Writer to Writer…to Writer to Writer? Sweetland Interview Series Spawns more Writing

We’ve been busy at Sweetland this year growing our Writer to Writer offerings, including continuing to host interviews between a Sweetland faculty member (Shelley Manis) and a prominent U-M faculty member and writer once a semester. These are held at Literati Bookstore in November and March, and are recorded for later broadcast on WCBN radio and podcast on Sweetland’s website. Last November we welcomed Pulitzer Prize winning historian Heather Ann Thompson. March’s guest was Associate Professor in the departments of Middle East Studies and History Ellen Muehlberger, whose interview coincided with the publication of her newest book, Moment of Reckoning: Imagined Death and Its Consequences in Late Ancient Christianity (Oxford).

You can listen to the audio of Heather Ann’s, Ellen’s, or other previous guests’ interviews here!

Shelley Manis (L) with Ellen Muehlberger (R)
Shelley Manis (L) with Heather Ann Thompson (R)

Meanwhile, the Minor in Writing students launched a Minor-led student literary journal and blog named after and associated with the series, Writer to Writer. These intrepid students dropped their “Zero Edition” e-journal in the Winter of 2018 and published their first print journal (also available online here) in the spring of 2019. The W2W executive board continues to build Writer to Writer’s visibility and engagement with rolling submissions for the ejournal and blog, and a second print edition in the works for spring. They’re also expanding their reach to host community events, such as a November “Writers’ Jam,” which created space for people to do prompted creative writing and share their work, and they’ve planned a writing workshop for January of 2020.

2018 National Day on Writing

This year, in celebration of the National Day on Writing, the Sweetland Center’s Writer to Writer committee collected thank you notes addressed  to our good friend, Writing, for whatever the wonderful things it has done for us. Students who visited the Writing Workshop and Peer Writing Centers, as well as students in Sweetland faculty’s classes and many other visitors to the Center, wrote notes ranging from utmost sincerity to tongue-in-cheek parody.  Here are just a few…

Writer to Writer

Writer to Writer

Sweetland’s Writer to Writer series engages U-M faculty members in conversations about their writing practices as well as their expectations of student writers. During the past year the series hosted Phil Deloria (Fall 2016) and Clare Croft (Winter 2017) as its seventh and eighth guests. Deloria, who holds appointments in the Departments of History and American Culture as well as Programs in the Environment and Native American Studies, spoke with host Shelley Manis about how his Native American heritage inflects his scholarly and popular work. He also read aloud from his work-in-progress, Toward an American Indian Abstract, which he describes as “an extended piece of art criticism.”  Croft, an Assistant Professor in the School of Music Theatre and Dance, spoke with Manis about her two recently released book projects: Dancers as Diplomats: American Choreography in Cultural Exchange, and Queer Dance: Meanings and Makings. Croft read from Dancers as Diplomats and spoke eloquently about her writerly responsibilities and choices in crafting dance history based in part on interviews with dancers who participated in the State Department’s artistic diplomacy during the cold war. Both Deloria and Croft provided lively insight into the trials and tribulations of finding and starting new projects, powering through writer’s block, and teaching young writers how to hone their craft.

On November 21st at 7pm we welcomed Dr. Howard Markel to discuss his newly released The Kelloggs: The Battling Brothers of Battle Creek.  Students attend these sessions in order to learn more about the ways their professors write. The interviews are broadcast live and recorded by WCBN at Literati Bookstore,  and those present in the audience are able to ask questions near the end of the hour. You can find podcasts of these interviews on the Sweetland website.

National Day on Writing

National Day on Writing

This year, in celebration of the National Day on Writing (October 20th), the Sweetland Center’s Writer to Writer committee collected over 200 thank you notes addressed  to our good friend, Writing, for whatever the wonderful things it has done for us. “Why?,” you might ask. Though we’ve enjoyed holding digital challenges in the past few years, we wanted to see if there was anything to the newly percolating theory that we’re “post-digital.” Ok, probably not, but we do know that there’s pleasure in returning to pen and paper forms, and Jimmy Fallon’s “Thank You Notes” segments have paved the way for a range of responses. We hoped we’d collect enough cards to deck the halls of Sweetland with them, and did we ever! Students who visited the Writing Workshop and Peer Writing Centers, as well as students in Sweetland faculty’s classes and many other visitors to the Center, wrote notes ranging from utmost sincerity to tongue-in-cheek parody.  One that we loved ironically “thanked” Writing for things like making them stay up all night–among other things about Writing that can drive the best of us to distraction–but still ultimately came around to an honest expression of gratitude for every now and then making sense and signed it, “a fan.” People thanked Writing for introducing them to their favorite authors, connecting them to professors and other students they feel kinship with, for getting them scholarships, and even in some cases for saving their lives.

International Writing Across the Curriculum Conference

From June 23-25, Sweetland hosted the 13th International Writing across the Curriculum (IWAC) conference. 473 scholars came from all over the world to discuss how writing across the curriculum programs and initiatives can give greater attention to the wide variety of complicated issues surrounding the term difference. The conference call invited proposals that situated the cross-disciplinarity of Writing across the Curriculum (WAC) and Writing in the Disciplines (WID) programs “within a pedagogy of inclusivity by asking how our pedagogy can broaden ideas of difference within and beyond the classroom to include social, cultural, linguistic, modal, and media differences, among others.” The planning team—Anne Ruggles Gere, Raymond McDaniel, Shelley Manis, Christine Modey, Simone Sessolo, and Naomi Silver—made some deliberate choices to create a conference program that would be as diverse as possible across a range of areas. For instance, each plenary event included three speakers, one of whom was a graduate student or an emerging scholar; scholarships were provided for several international participants, as well as for graduate students; and those proposing sessions were encouraged to emphasize the theme of difference in their program descriptions.

In keeping with the conference theme, pre-conference workshops addressed topics like creating inclusive writing assignments and creating partnerships across differences. The first plenary event focused on the history and new directions for theory and research in WAC; the second took a global perspective on encountering difference across places, languages, and technologies; and the third reflected on the implications of lessons learned from the conference. Individual sessions featured titles like “Inclusivity, Disciplinary Reciprocity and Disability,” “Designing a WAC Institute for Modal Diversity,” and “Narrating across Differences: Identities, Institutions, and Instruction,” all of which generated lively conversations throughout the three days of the conference.

Passing the IWAC torch to Margaret Marshall, Director of University Writing at Auburn University, for the 2018 conference.

National Day on Writing | Writer to Writer

It’s easy enough to imagine writing as a fundamentally solitary activity, but it gains its greatest meaning when it is shared – when it enters, creates or expands community. As the University of Michigan begins to implement its Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Plan, we aim to make our initiatives serve those goals.

In collaboration with Literati Bookstore and WCBN, the Sweetland Center for Writing’s “Writer to Writer” program hosted Philip Deloria, Carroll Smith-Rosenberg Collegiate Professor of American Culture and History, at Literati’s event space on November 15th. These Writer to Writer conversations invite students and community members to engage with some of our most accomplished faculty members as equal partners in the enterprise of thinking about writing and using writing itself to think. As a scholar who writes about Native Americans, the American West, and the environment, Professor Deloria is well-positioned to discuss how personal, social and scholarly writing overlap. The diversity and variety of Professor Deloria’s interests, responsibilities and writing guaranteed a dynamic and rich conversation.

In the same spirit, on October 20th Sweetland responded to the National Council of Teachers of English National Day on Writing by asking out students to modify the #whyIwrite challenge. We invited them to tweet their answers to the question of “What’s the best possible future for the University of Michigan?” as a way of imagining the scope and scale of writing to and for a more inclusive Michigan.