Honoring Indigenous People’s Day 2020

I’m an SCSU graduate student, a Graduate Assistant, and the English Department blog and social media manager. I am also a 5th and 6th grade English and Social teacher at a local elementary school. 

In honor of Indigenous People’s Day this year (October 12), I took my 5th and 6th graders on a field trip to listen to my dear old 78-year-old friend, Julius, talk about his time doing mission work on the Red Lake Reservation where he spent 20+ years living and working alongside the Indigenous People living on the reservation. 

My students were absolutely fascinated learning about Indigenous Peoples from someone who’s lived and experienced their way of life. It was so much better to hear him speak than to have my students read more out of a textbook. They thoroughly enjoyed learning about the Indigenous Peoples’ way of life! Instead of me sharing my experience, I’d like to share their experiences (in the red text) (and insert clarifications when necessary).


I like that he explained what he did. My favorite artifact was the dream catcher. My favorite part was when he said they came to take him home. The most interesting part was when he talked about the artifacts and how they were made with love. I did not dislike anything.

 

This student talked about the time when “they came to take him home.” Julius told a story about how years after his time on the Red Lake Reservation, his Indigenous friends invited themselves over to his house one day. When they arrived, they said, “Julius, we’re here to take you home.” They surrounded him and said they weren’t leaving his home without him. Obviously, they were only slightly serious as they knew he had other obligations in his life at that time and he couldn’t go back. The story demonstrated how much the people on the Reservation loved and respected him!

This student also talked about some of the Indigenous artifacts he had on display. He talked about how everything they create is made with love. He also showed many of the gifts these people had gifted him over the years. Everything was absolutely beautiful! 

 

 


What I thought was it was very cool. It was very fun to see the paintings he showed to us. The turtle shell was cool. I liked it because there were so many details on the shell. I liked to see the process to see what they did to get it to look that cool. I liked the canoe. It was so cool because you could see all of the details on the canoe. My favorite thing there was the painting that he got from a kid that he drove a bus for. It was so cool to see what he did when he was younger. It was a cool experience.

Part of his mission work was to drive a school bus route for their local school (as you can see in one of the later pictures; he’s wearing his bus driver jacket!). He told many stories about the kindness the students showed him. Many of the students painted or drew him pictures as gifts. Since they didn’t have much, they would give handmade items as gifts.


I think it was cool for the stuff on the table, and I think it was cool that he could speak their language. My favorite thing about it is how good they are at art. My favorite artifact was the pictures. He should put more stuff on the table.

 

One point Julius stressed was the importance of learning a second language. He can speak fluent Ojibwe, but he suggested my students learn Spanish. 

At one point, Julius recited the “Our Father” prayer in Ojibwe! It was really quite amazing! The written version of the “Our Father” is pictured here.


 

I loved it. It was so interesting. It was so cool to listen to all he had to say. I didn’t dislike anything. It was so awesome. The most interesting thing was all the pictures and artifacts. My favorite part was listening to everything. My favorite artifact was the birch bark wood canoes. 

 


Everything was really cool and the paintings were amazing. The language was cool too. And the boats made out of bark and stuff were really cool. The necklaces were cool too. Everything was really cool. But my favorite thing was the turtle shell. It was REALLY cool.

 

 

 

 


I’ve always honored Indigenous People in my classroom, but this year was way more impactful to my students. 

We’re curious to know:

How do you honor Indigenous People? 

What was your favorite artifact that Julius showed the children? (I know, the pictures aren’t amazing and don’t show everything.)

SCSU Writer’s Club

Hey English Department!

Did you know that SCSU has a writing club??

Check it out here!

Now, joining a club is a big deal, I know! You’re in college. You’re already so busy! But there are so many psychological benefits to write more, so you should definitely consider joining the Writer’s Club!

Check it out!

Writing makes you happier!

I absolutely love this reason to write! In our world today, we can all use a little more happiness. Why not find your happiness through writing for the Writer’s Club?

Writing leads to better thinking and communicating!

I mean, I think this is pretty obvious, but what better way to experiment with enhancing your writing and thinking skills than joining the Writer’s Club?

Writing leads to increased gratitude!

This is another value we need to see more of in our society. Why not help contribute in increasing the world’s gratitude by first increasing yours! Join the Writer’s Club!

Writing leads better learning!

