Margaret Procter retired in 2012 as University of Toronto Coordinator, Writing Support since 1994.
How does a country invent a new discipline? The answer for Canada would have to involve the organization commonly called Inkshed (otherwise the Canadian Association for the Study of Language and Learning). It brought university teachers together in person and online from 1982 to 2015 to discuss how students learn to use texts, write with their own voices, and interact to develop ideas. In the process, Inkshed gave Canadian writing-centre faculty a way to think about their particular kind of teaching and helped them become growth points in the emerging discipline of writing studies. As a new writing-centre director in the 1990s, I found a community in Inkshed conferences, listserv exchanges, and newsletters. I learned from Inkshed what writing instruction could be, and gained encouragement by seeing others navigate the issues I also faced.
Inkshed no longer offers conferences or creates newsletters, but it still exists as an active publishing house, extensive online archives of newsletters and email, and many intense memories. When Inkshed took shape in the 1980s, Canadian universities had only a weak tradition of teaching writing. Where first-year composition existed, it was usually grafted onto a literature course to show students correct essay structure and grammar. A few engineering and business schools required courses on workplace genres, also emphasizing correctness. Some universities had writing centres offering individual tutoring, but they tended to be hidden in back rooms and seen as charitable measures for underprepared students. Continue reading