Thursday, May 11, 2017

Winning Writing Showcase Entries Now Online

We're still celebrating all of this year's SNL Writing Showcase participants and our guests at Writing Showcase Live! It's not too early to start thinking about next year, eitherremind your students to download an application form for the 2018 Writing Showcase and submit their work to anytime before April 1.

Be sure to check out the winning entries from 2017, too, which are now posted (with permission) on SNL's Writing Guide. Scroll to the bottom of the linked page and click on "Writing Showcase Winners" to reveal outstanding work from 2016 and 2017.

More information about SNL's Writing Showcase and other SNL Writing events can be found on the SNL Writing Guide. Happy writing!

Monday, May 8, 2017

Spring Writing Boot Camps Start Saturday, May 13!

Writing Boot Camps start this Saturday. SNL Students are encouraged to attend a boot camp where they can get help from SNL faculty on writing assignments.

To register: Email

Walk-ins are welcome!

Date​:                                                             Location:
Sat., May 13, 2017: 9am-1pm                  O'Hare, Lab 204
Thurs., May 18, 2017: 11am-1pm            Online [Registration required]
​Sat., May 20, 2017: 9am-1pm                  Naperville, Lab 140​
Wed., May 24, 2017: 5:30pm-9pm         Loop, 14 E. Jackson, Lab 1327
Sat. June 3, 2017: 9am-1pm                     Loop, ​14 E. Jackson, Lab 1325

Friday, April 28, 2017

A Garden in a Battlefield: Teaching in Turmoil

by Nicholas Hayes

I am waiting to be bored, and it is hard given our current political and intellectual climate.

I’ve never been compelled to rush into exciting situations although I admire those who are. I think of an acquaintance who taught at the American University of Beirut and ran an organization to help children traumatized by conflict. He spent a life running towards the conflict. On rare occasion, I hear tumult I think about how I can avoid it. I will never be heroic, but I can console myself with the fact I am not complacent. Another former colleague would scold me because I am just talking about teaching and writing. Yet the mood of many people who work in education has become dire because of increasing uncertainties. I find myself wondering how I can address the needs of my students and myself in such times.

Betsy Devos is not lurking under my bed. (I am fairly certain of this point, but I will check tonight just to be sure.) Yet the concerns I have for the policies she might implement do keep me awake. The anxiety about potential changes that could be implemented by people in positions of authority drain energy that should be devoted to my students. Someone with a more heroic bent to their nature might be itching for combat, but I will grab my rhetorical arsenal only when called. Until then I will look for spaces where I can replenish my energies and practice self-care.

To that end, I have been reluctantly pulling myself to the gym twice a week. Less reluctantly, I’ve been giving myself time to work in the Lillstreet ceramic studio. The break from email and news is a welcome relief, and it makes me a lot easier for my family and friends to deal with. It also gives me the opportunity to relax, so I can better address the stressors in the rest of my life.

But the energy I need to guide my students comes from a different place, the classroom. For me the classroom has always been paradoxical. A few hours of orchestrating classroom discussions and facilitating small group activities means there is a good chance I will fall asleep on the train as I go home. Despite my physical exhaustion, a good class will leave me psychically energized. And when I am not nodding off or drooling on one of my fellow passenger’s shoulders, I will often take notes for next week’s class.

The classroom has this exhausting and energizing presence because it is a space set off from the rest of the world. It is in many ways sacred. This is why I try to perform little rituals every class. At the beginning of a session, we engage in a free writing exercise where students are allowed to purge themselves of the psychic noise and anxiety they carry with them from their day. I have to remind myself that I too should be engaging in this ritual instead of doing stage business at the front of the classroom. This moment where we purge our concerns helps us inscribe the next three hours with a focus on other things. Similarly asking a check-in question and having everyone (including me) answer it can help reassert the communal nature of and safety to speak in this space. For as Ilan Stavans reminds us that “Safety is a basic principle of education: Knowledge results from trust, and trust comes from care.”

There is never a way to fully sever the classroom from the rest of the world, and I wouldn’t want to. But in setting this space off from outside tumult and establishing its communal nature, I hope we are able to cultivate a vegetable urge to grow and change. In this time, we devote to tending our mental gardens I know that my heart will be nourished even if I must have patience. It is also a reminder of what could be lost if it’s not preserved. As the class draws to a close, I know I may need to turn my metaphorical plowshare into a sword to defend this space. But I will always know my plowshare is meant to help cultivate.

