cataphora, though also employs the use of pronouns, points readers to a single conclusion: ‘The greater ‘the distance’, so to speak, between 3PP [third person pronoun] and NP [nominal phrase], the greater an effect of suspense and anticipation (88). If an article were to say, He Traveled Around the World for Three Years, and Never Spend more than…,” he is the cataphora. Readers firstly want to know who he is, then how he did it. As a bonus, ellipses act as a form of deixis; a sort of cliff-hanger to increase suspense. The more ambiguous the relationship between the prnoun and the event is, the greater the information gap and the more change of readers submitting to click bait.

In addition to forward-reference, journalists use trendy language to connect with their readers. Slang words, although too unreliable to deem academic, make up the dialect in groups of a particular environment. According to Connie Eble in her book, Slang and Sociability, “slang is within the ordinary competence of a language user. Second, the social potential inherent in language is actuated and intensified in the use of slang” (Eble 2). Essentially, slang words are expected to be understood by the speaker and receiver due to common group association, and, slang elevates the semantics of a word. In social media, where posts are generally informal, journalists use slang as a tactic to relate to their readers. In Refinery29 Magazine, one headline reads: “83 Dope Things Coming to Netflix in December” (Farley 2017). In this statement, Dope, Things, and, Netflix could all be considered current slang words as of 2017. Readers of Refinery29 are generally young adults who qualify to fit in to the group associated with these terms. Therefore, young readers could find this article relatable enough to click on. If readers find it beneficial to their life, they will consider reading it.

Another emerging online marketing tactic is the use of emojis. Anyone with access to a smartphone knows the digital symbols indicating a smiley face, a cup of coffee, or a thumbs up. Media sites engage in small phrase communication and emojis help readers understand the tone and emotion behind a writer’s intentions. Additionally, “For all their creative potential, emoji were intended to normalize and then capitalize on the collective strength of affect in human social relations online. (Crawford & Stark 4). By including digital representations of emotions and actions, readers can more directly understand and engage with other writers. Journalists know this and have started to capitalize on its effectiveness. Businesses implement tracking emoji trends on social media users to direct them towards buying into certain products. Researchers have discovered that, “sentiment-analysis firms like Lexalytics are also working to incorporate emoji into their business models, providing data profiles grounded in emotion and mood to their customers” in order to “better monitoring and modulating the flow of consumer desire” (Crawford & Stark 8). Similar to using slang, emojis are both trendy and hyperbolic, which can strongly engage certain audiences. The likelihood of online browsers clicking a link with a picture or comment using an emoji is greater now with the advancements of technology.

On the current news side of things, two name-brand news broadcasters report on the same incident; however, their click bait tactics vary. BBC news writes: “North Korea Say Missle Can Hit entire US,” (BBC 2017) while CNN states: “North Korea Missile Launch: The Most Important Things to Know” (CNN 2017). BBC shoots for a more direct approach, informing readers what North Korea, the subject, is doing. The curiosity lies within the audience affected by this statement—evidently, the entire US. Likely, readers will want to click the link to find out more about what North Korea said, and what can be done. However, there is no guarantee their questions will be answered. CNN upped the ante by implementing deixis in their headline. Things, is the information gap from the headline to the article, and the readers alerted by the missile launch will want to find out what they “need” to know—need also used as a hyperbolic tactic to rise emotion.

Click bait is a fairly new concept that online journalists and marketers have already mastered. From a psychological perspective, curiosity is a key component that moves readers to click on a headline, but it’s not without complex linguistic strategy that the headline becomes interesting. Forward-reference in the form of deixis—pronouns with an information gap, and catophora—pronouns alluding to a direct answer, most effectively lures readers to succumb to the click. Other strategies include linguistic relatability such as slang words and emojis. These tactics intended for capitalizing on consumers, may be the difference between someone reading an article or not, and it’s up to the reader to decide if what they read will truly benefit them, or if they are just another victim of click bait.

Works Cited

Alves, Liliana, et al. “Click Bait: You Won’t Believe What Happens Next.” Fronteiras: Journal of Social, vol. 5, no. 2, 2016, pp. 196–213.

Blom, and Kenneth Hansen. “Click Bait: Forward-Reference as Lure in Online News Headlines.” Journal of Pragmatics, 2015, pp. 87-100

Crawford, and Like Star. “The Conservatism of Emoji: Work, Affect, and Communication.” Social Media and Society. 2015, pp. 1-11

Farley, Rebecca. “83 Dope Things Coming to Netflix in December.” Refinery29 Magazine. 20 Nov. 2017.

Griffiths, James. “North Korea Missile Launch: The Most Important Things to Know.” CNN. 29 Nov. 2017.

Loewenstein, George. “The Psychology of Curiosity: A Review and Reinterpretation.” Psychological Bulletin. July 1994, pp. 75-98.

“North Korea Says New Missile Can Hit entire US.” BBC News. 29 Nov. 2017.

Petracarca, Emilia. “Oscar Red Carpet: The 25 Most Daring Dresses of All Time.” W Magazine. 25 Jan. 2017.

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An Interview with Harley Patrick of Hellgate Press

Ed Battistella: How did Hellgate Press come about?

Harley Patrick: In the late 1990s, Emmett Ramey, the owner of PSI Research, Inc., a Grants Pass-based publishing company specializing in business-related titles under the imprint Oasis Press, wanted to establish a second imprint that would focus on military history and veteran memoirs. Emmett was a Navy veteran, and was personally interested in both military and historical topics. So he founded Hellgate Press, named after the Rogue River’s Hellgate Canyon.

EB: What does Hellgate specialize in today?

HP: While veteran memoirs and military history are still Hellgate’s main topics of interest, over the years we’ve expanded our catalogue to include adventure travel titles as well as historical fiction.

EB: Tell us a little about some of the books you’ve published.

HP: We currently have almost 100 titles in print, the majority of which are veteran memoirs and biographies. Most of those are Vietnam War related, with WWI, WWII and Iraq also well represented. A few of our titles deal with lesser known conflicts as well.

EB: What do you look for in an author and in a book?

HP: When it comes to our military-related titles, our mission is to help veterans—or the family of veterans—tell their stories. We don’t need an author to be previously published or to be the next David McCullough or Ernest Hemingway. We look for interesting stories well told, and if they’re a little rough to begin with, we’ll help polish them into shape for publishing. For our fiction titles, it’s about the same—an interesting plot, with well defined characters and a topic appropriately related to our genre.

EB: How has Hellgate Press evolved over the years?

HP: When I first joined the company in 2000, Hellgate Press was only a couple of years old with roughly 15-20 titles. I worked for the company until 2007, when I purchased it from Emmett and his wife Ardella. Over the last decade, it’s grown to be one of the best recognized military history publishers in the country, with almost 100 titles and a slew of award-winning authors.

EB: Who are some of the local authors you’ve published?

HP: Hellgate currently has 5 local authors:

T.B. Smith has penned two police procedural novels for us: The Sticking Place and A Fellow of Infinite Jest. Both center around a San Diego police rookie named Luke Jones, who has a reputation for quoting Shakespeare at appropriate, and occasionally inappropriate, moments. T.B. Smith is a retired SD policeman living in Ashland.

Paul Fattig is a well-known journalist/columnist for the Mail Tribune, among many other news outlets. His first Hellgate title, Up Sterling Creek Without a Paddle, tells the story of his wife and his often humorous adventures buying and remodeling a 100-year-old homestead just outside of Jacksonville. It was released in 2017. His second book, Madstone, which will appear in March of 2018, is about his two uncles, Alfred and Charlie Fattig, who were WWI draft dodgers that hid out in the area now known as the Kalmiopsis wilderness. His third book, scheduled for a 2019 release, will tell the story of the smokejumpers based in Selma, Oregon, and their adventures fighting fires in Oregon and elsewhere.

Dennis Powers’ book, Where Past Meets Present, contains 140 stories and photographs that tell the fascinating and occasionally odd history of the Rogue Valley. It was our bestselling book of 2017.

Richard Seidman has written a delightful YA (Young Adult) book titled The Secret of Ebbets Field (Paloma Books). Set in New York in 1958, it tells the story of a young boy, Eli, a devoted fan of the Brooklyn Dodgers, who hunts for a treasure buried beneath the Dodgers’ stadium, Ebbets Field, and along the way encounters bad guys, a mysterious homeless man, and baseball great Jackie Robinson.

Dr. Sylvia Chatroux. Her children’s book, Zucchini the Dog (Paloma Books), follows the adorable adventures of Zucchini as told to the author.

EB: What does the future hold for book arts? It seems to me that people are increasingly interested in the aesthetics of print and books.

HP: I feel we’re in a “golden age” of publishing in that there are so many opportunities today for an author to get his/her book published. From self-publishing to print-on-demand to traditional publishing arrangements, if someone has written a book, they can get it published and out into the marketplace. As far as the future goes, I see augmented ebooks—ones with embedded videos and various interactive apps, as a growing industry. And although we sell many more ebook versions of our titles than print, I don’t believe that print is dead, as some have suggested. I think you’re right in thinking that aesthetics will play an ever increasing role in the types of books we’ll be seeing on the shelves in years to come.

EB: Tell us a little about your background? How did you get interested in publishing?

HP: I left a 25-year career in marketing and public relations, all of it spent in Southern Cal, to move to Eugene, OR and pursue a master’s at the UofO in Literary Nonfiction in 1998. After graduating in 2000, I came to Ashland where I answered a small ad in the Mail Tribune for someone with editing and marketing experience to join a local publishing company. And, no pun intended, the rest is history.

EB: Hellgate also has imprint for Grid Press and Paloma Books. Can you tell us a little about those?

HP: Often we get manuscript submissions that don’t quite fit the usual Hellgate genres, but that we feel warrant publication. So, we created Grid Press to fill that niche. Primarily those have been politically-oriented and/or self-help titles. Paloma Books is a new children’s book imprint that we started about three years ago. It currently offers 19 titles that can be found at www.palomabooks.com.

