April 30, 2013

The Purdue OWL and Second Language Writers

I’d like to welcome Joshua M. Paiz to the blog this week!  Paiz is a second year doctoral student in Second Language Studies at Purdue University. At Purdue, he serves as the Coordinator of the Purdue Online Writing Lab and is an instructor in the Introductory Composition at Purdue program. His research interests include sociocognitive approaches to second language acquisition, program administration, and graduate student professionalization/professional identity construction. 


The Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL) receives over 200,000,000 hits annually from all over the planet. Since 1994, the Purdue OWL’s focus has been on helping writers, and we have attempted to address the needs of second language (L2) writers through specially designed sections for English as a Second Language (ESL) writers. However, our ESL resources, until recently were a little sparse and focused on L2 writers in North American higher and community educational contexts; this means that they have not been keyed into the potentially unique needs of our international audience.

This creates, at least in the eyes of the Purdue OWL leadership, the need to uncover whether or not we are meeting the needs of practitioners outside of the North America, the United Kingdom, and Australia—the so-called English as a Foreign Language (EFL) context. This desire to better serve our global users has led to the OWL Abroad research project.  This project launched in the summer of 2012, and it is targeted specifically at teachers of writing, focused on uncovering usage patterns, attitudes, and needs of OWL users from across the globe. In some EFL contexts, online writing labs are some of the few readily available resources for the teaching of writing.

The Purdue OWL staff deployed a two-part instrument—an online survey and a follow-up email interview—to uncover these usage patterns, attitudes, and needs. This survey was sent to seven international professional listservs that target writing professionals and administrators, and it was left open for about five months. We received over 130 responses. From these 130 responses, we identified 46 individuals for email follow-up and are currently awaiting responses before we continue our data analysis.

Although the data analysis for this project is currently ongoing, we are already seeing some interesting trends in the data. Most salient for us is the relative linguistic inaccessibility of many of our ESL resources for international students of varying proficiencies in English. I’m happy to report that the Purdue OWL is currently taking steps to remedy this issue: we have just wrapped up a project that has sought to make all of our major ESL resources more linguistically accessible to a wider range of linguistic proficiencies. These changes will be coming online in the coming weeks along side of a number of new ESL resources and classroom activities. It is hoped that this changes will also aid practitioners and L2 writers in EFL contexts.

If you’d like to stay up-to-date on OWL research and new ESL/EFL resources, you can visit the Purdue OWL News (owl.english.purdue.edu/purdueowlnews).

April 22, 2013

National Poetry Month with Maria Mazziotti Gillan

Maria Mazziotti Gillan
For the final week of National Poetry Month, the PCCC Writing Center blog would like to welcome Maria Mazziotti Gillan. She is a recipient of the 2011 Barnes & Noble Writers for Writers Award from Poets & Writers, and the 2008 American Book Award for her book, All That Lies Between Us (Guernica Editions). She is the Founder /Executive Director of the Poetry Center at Passaic County Community College in Paterson, NJ, and editor of the Paterson Literary Review. She is also Director of the Creative Writing Program and Professor of Poetry at Binghamton University-SUNY.  She has published 16 books, including The Weather of Old Seasons (Cross-Cultural Communications), and Where I Come From, Things My Mother Told Me, Italian Women in Black Dresses, and What We Pass On:  Collected Poems 1980-2009 (all from Guernica Editions). Her most recent books are The Place I Call Home (NYQ Books, 2012) and Writing Poetry to Save Your Life:  How to Find the Courage to Tell Your Stories (MiroLand/Guernica, April 30, 2013). With her daughter, Jennifer, she is co-editor of four anthologies: Unsettling America, Identity Lessons, and Growing Up Ethnic in America (Penguin/Putnam) and Italian-American Writers on New Jersey (Rutgers). 

PCCC: How did you know or when did you know you were a poet?

Maria Mazziotti Gillan (MMG): I knew I wanted to be a poet when I was very young. I started writing when I was 8 years old, and once I saw my poems published when I was 13 I knew that I would never stop being a poet. In a way you don’t chose [poetry], it chooses you. It grabs you by the back of the neck and says this is it.

