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Archive for the category “Writing in the Disciplines (WID)”

Writing is Contagious: The Dissertation Writing Retreat and Building a Community of Writers

Bronwyn T. Williams, Director

It’s hard to shake the mythology of writing as a solitary activity. Over and over again, people talk about writing as something that geniuses do in inspired isolation. Yet our annual Dissertation Writing Retreat demonstrates each year what much of the research in the Rhetoric and Writing Studies shows, that successful writing is also very much a social practice. Sure, at some point a writer types out the words that convey individual thoughts. Before and after that moment, however, the power of community and


Writing at the Dissertation Writing Retreat

individual relationships can be essential to a writer’s success. The powerful presence and influence of others is at the core of our approach to our Dissertation Writing Retreats, and why we think they have been so successful for the past six years. There are two ways, in particular, that the social aspects of writing come into play during the week.


Writing is Contagious

Sitting in a room full of people writing inspires people to write – and to keep writing. There is an energy and accountability that comes from committing to writing, and to staying in your chair and working through the obstacles you might bump into as you write. Every year people tell us how the energy and focus of working in a group of writers propels them forward with their dissertations. Many writers also find the sense of mutual accountability helps them be productive with their writing. In addition to the Dissertation Writing Retreat, we will be continuing to provide the opportunity for accountability with our weekly Graduate Student Writing Groups this summer (for more information click here).


Small -Group Discussion on Structuring Dissertation Chapters

Another way we support community during the Dissertation Writing Retreat is through conversation. Every day we break for small-group discussions about various issues of dissertation writing (How to Interpret and Respond to Committee Comments, Ways to Structure Chapters, Strategies for Self-Editing, How to Approach Literature Reviews). These conversations not only help with issues about writing, but the chance to hear from other writers with similar concerns – and different suggestions – reminds all the writers that they are not alone and that all writers need support. Then we break for lunch and have time to relax and socialize – also a valuable part of the writing process.

Relationships and Motivation

The other social aspects of writing that are invaluable during the Dissertation Writing Retreat are the relationships that develop between the writers and the University Writing Center consultants with whom they work during the week. Each writer is paired with the same consultant and they meet each day to talk about drafts, writing processes, organization, or just be a sounding board for ideas and brainstorming. The research on

DWR17 consult1

Vasiliki working with Rachel

writing and on motivation (including my own) shows that supportive relationships that offer constructive criticism, but also respectful listening, provide writers with the strategies and motivation to move forward once the retreat is over. What’s more, the consultants also learn from the writers, and that reciprocity is one of our key values in the University Writing Center.

The Dissertation Writing Retreat, while a lot of work for us at the University Writing Center, is one of my favorite weeks of the week. I always leave inspired. But, rather than tell you more of my thoughts about it, here are some reflections from the writers and consultants who made the day possible.


Katie Adamchik, Sociology. This week was what I needed to boost my productivity. The retreat designated time and psychological accountability for me to focus on my dissertation. The workshops and consultations helped me organize my work and gave me strategies for moving through issues that come up along the way. I appreciated being surrounded by a community of people working toward a similar goal – we commiserated, supported, brainstormed, and celebrated together. I highly recommend this to all students!

Cortney Armstrong, Microbiology and Immunology. The Dissertation Writing Retreat has been an invaluable week for me. Coming from the health sciences campus, I thought I would feel like a fish out of water, however, I was pleasantly surprised with how comfortable I felt and how productive I was. No matter what field or discipline you are coming from, this retreat will be of great benefit for you! Not only was I productive on my dissertation (I completed a chapter this week!), but I was also productive in using the tips and skills I needed to plan for writing the remainder of the chapters for my dissertation. It was a wonderful week spent with a community of brilliant peers, all who are focused and pushing towards the same goal, finishing! I highly encourage all graduate students to apply for this retreat and come prepared to be astonished with how valuable it is and how much you will accomplish. I can’t thank the Writing Center enough for giving me this opportunity!

Lily Assgari, Psychological and Brain Sciences. My experience in the dissertation writing retreat was nothing short of amazing. It was incredibly helpful to sit in a room with the intention to write for hours a day with little to no distractions. Our community of writers supported and encouraged each other. We would discuss our issues and share

DWR consult3

Lily working with Jessie

our experiences daily. The accountability of having to talk about what I was had accomplished kept me motivated. The tool and tips that consultants suggest helped make a daunting process more manageable. While the week was definitely exhausting, the experience is well worth it. For the first time, I can honestly say that I am looking forward continuing to write. I would definitely recommend the dissertation writing retreat to any student that needs to write a dissertation.

Corey Boes, Social Work. My time spent at the Dissertation Writing Retreat was invaluable. I am in the very early stages of organizing and writing my dissertation and being able to learn different writing processes and strategies from my daily consultations and even from the other retreat goers was extremely helpful. The daily break out discussions were informative and helpful. They covered topics that were relevant both immediately and as I make progress through my project. I hope to be able to carry forward with the great writing momentum that I was able to gather through my time spent here this week.