Thanks for talking with us.

HP: My pleasure, Ed. Thanks for asking.

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Grad School: An Interview with Brenda Nicole Shelton

A 2015 graduate of Southern Oregon University, Brenda Nicole Shelton completed a Masters of Library and Information Science University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2017. She works at the Beaverton City Library.

Ed Battistella: What did your graduate studies involve?

Brenda Nicole Shelton: My program was focused on preparing students for their careers as “innovative information professionals.” I don’t think a lot of people realize librarians are information professionals and not just book jockeys. My program also served other information professions such as archivists and IT. There was a basic core curriculum that focused on digital trends, collection development, HTML coding, metadata, and database organization and operation, to name a few. I learned how libraries are organized and operated, as well as the preservation and cultural skills that archivists need. We also learning HTML coding and metadata markup, which are so vital in any information profession, whether you go on to work in coding or museum work. You could navigate through the program with no chosen focus, or you could choose a path, such as Archives, Public Libraries, Academic Libraries, etc. Since I knew I wanted to work in public libraries with youth, my studies also involved learning about early literacy and teaching skills. Another key facet of study, particularly for library science, is intellectual freedom and equitable access, so we also studied some identity politics and about social inequities, as well as barriers to information and materials access that make libraries so necessary and vital.

EB: What sorts of things were you reading?

BNS: I read such a wide variety of things that it’s hard to recall it all. My core classes involved a lot of reading of standards and coding rules. Some dry procedural stuff. We read about linguistics and the different methods of organization. We read a lot about the history of libraries, as well as current professional pieces about trends in libraries and best practices. Every so often, we would read things about social movements and how they affected libraries in multiple ways. In my Youth Services classes, I would read a lot of Young Adult fiction and picture books coupled with book reviews in order to learn not only how to assess materials to collect, but also how to booktalk and prepare for storytimes and reference. With my concentration I also read a lot of materials about children’s brain development, as well as teaching and learning methods.

EB: How has your education so far shaped your career goals? You minored in Gender Studies and I see that you also worked with the Guerrilla Feminism organization in Madison and served as the gender studies librarian at Wisconsin.

BNS: My activism is really what made me want to become a librarian. While I think all librarians love books, and reading is a core part of their identities, I believe public libraries at their core are champions for equity and access. At least, they should be. In library school you talk a lot about intellectual freedom, which is what libraries champion, not only by offering free materials, but in fighting against censorship and the social and economic barriers that bar individuals for accessing information for educational gain or pure entertainment. When I was in college, I worked at a Women’s Resource Center where I connected individuals with resources that either helped then grow socially and shape their identities, or that helped them navigate out of abuse or trauma. When I worked with GF, it was all about digital connection between people and information, and I did a lot of that work at the gender and women’s studies library as well. In that position, I helped compile and update an online database of free academic resources for individuals who didn’t have access to the resources higher education allows. I also did a lot of work on the library’s published annual journals that connect scholars to new publications in the field. My work in public libraries is also about connecting people to information for free. I had a passion to fight for people’s access to information and materials before I began my professional studies, and I think that interest and my experiences only amplified that desire. Information access is key not only in how we navigate the world, but also how navigate our own emotions and build our identities. Those core values describe both social work and informational institutions, so I’m glad I get to meld those two in my work.

EB: What did you enjoy most about your graduate work?

BNS: My graduate program was dedicated to us spending half our time in class and half of our time in the field. The jobs and volunteer work I did while I was in school were the best teaching experience I could ever have. You can read for years about how libraries run, best practices, and theory, but nothing beats actually being in a library and interacting with patrons. I ran a Minecraft club for kids at the Central Library in Madison for a few years, and it was the best experience I’ve had in my recent professional and academic life. I not only met a great librarian who taught me so much, but I spent my time every week learning from kids. I think those kids taught me more than anything else in my graduate work. Not just about Minecraft and how to play it, but about what kind of listener and professional I want to be.

EB: How do you like the library field so far? What does your work entail?

BNS: I’m really enjoying my work. The majority of my work involves being at the desk helping find books and materials for youth, and also often for adults. When I’m on desk I help keep the area clean, and I also create rotating displays to help showcase our materials, as well as posters that promote my programs. A big part of my work is in-house promotion and programming. I develop and lead weekly programs for young teens. My young teens really enjoy DIY crafts that help them be creative, and they also really like anything rooted in pop culture. I think a lot of people don’t realize that libraries offer free programs for all ages every day of the week, from storytimes, to free computer classes and author visits. Most people I talk to just think I sit around reading all day, and I think people still have a really outdated view of libraries. It’s not a quiet space where I sit shushing people all day. Libraries are actually a great place for kids to play and people to connect. My position also involves updating booklists, school outreach, and I’m about to begin a project to help implement more programming and inclusion for patrons with disabilities or special needs at my library. I don’t have time to sit and read a book all day. There are too many things to do and people to help!

EB: Where do you see librarianship heading in the future??

BNS: While libraries have fought against claims they are “unneeded” or “outdated” in the face of the Internet and Amazon, I think you’ll see even more emphasis on libraries in the future. In the face of “fake news” and moves to defund libraries, archives, and museums even further, libraries have become a key topic of conversation in the national spotlight. Libraries have begun to fight for information access and intellectual freedom even harder in the last year, and I think that will only increase. Issues like preserving net neutrality and fighting against censorship and the spread of false information are key core values outlined by the American Library Association. When they spoke out publicly against executive orders this year they created quite a buzz. I think you’ll continue to see libraries working locally and nationally to speak up about injustice and fight for intellectual freedom, access, and the dismantling of oppressive systems.

EB: Any advice for students considering going on for more school?

BNS: It will be hard. I’ve never been someone who struggled in school, but grad school was the hardest school experience I’ve ever had. It was a busy, challenging, and often lonely time for me, but it helped me get to where I am today. I don’t think I’ve talked to a single person who didn’t struggle at some point in grad school. Yet, I met people who inspired me and became my mentors, and I wouldn’t be who I am today, and having the enriching experiences I do everyday at work, if it wasn’t for that. I think grad school can be very competitive, and you can feel like you are not doing enough or succeeding as well as your peers. My best advice is not to compare yourself to others and to really stick with, and stand up for, your ideas. Also, I’ll always remember this answer that a grad student from another program gave at my orientation: “You don’t have to read the whole 50-page article, just read the abstract and the conclusion and you’ll survive.” Probably not what a professor would ever want to know about, but I think there’s an important truth tied to that about cutting yourself some slack while in a challenging program.

EB: What are you reading currently?

BNS: A librarian who used to talk to us about audiobooks always told us her kids would ask her if she read a book “with her eyes or her ears?” I’m reading The First Rule of Punk by Celia C. Pérez with my eyes, and Goodbye Days by Jeff Zentner with my ears.

EB: Thanks for talking with us.

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Grad School: An Interview with Eric Worthey

Eric Worthey is a Graduate student and First-Year-Writing Instructor at Eastern Michigan University. He was a Ronald E. McNair scholar at Southern Oregon University, graduating in 2015.

Ed Battistella: What is your graduate program like?

Eric Worthey: Fun and intense. I am studying children’s literature and working on a creative thesis, so I get to enjoy the imaginative aspects of writing and utilize my artistic skills. Part of the intensity stems from the subject matter and complex themes found in children’s and young adult literatures, but also from the theoretical frameworks that provide a lens in which to analyze these texts. They may be written for kids, but most of the time adults do the writing and present controversial social, ethical, philosophical, religious and often political concepts. The program itself offers cutting-edge and rigorous courses in mythology and folklore, the history of children’s literature, adolescent literature, illustrated texts, as well specialized graduate classes on topics such as multicultural children’s literature and films, global children’s literature, as well as the teaching of children’s and adolescent literatures. The program’s course of study is tailored to prepare master’s level students for careers as educators, librarians, authors, editors, as well as those who desire to obtain a doctoral degree in children’s literature.

EB: How has your experience so far shaped your career goals?

EW: Recently, I received the advice that between Thanksgiving and Christmas may not be the best time to reconsider career goals. One of the reasons I chose EMU was because, like SOU, it originally opened as a Normal school. One way the University retains this heritage is through the motto ‘Education First.’ Combined with the opportunity to teach WRTG 120 and 121 for the First Year Writing Program, I also assist professors in the children’s literature lecture halls. These two positions create opportunities for me to experience diverse teaching environments and work with professors who maintain unique pedagogical approaches. EMU’s student population is much larger than SOU’s, so I have learned that I prefer the teaching and learning environments created with smaller faculty to student ratios. I still aspire to teach writing and literature, as well as produce some writing and literature myself, but I am not sure in what capacity or location these goals will manifest. I have looked into a few Ph.D. programs, but after spending the past eight years devoted to my education I think I would like to take at least a year or two off from being a student. I have learned that a big part of being a graduate student is not knowing for certain how things will unfold or where research will take you, so being open to future possibilities and job opportunities is an important way to reduce the stress associated with being attached to outcomes.

EB: What courses are you taking and what sorts of things were you reading?

EW: This semester, I branched out beyond the children’s literature discipline and signed up for an introductory course on written communication and a teaching of Shakespeare literature course. As part of my graduate assistantship benefits I receive eighteen tuition credits per year, so I am utilizing the extra six credits that I do not need to graduate to meet the qualifications for a post-graduation job opportunity. To have a chance at this job, in addition to a master’s degree in children’s literature and two years’ experience teaching first year writing, I also need at least twelve credits in literature, writing, or English.

In the written communication course, we are mostly reading academic articles which illuminate the history of the field and help us gain a sense of where we would position ourselves academically and professionally since it encompasses many different majors, ranging from technical communication to rhetorics and composition studies.

