English Department

Hold Onto Your Passion: Advice from Audra Dittlinger

Stars to Steer By presents Audra Dittlinger, a Marketing Content Manager and Client Experience Director. Ms. Dittlinger began her journey at Ball State in 2001 and officially graduated in 2014 with a degree in English Studies.   

How would you describe your job?Audra Dittlinger

I would describe my job as fast paced, exciting, and unpredictable. It’s a mixture of editing, brainstorming, and creating some amazing content for a start-up company that is growing quicker than we ever thought possible!

What does a typical work day look like for you?

A “typical” work day depends on the day. I am able to work about 75% remotely, with the other 25% happening onsite, usually at our office headquarters. On my work-from-home days, I get up, check in with my team, and work through daily tasks. Since our company is still relatively small, all team members are able to take on multiple positions at the same time. My day may consist of mostly writing and editing, or I may find myself conducting interviews with prospective customers. It’s never the same and it’s certainly never boring. The days that I am able to spend in the office are often charged with enthusiastic co-workers and inspirational leadership. Team meetings are perfect opportunities for us to collaborate and afterwards we all leave the office feeling recharged. It’s a relief, really. A lot of times, meetings can get a bad reputation in the corporate world. In our company, we’re constantly innovating and creating so we all get jazzed about coming together for a meeting of the minds.

How did having an English major affect your career path?

My English major heavily affected my career path. I graduated as a married adult with a 2 year old toddler at home. I was not a traditional student. At the time that I graduated, I was actually going into my 9th year of being an insurance agent. I had known for years that my true love is writing and editing, and that is what I wanted in my life. I wasn’t going to stop until I found it. After multiple freelance gigs, I finally landed my “dream job,” if you will.

What skills did you pick up in your major that have proved useful in your job?

I picked up a lot of useful skills in my major, but I think the most useful was that it really honed my craft as an editor and it allowed me to be more patient than I would have otherwise been. I now have a distinct process when editing, something I could have only learned through my classes as an English major. I now slow down and I perfect my work. I am not naturally patient, but as a writer, I can block out the world and take my time.

Is there a particular class or professional opportunity that you remember having a big impact on you?

I was in a few classes led by Dr. Rai Peterson (Rai, as most English majors know her) and she definitely had an impact on me. I took two classes with her on campus and one online course. She really boosted my confidence and I’ll never forget the first time she wrote “You’re a writer!” at the top of one of my papers. It was one of the first times in my adult life that I really felt that I was moving in the right direction.

What advice would you give current English majors?

My advice would absolutely be this: hold on to what you love. If you really love Sci-Fi lit, hold onto that. If you really love Vonnegut, keep studying him. If you really love to edit, keep finding ways to do it. I let go of something that I loved to do and I spent 10 years of my life running in place and not living up to my potential. As soon as I found my passion again, I never let myself forget that feeling. That feeling is what drove me and what really helped me land my dream job. Don’t let people tell you English majors “have to be teachers.” Prove them wrong. It’s in you.

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Autumn Stars to Steer By Workshops

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Stars to Steer By is an event series hosted by the English Department to help Humanities majors find their way. The next event is October 26th in Bracken 104. 

September’s Stars to Steer By event, hosted in Bracken 104 by Career Coach Eilis Wasserman, was dubbed, “You Don’t Have to be a College Professor to Work at a University.” The panel of Ball State faculty was comprised of  Jim Mitchell, Associate Director of the Career Center, Michael King, Residence Hall Director, Professor Molly Ferguson, who teaches various courses on campus, Brandon Pieczko, Digital Archivist for Manuscript DSC00252.JPGCollections, and Lola Mauer, Associate VP of Annual Giving. They discussed pursuing alternative career tracks in the world of academia. Professor Ferguson represented those who do wish to teach, but the other four speakers discussed their own careers at Ball State that many people do not consider right away. The objective of the night was to show that there are plenty of other opportunities to be explored in a college setting outside of teaching. We will always need professors, but we need plenty of other professions as well.

The next event in the Stars to Steer By series is called, “Personal Branding: Uncovering Your Authentic Self,” and will take place on Wednesday, October 26, 2016 at 6:30 PM in Bracken 104. Ball State University alum Monica Scalf of The Playground Group will be speaking and demonstrating how to create and maintain your professional online presence. Make sure to bring your computers! The workshop will help you work on your professional LinkedIn and Twitter accounts.14519943_1515648545115795_3564882755781426045_n

Meet Professor Rani Crowe!

Assistant Professor Rani Crowe has been making and performing her own work for over twenty years, from stand-up comedy and solo performance art, to multimedia installations and filmmaking. This semester, she is teaching one section of ENG 310: Screenwriting and two sections of ENG 425: Film Studies.