Heroes might spend the movie saving the world from apocalyptic threats (an alien overlord, an asteroid, or another political appointee) through non-stop action. Regardless of their success, real life will happen after the credits are over, and the rest of us get back to our slow work: cultivating thought, cultivating change. Andrea Lunsford says in her address “Composing Ourselves”, we need to say “I will teach writing, and I will teach a way to write a new story, a new political reality” (75). To do this, we must create a space in which we can care for ourselves and our students.

Works Cited

Lunsford, Andrea A. “Composing Ourselves: Politics, Commitment, and the Teaching of Writing.” College Composition and Communication, vol. 44, no. 1, Feb. 1990, pp. 71-82, National Council of Teachers of English,

Stavans, Ilan. “The Safe Space.” The Chronicle of Higher Education, 10 July 2016,

Confronting Writer's Block (Slides)

Even the most confident writers will have moments when they are unsure how to get started on a project. On April 27, SNL Writing hosted our Confronting Writer's Block webinar to give students strategies for dealing with writer's block.

For people who were unable to join us, we are providing a link to our Prezi slideshow:

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Writing Showcase Winners and Writing Showcase Live!

One week ago, SNL's Writing Program was happy to host our third annual Writing Showcase Live! event. Seven Writing Showcase nominees read from their submissions while a supportive crowd of family, friends, and SNL community members cheered them on. Topics addressed and discussed included everything from payday loans to the Winchester Cathedral, from makeup artistry to the Thompson Center.

Our featured reader, Annette Davis, read the prologue from her recently published novel, The Lost Codicil. She also shared her journey to publication and how her time at SNL shaped her writing.

Before the event, our Writing Showcase readers scored all of the submissions and determined our winners. Congratulate the students below for their outstanding work!

Sandra Arrington: “Payday Loans: An Unethical Financial Solution”
Noreen Hart: “An Examination into Economic Segregation” and “How Business Process Improvement Methodologies Can Improve Small Business Performance”
Jason Meyer: “Deadicated,” “It’s a Small Afterworld, All,” and “Loud, Uncomfortable and Neglected: The Thompson Center”
Aldo Vasquez: “3D Printing: A Creative Process” and “Experiencing Science”
Kenneth Washington: “Effects of Masculine Stereotypes in the African American Community”

Those students who have given us permission will have their winning papers posted to the SNL Writing Guide, and all winners will be honored at the SNL Awards Luncheon. We're grateful to all of our nominees for sharing their excellent writing with the SNL community.

Would your students like to be part of next year's Writing Showcase? SNL graduate and undergraduate students can submit work completed anytime between April 1, 2017 and April 1, 2018. Encourage your students to check out SNL's Writing Guide for an application form and have them mail it, along with their submission, to

More images from Writing Showcase Live! 2017 below (click to enlarge):

SNL Writing at the Student Success in Writing Conference

The 2017 Student Success in Writing Conference in Savannah, GA offered local color like crossing the Savannah river by ferry and the ham salad at the lunch buffet. Southern Georgia University likewise provided a regional frame for the event, but the ideas shared were far from provincial. The pressures that are facing higher education in the US are not isolated and this conference gave presenters an opportunity to share strategies and discussions with colleagues from across the nation. The SNL Writing Program’s presentation “From Gap Year to Gap Decade(s): Supporting Returning Adult Student Writers” allowed us to share our expertise in developing courses and support services for mid-career Adult students.

Monday, April 24, 2017

SNL Writing Boot Camps - Spring Quarter

SNL Writing Boot Camps are a great opportunity for SNL students to get one-on-one assistance from an SNL faculty member to complete writing assignments. Boot Camps have been scheduled for all campuses.

For more information contact:

Date​:                                                         Location:
Sat., May 13, 2017: 9am-1pm                  O'Hare, Lab 204
Thurs., May 18, 2017: 11am-1pm            Online [Registration required]
​Sat., May 20, 2017: 9am-1pm                  Naperville, Lab 140​
Wed., May 24, 2017: 5:30pm-9pm           Loop, 14 E. Jackson, Lab 1327
​​​Sat. June 3, 2017: 9am-1pm                      Loop, ​TBA