Al Haley III's Archive

Two Students Score in Writing Contest

0 Commentsby   |  08.25.11  |  Creative Writing

For more than a decade ACU students have had a reputation for making their mark in the annual Christianity and Literature Student Writing Contest. This year is no exception as we learned from results announced over the summer.

Paige Wallner and Jordan Havens won second and third place respectively in the nonfiction category of the contest, competing against students from colleges and universities around the country.

Their work was chosen to be honored by this year’s judge, Prof. Debra Rienstra of Calvin College’s English Department. As a prize, Paige and Jordan will receive their choice of books from Word Farm Press and a year’s subscription to the respected journal of the arts and faith, Image.

Paige’s piece, “Michigan: A Family Vacation Rerun,” is an energetic, laugh-out-loud and nostalgic look at how her family has vacationed in the same place every year and every year family members exhibit the same eccentricities. Paige is a Junior Interdisciplinary Studies Major from Arlington Heights, Illinois.

When You Walk Through Garden” by Jordan takes another approach using eloquent, poetic prose. The writer relives a mission trip to L.A. when he was full of naive idealism about his faith and how he could save people. Instead of saving anyone, he gets tripped up by his own hubris, the rough edges of his fellow Christians, and a romantic infatuation with a co-worker. Jordan is a senior English major from Lubbock. Last year he spent a semester at the L.A. Film Studies Center in Hollywood.

Both Paige and Jordan wrote their pieces in Eng. 320: Creative Nonfiction which is taught every spring by writer in residence Al Haley.

Complete results of the CCL contest can be found at the CCL website. You can also read there the full text of Jordan and Paige’s pieces as well as some of the other contest winners.

Prof. Haley notes that this was the first year that the contest opened a new category besides the usual fiction, nonfiction, and poetry entries. There are now awards given for best essay. He encourages students and their professors to begin thinking about what traditional (i.e., nonnarrative) papers on literature or other topics they might write and submit to the contest by the March 1, 2012 deadline.

Jason Harper in KC

0 Commentsby   |  06.13.11  |  Advising Information

Jason with famous Southern writer and humorist Roy Blount Jr.

Jason Harper (English BA 2001 and MA 2003) has made Kansas City, Missouri his home.

And he’s doing well.

In the land of barbecue and jazz, Jason has found ways to acquire expertise in the red-hot world of marketing and publicizing through social media.

This is not a surprise to one of Jason’s former profs.

“I had Jason in every creative writing class and he was a standout in all of them,” Prof. Al Haley says. “Poetry, short story, creative nonfiction, he could write them all with a wholly original voice and an unparalleled eye for detail.”

Asked what he thinks of how Jason has ended up working with social media, given that Facebook didn’t even exist when Jason was an undergrad, Prof. Haley continued:

“The world of social media arrived in such a sudden rush that it’s still crying out for creative people to bring some shape and form, and yes, style, to it. Without that, it just becomes the solar system’s most impressive landfill for words. I’m really  happy that Jason figured this out before a lot of the rest of us.”

In Jason’s case, his ability to take his training in English and apply it in a versatile fashion has turned into a job.

In an email, Jason recently shared with us the specifics of his journey into the world of Facebook, Twitter and more in the form of a series of, what else? 140-character or less communications, all of which ends with a piece of advice:

My life in tweets, by Jason Harper (@jasonfharper)

  • 1 – I left my hometown of Abilene in May ’03 and moved to KC with my BA & MA tucked in a hobo bandana-on-a-stick thing. First job: bookstore.

2 – Got a job as writer & editor at an alternative newsweekly in a time when print journalism was moving to a 24/7 web content cycle. I blogged.

3 – And wrote features: And expanded the newspaper’s reach into the online realm of social media, podcasts, photo, video.

4 – Next, I took my skills to the ad/PR world, 1st at a startup social media marketing firm, then as web content developer for@kclibrary.

5 – The Library is amazing. Pic:  I spread the good word about it thru blogs & social media. (

6 – I recently met my hero, @LeVarBurton, and made this video of his visit to the Library:

7 – Most valuable skill: WRITING. Favorite part of the job: telling stories & producing content of benefit to people.

8 – Advice: start a blog, learn Photoshop & video editing. Pay attn to new communication forms. And be sure to slow down & read a good book.

Alumnus Note: Meet Commander Wesley

0 Commentsby   |  06.06.11  |  Alumni Spotlight

Commander Darrell Wesley, Navy Chaplain

Recently when we heard from one of the alums of this department we were reminded of that old question that haunts English majors.

