Last week’s Feminisms and Rhetorics (put on by the Coalition for Women Scholars in the History of Rhetoric and Composition) was fantastic. Not only did I get to go to excellent sessions on Jacqueline Jones Royster ‘s and Shirley Wilson Logan’s work, feminist readings of science writing, and Muslim superheroes, but I also got to be on a panel with Lindsay Rose Russell (talking about women missionaries making dictionaries) and Jennifer Burgess (talking about a late nineteenth-century women’s Catholic mutual insurance group). I also got to hike South Mountain in the Tempe area (and did not get bit by a snake nor attacked by a coyote). All in all, an excellent trip.
However, the conference did bring to the surface some issues I’ve been struggling with as a feminist scholar and a scholar who works, at least in part, in women’s history. So often the vocabulary we use to talk about women of the past, to my mind, “others” women. For example, if I say that that “women negotiated” or “participated,” am I not setting up women’s experience as abnormal? Why when I am talking about women in corporations and corporately-structured organizations do I feel the need to say “Women participated in business activities” rather than simply “Women did business”? When we use such terms, do we fail Royster and Kirsch’s notions of critical imagination and strategic contemplation?
Like many junior faculty members, I’m trying to juggle administrative, teaching, and research responsibilities. And as all of us who do administration know, it can be extra difficult to scratch out time for research or even to focus on your research during “research” time with all those administrative thoughts running through your head. Enter Wendy Belcher.
I wanted to try Belcher’s book for two reasons: First and foremost, I desperately needed a structured way to revise previous work and get it out there for review. Second, I’d heard good things about Belcher’s book (aside from that it takes more than 12 weeks) as a teaching text for graduate students. So my comments here are both as a writer using the book and as a teacher thinking about using the book the next time I teach Graduate Writing.
I should say up front that I am a writer who likes discipline and structure. While I’m not a fan of the old linear model of plan –> draft –> proofread –> submit, I do find a structured writing plan helpful. I like to pair this with a lot of use of 750words.com, where I can spew out nonsense without the pressure of a Word document.
In general, Belcher’s weekly schedule suggests that you dedicate about 5 hours per week. Sometimes this schedule is longer, and it doesn’t include the at least 15 minutes a day of revision writing she wants you to do. My only real complaint about Belcher’s workbook is that this “extra” writing time is not included in the weekly hour count and therefore I wasn’t sure when I was supposed to be writing or not writing.
From a junior faculty member standpoint, much of what Belcher has to say is old news (But news that nonetheless is useful to repeat). But for a graduate student, her points and exercises would be transforming. I really wish I’d picked up this workbook 3-4 years ago; it would have really helped me revise a seminar paper or a conference paper into a worthwhile journal submission.
It also was good just to hear that what I experience is the same as everyone else, with that experience backed up by research. It’s amazing how much of the journal submission process and the book submission process remains shielded from everyday conversation with academics. Thanks to the Rhetoric Society of America Summer Institute (May 2015) and Jim Jasinski’s wonderful workshop on academic publishing, I feel I have a much better understanding of that process.
Visit Wendy Belcher’s website for extra forms for your workbook. I know I’ll be needing plenty!
This year our UNC Charlotte Marketing interns have been doing a fantastic job of creating a social media package for the Writing Resources Center. We have a fantastic Facebook page, updated five days a week, as well as Twitter account (@WRC_UNCC). We also have a blog, created and run by two of our tutors. AND we will hopefully have a WRC Pinterest page by the end of summer, a suggestion from the tutors.
But, sadly, we don’t have a promotional video.
While what I’d really like is a profession, five-minute video that shows off all of the WRC’s features and has a short mock-tutoring session, for right now I’m playing around with Prezi Nutshell–an app for iPhone that creates very short videos with animation. As one of the tutors said, “It’s essentially SnapChat.”
Not that I SnapChat.
In any case, here’s our inaugural WRC Nutshell video. Enjoy!
In preparation for their statements of tutoring philosophy, I recently had my English 4400/5400 Theory and Practice of Tutoring Writing class play “Truth and Lies in Writing Center Theory.” I gave them six statements, for which they had to decide if the statement was a “truth” or a “lie.” This particular exercise is a favorite of mine as it reveals very quickly that everyone’s philosophy is unique and it reveals how strongly each of them feels about the theories.
My list here is an approximation of the six original statements, as I fear I recycled the piece of paper on which I originally had these written down.
1. Process is more important than product.
2. There’s no such thing as a “peer” tutor.
3. Writing center sessions are collaborative.
4. Language learners should be treated differently than domestic speakers and writers.
5. Grammar has no place in the writing center.
6. Writing centers sessions should always be student-centered.
Today in the tutor training course, we’re talking about Peter Elbow’s chapter “The Process of Writing–Growing” in Writing without Teachers. The tutors are at work on their How I Write/How We Write papers (an adaptation of an exercise from Leigh Ryan and Lisa Zimmerelli’s Bedford Guide for Writing Tutors) and I was quite surprised to hear that many of them did not use free-writing and that some of them had never done free-writing. WHAT???
In any case, we’ll be trying some structured free-writing today.
And for myself, this was a good moment to remember that not everyone has the same writing education or writing practice. My experience with free-writing, after all, came mostly from my 6th grade English teacher (I apologize that I cannot recall her name), a woman who used to dress head-to-toe in earth tones (dark gray, rich browns, and forest greens) and who always wore a fanny pack. Most days she’d have us start class with a free-write, which I now realize was probably inspired by Elbow and the Expressionist movement in composition.
I’m looking forward to hearing what challenges the tutors have for Elbow and free-writing.
The move from DC was mostly a pain (I have once again proclaimed that I own WAY TOO MUCH STUFF), but it had the upside of making me go through my papers. All of my papers.
Along with some great poems from my UMD MFA poetry cohort, I also discovered the grammar booklet I originally developed for English 388W: The Writing Center Internship. Gems from this booklet include: “Sentence Patterns Rock My Socks,” “Passive Voice, or, Empower That Subject,” “Words in a Gang: The Phrase,” and, my personal favorite, “Whatever Else, Don’t Liquify Your Cows (A Few Thoughts on Usage).”
While many of the examples are circa America’s Next Top Model Cycles 1-3 (“If you don’t watch Big Love with me tonight, I’ll explode.”), and you can definitely see what I was spending my time outside of class and the writing center doing (“I won the DDR competition, my hold/step pattern finally mastered.”), I am sincerely impressed with my grammar booklet of 7 years ago that my DDR-loving, mini-skirt-wearing self put together. I have since moved on to Just Dance and more appropriate work-wear.
Of course, real credit goes to Gerry Fisher of Washington College, who got me into writing center work in the first place and who taught (and continues to teach) a fantastic grammar course. I believe several of the examples and explanations are adaptions of material she used in her grammar class, and a few examples and explanations may be re-creations. If there are any inaccuracies in information, they are my own–not Gerry’s.
Please do feel free to use the HBV_Grammar Booklet in your own classes–but let me know if you do so. I’d love to hear how you’re using it and what parts you found worked best.
This weekend I went to E Street Theater in DC to see Belle.
I’m going to confess that for those with more high-brow tastes, this film might be lacking. The Washington Post review had prepared me not to expect much more than an okay period drama, and to some extent, that’s what Belle is: I could have, for example, done without the declaration of love scenes and the almost-certainly-historically-inaccurate final kiss. But much of Belle lightly and subtly revolves around issues of gender, class, and race, specifically the historic case of the slave ship Zong. Belle’s adoptive father is the chief justice who will decide the case, and, as is to be predicted, Belle plays a role in how things shake out.
There’s a lot here that would be valuable for a course in 18th century literature and rhetoric. (And there’s a lot here that’s valuable just for itself!). But I’d love to see how this film might be integrated into a course, including talking about the decisions the filmmakers made about what historical facts they used and didn’t use, and how Belle might help us to conceptualize transatlantic trade not just in the New World, but its impact in the Old World as well.
I’m a huge fan of the Pomodoro Technique but it hasn’t quite been cutting the mustard lately. So for the last few weeks I’ve been combining my 25 minutes on-5 minutes off strategy with the Storyline Productivity Schedule.
I really like the way Donald Miller’s system helps you re-think your day; a lot of it is common sense (I should have rewards for everything–what???), but I haven’t been using it the last two days and I’ve been meandering.
A Fellow mentioned 750words.com to a client this morning. I will be trying it out shortly!
On my way back from a visit to my grandparents’ this Christmas, I bought Jodi Picoult’s The Storyteller in the airport. The basic story line is that a twenty-something woman becomes friends with an elderly gentleman, only to find out (through his own confession) that he was a Nazi soldier at a concentration camp. And he wants her, as the granddaughter of a survivor, to forgive him, and help him die.
I haven’t read Jodi Picoult before, and I don’t know if I will again (the ending was, at least for me, predictable, and the characters’ behavior at times seemed to be only to move the plot forward, although I keep going back and forth about this). However, I’m interested in seeing how a class might take to this book, and the imbedded fairytale/folk story. There’s a lot to talk about: narrative, character development, the reader’s sense of the characters’ moral structure, to name just a few.
I’m still one the fence about the multiple storytellers in the book. Would the book, and the story told in it, been more powerful with less viewpoints? There are four (Sage, Minka, Josef, and Leo), plus the folkstory.
In many ways the book reads like a mystery novel, rather than a moral journey. The really interesting moral questions (Who can forgive? How? Should we forgive? What do we do when someone who’s committed terrible crimes is elderly? Does it matter?) get subsumed beneath this.
One of my longtime favorite places in DC is Second Story Books in Dupont Circle (Right on P Street). My most recent visit there was about two weeks ago, after a research trip to the Library of Congress.
I got Amy Clampitt’s The Kingfisher, which I’d actually read already, thanks to the fantastic poetry collection at the Champaign Public Library on Green Street in Champaign-Urbana. I also got Bruce Smith’s, The Other Lover, which I already own. Whoops.
In any case, I’ve been happily working my way through The Kingfisher. It’s quieter than I typically prefer, in terms of poetry, but wonderful nonetheless. And as great writing does, it makes me write more.
Here’s a recording of Amy Clampitt reading “A Hermit Thrush” from the Poetry Foundation.