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I’ve been a professor for almost two decades, and I love what I do. It’s a tremendous honor to step into a classroom, open my attendance log, and get to know my students. This is even more true for first year students because there is a shared sense of worry and excitement. No doubt these emotions will be even stronger when students venture off to college this fall. What will classes be like? Or the dorms? How about sporting events and other things that make up a college campus?

Two years ago, I wrote a modestly popular essay called “Starting…


One writer considers how this infamous Nazi camp defies our understanding of what it means to be human

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When I was a kid I used to build model airplanes from Nazi Germany. I was fascinated with their sleek designs and I hung them around my room because they looked cool. Sometimes trails of cotton billowed out from their engines or maybe they were busy shooting down a British Spitfire. Whole aerial battles were suspended above my bed and, at night, I saw them roar around with their machine guns crackling.

And then something happened that changed everything. My parents sat…


What this date meant to me before 2001

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“…My first September 11 came to me accidentally, like a gift.”

Unlike virtually everyone else in the country, I was not plugged into the television that Tuesday morning. Instead, I was writing in my office. It was going well so I let my pencil carry me forward, deep into the morning. When I finally emerged for lunch — a quickie sandwich, maybe some pretzels — everyone was sluggish and no one smiled. It was spooky and unnerving. It was like being in an episode of The Twilight Zone. What’s wrong with everyone…


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For those of us in higher education, new life doesn’t begin in spring, it begins in fall. That’s when leaves flutter to the ground, the days get colder, and new students appear on campus. It’s a time when the freshman class move in with their posters, mini fridges, and hopes for the future. Will they like their roommate? Have they chosen the right college? How tough are classes, really?

I’ve been a professor for almost two decades and at this point in my career I’ve taught thousands of students. I love what I do. And every year, without fail, I…


Leading a Study Abroad Course to England

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I teach at a private university and, each Fall, usually around the third week of September when the leaves shake themselves loose, we open up Geoffrey Chaucer’s masterpiece, The Canterbury Tales. The story is 600 years old, it’s set in medieval England, and it takes place on a dirt road that leads towards a cathedral. The text is challenging for young Americans, but what really confounds them is the language. I admire how they shoulder into the text and let the strange words of Middle English float into their imagination.

Whan that Aprill with his shoures soote

The droghte of…


As the iconic TV show reaches a milestone,
one writer looks back at how it influenced him

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In 1972, America was preoccupied with the bad news coming out of Vietnam. Watergate was just beginning to raise eyebrows. The Apollo program was coming to an end and, in Munich, eleven Israeli athletes were murdered during the Olympics by a terrorist group called Black September. On September 17th, a new television show appeared on CBS. It mixed comedy with the deadly serious business of warfare.

The early ratings for MASH were so abysmal that it was nearly canceled, but it would soon…


I enjoy shining a flashlight into the darkness. For me, the basic job of a writer is to bring the world into focus and cast some illumination. I particularly enjoy helping my students see what hides behind the doorway of the writing life. This doesn’t mean I have all the answers of course (no one can master the craft of writing in a single lifetime), but I’d like to think I’ve gathered enough useful ideas along the way. What follows isn’t a list of commandments that must be followed no matter what. Instead, I consider them “personal rules” that I…


I’ve been having a lot of sex lately. Back when I was randy teenager this would have seemed like an impossible dream-come-true, but now that I’m thirty-seven-and my wife and I are still trying to fill our empty nursery-it’s a bit soul-crushing. Where is our first child, the one that throws cereal on the floor and cries at night and gets excited about opening Christmas presents? Where is this little phantom that my wife and I have imagined for so many years?

It never occurred to me that I couldn’t be a father. I just assumed that it was a…


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Several years ago I challenged a friend to read the first 10 pages of Ripley Bogle and then put it down: “I dare you to walk away after ten pages. I bet you can’t do it.”

I should come clean about something before you (wise reader that you are) go much further than this sentence. Here it is: I’m an evangelist for Ripley Bogle. It’s one of those books I’d take to a desert island because it’s on my top ten list, usually floating around the #4 or #5 slot. Here is an example of excellent writing and every time…


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A friend recently asked me what it’s like to be on the radio, and my short answer was, “It’s fun.” It’s more complicated than this of course, so I thought I might use a few pixels here to explain what it’s like to speak into a microphone and know that hundreds of thousands of people are listening to you.

There are two basic ways your voice is sent shooting through the atmosphere for a radio interview: 1) you call in on a phone or 2) you step into a studio. My first radio gig happened in 2005 when I appeared…

Patrick Hicks

Writer. Poet. Traveler. patrickhicks.org

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