Writing Encouragement

PD James: Don’t just plan to write—write. It is only by writing, not dreaming about it, that we develop our own style.

Steven Pressfield: The answer: plunge in.

Anne Enright: Keep putting words on the page.

Joyce Carol Oates: I have forced myself to begin writing when I’ve been utterly exhausted…

Cory Doctorow: Write even when the world is chaotic.

Hilary Mantel: If you get stuck, get away from your desk. Take a walk, take a bath, go to sleep, make a pie, draw, listen to music, meditate, exercise; whatever you do, don’t just stick there scowling at the problem. But don’t make telephone calls or go to a party; if you do, other people’s words will pour in where your lost words should be.

Helen Dunmore: Finish the day’s writing when you still want to continue.

Geoff Dyer: Have more than one idea on the go at any one time. If it’s a choice between writing a book and doing nothing I will always choose the latter. It’s only if I have an idea for two books that I choose one rather than the other. I always have to feel that I’m bunking off from something.

Jennifer Egan: [Be] willing to write really badly. It won’t hurt you to do that.

Sarah Waters: Treat writing as a job. Be disciplined.

Joshua Wolf Shenk: Get through a draft as quickly as possible.

Maryn McKenna: Find an organizational scheme for your notes and materials; keep up with it (if you are transcribing sound files or notebooks, don’t let yourself fall behind); and be faithful to it…

Taken from 99%, where there are other pieces of good advice, including how to break up over your writing.

Writing with Complaints is Viewed as Positive

Aggarwal explains that visitors to corporate websites or employee blogs do not expect to see anything but positive commentary on company products and services. Critical commentary is seen as reflecting the integrity of employees and honesty and openness from the company about their products or services, he said.

from Live Science’s post “Disgruntled Employees Can Be Good for Business.

So students need to learn to write 80/20 or 85/15… It’s an interesting idea.

One Reason English Teaching Matters

I became an English professor because: EVERYONE NEEDS TO KNOW HOW TO WRITE. I did not become a history professor because not everyone can benefit from knowledge about what has happened in the past. Some people just don’t get it.

But everyone needs to know how to write. Writing is communication and communication is essential.

Don’t believe me? Okay. Believe social marketing guru Seth Godin.

In his post How to get A Job with a Small Company he says:

Learn to write. Writing is a form of selling, one step removed. There’s more writing in business today than ever before, and if you can become a persuasive copywriter, you’re practically a salesperson, and even better, your work scales.

3. Learn to produce extraordinary video and multimedia. This is just like writing, but for people who don’t like to read. Even better, be sure to mix this skill with significant tech skills. Yes, you can learn to code. The fact that you don’t feel like it is one reason it’s a scarce skill.

Learn to write.
Learn to produce extraordinary video and multimedia.

THAT is what I am teaching in my fyc. THAT is what my students need to be learning to get a job, have a career, and support a family. It may be what they need to be able to eat.

Is learning to write about more than a job? Absolutely. But it does help to be able to put food on the table if you can get a job. I remember when I didn’t always have food on the table. I don’t want my students to have those kind of memories, for themselves or for their children.

I need to make sure I also include this in my business writing class.

Students Beware

A comment on Super and Ill Prepared Students gave me significant pause. It was important enough for me, and for my students, to copy and paste it here.

I’ve had recruiters at several multi-billion dollar corporations in New England tell me point-blank that they would rather hire a biz/finance major from a college with essentially open enrollment than they would an English/history/sociology/etc major from a Tufts or Bates or Wesleyan. Their rationale is that the biz major from, for instance, Bridgewater State, has some experience with Powerpoint and Excel and may know the basics of how a company functions, while the humanities grad, while likely a much more capable individual, will need training. Spending time and money on training is anathema to corporations these days (hence the rise of the internship model). Indeed, my friends who went to local colleges and got biz/management degrees are, on the whole, far better off than my friends who went to very selective (although not top 3) liberal arts institutions like myself. I compounded my error by then heading off to law school, which overqualifies me for every non-legal job on the planet.

There’s a “practical” anecdote about students not getting humanities’ degrees. Would it matter, I wonder, if the humanities degree comes with an e-portfolio that shows PowerPoint and Excel and FinalCutPro and Audacity and _(fill in the blank)_ experience? I certainly think it would help them, which goes back to my technology post of a few days ago.

The idea that humanities’ degrees are less tech oriented, if it is pervasive, could be a significant detriment to our students. We should focus on letting them know that learning the technology is important and that they should put the programs they know well on their resume.