Vasiliki Kosmidou, Entrepreneurship. I highly recommend the Dissertation Writing Retreat to everyone. It is very hard to summarize in a few sentences how valuable it has been for my dissertation progress. I came to the Retreat while still collecting my data, so I was able to use my time efficiently to write up my methods section and organize the overall structure of my chapters. Beyond the sense of accountability and community, I found extremely useful the small group discussions which gave me strategies for restructuring my dissertation for other purposes, such as conference presentations and journal submissions. I have also learned a lot from my writing consultant, who provided very useful feedback on my writing and resources that I could use beyond the writing of my dissertation. Lastly, as a graduate student, I always struggle during the academic year shifting my focus between research, teaching, writing my dissertation along with my other responsibilities. As a result, I certainly appreciated that the Retreat offered me not only an encouraging working environment, but also the luxury of writing for 8 hours every single day. By doing so, it has helped me build momentum and exceed my writing goals. Thank you for this wonderful experience!

Xiaohong Li, Bioinformatics and Biostatistics. Thank you so much for providing me and other students with such a great opportunity for writing our dissertation in the workshop. During the workshop, I can devote my time and concentrate on writing my dissertation. Working with the consultant in the workshop is also very helpful. I also enjoy chatting with or listening to other graduate students talking about their writing experiences in graduate school. Taken together, it is a wonderful experience and really speeds up the process for achieving my Ph.D. degree. I would like to recommend it to other Ph.D. students.

Keri Mathis, Rhetoric and Composition. The Dissertation Writing Retreat gave me the designated thinking and writing time that I needed to make significant progress on my dissertation. I especially appreciated the structure of the morning writing time, discussion groups, and afternoon consultations. I left each day knowing exactly what I needed to do for the next day’s writing and left the retreat with tips for how to sustain my productivity

Jeanelle Sears, Social Work. Participating in the Dissertation Writing Retreat provided me a cognitive and physical space of accountability that was so needed after months of stagnation. It also came at the perfect time, as my committee was expecting a draft of my early chapters in only a few weeks following this retreat. I came in on Monday morning with a ten-page conceptual paper and am leaving with more than 30 pages of drafted material and a solid outline for how the rest of the chapters will evolve. I appreciated not only the quiet time for independent writing, but also the camaraderie of fellow students and the writing center consultants. Both equally advanced my thinking about this project overall, and offered smaller strategies I can engage in for editing and organization, including leaving some things alone in the short-term. After all, the best dissertation is a done dissertation, and I have new energy to get mine over that finish line.

Jaime Thompson, Social Work. The Dissertation Writing Retreat at the U of L Writing Center has been refreshing and motivating. It is indeed a “retreat” as it allows you to purposefully withdraw from the hustle and bustle of your daily life to devote an entire week to writing and learning.  I highly recommend it to any Ph.D. student wanting to join a community and feel supported in the process of preparing your dissertation project, no matter what stage of the process you are in.


Layne Gordon, Assistant Director of the University Writing Center and Ph.D. Student in Rhetoric and Composition. This week I was once again reminded of the power of talking through our ideas even as we’re struggling to form them. I think we still imagine the academic as someone who works in isolation–sitting in a room, at a computer, generating ideas that spring from her head alone. But this image ignores the fact that we need other people to talk to about our ideas and to encourage us when we’ve struck something good. This week, I learned every day from the writers I was working with because we shared so much as we were talking through their dissertation projects. For example, one of the writers I worked with this week came up with an excellent metaphor for her dissertation–nesting dolls. While talking about the scope of her work, she said it felt like she was starting with the baby: she had a very clear problem and research site in mind, but she had to find all the other contexts and conversations that surrounded that smaller, situated, local issue and describe those other contexts in her introductory chapter. I have found myself thinking about this metaphor all week, particularly as I have been working on my own dissertation prospectus. It has been so valuable to think about the conversations I am contributing to as nested. This metaphor encompasses so much about both the struggle and the excitement of creating a dissertation project, and it exemplifies just one of the many ways that my conversations with other writers this week have shaped how I’m thinking about my own work.

Rachel Gramer, (just completed) Ph.D. in Rhetoric and Composition. The Dissertation Writing Retreat has helped me think about how easy it is to internalize academic and dissertation writing practices (and rather quickly). So much of what I could offer as a tutor came from my recent dissertation writing experiences, which include but also transcend the immediate acts of writing words on screen or page. I was glad to share my experiences about the diss writing process, working with committee members, and the larger purpose of the dissertation in academia, in specific fields, and in graduate education. Perhaps my biggest takeaway from this week has been the privilege to create conditions for dissertation writers to feel heard and affirmed in their struggles and triumphs. It was such a pleasure to confirm for graduate student writers that yes, all writers make these mistakes; yes, all of us struggle with these issues; and yes, your writing is good, is clear, and is progressing. And yes, your ideas and contributions to your field are salient and needed–and writing your dissertation is the beginning of sharing your thoughts and findings with others, not The End.

