Monday, October 31, 2016

Some Thoughts on the 5th Annual Month of Writing

by Nicholas Hayes

October 2016 marks the 5th year of SNL’s Month of Writing (MOW), a celebration and challenge which draws much inspiration from National NovelWriting Month (NANOWRIMO). Each asks participants to devote time to writing in effort to meet a word count goal. In NANOWRIMO, the goal is at least 50,000 words. But for SNL’s Month of Writing, participants set their own goal. It is an endurance challenge. It is a dance marathon, not a dance recital. If you have ever seen They Shoot Horses Don’t They, you get a glimpse of how grueling such a challenge can be. Despite not resulting in the prettiest product, such challenges provided many benefits (if competitors engage in them.)

I did not actively participate in the Month of Writing for several years. As an adjunct instructor working multiple gigs, I had a built in excuses that mirrored Larry Burton’s excuse for not participating in NANOWRIMO. He had a heavy teaching load, research projects, and family obligations. Unfortunately, these obligations never really went away and the novel he wanted to write remained a dream. His daughter (a college student and multiple year NANOWRIMO participant) finally convinced him. His experience taught him many valuable lessons including “scheduling makes [writing] possible” and “progress motivates.”

As a creative writer, I am often reminded that so many great books were written with just a few hundred words every day. I strive for that discipline, but often fall short. So many of our students juggle work and school while they are sandwiched between the demands of the younger and older family members. Burton’s lessons are valuable insights for how to complete longer projects like Advanced Projects or ILPs. Of course, these lessons are taught in Writing Workshop and Writing for Competence (always implicitly, often explicitly.) But Month of Writing is a chance to practice them, to experience them outside of the classroom setting.

Burton’s novel went unwritten for so many years not because of his inability to complete it, but because of the difficulty in starting it, the seeming impossibility to find time for it. This does not surprise me. I have known many graduates of MFA in Writing programs, who have stopped writing since they no longer have the structure of writing classes. The distinction between writing for class and cultivating a writing practice necessary to independently complete writing projects is difficult.

This is why the more non-classroom related support we can provide students the better. Month of Writing provides solid support for participants. They get frequent reminders to keep writing. The requirement to report their weekly word counts is a way to hold them accountable for their writing. This reporting has the additional benefit of making them aware of how much progress they have made toward their goal. Another avenue of support comes from the Writing Center. Students are aware of the one-on-one tutoring services they provide. But they also help facilitate writing groups that meet every two-weeks or every month. Group members not only share their progress, but they receive peer feedback and support on their writing. For students who can not meet in person, arranging online accountability groups could also help complete their projects. The Australian researchers Burke and Settles find that NANOWRIMO participants of online writing challenge groups who engage with socially do better at completing their challenge. We can better facilitate the social component of writing for our students. And to bring this full circle, at the Craft of Composing panel (the kick-off event for MOW), Ann Stanford spoke highly of her accountability group the Grind.

The Month of Writing ends not with the hope of a slackened pace of writing. But with the hope, we can encourage students to access services that will help them keep its spirit alive the other eleven months of the year.

Works Cited

Burke, Moira and Burr Settles. “Plugged in to the Community.” Communities and Technologies. Proc. Of Fifth International Conf. on Communities and Technologies. 29 June – 2 July 2011, QUT at Brisbane, Australia: ACM., 2011. PDF File.

Burton, Larry D. “Lessons from NANOWRIMO.” Journal of Research on Christian Education. 18 (2009): 1-10. Academic Search Complete. Web. 4 Oct. 2016

Friday, October 28, 2016

Aloud! Including Writers from DePaul's SNL

SNL Advanced Elective "Write Where You Are" class and the Writing Center's Jennifer Finstrom

When I arrived at the DePaul Writers Guild Aloud! open-mic on October 20th, current students and alumni were already gathered, waiting. They tried to keep their voices low as the Loop Writing Center tutors finished their work. But the overwhelming sense of camaraderie could not tamp their exuberance. 

Later SNL students from Steffanie Triller’s Write Where You Are Advanced Elective class joined the event. The regular attendees were cheerful and supportive. It was a pleasure to watch them interact with themselves and the newer SNL readers.

Although the Writers Guild holds an Aloud! reading every quarter, this day was special. It was dedicated to both NCTE’s National Day on Writing and The School for New Learning’s Month of Writing. A common thread through all of these events is an idea that accountability helps us write. If we have a group of writers to encourage and push us, writing becomes easier.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

SNL Writing Videos

Writing can seem like a solitary task. But at its core it is an active and engaged form of communication. This is something that Michelle Navarre-Cleary, Steffanie Triller Fry, and Katie Wozniak understood when they helped create a series of videos in which students and faculty talk about various topics about writing at SNL and generally.

