Can I get 100 AWP members to vote–again?

yopp

Let’s practice some genuine literary citizenship, people. Let’s do something positive.

AWP is this close to having a quorum. They are at 54%. They need to get to 60%. By next week!

Incentive for them: If they get to 60%, they save beaucoup bucks in legal fees, and they’re better equipped to serve you.

Incentive for you: You can win a Kindle Fire or Paperwhite. Plus, you know, making a difference and all that.

Just go here and vote.

Even if you voted last year–the last time I tried to help in this effort–you have to vote again!

How should you vote? Vote yes or no. Doesn’t matter. Just vote.

Who should vote? Every freaking body. Tenure-track faculty. Non-tenure track. Individual members.

What are you voting for? Here’s the explanation from my friend and colleague, Jill Christman, member of the AWP board.

We are closer than we have *ever* been to reaching the quorum necessary to reform AWP’s governance and enter this millennium with pens poised.  AWP’s current articles of incorporation and bylaws have many vestigial remnants from the 1960s and 1970s, when AWP was a much smaller organization. We need new bylaws and articles to help AWP to better serve a more diverse and bigger association. Regional representation of the programs and faculty will continue in the new system of governance, with the regions expanding from five to six groups of membership. Each of the new Region Councils shall have a representative on the board, as the regions have now.

The last call for votes brought us up a couple percentage points, but we’re not to 60% yet, and we need to get there before the end of this semester.

You don’t have to vote “yes.”  You don’t even have to vote “no.”  You simply have to register your presence.  Let us know you were there. Remember, the voting cycle started anew in Fall 2013, so if you voted *before* that, do it again now.

Remember the final pages of Horton Hears a Who​?  The mayor tearing up those fabulous Seussian staircases in Whoville with his megaphone in search of that single shirker?  That final, critical, town-saving “Yopp”?  Go find the Jo-Jos in your program and encourage them to put down their yo-yos and vote. We can do this.

After you vote:

  • Leave a comment here.
  • Tweet “I voted in the AWP election. I’m a #litcitizen” and I’ll see it.
  • Share this link on Facebook and rouse YOUR friends into a voting frenzy.
  • Let’s do something positive.
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Form a Blog Circle

I gave the Discovery 2013 interns some “Summer Homework.”

Why?

Many of these students were in my Literary Citizenship class this spring, but some were not, and so we’ve decided to spend the 10 weeks leading up to the conference doing some training via “homework.”

Every Friday by 3 PM, they’ll engage in something I call “Charming Notes.” It’s a version of what Carolyn See prescribes in her book Making a Literary Life. They’ll be required to friend or follow or engage with five people, writers, magazines, agents, or publishers in order to expand their literary horizons. (We did this in my class during Spring 2013, and it worked wonders.) One of those five must be an “active” note–meaning they have to say something to the person, comment on a blog, send an email or message, not just passively follow someone.

Every other Friday by 3 PM, they’ll post to their blog. I’ve told them that these posts can be:

  • journal entries
  • book reviews/what they’re reading
  • commentary about articles they read while preparing for MWW
  • interviews with writers
  • a roundup of links to helpful articles or information
  • fearful questions and anxieties
  • a response to someone else’s blog post
  • I’ve recommended that they use my blog Literary Citizenship for inspiration, esp. the links in the right-hand column.

I’ve warned them: “You can blog about or share your own writing, but primarily, the goal is to be interested in what other people are doing, not what you’re doing.”

They must read ALL of each week’s posts (5 or 6) and comment on them. In a sense, they will “workshop” each other’s posts, but in a supportive, helpful way. Such as, if they think the post could be formatted more attractively or they catch a typo, they should tell the person in our private FB group (only we see that). But if they want to engage in a conversation with the post, they’ll do that in the comments section.

Basically, I’ve created a blog circle.

Ultimately, I want each intern to find the community they need and blog about whatever they need to blog about, but I also want them to form a community among themselves.

The internet is about circles and communities and connections. Our job is to find the right ones to plug into. 

A metaphor: going online at first is like being a boat drifting in the middle of the ocean. You write into a void. No one can find you. You’re a needle in a haystack. You’re not even a ping on anybody’s radar.

