Sunday, November 29, 2015

Monday Announcements

Adolescent Literature Assembly of NCTE Annual Workshop
This week we have several meetings coming up, and anyone in the Red River Valley Writing Project is welcome to attend. All meetings are on Saturday.
10am to 11am--Scholastic Art and Writing Awards meeting. We will be discussing our plans for judging and planning the statewide ceremony.
11am-noon--Report on the National Writing Project Annual Meeting, which took place November 18-20 in Minneapolis and an overview of new grant opportunities.
noon to 1pm--Working groups to meet to work on the writing retreat, the summer institute, and grant opportunities.
Meetings to take place in the conference room of  318 Minard Hall on the NDSU campus. Lunch will be provided for working groups.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Weekend Writing: A Letter of Gratitude

Write a letter of gratitude to someone you should have thanked long ago. Extra challenge: Actually deliver that letter to its intended recipient.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Weekend Writing: Turkey, Clutch, Frame, Go!

Write a poem with the following words: turkey, clutch, frame. Extra brownie points to the writer who works “cranberry sauce” in there somewhere, too!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

AuTHor Thursday: Meet Cindy Nichols

Welcome to AuThor Thursday.

Meet Cindy Nichols, a local author who also teaches in the NDSU English Department.

Cindy graciously gave us some insight into her writing world. 

I hail from Southern California originally, received my MFA in poetry from the Iowa Writer’s Workshop, then headed north and have lived in Fargo for more years than I care to mention! My poems have appeared in a variety of national journals, including The Kenyon Review, Mid-American Review, Cimarron Review, and Sentence: A Journal of Prose Poetics.  I like coffee. A lot.  Also Affenpinschers, the Tetons, and sport/show kites. I own a very weird number of kites.
Recent interests include affinities between the creative process—poetry in particular—and contemplative practices, new and ancient.  I recently spent a week at Brown University talking with people who are spearheading the use of these practices in education, and I also ran a residential two-day creative writing/meditation workshop with Humanities Council funding.


I write plenty of “normal” poems, but I also do a somewhat wacky range of stuff, including mixed-genre and mixed-media pieces: scholarly essays which include animation, poetry, and various interactive gizmos, for example; and scholarly essay/personal essay hybrids. I have a piece in Enculturation which experiments in this way, called “Responding in Kind: Down in the Body in the Undergraduate Poetry Course )Thoughts on Bakhtin, Hypertext, and Cheap Wigs(. Another is a letter-essay on the place of Creative Writing in English Studies which appeared in New Writing: The International Journal for the Practice and Theory of Creative Writing  (it is actually a letter written to a class taught by Amy Taggart). And another is an anthologized piece which explores labor issues in English Studies: “Uppity Subalterns and Brazen Compositionists.”

I also have a piece in Dr. Verena Theile’s recent anthology, New Formalisms and Literary Theory, called  “Punk Bodies, Jorie Graham, and ‘The Draft Itself’: Notes Toward a Lyric Formalism.”

Why do I write?

This is antiquated process stuff, but, honestly, I write “to see where it will go.” I think my muse is a semi-crazy hippy piper whose sound makes me giddy and, well, stupid. He doesn’t know where he’s going either.

My interest in bending genres comes I think comes in part from what Wallace Stevens had in mind: “poetry is the mind in the act of finding itself.”  Hybrid and constantly varying forms are a “natural” consequence of trying to say something that won’t stay still—if nothing else, just how it feels, right down to our nerve endings, to be trapped in time and strange bodies.

I think I write too as a simple way to cope with lost car keys, marital arguments, the bumper-car ride of working in an English department, endlessly [expletive] icy sidewalks, and a prairie landscape so beautiful it makes me drool.


The stuff that most turns me on is experimental lyricism.  I love love lyrical poetry, and I also love weird and challenging poetry. My primary inspiration has to be Jorie Graham (the weird side) and James Galvin (the lyrical side). They were married and sort of my mom and dad in grad school.  And man, they fought a lot.

Graham is an insanely strong personality and she remains one of my favorite contemporary writers.  Galvin too. I also love Fanny Howe, Anne Carson, Tony Hoagland, Lisa Lewis, and, well, it goes on. I always go back to a lot of dead white guys: Shakespeare, Donne, Herbert, Hopkins, Keats, Yeats, Blake, Wordsworth, WHITMAN, and pretty much all of the modernists. And Dickinson. Lately reading Mary Oliver and a variety of poets whose work is “contemplative” but not explicitly Buddhist. And I really love Neruda.  And Dean Young, a semi-young writer who is sublimely nuts.

Rodney Jones’ thick, intense, Southern, hyper-detailed and hyper-jaded poems. Are wonderful.
What advice do you have for writing teachers?

1.  Always be actively writing yourself.

2.     Always be actively writing yourself.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Wednesday Wisdom: Tips to Have a Great NCTE

This week (and weekend) the NCTE conference is happening in Minneapolis, and a group of teacher consultants from the Red River Valley Writing Project is going to join in the conversation about Responsibility, Creativity and the Arts of Language.

In preparation for the conference, Sarah, the Vocab Gal, has some tips for making the conference a great one. Head over to her site to learn more.

Have a great Wednesday!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Tuesday Teacher Feature: Kim Donehower

This week's Featured Teacher, Kim Donehower, is an Associate Professor of English at UND and former director of RRVWP. She completed Summer Institute in 1999. Kim shared the following responses to my interview questions about her experiences with teaching, reading, and writing:

What are you currently reading?
The Rise of Writing, by Deborah Brandt. It’s a fascinating look at the fact that writing is starting to eclipse reading as a preferred activity for many people, especially young people. The book raises all kinds of interesting questions for teachers: What do we do with students who like to write but may not like to read? Can someone become a good writer without extensive reading? Are some of our students doing all kinds of writing outside of the classroom that we don’t know about, and if so, how could we recruit their skills and interests into the classroom? Or should we?

Why do you read?
I do two kinds of reading: reading something to teach it or write about it, and reading just to read. The second kind is incredibly important to my sanity! I think we all need activities that we do just because we want to do them, and not towards any larger goal. I love the rare chance to lose myself for a couple of hours in reading something that’s really engaging, whether it’s fiction or non-fiction.

What do you write outside the classroom?
My outside-the-classroom writing is mostly academic: essays and conference papers. But recently, I’ve started to experiment with infusing personal writing and some journalistic style into my academic pieces. It has been such a relief to start to put more personality into the “official” writing that I do. And I think most people would much rather read or listen to those kinds of pieces, too.

Do any of your writing philosophies/interests translate to your teaching?
I have started to encourage my students to experiment with blending different genres, getting some research into their personal pieces and some personality and creativity into their academic writing. While every school genre has certain expectations attached to it, I think there is some wiggle room—once the requirements of a piece of writing have been met—to experiment with style, arrangement, and rhetorical strategies.

Who encouraged you to be a teacher?

I don’t remember anyone encouraging me to be a teacher. The assumption in my school seemed to be that the “smart kids” would become doctors or lawyers, as though those were the only options. But I certainly had English teachers I loved—particularly Mrs. Lucy Ross, grammar and style maven, who was both the toughest teacher I ever had and still the one most beloved by my schoolmates, thirty-five years later. She cultivated my delight in playing with language, from vocabulary to syntax to rhythm and rhyme.  And she herself was so creative in her teaching—she composed songs to help us remember grammar rules, and invented all kinds of classroom games—that she was always modeling for me what a creative profession teaching can be.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Monday Announcements

I hope everyone had a chance to enjoy the unseasonably warm weather this weekend. What is happening this week is the National Writing Project Annual Meeting, which takes place in Minneapolis this year. Next year it is in Atlanta, so I am glad that 12 people from the Red River Valley Writing Project (that I know of) have chosen to attend this year's meeting.
Karen Taylor writing with NWP teachers from around the country

The meeting kicks off with a reception on Wednesday evening. On Thursday, we will gather together for a continental breakfast before choosing round table sessions to attend. Two of our TCs, Lori Hieserich and Jenna Trosvik, will be presenting, along with me, about the SEED grant for High-Needs School project at Circle of Nations. We will be presenting with Michael Thompson of the Biste Writing Project in New Mexico. The day ends with a social and game jam, "part workshop, part hangout, all fun." The fun continues the next day.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Weekend Writing: A Rebuttal

Check out the opinion section of a local newspaper. Pick a letter to the editor or editorial and write a rebuttal. For an extra challenge, choose a piece with which you agree.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Rejuvenation Friday: To Listen in the Silence

To Listen in the Silence
By Erika Dyk

Friday afternoon.
The classroom, empty.

But shadows remain--
Of words,

Listening to the silence,
Really listening.
Remembering the past.
Looking to the future.

Friday afternoon.
The classroom waits in anticipation

If you're willing to listen.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

AuTHor Thursday

Welcome to Author Thursday! Building on last week's post about how YOU are the featured author, we want to let you know about MORE opportunities to develop your writing.

First, the Fargo-Moorhead writing group meets on Saturday, November 14th. Meet up at Dunn Brothers Coffee, 13th Ave S and 25th St at 9am with your journal or computer and get ready to write!

Second, writing retreat planning is underway. Let us know your preferences this year by taking a SUPER SHORT survey:

Third, it is not too soon to start thinking about when and where you will do your writing next summer. One option is the Northwoods Writers Conference, scheduled for  June 20-26, 2016.
This year’s workshop faculty members are Jericho Brown (Poetry), Natalie Diaz (Poetry), Lorraine Lopez (Fiction), Rebecca Brown (Creative Nonfiction), and LeAnne Howe (Multi-genre).
And our Distinguished Visiting Writer is Joy Harjo! 

More information: