Blog Post 6: Kate and Cara’s Readings

This week, my fellow ingerns Kate and Cara provided the readings for us to read and respond to. Kate had found an article entitled Tolerating Intolerance last week in an effort to find my selected text. Instead, zhe found a completely different article with a completely different view, just with the same title. Needless to sah, Kate was confused. We asked her to share the article that she found since she already found it.

Cara found an article for us based on her research project. It was something sbe had found interesting in her own research, which is on litracy programs similar to SpeakOut and how to start them.

I enjoyed both articles, as both of them had intersting ideas. Kate’s argued that attempting to tolera

Blog Post 5: Dealing with Differences and Artistic Writing

This week my fellow intern Lily Alpers and I were tasked with providing the readings for this blog post. I found a number of things, a lot of intriguing stuff. But trying to figure out what would be most applicable was tough. What counts as related to literacy, where does that connection end?

In the end, i decided on an article that i felt was interesting, relevant to literacy and literacy within a community, and a part of being a writing workshop facilitator. Tolerating Intolerance caught my mostly because it was an accessible text that spoke on a subject that is either made to be one sided or black and white.

I too have felt that strange mixture of shock and discomfort when reading other people’s writing, being at odds with their views but not wanting to restrain anyone’s freedom. Certain pieces of writing that i have struggled with and sometime
Topics in the sessions themselves can be uncomfortable. Sometimes they are prompted unintentionally other times they just pop up. It is something that I think we facilitators need to keep more in mind.

Working within and with a jail makes this even more uncomfortable. We take all types of art and writing for our SpeakOut!,journal publication. We have to pass all of the pieces through the jail’s hands to make sure that they will allow the pieces to be published. Sometimes we know what won’t be allowed just because of content or certain subjects. Other times we have no clue why something was shot down. I feel very odd taking writing and beautiful artwork and knowing that it could get in, but there is always the possibility it won’t.

Lily’s article on using art therapy to improve mental well being in prison was fascinating and really spoke to me. I have actually done art therapy before and found it to be hugely informative and freeing. Not to sound like a bad infomercial, but art as part of self discovery and healing does work. The way it can help people without it making them targets or feel pressured to divulge things they aren’t ready for; it continues to astound.

Combining art, it wouldn’t need to be ‘therapy’, into the CLC practices would be an interesting and enjoyable endeavor. I have avoided it because I always felt that our sessions were writing workshops. Just writing. But literacy as being able to communicate and navigate our world’s various ways of creating texts; well… Instagram, Facebook, movies, the news, music; this all is a kind of text that we need to understand to fully be a part of society today. Art and visual languages are almost just as important as being literate in writing. Seeing how communication and literacy studies changes over the years will be interesting. What a world we live in today!

Blog #4: Update on Research Project

I have been looking at other texts, other ways to create non-traditional essays and pieces with impact. We’ve hit the point where we need to start to combine all the texts we’ve found or created. What do we want this collaboration to look like?

I personally am starting with picking out phrases that jump out at me, things that catch my attention or that sum up an experience. With that, I have been re-reading the writings from our group and working on the story I want to tell in the future about my experiences with mothering, incarceration, addiction, and recovery.  The writing is all so wonderful that it is hard to choose. With that said, it is also very, very diverse and on a lot of subjects. Perhaps a conversation style would be a good method to use in some of the formatting – more like a hypertext or creative fiction instead of a traditional ‘essay’. Brenda Miller and Suzanne Paola’s Tell it Slant: Writing and Shaping Creative Nonfiction has a section on what they call a ‘Lyric Essay’.

Lyric implies a poetic sensibility concerned more with language, imagery, sound, and rhythm over the more linear demands of narrative. Essay, on the other hand, implies a more logical frame of mind, one concerned with a well-wrought story, or a finely tuned argument, over the demands of language. when we put the two together, we come up with a hybrid form that allows for the best of both genres.” (106)

I find this to be a helpful way to think about how we could craft this essay – as something that is neither here nor there. An essay that follows its own conventions but still achieves its goals. I have shared this with the writing group.

Along with trying to parse the writing we have down to its pure essentials, the most meaningful and important language; I am going through my more ‘academic’ research to find sources that demonstrate or support our ideas. I have found some sources that illustrate the negative ways people think about and interact with addicted and incarcerated mothers; which I would use to build our argument against. Other sources are more generalized or extrapolations. Another source I have been looking at is a study on how women reintegrate and the challenges that come with it, especially the psychological and social aspects.

I am finding this a little awkward because this research was done prior to even starting to meet with my co-authors. So we will see how they respond to my findings.

 

Blog Post 3 – Counter-Culture Literacy in the Digital Age?

Looking at Anderson, Global street papers and Homeless [counter]publics,” consider some of the advantages and limitations presented. What do you make of these? That is, do you agree with the author in terms of the advantages and drawbacks to street papers as a [counter]public discourse? Too, consider how our work with SpeakOut and the CLC more broadly fits into this genre of community publishing. While SpeakOut publications indeed travel across Colorado as well as the U.S., what potential limitations or oversights do you see to/in our work? More specifically, might our publications or work actually inhibit or “restrict” the potential for a meaningful counterpublic discourse? Utilize Anderson’s organizing concepts of delivery, technique, and audience to explain.

Firstly, the issue of how the SpeakOut! Journals are fitting into Anderson’s theories has been something I have been unconsciously dealing with for some time. The very nature of a writing workshop with a maximum number of participants, in a physical location (a very tenuous location to boot); all within the constraints of working alongside/with/against the institutions of the jail or the youth houses. The potential of the effort is limited by grants, by what the jail allows to be published (and what, exactly, that set of criteria to decide that is shadowy at best), the chances of who gets into the group and who doesn’t, and the limitation of just how many pages a bound journal can have.

The writers themselves, much like the vendors/contributors in Anderson’s essay, may or may not be consciously positioning themselves to create a counter-public or counterculture rhetoric. Plus, the facilitators (myself included) may not be thinking of the publication as a kind of rhetorical tool, but more as a tribute to the writers and their work, a collection of art, or a way to help validate the voices of people who are not traditionally heard.

Blog Post 2 – CLC Research!

An update on my research project with the CLC!

First of all, I should explain the project I will be working on. Dr. Jacobi received an email last semester, a call for proposal submissions from Demeter Press, for essays to fill an anthology on mothering, addiction, and recovery. Fellow intern Kate, Dr. Jacobi, and I all discovered we had an interest in responding to this and decided to work together in creating a proposal. Happily, it was accepted! Our essay will be co-authored with women from the jail and in coordination with past journals of SpeakOut! on incarcerated women’s experiences and views on motherhood, addiction, and recovery.

Now, I am waiting on the arrival of Friday to get a better understanding of what will be happening with this project. We have a timeline and a brief plan for our very first session on Friday. While we have a goal, the getting to it feels very much dependent on the converging of our and the women’s ideas on how to proceed.

This is nerve wracking, because the best and worst part of this project is that it hinges on group participation and input. And TIME. Oh, the looming, uncertain solidity of the plan is killing me – going week by week is going to be some thing I will have to get used to.

Another aspect of this project, would be to see if Kate would want to submit it to CURC, the Celebration of Undergraduate Research Convention (convention may not be the correct word…). If so, then we would have a way to share our efforts and what the collaborative essay revealed. It is also one more thing to do in April – and all the preparatory work in March, my least favorite month of the academic year.

Still, I know that I am beyond excited to see what we all write and to share it with others. I keep telling classmates about the CLC, the workshops, and then follow up with “and then there’s a collaborative essay that we are doing right now with some of the women…” And I can’t help but agree when they respond with “Wow, that’s really cool” “Interesting” “Awesome” – because this project is all that and more.

 

Spring at CLC – Blog Post 1

Reflect upon the issues raised in Jenny Horsman’s essay on literacy and trauma with your own facilitation experiences in mind.  Do you see trauma entering into the writing at your site?  How?  I am often struck by the personal nature of the pieces that writers share, that they perhaps feel they must share now that the door has been opened.  How do we respond to such work?  Or, as Horsman queries: how can literacy programs teach most effectively?

Consider Horsman’s ideas alongside the practical strategies Kay Adams’ offers for using writing as a means of understanding ourselves and our relationship to the world.  Select one of Adams’ exercise ideas and speculate on its use in your workshop.
The selected readings for this post made a lot of sense to me. There were a lot of connections made that I didn’t know could exist, let alone affect myself and those I write with. Trauma is very present at my site, to the point that I am never sure what each session will bring nor how to deal with it. Horsman’s essay was an eye opener, a much needed one. Writing that was written outside of our weekly sessions often has trauma embedded in it and the source is often explicitly mentioned in the work; writing within the session also has shadows of trauma. Poetry seems to be the favorite format for the writers I am with (poetry is also my favorite way to write too) and offers the most freedom to express and release the experiences these writers deal with – in bold, vivid language. Our group never negatively reacts to these intense moments, though there is a lingering silence afterward (which I often feel I need to fill). I felt the power in the things that they shared and it was courageous of them to be able to share it with the group. I try to make sure I thank the writer (and sometimes the reader, as some of the more shy writers prefer to have a friend read the work aloud). I often feel trite but I do mean it when I thank them for sharing because it is a very brave thing to share such injurious experiences.

This is mostly based in my own experiences and preferences. Knowing someone is listening, someone who thanks me for sharing and letting them listen is such a boon. Having someone who also doesn’t pry or dwell on it is also a gift though; because it doesn’t put me on the spot as both a writer and as someone sharing a work that is the product of my existence, my experiences. I try to extend that to the writers on my site, the knowledge that I have heard and the low pressure of not picking at what I heard. I do want them to know that if they do want to discuss what is shared and to further explore it, then I am very willing to do so.

Even so, these readings touch upon may of the fears that have risen since I began this internship. The thanking, the responses I give often seems insincere, though I truly mean it. I must quote Horsman, as it sums up my thoughts better than I could frame them myself; as I too feel what I “offer is inadequate”(Horsman, Examining the Costs of Bearing Witness). I worry that all this time I have been minimizing and marginalizing the trauma, the pain that haunts people daily because I have tried to exclude ‘making more trauma’ or ‘dark’ prompts that might lead to a bad space for the writers. But Horsman’s essay makes me reconsider, worry “about how rarely the many dimensions of issues of violence were discussed” in past and present writing sessions (Horsman, Examining the Costs of Bearing Witness).

How to address this more effectively in writing sessions and in the program as a whole? I know that one little thing I do is mimic Dr. Jacobi: in that if something resonated strongly or brought out a lot of emotions, I try to just check in during the start of the next session and see how everyone is feeling, if there are things that need to be expressed. Also I try to just let what happens happen, not to zero in on someone’s emotional moment and make it a production (which is awkward for everyone) but to just make sure they can have that moment in peace. Other than these things, I am utterly stuck on how to approach the daily and intermittent appearance of trauma.

I love the idea of a dialogue with an inanimate object; I written to the similar prompt of write from the objects perspective or write an ode about the object. The dialogue is a natural direction for these ‘object’ based prompts to move to. The only thing I might do a little differently would be to either make it a kind of unsent letter to the object/ one-sided dialogue; or to narrow the focus down to the weirdest object, a favorite object, etc. Some times the writers in my group seem to be daunted by too much openness in a prompt. I think they would enjoy this, although it might lead to unexpected (traumatic?) writing. I think a time limit would help to minimize that risk…

Blog Post #5: Speaking in Tongues

Blog #5: This week’s reading focused on “Petra: Learning How to Read at Age 45″ (Rigg) and “How to Tame a Wild Tongue” (Anzaldua). Consider the ways in which Anzaldua and Rigg grapple with issues of representation in their essays. Rigg both presents an important lesson about the relationships we craft with community writers/learners and demonstrates the challenges/dangers of representing “participants” in reductive ways. Anzaldua challenges us to consider how language practices are embedded in cultural tradition and have the potential to shape and nuance identity and self-representation.

How have you been dealing with such issues at your site? How would/are you representing the people you work with and their literacy skills and stories? Do you see language practices as both emerging from and shaping cultural identity? Consider and offer a story or two.

 

I forget that people define things differently. That what the participant and the facilitator want are two very different things. This isn’t so much what we cant them to gain, what we want to impart. There’s more: the fact that they never leaned more in-depth about each others’ lives, their experiences, and self representation and identification – that made a very strong impact in me.

I think I want to work that into our group, but I am not sure how there’s a feeling of over stepping my boundaries – like that’s too much to get into and it isn’t my place. There’s also the issue of being personable and being personal. That is always difficult for me to distinguish between.

I do not intend nor have I looked into anyone’s charges, what they are serving time for. I do this for a number of reasons. Mainly, I want to avoid feeding my own biases and fears; to avoid making the ladies into terms, into crimes. I want to know them as people, as women, as writers.

I tend to represent the writers I work with as a kind of collective one, all there for writing –  unified by their being present in both the workshops and at the jail. I do this mostly because I feel that it is honest (ie, that they are imprisoned and writers in our workshops) and because anything more is not something I can know or define. I try not to name names or pick out one individual when I talk about what SpeakOut! does because so much happens and there are so many great things that are shared or written. I know that this may flatten the spectrum of human experiences and individuality of the group, but the idea of representing people as people, in a group setting, is still something I am struggling with articulating.

Blog Post #4: Collaborative Literacies

Blog #4: Collaborative Literacies:

In her essay, “‘Phenomenal Women,’ Collaborative Literacies, and Community Texts in Alternative ‘Sista’ Spaces,” Beverly Moss catalogs and analyzes the importance of talk and interaction to one African American women’s community group. How does talk work in your group? Does it enable or limit your space? Does it advance the goals your workshop? of individuals? If not, talk, then, what, at your site? Spend some time reflecting.