What you have to do is find some other boats and tie yourselves together. Not just any boats. The right boats. Boats like you.

Hang out with them. Talk. Learn. Eat. Plus, you’re more visible to search parties.

Who’s in your blog circle? If you don’t have one, think about how to find one.

An example: I just proposed a panel for AWP 2014 in Seattle on teaching novel writing. The first people who came to my mind were people I’ve met via social media who share my interest. John Vanderslice comments on my blog “The Big Thing” quite often because he teaches a similar class. Then there’s Roxane Gay and Jon Billman, with whom I talk about the subject on Twitter from time to time.

They sent me Charming Notes, or I sent Charming Notes to them.

That’s the benefit of being online, I think: that when particular opportunities arise, names come to mind.


Why It’s Hard to Teach People to Blog

Background

I’m supposed to be grading blog posts, but first, I need to explain why it’s so hard to grade blog posts.

See, the students in Literary Citizenship are required to create a blog and post once a week. Originally, I planned to have them blog about the concepts that—to me—make up Literary Citizenship. Hover over the titles “What is it?” and “Actions” above to see the categories for this blog—all of them outward focused.

I wanted them to blog about something other than themselves. I wanted them to be interested in what other people were doing. I figured that the need to create a blog post that “fit” in these categories would generate acts of literary citizenship. That’s good “backwards design.” Determine the outcome first, then design instruction that leads to that outcome.

Here’s the problem.

On the first night of class, I immediately recognized that this would be incredibly limiting. What mattered to me MOST was that their blog really be their blog. That it not be something they “had to do for class,” but the first step in their professionalization process.

I said to the class, “What do YOU need your blog to be? Whatever that is, do it.”

When their weekly post falls within this blog’s categories, I reblog or repost it here. But some weeks, they write things that have NOTHING to do with Literary Citizenship, per se. Rather, they’re doing their own thing.

When you say, “Do your own thing,” how do you grade that thing?

Here’s the rubric I use to evaluate their posts.

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What I’ve discovered is that it’s hard for me to accurately judge the “share-ability” or “influence” of a post unless I, Cathy Day, would share it.

For example:

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Here’s Kiley Neal, who’s trying to establish herself as a writer of fantasy. She wants to find other fantasy writers and—ultimately—readers. This week she wrote about “Talismans, Amulets, and other Enchanted Things.”

I have no idea how to evaluate this post’s potential “influence” or “share-ability” because I know nothing about fantasy. I wouldn’t share this post because most of the people I know on Facebook and Twitter are not fantasy readers or writers.

Most of the students in my Literary Citizenship class are veterans of my novel-writing class, and the majority are interested in commercial novels and authors—Kiley being one example. She wants to be Tamora Pierce.

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Then there’s Austin Hayden, who’s not interested in that kind of thing at all. He’s interested in the Indie Lit Scene. [Correction: Austin says he’s more interested in what he’d call “The Small Press Scene.”] This week, he wrote an AWP-recap post in which he took a picture of a six-pack of beer and did not use any capital letters. Austin wants to be Scott McClanahan.

What I’m trying to say is that:

a.)   I want these students to be whatever kind of writer they want to be.

b.)   I am me. I know what I know.

c.)    I have never read Tamora Pierce, and I don’t know how to help someone have that kind of career.

d.)   I have read Scott McClanahan (I own Stories I and II) , but I have no idea how to help someone be like him.

Confession: while I know many people who are a part of the Indie Lit Scene, it’s not really my world, but rather the world of my BSU colleague, Sean Lovelace. I’m…too old? too square? too earnest? All I know is that when I find myself on HTMLGiant, a voice inside me says, “This is just not for you.” Nothing personal. Just not my thing.

Ironically, this is exactly what Austin said the second night of class as we were discussing Chuck Sambuchino’s Create Your Writer Platform: The Key to Building an Audience, Selling More Books, and Finding Success as an Author. The other students were grooving right along, and in a very kind way, Austin held up the book and said, “This is just not for me.”

