Craft Wreath

For years now, I've been wanting my mom to send me our old Christmas tree ornaments, of which there are boxes and boxes (and boxes!). Now that we're homeowners, she has sent us these boxes. I've had this craft project planned since probably 2006 or so; I know we had some very nice ornaments, but we also had some cheapo ornaments too. I thought I'd upcycle them into a wreath. Finally I have had the opportunity to do this, and here's the result on our door:


Foods Henry Has Eaten So Far

human milk
apple juice
applesauce (baby kind)
applesauce (adult kind with cranberry and raspberry)
rice cereal
barley cereal
whole wheat toast
yams (at a restaurant I gave him a bite of mine)
hummus (ditto)
"green vegetables" with brown rice, which he hated
butternut squash, which he also hated
oatmeal (Quaker Nutrition for Women kind, vanilla cinnamon flavor)
smoothie (Naked brand, the green one)
bananas (both fresh and pureed)


  • Today I bought four bags of books at my university library's used book sale. Score!
  • Henry has TWO teeth now, and he likes to chew my fingers with them.
  • I'm doing a conference presentation at LACC on Saturday, and I think I might do a ten-minute presentation containing the primary information/argument, then use whatever time I have left for some outtakes. The title is "'No More Than a Year': Isocrates and the Assessment of First-Year Writing." With this presentation, I may or may not be embarking on a new series of research projects. I am definitely entering an area that is not very familiar to me (assessment) and another area that is outside my main specialty (classical rhetoric). The outtakes, which have to do with ideas of natural ability, are interesting, but they don't quite fit into the main focus of the presentation.

Pediatrician Michael Melancon

He's good. Two weeks ago today, we saw him for Henry's six-month visit, and I showed him Henry's shaky sitting-up technique. He took one look and said, "I give it two weeks, then he'll be sitting up without assistance." One week and six days later, Henry did it. Here's a video from earlier this morning:

In case you were wondering, immediately after I shot this video, I covered up that electrical outlet in the background with a couple of those plastic dummy plugs.

2008 Ragin' Cajuns Homecoming Parade Soundtrack

  • "I Wanna Dance With Somebody" -- Whitney Houston
  • "Hey Ya!" -- Outkast
  • "Yeah!" -- Usher, Ludacris, Lil Jon
  • "Bad Moon Rising" -- Creedence Clearwater Revival (played by a cover band on the float)
  • "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" -- Cyndi Lauper

A Collection of Good and Not-So-Good Reasons for Assigning a Personal Narrative as the First Essay in a Composition Course

Apropos of a lecture I attended yesterday by Bruce Horner* and some general thoughts I've been having lately about this issue, I've decided to collect as many reasons as I can think of for assigning some sort of "personal essay" as the first assignment in a college writing course. These are reasons I've heard other people cite and reasons I came up with myself when examining this question as a thought exercise. I'm not saying all of these are good reasons by any means, only trying to compile a list. Please let me know if you have other reasons.

1. Start inward, go outward: or from individual concerns to social concerns. This is one of the ideas Horner critiqued, actually; he argued that it rests on assumptions that those two things are uniform and monolithic (I would add, not to mention mutually exclusive).

2. Building blocks: provide students "an initial experience in expression" which they can build on as they move on to argumentation.

3. When content is irrelevant: personal experience provides expedient subject matter when the subject matter of the essay (and the student's mastery of it) is not what one wants to assess. For example, personal experience is often used as a topic for diagnostic essays/proficiency exams in which one wants to assess students' grammar, mechanics, sentence structure, vocabulary, etc.

4. In the interim: students may lack experience with research-based arguments, so the teacher doesn't want to jump right in with that kind of writing yet. As the instructor is in the process of teaching research and argument, s/he assigns students to write about something they know, so that they're always doing some writing.

5. Descriptive skills first: the teacher wants to start off the class by teaching a certain skill set which includes vivid description and specific detail.

6. Unlearn: the teacher wants to get students beyond the five-paragraph essay format they may have had in high school, and as quickly as possible. As a personal narrative doesn't lend itself well to the FPE structure, it hastens this kind of unlearning.

7. Hailing students as writers: the teacher wants students to think about themselves as writers from the very beginning of the course, so s/he assigns a literacy narrative type of assignment to facilitate students' reflections on their past experiences with writing.

8. First contact with theme: the particular FYW course has a theme, and as a way to get students thinking about that theme (gender, cyberspace, labor, what have you), the teacher assigns a personal essay about the student's experience with the course theme.

[Edited to add...]

9. Writing from personal experience can be an exercise in amplificatio

10. Personal experience is easy to write about

And here are some other reasons for assigning personal writing which I'll include for the sake of comprehensiveness. These reasons, however, are reasons for assigning personal writing in general. I'm more interested in "Essay 1: Personal Narrative" reasons that call for putting a narrative first in an assignment sequence.

1. Empowerment: if personal writing is the province of the socially and politically privileged, assigning this kind of writing helps students have access to this discourse.

2. Self-knowledge/student interest: college is thought of as a time to learn more about oneself. I've asked in classes before as a short in-class writing assignment, for example, "what do you most want to learn?" The overwhelming majority of students write "I want to learn about myself/find out who I am."