PCCC: What topics do you most like to explore in your poetry? What influences you?

MMG: I explore ethnicity, family relationships, place, grief, loss, the environment. My poetry is increasingly concerned with grief over what we’ve done to the earth, but always my poems are narrative and even when I am writing about world issues, I always connect those issues to the personal. I have a new book coming out at the end of April, 2013, Writing Poetry to Save Your Life: How to Find the Courage to Tell Your Stories (Toronto, Canada: Miroland/Guernica, 2013), and it’s part memoir and part a book intended to encourage people to write so it explains in detail how I came to writing, and how to help yourself to find what you need to write about.

PCCC: What other types of writing, genre, and art forms are you interested in?

MMG: I am interested in visual art as well as poetry, and I began to paint again about ten years ago. I was encouraged to do that by Beat poet Diane di Prima when we were on a reading tour in California, and I’ll always be grateful to her for that.

PCCC: What advice can you give to beginning poets and poets dealing with rejection?

MMG: My advice to beginning poets is to read and read and read some more, and also to keep writing even when that writing is not getting published. That’s really why I wrote the book on writing because I thought that people needed to be encouraged to keep on going even when they felt that no one was paying attention to them.

PCCC: What’s next?

MMG: I’ll be touring to publicize the book on writing and later this year I have two new poetry books coming out. One is called The Silence in the Empty House (NYQ books, Fall, 2013) and Ancestor’s Song (Bordighera Press, November 2013).  Other than that, I’m still writing and reading in lots of places across the country, and I don’t plan to stop anytime soon.

Read more about Maria on her web site at http://www.mariagillan.com and check out her blog at http://mariagillan.blogspot.com.

April 15, 2013

Celebrating National Poetry Month with Mark Hillringhouse

Mark Hillringhouse
We are continuing to celebrate NJ poets and poetry during National Poetry Month on the PCCC Writing Center blog! This week we are featuring poet and photographer Mark Hillringhouse. Hillringhouse is a published poet, essayist, and photographer whose works have been widely exhibited in area galleries. His photography and writing have been published in The American Poetry Review, The Literary Review, The New York Times, The New Jersey Monthly, The Paris Review, and in many other journals, books, anthologies and magazines. He was the founding editor of The American Book Review, and a contributing editor for The New York Arts Journal.  Thrice nominated for a Pushcart Prize, and a three-time recipient of a New Jersey State Council on the Arts Fellowship, he recently won the 2011 Allen Ginsberg Award for poetry and the National Parks 2012 Calendar photography contest. His film documentary with collaborator Kevin Carey on the life of Paterson poet Maria Gillan titled All That Lies Between Us has just been released in DVD. And his recent book of poems and photographs titled Between Frames was published last year by Serving House Books.  He has an MFA in creative writing from Fairleigh Dickinson University, and he is a member of the English Department at Passaic County Community College.Visit Mark at http://mhillringhouse.zenfolio.com

PCCC: How did you know or when did you know you were a poet?

Mark Hillringhouse (MH): I didn't know until college, but I wrote in high school and was part of a poetry club. We had a teacher at Hackensack High who wrote and published a book of poetry and she was the adviser.  I published a poem at 14.  By college I was sending out to magazines and I had a few published in different magazines and then I took all the courses I could.  I never knew it just happened, it was something I couldn't help. I was a weird kid who hung out in the library half the time in 8.11 of the Dewey Decimal system.  I grew comfortable being alone and I liked silence.  I read.  

PCCC: What topics do you most like to explore in your poetry? What influences you?

MH: I don’t think that my poetry has a particular message to give.  I hope it gives readers pleasure.  I try to exercise some demons, expiate some guilt, and I try to locate my feelings within those poems.  It is as if I can point to them and say that is how I was feeling, that was what I felt, what I experienced and lived through. 

