The Yellow Brick Road To Non-Fiction Opportunities

It may appear that fiction authors have more leeway in their writing and storytelling. Not true. The Writing, Rhetoric and American Culture (WRAC) department at MSU offers many doors in which students can open and step into professions that involve a variety of non-fiction writing. What opportunities lie in non-fiction? Memoirs, diaries, documentaries, journals, textbooks, photographs, newspapers, magazines, instruction manuals, flash fiction essays, and writing for WRAC are all examples of non-fiction works. Surprisingly, this list is short compared to the many opportunities related to non-fiction that are out there.

yellow_road123 copyBefore we walk down the yellow brick road and discover the different stops WRAC has to offer towards non-fiction, let’s take a look at Webster’s definition of non-fiction, “writing that is about facts or real events.” If we go off Webster’s definition, non-fiction may appear boring. Instead we will use “Dr. Bump” Halbritter’s definition, “Not suspending disbelief, but inspiring belief about things that are accepted.” Well said. Now let’s continue walking down the yellow brick road and begin to explore the possibilities in WRAC.

First Stop: Which Character Are You?

The Scarecrow: The Undergraduate: “Dr. Bump” Halbritter finds excitement in teaching WRA425: Advanced Multimedia Writing, which allows students to uncover the documentary side of non-fiction. Students are given the opportunity to challenge their brains and create amazing videos, for instance, “For the 25” was made by PW alumni. Research and use visual and audio technology to mediate, create and remix text. You will be able to collect, process and edit information to create dialogue and script. This course is offered every spring semester. It is a continuation of WRA225: Intro to Multimedia Writing taught by Alexandra Hidalgo every fall semester.

The Tin Woodman: The MA Student: AL854: Nonfiction Writing Workshop is taught by Dr. Leonora Smith. She provides a set of assignments, experiments and challenges that explore non-fiction techniques and apply strategies of poetry and fiction to non-fiction writing. You’ll develop practices that lead you to write rich, powerful, satisfying non-fiction. With all my heart I was able to compose pieces that were ready for publication or presentation this semester. I am looking forward to reading my piece at the Conference of the Society for the Study of Midwestern Literature in spring 2014. Students are free to choose any topics and write collective pieces that will allow you to tell your side of the story. This course is offered every other year in the fall semester.

The Cowardly Lion: The PhD. Student: WRA853: Academic Writing is a new course that is going to be taught by Dr. Malea Powell. This course has a curriculum that will allow students to take strategies from creative non-fiction writing into their academic writing. This course is currently known as the Development of the Essay, starting spring 2015 it will be a new course on academic writing. Build the courage and be the first to take this course and take writing techniques and strategies from various creative writing fields, such as poetry and fiction, and use them as ways to make your academic writing better and use other techniques to break through writing blocks. Look forward to this course every spring as a required core course for PhD students and an elective for MA students. Another similar special topic to look forward to in 2015 is WRA891: Workshop in Rhetoric & Writing.

It isn’t uncommon for students to come into college not knowing exactly what they want. There is a variety of creative and imaginative faculty in WRAC that are dedicated towards helping students make the right turn on the yellow brick road. There are great staff and advisors who listen and cater to what you need. Don’t be afraid, college isn’t intended to be a lonely experience. Professors are here to encourage a variety of all kinds of work. Do like Dorothy, network and meet remarkable people along the yellow brick road and establish an amazing team that will help you pick courses and create a concentration. WRAC may not have a concentration geared towards only non-fiction, but once you established what you want, on your crossing towards the end of that road, you can pick out the stops you will make along the way. (more…)

Malea Powell Interviewed for MSU Today

Malea Powell was recently interviewed on MSU Today as part of their Faculty Conversations. Malea, who has worked at Michigan State for over ten years, spoke passionately about her work and the students she’s had the opportunity to teach.

As former Director of the Rhetoric and Writing graduate program, Malea is especially enthusiastic about higher education. “I like working with Ph.D. students because I like the idea that I’m producing my colleagues. Those will be the folks I’ll eventually be in my discipline with and that’s very exciting.”

Her specific interest in the discipline focuses on “American Indian material rhetorics and the degree to which these ‘everyday’ arts are related to written rhetorical traditions…I’m really interested in the connections between material makings—like basket weaving—and textual makings, like writing.”

To learn more about her research, her contributions to the Conference on College Composition and Communication, and her work here at MSU, read the full MSU Today article here, and enjoy her interview below.

