Friday, September 28, 2012

Tips for the SNL Month of Writing Challenge!

The SNL Month of Writing Challenge is right around the corner! Sign up today by emailing


Writing 50,000 words in a one month period can seem daunting. Make it easier on yourself by trying out these simple steps.

1)      Have a weekly word count goal. Your schedule may not allow for you to write every day, or something unexpected might cut into your dedicated writing time on a given day.  By having a weekly word count goal, you can still successfully manage your progress, and play catch up on the weekends if need be!


2)      Find a writing buddy! If working out with a partner helps keep you on target for weight loss goals, it should follow that writing with a partner keeps you on target to meet word count goals…right? You could choose to meet in person for writing sessions, or keep each other updated and motivated through email or social media sites.


3)       Get inspired. Keep a dream journal. Try the daily writing exercise available at Read advice from published authors to National Novel Writing Month participants at Do any activity from gardening to tennis to museum visits – and write about it!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Dominant discourse and the teaching of writing

As a writing instructor, I am often looked to as an "authority" on writing--one who knows and perpetuates the rules and conventions of writing in academia. Students ask, what do you mean by “literate”? Why do we need to make “claims” and use “authoritative sources” to be considered “good” writers at school? Who assigns these meanings and what do they represent? Academic writing lies within a dominant discourse. Discourse is not only the language we use or the way we write; it is the ever-changing ideologies, values, and beliefs we demonstrate and perpetuate in society, both verbally and non-verbally, consciously and subconsciously. As a result of this demonstration and perpetuation, certain ways of writing, talking, thinking, acting, expressing, or living become “good” and those that do not fit the mold are often made inferior, disempowered, or labeled as “alternative” by those in power. Dominant discourse empowers those within it, segregates those who aren’t, and perplexes those who recognize its complexity. This inherent power struggle in dominant discourse is difficult to avoid when talking about writing with students (and shouldn’t be avoided, as I will assert).

I feel as though it is part of my job as an academic writing instructor to uphold the dominant discourse and share its conventions and rules with students, especially since I know that students will encounter many instructors, bosses, and co-workers who will expect them to know and follow all the rules of dominant discourse. As Sue McIntosh explains, writers in academia will be “rewarded for [their] ability to express clearly, in a sanctioned generic structure (e.g. essay, report), the knowledge of others. Some believe that they have no choice but to accept these 'generic structures' as good and right and worthy.” Yet, I struggle with the boundaries of dominant discourse that often reject personal experience, emotion, non-academic audiences, non-academic language and non-linear arrangement. With regard to writing as a reflection of dominant discourse, Donald Stewart states:
 We cannot expect people to perceive the world through the eyes of persons whose languages, and, hence, perceptions of the world differ radically from their own. However, I think it is time for us to acknowledge this much: the teaching of arrangement in our composition classes over the past one hundred years has been largely a promoting of atrophied and inflexible structures which seriously inhibit perceptions which are not culture bound.
Even if they are supported in one venue, attempts made to write outside dominant discourse expectations are often assimilated and dominated to "fit the form" in the end. 

The meanings dominant culture assigns as “correct” affect the way people communicate, what and how students learn, and what and how teachers teach. I try to be cognizant of the dominant discourse in which I participate when teaching, but since I help to make up the dominant discourse, I often feel that I cannot effectively look at or talk about the discourse as an outsider. So I am left with a dilemma concerning academic writing—do I teach students the rules of writing and being a “scholar” as they have been established? Can I take responsibility as an instructor to help students and other instructors recognize the dominant discourse and its effects? Or do I sit back and try to let others figure it out for themselves, since being able to talk about dominant discourse means I am inherently a part of it?

Scholars in hybridity, critical negotiation, critical pedagogy, critical multiculturalism, and politics of difference/recognition raise potential solutions (all while staying cognizant of their own place in dominant discourse). According to Bronwyn Williams, educators must know the ideological bases on which their pedagogies and theories are built and make this transparent to others. Academics should reconsider how the dominant discourse affects those who have been marginalized, othered, or made invisible. Linda Flower offers “an intercultural (versus simply cross-cultural) dialogue ask[ing] people to put aside privileged and/or familiar ways of talking to one another in order to enter a far less predictable rhetoric of inquiry.”  Keith Gilyard poses “alternative” discourse, proposing space for individuals to negotiate their positions and identities through various means of communication. At the same time, Thomas West offers “hybridity” and a “praxis of shelter” as means of interrogating discourse. 

Yet, creating an “alternative” or hybrid discourse may only further marginalize those who may fit its definition. By adapting spaces of hybridity, we must recognize a possibility that, as Bhabha notes, “a ‘third space’ has been employed to describe a benign and ultimately progressive and positivist multicultural synthesis that creates a new culture of pluralistic tolerance.” Thus, simply saying we are “tolerant” is not the ultimate goal. Neither is ignorance. So what is the goal? I do not have a solution to this problem, but I do argue that we (writing instructors or “instructors” of anything) should make continuous attempts to critically negotiate our places and influences in dominant discourse and welcome manifestations and arguments that break down the power structures inherent within it.

