I’m working to clear the decks for the Association of Writers and Writing Programs Conference in Chicago next week, including polishing the essay I’ll read there. I had hoped to stream my reading of it for those who couldn’t attend, but as it turns out the hotel wants $8,000(!) to plug my Mac into their sound system.
I’m working to clear the decks for the Association of Writers and Writing Programs Conference in Chicago next week, including polishing the essay I’ll read there. I had hoped to stream my reading of it for those who couldn’t attend, but as it turns out the hotel wants $8,000(!) to plug my Mac into their sound system. Since I hate being defeated by petty, predatory bureaucracy, I may put up a pre-recording of the piece next week, along with my daily posts from the conference.
Until then, here are a couple of resources for those of you who are writers and/or teachers:
I’m on the internal advisory board of the Ethnography of the University Initiative (EUI), which “guides students to think about colleges and universities in relation to their communities as well as in national and global contexts. EUI researchers reflect on their findings to identify concrete ways that the University can better fulfill its many missions. EUI leads students to become engaged citizens, actively and critically contributing to public life.” Here is quick access in a fun format to snippets of that student work.
The great thing about the ethnography approach is that all disciplines can take part, at all levels from beginning undergrads to graduate students. I’ve seen insightful work on race, gender, disability, community, administration, coursework, student life, even a marketing study on who uses which vending machines in the cafeteria, and when.
I usually run my classes with EUI as immersive writing projects, perfect for both rhetoric and creative writing courses, in the manner of, let’s say, John McPhee. My students have done some of the most productive college writing I’ve seen in settings as different as tattoo parlors, paintball team competitions, the Study Abroad Office, the university slaughterhouse, a homeless shelter, the Catholic dorm, and many more. In future I hope to run an oral history project with a service-learning component.
EUI is not intended merely for this university; its tools and methods can be adapted in both formal and informal ways, though I know there are plans to ally with other schools, and the co-directors would love to hear from you if you’re interested. Consortium anyone?
I can’t believe I haven’t mentioned before a writerly resource called The Practicing Writer (and its online presence, Practicing Writing). My online friend Erika Dreifus publishes both; she’s a writer and teacher, as well as contributing editor at both The Chattahoochee Review and The Writer magazine. I subscribe to her free monthly newsletter and read the blog daily to look for writing news, job listings and calls for submissions, interviews, and reviews, along with wonderfully fun bits and pieces, such as a link today to a guy recording songs inspired by every chapter of Moby Dick. (He sounds a little like David Byrne, actually.) Recently I sent something I’d had languishing to Horticulture magazine, of all places, on Erika’s recommendation. I never would have thought of it, but now it seems perfect for a short poem about a Hosta unfurling its sail, Odysseus-like, for a journey to the Fall.
On that note, let me recommend that if ever you get blocked as a writer, try the resource pictured at right. Mrs. Churm got the pre-potted Amaryllis at a Christmas party. For a long time it did nothing, the scaly bulb peering over the lip of its pot, like a child over a candy counter. Then, for no discernible reason it erected a tall mast; the tip of the mast became leaves; the leaves became petals, the petals bloomed, and suddenly there are these four symmetrical glistening heads that look menacing, even voracious, in their beauty. I was talking to Crazy Larry on the phone the other night, and every time I turned my back, the thing changed a little. Who needs travel, drugs, or catastrophic events for inspiration?
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