In Mark Salzman’s essay, “The Writing Class,” he discusses a particular writing group for “violent” young men in juvenile hall. He discusses his own preconceptions about working inside juvenile hall with incarcerated youth, as well as how his preconceived notions were challenged or debunked over time. Can you relate to his experience? What preconceptions did you have about the writers you would be working with at your particular sites? Or even preconceptions about the site itself? Reflect on how writing has impacted your perceptions.

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Talking is very present in my site writing group. The ladies are always chatting and talking, even a bit in the halls (though they’re not supposed to). That part is hard as I enjoy talking with them and being the one to enforce the authority in the halls feels so weird. Interestingly, it has been noted by past facilitators that the women often write for shorter periods and talk more than the groups for the men. In the workshops themselves, it is a problem and a boon. The talking can be disruptive, hard to quell, and once started, is hard to stop. It has actually caused some women to not return to our group, which I felt terribly about. This is especially because it is often only one or two women who are disrupting the group, which ruins the experience for the rest of us.

But talking does serve a positive purpose too. There is so much sharing and reading aloud in our group that it makes getting to everything difficult. But it is worth it to hear what was written, to give and receive feedback, and to encourage each other to share. They are so proud of what they write and I love that they feel so confident and comfortable to share, even when it deals with difficult subject matter. There is a feeling of honesty and genuineness that I had never expected to find in this setting. I like talking to find out what the group wants and needs, what is working and what doesn’t. Individuals also talk to me to get specific advice or help on writing as a process. It give us all a chance to be social humans together in a way that is not the same as being literate-focused people.

creativewriting

In regards to the “Writing Class” and preconceptions, I will admit that I fell into the category of so uninformed that everything about the prison was terrifying. I had also been afraid of being in danger and of doing something wrong in regards to the prison itself. The image of police officers getting mad about my failure to follow rules had been my own mental feature film, playing 24/7. The dangerous prison of grim faced people waiting to harm you was my fear, which seems to not be a valid one. Whether this is true all over, I don’t know.

In relation to the inmates, I had a pretty low standards of expectation going in. The first thing that I found to be a false preconception was the apathy towards the group that I thought the inmates would demonstrate. It was a huge relief and joy to discover that they themselves were the greatest supporters and recruiters. It is wonderful to see them calling each other down and reminding and making sure no one is missed due to lock downs. I also was pleasantly surprised to find that a lot of the women are friendly, welcoming, and generally not going to be mean spirited towards me.

Much like Mark Salzman, I had dreaded to spend two hours or so on terrible writing that just hurt to listen to, that was just written to fulfill the group norms and nothing else. There are some truly talented and diverse people in my group, reading and typing up their work is actually very enjoyable. Interacting with that writing in the form of comments is a uniquely thought provoking exercise. Its a combination of editing, response, and examining the voices and experiences portrayed in the texts.
Hooray for subverting the status quo through treating each other as people!

Blog Post #1: Literacy and Community Literacy

This is the first prompt but I have them out of order because life snuck up on me and trounced me. So this is late but I finally got it up. Better late than never, right?

Blog #1: Welcome to your first semester in the CLC! In this first blog post, spend some time reflecting on the purposes and intentions of literacy and community literacy outlined by the essay by Flower/Higgins/Long. As you compose your post, consider these questions: How do you define community literacy? What problems and possibilities are raised when acts of literacy are considered in community contexts? What do you anticipate being the biggest challenge at your community site? The biggest reward?

When I first spoke to my supervisor, the terrific Professor Tobi Jacobi, about what it was that this internship was all about, I had no clue what the true meanings of community literacy were. I had assumed that it meant having a community that was educated in reading, writing, and generally being able to converse within the public sphere effectively. Even after discussing the goals of SpeakOut! program and the CLC, I had a half formed concept at best. This first blog post is a reflection on the newly reconstructed ideas I have on community literacy, since my previous ideas were headed in a completely different (and ultimately, limited) direction.

Until reading Higgins, Long, and Flower’s article, I still was not clear on the idea of community literacy. The article focuses on a rhetorical situation and construct that is fluid and highly oriented towards understanding and using differences in the community to create myriads of solutions thaImage From: https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/236x/71/ac/49/71ac490c9c09405b21d6ed5b28108478.jpgt can be addressed and changed over time to face ever changing problems in a diverse community. The article highlighted just how complicated and fragile building a community literacy and public is. I think that the unusual nature of the use of differences and complex identities in this new kind of community literacy, which is so contrary to the western world’s ideas, could be a challenge. This could very easily devolve into disorder and in fighting over ‘right’ ways to view things. The Fort Collins and Northern Colorado community is not always good at acknowledging other ways and walks of life. There are a lot of gaps between people here and a lot of unwillingness to listen at times, which makes this a tough situation to deal with.