I tell my students never wish away time.  I tell myself the same thing.  I want to pay attention to certain things, to appreciate them.  It is also why I love photography.  It is the only way I know to stop time.  I told George Tice once that I wanted to come back and photograph something I had seen and he said that it may not be there when I go back.  And he was right.  It amazes me how quickly things change.  People and relationships with family and friends is the most important aspect of living.  How we see ourselves is another.  I have poems that question the nature of things, the nature of identity.  It is a philosophical problem, sometimes a psychological problem, but it comes up in my poetry.

 PCCC: What other types of writing, genre, art forms are you interested in?

MH: I was in my twenties when I got into photography.  I started to learn how to shoot with an old Ricoh 35 mm camera and then I hooked up with a professional photographer who was a recent graduate of the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan.  He showed me how to handle film and compose and we went out shooting a lot together and we’d spend hours upon hours in his dark room developing and printing. I used it as a tool to help me write.  I’m a visual thinker and I loved the dark room, watching images appear in the developer “under water” as it were like a dream rising to the surface.  You can’t have that experience with digital photography, and seeing everything through negatives the black and white reversed. And because it is black and white it is abstract, removed from reality.

I still miss it, the dark room.  With digital photography I've pretty much taught myself, but I have taken a few classes.  Back when we had film cameras it was all about the lens, buying different lenses.  Now I have just downloaded “Lightroom 4” into my MacBook Pro, and I installed a tutorial app on my iPad for using Lightroom.  I got pretty good teaching myself Aperture 3, and Photoshop CS4.  I wanted to try Lightroom.  CS6 is out in Photoshop.  It is hard to keep up.  I go on YouTube for tutorials, or I take workshops.  There is quiet a learning curve.

It used to be that you got a good camera body like a Nikon and then invested in good glass and experimented with different film and paper.  But now the camera is the film and you have to keep changing cameras buying the newest and latest models.    

George Tice, my mentor in photography, said to me and I quote him, “Photography died when Kodak stopped making black and white paper.”  I get his point.  There are young photographers now who have never seen film or a dark room.  

I moved into artist housing in Paterson in 1984 when they opened the newly renovated Essex Mill on Mill Street which is part of the historic mill district.  I was one of the first artists who moved in there.  A community of artists developed and we got to know each other.  We put on readings, jazz concerts, some gallery shows.  I loved it.  I got to know a lot of musicians, painters, sculptors, photographers, writers and poets.  I had a loft that faced the Great Falls since I was in the back away from the street.  I had my studio there and I was always working on photography and writing poetry and reviews and articles and interviews.  Someone gave me a copy of George Tice’s book titled “Paterson” and I was taken with its clarity and austere beauty.  Twenty years later, I got to know George Tice and I got to help him with his sequel book to the first Paterson book, which he titled “Paterson II.”  It was published in 2006.  I learned a lot from him and he is a mentor.

But I also learned a lot from watching painters work.  At the end of the day picture making is picture making.  I took a life drawing class in Manhattan at the Eighth Street Studio School which is a fine art school run by professional working artists. Learning how to draw the human form was the hardest class I’ve ever taken.  It was three hours every Wednesday evening for a semester.  The class stood in a semi circle at our easels in front of the nude models and the instructor had us do five-minute charcoal sketches, ten-minute, fifteen-minute, thirty-minute sketches.  I would go through a giant sketch pad in two classes.  I remember sweating.  It was a work out.  The instructor would come over and tell me to work on this and work on that.  He would show me how to draw a line.  The feet and hands were extremely difficult.  One very important thing he taught me was that I had to feel the line and feel the line flowing from the movement of my hand and wrist onto the paper, that it was inside you and not just something you were staring at.  This applies to photography also in that there is a feeling of being connected physically through the camera’s lens to the image and that you learn to see how the camera sees.  But it helped my photography, helped me with line, understanding line.

My other writing projects are interviews and essays.  I also reviewed for many years.  I was a founding editor of the American Book Review in Manhattan.  This was in my twenties.  I was a member of the National Book Critics' Circle.  I also was interviewing poets and taking their portraits.  I covered the New York School of Ashbery, Schuyler, Koch, Guest, Berrigan, Waldman and others who felt that they were part of this school loosely associated with Frank O'Hara.  My favorite genre is creative non, sometimes called the fourth genre.  It can't be labeled, but it uses the elements of fiction yet it reports from the real world.  