In the Shakespeare class we are reading an average of one play per week except for a few we discussed during two class periods, including A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Measure for Measure, All’s Well that Ends Well, Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, and The Tempest. I never knew that there was such a wide spectrum of gender performance and ambivalence toward gender in Shakespeare’s works until this semester. I also came to realize that queer readings of these plays are not very popular, but that they do exist.

I am also taking a multicultural children’s literature course that is cross-referenced as a teaching course, so we are reading a broad range of classic and contemporary books and discussing films that represent numerous types of diversities that students may experience or encounter, including age, race, religion, ability, gender, sexuality, as well geographic location: Snowy Day, Lon Po Po, King & King, American Born Chinese, The Hate You Give, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Brown Girl Dreaming, The Book Thief, George, The Hunger Games, and films such as Disney’s Inside Out and Pixar’s Up. We examine these multicultural texts in terms of their literary, aesthetic, ideological, political contexts. This class is mostly discussion based, so it helps to gain insights not only from the professor but also from my peers who are also teachers or aspiring to teach.

EB: You are also teaching. How do you enjoy that?

EW: I enjoy working with the students. The relationships I develop with my writing students differ than the ones I have with the students in the large lecture hall, but I find them both rewarding in their own ways. All writing is personal, so when teaching introductory writing I like having the freedom to create a community-based classroom that operates like a writing workshop, rather than a traditional lecture-style course. I think that the lecture-style works for larger class sizes. However, when delivering lectures in this environment, I find myself assigning class activities to encourage students to participate in small group discussions. I like being able to try different pedagogical approaches and apply this knowledge to the creation of my teaching philosophy statement.

EB: What is the most rewarding part of your graduate program?

EW: The opportunity to teach and assist in teaching undergraduate students provides one of the most rewarding experiences of being a part of any graduate program in EMU’s Department of English Language and Literatures. This invaluable experience not only covers the cost of tuition, but it also offers a stipend in exchange for twenty hours of work per week during the fall and winter semesters. It is also rewarding to have three months off during the summer, but it is a little odd to have spring break amidst a Michigan winter: February.

EB: What’s been your academic focus? Has it changed at all since you began?

EW: Focus. Focus. Focus. That was Dr. Alvarez’s advice before booting me off to grad school. Initially, I had wanted to continue my research of mythology and religion representations in contemporary young adult literature. However, during my first semester several events on campus inspired me to focus my independent study on learning about the dimensions of racism. I quickly realized that I had not diverged from my original focus, but I was still attempting to answer the research question that I had first proposed as an undergraduate in a world religions class: Why has the bible been used to usurp the power of women, children, people of color, and gender and sexuality diverse people for the past two thousand years when Jesus’ and Paul’s words create oppositions? The professor’s response to my proposal to pursue this research question for my final paper will always be a cornerstone moment for me in my educational path. Also, I will never forget that it was in this class I first heard the words mythology, non-duality, and Joseph Campbell, and learning their meanings helped shape my academic focus. I did not understand what the professor meant when he identified his religious/spiritual beliefs as being ‘non-dual,’ but I do now and am trying to find ways to encourage others to consider this worldview. Two years hardly feels like enough time to try to focus on one thing that I would like to specialize in for the rest of my academic career.

Last semester, an assignment for one of my children’s literature classes involved creating something. It could be anything if we developed a rationale for the creation. I was reluctant at first, but I took one of my old University Seminar style guides and used its pages to create a postmodern version of the Grimm’s animal fable “The Bremen Town Musicians.” I incorporated drawings and collage materials to draw attention to how the contemporary American political climate seems a lot like the early days of Nazis Germany. I decided instead of writing a traditional thesis, I was going to finally create a children’s book that incorporated mythological elements and symbolism to break down binary perceptions, going back to much of the research I conducted as a McNair Scholar.

It is funny how I am still researching the same question, but at the same time I am learning new ways to look at the trouble with duality. I finally discovered that one of the difficulties of this arises because the place where oppositional forces break down remains indescribable by our languages. Thus, I am back to square one and trying to draw pictures that are highly symbolic and open to interpretation to create a graphic novel that challenges binary perceptions and socially constructed identity markers.

EB: Any advice for students considering going on for more school?

EW: If I were to offer advice to prospective graduate students, I would draw their attention to the amount of time, or lack thereof, that is required to succeed in graduate school. The sheer volume of the reading lists is enough to overwhelm the most avid readers, especially if they desire to have a social existence (not really a reality for a graduate student). Also, don’t invest your own money. Find programs that offer graduate assistantships or scholarships that include the tuition and stipend to cover living costs while you work on your degree. There are plenty of opportunities, but keep in mind that the applications deadlines usually come earlier for these than the program of study applications. Don’t rack up a lot of student debt going to graduate school because another degree does not necessarily translate into post-graduation job opportunities.

Before applying to a graduate program, conduct preliminary research about the availability of jobs on the market by joining your discipline’s organizations, listservs, or by reading or subscribing to higher education publications. Also, when seeking a potential program and a faculty member to work with on major academic projects it helps to discover which scholars or professionals are already working in that area. What institution are they from? What is their academic discipline? What organization sponsored the journal their article appears in? Was there a co-author, an editor(s), or an academic advisor? This will help gain a sense of potential institutions and/or faculty that will support your research goals.

EB: What’s next for you?

EW: I began my postsecondary educational career when my life hinged on the space between my twenties and thirties. I lingered there and wondered what had I done with my life. Nearly eight years later, and following two degrees, I currently anticipate graduating with a Master’s degree in Children’s Literature in April, so I have began reflecting about my experiences and future possibilities. I do plan to take a year or two off before pursuing a Ph.D. program because I would like to gain some teaching experience before I hit the forty mark. While on the Oregon coast this past summer, I spoke with the dean of a community college about a potential post-graduation job opportunity. I plan to apply for this position, as well as for teaching positions at few other community colleges along the Northern California and/or the Oregon coast, and see what happens. Additionally, since I am completing the first issue of a graphic novel for my master’s thesis project, I hope to submit a copy of it along with a book proposal, like the one I created when I participated in your history of publishing course, in hopes of continuing to develop the story line into a middle-grade reader series.

EB: Thanks for talking with us.

EW: It was my pleasure, and thank you!

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Grad School: An Interview with Allegra Lance

Allegra Lance is a writer and editor from the pacific northwest who regularly moonlights as a writing teacher and burrito connoisseur. In her free time, Allegra practices circus arts and dabbles in game design. She can be contacted by chanting “Roll for perception” three times into a venti iced coffee between the hours of 1 pm and 3 am. She graduated from Southern Oregon University 2017 with degrees in English and Writing.

EB: What is your graduate experience like so far?

AL: It’s a little strange! I moved home after graduation and immediately started a fulltime job as a teacher which I did all summer, and now I’m exploring options for grad school, looking at programs for creative writing and publishing. When I finished teaching I realized I hadn’t really sat down and just done nothing for two or three years so I took three weeks to eat ice cream and sleep. Now I’m taking some lower level linguistics classes to sort of see if I’m interested in that as a career option and sort of supplementing my editing skills, and it’s weird because I feel like I went a little backwards! My classes are full of freshmen and my final papers only need to be three pages long! I’m also at a much larger school, and that is a bit of a culture shock.

EB: What courses are you taking and what sorts of things were you reading?

AL: I’m currently taking a class on the structure of English, so grammar and word classes and all that fun stuff, and then I started taking ASL in case I continue in the program. It’s very different from what I’m used to, which I’m finding is nice. Taking two classes instead of five is also pretty great.

We don’t read much but very dense textbooks, but I’ve been reading in my spare time things like Big Magic and Swimming Lessons, so some non-fiction and some fiction and all just to get back into reading for fun and working towards being a better writer. Having time to read whatever I want again is fantastic.

EB: What has been the most fun so far?

AL: I think, really, it was teaching. There were definitely hard days and it’s the most difficult job I’ve ever had to do but an overwhelming majority of the time it was a blast. I think, even though it was insanely difficult and exhausting, having something to do that I really cared about and being able to make a path for myself and make a living that way was extremely gratifying. Also I got flowers from one of my students and it was the sweetest thing ever.

EB: What has been the weirdest?

AL: So I grew up in Portland, and now I’ve moved back to Portland, and there are so many things that I had no idea existed before or that came into being the four years I was away and it feels like I’ve stepped into an alternate universe where everything is just shifted six inches to the left, or, for example where the Freddie’s is two stories tall and has a tattoo parlor in the basement. It’s nice, though, because so many of the things I’m discovering are just things I never cared about before because I was young and it just didn’t matter to me yet, so being able to sort of rediscover the city I grew up in is neat.

EB: What’s next for you?

AL: Right now I’m looking for some kind of job or internship in publishing and then within the next year I’ll be applying for grad school and hopefully starting my master’s. I’ve also kept working on some poetry, some short stories, a novel or two, so we’ll see where those go.

EB: Any advice for students considering going on for more school?

AL: Definitely make sure that you look for opportunities outside of school. I originally was planning on going straight into grad school, but now I’ve realized there are a lot of things, like internships or partnerships with people who are already out there doing what I want to do, that are really good resources and experiences. Working and doing something other than school has helped me figure out where I am in my life now and what I want to do going forward, since before now the goal had just been to graduate! Also, just be open to possibilities, even if you have a really specific idea of what you want to do. Taking an opportunity, even if it isn’t exactly what you had in mind, can still teach you a lot and open up other possibilities that you might not have even considered before. Even if you still decide to do exactly what you wanted at first, having the extra experience and that certainty can do wonders for your confidence.

EB: Thanks for talking with us!

AL: Thanks for the questions!

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An Interview with Robert Arellano, author of Havana Libre

ROBERT ARELLANO is the award-winning author of six novels including Curse the Names, Fast Eddie, King of the Bees, and Don Dimaio of La Plata. His latest novel, Havana Libre, is the standalone sequel to his Edgar-nominated Havana Lunar. His nonfiction title Friki: Rock and Rebellion in the Cuban Revolution, will be released in 2018.

Ed Battistella: Back in 2009 you published Havana Lunar, which introduced us to the young doctor Mano Rodriguez, who was trying to practice medicine in the “special period” when the Cuba was no longer supported by the Soviets.

Can you give us a quick recap of the first book?

Robert Arellano : Manolo Rodriguez is stuck in every way: in a grueling and unrewarding job for Cuba’s socialist healthcare system, in a cycle of dead-end relationships, and in Periodo Especial 1992 Havana. Then he meets Julia, a young woman trapped in Cuba’s black-market underworld, and while trying to help her he becomes a straw dog in the police investigation to find a pimp’s killer. Like every unlikely noir hero, Mano is also an insomniac. That’s half the story of the “lunar” in the title.

EB: And the lunar is also a condition you invented? Why?

RA: It fell into place thanks to a Spanish double-entendre: lunar means both “of the moon” and “birthmark”. The lunar on Mano’s face conceals a story that’s at the heart of his predicament, and which also might hold the key to his liberty.

EB: Havana Libre, named after a hotel, is billed as a stand alone sequel. What exactly is that?

RA: It means you can read either book first without needing the other’s context. Although there are one or two cues in Havana Libre hinting at how Mano and Detective Emilio Pérez have met before, today it may actually be most rewarding to start with the sequel and, if you enjoy it, work your way backwards. I think most mystery authors try to configure their series in this way (after all, the way media works, the “new” gets a lot more attention than a book published just five or seven years ago). I’m currently reading through Jo Nesbo’s Harry Hole series beginning with book two, and the characters and scenarios are jumping to first light for me such that I’ll probably hopscotch through the other titles with impugnity.

EB: In Havana Libre, Mano falls for Mercedes, who had been connected with the frikis. It’s a minor mention but I know you’ve done some research on that movement. What can you share?

RA: Los frikis are rock-music fans who were targeted by the Castro government early in the Special Period for their long hair, ripped jeans, and “social dangerousness” (an actual law on the books in Cuba). They have been fined, beaten, and jailed simply for looking and behaving like rockers, and in response as many as 200 frikis took upon themselves one of the most extreme acts of resistance conceivable. For people who want to learn more, I love to this Radiolab podcast that Jad Abumrad and Luis Trelles produced with the help of my own archive and interviews.

EB: Mano is a character trying to good the right thing in a system that doesn’t encourage that. As a writer, how did you try to instill this humanity in him?

RA: This characteristic—human virtue in the face of systemic depravity—was actually one of the first things to rise from the notes that started my Cuban noir series. During trips to Cuba 25 years ago, it seemed like corruption was everywhere, the result of a black-market economy fueled by the ongoing U.S. embargo. But there were also so many very good people. The trick for me, upon meeting each new person, was figuring out what end of the exploitation-integrity spectrum they were on. Sometimes it took months, and sometimes it was a moving target, and this is where the stories arose. For instance, my friend Yorki would spend all day chasing after some frozen cutlets to feed his family, only to fry them that night and discover they were actually breaded dishtowels instead of beef.

EB: I am starting to warm to Pérez as well. Have you changed his role?

RA: I think this time we’re discovering that Pérez, too, is aware of being something of a puppet in an absurd system. He is subjugated by his own capricious controller (Daniel Caballero, the head of Cuban State Security), but he will find ways to resist the strings, if only briefly, creating moments of agency for himself and dignity, perhaps even beauty, for others around him.

EB: Were the bombing based on real events and attempts to destabilize the country?

RA: Yes. My story is mapped so closely (dates, places, perpetrators) to the actual bombings of ‘97 that to set the wheels of Havana Libre in motion all I had to do was insert Mano and one other fictional character (Mendoza) on the side of the bad guys. Anyone who would like the nonfiction account can pick up Brazilian journalist Fernando Morais’s riveting book The Last Soldiers of the Cold War: The Story of the Cuban Five, which was recently published in English translation by Verso.

EB: Another question about craft: you do a certain amount of code switching in the novel—bits of Spanish which adds to the atmosphere—how do you decide how much is too much?

We all have our ideal reader, and mine is actually a two-headed beast: Johnny Temple, publisher and editor-in-chief of Akashic Books, and associate editor Aaron Petrovich. They helped immensely with the language balance. And just this morning I’m emboldened by a quote from our Rogue Valley friend and neighbor in this New York Times article, How Pixar Made Sure ‘Coco’ Was Culturally Conscious:

“The original idea was to have the characters speak only in English with the understanding that they were really speaking in Spanish,” said Octavio Solis, a Mexican-American playwright who was a consultant on the film. “But for us, language is binary, and we code-switch from English to Spanish seamlessly.”

EB: Havana Libre and Havana Lunar seem to be not quite so magical realism as some of your other work? More noirish. How do you see yourself as a writer?

RA: I like this catchphrase that Johnny came up with 16 years ago when he published the first of my five books in the Akashic catalog: “urban surreal.” Besides that, I still cop to the genre created in part by my greatest teacher, Robert Coover (along with Angela Carter, William Gass, Donald Barthelme, and other fine writers): postmodernism.

EB: Can we expect a third Havana book?

RA: You must.

EB: I know you have a lot of other projects in the works. What are you working on this week?

RA: Friki: Rock and Rebellion in the Cuban Revolution, the nonfiction project that has obsessed me for a quarter-century.

EB: Thanks for talking with us.

RA: You’re welcome. And thank you for reading me.

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An Interview with Joe Biel of Microcosm Publishing

Ed Battistella: How did Microcosm Publishing come about?

Joe Biel: ​I grew up in Cleveland​ during the bankruptcy and recession​ in the 70s and 80s. ​My upbringing was abusive, I was uneducated, and I had autism that wasn’t diagnosed until my 30s. Being involved in the punk scene led ​me ​to Harvey Pekar, the Dead Boys, Dennis Kucinich, and a long union history of corporate hegemony versus public power. I was desperately lacking necessary resources that I needed to be a functional person. I had a problem with alcohol from age sixteen and could see that crime was the easiest path for someone like me. I drunkenly confided to a peer at the punk club that I was involved with as a teenager that I was going to start something. ​Soon thereafter, I began creating the kind of resources that I needed as a child about gender, mental health, grassroots organizing,​ punk rock,​ history, queerness, ​political power, race and class, and analytical skills. I founded ​Microcosm with any money leftover from my job delivering pizzas. ​Microcosm was a matter of desperation; of nothing meaning anything at a time when I desperately needed it to and it still is.​ We made a comic about our story, with the publishing industry portrayed as dinosaurs and ourselves as rats. Oddly, not much has changed in 22 years other than Microcosm has made my life much more stable. I wrote a book, Good Trouble that details this history in greater depth.

EB: What sorts of things does Microcosm publish? There seems to be quite a range.

JB: All of our books originate from a single point of criteria: “Does this book empower the reader to make positive changes in their life and in the world around them?” If so, our staff does a thorough comp analysis and finds if demand and a niche exists. We aren’t terribly concerned about what subject or shelf the book will land on as you have pointed out. We publish about 20 books per year so our diversity also helps to keep our staff learning and interested. I am autistic, which leads me to be plenty stubborn and to really enjoy the challenge of the changing landscape ​in publishing. I now understand the role of my own meaning and purpose and see suffering as opportunity instead of pain.​ We use data to make decisions in a pretty intense way and communicate internally more like a technology company than a publisher. ​Creative projects move quickly through a pipe with everyone offering feedback and giving their touches.

Some examples of books that I really love:

​​Soviet Daughter looks at the history of Soviet Ukraine and growing up Jewish there before emigrating to the U.S. and becoming a radical occupier! It’s the first-ever graphic novel to be published in the Ukraine!

Things That Help is your guide to self-care in a Trump presidency.

​The Prodigal Rogerson is the first look at the life of the songwriter, bass player, and forgotten member of The Circle Jerks.

Unfuck Your Brain gets to the nerve of how we can unravel neuroscience and be happy!

Chocolotology is a critical and deep taste of how imperialism made chocolate so bittersweet and delicious.

​Basic Fermentation ​is the first book by world fermentation expert Sandor Katz that he sent to us with a very modest letter in 2001. It’s now one of our top ten sellers.

​Henry & Glenn Forever depicts Rollins and Danzig in the ultimate idol killing environment: a bare, romantic relationship where egos are visible and emotions are raw. ​

Sick compiles stories of people living with illness in the most compelling way that evokes sorrow and sometimes hope in the way great literature should.

Xtra Tuf is the story of one woman fishing in Alaska during labor stand downs ​while dissent brews.

White Elephants is a story of dealing with recovery and loss through picking through yard sales.

Cambodian Grrrl provides ​a new perspective on what it’s like to be a student at Cambodia’s first college for women and how history and social mores continue to play a part of a generation that wasn’t even aware of their own past.

F​irebrands collects heartwarming, powerful stories about radical visionaries who left indelible marks on their societies and our world with a portrait for each from the Just Seeds art collective.

EB: Microcosm has been around for over twenty years. What does it take to be successful In the publishing business?

JB: The issues that Microcosm’s list engages on are just as relevant as they were in the 90s and my heart gets more invested as my developmental senses improve. I think the key is to service a niche, both in terms of having a clear audience and a clear editorial niche; one that is both vacant but has adequate demand.

I often hear pie-in-the-sky ruminating about how the industry should be, which I just don’t find helpful since a few monopolies maintain such stringent control over so many aspects. My decision making is so intellectual and analytical that I only focus on actionable choices with impact. I understand that this is a very emotional time in publishing as things change but I enjoy it quite a bit. The changing game has kept me interested in something that I’ve done for nearly 22 years while not getting comfortable or bored. Our average book sells more than the industry average of 3,000 copies and we have five titles that have sold over 50,000 copies and one that has sold over 100,000 copies. These books pay for ones that we really lose our ass on, which fortunately only happens once per year and those books eventually recoup across years as we find their audiences. Our sales in 2017 are on track to exceed $750,000 and we are gearing to exceed that this year, which would again make it our best year ever. Granted, we didn’t always have these titles and so my punk rock intuition told me never to invest too heavily in any one title and to try and treat them all equally like children.

EB: What do you look for in a book or author?

JB: I’ve spent this past month overhauling our trade catalog grids for our Fall 2018 catalog. Part of my process has been seeing how companies that I respect and appreciate highlight their frontlist. And the results are fascinating. I’m watching more and more of them develop titles as we have for the past decade.We’ve worked with numerous New York Times bestselling authors and we have the best success working with first-time authors. For a new title, we are looking for a book that is similar but not identical to three titles that we’ve done in the past five years and fulfills a vacant niche for a clear audience. “A Guide to the Trees of Portland,” “The Story of Service Dogs in America,” or “A Graphic Novel About the History of Jesus People USA.” They are all have a clear audience and are developed around the reader’s benefit instead of the author’s expression. Every book here gets more or less the same treatment and attention. Putting tons of money behind something with bad development will never sell books. Being comprehensive in title/subtitle/cover development to clearly communicate the emotional payoff of each book is what makes a title successful as well as ensuring that there’s room for it on the shelf in the first place. We publish all of our numbers annually and now we even produce charts and graphs.

EB: Can you tell us about some of the books and zines you’ve designed?

JB: Yes, I’m not sure how this happened but my principal duties are in finances, management, acquisitions, and design. I really enjoy the design aspect of the job though it certainly requires understanding each title and creating something representative that also feels professional. Some of my favorite projects are the entire works of Dr. Faith Harper, Homesweet Homegrown, Basic Fermentation, this poster about being a successful artist, and these tote bags. I love it that I get to incorporate the aesthetic of my punk youth into these projects that legitimately address and help people with their problems. That gets me out of bed every single day.

EB: What do you enjoy most about the publishing business? What’s most challenging?

JB: Almost everyone that I interview for an internship wants to be an editor. That job has no appeal for me. It’s so stressful and socially isolating. I love the books and I find them much more enjoyable if I can read the final draft like it was an effortless endeavor. I really like hammering out strong identity graphics, videos, and clear values that tell our audience what we care about and where we are coming from, artistically and politically. Mostly, I like helping people, whether that’s creating useful work or helping someone who has a specific question about a specific project that I can draw on my experience to answer. There’s a ton of potential for small presses and it’s more fun than ever.​

Microcosm has been growing faster these past five years than the seventeen years before that. The reasons are multifold, but it ultimately come down to the fact that there are very few independent publishers left that are about our size. Most of our former competitors have either been sold to bigger companies or gone out of business so we don’t have to compete for titles like we used to. So honestly financing our own growth has been the most challenging thing these past few years. We need an additional warehouse to keep up with the sales that we could be managing so ultimately we are losing sales because we can’t grow as fast as the industry demands us to. That’s been frustrating and stressful, especially this past year. At the same time it’s important to stay independent and it’s completely satisfying to know that there’s more demand for our books than we can satisfy!

EB: Microcosm Publishing bills itself as “a vertically integrated publishing house that equips readers to make positive changes in their lives and in the world around them.” Can you tell our readers a bit more about that mission? Is that part of the future of publishing?

JB: We strive to make all of our offerings made the reader feel good about themselves while offering tools and perspective to create the life that they want for themselves while changing the world around them. We offer sliding scale pricing on our website so that everyone can afford our books. We work hard to challenge an industry that is 88% white and has a bigger pay gap for women than the U.S. average. ​All of this results in many heartwarming phone calls, emails, and pieces of fan mail.

​Even 22 years later ​I ​still think of Microcosm ​like the punk band Black Flag on those trailblazing tours where they created a DIY punk touring network of rental Halls and teenage promoters. We’ve done many book tours in a similar fashion and even made a new board game about that. I also still think of myself as the taste barometer for most of our books. What books would I find interesting? What would alienate me?

Our mission was initially just a way for me, a depressed kid without options in life, to find meaning and purpose in the world. Since then, as a result, I’ve met a lot of other depressed kids without options and we’ve been able to grow together and challenge each other. What I didn’t count on is that because of my editorial focus and interests, the majority of our customers are low income women of color below 30. In hindsight, this was an audience that few people were speaking to or respecting so, in a way, it makes sense that they latched on so hard to Microcosm. And having autism, I can totally relate to few written works respectfully speaking to my experience or goals. And now, 22 years later, this is called the “diverse books movement.” So apparently it is part of the future of publishing!

EB: You also co-founded the Portland Zine Symposium. What’s that?

JB: Back in Olde Portland, I was part of a growing countercultural self-publishing movement borne of sci-fi, wrestling, and punk obsessions. Eleanor Whitney, Nicole J Georges, and I wanted to recreate the feel and politics of the music festivals of our teenage years so we founded the Portland Zine Symposium in 2001. Portland soon ascended to become ground zero for zine publishing and within a few years when we asked people how they had heard about the event, one respondent said “It’s like FAMOUS!” I was involved for five years and we grew the event to attract thousands of people each year and we would house and feed everyone. At that point I felt like I had accomplished everything that I had set out to do with the event and resigned. I believe that PZS is still happening but it’s begun to chew on its own tail and seems more content shrinking attendance and infighting than bringing the movement to new people.

EB: Microcosm seems to be a whole community. Who are some of your collaborators?

JB: We now have a staff of 13, an office, a warehouse, a book store, about 100 authors, and a booming distribution business. We work closely with numerous stores when we are developing new titles or to manage sales at events in their neck of the world. At one time our biggest customer was a taco shop in Tokyo who focused on American tourists. We are a diversified publisher, wholesaler, and distributor so we sell books from a wide variety of publishers to better explain the core​ messaging of our mission and values. I wish that Microcosm had more peer publishers as even in a busy office the work can be pretty isolating, though I’ve always really been a loner.

EB: Thanks for talking with us.

JB: Thank you! I’m gearing up to spill the beans on how to mimic our success with my new book, A People’s Guide to Publishing in 2018!

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An Interview with David D. Horowitz of Rose Alley Press

David D. Horowitz

Founded by David D. Horowitz in November 1995, Rose Alley Press publishes rhymed and metered poetry, cultural commentary, and an annually updated booklet about writing and publication.

Ed Battistella: How did Rose Alley Press get started? The name Rose Alley has a special connection to John Dryden. Can you tell us a bit about that?

David D. Horowitz: I founded Rose Alley Press on November 17, 1995. Dissident Nigerian playwright Ken Saro-Wiwa had just been executed, and Israeli politician Yitzhak Rabin had just been assassinated. I was also upset after four years of less-than-favorable involvement with some religious groups. By 1995, I had articulated and wanted to publicize a form of freethinking deism based on the twin ideals of consideration and vitality—as opposed to faith in a messiah, absolute allegiance to a holy book, surreptitious curtailment of basic individual rights by tribalistic authority, and presumed divine sanction for appropriating land and political power. I had founded and managed two small presses before: Urban Hiker Press, 1979 through 1981; and Lyceum Press, 1988 through 1990. Those two enterprises never amounted to more than self-publishing operations. This time, I wanted to publish not only my own work but that of other writers. I had a long-standing commitment to rhymed metrical poetry, so I wanted that to be a twin pillar of my new publishing company.

I had felt harassed and hounded in the late eighties and early nineties. This is a long story, the details of which I’d rather not discuss at this time. I sympathetically identified with John Dryden because of the December 18th, 1679, attack in Rose Alley, London, that nearly cost him his life but didn’t stifle his poetic voice. As my landlord’s surname was Rose, and I lived in an alley, I thought the name “Rose Alley Press” appropriate. I also loved the way “Rose” and “Alley” suggested poetry could be about both the esoteric and mundane, the beautiful and the plain. Therefore, I called my new company “Rose Alley Press.”

The first two books I published were my own eclectic collection of essays and epigrams, Strength and Sympathy, and a fine chapbook of poems, Rain Psalm, by my friend and fellow poet, Victoria Ford. This was the spring of 1996. The books sold credibly, and I enjoyed promoting them, so I decided to publish a third book. I asked my primary literary mentor, William Dunlop, a University of Washington English professor, if he would consider submitting his poems to me for possible publication. He had turned me down in 1990, but this time he agreed. A native of Britain, William wrote primarily in rhymed metrics and with Philip Larkin-esque descriptive precision. I loved William’s under-appreciated work! Nine months later, on June 17th, 1997, and after much scrupulous editing, William Dunlop’s collection, Caruso for the Children, & Other Poems, was published. Measured by poetry book standards, it was a “hit.” In my free time, away from my day job, I was running around town fulfilling bookstore orders, planning and promoting readings featuring William. To date, the book has sold 750 copies, which is quite good for poetry. It was the first book I’d published that genuinely sold well–400 copies in its first six months–and which was fairly widely reviewed and publicized. I was hooked!

A succession of poetry collections followed: Michael Spence’s Adam Chooses; my own Streetlamp, Treetop, Star; Douglas Schuder’s To Enter the Stillness; Joannie Stangeland’s Weathered Steps; Donald Kentop’s On Paper Wings; and several more of my own collections. My own work was written almost exclusively in rhymed metrics, and at least half of the poems in the other collections were in rhymed metrics. Sales were solid, well into the hundreds for each title. Readings were increasingly well-attended and often at fine venues like Elliott Bay Book Company, University Bookstore, Powell’s on Hawthorne, the Frye Art Museum, and Bumbershoot Arts Festival, among other venues. Still more poetry collections followed, focused on rhymed metrics. These included two Pacific Northwest anthologies I’d edited: Limbs of the Pine, Peaks of the Range (2007) and Many Trails to the Summit (2010). Rose Alley Press was becoming a respected, fairly reputable name in the Seattle-area literary scene–and so it remains to this day. I claim no fantastic fame or financial success–but an earned respect, yes, and I’m glad for that.