Jamila Kareem, (just completed) Ph.D. in Rhetoric and Composition. This summer marks my second year at the Dissertation Writing Retreat. As a consultant this year, I found that working with Ph.D. students in Sociology and Social Work exposed me to ways to examine my own work through new theories and methodologies. When I completed the retreat as a participant, I learned the importance of conversing about my own work to understand how it appeared to others. This year, I relied on the importance of understanding others’ work so that our experiences—personal, professional, and scholarly—may help each other through the research and writing process as we all continue in this field of academia.

Jessica Newman, Assistant Director for Graduate Student Writing and Ph.D. Student in Rhetoric and Composition. As the assistant director for graduate student writing, I have spent much of the fall and spring semesters speaking with graduate students about their prospectuses and dissertations, but it was not until working at the dissertation writing retreat that I had the opportunity to truly see the writing process in action. Over the course of each day, the sounds shifted from the silence of 14 writers hard at work to the hum of the discussion groups to the noise of the writers at lunch, talking about dissertations and anything but, and then back to quiet as the day ended with writing and reflection. As a Ph.D. student in the early stages of her dissertation, I found it motivating and heartening to see this community form in just a few short days, to see writers sharing strategies and emotional support. I myself learned a lot that will help me as I move forward in the dissertation process.


Reading, Thinking, and Writing Outside Your Discipline

Kelly Carty, Consultantkelly-c

It’s midterm season. Hurrah! The past couple of weeks and many weeks to come seem like an endless stream of dense readings, papers, problem sets, oral examinations, and/or death by multiple choice tests.

Take a moment. Step inside my blog post. Let me transport you back to a long lost time when you could read what you wanted and write incomplete sentences dotted with emojis. Let me tell you about reading, thinking, and writing outside your field of study.

Surprise! This time isn’t so long lost. If you are like me, you probably do quite a bit of reading and writing unrelated or tangentially related to your discipline even when you are busy.

What am I talking about? Well, regardless of how busy I am or how stressed I feel, I spend quite a lot of time reading, thinking, and writing on Facebook as I browse my newsfeed and write statues or comments in response. Also, as I am guessing is the case with many of you (and by you, I mean faculty, staff and students), I rarely read or write about my current fields of study (English literature and Writing Center pedagogy) on Facebook. Instead, I read and write about current events, music, my home life, and other seemingly random things. For example, the last things I read or wrote about on social media concerned:

The location of free food on UofL’s campus

Bob Dylan winning the Nobel Prize in Literature

The most recent presidential debate

Urban foraging

My cat

Beck’s Debra (this is actually related to one of my classes, but it has a convoluted explanation)

Moreover, in addition to reading and writing on Facebook, I spend time reading and writing on topics tangentially related to my fields of study in the non-social media cyber world. Actually, I often do more of this type of reading and writing when I am busy with school or work because it seems like a useful break. For example, when I was reading the Canterbury Tales as an undergraduate, I found this gem of a revision to the Wife of Bath’s Prologue. Recently, when my younger brother was tasked with reading the Canterbury Tales, I sent him a link to this revision along with a little review. Over the past three weeks, as I wrote papers and read new plays for my Shakespeare class, I read Wikipedia pages on patriarchy, Aufheben, Gaius Marius, Husserl, Writing and Difference, Cleopatra, and the largest monoliths that have been found on Earth. I also wrote many exasperated notes to my boyfriend about how I didn’t (and still don’t) understand Hegel.

How are these adventures in reading and writing different than the reading and writing I do for my field of study?

I can choose what I want to read

Until I am fortunate enough to design my own courses, most of my academic readings will be carefully outlined on my professors’ syllabi. In my own world of social media and Internet wanderings, I can read whatever strikes my fancy. I can read about radical leftist organizations after watching a documentary on the Weathermen, 1,000 tweets classified under #debates when I want to know how the Twittersphere feels about Trump’s comments, or news articles about cutting edge science when I feel like I’m losing my knowledge of biology.

I can use unconventional punctuation and grammar

When I write for the world of academia, I am hyperaware of grammar and usage conventions. When I write on social media, I often intentionally break these conventions. For example, during the last presidential debate, I posted:


I realize this question should end with question mark and that only the first letter needs to be capitalized, but I wanted to convey an emotion and an opinion that a single capital letter and a question mark would dampen.

Moreover, I had the following conversation on Facebook chat with my brother:

Me:       Im gonna write about hegel


Bro:      “Dialectic, but now exactly in the Marxian sense

Just keep repeating that

Should be fine

Me:       Hahahahahah

Bro:      Works for trumps

There are many grammatical and usage errors in these messages. However, both my brother and I were able to convey our thoughts effectively and humorously to one another. Although it is likely that I would be able to convey the same ideas within the bounds of academic conventions, it is unlikely that I (or my brother) would be able to do it as quickly.