So, you’re here at SCSU for what? To learn!! Why not join a club that will directly help your degree mean more?

There are so many more reasons to write and join the Writer’s Club. Feel free to check out “The Psychological Benefits of Writing” from sparringmind.com for more valuable reasons to write!

Cezarija Abartis

This week, we have the great pleasure to feature:

Cezarija Abartis


In her words:

Some of my favorite classic authors and books:

Homer, Euripides, Jane Austen, Chekhov’s stories and plays, James Joyce’s “The Dead,” Erich Maria Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front, Eric Ambler’s A Coffin for Dimitrios, Nabokov’s Lolita, Isaac Babel, Carson McCullers’ “The Ballad of the Sad Cafe,” Isaac Bashevis Singer, Bernard Malamud’s stories. And Shakespeare, always Shakespeare.

Some of my favorite contemporary authors:

I’m going to list titles of books. Jo Ann Beard’s The Boys of My Youth, Lucia Berlin’s A Manual for Cleaning Women, Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber, Ellen Currie’s Available Light, Denis Johnson’s Jesus’ Son, Thom Jones’ The Pugilist at Rest, Jamaica Kincaid’s Annie John, Lorrie Moore’s Self Help, Grace Paley’s stories, Martin Cruz Smith’s Arkady Renko novels, Robert Stone’s Dog Soldiers, Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club, Stephanie Vaughn’s Sweet Talk. I will stop now. I expected this compiling to be tedious and effortful, but I find myself smiling as I recall these beautiful books and inspirations.

What I’m most proud of is my book on Shakespeare The Tragicomic Construction of Cymbeline and the Winter’s Tale  (Humanities Press) and my collection of short stories, Nice Girls and Other Stories (New Rivers Press). In a review on NewPages.com, Sima Rabinowitz writes, “These stories are as good the second time through as they are the first. Always, for me, a measure of success.”

Ursula K. Le Guin writes: “Covering the territory between memoir and fiction, these deft and accurate stories hava a rare honesty.”

Gosh.

A few of my hundred flashes published online:

“The Writer,” was chosen by Wigleaf Journal as one of the top 50 online flashes of 2011. Dan Chaon was the selecting editor. http://wigleaf.com/2012top501.htm

“Lost and Found,” New World Writing. Online. June 15, 2020

https://newworldwriting.net/cezarija-abartis-lost-found/

“Sisters.” matchbook. Online. February 2020

https://www.matchbooklitmag.com/abartis2

“Medea Imagines” Carmina. Online. December 2, 2019

https://carminamagazine.wordpress.com/medea-imagines-by-cezarija-abartis/

“Stories for Second-Grade Teachers” Baltimore Review. Summer 2019

https://baltimorereview.org/index.php/summer_2019/contributor/cezarija-abartis

“Sleeping Beauty Is Not Well,” Bennington Review. Issue Four. Fall / Winter 2017, pp. 146-147. Also online: http://www.benningtonreview.org/cezarija-abartis

Current research interests:

I certainly value historical, biographical, political criticism, but I also value formal criticism. As a fiction writer, I study the structure of the work itself: character, setting, plot, theme, imagery. I’m interested in the formal characteristics of a work of art–how an author constructs a work to have an effect on our emotions, especially complex layered emotions (the pity and fear that Aristotle famously talked about in tragedy; the nobility and revenge that Euripides dramatizes in his plays).


Thank you so much for reading!!

Donella Westphal’s unexpected yet rewarding journey to owning Jules’ Bistro

If you’re from the St. Cloud area and haven’t been to Jules’ Bistro yet, you are definitely missing out! From breakfast to dinner, coffee to wine, Jules’ Bistro has something for everyone!

Jules’ is owned by Donella Westphal, a 2003 St. Cloud State English Department graduate. If you’re interested in hearing about Donella’s journey to own Jules’, check out this article that so clearly describes her journey.

Located at 921 W St Germain St, St Cloud, MN 56301, the Bistro is just a short jog from campus, just 0.7 miles, to be exact! It’s the perfect stop on a morning run or a great place to begin a night out.

 

 

 


If you’re looking for a different experience, check out Jules’! Here are just a few reasons they are different than the restaurants and cafés you normally frequent:

artisan flatbread pizzas
vegan, gluten-free and dairy-free options
baked-from-scratch cakes, scones and cookies
made-from-scratch soups and chilis
unique daily specials
live music and local art
handcrafted espresso drinks
wines you won’t find at any other St. Cloud restaurant
over 30 craft beers


Food

Jules’ Bistro has a wide selection of delish dishes. According to their website, “Jules’ combines a casually sophisticated menu with a cozy, artistic atmosphere. We believe food crafted thoughtfully is food done right, and take pride in cooking and baking from scratch. Since 2005, we’ve been putting our own spin on pizza, paninis, salads and much more.”

 

Entertainment

Why not find a restaurant where you can order dinner and enjoy a show? During non-COVID times, Jules’ has a wide variety of artists, musician, comedians, and more come into the bistro to provide (often free) entertainment! Check their website for upcoming events. When COVID settles down and they bring acts back, you won’t want to miss the shows!

 

Community

One of the greatest aspects of living in and around the St. Cloud area is the local support businesses have for each other. Jules’ Bistro is no exception. They currently give back to nine local organizations: Anna Marie’s Alliance, Pathways 4 Youth, Operation Baby New Year Diaper Drive, St. Cloud State University Athletic Department, St. Cloud Shines, MN Dance Ensemble, St. Cloud Area Singing Saints Barbershop Chorus, Tri-County Human Society, and Girl Scouts Lakes & Pines. Help support these local organizations by supporting Jules’.

 

Partners

Beyond supporting the specific organizations mentioned above, Jules’ works hard to locally source as much as they can. Jules’ espresso and coffee beans come from a small roaster in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Dogwood Coffee Company, they source their pure maple syrup from a small company in Mora, Minnesota, Sapsucker Farms, their honey comes from Ames Farm, raw honey made in Minnesota, and they even support central Minnesota garbage company, West Central Sanitation, for all their garbage removal needs! Check out their “Partners” page for more information about other companies they support. I love supporting local and I feel like I’m doing so by supporting Jules’.

 

Catering

Did you know that Jules’ caters events? Need I say more?

 

If you’re still not sold on Jules’, check out Jules’ in the News where you’ll find a variety of articles and other places Jules’ has been featured.


Their food is delicious. Their service is amazing. Their team is very friendly! It’s the perfect place for you to sit down for a cup of coffee and a scone!

Calling all English Department faculty, students, and alumni!!

Did you know that you can be featured on our blog page??

We absolutely love featuring our current students, faculty, and alumni!


Faculty!

  1. Have you recently been published? Let us know the details and we’ll put together a post. We’d also love to publish a post you wrote.
  2. Are you teaching a really compelling course? (The answer should be “yes” because ALL of you are teaching really compelling courses.) Write something about the course and send it our way. We love to read about what’s happening within the walls of Webster!
  3. Got a fun story to share? Please share it!! This can be about anything. Exciting happenings in your class. Fun summer getaways. A funny story your niece told you the other day. We love to get to know our professors and would love to have you share your stories!

Students!

  1. Have you written a really interesting paper recently? Send it to us! We’d love to publish it on the blog! We really enjoy seeing what students are doing within our classrooms!
  2. Do you have any fun side projects happening? We’d love to hear about it! We like featuring students’ projects because we like showcasing our amazing English Department talent!
  3. Are you writing a thesis or working a culminating project? Featuring something like this on our blog is beneficial because it may give inspiration to future students as they begin to think about their own culminating projects.

Alumni!

  1. Are you published (or soon to be published)? Send us a link and short write-up about your pieces and we’ll link your work to our blog. We know we have some amazing alumni and your work deserves to be featured!
  2. How about a story from when you were attending SCSU? We quite like taking trips down memory lane! Please feel free to share your stories with the blog!
  3. What are you up to these days? We feel very connected to all of our alumni and would greatly appreciate to hear how you are doing, what you are doing, and how the English Department helped prepare you for your current adventures.

Do you have other ideas for submissions? Please, send them our way! If we haven’t said it before, we love featuring faculty, students, and alumni!! Please consider writing something for the blog!

Webster during COVID-19

Ok friends. Let’s address the elephant in the room. And by “elephant,” I mean “COVID-19.”

Everyone knows about it. Everyone’s talking about it. But, I haven’t seen anyone talk about how different campus looks right now.

I walked around Webster Hall, our home, on Tuesday before teaching my class. It was about 1:30 PM.

