On March 5th and 6th, in celebration of their ten-year anniversary, the Writing Center invited author/editor/speaker/columnist John Warner to give two talks on writing to faculty and students. John Warner is the author of The Writer's Practice: Building Confidence in Your Nonfiction Writing, as well as his most recent book Why They Can't Write: Killing the Five-Paragraph Essay and Other Necessities. He’s had over twenty years of experience teaching college-level writing. He writes a weekly column for The Chicago Tribune, and is also editor emeritus for McSweeney Internet Tendency.
In his first talk, “Why the World Needs More Writing Degrees,” Warner told his personal story of graduating college with a creative writing degree and finding work. He talked about how, at the time, he didn’t know how to market himself as a writer. Despite this, others saw value in his field of study and writing skills. His first big break came when he was hired by the marketing research business Leo J Shapiro and Associates. Though he had not studied to work in the business field, the methodology he had studied as a writer helped him in this research position. He always began with questions, which led to observations, upon which he could make inferences and conclusions. This method of observing, inferring, then coming to conclusions was the basis of his work in college, how he overcame the assignments and challenges he faced, and the development of his critical thinking.
Warner argues that writing leads to critical thinking, observations, and the ability to overcome novel or foreign challenges. This, for me, was the main take-away from his talk. He encouraged the audience to market themselves in this way: as critical thinkers and writing-related problem solvers. As writers, Warner believes we are flexible, adaptable and curious; we often are divergent thinkers. These skills are valuable in any work environment, and ultimately, are why the world needs more writing degrees.
His second talk, “The Writer’s Practice: Building Assignments that Get Students Thinking and Acting Like Writers,” was based upon his years of teaching and his two aforementioned books. His talk centered on shifting away from prescriptive college-level writing and towards a more open forum, where the process of writing is held in highest regard. “We can’t prevent students from making errors,” Warner stated. “But that’s okay, those errors are where they are going to learn.” He talked about how students are scared to make errors, how their experiences with writing from grade school have left them unable to identify themselves as “writers.” Students often come to college with some idea of “perfect” writing, but writing is always a process, and there’s no such thing as a perfect writer.
To combat this, Warner suggested multiple approaches which would radically shift the way writing is taught. One suggestion was to have professors share an early draft of a text they had written with the class. After reading, the students would read a revised version. This activity would prompt discussions on the process of writing, while simultaneously tearing down the notion of their professor as the arbiter of “perfect” writing. A focus of process rather than product was also encouraged by Warner. As an example, he removed the research paper assignment from his class, and replaced it as an activity, one which might not produce a “final paper” at the end of the semester. This, again, encouraged his students to focus on writing as a process, and also as an experience, one which can last long after the class has ended. Reflection is key as well. Warner encouraged his students to reflect on the work they had done for the class and well as the ways they grappled with the challenges they faced. All these suggestions empower students to begin to see themselves as a writer who has a process, and to see writing as an ongoing practice.
In speaking with my colleagues at the Writing Center and other professors within the department, it was clear that Warner’s visit was a success and enjoyed. Warner, too, enjoyed his visit at Rowan, much of which was spent with Writing Center tutors and staff. He wrote a blog about his time at Rowan in Inside Higher Ed. In his blog titled “How’s the Water?” Warner had some kind remarks and reflections on his experience here: “My favorite part of the Rowan visit was spending time with the undergraduate and graduate writing tutors from the Writing Center. This is when I realize how much I miss teaching full-time...Speaking to the master's students who were teaching first-year writing was speaking to colleagues, not apprentices, and I may have learned a thing or two from them.” I highly encourage you to read the full blog!
Thank you to John Warner for visiting our campus and delivering great talks to our faculty and students!
It happens to us all: we’re staring at the screen, fingers on the keyboard, with absolutely no idea where to go next. Without guidance, feedback, and advice, it is very difficult to write at all, let alone improve your writing. If you find yourself lost, don’t worry! There are plenty of tools and resources available for you on and off campus that will guide you in the right direction! Not only that, but there are a range of different platforms and mediums to turn to. Whether you’re looking for a blog, a podcast, face-to-face advice, or videos, we have recommendations for each.
The Writing Center
If you’re interested in talking to someone about your work, the Writing Center is perfect! Located on the first floor of the Campbell Library, the Writing Center is one of the best resources you have as a Rowan student. You can book an appointment online for whatever time works best for you and a chosen tutor. Normally, you can have your appointment in person, but while students and staff are off campus, online appointments over video chat are also available. This still allows you to receive feedback and help with your writing!
The Writing Center can be used for your academic writing as well as any personal work you have. You are also welcome to come in at any point in the writing process--tutors are always there to help. Never hesitate to reach out and make an appointment, it can make a real difference! You can make up to two appointments per week, so utilize this as much as you can. Every tutor in the Writing Center is experienced, friendly and helpful. Additionally, you can visit the Writing Center website for more information. The website includes style guides in MLA, APA, and Chicago, samples from writing tutors, and more information about writing for college. When on campus, there are also College Composition workshops held Monday through Friday!
Writing Arts Clubs and Organizations
Another resource on campus for writers are our various Writing Arts clubs and organizations. Without going too in depth as there is already a post up specifically about these organizations, these can be a great resource to work on and receive feedback on your writing.
The Writing Arts Club is specifically good for collaborating with other writers. Whether you are working together on a story, bouncing ideas off of each other, or workshopping, it is a creative environment and helps you overcome writer’s block to improve your work. There are also a lot of opportunities in this club for just practicing writing as a skill. There are various prompts every meeting, with opportunities to play with different styles and forms of writing.
Along with the Writing Arts Club, Avant Literary Magazine is an excellent source of feedback. This organization offers the opportunity to submit your work anonymously, if you are worried about sharing something out loud in a setting like the Writing Arts Club. This is also beneficial because it guarantees that all feedback you receive is entirely objective. The organization works hard to maintain a balance of positive and constructive feedback when critiquing a piece, which is extremely helpful when deciding how you might want to edit the writing that you submitted. By submitting work to Avant, you also have the possibility of being published in their magazine!
For the remainder of the semester while we are online, both Avant and Writing Arts Club have made accommodations to continue being active through the next couple months. Writing Arts Club will be posting writing prompts on their Instagram three times a week, and will post your response to the prompt if you send it! As for Avant, there will be regular online meetings to continue discussing the work submitted. If you are curious at all about either of these organizations, or other writing clubs on campus, you can read the Writing Arts Clubs and Organizations post from last month. You can also find more information on the Avant Literary Magazine or Writing Arts Club websites.
Writers writing about writing! If you’re looking for resources outside of school, there are plenty of blogs to turn to that offer advice as well. These blogs are safe places for writers to share their own experience, offer advice, and discuss with others. No matter what topic you are looking for, there is sure to be a writing blog that has addressed it.
A great example of this is The Write Life. This site offers a variety of content-- from tutorials on Google docs, to tips for improving your writing, to advice for those who are pursuing a career in writing. All of this is written by professionals with extended writing experience. There is also information offered about publishing, their recommended tools, and even marketing tactics. If you are looking for reliable and professional information about writing as a craft and a profession, this is an excellent resource.
Another blog that has been helpful in the past is Writer’s Digest. This blog offers almost anything you could need--posts simplifying writing concepts, interviews with professional writers, and different points of view on writing debates. In addition to the articles they post, Writer’s Digest holds writing contests for its writers! The contests span multiple genres, including young adult fiction, mystery, horror, poetry, and sci-fi/fantasy. Additionally, Writer’s Digest includes a forum for its readers and writers to engage with one another. This communication can be especially helpful if you have specific questions or ideas you need help with!
One last example that offers a more unique experience is The Write Practice! The Write Practice focuses on perfecting your skills as a writer. Like the previously mentioned blogs, it offers advice for writing, discussions about the writing lifestyle, and prompts. In addition to the typical content, The Write Practice offers a two minutes assessment when you first log on to determine what kind of help you need as an individual writer. After this, they provide unique lessons, prompts, and critiques for you and your work! There is also a list of software and other resources that they recommend on the website. This blog is a resource that will fill your specific needs.
YouTube has quickly become a popular platform for writers to share and receive advice as well. If you are looking for something in addition to written blogs, writing videos can be extremely beneficial when explaining concepts and particularly complex steps in the writing process. This resource also allows for a more personal connection with the writer offering advice, as you are able to get to know them as a person and writer more easily than through a written blog.
A channel that is well known for its expertise is Writing with Jenna Moreci. Jenna Moreci is a published author herself, specializing in fantasy and fiction novels. Jenna offers advice about how to write, and just as often how not to write. She discusses tropes, tips, top ten videos, and how to videos. In addition to discussing writing itself, Jenna takes time to discuss the industry and her experience as a self published author. She is well versed in all areas and can give advice whether you are interested in self publishing or a more traditional route. Jenna also has videos specifically targeted towards her readers that discuss her previous work as well as what she is currently working on, which allows viewers to connect with her on a more personal level.
If you are looking for something from someone closer to a college students’ perspective, ShaelinWrites is another helpful resource. Shaelin offers tips, how-to videos, and updates on her own work. She also has annual videos in which she discusses what she learned about writing that year. One of the most unique things her channel incorporates are “writing vlogs” which show her writing process in action. During these, Shaelin documents her day from morning to night, updating us where she is with her work in progress and how she is spending her time to be the most productive. She has done this with her novel, with short stories, and even while workshopping and editing pieces. Her channel is a great depiction of how it feels to be constantly growing and learning as a writer. The tone of this channel is a bit more casual, instead of her “teaching” us, she is learning along with us, which creates a sense of community. Shaelin also includes reading recommendations, which is always important as a writer.
Podcasts are another way to engage in writing discussion and knowledge. This medium is unique due to its ability to give writers time to multitask while listening. You can even write while listening! You can be productive by learning more about writing and how to better practice it while you are writing or completing other essential daily tasks. Podcasts are also beneficial if you prefer to listen to something that has a more conversational tone rather than someone just talking at you. These podcasts range from offering writing advice, discussing writing debates, to sharing personal experiences.
The first podcast that should be noted is our very own RU Writing?. In this podcast, the Writing Arts interns discuss various topics related to writing. So far this semester, we have talked about Writer’s Block and whether or not it is real, writing routines and strategies, balancing academic writing with your creative work, and soon we will be talking about satirical writing. There have also been conversations including professors and other students as special guests! These discussions can help when evaluating your own writing process and practices. By talking to other writers, and listening to what they might be doing, you can apply new practices to your own routine.
Another writing podcast that may be helpful to listen to is Writing Excuses. This is an educational podcast for writers that release episodes weekly. Writing Excuses is fast paced, and offers a variety of topics. They discuss aspects of the writing process, such as forming ideas and outlining as well as more broad topics. Some of their recent episodes shed light on including diversity in your writing, different publishing paths, and the digitization of books. This podcast also interacts with their listeners frequently through Q&A episodes! There is a seemingly unlimited amount of writing podcasts, all with different styles and topics, so don’t be afraid to test different ones out until you find one that is right for you!
The more time you take to learn about writing, what other writers are doing, and take part in the writing community, the better your work will be! Feedback and advice are vital parts of the writing process, and will most definitely improve your skill. Right now, we have more resources available to us than writers ever have before. We need to take advantage of this fact, which is easy to do with so many options! You may even consider beginning your own blog, podcast, or Youtube channel. There is always more to discover.
Imagine a space where you, a writer, are surrounded both by other inspiring writers and experienced, published authors. You are encouraged to write, you can explore whatever ideas and story concepts you want. You are afforded numerous experiences that teach you how to diversify and strengthen your writing. You can concentrate in as many different kinds of writing as you want. You can take classes that cover certain topics in writing, or explore your own topics through extracurricular opportunities.
That’s what I discovered during my first year as a Writing Arts student. When I started as a student in the Rowan University Writing Arts department, I thought of Writing Arts as a gateway to a teaching position. My mentor at community college, Jorie Rao, was a graduate of the department, and she had been teaching for almost five years when I met her. I decided to go for the same degree because I was looking for a similar career.
What I didn’t realize about Writing Arts was that it’s versatile, and has a lot of practical applications. Everybody needs to write, no matter what path they take in life. Writing is a universal practice, and Writing Arts is a universal degree. I'm learning not only the creative writing that I'm passionate about, but various modes of writing and how they are applicable in my personal, professional, and creative lives.
I have spent almost a year learning the foundations and meaning of quality writing, and now I am also learning more about its applications. For instance, when I began my Writing Arts journey, I thought my specialization in Creative Writing would only be useful to me as either a teacher or an author. Now, I know the degree is much more comprehensive than that. Writing Arts connects its students to the roots of humanity’s need to communicate and record. Students learn the history and social components of writing in their introductory coursework. They learn how their own history and cultural background affects and enriches their writing.
I was always encouraged to follow my own instincts and break "rules" if need be. Most of my classes were about expanding my mind and exploring my own ideas, instead of just absorbing those of other people. I was an active agent in my learning, and I am becoming an active agent in my writing. I have knowledge and understanding of structure and form now, and the confidence to keep writing even when I feel like my writing is terrible.
The most fulfilling and catalyzing experience in my Writing Arts journey has been my internship. It reinforces the lessons I’ve previously learned about working in teams from my prior courses, and has encouraged my growth in many other areas. Without Writing Arts, I would not have had this opportunity so early in my college career and my internship has the added bonus of counting for three college credits. I’m enhancing my experience in professionalism and communication, as well as learning how to use digital business software like Weebly, Adobe InDesign, and Hootsuite. My internship is pushing me to create and follow through with great ideas, and to write blog articles, social media posts, professional emails, video storyboards, and interview questions.
All of my experiences as a Writing Arts student have culminated in these two realizations: I am earning a degree that can help me get any job I want, and I have found a space to write and people that I feel I could form a community with. I am enjoying my Writing Arts journey and enriching myself personally and professionally. The universal applications that I have learned in my coursework will stay with me, and I am sure as I continue, I will learn many more ways that writing is integrated into the social foundations of humanity.
With that said, if you’ve already joined Writing Arts, great! Welcome to the community. If you’re looking for a place that will help you explore your writing and yourself as a writer, you’re in the right spot. We can’t wait to meet you if we haven’t already, and we hope you’re looking forward to exploring your passions through rigorous academics and valuable experiences. Writing Arts is a home for creative, aspiring minds looking to change the world and the future of writing. You’ll fit right in.