In regards to my site, the Larimer County Detention Center, with the women, I think that preconceived notions, on both sides, could be a big challenge. I will admit I am nervous and even scared to do this, for fear of not being able to maneuver through and within the confines of our stereotypes, our assumptions, and even the moments where certain ideas are unfortunately reinforced. I am a rather sheltered person and often feel that my background inhibits my greater understanding and connection with those of a different lifestyle. But I think if we can make connections, this site could be a wealth of learning and community. The reward here is to listen, to talk. To see each other as people not numbers, or a ‘bad crowd’; that would be a wonderful outcome. So often I have found difference to be intimidating because I don’t even know where to start, how to connect in ways that don’t immediately offend or intrude. Finally being in a place where that social boundary that stops others and myself in our tracks is broken down, making just one tiny effect towards positive community experience…that would be so amazing to me.

Blog Post #3: Literacy and the Literacy Myth

Blog #3: Literacy and the Literacy Myth
Jim Gee’s essay points to the tendency of the United States to operate in crisis mode–particularly when it comes to educational policy and practice. He points to both historical and contemporary examples that question the purpose and capacity of literate activity.
What do you make of all this? When you consider your community site, how do you respond to Gee’s question: “what good does (could) literacy do?” (33) What kind of answer is literacy for the writers/learners at your site? What questions are they asking of literacy? Do they conflict with the ones we impose with our curricula and practices?

 

Gee’s argument is one part cynical and two parts based in truth for me. I agree that literacy is a term that is fraught with hidden social-political power dynamics. After reading his argument against the myth of literacy being a magical solution and education as a saving grace, I see some grains of truth there, as the school systems do reenforce the dominant cultural and political values of the elite and always have. The historical and social contexts are a huge part in the shaping forces of how people interpret things and how they “read” the texts and the world itself, that our understanding of language is learned and shaped by those with who we are exposed to. Yet I also read his text with a grain of salt.

The purpose of Gee’s essay was to disprove the myth of literacy in western culture in order to expose the roots of these problems, namely schools, sociopolitical power, and elites placing values in schools that are not the same as those of non-elites. But in this essay was a kind of defeatist mentality, a lack of hope for any good to come of literacy. Gee’s unrelenting focus on disproving literacy as a positive force seems to me a symptom of the very “crisis mode” that he begins the essay on. Thinking of “how talk about literacy and ‘literacy crises’ is often a displacement of deeper social fears, an evasion of more significant social problems” is actually what Gee is suffering under too (22). The problem isn’t that people can’t communicate, that they can’t interpret the textual environment around them; it is that the systems inherent in Western society perpetuate dominant discourses and ideologies that lead to inequalities and a skewed value system with which to judge intellect and mental skills. So Gee decides to focus on what is true of literacy instead of how the crisis is masquerading as something its not. He wishes to expose the truth, but in a way makes the focus hinge on an avoidance of the misdirection and is swept along with it.

“What good does literacy do?” Gee asks and I answer: so much more than you give it credit (33). If literacy is tied up in how to learn to read things in a social context as defined by the groups in which we circulate, then writing workshops on our sites are challenging the status quo like he mentioned the incoming generation of ‘minority’ majority would have to. By giving people who are typically minority and non-dominant the opportunity to share – in their own literacy and understandings – what they know and feel, this is subversive to the dominant discourse of what it is to be literate, of what it is to be a stereotyped and ignored population. They are enculturing the mainstream in their views and in the process chipping away at the system that fails educations, enforces oppression, and changing how we read. This is social change, utilizing literacy as a tool and a liberator. This isn’t mythical, its real.

The women at the Larimer County Detention Center are not blind as to the social issues entwined with literacy, but they are asking literacy to be their sword and shield. How can I learn to hone skills like short fiction and how to share a life story in words? How can I enjoy intellectual writing and free writing? They are just as invested as anyone else and they can see the good within literacy that Gee discounts. We ask them what they want of the workshops, not the other way around. This is different than traditional methods, especially public school methods that preach instead of working collaboratively and for a shift in understanding of literacy practice and purpose. Gee quotes Raymond Williams as being close to a method of change, that “it is only in a shared belief and insistence that there are practical alternatives to the balance of forces and chances begin to alter” (45). SpeakOut! is that shared practice and belief, that one step closer to a new and more difficult answer that will end up being a better literacy than the one Gee is despairing of.