Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Welcome to the 2014 Winter Edition of eMuse!

In this edition...

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State of the Eastern Michigan Writing Project

Bill Tucker, Director

As I post positions and write a new Teacher Leadership grant, I decided to join the President with a look at the road ahead.
Posting positions is an annual ritual, but the funding of them becomes more creative as the years go by. This year the National Writing Project has dangled another Teacher Leadership grant to keep our site humming, but the $20,000 is for two years, so that will not keep all the lights on. We will fund about half of the positions attached from that source, but we are also appealing to the College of Arts and Sciences and drawing on a small grant from the Pitney Bowes Foundation to pursue new initiatives. Please note your applications for the posted positions are due February 15.

Some of the new initiatives include improving our understanding of the writing of students classified with special needs and how to assist them, learning how to make our professional voices public and potent, and designing media to guide one-to-one teaching of writing.

Behind the scenes our professional development program is graduating to longer contracts and relationships with schools, especially in the Down River area. Sarah Lorenz has recruited interest in writing across the curriculum in a number of districts in Wayne and Monroe counties, so we are on the road every week. Professional Development is now a self-supporting program. In fact it is our primary source of revenue.

In this issue you will note Literacy Coaching institutes, Advanced in April and Basic in August. Julia Keider (TC ’00) has coordinated with literacy coaches within our network and at EMU to plan and present these institutes, and they offer another model for embedded professional development.

The new reality of the Writing Project is that we can no longer offer our programs for free (although “Literacy for Life” comes pretty close). Even the Summer Institute will now have credit and noncredit charges, making it a self-funding program. We rely on you to spread the word that what we offer is at least worth what we charge. You have always been our best publicists, and we need your voice more than ever.

Here’s to shameless self-promotion and an early spring!
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EMWP Literacy Coaching Institute

Julia Keider

EMWP has already trained over 40 coaches in less than nine months for public and charter schools across Michigan, and we hope to continue the momentum with long-term supports for a school like yours!

EMWP continues to invest in the development of coaches to support and sustain the literacy development of teachers and their students. The Literacy Coaching Institutes are designed to build collaboration with teachers, coaches, administrators, and educational professionals who use coaching strategies to engage learners in metacognitive conversations.

Here are the highlights of the trainings currently being offered:

EMWP Basic Literacy Coaching Institute
Offered August 2014 (Two Days)

• Explore the importance of establishing working relationships and coaching agreements
• Observe demonstrations of coach-the-teacher and coach-the-coach sessions, with a focus on metacognition
• Practice literacy protocols that are “ready-to-use” for teachers in the classroom and coaches for PD
• Discuss current issues coaches face working in Michigan’s schools as well as how to engage in supports for coaches
• Develop routines embedded in coaching mindsets and frameworks

EMWP Advanced Literacy Coaching Institute
Offered April 2014 (Two Days)

• Focus on building relationships within working environments
• Develop consciousness and efficacy in coaching conversations
• Practice reflective conversations using classroom feedback and observations
• Advance knowledge of familiar “best practices” within coaching networks
• Observe and provide data-driven feedback to coaching conversations and classroom observations

You can download the Advanced Coaching Institute flyer here. For information and registration, contact EMWP Literacy Coaching Institute Facilitator Julia Keider:

Mark your Calendar!

Coaching for the Classroom (1-day): Week of August 4th

Cohort III Basic Coaching Institutes (2-day): Week of August 18th

Advanced Coaching Institutes (2-day): Week of September 22nd

(2014-2015) EMWP Saturday Workshops for Coaches
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Why have EMWP’s Family Literacy Initiative present at your school?

Cathy Fleischer and Kim Pavlock

Reason #5: Bring some warmth into your life by having parents support your research-based best teaching practices.

Reason #4: Reduce phone calls from parents, asking why there aren’t more red marks on their child’s paper.

Reason #3: Rally support from parents to help principals and administrators understand why you teach in the Writing Project way.

Reason #2: Encourage your co-workers to learn more about EMWP and perhaps sign up for the Summer Institute. Multiple Writing Project teachers in one school—nirvana!!

Reason #1: Engage parents in fun writing activities that they can use to help students avoid the summer slide in literacy.

For a listing of our workshops, check out the Family Literacy Initiative website.
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Summer Writing Retreat: Save the date: June 19-22, 2014!

