CFP: New collection on writing research & pedagogy in the MENA region

As Composition Studies and related disciplines make a “global turn,” there is an increasing need for research into post-secondary writing practices and pedagogy in the Middle East-North Africa (MENA) region. Scholarship emerging from this region needs to be shared globally, as it will shape how writing centers, writing programs, and WID/WAC initiatives – in the region and outside of it – will respond to the increasing globalization of higher education, as well as to international discussions about World Englishes and other language varieties and translingual approaches to writing and writing pedagogy.

In order to address these needs, the editors seek 300-word chapter proposals for a multi-authored volume, tentatively titled Writing Research and Pedagogy in the MENA Region, for anticipated publication in the Parlor Press/WAC Clearinghouse’s book series, International Exchanges on the Study of Writing.

The editors welcome proposals in English revolving around institutional policies and practices, writing pedagogies, and/or actual writing practice(s) in the MENA region. Proposed chapters should take evidence-based, theoretically grounded approaches with research methods sufficiently articulated and adequate for the research questions. All proposals will be considered; however, the editors are particularly interested in proposals that address any of the following questions:

  • How is writing – in English or in other languages – defined and/or valued in the MENA context? How might these definitions or values be attached to the diverse historical, linguistic, social, political, and/or religious contexts of the MENA region?
  • In the MENA context, where there are often three or more languages or varieties of language to consider, how are conventional notions of L1/L2 complicated in relation to writing practices and pedagogy?
  • What are the unique challenges and benefits faced by writing program and/or writing center administrators in the MENA context?
  • What can be learned about writing pedagogy and/or practice from the student and/or faculty populations at various institutions of higher education in the MENA region?
  • In what ways is the interdisciplinary nature of writing being addressed in the MENA region? How have Writing in the Disciplines (WID) and/or Writing across the Curriculum (WAC) initiatives been implemented and/or received in the MENA region, and what can be learned from the successes and/or failures of these efforts?
  • What can literacy scholars learn about writing practices and pedagogies from research in the MENA region? What new questions about writing arise when considering this regional context, and how might these questions be best addressed/approached by scholars in and outside of the region?
  • What do our answers to the questions above, and our experiences on the ground, suggest about course design, curriculum planning, and/or program development in both international and U.S. contexts?

Submission details:

Deadline for proposals is March 1, 2014 (300 words). Full chapter submissions will be due September 1, 2014 (5,000-6,000 words). Only original work not previously published and not currently under review elsewhere will be considered. Please send your submission to all three of the editors: Lisa Arnold,; Anne Nebel,; and Lynne Ronesi,

PDF version of the CFP

Spinning the Plates in a Writing Center

Like Spinning Plates

Image credit: used under rights permitted by Jameson Gagnepain at Flickr

This post began as a reply to Jared Odd, the Writing Center Director at Lindsey Wilson College. Professor Odd wrote to the national e-list for Writing Across the Curriculum, asking for advice about managing a Fellows-based program at small colleges. At times, such as our current semester, I feel like one of the performers who keeps about 30 fragile plates spinning on the ends of skinny poles.

Richmond’s program for what we now call “Writing Consultants” now enters its 21st year. How we have managed has become a little more daunting recently, with only 3,200 undergraduates and the need to staff 50+ sections with Writing Consultants while keeping a Writing Center open. My post covers a few bedrock principles and recent challenges.

  • The Training Class Must Be Strong: We don’t shortchange Consultant training at Richmond. All of them must complete a semester-long course, Eng. 383, that is by invitation of our faculty. I could rush through 100 new Consultants in a couple of weeks of basic training, but I fear they’d be unethical editors, fixing writers’ problems but not making them better writers. Faculty would consider the help intellectually lacking, and I’m not about to dumb-down our commitment to fundamental ideas of peer work, long established in the field and tested well in our program. I find that recruiting my 36 new Consultants each year, 18 trained each semester, can staff the program. This has worked well at the similar-sized program at Swarthmore, long a model for WAC at Richmond. Except…
  • The Busy Student Body Must Notice Us: It is hip to be stressed out and over-committed on this campus. Strike one for staying on student radar, as a program or potential employer. Study abroad, a wonderful opportunity that I want every student to experience, has gradually become nigh universal for our first-semester juniors. Strike Two. Then there are internships, independent study, summer research, the hum of non-academic but seemingly essential social obligations…Strike Three. For these reasons, over time, more and more students delayed taking Eng. 383 until their third or even fourth years. Having sown this wind for a few years, in May 2013 I reaped the whirlwind, finding about 20 of our trained Consultants walking across the stage in their caps and gowns. Then, this term, another 15 went abroad. Thus we are scrambling to staff 50+ sections and keep the Writing Center open with 37 Consultants. Usually, I employ 50.
  • The Director Must Appeal to Potential Consultants Early and in the Right Way: My doubling-down on recruitment began early this semester. I notified faculty teaching first-year seminars that a crisis was at hand; I would depend upon them to bring me more first-and-second-year recruits. So far, a few are drifting in, but I will appeal as well to the students directly. Paying Consultants well helps, but students want more than a job today. Students at Richmond want a path to a post-collegiate career or graduate school. Working as a Consultant here means a better chance of landing a graduate assistantship or job with a communications focus. I count EBSCO, Penguin, and The National Archives among the employers of recently graduated Consultants.
  • Faculty in all Fields Must Become Partners: I have never felt that putting a writing program in a “silo” works well. First of all, writing has historically been under-staffed and under-underfunded. Susan Miller’s “sad woman in the basement” was more than a brilliant metaphor in her book Textual Carnivals. It was the fact on the ground (and beneath the ground) for a long time. Now that the Humanities themselves are in national crisis, writing programs cannot necessarily count on English departments with diminishing institutional clout for support. Program directors will need to sit down with Mathematicians and Economists and Sociologists, too, to determine local needs, priorities, and resources. These faculty will also serve as recruiters for those new student employees to keep WAC efforts vital.

I remain convinced, after more than two decades doing this work (with some very pleasant side trips into educational technology, the design of simulations, and more) that writing programs will thrive because our colleagues and administrators share our concern, if not necessarily our values, about writing instruction. The Director’s job, as the public face of writing on campus, is to be certain that the “center remains in the Center,” or wherever else writing instruction is housed currently. My greatest fear is that other units of a college or university, hungry for influence and budget, could gobble up WAC and Writing Centers.

We should not let that happen, since with merger may come a pedagogy we have worked so hard to avoid in our teaching and tutoring.

Handbook for writing in the disciplines: Music


Our Writing Consultants Lauren Oddo and Kelsey Shields prepared a handbook with the cooperation of music faculty and our music librarian. Have a look for advice to writers, a sample essay, as well as transcripts of interviews with faculty at this URL:

Three Professors In English Discuss Effective Writing

We just uploaded interviews with three professors in our English Department:  (see left hand menu for links to videos).

Our Writing Consultants conducted these interviews. They may load slowly, as they are locally hosted. We have about 30 more in various fields. See the handbooks linked from this page:

Our long-term goal is to compile interviews for each handbook, as well as sample papers with commentary by the professors and writers (including some reflective “what if” remarks).