Recently, many of these videos have been placed in a Vimeo folder. They are an invaluable resource for SNL students and writers in general.

SNL Writing Center album

Individual Videos:
How to Succeed at Writing at SNL

Getting Around Writer’s Block

Helping Students with Writing

Writing for MAAPS

Business vs Academic Writing

Other Videos:
How Mary Wrote 10 ILPS

Ty Kahdeman Talks about the Writing Process

Thursday, October 20, 2016

8th National Day of Writing (Oct. 20th)

On Oct. 20th, the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) celebrates the eighth National Day on Writing on Oct. 20. They are encouraging people to participate in the #WhyIWrite social media campaign.

Share the reasons why you write to help promote writing and literacy!

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Watch Now: The 2016 Craft of Composing Panel

We at SNL Writing had a wonderful time kicking off the 5th Annual Month of Writing with our Craft of Composing panel on September 29th. For those of you who were unable to make it to this edifying event, the panel is now available online!

Click here to watch the 2016 Craft of Composing panel, featuring Ann Stanford, Jennifer Finstrom, Jack Murphy, and Travis Moore-Murray. You can also visit our Month of Writing Digication page to see Craft of Composing panels from previous years and other exciting MOW events.

It's also not too late to participate in the Month of Writing! SNL students, faculty, and staff can register and write 1000 words or more to earn raffle entries toward our grand prizes: a two-credit scholarship for students and a $75 gift card for faculty and staff! Click here for more information and here to register. Happy writing!

Four Fall Boot Camps Coming Up!

Every quarter, SNL Writing offers Writing Boot Camps to help students complete their assignments. Faculty-led Boot Camp sessions are designed for undergraduate or graduate SNL students who currently have an incomplete grade on their transcript or a current project they wish to complete. This fall, we offer the following sessions:

  • Saturday, October 22, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at O'Hare
  • Saturday, October 22, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Naperville
  • Tuesday, November 1, 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. in the Loop
  • Saturday, November 12, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the Loop

Register for one or more of these free sessions by emailing; walk-ins are also welcome. Please bring a flash drive, a copy of your incomplete contract (if needed), and all prior assignment preparation (including research material, assignment instructions, and assignment writing format). Students should also let their faculty mentor know that they plan to attend if they are working on an assignment for an incomplete grade.

Click on the image below for more detailed information or email

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Feedback in Motion: Screencasting Student Feedback

The Teaching Commons Workshop Series will hold two screencasting workshops this month presented by Margaret Poncin of WRD and Edward Evins of the UCWbL. See below for the "Feedback in Motion: Screencasting Student Feedback" description and event information.
Compared to written comments, video commentary can provide more efficient and effective feedback on student work, encourage additional growth and revision by preventing misunderstandings, and allow students to feel a more personal connection with their instructors. Not only that, it doesn’t require sophisticated video editing skills or additional time on the part of the instructor. No matter what the discipline—art history, sociology, biology or theater—screencasting can be used for a wide variety of assignments including research projects, digital and multimodal assignments, recorded performance and beyond.
 In this workshop, the presenters will demonstrate a few different strategies for giving feedback as well as a brief pedagogical rationale. Then, participants will gain hands-on experience working with screencasting tools to create videos for students. Participants are encouraged to bring samples of student work to use during the workshop.
By the end of the session participants will:
  • Understand several strategies for using screencasting software to give feedback.
  • Create a sample feedback video and understand how to post it to D2L.
  • Evaluate the different opportunities afforded by video feedback versus traditional written comments.
  • Identify potential occasions for using video feedback in their courses. 
The first workshop will be held this Friday, October 21, from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. in room 11013 of the DePaul Center in the Loop. The second will take place on Friday, October 28, from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. in room 301 of the SAC in LPC. Click here and here for more information about both events.

Monday, October 10, 2016

A Celebration of the Short Story

SNL faculty member and DePaul alum Kristin FitzPatrick will be a featured presenter at this week's  A Celebration of the Short Story event. Listen to her read from her collection My Pulse is an Earthquake (Vandalia, 2015) and discuss her craft.

Thursday, October 13, 6pm, Richardson 115

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Winter Writing Fellows

After the long summer, I am finally able to pull out my comfortable sweaters and jackets. I want to enjoy the moment and just watch the leaves change color. But after a few minutes in the office, I realize it is time to start planning our Winter Quarter courses.

The UCWbL has already started taking requests from DePaul Faculty for Winter Quarter Writing Fellows. This is a resource it is best to ask for as soon as possible.

If you are interested, you can find more information about the program and make your request here: