Starting and Maintaining Writing Groups NICOLETTE HYLAN M AT T H E W P R I C E T H E G R A D U AT E W R I T I N G C E N T E R [email protected] Graduate Writing Center One-on-one consultations All types of writing All stages of the writing process To schedule, see the Center’s website: http://composition.la.psu.edu/composition/resources/g raduate-writing-center Or go directly to the online schedule: https://secure.gradsch.psu.edu/wccal/studentview.cfm Workshop Goals Discuss the benefits of writing groups Offer advice on how to start/maintain writing groups Give you strategies and concrete tools that will help you make progress in/with groups (Tentatively) form writing groups Benefits of Writing Groups Have the company and support of your peers, many of whom are facing similar challenges Hold you more accountable for meeting deadlines Offer fresh eyes and perspectives on various aspects of your writing/writing process Expand your available resources (sources, ideas, styles of writing) Getting Started • There is no definitive way to start and maintain a writing group. • Think of it as a learning process (each meeting is a step in the right direction). • Start small—see what works for the group dynamic (time, page length, location, etc). • Assess what changes need to be made along the way and post-semester. Things to Think About 1.What are your goals? 2. How big should the group be? (Recommended 4-6 people to start.) 3. When can you meet? Where? How often? How long? (More) Things to Think About How will you format your meetings? Ex. Two members of a four member group will be responsible for producing writing for discussion. Writing will be emailed out 5 days before the meeting. Each paper will be discussed for approximately 45 minutes. (A Few More) Things to Think About What rules will you follow for your meetings? Ex. A writing group meets on campus at Whiskers (Nittany Lion Inn). Members who don’t meet deadlines are penalized $20.00 (to pay for drinks after the meetings). What are your expectations in terms of preparation? How much writing is practical? How much feedback is reasonable? Group Discussion List 5-10 things that describe the ideal writing group situation (including things we haven’t covered). For a writing group to work successfully everyone needs to . . . Group Discussion List of 5-10 things that might hinder a writing group situation—what have been your experiences in the past? How might you address some of these things? Activities For Writing Groups 1. If you haven’t written anything, discuss your prewriting activities or any obstacles that are hindering your process. 2. Offer feedback and talk about how it has helped the evolution of your writing. 3. Discuss future plans for the group meeting. For example, you can choose a writing issue to discuss together (i.e. drafting/ proof-reading, footnotes, etc.). The Feedback Process (Writer and Editor) 1. Provide a summary and goal(s) for your writing before the meeting. 2. Explain your biggest concern(s). 3. Start with a brief and overarching feedback list. Be clear about what feedback would be most helpful. Identify specific areas of concern. 4. Be realistic and understanding. Responding Tips • Responding to a peer’s draft can be a daunting task— relax! • Be generally supportive, descriptive, and specific— start with the positives. • Be honest as well, even if it’s difficult (questions instead of accusations). • Clarify issues you don’t understand—learn from your peers. • Ex. A GWC Session Supportive Feedback Negative Feedback: “I really dislike the middle section. I have no idea what you’re going for there.” Supportive Feedback: “I’m completely persuaded by the first section, but I’m a bit lost in the second. Could you say a bit more about that argument?” Specific Feedback Imprecise: “It’s just not working.” Specific: “On page four, I think you are conflating two ideas. They seem to be nicely separated on page three— perhaps you can clarify the difference?” Descriptive Feedback “Your topic sentence doesn’t seem to work as well here because it doesn’t align with the rest of the paragraph.” Give feedback based on your reader’s intended audience: “Would your audience understand this term? Does it need clarification?” “Is this technical diction necessary for a conference presentation?” General Tips on Feedback • Don’t get overwhelmed. • Choose three “big” points to cover. • Tailor your commentary to the writer’s needs as listed in their feedback request. • Write clearly and use recognizable marks. • Try to learn from your peers! Writing Group Formation Form three groups: Hard Sciences, Social Sciences, Humanities • Introduce yourself to the people around you: Would you all be interested in forming a group? Are your interests “close” enough to one another? • Take some time to get to know your members, exchange information, etc. Do you know others who might be interested? • Set up the framework for a writing group (meeting times, frequency of meetings, number of members, amount of writing). Thank you for Joining Us! Please feel welcome to visit the Graduate Writing Center for an individual consultation on your writing projects. Even if you haven’t yet begun to write (and are maybe wondering how to start) we’re happy to talk to you. To schedule an appointment, please visit our website.