I can use slang and images to describe my thoughts

Furthermore, writing outside of my discipline allows me to use slang and images to convey my thoughts. When conveying my frustration over writing papers, I sent a message to my colleagues that read “Papers fj&2#8,@)@;/8 ugh.” When I was on a short road trip with lots of traffic and my dad asked me how the ride was going, I sent him this image of my cat:


(I realize this isn’t writing, but it might as well be.)

How are these activities similar to the reading and writing I do for my field of study?

I process information through text and images

This point is both obvious and important. Whether I’m reading Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra, a theoretical paper on semiotic squares, my mom’s Facebook posts, or text messages from a friend, I am asked to make meaning of text and images.

I emphasize main ideas

When I read articles for class or for my own academic research, my foremost concerns are the main ideas. I ask constantly ask myself, what is this author trying to say? How does the main idea of this article relate to what I am doing in class or what I am researching?

When I read tweets, Facebook posts, and news articles, I have the same concerns. What is this article’s main point about the most recent WikiLeaks update? How does #WomenWhoVoteTrump relate to electoral politics?

I am ultimately concerned about conveying meaning

When I write for the academic world, I want my readers to understand the ideas I am presenting. It would be useless if I turned in a paper that was utterly meaningless. In fact, when I write papers, I often read them to other people to make sure they correctly convey the thoughts I intend to convey.

When I write Facebook posts, tweets, and text messages, I focus on conveying meaning as well. As I have alluded to above, I often eschew conventional grammar and usage in non-academic writing to enhance my meaning.

My challenge to you is to think about the writing and reading you do outside of your field of study. How do those activities compare to the reading and writing you do within your field of study?

The ePortfolio: Shaping Your Online Presence Through a Professional Medium

Haley Petcher, Consultant 

The weather is still pretty warm, but somehow it’s already October. October means that graduate school applications are beginning to be due, and for those of you graduating in December, the “real world” of jobs is right around the corner. You want to get into grad school and to get a job, but how will the committees and employers know the real you? How will the people writing your rec letters know details about what you did during your undergraduate career? The answer is what you would expect from a University Writing Center employee: by writing.

These days, though, everything is digital. With Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, etc., we have a large digital footprint with details about ourselves, but none of those footprints are professional. At my undergraduate institution, Auburn University, I learned about ePortfolios, which are basically personal websites that showcase your experiences and skills by contextualizing pictures, papers, and projects. I created one for an English class, but I have a confession: I didn’t finish one in time for applications. Guys, I regret that. However, I recently completed one that represents my experiences in undergrad, and I hope to complete another ePortfolio by the end of my MA program.

Before you say, “I don’t have papers to share,” I promise that ePortfolios aren’t just for English majors. I’ve seen examples of ePortfolios by by engineers, pharmacy studentsbusiness students, artists, nurses, and vet students. They pick some of their best projects and presentations to showcase and contextualize.

Creating an ePortfolio is like writing a paper with pictures. Here are a few quick tips to get you started:

  • First, think about your audience. Often it’s professionals, like a professor who is writing your rec letter or a graduate or hiring committee.
  • Next, write a “thesis” for your ePortfolio. That is, what do you want to prove to your audience? One of my friends, for example, majored in English and minored in business. He wanted to prove that his experiences in English, tutoring, hiring committees, and leadership meshed with his love for books. After getting his MBA, he hopes to find a job at a publishing company.
  • Consider how you want to organize your ePortfolio. Should each page have to do with a verb, like “research” or “teach,” or should each page relate to words like “teamwork” or “service”?
  • Pick the most important things you did that are connected to your “thesis” and organize them according to your pages. When you write about them, try to explain the project and to explain what you learned from it.
  • Pick an online venue, like wix.com or weebly.com. (They’re free!)
  • Start creating your ePortfolio! (Remember to use appropriate pictures. Pictures of you outside – by yourself – are often good.)

When you complete your ePortfolio, you can put the link on your resume or email signature. (If there’s something to click, people will probably click it. Take advantage of other people’s curiosity!)

You’re probably wondering what happens if your future employer or grad school doesn’t review your ePortfolio. The great thing is about creating an ePortfolio is that by analyzing and writing about your work, you will begin to better understand what you enjoy about your studies and experiences and how your time in undergrad will help you reach your goals. The ePortfolio shows that you can think critically about your interests and allows you to explain how volunteering at the animal shelter or starting a club for students who enjoy tap dancing makes you an attractive and unique candidate for the job.

If you want some more examples, try checking these out! Also, since an ePortfolio involves writing and is like a paper, you can always bring it to the University Writing Center for a writing consultation.

Note: I received most of this information from presentations I attended while working with Auburn University’s Office of University Writing (OUW). You can learn more about ePortfolios by reviewing the OUW’s website.

How I Write: Jennie E. Burnet – Professor of Anthropology

Our “How I Write” series asks writers from the University of Louisville community and beyond to respond to five questions that provide insight into their writing processes and offer advice to other writers. Through this series, we promote the idea that learning to write is an ongoing, life-long process and that all writers, from first-year students to career professionals, benefit from discussing and collaborating on their work with thoughtful and respectful readers. The series will be featured every other Wednesday.

Our featured writer this week is Professor Jennie E. Burnet. Dr. Burnet teaches in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Louisville, and her scholarship includes articles on war, gender, identity, and genocide in Rwanda. 

Location: Louisville, Kentucky

Current project: Book about rescuers during the 1994 Genocide in Rwanda, peer-reviewed journal articles, book reviews, and the email never stops.

Currently reading: I’ve been reading my kids’ summer readings list so I’m most of the way through The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis. Next up on my Kindle are The Interestings: A Novel by Meg Wolitzer and A Tale for the Time Being: A Novel by Ruth Ozeki.

1. What type(s) of writing do you regularly engage in?

Virtually all of my writing is non-fiction, scholarly writing in socio-cultural anthropology, African studies, and women and gender studies. Over the past week, I’ve been working on a grant proposal and a public policy research report. I am currently working on several articles for peer-reviewed journals.

Jargon laden prose is still in fashion in my field, but I think that most useful ideas can be expressed in everyday language. My first book, Genocide Lives in Us: Women, Memory and Silence in Rwanda was published by a university press, but I tried to make it as accessible as possible. I did my best to write it so that an educated adult reader interested in Rwanda, genocide, or women could pick it up, read it, and hear these courageous women’s stories of survival. My next book, about people who risked their lives to save Tutsis during the 1994 Rwandan genocide, is percolating in the back of my mind. I finished the interviews for the project in May 2014. Soon I will begin outlining it and laying out the stories I will use to illustrate the key points. Truth be told, however, most of my day-to-day writing is email—professional correspondence, feedback to students, etc.

2. When/where/how do you write?

When, where, and how I write constantly changes. I’m a chronic procrastinator so I’m always finding new ways to trick myself into getting down to business. Lately, I’ve been doing most of my writing at my dining room table (I’m here right now!). Our dining room has large windows that let in a lot of indirect sunlight. Because the family eats dinner here every night, I’m forced to clear away my stuff daily so the space doesn’t become cluttered.

On days when I’m really stuck and not making progress, I’ll take a Gregg-lined steno pad and a pen to a coffeeshop, a public library, or other busy but quiet place. For some reason, writing with pen and paper seems less official so I can get a bunch of ideas on paper and worry about wrestling them into a logical progression or cohesive argument later. Paper and pen are my antidote for writer’s block.

In an ideal world, I write best first thing in the morning with my second cup of coffee. When I get started early, I don’t fall into my procrastination cycles. Unfortunately, life almost always gets in the way of this practice. At the moment, I’m trying to get into the habit of writing on my most pressing project when I first sit down to work. Beyond getting my behind in the seat, the key to success seems to be: Don’t open my email, Facebook, the newspaper, or any other electronic distraction.

3. What are your writing necessities—tools, accessories, music, spaces*?

Most often my writing necessities are my computer, good coffee, a chair I can sit up straight in, a clear work surface at the ergonomically correct height, and lots of indirect, natural light. Music distracts me too much, but background noise is OK. Occasionally, I need a change of scenery, a pen with fast flowing ink, and a steno pad.

4. What is your best tip for getting started and/or for revision?

Breaking the writing project down into very small tasks (outlining and making a list of every piece that needs to be done). With this strategy you can make progress everyday even if it’s only 10 minutes at a time. It also lowers the threshold to start and helps minimize procrastination. These strategies have resurrected my writing since I almost never have several, uninterrupted hours before me to write.

5. What is the best writing advice you’ve received?

I’ve gotten lots of amazing advice on writing over the years from mentors, colleagues, writing group members, and friends. It’s such great advice that I’ve integrated into my practice so thoroughly that I don’t remember who gave me which pieces.

Just keep writing—even when you’re certain it’s awful or makes no sense. I often give myself this advice in the voice of Ellen DeGeneres as Dory from Finding Nemo: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Hkn-LSh7es.

Writing in the World – New Ways of Imagining Literacy and Language

Bronwyn T. Williams, Director

People sometimes think that, on a university campus, you spend all your days with print books and paper – even more so when you work in the University Writing Center. Yet, it doesn’t take long to look around and see that the university is filled with communication happening in so many different modes and media, from words to images to video to sound. This week we had an exciting reminder of how art works as composition and communication with the opening at the Art ShowWriting Center of the student art show titled “Writing in the World.” We had a dozen works from UofL students, all on the theme of “Writing in the World” The theme asked students to represent, through their artwork, how they encountered writing and how writing worked in their daily lives, both on and off campus. The show opened Wednesday to complement the UofL Composition Program’s Symposium of Student Writing and will remain in the Writing Center through the end of the semester.

Some artists, like Peri Crush, worked with the material artifacts of literacy, as seen in her sculpture “Break Through”

“Break Through” by Peri Crush

created from the pages of a book. Other artists drew on the visual representation of words, whether in graffiti as in  Irene Tran’s untitled photograph or Gwen Snow’s dress titled “Egwengwen Ritual Costume.” Some artists made connections to works of literature, such as Katlyn Brumfield’s still life “Poe” and still others played with the slippery nature of language itself, as in the video “Have You Seen the Dog?” a collaboration by ten students.

All the works reminded me  that literacy is simultaneously material and immaterial.

“Egwengwen Ritual Costume” by Gwen Snow

Without the material artifacts of books and pens and paper and computers, we have no reading and writing. Literacy isn’t possible until we create a work that can be interpreted though the sign systems of writing or images. At the same time, literacy is an immaterial concept that requires interpretation and connection, to other life experiences and other texts. Perhaps what the artwork demonstrated most vividly is that literacy is visual. We can not only read written words, but we can also to step back from them to understand how they work aesthetically as form and design.

It was exciting to have so many visitors drawn to the Writing Center to see the artwork, and to vote for their favorite choices. Throughout the day people were talking about the art, and talking about the themes of the show. We presented three awards. The Directors’ Award went to Alexa Helton’s  untitled drawing. The Writing Center Staff Award went to Peri Crush’s “Break Out.” And the People’s Choice award – voted by the people visiting the show — went to “Have You Seen the Dog?”

Our thanks go to Gabrielle Mayer, associate professor of Fine Arts, who organized the show and collaborated with us on the theme, and to all the student artists who contributed work, and whose names are listed at the end of the post.

“Untitled” by Alexa Hilton

At the University Writing Center we are committed to engaging writing and composing in all modes and media and we hope this kind of art and writing show will become an annual event.

If you haven’t seen the art already, do come to the Writing Center, on the third floor of Ekstrom Library, and take a look.

Artists participating in “Writing in the World.”

Yeva Sshurova

Colin Beach

Katlyn Brumfield

“Have You Seen the Dog?”

Brynn Gordon

Kathryn Harrington

Alexa Helton

Beth Heutis

Robyn Kaufman

Colton Kays

Amber Kleitz

Keegan Kruse

Irene Mudd

Renae Osman

Mikayla Powell

Brittani Rosier

Gwen Snow

Irene Tran

How I Write: Mike Rutherford — Sports Writer

Our “How I Write” series asks writers from the University of Louisville community and beyond to respond to five questions that provide insight into their writing processes and offer advice to other writers. Through this series, we promote the idea that learning to write is an ongoing, life-long process and that all writers, from first-year students to career professionals, benefit from discussing and collaborating on their work with thoughtful and respectful readers. The series will be featured every other Wednesday.

This week we hear from founder and author of CardChronicle.com, Mike Rutherford, who introduces himself as follows:

My name is Mike Rutherfordrutherford_trophy and I think the first season of Laguna Beach is as good as television is ever going to get. More? All right, then.

I’m 29-years-old, I graduated from Trinity High School and Bellarmine University here in Louisville, and I also attended Brandeis Law School for a short period before accepting my current job. What could have possibly pulled me away from a life of writing that completely prohibits any hinting at the F word? Well, I am the college basketball editor for SBNation.com, which is very F bomb friendly, and am in the middle of my third season with that gig.

I’m also the founder and author of CardChronicle.com, a Louisville sports blog (although we’re not supposed to use that word anymore) that I started all the way back in 2007. Additionally, I co-host a weekly radio show on ESPN 680 and do a variety of other (legal) Internet things.

How I Write: Mike Rutherford

Location: Louisville, Ky

Current project: CardChronicle.com/General college basketball coverage insanity

Currently reading: A Fraction of the Whole by Steve Toltz

  1.  What type(s) of writing do you regularly engage in?

    I’m probably best known for writing blog posts – which I suppose is sort of an all-encompassing title for a number of different types of writing – for my website, CardChronicle.com. Most of the work requirements for my full-time gig revolve around editing, assigning and laying out, but I do write weekly features and occasionally standard news stories. I also write a weekly column for The Voice-Tribune here in town, and do freelance work for various online publications across the country.

  2. When/where/how do you write?

    The where is the easiest to answer, because it’s almost always from home, which I really like. If you’re reading something written by me before, say, 1 p.m. on a weekday, there’s a pretty strong chance that I wrote it topless and in pajama pants. Go ahead and store that image.

    As far as the when is concerned, the biggest drawback of always needing to know if something important is happening in the world of Louisville sports or general college basketball is that it prevents you from being able to dedicate yourself to more exhaustive pieces during the day. This being the case, it’s extremely rare that I write a feature anytime other than really late. Like really, really late. Like, I can tell you the last five anchors of “Up to the Minute,” the CBS news show that airs before the first morning local news (I’ll love you forever, Melissa McDermott).

    There are few things I’ve written over the past five years or so that I’m really proud of which weren’t formed at least partially between midnight and 7 a.m. If I’m being distracted by emails or if I’m worried that something is going to break on Twitter, then I’d just as soon not even attempt to pen something contemplative or overly insightful, because I know I’m going to look back and be disappointed. Plus, I think it’s been scientifically proven that your brain is at its creative peak when you’re the most tired. I can’t remember where I read that, so you’re just going to have to pretend I’m someone reputable and roll with it.

