Monday, January 1, 2018

About Me

I am an Associate Professor in the department of Curriculum, Teaching and Learning at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto. My research interests are in sociocultural theories of learning, issues of power and identity in learning. I am also interested in supporting faculty and grad students in their writing and work-life balance. I work as a coach for the Faculty Success Program and teach CTL 1811, a course for graduate students that builds a community of support around writing.

For details on my research and teaching, download my full cv

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Vacation time!

I'll be taking a vacation from the blog through August. Next week I'm off on a creative writing workshop with the always amazing Lynda Barry. When I come back, it's all grant-writing all the time, and I'll pop in now and then to update on how it's going 'writing to a structure.'
I'll be back for good in September, when the new academic year starts, with more writing prompts and suggestions.
Happy August!

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Writing to a Structure

In this video I talk about a strategy I'm learning from Priscilla Long's book The Writer's Portable Mentor. The idea is to use an exemplar piece, analyse its structure at the section and paragraph level, and then draft your own piece using the same structure. After a first draft is produced, you can start to work with your piece on its own terms... but it's much easier to get there if you borrow a structure.

In the video, I talk a little bit about why I think it's useful and important to write to a structure. While some may think that writing to a structure eliminates creativity, I disagree, and I talk a little bit about why.

I'll be trying out this strategy over the next few weeks and hope to keep you updated about how it goes.


Monday, July 17, 2017

Using tarot to get past writing roadblocks

In today's video I explain how I used tarot to help me (start to!) get past a writing roadblock. In the video I reference:
The Fool's Dog Tarot Sampler (app)
Kim Krans's Wild Unknown tarot deck
Joan Bolker's book Writing Your Dissertation in Fifteen Minutes a Day

Let me know if you have used tarot to help you with your writing, and what happened!


Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Another use for the academic word kit: Interview with a scholar

When Lynda Barry and Ebony Flowers visited Toronto in April 2017, Ebony shared a variation on the academic words/questions activity that we already discussed.

Briefly, you use your academic kit to generate a question related to your research, and then you write an interview with a scholar of your choice, imagining how they might answer the question.


Here's my sample comic, when I asked an imaginary Dorothy Holland what illness has to do with monsters.


Friday, July 7, 2017

Creating and using an academic word and question kit

In this video, I talk you through the process for creating an academic word and question kit, so you can generate lots of different free-writing prompts related to your research. The credit goes to Lynda Barry and Ebony Flowers who developed this idea together.

You will need some index cards. Cut some in half - you will use these for words related to your research (plus some unrelated words for fun). On the other cards, write questions. Each question should have a blank in it, to be filled by a word from the word cards. Get creative with the questions! I've listed some example questions below the video.


What is the opposite of ____ ?
What does ____ want?
What animal does ____ remind you of the most?
How is ____ like a monster?
What happens if ____ gets wet?
Does ____ live in our minds?
What does common sense about ____ get right?
Why can metaphors be a problem with ____ ?
What happens when ____ breaks?
What is important about ____ ?
Tell a lie about ____ .
What is the best environment for ____ ?
What makes ____ so alluring?
What does ____ have to do with time?
What if ____ fell on the ground?

Post any additional questions in the comments!


Monday, June 19, 2017

On revision

For this week's prompts, I'd like to share some wisdom from a book I'm working through at the moment: Naming the World, and Other Exercises for the Creative Writer, edited by Bret Anthony Johnston. It's an edited volume, with many different writers and writing instructors contributing writing prompts and exercises.

We've mostly been talking about generating new ideas, making sense of tough concepts, and the like. This week I'd like to focus on revision. I've always said that I hate revision, but I think I haven't had great tools for it until now. I'd love to start a discussion with folks about what, precisely, you do when you revise.

For now, here are some ideas from John Smolens's chapter, on shortening a piece while you revise:
Be ruthless with the usual suspects, adjectives and adverbs; retain only those that are truly necessary, those that so dramatically alter the noun or verb they are modifying that the sentence would be significantly different without them.
Take one paragraph and distill it until you've said the same thing in one sentence. 
 Combine sentences (in particular, by using subordination which often allows connecting words and entire phrases to be dropped).
 Employ the active voice as much as possible. (pp. 303-304)
 If you use writing as a way to figure out what you think, as I do, then inevitably your first draft (and potentially many drafts after that one!) has a lot of extraneous material. It can be a great idea to shorten while you revise.