Category Archives: Creative writing

Celebrating Writing


Amy Sexton, MSEd, Writing Tutor

Fall means crisp, cooler weather, stunning autumn shows of crimson, rust, and golden leaves, bountiful garden harvests, and, on Friday, October 20, a celebration of writing!

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October 20 is designated as the National Day on Writing. The National Day on Writing is sponsored by the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE). NCTE recognizes that writing is a central tenet of literacy and founded the National Day on Writing to draw more attention to and celebrate writing across the nation. This fall, the Writing Center invites students, faculty, and staff to join us in celebrating the National Day on Writing.

On October 20, from 9 am to 5 pm ET, students, faculty, and staff can connect with a writing tutor to talk about writing and its importance in our lives.  Click here to chat with a writing tutor about why writing is important to you.  We also invite you to share your comments here.  Why do you write?  What role does writing play in your life?  What does writing allow you to accomplish daily?  Please share your thoughts, and be sure to include the hashtag #WhyIWrite. You can also learn more about the National Day on Writing by visiting the official web site here.  Happy National Day on Writing!

 

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This Month, Shoot the Moon with NaNoWriMo!


Sara Wink, Kaplan University Composition Faculty

 

I’ve written here before about the importance of educators who “walk the walk.”  For all their recommendations to students to read and write more, educators should be doing that very thing themselves. It needn’t be a controversial best-seller or some stellar new research filled with jargon. The simple act of reading and writing every day can boost one’s productivity and skills as an educator. November presents a unique opportunity to stretch those writing skills to the max.

National Novel Writing Month is a non-profit organization that encourages writing and promotes the joy of writing and literature through resources for libraries and classroom (“About”, 2016) . One does not have to contribute anything to participate in the challenge; participants just aim to write a 50,000-word story in thirty days (“About”, 2016). It’s not surprising, then, that  it’s often called “Thirty Days and Nights of Literary Abandon.”

I just love it, too. I first participated the fall after my daughter’s birth. I was teaching and tutoring for the Kaplan University Writing Center, yet still managed to cross the 50K words  finish line. It felt really good, like, “I just landed on the moon!” good.

https://kuwcnews.wordpress.com/

I’ve done NaNoWriMo three other times since then, despite teaching and raising three small children. Fifty-thousand words in thirty days is no meager feat, especially when one’s arms are literally being pulled from the keyboard. Or, when one boy has diarrhea while his twin brother vomits, and all the while their big sister complains about a cold. Or, when the supper you cooked can’t be eaten because you were missing the proper type of cheese, which means the floor gets covered with it. Or, when a red car goes missing and the screaming won’t stop until you find it. No, not that red car, the RED car. THE REEEEED CAAAAAAAR!!! (For the louder one shrieks, the better one will apparently know which hue of red out of the two dozen red cars is the “right” red car.) Despite all that, I managed to crank out 800-1000 words in an hour twice a day, teach some students, and occasionally sleep.

I’m racing with a deadline. I have to manage my time to make sure this work gets done along with everything else. I’m scrambling with a rough draft. I’m trying to put together ideas that make sense.

Sounds rather like our students, doesn’t it?

Now granted, there’s no need for APA format or polished editing; NaNoWriMo is all about writing as much of a story arc as one can. But this kind of creative challenge stretches our insides and tests our work-life balance. It’s also something we can do with our students, and on that, find a great way to connect on this academic journey. Teachers and students alike enter the classroom with their own life expertise; NaNoWriMo encourages us all to take the same road on the same starting space of experience. It encourages camaraderie and the joy of sharing one’s own stories.

Even if you don’t think you can write 50,000 words in thirty days, join in the literary abandon, and celebrate the gift of the written word. You may surprise your students…and even yourself.

https://kuwcnews.wordpress.com/

References

About. (2016).  Retrieved from http://nanowrimo.org/about

Spread the word. (2016). Retrieved from http://nanowrimo.org/spread-the-word#webgraphics

 

Blogging to Enhance a Job Search


Dr. Tamara Fudge, Kaplan University professor in the School of Business and IT

Everyone wants to enhance the chances for a better job, and blogging can help!

You can share your career-related knowledge by posting good content. In what areas do you want to be considered an expert? A web developer might write about the value of validation or appropriate use of color. A medical assistant might write about the need to stick to HIPAA or recommend ways to deal with rude patients. A paralegal might write about courtroom dress code or the need to document everything thoroughly. No matter your career area, you could provide how-to lists, suggestions for certifications, what-if scenarios, and personal experiences. You can also link to other things you have done!

How does this help your job search, you ask? Many employers will look for information about job candidates by simply using a search engine and checking what comes up on the results list. Wouldn’t it be great for those employers to see your blog and find that you know your topics well? You can also list the web address right on your resume to make sure they can find it, of course.

Keeping this in mind, then, remember to post only positive information. Negativity towards anything can have the opposite effect you want, as that employer might perceive you as a simply another complainer who likes to post online. Complainers are not high on the employment list.

Similarly, use professional language. Informality may be construed as insincere or even flippant.

Another perk of writing a blog is that it helps you hone your communication skills through frequent writing practice. This is not only good as a student, but for the workplace, too.

Blogging is free, and you don’t need someone else’s permission to do it! Consider Word Press, Google’s Blogger (also known as Blogspot), or blog.com. Whichever system you choose, it may take you a little time to set up, but these platforms are created so that you don’t need to know any HTML coding to get it done.

Important things to consider:

  • Maintain control of what is shown on your blog pages, including comments. Set up your blog to disallow comments if you are worried there may be negative responses,  and/or you don’t intend to watch the comments carefully. Alternatively, most systems have a feature where you allow comments only with moderation, which means you get to decide whether or not to let each comment be seen.
  • Don’t hide your blog! Make sure you allow the blog to be listed by search engines.
  • Encourage your readers to sign up for the RSS feed, so they will get automatic notification when you have entered a new post. There should be a simple link somewhere on your blog pages to a “feed” that takes the reader to information about this.
  • Post regularly – for example, once a week or twice a month. Those who sign up for the feed will appreciate the regularity of notifications.
  • Proofread! What you post can only have a positive effect on your resume if it shows you can communicate well.
  • Make sure your content is original. Any plagiarism will reflect on you quite poorly, and yes, it will be noticed! If you want to share someone else’s ideas, link to them. If you really want to quote or paraphrase, make sure you clearly identify the source material (aha – finally we have a prospective use for APA).
  • Highly important: Do *not* post your schoolwork, as it would enable others to cheat. As the “enabler,” you could be held responsible by your school and be subject to a plagiarism report. Always write new content!
  • Lastly, customize the design if you have the knowledge to do so. If you’re not very technical, ask a friend to help, and make sure it looks professional when you’re done.

Blogs can be fun and showcase your knowledge. These are great reasons for blogging as you seek to enhance your job search!

A Bloggers Group: Uniting through Writing


By Molly Wright Starkweather

Kaplan University Writing Center Tutor

One of the most unique opportunities for growing a campus culture in an online university is through clubs and societies. There are many places for students to get plugged in, whether in an honor society like Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society for Nursing or in a club like Disability Rights, Education, Advocacy, and Mentoring (DREAM). Faculty and staff can get involved in Parenting Group or Night Owls (a professional development group that meets exclusively in the evenings). Another opportunity for fostering an involved campus community is through Writing Across the Curriculum. WAC involves students and faculty focusing on improving writing skills in a supportive, even collaborative way. After all, writing is a lifelong skill that anyone at a university can grow.

What better way to cultivate writing and solidify community at our university than by hosting a group of faculty, staff, and students interested in writing?

An inclusive Bloggers Group provides this very opportunity for the academic community. The group

  • focuses on blogging as versatile, engaging writing;
  • welcomes bloggers of all interests and skill levels;
  • includes faculty, staff, and currently enrolled students at an online or brick and mortar university.

The best part of being in a blogging group is that a member’s identity– whether student, faculty, or staff member– is a badge and not a barrier. What that means is that a student can ask questions and give advice, as can a faculty or staff member, without worrying about the constraints of the classroom or writing for a grade. Bloggers read and comment on each others’ blogs, share their challenges and successes during meetings, and offer each other supportive emails with writing ideas and advice. Meetings are a place for students to participate as aspiring professionals on a more even plane with fellow bloggers who just happen to be faculty or staff members. Just as in course seminars, the expertise of a professor blends well with the experience of a student, but no one is grading anyone for his or her writing or participation. As a writing tutor,  I can give advice to a student blogger about hooking the audience, and that same student blogger can give advice to me about embedding videos into my blog.

Blogging to improve your writing is a wonderful journey that gets even better with support from fellow bloggers. Anyone in the university community can start a bloggers group. Do you have a blogging group at your institution?

 

Writers Inspiring Writers: Inside a Writer’s Salon


By Amy Sexton, Kaplan University Writing Center Tutor

The Writers’ Salon Series is a Kaplan University Center for Teaching and Learning event that helps to foster a community of writers.  I was excited when the Center for Teaching and Learning asked me to take the lead on hosting and planning the Writers’ Salon Series and invite writers and readers across the university to meet and share works from their favorite authors or their own works.

Shakespeare

©2014 Jupiter Images

Like many educators, I have always found writing inspiration in the works of my favorite authors.   As a child, I fancied that I would grow up to write stories with strong female protagonists like Laura Ingalls Wilder.   After studying sonnets in my college Shakespeare literature class, I tried my hand at crafting fourteen lines of iambic pentameter, with less than Shakespearian –like results, of course.  The point, however, is that the works of Laura Ingalls Wilder and  William Shakespeare, like Emily Dickinson, Walt Whitman, Robert Frost, Charlotte Bronte, Maya Angelou, and countless  others, inspire me to write.

I was similarly inspired when I attended a couple of Writers’ Salon Series meetings in recent years.   As I listened to other faculty members sharing favorite works from others or reading their own work, I found new inspiring authors.  Most importantly, hearing from other professors and faculty who were writing and publishing helped me realize that I, too, could find the time and motivation to write.  People just like me – colleagues, writing center tutors, and professors – were writing and publishing; surely, I could too!

Now as I plan for our meetings in 2014, I look forward to even more inspiration and hopefully rekindling my own creative writing through my work with this series.  This year, we are also inviting faculty and staff to lead participants in an interactive writing activity at each meeting.   This writing component is a new addition designed to give participants an opportunity for deliberate, focused writing and to spark creativity. What are some ways that you inspire and promote faculty writing and help create communities of writers on your campus?

Celebrating the Courage of Women Writers


By Amy Sexton, Kaplan University Writing Center Tutor

March is National Women’s History Month, and the 2014 theme is “Celebrating Women of Character, Courage, and Commitment”.   One area where women have shown great courage is in writing and publishing as they have boldly moved into literary scenes and genres often dominated by men and marked by limiting expectations of women writers.   Historically, women have used male-sounding or gender- ambiguous pen names to be taken seriously as writers and to avoid unfair notions about female authors.   More recently, women have chosen male or gender- neutral nicknames in order to publish in genres traditionally known to favor male writers, like crime and science fiction (Lytton, 2013).

Many people may not know that one of America’s favorite 19th century authors, Louisa May Alcott, best known for her portrayal of her own idyllic childhood in the novel Little Women, published much racier stories under the false name of A.M. Barnard (Lytton, 2013).  The words of a Boston publisher immortalized in a letter to Alcott around 1855 reveal the preferences of publishers at the time: “We would like more stories from you … you may use the pseudonym of A.M. Barnard or any other man’s name if you will”  (as cited in Lytton, 2013).   While she received fame and praise for her work during her lifetime, readers did not learn that Alcott was also A.M. Barnard until over 50 years after her death (Lytton, 2013).

© 2014 Jupiter Images Charlotte Bronte

© 2014 Jupiter Images
Charlotte Bronte

Alcott’s English contemporaries, sisters Anne, Charlotte, and Emily Bronte, published their first book, a collection of poems, in 1846 under male pen names similar to their real names:  Acton, Currer, and Ellis Bell.  They went on to author beloved and acclaimed novels like Jane Eyre (Charlotte), Wuthering Heights (Emily) and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (Anne), as well as other well-received literary works, all under their male pseudonyms.   Of the trio’s decisions to publish under false names, Charlotte wrote, “We had a vague impression that authoresses are liable to be looked on with prejudice” (as cited in Cohen, 2012).

In 1856, another English author, Mary Ann Evans, also chose a male pseudonym, George Elliot, to ink her first publication, ironically titled,   “Silly Novels by Lady Novelists”.   Evans did reveal her female identity, but continued to use the pseudonym George Elliot to distinguish her work from other “lady novelists” in the Victorian Era and ensure that it received the serious literary attention it deserved (“10 Famous Females”, 2014).   Today, Evan’s masterpieces continue to be best known by the male pseudonym, George Elliot.

In the 20th and 21st centuries, some women continued to find obscuring their gender necessary when publishing their writings.   In 1967, 17- year-old Susan Eloise Hinton wrote the classic young adult novel, The Outsiders, about teen male gangs in Tulsa, Oklahoma.   Hinton’s publishers suggested that male readers may not appreciate a girl writing a story from a boy’s perspective, so Hinton used her initials instead of her full name (Cohen, 2012).  S.E.  Hinton’s male characters were so completely developed and realistic, however, that many readers were surprised to learn that S.E. Hinton was actually Susan Eloise.    Similarly, as the 20th century ended, Joanne Rowling (her full name) wrote rich, vivid stories featuring a young male protagonist, Harry Potter.  Rowling claims that she used a gender-neutral pseudonym, J.K. Rowling, for the insanely popular Harry Potter series at the suggestion of her publisher (Cohen, 2012).  More recently in 2013, Rowling secretly penned the crime novel, The Cuckoo’s Calling, under the male name Robert Galbraith.  Like the Harry Potter series, this thriller has also enjoyed best-seller status – both before and after reporters discovered that Rowling was the author (Lytton, 2013).

As we celebrate the courage, commitment, and character of women during National Women’s History Month, let us also celebrate the courage of women writers who have assumed male pseudonyms or gender –neutral pen names in order to explore literary opportunities, as well as those who have penned their stories and poems using their own names.   Let us also look forward to a time when a writer’s gender truly does not matter.

 

References

Cohen, S.  (2012).  Why women writers still take men’s names.   Wall Street Journal.   Retrieved from  http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424127887324355904578159453918443978

Lytton, C.  (2013).   Not just J.K. Rowling: Best-selling female authors with male monikers.  Retrieved from http://www.cnn.com/2013/07/16/showbiz/not-just-jk-rowling-monikers/

10 famous females who used male pen names.   (2014).  Retrieved from http://www.webdesignschoolsguide.com/library/10-famous-females-who-used-male-pen-names.html

“Letters to Jackie”: Lessons about Letter Writing and Journaling from the 50th Anniversary of the Assassination of President Kennedy


Old Black Type Writer

© JupiterImages

By Teresa Kelly, Kaplan University

As the nation pauses to remember the 50th Anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedythe first president born in the 20th Century and a member of the Greatest Generation – iconic images and sounds from that day fill our television screens. Despite the growing power of digital media, it is a book and a television special on TLC about the over 800, 000 letters of condolence sent to the White House in the months following the assassination that captures for younger generations – including many students – the true sense of grief and loss that people across the world experienced at the violent death of a man they felt they knew and knew they loved. These correspondences – called in both forms “Letters to Jackie” – also show students the power of letters and journaling in helping us record, understand, and cope with traumatic events from both psychological and emotional perspectives.

For those JFK spoke of when he said “the mantel has been passed to a new generation,” he was their rallying point to service. He called for them to “ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country,” created the Peace Corps, championed a Civil Rights Bill that passed Congress after his death in part as an homage to him, and challenged Americans to go to the moon by the end of the 1960s – a challenge the country and especially NASA met partly because letting their slain leader down was unthinkable.  They had seen them, they had voted for him, and they had loved him and his family.  It was natural for them to write to his widow and children as it would be for them to send a sympathy card or letter of condolence to a family member or friend.

The descendants of the Kennedy generation know the images and sounds of that era well.  JFK, Jackie, RFK, and a young JFK, Jr. have become ingrained in our minds. We’ve grown up with them playing again and again on our televisions and more recently the internet, we’ve heard the conspiracy theories, and we’ve seen a plethora of actors from Cliff Robertson, to Martin Sheen, to Greg Kinnear, and most recently Rob Lowe portray their own versions of JFK. We’ve seen the news clips of November 22, 1963, and know what is going to happen but somehow, just like when we watch Titanic for the 100th time, we hope for a different outcome.  Some of the more startling moments – the radio announcement about two priests saying the president was dead and Cronkite officially announcing the time of death – give me shivers every time I see them. If you grew up in some homes in the 1970s – especially Catholic homes as I did – pictures of JFK hung alongside pictures of the Pope and Jesus Christ. For our generation and those to come, the youngest man ever elected president is frozen at 46, young, seemingly vibrant, and clearly ready to continue to lead his country, but the agony of the loss escapes us.

That day in Dallas haunts Americans as only few others including December 7, 1941, January 28, 1986, and September 11, 2001, do.   Still, for many not yet born or at least aware on those horrible November days it takes the letters of housewives, military widows, stunned teenagers, and small children trying to comfort a grieving widow and children while coping with their own sadness to truly allow us to empathize with those who did. Many of the letter writers in “Letters to Jackie” claim they don’t write well, they aren’t educated, or their words mean little.  They couldn’t be more wrong, which is something all of us can teach our students to empower them in their own writing.

More than anything Letters to Jackiedemonstrates the indelible nature of the written word – especially when it is spontaneous like a letter or a journal – to capture emotions and allow them to be felt years, decades, and even centuries later.

Brewer, M. Ed. & Couturié, B, (2013, November 17). In Couturié, B. Letters to Jackie: Remembering President Kennedy. Washington, DC: The Learning Channel.

Fitzpatrick, E. (2013). Letters to Jackie: Condolences from a Grieving Nation.  New York: Ecco Press. (Original book published 2010).