The Standard Chronological Stuff
I grew up in Johnson City (TN) and went to University School, which was on the campus of East Tennessee State University. My father was a professor in the math department there, which explains why I went to an on-campus lab school for twelve years. I wasn’t good at sports, but I tried my best. I could have been good at school, but I didn’t try at all. The things I spent most of my time on as a teenager? Playing guitar, listening to music, reading, and doing my best to avoid anything else, especially if it seemed like work. University School released me from further obligations in 1984.
I then went to ETSU for two degrees (bachelor’s and master’s in English). My plan at first was to teach in high school, but during my time as a graduate assistant, I did a lot of college-level teaching, and I liked it, so I changed my mind. I did better in college than I had done in high school, but I think I still spent more time playing music than studying. There was a thriving original music scene in Johnson City with venues like the Down Home supporting local live music, and I was fortunate to be a small part of that scene with my band, the Pleztones (along with bassist Drew Vance, drummers James Hensley and Phil Bowman, and other guests like Kurt Hagardorn and Hans Rotenberry). After finishing a thesis on the poetry of Robert Morgan, I taught for another year at ETSU and then…
Auburn University accepted me into their English Ph.D. program in 1993. I lived in Auburn for almost a decade, and during that time, I continued to play music around town. I became a devoted, lifelong fan of the Auburn Tigers football team, too, but I also managed to put in some pretty serious study time in areas like linguistics, critical theory, and 20th century American and British Literature. During the summers, the English as a Second Language program hired me to teach visiting students from Japan and other countries. After completing my course work and my written and oral qualifying exams in 1996, I started writing a dissertation on the poetry of the Appalachian Mountains. I worked on it on and off (mostly off) for about two years, but it remains unfinished, so I remain ABD (all but dissertation) from Auburn.
I spent two years teaching ESL at Auburn after accepting that I would be ABD forever, but then I moved back to Johnson City to teach English at ETSU and take some computer science courses. Somewhere in there, I developed a serious fascination (some would say obsession) with the ukulele. I now have 31 of them at home, and I’ve traveled as far as Portland, Oregon, to attend ukulele shows and festivals.
In 2004, I got the opportunity to come to Coastal Carolina University (in Conway, South Carolina) to teach English, and I’ve been here ever since. My very good friend from Auburn, Dan Ennis, also taught at CCU (and still does), so I started playing guitar in his band (Virtue Trap). We spent years playing in the Myrtle Beach area, and we were lucky enough to be the opening act for the Doobie Brothers at the House of Blues back in 2007.
Over the years, Coastal asked me to teach a wide variety of courses and even wanted me to write music for some productions by the Theatre Department. But the luckiest thing that happened to me here was that I met my wife, Rose Barra (now Pleasant), in 2006. After teaching for six years in the English Department, I got the opportunity to move into the Writing Center Coordinator position in 2010, and that is the job I currently hold. I train and supervise tutors, teach in the Interdisciplinary Studies program, conduct and publish scholarly research on writing center issues, and coordinate the assessment programs for University College. It’s a rewarding job that keeps me busy.
Rose and Scott
Rose and I live in a little house in Conway with our two dogs (Diana and Loki), and we’re very happy. She lets me have a whole room in the house (the biggest room, actually) for my musical instruments and recording gear. When we have band practice back there, she just closes all the doors and pretends the noise doesn’t bother her. Rose also lets me have three televisions in the living room to watch college football in the fall. In return for all of her remarkable patience, I bring her breakfast in bed a couple of times a week, I vacuum and mop the floors so she doesn’t have to, and I try to take her where she wants to go on vacation whenever we can get away.
We also grow tomatoes in the backyard and take our thirty-year-old camper van to the state park to do some camping and fishing when we get a chance to. It’s a good arrangement, and I’ve often thought my next book project should be on how to have a happy marriage, but I’d be afraid I would jinx it by saying something stupid, so I probably won’t do that.
Joe Oestreich and Lines of Scrimmage
In 2008, I met Joe Oestreich, a new professor of creative writing at Coastal who came here as a non-fiction specialist. We began playing music together almost immediately. (Joe used to be–and still is from time to time–in a major-label recording act called Watershed). When Joe’s first book, Hitless Wonder, was about to be published in 2012, I asked him if he’d be interested in working together on a book about the Conway High School football boycott of 1989 for his next project. Rose had suggested the idea to me, but I wasn’t sure it would work as a book.
To my surprise, Joe not only considered the idea, but immediately agreed to form a writing partnership and start pitching the project to agents and publishers. We put together a prospectus for the book and signed on with the New York-based Dystel & Goderich Literary Management agency and John Rudolph as the agent to represent the book. After more than a year of working on the book and sending the prospectus to various publishers, we got a contract with the University Press of Mississippi in 2013 and then went on to complete a draft of the book in mid-2014. Another year later, the book is ready and will be published in September 2015.
Me and Joe, 23 April 2015
Joe and I are currently completing work on a recording project for our new band, the Waccamaw Dreadnoughts. Along with our bandmates Dan Ennis and Steve Hamelman, we have recently finished recording the basic tracks for an album tentatively titled Flashing Thirteen. It should be out in Fall 2015.