Malea Powell Delivers Unconventional CCCC’s Chair Address

This year, the Conference on College Composition and Communication (CCCC) was held in St. Louis from March 21-24, and it was there that Dr. Malea Powell delivered a CCCC chair’s address unlike any previous — and half the time, she wasn’t even speaking.

Traditionally, the address is a 40-minute talk in which the chair speaks about his or her research and scholarship, or about the current state of the discipline, but Powell says that while she was terrified to step away from that convention, she knew that she wanted to do something vastly different. She said, “I wanted to make it hard for people to discount what was said.”

The address was a storytelling performance, in which 10 individuals stood up and narrated their own story, and seven others read quotes. “I wanted [the address] to say something about the organization — have a vision — and I wanted to give a talk that demonstrated and shared that vision.”

Those who spoke were broadly representative of the organization, spanning from tenured professors to graduate students; Powell said she feels that by structuring the speech as she did, she was able to express the organization’s values regarding collaboration and diversity.

Social media tools such as Twitter hashtags (#4C12) were also used to document how the talk circulated throughout the entire convention.

Aside from her address, Powell is also working with CCCC officers and EC members to craft a strategic vision for the organization, something that has never been created in the history of CCCC. “We have a mission statement, but that’s pretty abstract. Now, we are trying to craft a vision for the next decade to guide our governance actions.”

Powell also went on to express how important she feels it is that someone from WRAC was elected to the as chair, saying, “Here we are forward thinking, a little edgy, and a little risky in the work that we do, and we’re bringing that to an organization that’s not always been that way.”

Among many other tasks, the remainder of Powell’s appointment will involve working to finish the vision statement, moving forward with other important governance work (like creating a Committee on the Status of Graduate Students), and helping to rethink what it means to be a member of the organization in general. Powell hopes that by taking these important steps, the organization will begin to have more than a professional voice, but also a public voice that can position itself at the forefront of conversations about writing, rhetoric, and literacy.

Dr. Malea Powell Discusses CCCC’s American Indian Caucus

Featured here, Dr. Malea Powell, WRAC associate professor and American Indian Caucus co-chair, talks about the creation and evolution of the American Indian Caucus — from its inception to its current status. Powell also discusses her history with the caucus and her institutional work within the Conference on College Composition and Communication (CCCC), and the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) regarding the evolution and growth of the American Indian Caucus. Seen here are parts 1 and 2:

Writing and Working for Change Video Project Part 1, American Indian Caucus

Writing and Working for Change Video Project Part 2, American Indian Caucus

Conversations in Cultural Rhetorics: A Brown Bag Series

Conversations in Cultural Rhetorics
A Brown Bag Workshop Series

WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 26TH
1 – 3 p.m.
MSU WRITING CENTER, 300 BESSEY HALL

Anyone interested in Cultural Rhetorics is invited!
This workshop will:
o Share ideas about cultural rhetorics theories and methodologies
o Suggest ways to collaborate on projects grounded in cultural rhetorics
o Build a network of faculty and students doing cultural rhetorics work

Featured speakers include:
o Dr. Malea Powell, Associate Professor, WRAC
o Daisy Levy, Doctoral Candidate, WRAC
o Donnie Johnson Sackey, Doctoral Candidate, WRAC
o Jennifer Sano-Franchini, Doctoral Candidate, WRAC

Want more information?
Contact: Madhu Narayan (narayanm@msu.edu) or
Andrea Riley-Mukavetz (rileyan1@msu.edu)

Conversations in Cultural Rhetorics: A Brown Bag Series

Conversations in Cultural Rhetorics
A Brown Bag Workshop Series

WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 26TH
1 – 3 p.m.
MSU WRITING CENTER, 300 BESSEY HALL

Anyone interested in Cultural Rhetorics is invited!
This workshop will:
o Share ideas about cultural rhetorics theories and methodologies
o Suggest ways to collaborate on projects grounded in cultural rhetorics
o Build a network of faculty and students doing cultural rhetorics work

Featured speakers include:
o Dr. Malea Powell, Associate Professor, WRAC
o Daisy Levy, Doctoral Candidate, WRAC
o Donnie Johnson Sackey, Doctoral Candidate, WRAC
o Jennifer Sano-Franchini, Doctoral Candidate, WRAC

Want more information?
Contact: Madhu Narayan (narayanm@msu.edu) or
Andrea Riley-Mukavetz (rileyan1@msu.edu)

R&W @ CCCC: Alumni Celebration!