Before I drop the photos I took, I want you to remember what Webster was like back before COVID. I remember walking through the halls, hearing a multitude of voices and seeing students studying in the comfy chairs on every floor. I remember the English department (and other departments as well) office doors open, the office full of smiling faces ready to greet anyone who walked in! I remember seeing full classrooms of students learning. I remember an alive and active building.

I’ll admit. I was very saddened by my walk through Webster. I felt like I was alone. I didn’t get to greet anyone. No smiles. No “How are you?” No interaction. Just me and my thoughts.


 

 

 

 


Walking around Webster was a sad experience. When I finished my walk, I went to my classroom to get set up for class. Some students come in-person and the rest join on Zoom. It’s far less than an ideal situation, but at least they get a little bit of in-person instruction. When I’ve asked which method the students prefer, the say in-person. I had five students in my classroom on Tuesday. The rest were on Zoom.

Drop us a comment to let us know which method you prefer!

I hope eventually we can go back to fully in-person classes, but until then, we’re doing the best we can and I’m confident all the professors teaching here are continuing to provide high quality instruction!

Take care and be safe!

 

Ayan Omar – Alum and Leader

This week, the SCSU English Department feels very fortunate to feature one of our past graduates, Ayan Omar.

Ms. Omar currently teaches Language Arts at St. Cloud Technical High School. Her students are very fortunate to be learning from such a tremendous leader.


In her words:

“When I was a little girl, a black-Somali-Muslim refugee little girl, earning a master’s degree in English never seemed imaginable. Earning a master’s degree in English Studies at St. Cloud State solidified my ambitious refugee narrative and community efforts. Like many great writers, growing up, reading became my vehicle to success. Books buried my failures and inspired my successes. Gifted writers taught me how to express myself more eloquently. I fell in love with language as an art. Even today, amid the chaos and division of society, I maintain my faith in a better world by reading one book at a time. In my earlier years, Maya Angelou, in her book I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, validated that all my experiences color the storyline of my life. Nathaniel Hawthorne, in his book The Scarlet Letter, branded my otherness as a pearl, despite what those in power might think. Lastly, the great writers, Whitman, Emerson, and Thoreau satiated my curiosity of transcendence. Their writings inspired me to practice intentional listening in search of a universal truth. Reading provided me a clear path to knowledge and pushed me toward civic engagement.

The English Studies graduate program at St. Cloud State fostered my personal growth. For instance, my thesis evaluated the goodness of black women using three of Toni Morrison’s greatest artifacts: The Bluest EyeBeloved, and Sula. These three creative works expose the conflicting disposition and the unconscious bias held toward black women’s goodness by society. With the help of Dr. Monica Pelaez, I uncovered how Morrison writes progressively and pragmatically about black women and for black women. The continuous support, patience, hard questions, and immense knowledge of Dr. Pelaez allowed me to narrow down my topic, structure my thesis, and revise continuously. Her insightful comments allowed me to learn and produce throughout the entire experience.

I am forever grateful to Toni Morrison and the faculty at St. Cloud State’s English department, specifically Dr. Monica Pelaez, Dr. Constance Perry, Dr. Judith Dorn, and Dr. Christopher Lehman, for their insightful guidance.”


If that isn’t inspiring, then I don’t know what is. We have such an esteemed faculty in our English department, and Ms. Omar does a great job highlighting that fact. We are so proud, as a department, to have been a part of Ms. Omar’s life and we are excited to see where her journey takes her.

Are you interested in learning more about Ms. Omar? 

Click here to read more about Ms. Omar and her journey!

Check out this video to hear her TED Talk!

Ms. Omar also had the opportunity to write a compelling article for the Washington Post where she discusses explaining her “faith to fearful Americans.”

If you’re still itching for more, please take the time to watch this video, a recording of “Face Value: Communication on a Human Scale,” a presentation she delivered at St. John’s University in 2019. Her story and

Last but not least, we highly encourage you to read her thesis, “What does it mean to be a good black woman?”, a study of the writings of Toni Morrison.

The English Language is Weird Pt. 2 – English Games

Check this out!

In an attempt to make people chuckle, we’re gonna play some games this week, just to help prove how silly the English language really is!


Game #1 – Place the word “only” anywhere on the sentence.

She told him that she loved him.

