Welcome to Torg Stories!

Torg Stories is a place for me to write about what tugs at my attention. I spend a lot of my time thinking about writing and the teaching of writing, content creation, and coaching basketball. Over the years, I’ve directed four films, had three books of fiction published, and won several screenplay awards. I’ve organized some of the topics I write about into the following categories:

  1. Youth Basketball Workouts and Player Development
  2. My family’s French Broad River Adventure
  3. The Craft of Writing and Teaching Writing

Like Holden Caulfield says in The Catcher in the Rye, “The trouble with me is, I like it when somebody digresses. It’s more interesting and all.” Rather than chastise myself about too many digressions or what could be seen as a scatterbrained approach to my work, I’ll say my writing here embraces an interdisciplinary way of thinking that allows for more of life to come in from the outside and get onto the screen. A big hope for this space is that it might allow us to learn from each other and share a good story or two. Like this one time, me and my family–having never rafted on our own in our entire lives–rafted 149 miles of the French Broad River…

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

Charlotte, Bill, Izzy and Megan Torgerson with Hot Springs, NC in the Background

A bit more about me: I’m a native Midwesterner who was born in Logansport, Indiana and a person who moved to Illinois to go to college, back to Indiana to teach and coach, to North Carolina for graduate school, to Georgia for more graduate school, to New York City to teach at St. John’s University, to Connecticut to escape the crowds, back to New York City to escape the commute, back to North Carolina for the mountains, back to Indiana to coach, and now we Torgs are getting ready for another move back to North Carolina. Next fall I will begin a lecturer position teaching composition at Appalachian State University in Boone. A few things I learned the past year:

  1. I found it impossible to meet my expectations for the kind of English teacher, basketball coach, husband, and dad I wanted to be balancing all of those responsibilities.
  2. I want to be free in the late afternoons to spend time with my wife and daughters, whether it’s playing hoops, working out, doing homework, creating content, or going on family adventures.
  3. We Torgs feel at home in the mountains of North Carolina.

Below, you’ll see a bit of what I’ve been up to over the years:

Books

Click here for Torg books for sale on Amazon

Indiana, basketball, love, divorce, winamac, Indiana, Pat Conroy, book club

Pat Conroy called The Coach’s Wife“One of the best books about basketball and coaching I have ever read with a love story so complicated and wonderful it will have book groups talking about it for years.”

Thanks to Pat. I learned a lot about writing from reading his work, and I’m thankful to be able to keep hearing from him via his books.

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MIdwestern Gothic, novel in stories, Winamac, Indiana, basketball, Flannery O'Connor, William Torgerson

Horseshoe is Midwestern Gothic collection of stories with themes about love, sin, guilt, and redemption.

romantic comedy, eighties, John Hughes, Say Anything, Olivet Nazarene University, basketball, college writing, winamac, Indiana, book club

In Love on the Big Screen, Zuke is a college freshman whose understanding of love has been shaped by late-80’s romantic comedies.

Films

morel mushrooms, hunting, Indiana, France Park, Bill William Torgerson, Martin Torgerson

The Mushroom Hunter is about my father and his buddies’ passion for hunting morel mushrooms.

Click here to watch “The Mushroom Hunter” free online.

More Torg Stories films: Christopher’s Garden and For the Love of Books

Goodreads Giveaway

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A Viking on the Subway

urban fantasy, Vikings, science fiction, epic fantasy, thriller, mystery, suspense, Central Park, Astoria, Queens, Manhattan, Chinatown, ghosts, New York City

$7.99 Paperback

99 Cent eBook!

Kobo

Nook

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Horseshoe

Midwestern Gothic Horseshoe novel in stories

a Midwestern Gothic Novel

With stories including ones about runaway coffins, a midnight knocker, church healing services, and adulterous relationships, Horseshoe is a float down the river past themes exploring sin, guilt, faith, doubt, and redemption.

Amazon

Barnes and Noble

 

 

Love on the Big Screen

John Hughes, Molly Ringwald, Sixteen Candles

a coming of age novel in the spirit of Say Anything and High Fidelity

  •  Everything Zuke knows he gets from the movies, most of them late-eighties romantic comedies.
  • You can read the first chapter of Love on the Big Screen as a (downloadable pdf).
  • Listen to a sample from the audio book.
  • Read a sample and purchase from Amazon.

 

Short Story “Twilight” in

Suicidally Beautiful

Flushing Queens golf sports New York

  •  $5  “Twilight,” is a short story inspired by the twilight rate at a golf course I worked at in Queens. It appears in a sports anthology entitled Suicidally Beautiful. 

For the Love of Books

book club, good books, great reads, Kathy Patrick

a documentary film about Kathy Patrick and the Pulpwood Queens

If you’ve got questions, comments, or just want to say hello, I encourage you to write me at <William.Torgerson@gmail.com>.

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Podcast on The Craft of Writing Memoir: Derek Owens’ Memory’s Wake

The craft of writing memoir and the subject of recovered memories and post traumatic stress syndrome were among the topics as I visited with St. John’s University English Professor and Vice Provost Dr. Derek Owens. His latest book is entitled Memory’s Wake and tells the story of an abusive relationship between his grandmother and mother. The book is part memoir, part biography, and part research project. Owens is also the author of a book about the teaching of writing I really enjoyed called Composition and Sustainability: Teaching for a Threatened Generation.

You can listen to the podcast below or via iTunes by searching for Prof. Torg’s Read, Write, and Teach Digital Book Club. Also, you can help the podcast attract listeners if you’ll take the time to “rate it.”  Link to iTunes and the podcast page here.

Derek Owens Memory's Wake William Torgerson St. John's University writing memoir

So that you can get a sense of our discussion, I’m including my questions below:

  1. Memory’s Wake is your telling of the abuse relationship between your grandmother and your mother. You also include a lot of the history of upstate New York and research about memory and abuse. So it’s part memoir, part biography, and part research project. Is that a fair description? As to the question, what’s Memory’s Wake about, would you have anything to add?
  2. I’ve latched onto the phrase, “Every Story Has a Story.” By that, I mean for every story we hear or read, that story has it’s own history of how it was written.  This book tells a story that began before you were born. When did you start messing with it in a way that you thought you might write about it?
  3. I want to talk about the rules that govern the conventions of this text. I don’t mean rules I’d find in a grammar handbook. I mean that this book has it’s own rules for how it was written.  To mention a few examples, the sentences don’t start with capital letters, you don’t seem concerned about complete sentences, sometimes you attribute sources and sometimes you don’t, and there’s a lot of play with margins.  I’m guessing you tinkered with that a lot.  The book doesn’t have chapters. Some pages just have one little black and white picture.  There’s heavy use of italics in places. Can you tell me about how you arrived at the published form?
  4. At what points in writing this story did you think it wouldn’t get finished or published? How did you push through those points? What was driving you to get it done and out into publication?
  5. Can you talk to me about how research works in this book?  I’ll tell you what I think I’ve inferred and you can correct me and add to what I’ve said. I think I see excerpts from your mother’s journals, stories told to you by family members, books or articles you’ve read, and visits to places in upstate New York.  I’ll dig in on a couple of these after I hear your answer.
  6. What was the result of writing this book? To you? What do you know/understand that you didn’t understand before? Is your take on memoir different than it was before?  Did the writing of this cause you to remember anything new or see your own childhood in a different way?

The podcast was recorded with a Blue Snowball mic via Garage Band and a MacBook. You can read more about the book and its publisher, Spuyten Duyvil, here.  You can also listen to the podcast below or via iTunes by searching for Prof. Torg’s Read, Write, and Teach Digital Book Club. Please take time to “rate it.”  Link to iTunes and the podcast page here.

Click here to listen

 

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A School Project With a JVC GY-HM150 U, Apple, and Final Cut Pro X

Because I wanted to try some documentary work, back in January of 2012 I bought an iMac, Final Cut Pro X, and a JVC GY-HM150 U video camera from B & H Camera in Manhattan.  I’ve been meaning to write about how I like these products and what’s it has been like to learn how to use them. The video you’ll see below is something my daughter and I worked on last weekend.  She was to do a project on sheep and so the whole family collaborated over a weekend at Queens Farm. Yes, we do have a big farm here in one of the five boroughs of New York City.

That's Me With the Black Video Camera

Charlotte’s Cover Image for her Video

One of my films is almost finished, the one about Kathy Patrick and the Pulpwood Queens’ Book Club. I’d been researching what sort of camera I wanted to buy, when I realized that my trip to Texas to see the Pulpwood Queens would make for a great story.  So I bought the camera and read the book on how to use it on the way down. If you see the film, it won’t be too hard to figure out I was a rookie cameraman, but the content of the Queens and the authors is so great that I think it carries the documentary.  I was also very fortunate that two friends, Natalie Brasington who is a photographer, and Jeremy Vogt who is a musician, provided some great content.

Since my trip, I took all four of the Apple Pro Lab courses in Manhattan at the store on 14th Street. They were FREE and fantastic.  Now I’m reading Larry Jordan’s Final Cut Pro X: Making the Transition. The “transition” refers to those who are coming from the old FCP programs. I didn’t really have any editing experience so I haven’t had much new to get used to.

I’m calling the Pulpwood Queens documentary For the Love of Books. The second film will be about my father and his buddies and will titled The Mushroom Hunter. I don’t think my daughter and I talked about what she wanted to call her film. Given her title page, I guess it’s Charlotte’s Sheep Project. 

“The Church and the Fiction Writer” Prof. Torg Talking With O’Connor’s Text

I’ve previously described myself as a Christian who doesn’t go to church.  This may or may not be a permanent part of my life:  not going to church.  Sometimes I miss the sorts of sermons that are like the best classroom lessons I’ve experienced, or I miss the lift in spirit I have previously felt when I raise my ugly singing voice within a congregation.

Recently, I attended a writing conference at Wesleyan University in Connecticut where O’Connor’s Mystery and Manners was often invoked.  It’s book I had somehow not yet read, and while I waited for the copy I’d ordered to arrive, I browsed the library collection at St. John’s University in New York and came across  O’Connor’s “The Church and the Fiction Writer.”  It’s  an essay that interests me from the standpoint of being a Christian who writes stories which often contain curse words, sex, and people doing ugly things to one another.  It’s subject matter that might be tricky if I was teaching somewhere such as my fictional Pison Nazarene University and it’s also subject matter that is tricky when I’m talking with my parents about my work.  As some of you might know, parents often weigh in with their thoughts no matter how old you get.  I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I imagine O’Connor possibly responding in her essay to questions such as these:

  • Why can’t you write a happy story?  Why does there have to be cursing, violence, and sex?
  • Why does there have to be so many shadows from your own life?  Why can’t you just make everything up?
  • Why do you have to write so much about the place you come from?

Here are some lines in bold I’ve plucked from O’Connor’s essay and a few of mine own thoughts which follow. 

“The writer learns, perhaps more quickly than the reader, to be humble in the face of what-is.”  Life works with my mind to give me ideas, people, and situations about which to write.  I have those to choose from.  I try to become the characters and report what happens in and out of minds. I try to point to spots in life that are interesting to me and so might tend to be interesting to some of you.

“A belief in fixed dogma cannot fix what goes on in life or blind the believer to it.”  No matter your belief in God or no God, life is happening in front of you.  Art such as O’Connor’s helps me to pay attention to life that I would have otherwise missed. 

Perhaps partially in response to, “Why can’t you write about happy things?” O’Connor wrote this:   An affirmative vision cannot be demanded of him (the writer) without limiting his freedom to observe what man has done with the things of God.

What would make a person fearful of reading fiction?   It is when the individual’s faith is weak, not when it is strong, that he will be afraid of an honest fictional representation of life…  O’Connor’s line evokes for me those who would never read Barack Obama or Bill O’Reilly.  If they are one side, they can’t stand to hear the other. 

Citation information:

O’Connor, Flannery.  “The Church and the Fiction Writer.”  Flannery O’Connor Collected Works.  Comp. Sally Fitzgerald.    New York:  Literary Classics of the United States, 1988. Print.

William Torgerson on Flannery O'Connor The Church Fiction Writer

Click Here to Read About O'Connor's Cartoons