Angela Knight and Kris Gedeon

After two amazing but cool September retreats at the Parsons Center in Lake Ann, just outside Traverse City, we requested a summer retreat.


Yes, I know. I am familiar with Up North summer weather. Mid-June still might be cool and rainy and not much different from mid-September weather, but then again, it might actually be summer up there.

June 19-22 is a Thursday-Sunday. Hopefully your school year will be over by then and you'll be ready to treat the writer in you before the rest of your summer commences. More details to follow.

In the meantime, I'll be hoping for Michigan snow by day but dreaming of writing time, lake views, and Moomer's Ice Cream by night.

Verbal reservations have already started to appear in my inbox!
Make your verbal reservation by emailing Angela.
Your reservation will be confirmed and your room reserved when you send $25 payable to EMWP to Angela.
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What Do College Writers Need?

Kim Pavlock

On January 11, 2014, new and experienced teachers, along with pre-service teachers braved the snow, cold, and slippery roads to attend the EMWP Literacy for Life Saturday Session: “What do College Writers Need?”

Teacher Consultants Cindy Guillean, Chelsea Lonsdale, Pam McCombs, and Kim Pavlock, all EMU first-year writing instructors, spoke about the different kinds of writing students are asked to do in college and those qualities that help students be successful writers. Two EMU students, freshman Erika Greassley and sophomore Gloria Howard, talked about their transition to college and what college writing has been like for them. Their expectations compared to what they experienced in college was, as one workshop participant noted, “eye-opening.” Very different from the five-paragraph essay and the test-prep they practiced in high school, the writing assignments they encountered included writing field notes, interviews, ethnographies, inquiry essays, genre studies, websites, and more.

This Saturday workshop demonstrated the brilliance of the Writing Project way: teachers teaching teachers. When we add to that the insight gleaned from students teaching teachers, what a combination! As one teacher commented, “Sessions like these rejuvenate my teaching and remind me what I’m passionate about is possible to transmit to students.”
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Eastern Michigan Writing Project Reunion

Erin Umpstead

The Eastern Michigan Writing Project (EMWP) had a reunion for its membership in early November 2013 at the Corner Brewery in Ypsilanti. The fellows and leadership from the previous years were invited and many fun things were planned including a writers' marathon, writing prompts, finger foods, and excellent company.

In fact, a good natured competition was put forth that the year with the most attendees would receive a free book from the EMWP's library. With that motivation to spur us on to greatness, the class of 2013 showed up, in full force, ready to reminisce, reconnect, and rejuvenate the feelings of camaraderie that the summer institute had engendered.

Engaged as I am with my full-time teaching job and my graduate studies at Eastern, I almost did not attend. Not only would I have missed the drawings for the wonderful and imaginative survival baskets being raffled, but I would have missed the feeling of community I was already missing. The EMWP changed my life as a writer and as an educator. Attending the reunion was a bolster to my spirit and put a smile on my face.
To anyone who has not yet taken the leap, I urge you to become a part of the EMWP. For those of you fellows out there whose lives have been enriched by the summer institute, get yourselves to the next reunion. I will be there to greet you and remember just what a wonderful experience it truly was.

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The Opportunity of a Lifetime

Jeff Taylor and Angela Knight

We met during the EMWP summer institute in 2005. Jeff was trying to figure out how to teach writing to sixth graders and Angela was returning for a second SI. Our backgrounds are polar opposites: Jeff is a math/science teacher, and Angela lives for language arts. However, both of us are passionate about helping our students learn through writing.

We returned to the SI in 2007 and 2008 as part of the leadership team. At that time, we realized that we enjoyed teaching together. When we received an email about an opportunity to teach at the college level, we both applied without hesitation. Before the meeting, we discussed the possibility of working together and a collegiate co-teaching model was born. In Fall 2013, we taught ENGL 408, Writing for Secondary Teachers.

If we were members of a basketball team, Angela was the point guard and Jeff was the power forward. Angela was the captain who set the tone with intense preparation and made sure that the team was on the same page. Jeff made sure that things went well on the court. He got the crowd going with his enthusiasm for the game. In the college classroom, each of us had a distinct role to play and we knew that we could count on the other to get the job done to best of our abilities while also bringing out the best in each other.

