Sidebar Image
wp home > general info > blast 2011-03-25
The Weekly Blast: March 25, 2011

In your mailbox you should have received a letter from Judy Holmes, chair of the University Writing Committee, asking TOs to participate in the review of First Year Writing this year. Committee members will be meeting with TOs at the following days/times:

• meeting with experienced TOs: Monday, March 28, 4:00 - 5:00 pm in Bartlett 303A
• meeting with new TOs: Tuesday, March 29, 11:15 am - 12:15 pm, in Bartlett 303A
• meeting with Basic Writing TOs: Thompson 512

Attendance at these meetings is voluntary but greatly appreciated. If you did not receive this letter or would like more information about the meetings, you can contact Judy Holmes at

To assess how our new “Final Exam” procedure is working this year, and to propose any needed changes to the policy for 2011-12, we’re forming an ad hoc committee, open to all Basic and College Writing instructors, that will meet several times during the rest of this semester. The first meeting of that group will be Friday, March 25, at 1:00 pm in Bartlett 316. Please join us!

“Punctuating with Style” foregrounds the decision-making process behind grammar/punctuation; stimulates a class discussion about different punctuation styles; and works to de-privilege notions of an objectively “right” or “wrong” way to punctuate. To see how to punctuate with style in your class click on:

Although the students will do final course evaluations at the end of the semester it is useful to receive some feedback when we can actually make some changes during the semester. The mid-semester point is a good time to do the evaluations. Generally students can give us some useful responses that enable us to make improvements – small or large – for the remainder of the class. It is also important for students to see how they experience the structure of the course, the activities, the assignments, and our teaching. It enables them to see that they are a part of the class and that we are trying to teach to their needs.

There are many ways to do these evaluations. We would all agree that asking questions such as “Am I doing okay?” or “Do you like me?” are not useful. As with reflection letters and peer response, students will need some questions/prompts to guide their responses. You can find sample questions at: You may want to use all of these questions or adapt them. It is important to keep in mind you want to ask questions that will elicit the information that will enable you to gauge how the class is going. It is also important to keep in mind that you need to ask questions about things you are actually willing to change.

Please remember these mid-semester evaluations are for your use only. They won’t be turned into the Writing Program Office or read by anyone other than you. However, we encourage you to show them to your Resource Staff mentors and/or course directors. Sometimes someone outside of the class can help us interpret our students’ comments and brainstorm with us for ways to make changes in the class.

This is the time to be encouraging your students to submit to the BEST TEXT CONTEST. Deadline for submissions is Friday, April 1. Cash prizes are given for First, Second, and Third place in College Writing and Basic Writing. Cash prize is also given for the best Multi-media, non-traditional essay. For submission guidelines please see:
Please also see Peggy Woods or Heidi Terault if you have any questions.

Attention instructors! The Writing Program is already preparing for our annual Celebration of Writing Festival. Please consider participating in this event! Our keynote speaker will be James Heflin, a UMass MFA graduate, musician, and Arts Editor for the Advocate. If you have any questions about the event please contact Peggy Woods at or Heidi Terault at Feel free, also, to stop by their offices to discuss the celebration.

Thinking about how to get more out of classroom lab days? How to get more out of SPARK? Thinking about how to incorporate more visual type arguments into College Writing? Like to explore ways to bring the internet into your classroom? Like to explore multi-modial options for Unit 4? If you are thinking about these or any other questions related to technology and the writing classroom become a Writing Program Tech Fellow!

Applications are now being accepted for the Writing Program’s Technology Fellows program for 2011-12. Technology Fellows are graduate TOs in the UMass Amherst First Year Writing Program (Englwrit 111 or 112) who together engage questions about teaching writing with technology through discussion, readings, and hands-on play with technologies. Fellows meet in a small-group setting, under the leadership of the Tech Fellows coordinator, on the Mondays opposite Writing Program practica (i.e., every other week). Participation is for the entire academic year 2011-12. No technology experience required or needed. Just the willingness and enthusiasm to explore questions related to technology and the teaching of writing. A small stipend accompanies the Fellowship; Tech Fellows share computer equipped office in Bart 307B. If you’re interested, submit a letter of 1-2 paragraphs expressing your interest to David Fleming, Director of the Writing Program, Bartlett Hall 305, Amherst MA 01003. Email submission is fine: The deadline for the letter is noon on Friday, April 15.

We are looking for someone to teach one section of College Writing during the second session of summer. The class will meet TuWTh from 9-12pm beginning 6/7 and will end 7/12. If interested please email Heidi ( by April 8, 2011.

Placement Test Readers. The Writing program seeks new and veteran placement test readers to read for this summer’s testing sessions. We will read the placement essays of the incoming 4000+ first year students to determine placement in Basic and College Writing. No prior experience necessary—just be eager and willing to read many, many essays in an exciting, collaborative environment. Placement test readers must be available for both sessions: June 27, 28, 29, 30, and July 1 and July 11, 12, 13 and 14. The compensation for this work is $122.00 per day worked.

If you would like to apply to be a placement reader, please send an email to Deirdre Vinyard by Friday April 8. In your email, please state your prior experience in placement test evaluation (if any—not required!) and your expected graduation date from UMass.

We are seeking an interested graduate student to serve as assistant to the Placement Test Coordinator, Deirdre Vinyard for the 2011-2012 academic year (including summer 2012). This position begins in September 2011.

Responsibilities: Assist the coordinator in developing essay questions, selecting training essays, revising the rating criteria, and conducting the summer 2012 placement test readings and reader-training sessions. The dates for summer 2012 have not been set yet, but we anticipate that they will occur in June and July.