I was a freelance writer for a few years and this is what I did, long pieces, New Yorker type pieces for magazines.  Recently, I've gotten into the photo-essay which is a form of creative non.

Recently, I've begun making film documentaries with a film maker friend of mine.  It is a learning curve, but I am learning and the photography basics are the same. We just finished a film now in DVD on the life of Maria Gillan.  It is getting some press and some reviews and we've premiered the film a few times.  I am going up to Binghampton University next week to show it there and then NYU.  I liked the process of collaboration of working with another artist and teaming up and pooling our resources, talents and skills.  I did some of the shooting and sound and the lighting, and he did a lot of the video taping and editing. I asked the interview questions and we would go over the cuts and the edits.  It took a year.  I thought Maria a great subject for a documentary because of all she has done and accomplished and the fact that she is like a force of nature in the poetry world in this state, a phenomenon really.  

We plan on doing another documentary together on the novelist and story writer Tom E. Kennedy who lives in Copenhagen. I'm just fascinated by his work, and his story. He's an ex pat from Queens who escaped this country for a life in Denmark when he was 30.  

PCCC: What do you most struggle with during the revision process?

MH: That is a very good question.  I found it a challenge to match the poems with the photographs in Between Frames and sometimes vice versa, but I found a way to see what the poem was seeing as if it could take a photograph and so I thought of the poem as a kind of verbal camera.  There were connections in my poems to real places and things and that made it easier in some cases such as my diner poems.  The diner represents a maternal womb for me, a way to huddle in the light in surrounding darkness.  The forces of light and dark are in constant flux in my work and I love the edges of light.  I like the time just after the sun has set as my favorite time to shoot.  This can sometimes switch to just before sunrise.  I tend towards twilight.  I’m a crepuscular writer, northern, and I write during those times and of course late into the evening. But my process is slow when I revise.  I will put poems away for a year and then come back to them.  I need that much time to get my distance.  I finish maybe a handful of poems a year, yet I take thousands of photographs.  But out of a thousand photographs maybe only one or two are good.  The same goes for poetry, but it is slower, so slow I may live long enough for another book although I am trying.  I have a dozen new poems, but I have so many projects going.

I'm finishing an interview with George Tice and I have a date to interview Alice Notley this month.  I am actually considering making a documentary film about her.

PCCC: What are you working on now? What's next?

MH: I have been invited all over to read since my book came out. I'm headed to Michigan on Wednesday to give a reading, and then to Princeton, and I just read at the Hunterdon Art Museum.  It has been fun reading and showing the work.  I worked out a system whereby I can project the photographs that are in the book when I read the poems so that the audience can see them.  

I have several photography projects that are on-going for a few years. One is Hoboken. I've been going there for a couple of years in different seasons and times of day or night.  I start with exteriors and I work my way into the interior of the some people who live there. I ask if I can shoot where they live and I take their portraits. I may try nudes to work that in as well.  I cover the street, the people in the street, the different places, buildings, stores, neighborhoods.  I have many night shots and snow shots and from the Path and the train station.  It may take five years to finish.

My other photography project is barber shops.  I started this six years ago.  I realize that the old Italian immigrant barber is dying out, the shops are closing and the kids don't go into the old man's business.  These guys are in their 80s and 90s even.  I am trying to document them.  They were a real institution in every town in North Jersey which is heavily Italian-American.  

My next book is my book of all my interviews and the portraits I took to go along with the interviews.  This is over twenty years worth of work going back to 1980. I have thirty interviews all published in different magazines.  Now it is time to collect them into a volume.  I have a publisher interested.  I will need a sabbatical.  There is no way I can do this and work full time teaching.  So I hope to apply soon for a sabbatical so that I can see this through. 

