Simon Ortiz: Real Writing

rdurborowRobert Durborow
Student Advisor, 2014-2016
Pi Omega Chapter
Northern Kentucky University, Highland Heights, KY

My first impression of Simon Ortiz at the 2015 Sigma Tau Delta Annual Convention in Albuquerque, New Mexico, can be summed up in a single word: real. What I mean is the man is genuine, has an opinion and character, and shows these qualities in what he writes, how he lives, and how he interacts with others, particularly in the literary field. He is real, and so is his writing.

I was honored to host Mr. Ortiz for the aforementioned event, and so had the opportunity to spend significant time with him. It was an absolute honor and privilege. Simon refers to himself and his people as “indigenous people,” rather than “Native American” or “Indian,” both somewhat derogatory appellations. What Simon means in using the term indigenous is simply that his people were already here when the rest of the world arrived. The word is real, and describes exactly who and what Simon and his people are. Perhaps you begin to understand why, like Simon, I choose my descriptive word very carefully and call him real.

Simon’s writing is no less real than the writer himself. His poetry and short stories speak in honest words about actual situations and experiences. The Common Reader for this year’s Sigma Tau Delta convention, From Sand Creek, is a book of Simon’s poetry which examines the infamous Sand Creek Massacre of 1864. As Simon read from and discussed these poems, his quiet, powerful words filled the vast ballroom in such a powerful manner, every ear listened with eager intent. I have been to many entertaining literary events, but never one quite as engaging and meaningful as Simon’s. The ring of truth in his carefully composed verse is completely inescapable and cannot help but change the reader . . . or the listener. He can lay you bare to the bone and sew you up in the next sentence. That takes rather significant writing skill.

Simon Ortiz and Robert Durborow

Simon did not speak too much about his writing process, except to say that all of his writing derives from life experience and his personal culture. His reading and address, even his answers to audience questions, were carefully considered and well spoken. “Words have power,” he said, “use them on purpose and use them wisely.” These few syllables, so carefully crafted, have great power and it is nigh on impossible to dispute them.

Simon delivered his address and reading simultaneously and so seamlessly I could not distinguish between the address and his poetry and short stories. What this shows me, as a writer, is that Simon is always in the story (or poem). “I write to tell people what I know,” Simon told me at his book signing, “I tell stories, and there are always new ones.” I can think of no better reason to write. Simon agrees. He told me that some people write to entertain or for fun, but he is not one of those. Simon writes because he has something important to say that people need to hear. That is why I write as well. No wonder we got on so well.

The theme of this year’s Sigma Tau Delta convention was “Borderlands and Enchantments.” Simon Ortiz comes from The Land of Enchantment, and knows a thing or two about borders, physical, philosophical, and political. Simon bridges those borders through the written word, predominately through poetry. His words draw two very different worlds closer together, have done so for decades, and promise to continue the journey for some time to come. Would that we could all write in such an utterly real fashion. The world would become the better place Simon and I believe it can be.

Sigma Tau Delta 2016 Convention, March 2-5, Minneapolis, MN
Featured Speakers


To Facebook, or Not To Facebook…

Kaitlynn HelmKaitlynn Helm
Chi Theta Chapter
West Texas A&M University
Canyon, TX

The Chi Theta Chapter at West Texas A&M University has adopted social media as our primary means of communication among members. However, we have also begun to utilize our Facebook page in ways that are mutually beneficial to active members and those outside the chapter. Our page facilitates event information, important chapter and international announcements/reminders, and serves as a space to share photos from events, volunteer projects, and socials. We also use the ‘Notes’ function, which allows easy access to the Constitution and other relevant information.

English Department Forecast for the Week

English Department Forecast for the Week

Our page posts English related articles and engaging memes for the enjoyment of members and fellow English lovers alike. My favorite function of our page is the “English Department Forecast for the Week.” This weekly forecast is a hub of information for the entire English Department—times, dates, and locations for all department related events in one place. This function also increases our chapter’s positive image in the English Department and around campus and illustrates our steadfast dedication and support for all things English on campus and in the community.

All Sigma Tau Delta officers are admins (with the President as chief admin) and all are expected to contribute when they can. I absolutely prefer a Facebook Page to a Facebook Group or Profile because of how much more accessible and inclusive it is. Making our page helpful, engaging, and relevant to a wide audience has been a learning process. Increasing our audience to those outside our chapter has also increased our visibility on campus and in the community. For example: When we go out into the community to volunteer we help raise awareness for a cause, simultaneously promoting our own chapter’s dedication to community service.

wtamublog1Some key factors in running a successful page are: posting frequently, sharing the page and inviting others to like the page to increase visibility, and keeping the language lively and semi-formal. Keeping the page active and current can be time consuming, but is a wonderful way to keep members and the community up to date with chapter activities. There are many little things we do to make our page more effective: manage tabs, customize the URL, schedule posts, create photo albums, assign category and subcategory tags, and update general and page information settings. We are still learning what’s effective and what’s not—but Facebook has great tools to calculate that too. The “Insights” tab provides excellent feedback. I highly recommend navigating carefully through this feature to get the most out of your page.


Facebook Insights

We haven’t looked into any other social media outlets yet, but it’s something to consider down the road… For now, Facebook’s fast, free, and easy to manage medium serves us well, and we hope to continue the momentum our page has gained.

We invite you to check out our Facebook page (or even to message us with some tips of your own). You can find us by following this link:

Related Society Links

Winning a Scholarship Allows You to Engage in Scholarship

Shannin Schroederby Shannin Schroeder
Chair, Scholarships and Academic Awards Committee
Southern Arkansas University

Scholarship. For professionals in academia, the word conjures concentrated study and writing, the serious work that defines us as scholars in our fields.

For you as a student, at least during your college career, the term “scholarship” most likely references money. As a member of the English Honor Society, no wonder your thoughts might turn to funding! The amount of scholarships and awards for Sigma Tau Delta members and chapters is approaching $100,000, so there has never been a better time for Sigma Tau Delta members to apply for any and all award amounts for which they are eligible. Even a brief perusal of the organization’s website should leave you feeling excited about the possibilities, from the smallest and easiest to apply for, to the prestigious William C. Johnson $5,000 scholarship, whose application process will ask you to flex your scholarly muscles by submitting a critical essay alongside your carefully-planned application. And the odds are in your favor for winning one of the awards or scholarships up for grabs, since the number of applicants each year is relatively low.

Scholarships allow students to practice the work of our discipline. In other words, such funding supports your efforts in the courses where you learn—in additional to the content itself—how to define yourself as a scholar. Your Sponsors and other professors watch your personal journeys of discovery, and we are reminded of ourselves. We watch as you light up describing the thesis for an upcoming paper. We nod in sympathy as you rail against the critic who clearly has it all wrong and whose article will be the jumping off point for your own defense of your claims. We thrill at the experience of seeing you present those ideas to others, whether in the classroom or at a convention…or in your applications for scholarships.

Ouroboros Dragon

Ouroboros Dragon

Winning a scholarship allows you to engage in scholarship. It is a recursive exercise, an ouroboros bringing you back full circle into the professional life of academia.

Scholarship and Academic Award Applications are currently being accepted through Monday, November 10.