    How do I write? I’d say with reckless abandon and a complete disregard for any sense of dignity. No, but seriously, I do it with words.

  3. What are your writing necessities—tools, accessories, music, spaces?

    Music is out if I’m doing anything where I actually have to think, but I do like having it on for busy work. When I’m up really late, I like to have the television on but muted. I also like to try and find a live program, because otherwise I feel a little disconnected and depressed. It sounds weird, but it legitimately helps me when I have a visual reminder that there are other people in the world awake and accomplishing things while I’m working…I just don’t want to actually interact with them during the process.

    I don’t necessarily need to roam the house or a room, but I like working with the peace of mind that I can if I need to. If I’m in my room and there are people downstairs, or if I know my fiancé (see, you’re thinking this is all really weird, but it’s just normal enough that an incredibly beautiful woman agreed to put up with it for the rest of her life) might ask me for something, I’m totally unable to dive to deeply into anything.

    If it’s daytime work and I haven’t had coffee yet, then I need coffee. I try to save that until after the busy work of the morning and my 10 a.m. editorial call is over. Eating is always a special surprise.

  4. What is your best tip for getting started and/or for revision?

    Whenever you’re in the brainstorming stages of any piece of writing, there’s always one idea or one line that pops into your head and makes you think, “that’s really good.” Start there. Start with what you know is good, and then work backwards once you have a better sense of what your story is or what you’re trying to say.

    As for revisions, I think what works is different for everyone, but for me comfort is a huge factor. I can respect the hell out of a person and still not trust them (or myself) in a situation where I’m asking for their help. I’m extremely stubborn, but I’m also really passive in situations where I think my time might be wasted. So when I’m working with someone who I respect, but who I’m not really comfortable with, I’ll invariably spend the entire time pretending like I’m listening and wondering if they’re buying it. I have to work with someone who I know I can joke with, and who I know I can get into an argument with and not have it be a big deal.

    Also, if it’s a long-term project, make sure to take some time between finishing your first draft and beginning your first revision. I know that’s pretty standard advice, but I’ve ignored it multiple times and ended up digging myself into a huge hole that could have been easily avoided.

  5. What is the best writing advice you’ve received?

    Keep reading things outside of your genre. From November-March, it’s really hard for me to find time to read things outside of game recaps and player profiles, and I think my writing really suffers as a result. I’ve forced myself to avoid that trend as much as possible this year, and I think it’s had a positive effect. Spending time with writing that’s so dissimilar to the type you immerse yourself in for most of the day helps you access an area that would otherwise stay neglected. It’s been a huge help for me in keeping things fresh and distinctive.

How I Write: Jeffery L. Hieb — Engineering Professor

Our “How I Write” series asks writers from the University of Louisville community and beyond to respond to five questions that provide insight into their writing processes and offer advice to other writers. Through this series, we promote the idea that learning to write is an ongoing, life-long process and that all writers, from first-year students to career professionals, benefit from discussing and collaborating on their work with thoughtful and respectful readers. The series will be featured every other Wednesday.

hiebOur featured writer this week is Professor Jeffery L. Hieb. Dr. Hieb teaches in the Engineering Fundamentals and Computer Engineering and Computer Science departments in the J. B. Speed School of Engineering at the University of Louisville. Although he has a range of research interests, one area of specialty for Dr. Hieb is information assurance and security.

How I Write: Jeffery L. Hieb

Location: In my office or my office at home

Current project: A technical report on the availability and effectiveness of currently available industrial control system cyber-security technology for the Dams Sector.

Currently reading: What the Best College Professors Do, Collaborative Learning Techniques: A Handbook for College Faculty, and The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

  1. What type(s) of writing do you regularly engage in?

    a. Conference and journal papers
    b. Technical reports
    c. Letters of recommendation
    d. Grant and research proposals

  2. When/where/how do you write?

    a. In my office or in my office at home.
    b. Almost any chance I get

  3. What are your writing necessities—tools, accessories, music, spaces?

    a. I write on my notebook computer, and since I have it with me most of the time I can write almost anywhere.  I usually like to have a cup of coffee next to me when I write.

  4. What is your best tip for getting started and/or for revision?

    a. When I have trouble getting started I like to stand up and talk about the subject matter to an imaginary audience.  Usually after 10 to 15 minutes I want to start writing down something I have said.

  5. What is the best writing advice you’ve received?

    a. The best advice I ever received was from Dr. David Shaner, my philosophy professor when I was an undergraduate.  He once told me: “Just throw up on the page, you can clean it up later”.  I have always found that helpful when starting to write something, it takes away the pressure of getting it right at the beginning, and acknowledges that rewriting/revising is part of the writing process, not what you do to fix or correct something you got wrong initially.

