Tuesday, October 29, 2013

SNL Writing Faculty Publish on Teaching Writing to Veterans

An article by Michelle Navarre Cleary and Katie Wozniak was recently published in Composition Forum, in a special issue focused on veterans and writing. 

Considering veterans in the context of research on adult and nontraditional students in college writing classes, this article proposes Malcolm Knowles's six principles for adult learning as an asset-based heuristic for investigating how writing programs and writing teachers might build upon existing resources to support veteran students. 

Navarre Cleary and Wozniak explain that many institutions take a deficit-based approach to evaluating the needs of veterans and subsequently find their resources lacking, while those that take an asset-based approach find they already have many of the tools to support veterans. Moreover, the deficit approach reinforces the idea of the veteran-student as outside the mainstream, when in fact research on teaching composition to veterans aligns with that of other adult, nontraditional students. As such, the six principles of andragogy identified by Knowles are well-suited to informing conversations regarding improvements to practice and examination of existing knowledge and resources. 

Read the full article here.  

Monday, October 21, 2013

Distractions in the writing process

Last week, I attended SNL’s “Craft of Composing” panel, which included expert writers from the school's faculty, staff, student, and alumni populations. Near the end of the Q&A, an audience member asked the panelists how they “unstick” themselves when they’re writing. Among journaling, “writing trash”, and the “Just Do It” approaches, one of the panelists talked about a writer they knew who would spend time vacuuming, brushing their teeth, vacuuming again, brushing their teeth again, vacuuming again…you get it. In “Bird by Bird”, Anne Lamott talks about deciding it’s the perfect time to floss just as she sits down to compose what she calls her “sh*tty first drafts”. What’s up with teeth cleaning and the writing process? I never in my life pictured those two activities overlapping in a Venn Diagram -- until I got to college, started writing for a living, and realized that other people have the same bizarre habit. Distraction.

I can relate. I have never cleaned my house so thoroughly as when I have had a huge writing project looming. Where tumbleweeds of cat hair coasted between piles of old textbooks and bags of clothes that need to go to the dry cleaners, now an intoxicating Pledge scent lingers and the cat slides across the freshly waxed hardwood floors when I call her for supper. And, yes, I can see my reflection perfectly in my polished – and blank - computer screen.

A friend of mine who also writes for a living told me that when she works from home, she’ll sometimes take two showers in a day, almost as if the shower is her only escape from the madness of composing. I read in a Mental Floss article recently (yes, yet another “Distraction”) that taking a hot shower releases dopamine in our brains. Scientists gathered that this must be why so many creative thoughts just happen to appear in that very private place. (And, sadly for us writers, the only place that’s not conducive to writing. But never fear: someone created a waterproof notebook!)

After reflecting on this over the weekend, I realized that I tend to clean – like a lifetime employee of Happy Maids - not just when composing, but also when some life-wide problem needs to be solved or some painful stressor needs to be managed: coming down from the adrenaline rush of a heated argument with a family member; waiting to hear back from the doctor about test results; coping with the unexpected death of a loved one. In these times, my hands are prunes from washing dishes, washing floors, washing counters, washing my hair, washing my face.

If you search “distraction in the writing process” on the web, you’ll find a lot of “avoidance” language and tips for “overcoming barriers”. Some of my favorite composition theorists have entire articles and books about how students can best “stay focused on their writing tasks.” All these best practices involve some sort of Jedi Mind Tricks that you need to play on yourself to prevent you from wandering over to your kitchen or shower and keep you chained to your notebook, working until you get it right. I have never been able to master those tricks. I’ve even repeated the “Use the force” mantra to myself -- to no avail.

I argue that distraction is not a barrier to overcome but a necessary part of the process of overcoming. In fact, I think it’s a good idea to let distraction happen, and that, perhaps, between drafting and proofreading, there is a bubble in my writing process flowchart that says “clean the kitty litter” or “turn off your computer” or “go be”. The key is accepting our natural need for distraction. Our brains want it. Our bodies want it. Our spirit wants it. It is a primal switch to keep us creative, to keep us from going over the edge, to keep us clean, to keep us healthy, to keep us human, to help us cope -- to keep us “unstuck”.

Challenge Update & Tech Tools for Productivity

Congratulations to our Month of Writing Challenge participants on another productive week! Last week the Challenge writers produced 98,950 new words, bringing us to a collective total of 286,438 words.

Even if you're not working toward a 50,000 word goal, we all know that staying focused while writing can be difficult. If you do the bulk of your writing on a computer, you may want to look at two programs designed to eliminate distractions. Freedom temporarily blocks your Internet access for a set length of time, while Anti-Social blocks only social networking sites (that is, your email and other important sites will still be easily accessible). Both Windows and Mac OS are supported, and free trial versions are available. Another useful tool is a simple (and always free) program called Caffeine. Its sole function is preventing your computer from entering sleep mode, so if you step away for a few (or more) minutes, you're right where you left off. Like the other programs, it's available for both Windows and Mac. 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

This Thursday: Craft of Composing Panel

Just a reminder that this coming Thursday, October 17, is the SNL Month of Writing's "Craft of Composing" panel discussion. Click here for more information about our accomplished panelists. The event will take place in room 1451 of 14 E. Jackson and begins at 6PM. 

In other news, the first count from the Month of Writing Challenge is in! Writers from throughout the DePaul community produced 147,848 words in the first week of October alone, and the tally is only going up! Click here to visit our Month of Writing site, which is updated weekly. 

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Month of Writing Challenge Begins & UCWbL Workshop

Today is October 1, which means the start of the SNL Month of Writing Challenge! But it's not too late to join--click here for more information about our challenge to write 50,000 words during the month of October and work toward a collective goal of 1.5 million words. 

The SNL Writing Program has also partnered with the Office of Advancement to help the Month of Writing make a meaningful contribution to the SNL community. I'd like to draw your attention to our new Giving page. Your support will both motivate writers to work toward our collective goal, and, moreover, allow the Dean to award a scholarship to an SNL student thanks to the efforts of our Challenge writers and their friends, family, and colleagues. 
Finally, the UCWbL's Collaborative for Multilingual Writing and Research is hosting an upcoming workshop on academic writing that may be of interest to your students: "How Do I Cite This?: Incorporating Sources and Understanding Academic Integrity." The workshop will take place on Tuesday, October 8, from 3-4:30pm in the DePaul Center, room 8005. Email the CMWR to reserve a spot.