When we were education students, we each had aspirations of teaching at the college level, but we never dreamed of the non-traditional path that we would follow to get there. As a full time middle school teacher, adding a college class is an overwhelming proposition. In a field that is often secluded and lonely, we found a winning team. We learned from each other, our students, and the EMU faculty. We appreciate the opportunity, and our dedicated students, that kept us thinking about our game plan each week.
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We all want our students to write well, with rigor and relevance, for multiple situations and in varied genres. But our time is limited. If we can't possibly "cover" every genre our students will encounter on their way to becoming college and career ready, what else can we do? We can teach students the tools and strategies they need to explore genres on their own.

Join Cathy Fleischer and Sarah Andrew-Vaughan, authors of Writing Outside Your Comfort Zone: Helping Students Navigate Unfamiliar Genres, in a three-part journey as we think together about genre instruction in the classroom and introduce the Unfamiliar Genre Project.
We'd love you to join us for one part or all three!

Part 1: Book Study: (March 31-April 20, 2014). Read and talk about Writing Outside Your Comfort Zone with colleagues across the country in a loosely-structured, three-week, online conversation with the authors and each other.

Part 2: Trying Your Own Unfamiliar Genre Project: (July 7-25, 2014). Over the summer, try your hand at writing in an unfamiliar genre, following some of the approaches and strategies suggested in the book and sharing your attempts and experiences with the authors and participating colleagues.

Part 3: Bringing It Back to School: (October 9 and October 16, 2014 at 7:30 p.m. EST on Google Hangout). Save the dates for two sessions in the fall term to share your successes and challenges implementing the Unfamiliar Genre Project and get ideas from the authors and participating colleagues.

Look for announcements on how to sign up coming in February!!!
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Inkstains: Summer Writing Camp at EMU

Aimee Grant

As we gaze out our windows into the wintry white and daydream about what the color green looks like, escape the polar vortex by penciling in some fun summer plans. Go ahead and get out the calendar. Flip, flip, flip ahead until you set your sights on July. Why not fill in some of those blank boxes with a week at Inkstains?

Inkstains summer writing camp is: sitting in the cool shadow of a tall sculpture during a writing marathon, pencil scribbling across the page of your marbled covered notebook; hearing the click clack of keyboards blogging away, posting writing, and cheering other writers on; feeling the warm applause of camp friends, family members, and teachers as you stand before them to proudly read your published piece.

Inkstains is the camp you go to because you love writing, and you want to be surrounded by other book-lovin’, stubby pencil using, writer’s notebook carrying teens. So, if you are a first-timer or returning alumna, come spend a week of your break on Eastern’s beautiful campus. Immerse yourself in an environment of like-minded authors and bibliophiles. We hope to see you this July.

The Inkstains middle school camp is for incoming grades 6-8, and it runs July 7-11. The high school camp is for incoming grades 9-12, and it is July 14-18. The application deadline, with a discounted tuition rate, is June 14, 2014. You can download the application here. For more information, check out our camp page at the EMWP website or contact camp co-director Kimberly Pavlock at or 734-487-4220.

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Live and Let Relive

by Erin Umpstead
with Kevin English, Kris Gedeon,
Angela Knight, Marquin Parks, and Amy Perry

The Eastern Michigan Writing Project's fall retreat was one about which you would want to write home. Six writers gathered from around Michigan in order to celebrate the place writing holds in each of our lives. A precious place. We journeyed from afar. We brought breakfast food, bottled water, and our muse. We brought the stress of the new school year clinging to our minds and to the backs of our heels. We brought chocolate. While the chocolate disappeared that first night, the stress seemed to melt with it. Here at EMU's Parsons Center, we writers are among our kind. We are home.

In its fifth year, the writers' retreat has a pretty good routine. Write, write, write, travel, eat, shop, write, eat some more, write over the best ice cream there is, and then share in a circle of trust that holds each piece sacred and worthy of comment. This retreat has talked me down from the ledge and out of the keyed-up ball of stress that arrived a mere two days ago. I'm already thinking of next year. I'm thinking of the deciduous forest and the small creek down the steep hill. I'm thinking, already, of the writing marathon stops and the writing goals I'll be sure to reach next year with the support and encouragement of this special writing circle of retreat revelers.