Conceptual Element: Innovative Metaphor

Here is the metaphor:

Think of it this way: if you want more milk, create an environment in which cows will thrive. And just as it makes no sense to say you want more milk but oppose cows because they’re smelly, dirty, and leave their droppings all over the place — it makes no sense to say you want more jobs but oppose entrepreneurs because when they succeed they often wind up with more money than the rest of us.

Here is the narrative:

One evening, when my lecture to a group of these entrepreneurs had ended and we were all having a drink in the hotel bar, the CEO of a rock-solid manufacturing company said something that stopped the conversation cold: “I’ll be damned before I start hiring people now, just in time to send the unemployment rate plunging so it re-elects the president next year. In a second term, this guy’ll kill my business.” There was a dead silence, and then every other business owner at the table nodded in agreement.

Whether you agree with the businessman or not, certainly the story brings strong emotion and the metaphor is more convincing than simply saying “Let businesses grow.”

Both quotes are taken from RightontheLeftCoast‘s Another Economics Lesson

What People DON’T Say about Global Climate Change

Minding the Campus begins with a long paragraph of questions that need to be addressed.

Then it presents the claims of Global Climate Change.

What readers are perhaps not so informed about is that every one of these claims is highly problematic and hotly contested by intelligent and informed scientists — scientists who, as the Climategate scandal showed, the Gore-Hansen crowd has often tried to silence or discredit.

So why is everyone pushing Global Climate Change if it is problematic?

The importance and prestige of those in any given field is usually enhanced by hyping developments in which their expertise would be called upon and their knowledge needed to prevent grave social harms.

Ideas for Developing a Discipline-Specific First-Year Writing Course

A new tt-academic has been thrown in the deep end and told to develop a discipline-specific first-year writing course for the uni at which the person teaches. This is about all the specifications that the person was given. Having never even taught such a course before, and not being a rhetoric professor, the academic sought ideas from the CHE fora. As usual, the other academics were quite willing to share their experiences.

From the CHE fora:

The slogan of Writing Across the Curriculum in its heyday (courses like this one were inspired by WAC) was “Writing to learn.” How can you use writing to help students learn about the author? How can you use what and how the author writes to develop your students’ understanding of how to write well? Your author isn’t just subject matter but can also serve as a model.

Use reading logs to make sure that your students are reading the author, and then have them use the logs as notes toward an essay analyzing the author’s argument. Use topics raised by the author as the basis for the students’ research topics. Require the students to use the author as one of their sources but then go beyond the reading to their own research. Have them debate the author or explore the debates the author is engaged in?

In this type of course (which I teach regularly), the topic of the course and associated readings provide the matter about which the students write and research. It’s not a course of “lecture on Tuesday, writing process on Thursday”, but asking students to write their way into learning about the topic. This approach can be very difficult for lecture-oriented faculty to conceptualize. They look at courses like this and say, “It has no content!” It has plenty of content: the topic, the writing process, analytical thinking, research methods. What it doesn’t have is 50/75 minutes of lecture material on a daily basis. It has activities that lead students through the process of learning about the topic by asking them to engage with it in an active way.

You have to be very careful to avoid setting the course up to seem like two separate courses: one about the subject matter they’re reading about, the other about writing (elsie addressed how to avoid this and I use the exact same method she outlines) and one f2f course and one online course. They need to see the connection between the two.

I’ve found that discussion of the readings is much more productive via a blog (BB has a blog component or you can use a free blogging tool like blogspot or WordPress). Having the discussion take place first in the online part of the course has several benefits: everyone gets an opportunity to participate in the discussion, the students have to think about what they want to say before articulating it in writing (but an informal type of writing, without pressure to be perfect, which is why reading journals are so beneficial, but blogs are much easier to monitor and grade than traditional journals and students can’t wait until the night before the journal is due to write out all of their entries), students can read and directly respond to what their peers have to say (again, with time to think about their response), etc. etc. Then, when you meet f2f, you can address paritcularly interesting or debatable issues that came up in the blog (again, to help connect the two aspects of the course).

In terms of what to do online vs. f2f, I’ve found the flipped or inverted classroom model to be especially effective. Basically, the things that students would normally do in class (like lectures and discussion) become homework and the things that would normally be homework (like drafting their writing assignments) become classwork. This is effective because students have you and their peers there to provide immediate feedback, rather than them spending hours completing an assignment incorrectly.