How I Write: Judith Fischer — Legal Scholar

Our “How I Write” series asks writers from the University of Louisville community and beyond to respond to five questions that provide insight into their writing processes and offer advice to other writers. Through this series, we promote the idea that learning to write is an ongoing, life-long process and that all writers, from first-year students to career professionals, benefit from discussing and collaborating on their work with thoughtful and respectful readers. The series will be featured every other Wednesday.

This week we hear from University of Louisville Law professor Judith Fischer. Professor Fischer teaches legal writing and women and the law, and her scholarship includes articles on legal writing, advocacy, women and the law, and law school teaching. Her book Pleasing the Court: Writing Ethical and Effective Briefs examines professionalism in legal writing through numerous examples of judges’ reactions to lawyers’ errors.fischer

How I Write: Judith Fischer

Location:     Law school

Current project: Article on brief writing

Currently reading:  Student papers!

  1.  What type(s) of writing do you regularly engage in?
    For work, I write scholarly writing for books or law review articles and less formal articles for newsletters or bar journals. I also do other miscellaneous kind of writing, such as commenting on student papers and writing emails and letters of recommendation.And of course I also do personal writing, such as emails and thank-you notes in hard copy.
  2. When/where/how do you write?
    For work, I often write during the standard work day, and sometimes I write well into the evening. I write with a computer at a table or desk.
  3. What are your writing necessities—tools, accessories, music, spaces?
    Computer—pencils—pens—paper for printing numerous drafts—whatever sources I need for the project. For my last scholarly article, that included a stack of relevant books.
  4. What is your best tip for getting started and/or for revision?
    To start: Decide when you need to get started and then just start. For example, if I need to have a scholarly article finished by August 15, I know I need to start researching by May and start writing by the end of June.  So I do that.For revision: Read the document aloud while imagining an audience. For example, read the document to an imaginary critical colleague.
  5. What is the best writing advice you’ve received?
    The way to write an article is to start by taking off your shoes. Get down underneath your desk and nail your shoes to the floor. Then get back in your chair, put your feet in your shoes, and write.

What I Learned about Writing a Dissertation through the Retreat

Laura Detmering

I would like to begin this post by echoing what Barrie says in her post. Like Barrie, I have worked as an Assistant Director in U of L’s Writing Center since the fall of 2010, and I am sad to leave this space for many reasons, most of which is the community of people who have supported me as I work on my own dissertation. This community includes not only the incredible staff of the Writing Center, but also the various individuals I have worked with as a consultant, all of whom have taught me a great deal about writing. It has been a pleasure to be a part of this Writing Center, and I could not choose a better way to end my experience as an Assistant Director than by working at the Dissertation Writing Retreat.

Every day last week, I watched a group of ten dedicated Ph.D. candidates enter the Writing Center, select a table or other writing space and write for several hours, taking few breaks and simply committing to the process. Participating in this retreat taught me a lot about writing a dissertation, and it also reinforced much of what I already knew. First, and probably most obvious, the retreat reminded me that no two people approach the process in the same way, so it is important to measure your success only against yourself and not others. For one person, success might be drafting a solid paragraph in a day, whereas for another, success might mean drafting four to six pages in a day. Of course, no one can write an entire dissertation in a week, and, fortunately, no one tried. Instead, each individual participating in the retreat set realistic, achievable goals, and I think most people met them (and I met my own goals, sitting in my office, writing while the participants were writing).

Probably the most important thing I learned during the retreat, though, is the importance of having a community of people to write your dissertation alongside. This community can be fairly diverse. For instance, I consulted with a Ph.D. candidate in Mechanical Engineering and a Ph.D. candidate in the Humanities. Because both of these individuals are in different fields from one another and from me, much of our time was spent discussing their individual projects, with each of them explaining to one another and to me what kind of research they are doing, how dissertations are constructed in their fields, and how they as writers were approaching the process. On Thursday, I led a workshop on overcoming obstacles to writing a dissertation, and as a group, everyone participating in the retreat discussed some obstacles that were arising and how to approach them. One of the suggestions I made at that time, which I personally have found beneficial in writing my own dissertation, is to try to explain your project to a person outside your field of study. By doing this, we are forced to think very carefully about what we are trying to do and how best to articulate our ideas to others. Thus, this community of people to write your dissertation alongside does not necessarily have to be just other Ph.D. candidates, but it can include anyone in your life—a parent, a child, a spouse, a sibling, a friend, etc.

For me, personally, watching a group of ten people sit and write or discuss their dissertations for eight hours a day pushed me to work on my own dissertation. Having a community of people who are also writing dissertations to meet with and discuss your work is also beneficial, then. I would encourage anyone who is writing a dissertation or a thesis or really any piece of writing to develop a similar community, a group of people who make you feel accountable to them, as well as to yourself. Seeing other people writing (and struggling) along with you is powerful and motivating in a way that writing in isolation cannot be. Certainly, there are times when we have to find space by ourselves to write, and doing so has a value of its own, but having a community of people to engage with, even if that engagement is silent, while writing a dissertation, is important.

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