How would you describe your perspective on teaching?

rani-croweThrough watching, reading, discussing, and practical application exercises, I guide students to learn skills and build muscles that build towards a culminating final project where they practically synthesize the skills they have learned. I like to create early non-precious exercises where exploration, risk, and failure are permitted and encouraged in order to learn the process. I try to guide students to be able to articulate their own artistic goals and standards, and help them successfully meet them in their final projects.

When are your office hours?

Monday and Wednesday, 11 AM- 12:30 PM

What are you currently reading, if anything?

Screenplays: I try to read a couple a week. I am always looking for new ways to write them for myself, and good examples I might use for others.

Craft Books: Creating Screenplays That Connect and Adventures in the Screen Trade.

Personal Interest Reading: Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson and Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi  Coates.

Escapist: I have been enjoying the Jack Reacher novels by Lee Child.

What is a text that you think everyone should read?

Oh, I tend to buy multiple copies of Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning, Rainer Maria Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet (I have a favorite translation), Yasunari Kawabata’s Palm of the Hand Stories, and a children’s book called The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds that I give away freely as gifts to young artists. I also like Anne Bogart’s A Director Prepares, Peter Brook’s The Empty Space, David Mamet’s Three Uses of the Knife, Anna Deavere Smith’s Letters to a Young Artist, and Matthew Goulish’s 39 Microlectures: In Proximity to Performance. I reference these books often. These are all books that feed me in creative process either with inspiration or example.

What is your biggest pet peeve in the classroom, or a big mistake that students tend to make?

I have two pet peeves:

One is when a student’s goal is merely to please me or get a grade. I want students to have their own critical thoughts, and I want them to have their own goals and agency for the class. They will get more out of it, and I can help them get farther.

Another is if a student starts to struggle (whether they get behind or miss classes due to stress or they have a legitimate crisis), and they compound their situation by not coming to class or not communicating because they feel ashamed or embarrassed or want to avoid the situation. The hole gets bigger. So often, there are resources within the university that can help them, or I can work with them to make accommodations if they communicate early. I want my students to be successful. I am rooting for them. I think most professors are. When the student gets down in that hole and lets it get bigger and bigger, it is harder for us to help them later.

Are you working on any projects at the moment?

I am working on fundraising and pre-production to direct a short film called Finding Grace, written by Screenwriting Faculty, Kathryn Gardiner. We hope to shoot in the spring.

I am working on fundraising and development for a short film I am writing, Heather Has Four Mommies, which was shortlisted for the Kevin Spacey Foundation Grant, but it wasn’t funded, so we are still raising money. We want to shoot in the early summer.

My recent short film, Texting: A Love Story, is winding up its festival circuit time. It still has some screenings left. It has been accepted to 74 festivals around the world, so far. Next, I hope to find an online home for it.

I have a few concepts for features and pilots that I am still developing. (Film is a long process with many phases. It is best to be working on several things at once.)

What are some of your hobbies or interests?

I make jewelry, mostly beaded earrings. I have a cat, a dog, and a rabbit. I love to travel when I can. I speak French. I love theater, performance art, art museums, and other performance or art events. I like to kayak and ride my bike. After managing a fancy restaurant, I like wine and food. I have been doing some work on my house. I read a lot, when I have time. I like many kinds of music.

What is a piece of advice you would offer students?

Love the process. If you are doing it to become a famous writer/filmmaker/actor/musician (whatever), your chances of failure and disappointment increase. If you love the process of making the work, you are more likely to be happy and accumulate work that is actually more likely to lead you to some type of success. It takes time and practice. Patience is something I am still learning, but the accumulation of work does eventually start to manifest results.

Is there anything else you’d like to add about your background, research areas, passions, goals, etc.?

I started as an actor, then I did stand-up comedy, then playwriting, then directing, then performance art, and then filmmaking. They all build off each other and inform each other. I think of myself as an artist first. Whatever content I am working with dictates what medium will best serve it.

The Inside Scoop on Ball State’s Literary Magazine: The Broken Plate

We sat down with Professor Mark Neely, faculty supervisor of The Broken Plate, and Jackson Eflin, a former Broken Plate staff member who has also had his work published in the literary magazine. 

What is The neelyBroken Plate?

The Broken Plate is a literary magazine that publishes poetry, fiction, nonfiction, art, and photography (among other things) by writers and artists from around the world. Each issue is edited by an interdisciplinary group of Ball State undergraduate students and released at our annual In Print Festival of First Books.

You’ve been the editor of the magazine for several years now. How have things changed over time?

When I took over as faculty adviser for the magazine, it was a small operation run by a few student volunteers. They only published the work of Ball State students, mostly that of a small group of friends.

I wanted to make it a more valuable experience for both the editors and for the Ball State writing community, so I used our existing course in Literary Editing and Publishing as a way to professionalize the magazine, and to spread the word more effectively about our submissions process. Eventually, we opened up submissions to all writers, which increased our pool of pieces to choose from, and I think it makes for a more rewarding experience for students.

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