Each of the six of us had a purpose for our northward trek. Angela had five writing goals and happily completed four. Erin wanted to ease the press of what was in her mind - writing to clean house, as it were. Marquin came to crawl back into his mind to negotiate the release of a new character in a novel. Kevin set his sights on relaxing, rediscovering his inner writer, and recovering from the creative quash that occurs when he is away from like-minded National Writing Project Teacher Consultants. Kris was revved up to refocus her energy; remember why she writes; find inspiration for her next novel; wake up her muse (she had been napping); make new friends; write. Amy sought to achieve a state of flow in her writing and to reconnect with the eager, enthusiastic collaboration that happens when people from NWP are together.

Whatever our personal purpose, each of us added to our word counts, filled in holes, finished notebooks, prepared to inspire others, and wrote to challenge ourselves. Today we go home and again take up our heavy loads. Our time here at the writers' retreat mattered.
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Confessions of a Nanowrimo Winner

Maryann Dreske

On November 1, 2013, after having failed to complete a novel for Camp Nanowrimo in July, I recommitted to writing a novel for Nanowrimo. Since I had no plot, characters or ideas, I used an on-line plot generator and then began listening to my friends and family for ideas. My niece told me about a man she had dated who had two-timed her. This villainous man was the prototype for Frank Winchelli, an attorney. My friend Christi's mom had majored in home economics and was a wonderful homemaker. She became the model for Sheila's widowed mom Barbie.

Barbie took yoga classes at a studio similar to the one I attend in Royal Oak. My friend Laurajean is a retired school principal, and I used her as the starting point for Loretta, although Laurajean would never cause problems like Loretta did. The characters seemed to take on a life of their own. On their second date, Frank Winchelli admitted to Sheila that he was still married and was also dating his secretary. That wasn't supposed to happen until much later! Barbie unexpectedly adopted a dog and then dropped her long-term beau when she learned he was dog phobic. Loretta spilled the beans about a plot to get revenge on Jack's mother. Those crazy characters! I had virtually no control over them. They acted like students in a classroom when there are only fifteen minutes left until Winter break. When my writing tank was on empty, Nanowrimo would send pep talks and hints. The best hint I received when I was struggling was to "put my character up a tree." I took this to mean put the characters in bad situations, which I gladly did. Jack's mother tried to get Barbie to help break up Jack and Sheila. Jack's bowling alley was lost due to an urban renewal project. Barbie's new job in a distant city forced Sheila to finally leave home. Robin, Sheila's best friend was very suspicious of Jack, and unwittingly caused Sheila and Jack to break up. Robin's boyfriend returned to France (without her). One of the characters got pregnant. Someone was always up a tree. A theme of forgiveness and redemption began to unexpectedly weave itself through my novel. Barbie was a positive influence on everyone. Like my characters' crazy actions, the theme just emerged. Nanowrimo taught me that there is something magical about writing. It takes consistent effort to reach 50,000 words in a month and I have much more respect for novelists then I did before I wrote mine. But I also have a greater sense of awe for the creative process. Two of my friends read my novel as I wrote it. They encouraged me by discussing the plot, talking about possible events and situations, and even proofreading it for me. They have both asked me to write a sequel. That really made me feel good! I urge every one of you to try Nanowrimo or Camp Nanowrimo. And if you don't succeed, try again! Read more!

Writing an essay is not like preparing a McDonald’s hamburger, but it can provide a feast instead of just a quick meal

Jim Schaefer

As I work with my college writing students, I have found it helpful to remind them of what Natalie Goldberg said about composing in her book, Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer within. Many writing scholars are familiar with Goldberg’s interest in blending Zen meditation and writing practice, and I also have found it useful to reflect on the importance of place and memory, time and experience in creating written work.

In her book, Goldberg challenges the reader to regard the process of writing as being more complex than simply preparing a fast-food item like a hamburger. Writing, she said, is more like a journey of discovery. When we start our journey, we are not totally sure of where we are going nor of how quickly we will arrive. Unlike the McDonald’s cook, who must quickly complete a hamburger of a specific weight and dimensions within a given period of time, the writer must follow where the material leads him or her in whatever time that it takes. The end result may be magnificent, function in a completely different way than first intended, and take much, much longer than originally planned. Indeed, instead of a quick simple meal, the writer may provide a wonderful feast that is much more satisfying.

Works Cited
Goldberg, Natalie. Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer within (2nd ed.). Boston, MA: Shambala, 2005.
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