“But what will you do with that degree? Where will you go?”

In the case of Darrell Wesley the answer is two-fold. 

He’s done a lot

And he’s gone a long ways since leaving ACU in 1988 with his BA in English. 

Darrell is now Navy Chaplain Wesley, possessing the rank of Commander.  

That’s not all. 

Recently Darrell finished his second Doctorate, a PhD in Religion from  Claremont Graduate University.  

In addition to his ACU English degree, he already had a Doctor of Ministry Degree from United Theological Seminary, an MS in Biblical and Related Studies from ACU, an MA in philosophy from University of Tennessee, and a Master’s of Sacred Theology from Yale University. 

Before any of our current majors groan about their course loads, they might want to contemplate the stunning number of classes Darrell attended, the stacks of books he read,  and how many papers he must have written over the past 23 years. Not to mention the wealth of knowledge  he has obtained in the process of earning his many degrees. 

Darrell has put this education to use in ways perhaps few have dreamed of while walking the hallway in Chambers to find the English office to talk to the advisor about the next semester’s classes. 

There's an ACU English alum aboard this ship...

He’s  done two tours in Iraq with Marines and served as chaplain and Ethics Professor at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California.  

And he has a new assignment, a really big one.

He has recently been selected to be senior Chaplain on Board the USS Ronald Reagan, one of the Navy’s newest aircraft carriers. 

Our sincere congratulations go out to Darrell for all his achievements to date. We’re proud of how he is serving his country and those who are willing to put their lives on the line. He represents ACU well!

Congratulations to our 2011 University Scholars

0 Commentsby   |  06.01.11  |  Student Spotlight

On April 14, four English majors were honored as University Scholars in a special ceremony in the Chapel on the Hill.

Bethany Bradshaw, Sara Morris, Katherine Sinclair, and Kaleigh Wyrick were selected for this competitive honor which recognizes soon-to-graduate students with a GPA of 3.5 or higher who “excel in scholarly activity appropriate to their discipline.” Students are nominated by faculty within their departments.

This year’s English honorees provide a glimpse into the varied fertile explorations ACU English majors are making and how they are producing work worthy of the attention of others.

Prof. Al Haley, who nominated Bethany Bradshaw, lauded her ambition and drive which led her to further her experience of creative writing in a highly practical fashion; in the summer of 2010 Bethany went to New York City and knocked on doors until she found an internship at the Bent Agency.

After a summer of reading through the slush pile, meeting writer clients, and attending readings, Bethany returned to ACU where she was co-editor of The Shinnery Review and planned on-campus writing workshops and readings. She also took Prof. Haley’s Eng. 323: Poetry Workshop where she proved herself to be such a stellar poet that by the end of the semester she had had two poems accepted for publication in an international undergraduate literary magazine.

This fall Bethany will be attending the North Carolina State where she will begin work on a Master’s in literature.

Sara Morris was nominated by Dr. Shelly Sanders who emphasized Sara’s exceptional work in writing short stories. At the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor’s writing festival last February, Sara read “Losing Eden, Gaining Eve,” a quasi-feminist science fiction story about scientists who create a female android without realizing what they’re getting into. Sara reprised her story to much acclaim at the ACU Undergraduate Research Festival in March.

Sara, who graduated in May, has a job working in film art direction in Hollywood.

Prof. Sanders also nominated Katherine Sinclair, singling out a paper written as part of an Honors contract, “That Not My Wife”: Paranoia in the Invasion of the Body Snatchers Films.” In Dr. Sanders’ words Katherine’s paper “demonstrates her ability to bridge disparate fields of knowledge and produce insightful, cohesive analysis.” The paper, which was presented at the ACU Undergraduate Research Festival, analyzed the Body Snatcher films and the societies and times in which they were made, exploring the various ways in which the aliens infiltrate the planet highlight the most prominent paranoia of each film’s decade.” Katherine’s paper was nominated by the Honors College to be in the running for the Boe Award at the GPHC.

Upon graduation Katherine began work at Milsoft in Abilene as a technical writer.

The English Department’s final scholar, Kaleigh Wyrick, was nominated by Dr. Nancy Shankle who noted how Kayleigh’s love of learning is manifested by her having three minors: Spanish, Women’s & Ethnic Studies, and Bible, Missions, and Ministry.

Prof. Shankle particularly appreciated how Kaleigh went beyond class requirements. She noted that in Linguistics, “Kaleigh not only made the highest score on every exam, but she explored far beyond the exam topics, often sharing articles or readings she found.  For example, in a unit on dialects in American English, Kaleigh found a news article that described a dialect coach who teaches British actors to speak with American accents.” 

Kaleigh has twice participated in the ACU Undergraduate Research Festival. This year her paper “Mothers, Daughters, and Matrophobia in American Literature,” explored the way Nathaniel Hawthorne and Kate Chopin used the expected mother-daughter relationship of the 19th century in their novels to promote feminist ideas about womanhood. Comparing these 19th century novels to two feminist books from 2004, Kaleigh looked at the cultural views of motherhood in that century and those of today, showing how the mother-daughter relationship still has a powerful effect on women.

ACU English Poets Break Into Print

0 Commentsby   |  01.24.11  |  Student Spotlight

Two of our English majors have had poems they wrote in last fall’s English 323: Poetry Workshop accepted for publication in in two different literary journals.

Juliana at Oxford's University Church of St. Mary the Virgin

A new print journal, Fjords, has accepted for publication in its inaugural issue “weeping willow” and “Highway 285” by Juliana KocsisFjords has solicited poetry from around the country and plans to nominate its very best poems for the annual Pushcart Prize.

Juliana says the composition of “weeping willow” came about when “I had been out running one day, ran by a willow tree, and immediately thought of what became the first stanza–it just seems appropriate/ sitting beneath you/ to weep. The rest of the poem developed on its own and turned out to be one of the easiest poems I’ve written (and one of my favorites).”

As for her “Highway 285” poem, Juliana developed the idea after driving  just outside of Salida, Colorado, past spectacular mountain landscapes. She notes that, “Having grown up in Colorado, I absolutely love it and have always just been amazed by some of the scenery, so I wanted to write a poem that captured that.”

It was a productive semester for Juliana because she just learned that Sphere Literary Magazine: An International Journal of Student Writing will be publishing another of her poems, “Liturgy, as witnessed by a statue of Mary.” Sphere is an on-line journal edited by students at Farleigh Dickinson University. Twice a year they publish undergraduate writing from around the globe.

Juliana wrote her Sphere poem after reading a news item about the bombing of a church in Baghdad back in November. She characterizes the poem as “a sort of lament” over the tragedy and a call for peace and religious tolerance.

Juliana is currently a junior English major and plans to graduate in May 2012. What she’ll do immediately following that momentous occasion is still a bit speculative, but she wouldn’t be surprised to find herself in graduate school working on an M.A. and thinking about maybe teaching postsecondary school. She’s also considering teaching ESL abroad for a year or two.

Bethany banging out the words...old school style

The other student who has had poems accepted for publication is Bethany Bradshaw. Her poems “Aubade” and “You Asked Me What It Means” will appear in Sphere.

Bethany, who is serving as one of the co-editors of the student literary magazine, The Shinnery Review  this year, will graduate in May. She is waiting for acceptance/rejection letters from MA programs in English Lit. “to decide my fate.”

As the teacher of both of these young poets last fall, Prof. Al Haley was contacted for this article. He wished to contribute the following:

“I’m thrilled at how people are going to get read some of the fine poems Juliana and Bethany wrote in our class. At the same time, I’m not that surprised that their work was accepted. Besides evidencing keen imaginations as they looked for situations ripe for poetry and having a sharp ear for the sound of words, they worked themselves to the bone revising all their poems. The highest compliment I can pay any poet I offer to them: I read these poems and wished they were mine.”

As a final comment Prof. Haley suggest that anyone consider signing up for Poetry Workshop. He observes, “Everyone has something to say about life, and poetry is one of the best ways to do it. It’s a demanding but rewarding craft that anyone can learn. And from our annual poetry slam to workshopping our poems in the relaxed atmosphere of The Inkwell, we have so much fun in this class it could almost be illegal.”

Junior Major to Have Essay Published in Collection

0 Commentsby   |  01.12.11  |  Student Spotlight

There are many aspects to being a writer, and junior English major Natasha Fowler is experienced enough to relate to most of them first-hand.

Natasha last summer in Israel

Writing begins with getting one’s ideas down on paper. Then there’s the need to show your work to others and get valuable feedback for revision,  a process that can be helped along by taking a creative writing workshop.

A veteran of Creative Nonfiction Workshop and Poetry Workshop, Natasha knows all of the above and also the third thing. There comes a time when you have to have the courage to submit your work, even if it means facing rejection.

But Natasha wasn’t rejected.