This year’s Conference on College Composition and Communication (a.k.a. CCCC), is set to take place April 6-9 in Atlanta, Georgia. CCCC is an annual conference that hosts hundreds of faculty, staff, and graduate students in writing-related programs and fields.

“The CCCC Reception has a few different purposes,” said Writing & Rhetoric Program director Bill Hart-Davidson. “Traditionally, it’s a grad program-sponsored event in conjunction with CCCC. This year is particularly special because one of our faculty members–Malea Powell–is the chair of the conference.”

You can read more about Malea Powell’s appointment as chair in former WRAC intern Ali White’s posts: The CCCC: Malea Powell Brings Big Changes as Program Chair and CCCC: Creating the Schedule.

Hart-Davidson said the reception acts as a reunion event. “It’s a convenient opportunity. All of our people are there, all of our prospective grad students and alums are there.”

This year, the Rhetoric & Writing Program is working with members of the CAL Dean’s Alumni Relations team, which is helping to sponsor the event. This means that the reception will also include any alumni from the College of Arts and Letters who are also attending the conference or happen to reside in the Atlanta area.

“While they might not have been part of the WRAC Department, the other CAL alumni still have a lot in common, and this reception gives them a chance to mingle and talk about the different things they’re working on. It’s also an excellent opportunity to network and recruit grad students,” Hart-Davidson said. “Other universities have similar events during CCCC. This allows us to get the WRAC name out there and to let other grad programs know what our students are doing.”

The Michigan State Rhetoric & Writing Reception will be held on Wednesday April 6th, from 6:30 to 8:30 PM at Max Lager’s Wood-fired Grill and Brewery.

CCCC: Creating the Schedule

This is part 2 of a series on the College Conference on Composition and Communication. Part 1, a conversation with CCCC Program chair Dr. Malea Powell, is available on the WRAC blog.

In April 2011, the 61st annual Conference on College Composition and Communication (CCCC) will take place in Atlanta, Georgia. Fifty rooms will be open from April 6th to the 9th in order to let hundreds of people present their research in front of colleagues and students.  However, a gathering this large doesn’t organize itself. The organization elects a program chair to do that; for 2011, Dr. Malea Powell was elected to said position. Organizing is a daunting task to say the least, requiring months of planning, meetings, and hard work. The planning stages started in December of 2009, a year and a half before the conference will actually occur.  Daisy Levy, R&W graduate student, began assisting Dr. Powell at the end of last semester and will carry out her role until May 15th, 2011.

The most essential pieces of the CCCC are presentations by faculty in higher education, graduate students, and other members of the scholarly community. Malea issued a call for proposals which presents the context for the choice of theme and what types of work she is interested in featuring at the conference. Proposals are submitted online, as individual or as panels with up to four speakers. Proposals are then sent to reviewers across the country, with names removed for blind reviewing, then ranked by quality. Malea and Daisy do not read the papers personally, but instead go to “Stage Two Review” with NCTE convention manager Eileen Maley, who hands them a printout of the number of submissions in each category. The group then collectively decides how many papers will be accepted into each category based on a percentage to ensure fair representation. After the numbers have been decided on, they read the reviewers’ comments and select the pieces.

Once each of the pieces have been selected, it is up to Malea and Daisy to organize the entire event including who presents in what room and at which time. In order to best delegate which presentation should go in which room, they traveled to Atlanta for a site visit and stayed in the conference hotel. This helped them determine which rooms are bigger, which have hookups for LCD projectors and other technology, and how rooms are located in relation to one another.

After they scouted the venue, Eileen Maley sent a packet of materials including note cards and stickers to help with organizing the schedule. Program chairs have been organizing the conference this way since its inception. The schedule is announced to the presenters, and some email Malea with scheduling conflicts. “There’s not a lot of wiggle room for people. Requests that have something substantial behind them, I generally say yes to,” said Malea. “Otherwise, I tell them that I’m going to try as hard as I can but it’s going to be a couple of months before I know whether that can happen.”

A lot of planning and precision goes in to making this four-day conference happen. Not only have Malea and Daisy organized the conference presenters, but they are also responsible for pre-convention workshops, night-time activities, and post-convention events. The impending deadline constantly looms, but Malea and Daisy are very eager for April to arrive. “It’s just exciting. It’s kind of like Rhet-Comp Prom,” said Daisy. “Everyone gets all gussied up, flies in from all over the country, and shows off and does their little thing. It’s really exciting to feel like you’re such an integral part of putting it together.”

This is part 2 of a series on the CCCC. In March, look for a complete report of WRAC’s presence at the conference.
Visit the CCCC website