About Invictus 2011

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

Near the end of the school year — sometime in late April of 2010 — I sent an email to a handful of students who’d survived my Introduction to Magazine Writing class. I asked if they would be interesting in working on a project outside school in the upcoming year. If they participated, they would have a published book by the end of the following school year.

We gathered at The MT Cup, a barren coffee shop within the three block strip of bars and businesses on the Ball State University campus. Once they arrived, I laid out my plan:

If they’d commit to a year’s worth of writing, they would have enough to publish a book. I wasn’t going to drive the project, I told them. That would be up to them. This wasn’t a class. This wasn’t a job. This was a test to see who wanted to become writers and who wanted to become journalists.

Along the way, I’d teach them about building a digital presence online, using digital publishing, running writer’s groups, and finding a community.

When August rolled around, ten students responded to the call. They met at my house at least once — oftentimes twice — a month on Saturdays at 10 am. I made blueberry pancakes, coffee, and an assortment of fruit plates. They discussed their writing, set deadlines, and worked through the kinds of stories they wanted to write.

I stepped in when needed. I helped them narrow their focus for their essays, but mostly I stayed out of their way.

By January, our Merry Band of Pranksters was down to seven, but they were the dedicated seven. They had committed, which meant they were finishing their essays come hell or high water. Meetings intensified in February and March as the writers banged out drafts, edited their work (with some help from me), and started blogging on this site.

By April the crush of finals hardly deterred them. For most of them, this project became as important — and in some cases more important — than their class work because this was theirs. They were learning how to become writers by writing. By suffering through blank pages and red-lined words. By brewing coffee at midnight so they could bang out thousands of words before sun came up.

In early July, we finished If I Leave Here Tomorrow: Tales of Risk & Rebirth, a collection of stories about the little moments in life when everything changed.

However, word of our little endeavor had already spread. Thousands had read the essays online as we released them through Scribd, and hundreds more when the book — in print and digital form — finally went to press.

Little did we know how much our stories resonated. When I returned to Muncie in August 2011, professors, administrators, and students asked me about the project, anxious to hear what our plans were moving forward.

The plans, I told them, depended upon the students. This is their project. I am just a facilitator, a guide through the writing world. Each August, I gather together a group of potentials and turn them loose. Then I join them on the ride.

I hope you enjoy this site: the blogs, the essays, the photos. I hope you comment. I hope you participate and let us know your stories.

In the end, that’s all we have to share: our stories.

We are Invictus.

Invictus 2011