This UChicago Life

Stories about rumors and their repercussions on a college campus

By Mitchell Kohles, '12


Today on our show we have just one story, of an incredible rumor that spread through one college campus, if not quite like wildfire, then perhaps like a slow Lake Michigan fog. This is Mitchell Kohles with UChiBLOGo. Our show, in three acts. Stay with us.

I first heard the rumor from a friend, who had heard it from a friend of a friend, and he made me promise not to tell anyone: Ira Glass is teaching a creative writing class at the University of Chicago.

The details of the original rumor (read: the buzz by the time it got around to me) were that: a) Glass would teach a class during winter quarter, something about creative nonfiction writing, potentially with elements of radio broadcasting, and b) students who were registered for a certain creative writing class during the fall would be automatically enrolled in the Glass class for the following quarter. Come December, fans of This American Life would be encouraged to politely exchange blows over any remaining seats.

Whoa. This is serious news, right? Unless, of course, it’s not. My first thought was to browse the CRWR course listings for something that seemed to suggest Glass. Beginning Nonfiction, naturally. Writing Memoir: interesting, but probably not what we’re looking for. And lo, Documentary for Radio: Audio Verte,’ sounds juuuust right—except that the course is missing an instructor, and there aren’t any students enrolled.

At this point, I was beginning to doubt my informant, so I returned to the source and tried to track this thing back to someone with an office. The first person who had anything substantive to say was Isaac:

Regarding Ira Glass, I heard he was coming from Harry, who I believe heard it from Kathy Anderson (head of Chicago Careers in Journalism). I am loosely paraphrasing, since he told me this around two months ago, but as I understand it Mr. Glass will be coming for a weekend sometime in fall quarter to do some workshops on storytelling. Slots in these workshops will be given first to students in creative writing classes, and then to the general student body.

Maybe it doesn’t matter which writing class I’m in. Maybe Glass is coming sooner than I thought. Let’s talk to Harry:

The guy to get in touch with about the possible Ira Glass event and any other author events is Dan Raeburn [author of the comics zine The Imp]. I'm not sure whether the event is still on or if they'll want to talk about it quite yet, but I'm sure he'd let you know either way.

Dan Raeburn sounds like he might have the scoop. Maybe he can end this once and for all:

This isn't a rumor, it's a fact, so you can publish it. Ira Glass is indeed coming to the U of C in October. But he's not doing an event, i.e., a lecture or public performance of any kind. Instead he's doing something even cooler. He's meeting with students only.

Dan’s email went on to explain that Glass will hold a two-hour meeting with students who are pursuing their own creative projects. He will answer their questions, provide advice on their work, and share what he’s learned about “the art of telling true stories.” Although Glass was originally invited to be a part of the Arts Speaks series, he was more interested in talking directly with students. And so Glass agreed to come for free but had one important condition: no more than 100 students can participate. If it was going to work, it had to be small. For that reason, the event is not open to the public, and only students currently registered for creative nonfiction, documentary, radio, or journalism courses will be offered a spot.

Perhaps I’ve got a chance after all. It sounds like we’ve found a rumor that didn’t end in tears and broken friendship. At least until first week and pink-slip mayhem, things are looking good. Dan says:

I for one am thrilled, and hope your readers are too. Please spread the word.

You got it.

August 22, 2011