Meet Torg

Seven years ago I made the switch from high school English teacher and basketball coach to writer and professor.  Since that time, I’ve been blessed to have been hired to teach First Year Writing courses at St. John’s University in New York. I write novels, scripts, publish a podcast, and have just sent out my first documentary film for consideration at several film festivals.

Cherokee McGhee Press has published two of my novels. The first, Love on the Big Screen, tells the story of a college freshman whose understanding of love has been shaped by late-eighties romantic comedies. In writing that book, I drew upon my early dating experiences, my time riding the bench of a small-college basketball team, and my devotion to 80s films such as Say Anything and Sixteen Candles.   My adaptation of that novel won the Grand Prize of the Rhode Island International Screenplay Competition.

 

80s Movies music John Cusack John Hughes Say Anything Olivet Nazarene lovea scene from the novel by artist Keegan Laycock

 

Horseshoe is my most recent novel and is set in a fictionalized version of my hometown, Winamac, Indiana. It’s a place where everyone knows everybody else’s business.  Writer Bryan Fuhurness endorsed the novel by writing, “What Sherwood Anderson would have written if he had a sense of humor.”

William Torgerson 80s romantic comedy Winamac Indiana Say Anything Cusack High Fidelity faith God healing service

 

I ask my students to write a hybrid research paper we call a Scholarly Personal Narrative. I think of Colin Beavan’s No Impact Man and Joan Didion’s Year of Magical Thinking as examples of this sort of text that combines a personal story with scholarly research.  The students also create short documentary films, follow Tweets in their area of interest, and compose ePortfolios as their final writing project.

In order to consider my professional life, I use a metaphor gifted to me by a former professor: Writing Floats on a Sea of Conversation. Given that, I invite you to respond to anything you find here as the first lines of what could be a rewarding conversation.  You can get in touch with me via Twitter @BillTorg or write me an email at William.Torgerson@gmail.com

The Real “Cheese” Behind the Fictional One: Covington High School Coach and Olivet Nazarene University grad, Kent Chezem

Looks like Hoosiers Jimmy Chitwood?

In my novel Love on the Big Screen, the protagonist Zuke has a sort of love rival named “Cheese.”  It’s a name I took from real life from my friend and former teammate, Kent Chezem.  I remember that one of the coaches at Olivet Nazarene University where we were teammates used to always call Kent by the name “Jimmy,” as in Jimmy Chitwood from Hoosiers.  Kent was an excellent basketball player, the all time leader at Olivet Nazarene University in assists, and now he’s the head basketball coach at Covington High School in Indiana.  Kent has been a head coach in Indiana for seventeen years and last season he recently won his 200th game.  I asked him the following question about an event that I once witnessed when we were teammates: 

When I was on the Olivet Nazarene University basketball team, you became the all-time leader for assists.  I remember that when you broke the record, lots of students threw cheese slices onto the floor.  Was that the first time the students did that?   

Bill Torgerson Kent Chezem Love on the Big Screen Covington High School St. John's University Frankfort, Indiana Jimmy Chitwood

Looks like a young Coach Chezem?

No, I guess it actually started my freshman year before you arrived at Olivet.  As an ONU grad, you know that the best and worst part of being a freshman is living in Chapman Hall.  As much as I hated living in that old run down dorm, some of my fondest college memories originate from there.  Some of my friends in Chapman decided it would be cool to start throwing cheese when I was introduced during starting line-ups.  They stole the idea from Cleveland State whose student section did the same thing for their starting point guard:  Kenny “Mouse” McFadden.  Mouse McFadden had become famous for leading Cleveland State in an upset win over Indiana University and Bobby Knight in the NCAA tournament back in the 80’s.

What started out as a nice and simple gesture by a group of my friends (about 25 Kraft singles) grew quickly into a campus-wide fad.  Within a few games, it seemed like everyone was bringing cheese to throw during introductions.  By the end of the season, each home game started out with a “delay” prior to tipoff so that Godam Sultan (Birchard custodian) could clear the floor of cheese.  As much as I enjoyed the attention, the mess on the floor was really starting to become a problem.  At the end of the season, the conference instituted a rule declaring that a technical foul would be called at all future games where fans threw objects on the floor before or during the game.  That was the last of the cheese to be thrown in Birchard, at least that’s what I thought.

Bill Torgerson Kent Chezem Love on the Big Screen Covington High School St. John's University Frankfort, Indiana Jimmy Chitwood

Celebratory Confetti or Dangerous Projectile?

My buddies did bring back the Kraft singles one last time my senior year.   They knew that I was very close to breaking the school’s career assist record, so they came to the game armed with a “Cheese-O-Meter” to countdown the assists, and a whole bunch of Kraft singles.  After my roommate Mike Carr missed 3 consecutive chances to give me the record, David Grasse finally hit a jumper to push me over the top.  The student section let ’em fly.  As  expected, the referees did call a technical foul, but luckily we were well enough ahead that it didn’t have any bearing on the game.  I still remember having a conversation with one of the opposing players during the technical free throws about why our students were throwing cheese onto the floor during a basketball game.

Olivet was a pretty conservative place.  Am I right to remember that you got in a lot of trouble for painting a speed bump to make it look like a candy cane? 

Bill Torgerson Kent Chezem Love on the Big Screen Covington High School St. John's University Frankfort, Indiana Jimmy Chitwood

Candy Cane Speed Bump Prank?

Painting candy stripes on a speed bump would have been a funny prank, but you are giving me credit for something I didn’t do.  I am guilty of setting off fireworks in the quad, dropping water balloons out of dorm rooms, and among other things…dressing up in a gorilla costume and stealing candy from the girls’ dorms at Halloween.  I even remember a night that started with a bunch of my buddies, a few dozen water balloons, and a pickup truck.  It ended up with us getting hauled in to jail and Grover Brooks (Dean of Students) picking us up from the police station at 4 am!  That fiasco got me kicked out of the honors dorm for the remainder of the semester, but it was one of the funniest nights of my life.  Luckily nobody got hurt and nobody was formally charged with a crime.