3. Find your voice: personal writing can be a way to discover what one's voice sounds like. It's a way to cultivate an ethos and style that a student can (potentially? presumably?) take with him/her to other genres and contexts.

4. Site of negotiation: I got this one from Horner. It conceives of the personal as a site of negotiation with issues of ethics, politics, epistemology, social construction, etc.

[Edited to add...]

5. Something for everyone: while some students don't like writing from personal experience, others do, so you assign both outside-source-based and experience-based essays.

6. Refutatio: if you assign an article written by an author who is writing about a group of people of which the students are a part (Cajuns, young people, college students, etc.), students could write an auto-ethnography that responds to the author's claims.

7. Investment: you want students to feel some personal stake (ownership, authority) in the writing they do. If they're writing about a topic they don't care about, they won't care about the research involved, organization, style, etc. of the paper. But if they are writing from personal experience, they (presumably) care more about how that experience is represented on the page and will spend more thought on crafting the essay.

* abstract here:

"Rewriting the Personal"

Examining the contradiction between those calls for incorporating
personal writing into scholarly texts to defy the strictures of recent
critical theory and those calls for using personal writing to comply with
those strictures, I argue that confusion over what constitutes the personal
has led to this discrepancy in positions on its use and prevents us from more
productive engagement with the personal in public discourse in both our
writing and our teaching.

WSJ Note

The Wall Street Journal news feed is always kind of screwy in my experience, but I got a kick out of this. It seems they couldn't just pick a verb and stick with it:


Feminisms and Rhetorics 2009

I'm being asked by a few folks to circulate the following call for proposals for the next Feminisms and Rhetorics conference, which follows below. Bravo to Michigan State for taking out the parentheses -- as in feminism(s), rhetoric(s). If we're going to use the plural, let's use the plural.

One bit of criticism I have, which isn't necessarily directed toward Michigan State's department, or even the Feminisms and Rhetorics conference, is that I wish we could start putting conference sites in ONE place, like all FemRhet conference sites could be on the Coalition's site. We tried to do that with Computers and Writing, but it didn't catch on, as Stanford did their own site for 2005's conference, Texas Tech did their own for 2006, Wayne State did the same for 2007, which doesn't seem to be there anymore, and UGA created a site for 2008's conference.

The problem for Feminisms and Rhetorics, though, is more serious, I think. At least most of the Computers and Writing conference sites are still available. Try to go to the conference site for 1999, and it's not there. 2001's conference in Decatur, IL doesn't have a site available either. Ohio State's 2003 conference site redirects to the English department's main page. I couldn't find sites for Michigan Tech's 2005 conference or even the most recent one, 2007's conference at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

I understand if universities want to create their own sites for conferences they're hosting. Still, I don't think these sites should be thought of as ephemera. They're historical documents about fields of study. I think it's important to at least archive the files at some stable site that represents the organization and isn't hosted on a particular university's web space. If Michigan State does this, I will be very impressed.

Michigan State University / East Lansing, Michigan / October 7–9, 2009 *

The 2009 Feminism(s) and Rhetoric(s) conference will be hosted by the
Rhetoric & Writing program at Michigan State University. We invite proposals

• *reflect* the complexity and diversity of who "we" are as a scholarly
• *make manifest* the deep structure of the connections, intersections, and
overlaps that actually
make us a community;
• *help articulate* who "we" are as a deliberate community of scholars, and
what that means about our responsibilities and relationships to one another
across scholarly areas and institutional positions;
• *highlight* scholarly and teacherly activities that deliberately create
space for more complex notions of scholarship and teaching within the
discipline of Rhet/Comp;
• *include* and significantly engage communities outside of the academy;
• *focus on* antiracist pedagogies and scholarship; present
interdisciplinary scholarship in Afrafeminist Rhetorics; American Indian
Rhetorics, Chicana Rhetorics, Asian American Rhetorics, post/neo-colonial
• *highlight* the intellectual traditions of women's communities, especially
communities constellated around specific identity markers such as race,
ethnicity, class, sexual orientation issues, geographic origins;
• *explore* the relationships between written, oral, and material discursive
• and other topics that *address* the connections in the conference theme.

We also welcome proposals on relevant topics not directly addressed above,
that significantly engage disciplines other than Rhet/Comp, and that have
consequences for communities located outside of the academy.

Although traditional presentations are acceptable, we encourage participants
to create formats that go beyond the read-aloud academic paper. Interactive
sessions that include discussions, dialogues, and performances are
especially welcome. Proposals should be uploaded to the FemRhet 2009 web
site (, and can be for:

• 20-minute individual presentations (250-word proposals)
• 90-minute 3–4 member panels (500-word proposals)
• 90-minute workshops or roundtables (500-word proposals)

Please plan to submit a title, a proposal the length indicated above, and a
program-ready, booklet-friendly 50-word blurb for the presentation.

Proposal System Open: December 15, 2008
Proposal Deadline: February 1, 2009
Acceptances Distributed: April 30, 2009

For more information: Contact Malea Powell (, Nancy DeJoy (, or Rhea Lathan (

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