I do this:
online–students watch mutimodal lecture on some aspect of writing (how to argue a point, how to integrate others’ ideas, how to organize an academic essay, etc.) for homework; they then complete the assigned readings and then blog about them
in class–we spend a few minutes addressing any questions about the lecture; then we spend some time addressing the discussions that took place on the blog (this may lead to the need to continue the discussions in small groups or via a free writing session); then students are given their writing prompts (which are tied in some way to the assigned reading/blog discussions and requires them to practice the writing skill addressed in the lecture) and begin drafting; students can receive feedback from me and their peers at any time during the drafting process
homework–students complete the writing assignment and submit it electronically to me for assessment

My own take on the situation:
As a rhetoric and composition academic, I would emphasize the process of writing. As others, such as Dr. Skallerup, have mentioned in #fycchat on Twitter (Wednesday nights at 8 p.m. EST), reading in the academic discourse, and a discussion of what it takes for that writing to be produced, is also important.

I have never taught a first-year writing discipline-specific course. I have, however, taught a second-year writing discipline-specific course, to which the students were supposed to come having already mastered the basic art of writing an essay and doing generic research. My curriculum, choices, successes, and failures are recorded in “Writing in the Social Sciences: An Old Concept, A New Course” in Currents in Teaching and Learning.

I thought the question was interesting and perhaps relevant for more than this single academic who has just been thrown into the deep end of the pool having just mastered the baby pool. It’s a challenge and a daunting one, but one which can bring satisfaction and development to our students.

PCA: Literary Presentations of Science

“On the Cusp of Modern Science: Frankenstein and Prometheus Unbound
Kelli Gardner Bell, Saint Louis University

This would have been a live blogging of the session, if I had been able to get an internet connection.

This is both an attempted distillation of the ideas from my thesis and a fishing trip, said Ms. Bell. 🙂

On the cusp of modern science:
Galileo Galilei apparently dropped rocks from the Tower of Pisa to test gravity.
Later Sir Isaac Newton “discovered” gravity
from “A Victim of Gravity” School House Rock 1978

Saturday Morning Cartoons:
The Saturday morning cartoons of my generation (She’s young.), misrepresent science, but introduces the scientists. The cartoons encourage the Myth of The Dark Ages and show the cultural ways that we present how science was discovered, developed, etc.

When we think about current perceptions of science –essay written in 1943, a view that already existed in early modern (Knox?), we see that we think earlier ages created nothing. However this is incorrect. The people of medieval Europe invented the scientific method, spectacles, clocks, windmills, and developed other things such as better building techniques, water mills, and agriculture (including three-crop rotation). However, we don’t know the names of the people responsible for these advances. Because we cannot name them, we ignore them.

Very interesting but I can’t keep up. Would love to have a copy of her work. I think science and rhetoric is a good topic for me to teach in rhetoric. So I would really like to have more stuff to present. I may ask her to send me a copy.

From Shelly’s novel a plethora of consumer presentations…
Single work of literature can influence our culture in a way that science has not.

The Frankenstein Monster:
iconic film images Boris Karloff in Universal Pictures: 1931, 1935, 1939
Rocky Horror Picture Show

We focused on the creation, not the scientist.
Creation myth for science = Shelly’s book
Creation myth for the Industrial Revolution.
showed visuals of Ind Rev
Philip James de Loutherbourg, 1801, “Coalbrookdale by Night”

creation myth for a scientist, classical education splitting into humanities and science

Our attitudes have not changed with time. We neglect the cumulative nature of knowledge. We think of calendars, astronomy, etc as anomalies while science is modern only. This is not true. Science is definitely an accumulation.

This quote seems particularly apropos to her discussion: “If I have seen further than others,” wrote Sir Isaac Newton, “it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants.”

PCA: Literature and Science roster

6840 Literature and Science (Roberts): RC-Rm 15

Session Chair: Ian F Roberts

“Martian Picshuas: War of the Worlds and Visuality”
Ian Roberts, Missouri Western State University

“On the Cusp of Modern Science: Frankenstein and Prometheus Unbound” Kelli Gardner Bell, Saint Louis University

“Super Monsters: Comics and the Diseased Body”
Sheri L McCord, Saint Louis University

This would have been a live blogging of the session, if I had been able to get an internet connection.

PCA: Technical Communication roster

10035 Technical Communications (Salinas): Technical Communication and Imagery: RC-Salon G
Session Chair: Carlos Salinas

Perceived Interactivity and Genre: A Genre Analysis of the Facebook Interface
Katie Retzinger, Old Dominion University

Reconfiguring “Visual Rhetoric” for Technical Writing
Carlos Salinas, University of Texas-El Paso

Understanding Visual Argumentation
Shuwen Li, University of Arkansas-Little Rock

Jacob de Gheyn’s “The Exercise of Armes”: The Gentleman’s Quarterly of 17th-
Century Military Manuals
Celia Patterson, Pittsburg St University

I wonder if the woman scrolling through her 6-pt font notes is Patterson. But, no, that’s someone else.

Patterson has been injured and will not attend.