April 8, 2013

Celebrating National Poetry Month with Claudia Serea

Claudia Serea
In celebration of National Poetry Month the PCCC Writing Center blog will host one interview a week with an established poet. To start, I'd like to introduce Claudia Serea a Romanian-born poet whose poems and translations have appeared in 5 a.m., Meridian, Harpur Palate, Word Riot, The Red Wheelbarrow, Green Mountains Review, and many others. A two-time Pushcart and Best of the Net nominee, she is the author of Angels & Beasts (Phoenicia Publishing, Canada) and The System (Cold Hub Press, New Zealand). More at http://cserea.tumblr.com/.

PCCC: How did you know or when did you know you were a poet?

Claudia Serea (CS):I never planned to be a poet, it sort of happened. I started writing when I was in my early teens, I think I was in seventh grade. I first wrote a sci-fi novel trilogy about kids my age who had a series of adventures in space. Poetry came later, when I was sixteen or so, and it was always something I did on the side, not really my main focus until 2006, I think. Someone else first referred to me as a poet after I joined The Red Wheelbarrow Poets group and started writing consistently every week.

PCCC: What topics do you most like to explore in your poetry?

CS: I write a lot about growing up in communist Romania, about my family who is still there, but also about my immigration experience, and my current life in New Jersey and New York. There are also myths, Romanian folk tales, dreams, my daughter, many different things. I change styles and themes frequently to get myself out of a comfort zone.

PCCC: What other types of writing do you also focus on? Genre?

CS: I wrote some memoir non-fiction pieces about the Romanian revolution from December 1989 and a couple of articles on the process of writing. I continue to translate Romanian contemporary poetry. I would very much like to write more prose, but I don't have enough time to dedicate to it. For now, just the occasional flash-fiction, prose poems, short forms that can be written during my daily bus commute.

PCCC: What do you most struggle with during the revision process?

CS: Word choice is important. Musicality. Throwing out parts of the poem that don't work and keeping what is good. Line breaks, commas, lots of things. My notebooks are a mess.

PCCC: Talk about your latest book? What's next?

CS: My latest title is The System, a chapbook published by Cold Hub Press, New Zealand, and inspired by my father's experience as a political prisoner in Romania in the late fifties/early sixties. It's a little book that speaks against repression systems everywhere in the world. I feel strongly that my father's and grandmother's stories are important to tell. It's my way to honor the victims of the communist genocide. You can find the book HERE.

I have two other books forthcoming: To Part Is to Die a Little from Cervena Barva Press, and A Dirt Road Hangs From the Sky, from 8th House Publishing in Montreal, Canada. I am looking forward to their release in the near future. I also collaborated recently with four other Romanian-American writers and now we are actively looking for a publisher for our collection. Poetry has been very kind to me and I made many friends through it. I can't wait to see what else it has in store.

April 4, 2013

Using the I Search Research Project to Develop Critical Thinking and Analytical Skills in Developmental Education Courses

Our department has recently integrated both reading and writing courses for both Developmental Education first and second year students.  Research has been introduced to both courses to help students understand the importance of applying the strategies they learn in reading and writing.  The goal is to prepare students by providing opportunities where students can practice critical reading, thinking and writing strategies.

The “I Search” research project is a project where students in second year developmental courses are introduced to the research process.  The method of the “I Search” allows the student to actively engage in the research process with their peers, and work collaboratively to effectively develop research strategies, analytical and synthesis skills.  Through the I Search students combine literacy and writing skills to develop an in depth research paper. 

Learning Outcomes of the I Search Paper
  • The goal of the I Search research project is to help students understand the connection between research and writing.
  • Students develop their confidence as researchers and writers and as a result are able to think creatively about their topic.
  • Students develop collaborative learning skills through the process as they examine their research sources with groups.  This activity is known as Article analysis.  Students learn the valuable process of examining and evaluating research sources, which is an important high-order thinking skill.

As a result of completing the I Search, students are confident in their research skills and writing ability.  They develop the necessary information literacy skills and use MLA to present their papers.  

If you are interested in using an I Search in your writing class, please email writingcenter@pccc.edu

Today's guest post was by Heather Wojdylo, a full-time, Developmental Studies faculty at Passaic County Community College. Professor Wojdylo teaches integrated reading and writing courses.