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English Prof. Speaks About Her Work as a Writer, Editor

Mary Collins, left, is the author of American Idle: A Journey Through Our Sedentary Culture.
Mary Collins, left, is the author of 'American Idle: A Journey Through Our Sedentary Culture.'

By Matt Kiernan

CCSU assistant professor of English Mary Collins delivered a two-in-one discussion-presentation last Wednesday for a book she wrote, American Idle: A Journey Through Our Sedentary Culture and a book she edited, New Models for News.

When Collins got into a bicycle accident after living a life that was very integrated with sports and physical activities, it gave her a new perspective on what it was to be able to move around normally and have physical abilities that most people take for granted in their everyday lives.

“I was at a real down-point in my life after the accident and the writing transformed me,” said Collins.

The purpose of American Idle was to bring to light the problems that cause weight gain and lack of exercise on a social level.

Many people in America would be happy to go outside and exercise on a daily basis, but many of them don’t feel safe in their own communities. Collins wrote that 80 percent of health care costs come from lifestyle problems.

Collins took a look at inner-city neighborhoods in Washington D.C. that were predominantly African-American and Hispanic communities that had a problem of safety risks because of the high rates of crime. People who lived there were concerned about their own safety and that of their children.

“I discovered it was a civil rights problem,” said Collins. “It affected their civil rights and health rights.”

What Collins hopes the country will address is that there must be a way for average Americans to get right amounts of exercise to remain at a healthy state. She listed options such as installing showers at gyms so that people wouldn’t have to go home after a workout sweaty or having employers give paid 15-minutes breaks for exercise.

During her time as a creative nonfiction professor at John Hopkins University, she would often be sent on trips to different states throughout the country and use these trips that were paid for by the university to explore various neighborhoods and businesses to see what the systems were and regularities of the people’s exercises were.

“Whenever John Hopkins sent me somewhere, I would make sure to make it into the setting for a chapter,” said Collins.

She looked back on many parks and fields that she played sports at in her hometown and how they’ve changed for the worse. Almost all of the places that were lively and full of active kids are now empty and don’t seem to ever be used.

“We need to reclaim these places and it’s not just a health problem,” said Collins.

New Models for News is a book that Collins edited while she was an editor-for-hire trying to make enough money for herself to write American Idle. The book looks at new forms of journalism that could be used for companies or journalists looking for creative ways to release news.

American Idle is now available through as well as the campus bookstore.