Welcome to Torg Stories

We at Torg Stories are excited to announce that our film On the French Broad River has been accepted to the Queens World Film Festival in New York City.

The film will screen on Sunday morning March 19th, 2017 at 10:30 a.m. in the Zukor Theater at Astoria Kaufman Studios. Click here for more information about the festival.

trailer features music from Jeremy Vogt and Erika and Shawn Wellman

The seventy-five minute documentary On the French Broad River follows the journey of we four Torgs as we raft 147 miles from Rosman, North Carolina, through class III and IV whitewater rapids, all the way to Douglass Lake in Tennessee. With environmental themes related to water quality and best management practices within watersheds, this film is about the river, the people who use it, and the social and political issues that surround it. Utilizing interviews with those connected to the environmental organizations RiverLink and MountainTrue as well as with experts in the fields of biology, wildlife conservation, and geology, this is an educational and heartwarming film for the whole family.

On the French Broad River Torgerson French Broad River Paddle Trail Asheville Rosman MountainTrue RiverLink

Charlotte, Bill, Izzy and Megan Torgerson on their Star Inflatables raft

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

My Top 5 Movies, Ben’s, and a Request for You to Vote

Changing your life, going to grad school, entrepreneurism, and all-time favorite movies are the topics this week. I’ve got a new partner, Ben Atkinson, a former student of mine from over ten years ago. After a stint as a molecular biologist, Ben went back to school for an MBA in Marketing & Entrepreneurship from Indiana University. He also started his own web company, Night Phoenix Enterprises, which hosts this site.

Ben and I discuss the movies briefly and arrived on a list of four for you to vote on.  Vote on the movie you’d like to hear us discuss.  We’ll let you know the results of the poll just in case you want to watch and weigh in with your thoughts too. The poll is in the right sidebar–>
Ben and I each choose our Top 5 Favorite Movies:

Ben:

  1. Raiders of the Lost Ark
  2. Jurassic Park
  3. Back to the Future
  4. The Life Aquatic
  5. Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure
great book, 80s, Love on the Big Screen, hilarious, William Torgerson
photo from mashable.com
Torg:
  1. Say Anything
  2. Wonderbodys
  3. American Beauty
  4. Secret Window
  5. High Fidelity
Johnny Depp suspense story Heaven Forbid novel gripping William Torgerson
“You Stole My Story!”
from rottentomatoes .com

 

To close the show, Ben and I each gave some shout outs to culture we have been enjoying.

Ben and I hope you’ll comment/criticize our movie choices and tell us about your own All-Time Top 5 Movies.  I feel like revising my choices already.

Until then, in the words of Bill and Ted…

“Be Excellent to Each Other”

 

 

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Write With Me Wednesdays: Tell Your Readers a Story

“Write With Me Wednesdays” is a series of blog posts, YouTube videos, and iTunes podcasts that is designed to help get you writing and also thinking about the craft of writing.  Thanks to the Jeremy Vogt Band for providing this weeks music for the video and iTunes published podcast.  I’m filling this post with relevant links despite my own personal goal of trying to stay focused on what I am reading online without just mindlessly clicking around.   If you’re just getting started with us, you might consider the writing territories activity as a way to look at all the possibilities for your writing.

In this weeks’ installment we’re going to look at the ways in which writers can tell a story to open a piece of writing.  I remember when I heard young adult novelist Walter Dean Myers speak at a New Jersey Council for Teachers of English Conference. I had been feeling uneasy about the way I’d been doing readings of Love on the Big Screen at conferences, book stores, and in libraries, and not liked how I’d kept my nose in a book for much of my talks.  It used to be that I’d followed a guideline I’d heard Rick Pitino share at one of his coaching clinics:  when you give a talk, don’t check your notes.  Pitino said that he’d rather look his audience in the eye and interact with them than to remember every little thing that he’d intended to say. I’d always subscribed to that philosophy, but the publication of my book led me away from eye contact and back to the pages of my notes.

When I heard Walter Dean Myers, he told us the stories of his books:  where the ideas came from, how he researched them by visiting prisons, and homes for children, and when he was finished–after not reading a page from any of his books–people were moved by the stories and went running over to the book table to purchase one of his novels.  I think he had something like three books coming out that year.

So your instruction for this week is to open a post by telling a story.  In many cases, the story might be the entire post.  The story is relevant because it is somehow connected to what you write about on your blog.  Here are some first-line examples from writers who opened their texts by beginning a story:

I think it was the penny loafers that started it all.

–appeared in article entitled “From Candy Girls to Cyber-Sista Cipher: Narrating Black Females Color,” written by Dr. Carmen Kynard and published in the Harvard Educational Review.

When I think about my writing within the context of other writers’ work, I often ask myself questions.  “When did it all get started for me?” I might ask.  And this could be connected to anything. When did I first think I might write a novel?  When did I think I wasn’t going to be a fireman (as I’d wanted to be as a kid) and when did I start thinking about being a college professor?  I also love Carmen’s text for the ways that it challenges definitions about what it means to do academic writing.  This is a text that, after all, that alludes to the 80s band New Edition.  I can hear some who’d say New Edition doesn’t belong in academic writing, but I’d say it depends on the purpose of the writing and what it is about.  Evidently, the Harvard Educational Review thought New Edition belonged in this case.

I was saved from sin when I was going on thirteen. But not really saved. It happened like this.

by Langston Hughes in “Salvation”

Notice Langston’s  fragment. Notice also the interest he creates with this idea that he was saved but not really.  What does he mean?  We have to keep reading to find out.  He’s also got that great phrase, “It happened like this.”  And as a reader we know we’re going to hear a story from when Langston was a boy.

Last week a blogging friend and I were talking about comments and community.

Deb Ng’s blog, Kommein

What Deb Ng’s sentence has me thinking about is the way in which we can give our subconscious an assignment:  find blog posts!  Or our subconscious gets used to the fact that we write blog posts, and then we’re standing on the street talking to a friend, and we realize we are in the midst of what will become a future post or text that we want to write.  Not sure that’s how it worked for Deb in this case, (maybe she’ll tell us?) but it’s often how it works for me.

A Good One: Hornby's Juliet, Naked

This way of the subconscious (or the product of habit) reminds me of a writer I like named Nick Hornby.  I recommend his High Fidelity or Juliet, Naked to you.  Not so long ago he collaborated with another favorite artist of mine:  the musician Ben Folds.  Nick wrote the lyrics and Ben did the rest.  I’ve heard Hornby talk about the subconscious (he didn’t use that word) by saying at first he had little stories he’d give to Ben, but what ended up happening was that he’d start to “see” or “find” songs.  He’d be walking down the street and think, “there’s a song for Ben.”  So once you start writing, your mind will get to working all the time on what is coming up.  Where will you put these ideas as they come?  A voice memo on your phone, a notebook, or perhaps as some sort of digital text?  As I’ve moved from being a writer’s notebook kind of guy to an iPhone user, I find myself missing a lot of ideas as they go whizzing by.  If you’ve got suggestions, I’d love you send them to me via a comment on this post.

Deb Ng knows her subject matter.  Her everyday life is full of topics for writing just like yours.   You just have to develop the habit of looking for them.  A conversation becomes a post.

If any of this prompts some thinking on your part, I’d love to hear from you via a comment.  Maybe consider leaving me and any potential readers a link to where you’ve tried to open a piece of writing by telling a story.  Thanks again to The Jeremy Vogt Band for providing the music for this weeks’ YouTube video and iTunes podcast. You can find the podcast by typing in “Digital Book Club” on iTunes.  You can listen to podcast online here.  There’s a video version also included below: