unCommon News February 2014

unCommon News

A crowd-powered newsletter for a writing-centered community

February, 2014

Dear Friends,

We hope all’s well with you and your classes.

This month we are delighted to announce the winner of the Aaron Swartz Award for 2013: Congratulations, Andrea Scott, Assistant Professor at Pitzer College, whose article “Formulating a Thesis” was published in April 2013.

We are honored to carry on the tradition of publishing innovative creative writing webtexts with the publication of  “Dances with Dialogue: The Difficulty of Speaking” by the world-acclaimed playwright David Kranes.

For those of you who are considering writing for us, check out Jenna Pack’s reflections on her experience publishing at Writing Commons. Since “Breaking Down an Image” was published  in April 2012, it’s been viewed 11,396 times; her second webtext, “Using First Person in an Academic Essay: When is it Okay?” has been viewed 42,184  times!

Published Webtexts


This month, we have one new original webtext to celebrate. “Dances with Dialogue: The Difficulty of Speaking” was written by David Kranes, a prolific writer who has served as artistic director of  the Sundance Playwrights Lab. For two decades, David has written about “magicians, gamblers, hit men, painters, [and] casino workers.” He has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize more than  once, and won the Prize for “Blue Motel.” He is a nationally recognized playwright who has also worked as dramaturg for several plays including Angels in America. In this webtext, David writes  about dialogue, when it should “hedge” and when it should “erupt” off the page. This text would work well for creative writing classes, especially those addressing or composing fiction and drama.    It’s a lively and powerfully written essay with practical exercises for the student-writer as well.

The Aaron Swartz Best Webtext Award

Andrea-ScottHere at Writing Commons, we are inspired by the life of Aaron Swartz. To honor his contributions to open education, we decided to name the best webtext award in his name. In December of 2013, our staff, editors, review editors, and editorial board selected the best Writing Commons publications of the last year. This vote narrowed the possible candidates to six. In January 2014, we asked our readers to vote on the six pieces (see the list of Finalists below). Based on these votes, the winner of the Aaron Swartz Best Webtext Award is Andrea Scott’s “Formulating a Thesis.”

Formulating a Thesis by Andrea Scott

Congratulations to Andrea Scott and our outstanding finalists!

Creating Scientific Posters by Candice A. Welhausen

Getting Started Writing a Wiki by M.C. Morgan

Synthesizing Your Research Findings by Christine Photinos

E-mail Guidelines to Students by Lee Ann Hodges

Smart Searching by Anna Fidgeon

Thanks to all our readers who voted!

A Note for an Author or Teacher

I submitted to Writing Commons because I care about open access and am also committed to multimodality. I wanted to contribute to this project—movement, really—that uses text, video, sound, interactivity, and social sharing to get students engaged and learning about writing. It certainly does not hurt that Writing Commons is peer-reviewed and provides graduate students like me practice in receiving feedback on writing and negotiating that feedback in a lower-stakes environment than submitting to a traditional scholarly journal. To decide what to write, I thought about issues I find myself repeating over and over again to my students or common concerns my students have had. Wouldn’t it be great to quickly point them to a website that answers their questions, which they can return to whenever a problem arises?

So, I wrote two articles—one about visual rhetoric and the other about when it’s appropriate to use first person in academic writing. Not only has it been a great resource in my own courses because I can refer students to these articles, but with over 11,396 and 42,184 views respectively, these articles are useful to others. I highly doubt my scholarly publications in my field will ever get this kind of traction. As such, as contributors and/or teachers, Writing Commons provides a great way to help your students and others become better writers, to add to your web presence and your list of publications, to make your commitment to writing visible to a wide audience, and to contribute to the collective wisdom of a free, global, peer-reviewed, open access site devoted to writing across genres and contexts.

Jenna Pack Sheffield, Ph.D. Candidate, University of Arizona

Call for Papers for Technical Communication

Writing Commons is looking to expand and populate its Professional and Technical Writing resources for students. We are looking for contributions that highlight the “best practices” for writers in a given field or area of expertise. While the CFP focuses on the best practices for composing traditional genres in the field (e.g., memos, posters, instructions, manuals), Writing Commons is always open to considering contributions that shed light onto the more complex technologies and spaces technical communicators engage with and occupy respectively, while still being grounded enough and content-appropriate for lower- or upper-level undergraduate classes in the field.  The site affords authors the opportunity to integrate videos, images, audio clips, HTML embedding, and/or social media sharing into their work. Here is just one example of the types of articles Writing Commons seeks.

Consider contributing, or encourage your graduate students to contribute, specifically those looking for a peer-reviewed publication to submit on their CV. Writing Commons is always looking for contributions in many fields of writing, not just professional and technical. Don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions you might have. (If you wish to submit a webtext in creative writing, please contact Dianne Donnelly (ddonnelly@usf.edu, and for rhetoric and composition and all other inquiries, please contact Quentin Vieregge at quentin@writingcommons.org).

Dan Richards (dprichar@odu), Editor, Technical Communications

Attending CCCC 2014?

Traffic Report 


A Note on Advertisements

We have been experimenting with advertisements at Writing Commons to meet ongoing costs. Because we don’t want the ads to be too intrusive, we are publishing just two advertisements below the fold. To support our efforts, please click an ad from time to time.

Social Media

Visit us at our Facebook page. View newsfeeds regarding Writing Commons and updates about open education.

Don’t forget to connect with Writing Commons on Twitter using @writingcommons and #writingcommons. Writing Commons’ tweets consist of answers to students’ most common writing questions, such as “What’s a paragraph supposed to have?” and “What’s Rogerian argument?” Each tweet is hyperlinked to our Writing Commons blog where Writing Commons staff members provide succinct, accessible answers and helpful examples.

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