Writing Spaces: Readings on Writing

I'd like to encourage all of you to keep your eye on Writing Spaces. It is the start of an open access textbook for writing courses. They're calling for submissions; here's part of the call for proposals:

Volumes in Writing Spaces: Readings on Writing will offer multiple perspectives on a wide-range of topics about writing, much like the model made famous by Wendy Bishop’s The Subject Is . . . series. In each chapter, a rich variety of authors will present their unique views, insights, and strategies for writing by addressing the undergraduate reader directly. Drawing on their own experiences, these teachers-as-writers will invite students to join in the larger conversation about developing nearly every aspect of their craft. Consequently, each essay will function as a standalone text which will easily compliment other selected readings in writing or writing-intensive courses across the disciplines at any level. Thus with your submissions and the publication of subsequent volumes of essays, the Writing Spaces website will become a large library of student-centered instructional essays on writing for all across our field to use in the composition classroom.

The theme for Writing Spaces: Readings on Writing, Vol. 1 will be first-year composition, and we invite authors to submit a proposal for a chapter on any topic about writing suitable for a first-year class. For example,

* College writing vs. what you did in high school
* Freewriting
* Why invention is important
* Finding a topic for your personal narrative
* Drawing on personal experience in your writing
* Understanding the rhetorical situation
* What is creativity?
* What do we mean by that term "style?"
* Developing the appropriate voice for your audience
* Getting to the draft
* What makes a good thesis and how to focus your paper
* Best practices for conducting research
* The Internet as a space for communication and research
* Effective quoting, paraphrasing, and summarizing
* Re-vision as re-seeing your text
* Why proofreading is important
* Primary research: the I-search paper, ethnography, or interviewing
* Logic in argumentative writing
* Collaborative writing
* New media writing

Because each chapter in Writing Spaces is an essay, authors will want to strike a balance between instruction and creating a text that demonstrates excellent essay writing, with an appropriate and strong, engaging voice for a student audience. An essay could provide students with good writing advice and strategies. Or it might exemplify the type of essay writing that presents perspectives that stimulate critical thinking and invigorating class conversations. Any essay that incorporates outside material should also serve as a student-friendly model for demonstrating effective attribution and integration of sources.

That reminds me: I am continually annoyed by the main problem I see with the reading selections in composition textbooks, which is the dissonance between the readings in the book and the kind of writing we teach (or the writing our universities, I'd argue rightfully, expect us to teach). Usually we're assigning students research papers or some other kind of source-driven paper. For these kinds of papers, we expect information to be cited in the following style, with attributive tags and parenthetical in-text citations:

According to one published study, unemployment rates have "ebbed and flowed in an unpredictable pattern since 1977" (Wilson 5).

We want students to be able to integrate source materials in the above manner. So what kinds of texts do textbook authors put in books? Why, Amy Tan's "Mother Tongue" and George Orwell's "Shooting an Elephant," of course! Or op-ed pieces from newspapers and magazines, which don't cite sources that way either. Instead, it's simply assumed, based on the reputation of the magazine, that the writing is "researched" and fact-checked prior to publication. The burden of proof is then shared and is not on the author of the essay in the same way it is in academic writing.

Anyway, just grinds my gears. I know that Writing Spaces seems to be interested in literacy narrative types of pieces, but they also appear to be interested in pieces with a "teach first-year writing as an introduction to writing studies" approach, which would lend itself to citations of research in rhetoric and composition. Please, if you submit something to this collection, remember your MLA format.