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.