EB: Tell us a little about your background. How did you become a publisher?

DH: I was born in New York City in 1955. My father was a sociology professor who frequently moved from job to job. Indeed, when I was two, we moved from New York City to Waltham, Massachusetts; and then to Barrytown, New York; Annandale, New York; Geneva, New York; and University City, Missouri–just outside of St. Louis. That was only by the time I was seven. I lived in University City from 1963 to 1971. My parents divorced in 1964, and my father eventually returned to New Jersey to teach at Rutgers. I got along far better with my mother than with my father, so when she earned her Ph.D. in political science from Washington University in St. Louis and got a job teaching political philosophy for the political science department at the University of Washington, I moved with her to Seattle.

My mother helped create a home environment devoted to free, honest inquiry, which was perfect for me. In 1973 I graduated from Seattle’s Lincoln High School and attended the University of Washington, majoring in philosophy. Early during my UW years, I began keeping a poetry journal. I’d scribble all manner of banality during and after long walks and bike rides to Ballard, Magnolia, Carkeek Park, or downtown. But one warm summer evening in 1974 I felt entranced and haunted by the beauty of the sunset. I couldn’t quite describe the color, but I felt impelled to try. For three consecutive weeks that August I gazed at the Olympic Mountains at twilight, backed by a fabulous mix of peachy reddish colors. I struggled to describe the colors, but finally one evening it struck me: salmon! That was the color! Not red-orange-purple-pink, but salmon! And the word was so rich in Northwest connotation, too! Well, that was it. I derived such intense pleasure from finding that right word, that essential bit of description, that I cultivated my poetry journal habit.

My emerging love of poetry prompted me to seriously pursue writing as my primary avocation. My last quarter as a philosophy major undergraduate at the UW, I decided to take an introductory poetry composition class. My teacher was British: William Dunlop. He was brilliant. And he loved rhyme as much as I did. He introduced me to the work of several influential contemporary poets, including Richard Hugo, Denise Levertov, Elizabeth Bishop, and probably his favorite (then) contemporary poet: Philip Larkin. I loved that Larkin wrote rhymed metrical poetry. I read Larkin’s The Whitsun Weddings virtually every day in 1978, my first year out of school. I would also occasionally visit Dunlop in his office. We chatted. I got to know him a bit better. I read some of the verse he’d published in various journals over the years: journals such as TLS, Poetry Northwest, Encounter, The New Statesman, and some much lesser known. Some of his poems were brilliant. And yet he was a virtual unknown seemingly without a published collection who confided to me that he did not write much verse anymore. He once said to me in his dusk-darkened office, after a long pause: “There are worse things to be than an honest failure.” This moved me. I felt some instinctive anger that the literary world often rewarded writers for reasons of fame and fashionable political commitments, not genuine artistry.

My sense that Dunlop had been slighted is the seed that yielded Rose Alley Press. I founded a small press in 1979 called Urban Hiker Press and through it published my own chapbook, Something New and Daily. I worked at Seattle Public Library but re-enrolled at the UW to complete the course work necessary to obtain a B.A. in English. I earned my B.A. in English in 1981 and in 1983 went to graduate school at Vanderbilt University in Nashville. There I studied under Donald Davie, who I came to learn had been Dunlop’s teacher at Cambridge and was largely responsible for his getting a job at the UW. Academic life and I had our disagreements, so, despite having grown greatly during my four years there, I left Vanderbilt in 1987 and returned to Seattle. I soon founded another small press, Lyceum Press, and published my second collection of verse and a few bookmarks. I was about to begin publishing an anthology of eighteenth-century verse when, for various reasons, my life collapsed. I ended Lyceum Press and never wanted to publish another syllable again.

Through all manner of fateful convolutions I wound up in 1991 teaching and tutoring English at Seattle Central Community College and, to a lesser extent, Shoreline Community College. I began studying math and science at Seattle Central, but my commitment wasn’t deep, and I kept writing poetry. Well, as I indicated earlier I founded Rose Alley Press in November 1995, published William Dunlop’s collection in 1997, and, primarily funded by my job as a conference room attendant at a Seattle law firm, I’ve kept Rose Alley Press going. It’s just about twenty-two years old now, and I’m working on the seventeenth Rose Alley Press book, our third Northwest poetry anthology. I recently retired from my job, so I have some more time now to devote to publishing. There’s so much more to tell, but this is enough. I’ll trust you get some sense of what my motivations and history are.

EB: Rose Alley specializes in poetry and is very selective. What do you look for in a book and in an author? Does Seattle have a particularly thriving poetry community?

DH: I primarily publish books featuring contemporary Pacific Northwest rhymed metrical poetry. Poetry for me is the intersection of language and music, and skillfully employed rhymed metrics deepen resonant engagement with the language. A good formal poem is a community of words, a snowflake in words–but only if its formal elements are realized skillfully, and often with just the right mix of the earthy and esoteric, the conversational and courtly, the humorous and respectful. I like formal verse that shows facility and familiarity with an occasional complex rhyme scheme; diverse forms and tones; enjambment; felicitous melding of subject and form; less-than-obvious but convincing rhymes consistent with a poem’s level of diction; and no gratuitous syllables or cloying rhymes just to fill out a pattern. I also look for the ability to set a scene through distinctively worded images and line breaks hinting at double and triple meanings. I like radical concision: poems without one wasted word. And I like to see familiarity with the great world tradition of poetry. And there we begin to touch on issues of character, beginning with the humble awareness the poet’s own (lack of) fame is not the only issue currently on the planet. I like to deal with a poet well-read in the tradition; with strong aesthetic opinions AND the patience to respectfully consider diverse perspectives. I certainly also prefer poets who can consider editorial suggestions without construing every suggestion as a personal slight. In short, I like someone who can understand and work with me to bring his or her poems to perfection prior to publication. And after publication, I like a poet who will help publicize his or her book through numerous readings, signings, launch parties, and conference teaching gigs. A good set of journal publications is always nice, but more important is the desire and social skill necessary to sell the book directly to people. And, yes, there are many such poets in the Seattle area. I’ve been lucky enough to meet, hear, and publish the work of many of them.

Indeed, I’d happily claim Seattle DOES have a particularly thriving poetry community. We’ve got fine writing programs and instructors at the UW, Seattle University, Seattle Pacific, and numerous other colleges in the area. Excellent bookstores and reading venues remain plentiful, and the talent level is high. And I think, as well, many of the poets are friends in the best sense: there for each other, thoughtfully honest, and committed to excelling the craft. Are improvements possible? Yes. One too rarely sees students from the university writing programs and English classes attend and participate in the smaller venue readings and open mics. And Seattle generally suffers from excessive political correctness, and this can lead to some prematurely dismissive attitudes towards anything perceived as culturally conservative (e.g., rhyme and meter). But… I’d rather emphasize the good. Our fine city boasts numerous excellent poets and performance venues, and I’m glad to be here, right in the thick of it.

EB: How does poetry change people? Or does it?

DH: “or the sun’s/ Faint friendliness on the wall some lonely/ Rain-ceased midsummer evening.” — Philip Larkin

“We slowed again,/ And as the tightened brakes took hold, there swelled/ A sense of falling, like an arrow-shower/ Sent out of sight, somewhere becoming rain.” — Philip Larkin

“In friendship false, implacable in hate;/ Resolv’d to ruin or to rule the State.” — John Dryden

“The grave’s a fine and private place,/ But none, I think, do there embrace.” — Andrew Marvell

“The ides of March are come.” “Ay, Caesar, but not gone.” — William Shakespeare

These and many other eloquent, thematically rich poetic offerings inspired me to study poetry, to stay up until 4 a.m. to refine a poem, to refresh my spirit in another’s talent to develop my own. Yes, poetry can change a person! It inspires, captivates, maddens, titillates, deepens, challenges, educates, enriches, emboldens, and refines. I cite some of my early favorite lines from the great tradition, but I read widely, and poets of both genders and from diverse international regions have changed my world view and improved my craft. And, of course, millions of people can attest to poetry’s power! Their choice of favorite poets and lines would undoubtedly differ from mine, but we share the common experience of being moved by words: indeed, the right words in the right order in the right rhythm. And sometimes you never forget ’em.

EB: What advice have you got for poets?

DH: I’m guessing you would prefer I practice the concision I so eagerly preach. I will try, then, to restrain my pedagogic tendencies. There is too much to say, but… here are a dozen suggestions:

1) Read widely in diverse traditions.

2) Don’t stray too far from sincerity, but don’t preach.

3) Poetry is the intersection of language and music. Consider, then, the relationship between rhythm and resonance.

4) Master punctuation, so if you break a rule you understand why and can do so to intelligent effect. Do not dismiss knowledge of punctuation, grammar, and syntax as pedantry.

5) Distinguish urbanity from snobbery and earthiness from crudity.

6) Write many dramatic monologues–or “persona poems,” if you prefer that term. Cultivate empathy; enrich your voice.

7) Refine your skill to render a scene through imagery–precisely phrased physical imagery that evokes a scene. An old-fashioned skill and none the worse for it.

8) Browse through a dictionary for at least fifteen minutes weekly. And study the etymologies of words… Soak in their poetry.

9) Try hard to avoid blaming others for your not being internationally famous by the time you are twenty-five. Organize readings, volunteer at book fairs, host open mics, and post links to others’ websites on your own. Link with kindred spirits, and make your own fate! Blame is toxic. It’s not always wrong to blame, but it poisons the soul and work of many a poet. Try hard not to go there, although I understand you might have good reason to be angry with the literati. But… try to stay positive.

10) Try to get your work published by focusing on journals other than The New Yorker, Poetry, The Paris Review, and The Atlantic. Look for editors and journals that share your perspectives and publish at least one poem per hundred submitted. Fame will come eventually if you are talented and persistent. Build up your confidence and literary resume with real publications and performances, not fantasies of prestige readings before thousands. Focus on the gritty, unglamorous details of real career-building, if you are indeed ambitious.

11) Memorize at least six of your favorite poems of fourteen or fewer lines.

12) Distinguish absolutism from principle, skepticism from nihilism, and enlightened self-interest from narcissism. And don’t forget to have fun!

EB: Do you have some favorite poets?

DH: Yes. Let me list some of them:

Philip Larkin
W. H. Auden
W. B. Yeats
Geoffrey Chaucer
William Shakespeare
Ben Jonson
Andrew Marvell
John Dryden
Matthew Prior
Alexander Pope
Jonathan Swift
Oliver Goldsmith
A. E. Stallings
Gail White
Alison Joseph
Marilyn Nelson
Belle Randall
Rafael Campo
David Mason
William Dunlop
Michael Spence
Tu Fu
Heinrich Heine
Richard Wakefield

and dozens and dozens more (Please forgive me, my friends, if any of you feel slighted by not mentioning you! I’m lucky to know so many fine poets, and I can list only so many here!)

EB: Where can readers get Rose Alley Press books?

DH: I’m working to make books available for sale directly through my website: www.rosealleypress.com. That’s not ready yet, so contact me directly via email: rosealleypress@juno.com. Also, the following Seattle-area bookstores should either stock requested Rose Alley Press titles or be able to order them: University Book Store, Open Books, Elliott Bay Book Company, BookTree Kirkland, or Edmonds Bookshop. Island Books and Queen Anne Avenue Books likely could also special order them, and I do fulfill orders from my wholesaler, Baker & Taylor. I’ll have a booth, too, at the Ashland Literary Arts Festival at Hannon Library on October 28th. Come by and introduce yourself. I’ll be reading my poetry at the festival, too, so I hope to see you there–and, yes, I’ll have Rose Alley Press books for sale at my table.

EB: Thanks for talking with us.

DH: Thank you, Ed, for relating such a thoughtful, challenging set of questions. I hope my answers are of use to you.

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An Interview with Vyvyan Evans

Vyvyan Evans

Vyvyan Evans received his PhD in Linguistics from Georgetown University, Washington DC., and has taught at the University of Sussex, Brighton University and Bangor University. He has published 14 books on language, meaning, mind, and digital communication, including The Crucible of Language: How Language and Mind Create Meaning (2015); and The Language Myth: Why Language is Not an Instinct (2014). His writing has been featured in CNN Style, The New York Post, The Guardian, The Conversation, Nautilus Magazine, Newsweek, New Scientist, and Psychology Today.

His latest book is The Emoji Code: The Linguistics Behind Smiley Faces and Scaredy Cats.

Ed Battistella: How did you get interested in the emoji?

Vyvyan Evans:It was January 2015, and an editor from The Guardian newspaper, in London, contacted me. She was looking for a language expert to write an article about the world’s first alleged emoji terror threat: a teenager from Brooklyn, NY, had just been arrested under anti-terrorism 9/11 statues, for threatening the NYPD using emojis. The case made headlines, but the problem was, back in 2015, there was no one with expertise in how Emoji works as a system of communication; Emoji was still such a new global phenomenon. I took on the writing assignment, somewhat sceptically. But as I conducted the research for the piece, I began to see how Emoji as a communicative system, parallels aspects of the way in which language achieves its communicative functions. A couple of months later, a London-based telecoms company, TalkTalk, commissioned me to undertake research into Emoji usage in the UK. And from there I was hooked. I set aside the book I was working on, and began work on what became The Emoji Code, instead.

EB: What exactly are emojis?

VE: Emojis are the single character pictographic glyphs, the yellow smileys, winks, and so on, that populate the electronic keyboards of our smartphones and mobile computing devices. They were originally developed in Japan in the late 1990s for the world’s first commercially available mobile internet system on early smartphones. And since their incorporation as standard, on iPhones in 2011, they have become a global phenomenon. Since 2010, emojis have been regulated by Unicode, a California-based consortium of primarily multinational tech companies, that sets the international standard for computer fonts and displays. Unicode carefully vets proposals for new emojis, with rules as to what can and can’t be an emoji: branding is forbidden, as are emojis for persons living or dead and deities. While anyone can propose an emoji, the whole emoji vetting process takes around 18 months, before a new emoji is likely to pass muster, and make it from the drawing board to a smartphone near you or me. In 1999, when they were first introduced in Japan there were 176 emojis. As of June 2017, with the latest Unicode update, there are 2,666 officially-sanctioned emojis.

EB: I was fascinated to learn some of the intricacies of emojis, such as the fact that the images show up differently on different platforms. What other interesting facts did you uncover?

VE: Around 3.2 billion people, well over 40% of the world’s population, has regular internet access, and around 92% of those internet users regularly send emojis. On Messenger alone, Facebook’s messaging app, over 5 billion emojis are sent on a daily basis. Emoji is now a central feature of social media. Indeed, today the average person, during their lifetime, will spend over three years updating social media, compared to 12 months in a pub, and 235 days waiting in a queue. In the industrialised world, communicating virtually is increasingly replacing aspects of face-to-face and phone interaction. For instance, in the UK, under 25s now spend an average of 27 hours a week on-line, while even over 45s spend an average of 20 hours per week on the internet, which represents about double, in both cases, from a decade earlier. The world’s first arrest for an emoji-related terroristic threat took place in 2015, and in 2016 a French man was sentenced to three months in prison for using an emoji to issue a death threat. The world’s first political interview, conducted via emojis, involved the Australian minister for Foreign Affairs, Julie Bishop, and in 2015 Finland became the world’s first country to brand itself using bespoke emojis, the same year that Oxford Dictionaries, the world’s leading arbiter of English language usage, dubbed the ‘face with tears of joy’ emoji its word of the year.

EB: What surprised you most doing the research for The Emoji Code?

VE: The prejudice against emoji usage. Many otherwise educated and liberal commentators often seem to view Emoji as a joke, the communicative equivalent to an adolescent grunt. But this amounts to prejudiced cultural elitism, and fundamentally misunderstands the nature of communication. Emoji is more than a mere splash of juvenile colour. The fact that Emoji can and will be used in a court of law against you is testament to that.

EB: In The Emoji Code, you mention that emojis are like paralanguage? What does that mean?

VE: In our everyday face-to-face spoken interactions, much of communication is effected not via language, but through nonverbal cues. For instance, according to one estimate, as much as 70% of our emotional expression may come from non-verbal cues. Paralanguage relates to the non-linguistic signals arising from the medium that conveys language. In spoken language, these include the rise and fall of our pitch contours, such as intonation. Paralanguage also includes involuntary aspects of the spoken modality, such as laughter, or a voice cracked from emotion. These non-verbal cues provide important information that complement, nuance and even change the meaning of our words. For instance, when you or I say “I love you” with falling pitch, as when making a statement, this is a declaration of undying love. But now try saying it with rising pitch, as if asking a question. It now becomes an ironic counterblast that lays someone low, and is probably best not said to your nearest if you wish to keep them your dearest. In similar fashion, Emoji serves a paralinguistic function in digital textspeak. Emojis helps nuance and complement the meaning of our otherwise, seemingly emotionally arid abbreviated digital messages. They help add tone of voice, and better enable us to nuance what our texted words actually mean. For instance, a text message that reads “Hey, so I tripped and banged my head on the kitchen cupboard”, becomes a plea for sympathy if followed by a crying face emoji. But with a laughing face, we are inviting our addressee to acknowledge our clumsy buffoonery. Either way, the emoji helps clarify what we mean by the words, much as tone of voice does in face-to-face interaction.

EB: You also point out that we “see” emotions. How so?

VE: Humans are primarily visual creatures; vision is our dominant sense. With the eyes open, two thirds of the brain’s neural activity relates to vision, while 40% of the brain’s nerve fibres are connected to the retina. And it takes just 100 milliseconds for a human to recognise an object. Moreover, we are extremely adept at using our visual smarts to read how someone is feeling, their emotional state, from their facial expressions. Indeed, humans use 43 facial muscles to make over 10,000 distinct expressions: these are reflexes of our undulating emotional selves. And many of these we use to interpret what others mean by their words, or how they are responding to and feel about ours. In digital textspeak, the large array of yellow emoji faces help us convey, and figure out the meaning behind our words. Around 70% of the world’s daily emoji usage relates to emotion, emphasising, or nuancing the meaning of our words. They provide powerful visual cues that convey emotional states, and can help highlight the meaning behind the words, from an eye-roll emoji, to signal that I’m being ironic, to the ubiquitous wink emoji, to tone down an otherwise face-threatening remark.

EB: It seemed to me that your book was about more than just emojis. It was an introduction to linguistics concepts using emojis. Was that part of your goal in writing The Emoji Code? What are some of the key linguistic ideas you explore?

VE: The rapid adoption of Emoji, in just a few years, makes it a rich (and well-recorded) case through which to explore the nature of human communication, including the nature and functions of language, and other nonverbal aspects of communication. Accordingly, my exploration of Emoji, as a system of communication, represents an opportunity to delve into a wide range of related issues. These include grammar prescriptivism, the evolutionary origins of language, the social and cultural factors that govern language use, language change and its development, as well as the nature and organisation of language, and what it reveals about the nature of the human mind, and how meaning arises when we communicate. My central thesis is that far from being some passing fad, Emoji reflects, and thereby reveals, fundamental elements of communication; and in turn, this all shines a light on what it means to be human.