Finding Your Blog Voice

What Kiley and Austin do have in common, though, is a pretty clear sense of who they are, what kind of writer they’d like to become. I’m not the intended audience of Kiley’s blog, nor of Austin’s, but I recognize that each is writing from within a clear rhetorical situation.

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Fantasy and Indie Lit–these are two very distinct cultures that both exist under the umbrella of “writer” or “books” or “literature.” But I’m not a part of either culture.

Some—I’d say most—of the students in the class are still writing into a kind of internet void. They’re still looking for their rhetorical situation, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s this: once you know the rhetorical situation, you’ll find your voice.

The first few weeks, my students’ blog posts read like papers they were writing for a grade, for my eyes only. I said, “No, these posts aren’t assignments. You’re really trying to find readers.”

Who are you talking to?

That’s a really tough question, I know.

The most important thing I’ve learned about writing for the internet is that it must be voice-y.

What makes you want to read something on the internet is when you feel that—despite a cacophony of voices clamoring for your attention—a singular voice rises up and suddenly you feel like someone’s talking to you! It’s sort of intimate. Picture it like you’re a secret service agent, and you’re walking around in a crowd wearing one of those covert security earpiece things, and there’s this voice in your head, the one you trust. You do what it says.

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Have you noticed that I’m writing in second person? The above paragraph was first written in third person (“What makes people want to read something on the internet is when they feel…”) but I switched to second.

I don’t know who “you” are exactly, but if you follow this blog, then I have some idea.

Actually, there are about ten or fifteen of you, a small constellation of readers, and when I blog, I simply imagine that I’m talking to you.

Kiley and Austin and a few other students have found their small constellation of readers, their rhetorical situation. Read their blog posts. Hover over “Who We Are.”

Some of them seem to know exactly (or theoretically) who they’re talking to.

Some are still looking.

I don’t know if they’re going to find their constellation this semester, but I hope so.

P.S.

And perhaps I have also demonstrated to you why it’s so hard (impossible!) to accomodate all styles/genres/subgenres/aesthetics of writing within a creative writing program.


Can I get 100 AWP members to vote in this election? HOW ABOUT 1000?

AWP is huge. 60% of this enormous community needs to vote. Let's do it.

AWP is huge. 60% of this enormous community needs to vote. Let’s do it.

Cathy Day here. If you teach creative writing at an AWP-member school, pay attention. I know you’re busy, but take a minute and vote in the AWP election. President Steve Heller spells it out here:

“We must muster a quorum to address our association’s regular lack of a quorum. Perhaps this is the inevitable quandary of having an association of independent thinkers, a corporation of writers and teachers.”

Translation: because AWP has gotten so big, its governance system needs updated. But to make a change, 60% of members have to vote.

Better translation, from AWP board member Anna Leahy:

Got that? If you don't vote, lawyers will get AWP's money instead of writers. That's the best reason yet, people!

Got that? If you don’t vote, lawyers will get AWP’s money instead of writers. That’s the best reason yet, people!

60%! That’s going to take a big push, people.

I voted a few weeks ago, but this thing’s not going to fly unless I can get–I don’t know–100 other people to vote. And they get people to vote.

So: let’s use social media to do some good and start bugging people!

Who’s eligible to vote?

  • program directors of institutional member programs (like my boss Mark Neely, who directs Ball State’s creative writing program)
  • directors of WC&C member programs (like the director of the Sewanee Writers’ Conference)
  • faculty at institutional member programs (like me and half my Facebook friends)
  • independent members who have joined at non-student rates

So: not students.

To check your membership status, visit My AWP Account.

Go here to vote.

Another good reason to vote (other than this One-Time Quorum-Because-Getting-a-Quorum-Regularly-is-Impossible thing) I know two people who are running as representatives, my BSU colleague Jill Christman (read her kick-butt statement here, even if you don’t live in the Midwest) and my pedagogy buddy Anna Leahy who teaches at Chapman (read her awesome statement here).

After you vote:

  • Leave a comment here.
  • Tweet “I voted in the AWP election. I’m a #litcitizen” and I’ll see it.
  • Share this link on Facebook and rouse YOUR friends into a voting frenzy.

Thanks, and may the force be with you.