Works Cited

Alt Dis. Ed. Keith Gilyard. Portsmouth: Boynton/Cook Publ., 2002.

Bhabha, Homi K. “Culture’s Inbetween.” Questions of Cultural Identity. Eds. Stuart Hall and Paul duGay. London: Sage, 1996.

Flower, Linda. “Talking Across Difference: Intercultural Rhetoric and the Search for Situated Knowledge.” College Composition and Communication. Urbana: Sep 2003. Vol.55, 1. 38.

McIntosh, Sue. “A Critical Writing Pedagogy: Who Benefits?” QJER. Queensland:  2001. Vol. 17, 2.

Multiculturalism. Ed. Charles Taylor. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1994.

Stewart, Donald C. “Some Thoughts on Arrangement.” JAC. 7, 1987.

West, Thomas. Signs of Struggle. Albany: State U. of New York, 2002.

Williams, Bronwyn T. “Speak for Yourself? Power and Hybridity in the Cross-cultural Classroom." College Composition and Communication. Urbana: June 2003. Vol. 54, 4. 586

UCWbL Services

The UCWbL assists students, faculty, staff, and alumni through Face-to-Face appointments, Online appointments, Written Feedback by Email, and Quick Questions.  In addition to these services, they also offer the following, which may be of interest to adult and commuter students:

  • Suburban Campus Writing Groups: These workshops meet each Saturday at the O’Hare campuses at 10:00 am-11:30 am (Room 307) and Tuesdays 4;30 to 6pm at Naperville (Room 220) and are facilitated by Peer Writing Tutors. Participants discuss their own writing and the work of others, honing critical reading, thinking, and analytical skills. 
  • Writing Groups by Request: Students, faculty, staff, and alumni are invited to create their own “mobile” Peer Writing Groups and meet weekly at a time and a place on or off campus that is convenient for them.  The UCWbL will provide a Tutor to meet with the group and will help foster the discussion between writers.      
  • AP/ILP Forums: These forums allow SNL Writers to discuss their AP and ILP projects with other students, Writing Tutors, SNL faculty, and a research librarian.  Because writers at all stages of their projects are welcome, these forums are great opportunities to share tips and get advice about these critical components of the SNL program. The dates of the forums are:
O'Hare: AP October 6th, 12:00 – 1:30 pm Room 307
Loop: ILP November 6th, 4:30 – 6:00 pm, Lewis 1600
Naperville: AP October 27th, 12:00 – 1:30 pm, Room 220
Oak Forest: ILP October 13th, 12:00 – 1:30 pm, Room 5440

Students may RSVP the event at AP Forum and ILP Forum or at

  • Creative Writing Groups: These groups operate like the Suburban Campus Writing Groups or the Writing Groups by Request, but with a focus on creative writing. Writers can give and receive feedback on fiction, poetry, or any other creative writing pursuit. As always, a tutor will be present to facilitate discussion. Creative Writing Groups can also be requested. A standing group meets on the Lincoln Park campus; please see the UCWbL website for days and times.
  • Faculty Writing Groups: Faculty Writing Groups assist professors at DePaul who want writing advice. Faculty might utilize these groups to get feedback on theses, manuscripts, dissertations, or other writing projects with peers. These groups will operate like Writing Groups by Request.

Friday, September 21, 2012

What to Write?

For those of you partaking in the SNL Month of Writing Challenge, you might already know the content of the project(s) you'll be working on -- but others might still be brainstorming topics!

For those in the brainstorming phase, here are a few ideas to get you started. Sometimes just getting 'pen to paper' can be the biggest challenge.

What are the first three things that come to mind when thinking of your project?

What is the book you always wanted to write?

Pick any object in the room you currently reside, and describe it in detail. Alternatively, start writing a piece from the object's point of view.

The Writer's Digest releases a weekly writing prompt. You can also search for prompts by topic.

Don't miss the kickoff parties! Light refreshments will be served!

Tues, October 9th from 5:30 - 6:15pm at Naperville Campus, Room  140
Wed, October 10th from 5:00 - 5:45pm at Loop Campus, 14 E. Jackson Blvd., Room 1451
Wed, October 10th from 5:30 - 6:15pm at O'Hare Campus, Room 202
Thurs, October 11th from 5:30 - 6:15pm at Oak Forest Campus, Computer Lab

Interested in joining the SNL Month of Writing? Email today, or come to a kickoff party to sign up!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Join us for the SNL Month of Writing!

I'm on my way to

From October 10 until November 7, SNL students, faculty, staff, and alumni will be accepting the challenge of each writing 50,000 words in a month. Join us in the effort to create 1 million words total - if we reach our goal, an anonymous donor will donate $1,000 to SNL Scholarships!
Email to register.

Kickoff parties week of 10/10! Stay posted for details by visiting here,