EB: How do you think emojis will evolve?

VE: The future is notoriously difficult to predict. For instance, in one scene from the cult classic sci-fi movie Blade Runner, the main character, Deckard, played by Harrison Ford is in a bar. He makes a phone call to Rachel, with whom he’s falling in love, and invites her to join him for a drink. But while the future Los Angeles involves off-world colonies, cyborgs, or ‘replicants’ as they are termed, and hover cars, Deckard, in the film, places the call from a hard-wired phone, on the wall. Apparently, foreseeing the invention of mobile phones was a step too far for the 1982 movie.

This issue is even thornier when considering human communication. From the perspective of technological innovation, we are living in a digital age: technology is transforming the ways we communicate with one another, and interact with the world around us. But while the creative directors of Blade Runner inhabited an era before cell phones, texting, and now mobile internet-based computing have changed the way we communicate. Moreover, other technological pipe dreams that were once only the preserve of science fiction are now becoming reality. For instance, John Anderton, the character played by Tom Cruise in the 2002 movie Minority Report – originally a book by Philip K. Dick, as was Blade Runner – wears a data glove, providing a sophisticated gesture-based interface system. But touch-based computing is now de rigeur, with the pinch, pull and swipe features of Apple iPads and iPhones having led the way in the 2000s. In terms of computer gaming the Wii, in 2006, and later, Microsoft Kinect consoles developed similar ways of interacting and controlling virtual characters and actions. Devices such as these are surely but a prelude of what is to come.

We might speculate on how Emoji will develop—in the short term, animated, avatar-like emojis might be one way in which textspeak can be further enhanced by multimodal cues. Facial expressions and gestures are what make us who we are: let’s see it, and not be afraid of seeing it, in Emoji! But whatever the next stage in the evolution of Emoji, the driver is, ultimately, the cooperative intelligence that makes us the embodied communicators we are. And in this regard, Emoji makes us more effective communication in our 21st century world of communication.

EB: Thanks for talking with us.

VE: My pleasure.

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An Interview with Jessica Pistole by Nicole Cardoza

Jessica Pistole

Get to know the SOU Softball Head Coach Jessica Pistole, her coaching journey, her thoughts on this past season, and what to expect this upcoming season.

Before coming to SOU, head softball coach, Coach Jessica Pistole knew what it took to not only be a part of, but to create a successful softball program. In her collegiate career she played volleyball and softball for Biola University. At Biola, she was a three time All-American and received a Bachelor of Arts in health psychology. After finishing school, she became Biola’s head softball coach and was extremely successful in her first year of coaching, leading the Eagles to a 51-46 record in two seasons, and a 26-19 record in her last season there.

She then took over the head coaching position for William Jessup’s volleyball team and shortly after, Pistole decided to build a softball team there from the ground up. In her second season, she led the Warriors to the 2011 California Pacific Conference championship and earned the Cal Pac Coach of the Year award. Pistole left the warriors with a 56-38 record. After briefly coaching at Utah State as an assistant coach, she moved on to coach a high school team in Twin Falls. In both seasons her team won the District 4 title and Pistole was named Great Basin Athletic Conference Coach of the Year.

She then set her sights on our Southern Oregon University softball team and the team has been making a lot of noise since she arrived. The Raiders had their most successful season yet. They broke SOU softball history and were ranked No. 6 in the postseason by the NAIA Top 25 poll. The Raiders were No. 20 after winning the Cascade Collegiate Conference tournament and made it to Florida before losing to Oklahoma City. They ended their season with a 46-15 record. There are high expectations for the SOU softball team this year, and Head Coach Jessica Pistole is ready to lead her new team into another successful season.

Nicole Cardoza has a BA degree in English from Southern Oregon University. She was the co-caption of the 2016-2017 Raider softball team that participated for the first time in the NAIA World Series.

Nicole Cardoza: What were some of the difficulties you had to overcome in creating William Jessup’s first ever softball program?

Jessica Pistole: There were several challenging aspects of starting the program at William Jessup that included raising all of the money to operate for the year, recruiting a team of 20 student-athletes to come play just 4 months before school started, and finding a coaching staff of good people who were on board to volunteer their time as well. But all of those things came together and it was a very rewarding experience.

Nicole Cardoza:Why did you choose to come to SOU?

Jessica Pistole: Prior to coaching here at SOU, I was coaching a high school team in Twin Falls, Idaho. As a family, we knew we were leaving Idaho after the season for various reasons to head back towards the West Coast but it wasn’t until after coming to SOU for an interview, that our energy completely shifted to Ashland and joining the SOU community. I was already familiar with the Cascade Conference and knew I could run a good softball program here, but it was definitely the people in the Athletic Department and all that SOU had to offer that solidified the decision for us.

Nicole Cardoza: What were some things you knew that had to change right off that bat?

Jessica Pistole: I didn’t come in here thinking I had to change anything specific. I only knew one way to run a program and I knew the culture I wanted to create and be a part of. So, I started from the bottom and began to implement the little things that I believed would get us there.

Nicole Cardoza: Coming into this softball program, were you intimidated or nervous by all that was going to have to be done in order to turn SOU softball into a successful program?

Jessica Pistole: It wasn’t intimidating to me because my experiences as a coach up to this point had prepared me. I have been a part of starting a program or taking over programs in several places so I felt like I knew what I needed to do in order to be successful. I had the motivation to return to coaching at the college level and now had the experience of coaching at the high school level as well so I felt well equipped.

Nicole Cardoza: When did you feel like there was some serious progress happening?

Jessica Pistole: I felt like we began to make progress from the very beginning with my first group in 2014. Everyone was eager to work hard and wanted to be a part of a championship program. After the difficulty of the fit tests and the first couple weeks of challenges, those that remained were on board and jumped in with both feet. Since then, each year, we have a new group that is ready to commit to the little things we do on and off the field on a daily basis and if we are getting just 1% better each day, we are continuing to make progress.

Nicole Cardoza: What were some challenges or bumps in the road?

Jessica Pistole: Every season has its challenges and every year has brought different types of adversity that we’ve navigated as it’s come. One thing I’ve realized is how important it is to have a group that is committed to the big picture and willing to do the little things (and make the sacrifices) it will take to get there. It’s a long year and it’s challenging to start and kindle the fire so that it can become strong enough to take us through those difficult patches along the way and hopefully be at our best to get us all the way through May.

Nicole Cardoza: How do you keep players motivated and excited?

Jessica Pistole: Ultimately, the motivation has to come from within each person but I try to do my best to help each person find that. It’s also very important for me to model that motivation in my own life. Being a wife and mother of 4, balance is very important for me to be able to be the best coach I can be. I try to mix things up and we do creative team activities often, but those are only tools to help guide them. I am a firm believer in our preparation being tough so that when we hit our season of competition, we can trust that we are ready.

Nicole Cardoza: This year was the first time ever in SOU softball history that we have made it to the World Series. How does that feel and what did it take to get your team in that position?

IMG_8183.JPGJessica Pistole: I think our trip to Mississippi was something really special for our team. Our journey to the World Series was exciting and very rewarding to see the fruit of all the hard work we put in over the course of the year. Making it to the World Series was a great accomplishment for our program, but I believe we are capable of not merely making it, but winning it.

Nicole Cardoza: We didn’t win the whole thing, but we are all very proud of the success and eager to see how far SOU softball will make it this upcoming season. How are you getting your new team ready for this upcoming season?

Jessica Pistole: The hunger for our returners started when we got back from Florida. We got a little taste of playing for the championship and we came back knowing that we have the ability to do it. As for our incoming group, they are a talented, eager group that are ready to come in and help take our program even further.

Nicole Cardoza: Is there anything you’d do differently this year?

IMG_7965.JPGJessica Pistole: Each year, our group is different and we need to be ready to adapt in some areas to what works best for that team. That will definitely be the case this year. However, there are values and expectations that don’t change from year to year. This upcoming season, we have a big group of incoming players but we also have a group of returners who have been around and bought into the process. I will rely heavily on our returning leadership to guide and show the new players what it means to be a part of SOU Softball.

Nicole Cardoza: Who can we expect to be big game changers on the field this year?

Jessica Pistole: Shortstop Kelsey Randall is a four-time All-Conference/All-American that has been a big contributor for us every year. Harlee Donovan, a JC transfer from last season will continue to be an impact player in our offensive line-up and behind the plate. Also, we have two returning sophomore pitchers, Karlee Coughlin and Gabby Sandoval, who both had a great first year here as freshmen and we have a strong core of players that were contributors all year for us last year both offensively and defensively.

Nicole Cardoza: Any incoming freshmen to watch out for?

Jessica Pistole: We have 4 hard working pitchers and a good combination of speed and power in both the infield and outfield in our incoming group of players. I am really looking forward to getting started and watching them bring their gifts and eagerness to SOU Softball this fall.

Nicole Cardoza: If you only had a couple sentences, how would describe SOU softball?

Jessica Pistole: I think a good way to describe SOU Softball is that we want to be better. Regardless of the successes we have accomplished in the past or the mistakes we have made, I want to be a group of people that is in constant pursuit of a better “us”. We want to become better in all areas of our lives and hold each other to that standard on a daily basis. Softball is definitely something we spend our time doing, but it’s really about trying to become better students, better friends, better teammates, and better human beings.

Nicole Cardoza: What are you most proud of in your coaching career?

Jessica Pistole: I am proud of the relationships that I have built in my journey as a coach. I have coached several different teams and have many former players and coaches that I still keep in contact with and now get the joy of watching thrive in their lives after softball. I have learned the importance of staying true to the values that I believe in and knowing what I won’t change in my program. Yet at the same time, I have also learned how important change can be and when it is time to adapt to something new.

Nicole Cardoza: Well I wish you and your team the best of luck and I hope you guys take it all the way this year!

Jessica Pistole: Thank you!

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