Applicants must be available to serve as readers during summer 2011. Readings this summer will be held from 9-4 on the following dates:

June 27, 28, 29, 30, and July 1
July 11,12, 13, 14

The Assistant Placement Test Coordinator will also participate in two readings during the year: During the first week of the fall semester and the first week of the Spring semester, we will do group readings (100+ tests).

Required: Participation in summer reading 2011, interest in placement for writing courses, organizational and planning skills, and a good sense of humor!

Preferred but not required: Course work in Writing and the Teaching of Writing and interest in working with placement exam administration for more than just this summer.

Pay: $1,850

If you are interested please let Deirdre Vinyard know, by email, by Friday April 8. In your email, please explain briefly why you are interested and tell the ways you believe that you are qualified for the position.
If you have any questions, please contact Deirdre Vinyard

The Writing Program is co-sponsoring this award winning documentary which chronicles the stereotype-confounding stories of four high school poetry slam teams as they prepare for and compete in the world’s largest youth poetry slam competition in Chicago. Q & A will follow with Nova Venerable and Adam Gottlieb, featured poets from the film. The film will be screened on Wednesday, March 30 at 7:00pm in Bartlett 65. For more information about the film check out their website:
Any other questions, please contact Peggy Woods.

As we all know this has been a transition year for the Writing Program with the changes in class size and section load. As we begin the planning for fall, I would like your help in determining what kinds of support new teachers need when moving from teaching one section in the fall to two sections in the spring. I’m inviting all teachers to attend a meeting to discuss the particular challenges and concerns you faced this year and suggestions to help make the transition smoother. The meeting will be Tuesday, April 12 from 11:15-12:30pm in the Writing Program conference room (Bart 303). If you have any question let me know. Thanks! Peggy

Sister Spit is a queer traveling performance group; the 2011 tour features Michelle Tea, Kirk Read, Ali Liebegott, Blake Nelson, Mari Naomi, Myriam Gurba, and Amos Mac, with local guests. They will be performing on Wednesday, April 6 · 8:00pm - 11:00pm in the UMass Student Union Ballroom. The event is free and open to the public.

They will also be giving a series of workshops (see list below). These workshops are also free and open to the public. Any questions, please contact Andrea Lawlor at Also Invite folks on Facebook at:!/event.php?eid=117413215000231.

Workshops on April 7

1-2:30 p.m.

Learning How to Kiss & Tell with MariNaomi
162-175 UMass Campus Center
Learn how to fashion your own one-page comic about your first kiss (or other poignant life event!). MariNaomi shows you what is necessary to make a good comic: staging (time and place), characterization, story arc using words and pictures and, most of all, brevity! Paring down one’s monumental personal experience is a tricky thing to do, but can ultimately help cut to the quick when it comes to identifying the good and bad in one’s life. Bring pencils, pens and your favorite paper!

Seeing from Another Way with Blake Nelson
168 UMass Campus Center
Writing from a perspective other than one’s own can be a liberating and enlightening experience. Girls writing from a boy’s perspective. Queers writing from a straight perspective. Dorks writing from the popular perspective. In this workshop, we will discuss how to break through the resistance of imagining yourself in a completely different identity, and all the fun you can have once you’ve inhabited this new perspective. (Be prepared to be someone else!)

3-4:30 p.m.

Power of 14 with Myriam Gurba
162-175 UMass Campus Center
Come explore the history of American oppression by examining American lives before and after the 14th amendment. By examining lesser known incidents and small America heroes, learn about how the establishment has employed twisted legal interpretations to take epic dumps on the marginalized. Examine how marginalized people have posed legal challenges to these abuses and used the American courts to halt abuse. Learn how you too can use the 14th amendment to protect your own marginalized ass.

Your Body Is the Mountain; Your Stories Are the Gold with Kirk Read
168 UMass Campus Center
Whether we realize it or not, over the years, we have practiced telling stories. We’ve learned what parts are funny to others, what parts are sad, what parts are confusing. Facilitated by writer and performance artist Kirk Read, this workshop will be a fully interactive experience. We will unearth some of our stories and we’ll work with them as raw materials for performing. We’ll use different approaches: writing, sharing in pairs and small groups. We’ll practice using our bodies in storytelling through movement. This will be a space for people at all levels of experience, and any sharing will be done on your terms. Even if you have no desire to perform, this workshop will help you think about crafting your stories in daily life.

5-6:30 p.m.

Queering the Print Media with Amos Mac
162-175 UMass Campus Center
Tired of feeling mis- or under-represented in the world? Learn how to take your creative ideas and turn them into a positive space that shares with the rest of the world who you are. Piece together visuals (drawings, photographs) with words (poems, interviews, fiction, non-fiction) to create your own hard-copy print zine. Bring any items you’d like to include in your finished product!

Living the Dream: Saying Yes to My Life as a Writer with Ali Liebegott
168 UMass Campus Center
In this workshop, we’ll discuss the logistics of living as a writer in the everyday world. How to find an agent, have and keep a daily writing practice, build community and support yourself. All questions about publishing and writing careers welcome.

7-8:30 p.m.

It’s All About You: Yourself as a Character in Memoir, Fiction, and Personal Narrative with Michelle Tea
168 UMass Campus Center
This workshop explores the many ways to use personal experience in writing, talking about traditional forms such as memoir and first-person narratives, as well as experimenting with hybrid genres. Issues particular to the craft of first-person writing will be discussed, as will the social, cultural and professional implications and responsibilities of such writing. Come prepared to ask questions, write, share your work, and gossip.

UMail / UDrive / Spark / Spire