ONLY she told him that she loved him.
She ONLY told him that she loved him.
She told ONLY him that she loved him.
She told him ONLY that she loved him.
She told him that ONLY she loved him.
She told him that she ONLY loved him.
She told him that she loved ONLY him.
She told him that she loved him ONLY.


Game #2 – This sentence has seven different meanings depending on the stressed word.

I never said she stole my money.

I never said she stole my money.
I never said she stole my money.
I never said she stole my money.
I never said she stole my money.
I never said she stole my money.
I never said she stole my money.
I never said she stole my money.

I never said she stole my money. (Someone else did.)
I never said she stole my money. (I would never rat her out like that.)
I never said she stole my money. (I merely implied that she stole my money.)
I never said she stole my money. (I just said someone stole my money and never actually pointed fingers at her.)
I never said she stole my money. (She’s just taking a really long time to pay back that loan.)
I never said she stole my money. (She stole money, sure, but not mine!)
I never said she stole my money. (She stole some other things from me, yes, but not my money!)


Game #3 – What is the correct way to spell POTATO?

If GH can stand for P as in ‘hiccough,’
If OUGH can stand for O as in ‘dough,’
If PHTH can stand for T as in ‘phthisis,’
If EIGH can stand for A as in ‘neighbor,’
If TTE can stand for T as in ‘gazette,’
If EAU can stand for O as in ‘plateau,’

Then the correct way to spell potato is really

GHOUGHPHTHEIGHTTEEAU

Can you come up with any other words that could be spelled in this ridiculous manner??


We hope you at least got one chuckle out of these games!!

The English Language is Weird Pt. 1 – “Word Crimes”

This week’s blog post is going to be a little different from previous weeks’ posts. With the state of the world right now, I just feel like we all need a good laugh, so hopefully this post will at least make you chuckle! And because I like laughing so much, I think I might just make this a series! So, stay tuned for more posts about the weirdness of the English language!

For the first chuckle, I’d like all of us to take a trip down memory lane, all the way back to 2014 (which, I know, isn’t that long ago). I had just graduated college and was on the prowl to find my first English teaching job when “Weird Al” Yankovic dropped his classic video “Word Crimes” which highlights all the standard mistakes we, as English speakers, make.

Weird AlIf you don’t know “Weird Al” he’s known for taking pop culture songs, changing the lyrics and subject of the song, and rerecording them. Most times, he keeps the original chord progressions, rhythms, and musicality. Often times, they make the listener crack up!

Of course, as I was on my hunt for my first job, I laughed way too hard when I first heard this song. I immediately thought, “This song HAS to make it into a lesson in my future classroom!!” Unfortunately, due to the “Everybody shut up” lyric at the beginning and the original inspiration for the song, it never entered my classroom. Regardless! It’s still a funny song!

“Word Crimes” is based on another song from the time. Released in March of 2013, “Blurred Lines,” recorded by Robin Thicke, Pharrell Williams, and T.I., became an instant sensation and according to the L.A. Times, it “went on to become the biggest song of 2013.” Its disco/R&B feel made it easy to dance to and its lyrics were easy to learn and sing.

Unfortunately for the singers, just two short years after the release of this song, they were found guilty of plagiarism (a hot button word in the English field) as they had copied Marvin Gaye’s chart-topping 1977 hit, “Got to Give You Up.” The singers were forced to pay “nearly $7.4 million in unpaid licensing fees and a chunk of the song’s profits,” (L.A. Times). When thinking about this, it’s slightly ironic, because in an interview with GQ shortly after the song’s release, when asked “What’s the origin story behind your new single, Blurred Lines?” Robin Thicke responded, “Pharrell and I were in the studio and I told him that one of my favorite songs of all time was Marvin Gaye’s ‘Got To Give It Up.’ I was like, ‘[Dang] we should make something like that, something with that groove.’ Then he started playing a little something and we literally wrote the song in about a half hour and recorded it. The whole thing was done in a couple hours—normally, those are the best ones.”

Lesson of the day? Don’t plagiarize, kids!

Anyway, here’s “Weird Al’s” “Word Crimes!” Have you committed any of these “crimes?” I know I have…

I think the “crime” that really rubs me the wrong way is misuse of apostrophes! I get it. It’s difficult to know when to stick an apostrophe in a word, but I still just shake my head when people use them incorrectly. Oh, that and the overuse of the word “literally.” I can’t stand that one either!

Drop us a comment and let us know which word crime tickles your feathers!!