The Oxford Guide for Writing Tutors : An Interview with Lauren Fitzgerald and Melissa Ianetta

Andrea Rosso Efthymiou, guest contributor 

Devoted to fostering research and conference participation for peer writing tutors, the National Conference on Peer Tutoring in Writing (NCPTW) is gearing up for its 2017 conference at Hofstra University. In this post, NCPTW 2017 Chair, Andrea Rosso Efthymiou, interviews this year’s keynote speakers, Lauren Fitzgerald and Melissa Ianetta, co-authors of The Oxford Guide for Writing Tutors (OGWT). In their interview, Fitzgerald and Ianetta discuss their personal processes as long-time collaborators, the choices they made writing and editing OGWT, and of course, writing center tutoring.

Andrea: Can you describe your writing process as co-authors of this book? How did you work together as co-authors? Did you work on separate sections individually or did you actively write each section together? Or was the process altogether different?

Actually, we used a range of collaborative and individual composing strategies to write The Oxford Guide for Writing Tutors (OGWT). Our approach depended on the stage in the process and the immediate writing goal. Some of these processes were very organic and highly collaborative – with the controlling concept for the book which we articulated for the prospectus, for instance, we worked intensively together for a couple of days. The process was so natural and so focused that we really don’t know any more who came up with what idea.

However, some parts of the process are very individual, so that one of us takes responsibility for a chapter or subsection. We’ll talk through the chapters, then each of us goes away to compose, and we trade drafts. We respond to one another’s work and then the original author responds to the commentary and revision. We’ll then trade again and, at that point, we often have lost track of who wrote what. There was a time, for example, when Melissa praised lavishly a change in a much-revised chapter – she really thought Lauren had taken things in an exciting new direction. And her enthusiasm was only minimally dampened when Lauren told her that the revision was hers –Melissa herself had written the text of which she spoke in such admiring terms.

This instance of the composing process, however, is only one part of the larger research process that comprises our professional partnership. We chose to write this book in part because, together, we’ve been writing and talking about writing centers for many years: our first shared work was a set of paired conference reports for Writing Center Journal (WCJ) on the 2005 IWCA conference. And while we published two separate conference accounts, the process we used there laid the groundwork for the process we still use. We talk, draft, respond, revise, and talk again. This is the process we used when working with a large group of collaborators on “Polylog: Are Writing Center Administrators WPAs?” and, most importantly, when co-editing WCJ. Our editorial conversations not only shaped journal issues, but framed our understanding of the field: our two special issues – on peer tutor research and the landmark essays of the field, respectively – lie at the foundation of OGWT. And, finally, we still use that process today –we’re using it right now, as we answer these questions, in fact! Continue reading “The Oxford Guide for Writing Tutors : An Interview with Lauren Fitzgerald and Melissa Ianetta”

Interview with Dr. Julie Christoph about NCPTW

Editor’s Note: I chatted with Dr. Julie Christoph, the chair of this year’s National Conference on Peer Tutoring in Writing (NCPTW), about her work, the theme of this year’s NCPTW, and what we can expect from the conference. The NCPTW will take place November 4-6 at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington. Interested in submitting a proposal? You can find a link to the CFP at the bottom of this post!

Hi Julie! Can you tell us about yourself and your work?

julie christophI’m currently Professor of English and Director of the Center for Writing, Learning, and Teaching at the University of Puget Sound, which is a small liberal arts college in Tacoma, Washington. I developed my love for writing centers as an undergraduate writing center tutor at Carleton College, and I later went on to do my doctoral work in Rhetoric and Composition at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where I taught in the writing center and also served as an early assistant director of the Undergraduate Writing Fellows Program. Though writing centers are what brought me to the field of writing studies, my position as writing center director is relatively new. I have spent most of my career teaching courses in writing, rhetoric, and culture in the English department; consequently, my research agenda is eclectic. My primary area of research explores what is personal to writers about their argumentative writing: how does a writer as a living, breathing person appear on the pages of academic writing? How do writers’ personal histories, predilections, and prejudices enter into their academic writing? To what extent are writers able to be transparent about their personal history and biases in their writing—and to what extent do readers’ responses to writing exceed the limits of what writers have knowingly represented about themselves? As my teaching load has evolved into the writing center, I’ve increasingly moved toward thinking about writer identity in the writing center, and I’m going to be spending part of my sabbatical next year in at Goethe University in Germany doing a contrastive study with some writing center colleagues there.

The theme for this year’s conference is “It’s for Everyone: The Inclusive Writing Center.”  Can you tell us about how this theme was chosen?

The theme of this year’s NCPTW is an extension of work we’ve been doing at the University of Puget Sound’s writing center (or, more accurately, the Center for Writing, Learning, and Teaching). As is the case throughout higher education, our enrollment demographics are changing. Our campus is becoming more racially, economically, and neurologically diverse, and we’ve been making concerted efforts to adapt and change our writing center to meet the needs and interests of our students.

In the last four years, we have refocused our mission around anti-racist and inclusive practices. We’ve had some tremendously useful conversations around concepts like Claude Steele’s “stereotype threat,” and the ideas in the collection Writing Centers and the New Racism. We’d love to continue the conversation with a wider circle of people, so it seemed natural to extend these themes to the conference itself. Continue reading “Interview with Dr. Julie Christoph about NCPTW”

WLN News Round-Up

Assistant blog editor, Amber Slater, shares some of what’s on the WLN news radar this week:

Students provide NANOWRIMO tutoring. Utah State University Writing Center tutors are currently staffing a community writing center that is offering resources to writers completing the National Novel Writing Month (NANOWRIMO) challenge, in which participants write a 50,000 word novel during the month of November. [HJNews]

From New York Times
From New York Times

Poetry goes viral on Instagram. Poets are building readership by publishing  on Instagram and Tumblr. For some, this online popularity leads to mainstream publishing deals. My question is: How can writing centers best support writers who are publishing their work through Instagram and blogging platforms? [New York Times]

 

An NCPTW discussion continues. At the National Conference on Peer Tutoring in Writing (NCPTW), the presenters of “(De)Centering Stories about Teaching and Tutoring: A Narrative Round Table” have shared a Google doc with their stories about navigating the duality of working in a writing center and teaching composition as graduate students. They have invited other writing center professionals who have experienced duality in their writing center roles to share their stories on the doc as well.

What writing & tutoring-related news have you been reading this week? Let us know in the comments!

“(De)Center: Testing Assumptions about Peer Tutoring and Writing Centers”–Call for proposals

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The National Peer Tutoring in Writing Conference announces its conference and call for proposals

The theme of the 2015 National Conference on Peer Tutoring in Writing (NCPTW) and Rocky Mountain Peer Tutor Conference is “(De)Center: Testing Assumptions about Peer Tutoring and Writing Centers.” Throughout its history, peer tutoring has often operated on a set of sometimes untested assumptions, such as that peer-to-peer tutoring is an effective way of learning, that peers can collaborate in non-hierarchical relationships, that a writer’s role in the tutoring session is different than the tutor’s, and that best methodologies are known and easily practiced. As the assumed divide between the classroom, writing center and community shifts, peer tutors are challenged to find a place for themselves within dynamic rhetorical situations. By (de)centering traditional notions of peer tutoring, we can re-imagine the idea of a center as a place and a praxis.

Continue reading ““(De)Center: Testing Assumptions about Peer Tutoring and Writing Centers”–Call for proposals”