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Maybe Don’t Call Me

SMU Mustangs

The first time I saw the billboard hanging above Central Expressway touting SMU’s Creative Writing program I almost wrecked my car. This was a couple of years back, and it was the surprise of seeing both the boldness of the thing and also the fact that we already had more students than we could handle that set me to driving erratically. The last thing my program needed was mass media.

I circled around to take a closer look and I was massively relieved to see it was an advertisement for coursework in the continuing education program, unaffiliated with the English Department, so disconnected from my own work that I wouldn’t even have known whom to call to register a complaint about the potential confusion, even if it had it occurred to me to do so.

A colleague did suggest I raise a fuss about their using of our name. Here’s a wonderful blog post by Cathy Day that helps explain why I did not.

Having a non-degreed program with a BIG advertising budget on the same campus has almost entirely eliminated the sorts of calls that Cathy complains about in her post. Googling any combination of SMU and Creative Writing brings that other program right to the top of the list, and they must have worked out a deal with the switchboard to direct queries in their direction. I would like to thank them publicly for their great service to undergraduate teaching and learning.

Every now and then, a call does find its way to my desk, and I have the same problem with them that my friend who does counseling has with his clients: people want instant results. They want the five-item checklist that will solve their problems immediately and they want you to provide if for them now.

For free, of course.

And like my friend’s clients, some of these folks have genuine… “issues.” I spent most of the fall semester ignoring a voice mail from a troubled woman who wanted me (or someone) to ghost write or edit or type or… something… her manuscript. The call was as disturbed as she seemed herself to be, and my faulty memory is due to the fact that I couldn’t bear to listen to it more than once.  I let it expire.

Any guilt I might have felt about not calling her back—and, believe me, even the crazy ones set up their pitches to prey on your guilt—was mitigated by the fact that the very nature of her request demonstrated that she hadn’t even taken the time to research me—because if she had, she’d have known I was entirely the wrong person for the job.

The downside of all of this is that it makes me hesitate to pick up the phone myself and ask for…anything.

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