Her essay, which she wrote last fall in response to a flier asking for submissions, has just been accepted for publication in the latest installment of Student to Student. This paperback volume collects short devotional essays (350-450 words) from Christian college students around the country. Many of the essays deal with common experiences college students face as they try to live a godly life. According to the editors, the series is designed to encourage students “by offering them practical advice, spiritual insight and a sense that many students face similar struggles.”

Natasha describes her contribution as follows:

“It’s about a friendship that has been one of the biggest challenges and blessings in my life during my college experience. My desire for what I wrote is for other students to see each other with eyes wide open to all possibilities of what God has in store for even the hardest friendship!”

Student to Student is a project of Professors Paul Buchanan and Paula Miller at Biola University. The first Student to Student volume was published in 2008 and featured 60 student essayists.

Prof. Al Haley knows of at least one other ACU student whom he worked with who has appeared in the previous incarnation of this publication.

“There’s a lesson to be learned here,” Professor Haley says. “It’s that if you devote time to your writing, make use of the resources on campus, including your professors, to polish your words, then send your manuscript out, you have a real chance of getting published.”

And what’s the next step? Natasha, who is getting married this May, sees her future this way:

“I love writing short stories and novels and so will continue stubbornly trying to get them published. I also hope to work for a publishing company, preferably linked to a ministry of some kind like the International House of Prayer in Kansas City or Morning Star Ministries in North Carolina.

She concludes, “My future husband, Phil Dosa, and I both have a passion for the church, missions and Israel and look forward to seeing where the Lord takes us in that direction.”

Prof. Haley Wins Kelton Prize


0 Commentsby   |  11.13.10  |  Faculty Publications

Writer in residence and creative writing professor Al Haley has been named the winner of the fourth annual writing competition sponsored by Angelo State University and the Concho River Review in honor of famed western writer Elmer Kelton.

Three passions come together--hours spent reading, writing, and listening to music.


The competition this year was open to entries in the genre of creative nonfiction. Al’s winning piece, “Hemingway Summer Jazz,” is his prose reflection upon his favorite activity, reading.

“I tried to express as best I could the frustration I have with so many books I have stacked up, ready to read and yet there’s so little time to sit down and turn the pages,” Al says.

In the 4500-word piece Al reveals that once he’s into summer he side-steps his long list of “need to reads” and always re-reads a book by a favorite author. For a long time that author has been Ernest Hemingway.

“I know Hemingway is not academically fashionable,” Al says, “but there’s something about the slow pace of his writing that coincides with my summer mood.”

He adds, “The main thing I was trying to do wasn’t to single out one writer for praise, but to remind myself, and others, about how there’s nothing like eyes meeting text inked onto the page. In this age of screens large and small competing for our attention, I think somebody has to stand up and say, you know, you’re missing out on an entire body, mind, and soul experience  if you’re not doing some old school reading.”

As a result of his win, Al will receive a small cash prize, his piece will be published in the next issue of Concho River River, and he has been invited to read at the Angelo State Writer’s Conference which will be held Feb. 17-18, 2011.

This installment of  the Writer’s Conference will feature Art Spiegelman who is widely regarded as the father of the literary graphic novel with his books Maus  I and II (1986, 1992). Since San Angelo is only a 50-minute drive from Abilene, Al encourages English majors to make the trek.

“You don’t get to meet a world famous writer every day,” he says. “You ought to hear him and then have him autograph a book for you.”

For those that don’t know, Al is currently involved in a personal challenge he calls The Van Winkle Proejct and is abstaining from all news, weather, sports and entertainment, except for what can be experienced first-hand. Al says it’s all right for him know about the writing festival and enter contests.

“I’m a writer, not a hermit,” he says. “There’s a difference. Not much, but some.”

Al’s adventures in not-knowing are being documented on a blog.

You’re Invited

0 Commentsby   |  09.16.10  |  Announcements

It’s an annual tradition.

Every fall the English 323 Poetry Workshop spends several weeks studying the art of spoken word poetry. The culmination of their efforts is a poetry slam.

The 16 poets will gather and each offer 2.5 minute performances of their poems. Three audience members will be chosen at random to serve as judges and deliver scores from 1-10 points. The poet with the highest score wins. The audience shouts its approval, hisses what it doesn’t like, and generally behaves like people having an extremely good time.

How can you not? You’re going to hear passionate words and language. It may be about the political scene, our culture, race, gender, or whatever the poet thinks is worth bringing to your attention. But rest assured. This is not doilies and flowers polite-type poetry. The goal is simple. To rock the joint.

So if you don’t have a class or a Summit commitment next Tuesday, cram into The Inkwell with us and give spoken word a try – a.h.

English Job Opportunities in China

0 Commentsby   |  03.26.10  |  Announcements, Job & Volunteer Opportunities


From: Prof. Haley

A former student of mine, Joe Cotten Drisdale, is teaching in China. In a recent email he told me that they can use many more teachers, the pay and housing are good, and most English B.A. students would presumably be qualified. Joe writes:

…this school will triple enrollment next fall, and needs more foreign Oral English teachers, They don’t have to have the ESL certificate, as training is provided.  Min. requirement is a bachelors, but if they have a masters the pay is more. The housing is new, comfortable, and similar, I would guess, to a flat in Abilene renting for about $600. Both the Dir. of English Dept. and the recruiter asked me to help with referrals, so if you think this would be of interest to any of your students, please give them my email.

If you’re interested, contact Joe:

Don’t Miss One of America’s Best Poets

0 Commentsby   |  03.20.10  |  Announcements


Tonight: Tony Hoagland At McMurry

Award-winning poet and University of Houston prof Tony Hoagland will be on the campus of McMurry U. this Thursday and Friday, March 25-26.

Take our word for it. This guy is good. [See sample poem below]

Hoagland’s books of poetry are consistently personal and satirical, digging deep into the underbelly of the contemporary American dream. Defying expectations of what is “polite” enough to be poetry, Hoagland is to American poetry what a great Indie band is to the cookie cutter streaming of mainstream pop. This is a witty poet with an ironic edge, the sort of man who would entitle his third volume of poems What Narcissism Means to Me and write poems such as “Fred Had Watched a Lot of Kung Fu Episodes,” “Poem in Which I Make the Mistake of Comparing Billie Holiday to a Cosmic Washerwoman,” and “Hate Hotel.”

So what’s not to like? Head over to McMurry for the following free events:

Thurs., March 25 3 p.m. – Discussion on the craft of writing poetry (Garrison Campus Center Chapel)

Thurs., March 25 7:30 p.m. – Poetry Reading (Ryan Recital Hall: in Fine Arts Center fronting Sayles on south side of campus)

Friday, March 26 9 a.m. – Lecture: “Clown and Scalpel: The Poem as Social Critique” (Ryan Fine Arts Foyer)

Critics Say…

“It’s hard to imagine any aspect of contemporary American life that couldn’t make its way into the writing of Tony Hoagland or a word in common or formal usage he would shy away from. He is a poet of risk: he risks wild laughter in poems that are totally heartfelt, poems you want to read out loud to anyone who needs to know the score and even more so to those who think they know the score. The framework of his writing is immense, almost as large as the tarnished nation he wandered into under the star of poetry.” —Jackson Prize Citation

Sample Poem

A Color of the Sky

by Tony Hoagland

Windy today and I feel less than brilliant,
driving over the hills from work.
There are the dark parts on the road
when you pass through clumps of wood
and the bright spots where you have a view of the ocean,
but that doesn’t make the road an allegory.
I should call Marie and apologize
for being so boring at dinner last night,
but can I really promise not to be that way again?
And anyway, I’d rather watch the trees, tossing
in what certainly looks like sexual arousal.
Otherwise it’s spring, and everything looks frail;
the sky is baby blue, and the just-unfurling leaves
are full of infant chlorophyll,
the very tint of inexperience.
Last summer’s song is making a comeback on the radio,
and on the highway overpass,
the only metaphysical vandal in America has written
in big black spraypaint letters,
which makes us wonder if Time loves Memory back.
Last night I dreamed of X again.
She’s like a stain on my subconscious sheets.
Years ago she penetrated me
but though I scrubbed and scrubbed and scrubbed,
I never got her out,
but now I’m glad.
What I thought was an end turned out to be a middle.
What I thought was a brick wall turned out to be a tunnel.
What I thought was an injustice
turned out to be a color of the sky.
Outside the youth center, between the liquor store
and the police station,
a little dogwood tree is losing its mind;
overflowing with blossomfoam,
like a sudsy mug of beer;
like a bride ripping off her clothes,
dropping snow white petals to the ground in clouds,
so Nature’s wastefulness seems quietly obscene.
It’s been doing that all week:
making beauty,
and throwing it away,
and making more.

Tony Hoagland, “A Color of the Sky” from What Narcissism Means to Me. Copyright © 2003 by Tony Hoagland. Reprinted with the permission of Graywolf Press, St. Paul, Minnesota,