Alumni, Central Washington University, Creative Writing, Department of English, Fiction, Horror Genre, Literature, Uncategorized

What Do You Expect From a CWU Alum Born on Halloween?

By Katharine Whitcomb

T.J. Tranchell saw his first horror movie at age five.

His hero is Stephen King. His favorite King novel is “Bag of Bones.”

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Tranchell, 37, met his Blysster Press publisher at Crypticon in Seattle in 2014. He was encouraged to attend this gathering by his professors/instructors at our Department of English.

He has published two macabre books: Cry Down Dark (novella) and Asleep in the Nightmare Room (short stories), and has two more in the offing. These tales are not for the weak of heart.

Tranchell received his B.A. degree in English with a Writing Specialization from the College of Arts and Humanities’ English Department in 2013. Two years later, he earned his CWU M.A. degree in Literature.

Thumbing through Tranchell’s newly published Asleep in the Nightmare Room in which he vividly recounts his nightmares about creepy, crawly spiders; he immediately acknowledges the contributions of his teachers including: Laila Abdalla, Liahna Armstrong, Xavier Cavazos, George Drake, Lisa Norris, myself, and others.

Tranchell recalled his first meeting with me, and how the English Department was a great place to ‘do your own thing.’ He also bonded with Professor Armstrong over all things, Alfred Hitchcock. Tranchell told LaunchPad that he would not have reached his level of literary accomplishment without his teachers.

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After a budding career in journalism came to an end, when his wife was selected for a job in Yakima, Tranchell decided the time had come to earn his degree in English with an emphasis on writing fiction.

Tranchell recognizes that journalism and creative writing both require story telling skills, but said that fiction is far more satisfying.

When asked if he worked on horror writing following a full-work week as a reporter covering stories, he demonstrated his love for metaphors: “The last thing a dish washer wants to do is go home and wash his own dishes.” Point made.

Tranchell said his professors and instructors at Central gave him the “freedom” to pursue his love of horror writing, but still made sure he was making “progress” toward his undergraduate degree in English, and later his graduate degree in Literature. He said his teachers made him better as a writer.

“I enjoy hearing people scream.” – T.J. Tranchell

He contends that horror books are scarier than movies of the same genre. Tranchell said that humans crave an emotional reaction in confronting their own worst fears in a safe environment. He questions why some will happily board the scariest roller coaster, but will cringe and cower at the thought of watching a Vincent Price or Jack Nicholson movie based on the works of Edgar Allan Poe or Stephen King respectively.

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Tranchell said his CWU professors and instructors encouraged him to capitalize on his vivid imagination and pursue his fascination of horror. He said the collective philosophy of his teachers was: “Whatever the genre, good writing is good writing.”

Does Tranchell ever have to overcome the dreaded and scary, “writer’s block?” He replied that when he is “actively writing” that he is in a zone. His biggest impediments to writing are the demands of daily life.

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Most recently he directed student media at the University of Idaho for two years, a position that ended on the last day of June. Today, he is a full-time “stay-at-home dad” and a novelist focusing on all things scary.

And instead of being the second-coming of Stephen King, he wants to the first iteration of T.J. Tranchell. Congratulations to T.J. and his readers.

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Arts and Humanities, CAH, Central Washington University, College of Arts and Humanities, CWU, Dan Herman, Department of History, Gary Weidenaar, Higher Education, History, Jason Dormady, LaunchPad, Liberal Arts, Lifelong Learning, Marji Morgan, Out of the Box Thinking, Poetry, Speaker Series, Stacey Robertson, Third Thursday Thinks, Uncategorized, Wicked Smaht, Xavier Cavazos

Bringing Arts and Humanities into the Community with Porters, Stouts and Amber Ales

By Stacey Robertson

When my predecessor, Dr. Marji Morgan, issued a summons for greater interaction between the College of Arts and Humanities and the Ellensburg community, Associate Professor Jason Dormady of the our Department of History was one of the first to reply.

His response led to the creation of the “Wicked Smaht; Third Thursday Thinks” speaker series.

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As described by Dr. Dormady, the Wicked Smaht talks are a partnership between the College of Arts and Humanities and Iron Horse Brewery, and serve as a conduit between the university and the City of Ellensburg.

Held in the back room of the craft brewery on Main Street, the talks are informal and most have participatory elements, and a little IPA, too.

“Getting off campus and going out into the community is something that’s beneficial for both the university and the Ellensburg community,” Dormady said.

According to Dr. Dormady, the name of the series, ‘Wicked Smaht’ was inspired by a line of dialogue from the film, Good Will Hunting.

In the film, the main character participates in an intellectual discussion in a bar, and is described by one of his friends as ‘wicked smaht.’

“This idea of people from the community and from the university (e.g. Town and Gown) getting together and having an intellectual exchange in a local craft brewery was our response,” Dormady said.

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Free and open to everyone 21 or older, the talks have covered a wide range of subjects including subversive knitting, Irish World War I veterans, and music advocacy.

Last June as part of the series, I presented on the historic roots about the global phenomenon of modern-day slavery, a global crisis affecting 30 million people today.

The only requirement for speakers is they hail from the College of Arts and Humanities. Beyond that, faculty members may choose their topics.

“There is really no single theme… and I think that’s what the fun part of this is,” Dormady said. “The faculty speakers can talk about anything they want.

“For example, Xavier Cavazos from our Department of English led a fantastic participatory performance poetry. We had 20 people up, dancing around, while chanting poems.”

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Each talk is an hour long with presenting faculty members usually taking the first half hour for a topic overview, leaving second half for Q&A. If it’s a workshop, then the hands-on portion takes the full hour with the faculty member moving throughout the room.

“We really discourage the use of Power Point … this program is not designed for lectures,” Dormady said. “It’s intended as ‘here are some ideas, now let’s talk about them.’ We generally say people have to rely on their own wit and wisdom to make things happen.”

The series is unique on campus, primarily because of its informal nature and its craft-brew and bar-food setting.

“I think the informality really sets it apart from formal classroom lecture,” Dormady said.

This month, Dr. Marji Morgan will lead a discussion about wine and champagne. Next January, the series will host Dr. Gary Weidenaar, our director of Choral Studies, as he leads a ‘beer choir.’

Prost!

CAH faculty who are interested in presenting at Wicked Smaht are encouraged to contact Dr. Dormady at Jason.Dormady@cwu.edu

http://www.cwu.edu/history/node/2531