EWCA conference 2016 – in the (he)art of success(ful) writing

From 7th to 10th july, our team participated in the European Writing Centers Association’s Conference and the foregoing Peer Tutor Day.

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Looking forward to the keynote (foto: Franziska Liebetanz).

This year, the EWCA Conference was hosted by the Writing Center of the University of Łódz (Uniwersytet Łódzki). Łódz is in the middle of Poland and we went with 10 people from our Writing Center team to the conference. On Wednesday, four of us went by train from Frankfurt (Oder) to Łódz, we enjoyed taking a very slow train, seeing the countryside of Poland and having time to talk and relax. Another colleague of us came by car, because she took her baby and boyfriend with her to the conference. One day later the rest of our team came in the evening. We all stayed in a student dorm next to the University building. The student dorm was a typical old building made from prefabricated slabs, with a lot of levels but not much privacy because of a very light construction. However, it was very close to the conference and in convenient distance to town. We enjoyed being there all together.

As Writing Center of the European University Viadrina we have a special connection to our neighbours from Poland. We work at a University which has a strong partnership with the AM University in Poznan, we have many polish students and of course three of our peer tutors are from Poland. Even some of our Writing Center team speak polish or try to speak more or less. So we all were very excited to travel to Poland, to talk to our polish colleagues, to exchange our expertise with Writing Center work and to learn from our Writing Center Colleagues from all over the world. Two of our peer tutors also gave their workshop in polish to share their experiences with Writing Center work in Poland.

During the conference, the elections for the new EWCA board were hold. The new board constists of nine engaged writing center people from all over Europe and the USA. We are happy to announce that the director of our Writing Center, Franziska Liebetanz, will be the organization’s chair for the next two years. We are sure that she and the other board members will continue the great work of the former boards and help to further advance Writing Center work and the close co-operations of the European Writing Center community.

In the following blog entry, some of our team members want to share their impressions from the conference:

Exploring the Writing Center map

At the conference in Łódz, in the center of Poland, most inspiring to me was getting to know tutors with initiatives at the rather „periphery“  of the European Writing Center map.

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A former factory site in the city, now hosting a lot of alternative restaurants and bars (foto: Franziska Liebetanz).

For example, it was stimulating to hear various stories from the Writing Center of Niš, Serbia, with very committed Peer-Tutors in a kind of „start-up“-setting in the process of establishing itself. Writers coming there do not exclusively refer to an academic context, but might (also) discuss their own creative writing or a motivation letter.

Talking to people from Armenia, the Ukraine and Turkey, the importance of (external) institutional support and funding for sustainable Writing Center work became especially visible. It is good to see how the concept of (peer-)tutoring in academic writing can gain ground in academic contexts to which it (hitherto) might seem unfamiliar.

Being hosted in the center of the Polish Writing Center landscape, Michał Żytyniec and I were excited to hold a session in polish about how Writing Center work can find more ground also in Poland. Deriving partly from our experiences, an interesting discussion evolved, with people differently related and engaged in this field: Coming from a secondary school aiming to bridge the gap to universities, from the Law faculty wishing to teach students writing in English, from the Writing Centre in Łódz … We hope that this initial exchange can be a starting point for a network that helps to bring academic writing more to the center of curricula and university environments in Poland and are willing to contribute to this.

(Pascal)

The Pecha Kucha Sessions

A format that seems to be special at EWCA conferences is that of the Pecha Kucha Powerpoint Presentation. Presenters prepare a presentation with 20 slides, with an automatic change of slides every 20 seconds. The slides should show visual images rather than much text. In Łódz we enjoyed three Pecha Kuchas. In the first one, Olesya Shatunova shared her concept of quick and short writing prompt sessions that she uses to enhance the writing fluency of her students at a Japanese university. Simon Freise presented his ideas about tutoring sessions and writing center encounters that are not “normal” and brought this together with the theoretical framework of the sociologist Zygmunt Baumann about ambivalence, asking where the place of diversity in a Writing Center can be. Kelsey Monzka-Boettiger, Nevena Radulovic, Danilo Asanin, Aleksandra Jankvic, Milena Simic and Stevan Dinic introduced their community writing center in Niš, Serbia, in their Pecha Kucha session. This Writing Center is sponsored by the “American corner”, a local branch of a US-American governmental program. It is the only Writing Center in Serbia and is located outside the university, but inviting students from the university. All the tutors work on a volunteer basis. The short and visual format made these brief insights into three very different topics very inspiring and refreshing.

(Katrin)

My favourite workshop

I really enjoyed the many great talks with Writing Center colleagues from all over the world and the beautiful city of Łódz. Moreover, the conference programme, persisting of a lot of presentations and workshops, was very inspiring to me.

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Hexagonal writing (foto: Anne Kirschbaum).

On Saturday, I joined the workshop of Katja Günther and Ingrid Scherübl. The method they introduced was the strategic hexagon: Unlike the research pentagon we often use in our Writing Center, this method aims not mainly at planning texts, but is meant to sharpen ones writing process. It sets one off to think about the limitations that the assignment, the norms to follow, the time, the author and the readers set for ones writing project. After I had done the method during the workshop, it felt less painful to me to decide what my next steps would be with the article I currently work on – and to see, which priorities I want to set while working. I guess it will take me some time to go through my insights again and to put them into practice, but still I feel that I progressed some steps in the right direction.

(Anne)

 

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Exploring the city together with new friends (foto: Dilnaz Alhan).

What belongs into your heart of successful writing?

The EWCA in Łódz touched my heart on several dimensions.

First of all, I enjoyed the lovely and dynamic atmosphere and interactions among all participants with ever-enriching moments, conversations and unexpected happenings. I recognized how easily we can put ourselves into deep talks about our passion concerning our work as well as private things.

Secondly, I was very encouraged to stay stuck to the notion of networking, collaborative work and international tandems, due to the keynote of Brandon Hardy. In order to implement the spirit within our Writing Centers sustainably and all over the surface of the world on a long-term scale, it is essential, that we try to step out of our comfort zones and start thinking processes more outside the box, allowing ourselves to cooperate and work together internationally. I am glad for the respond towards the workshop “International tandem for writing and exchange” my colleague Alyssa and me conducted and all lovely and enthusiastic contributions towards it. It touched my heart to see how the fire of excitement started to spread among the participants of the workshop. Moreover, first blog entries and promises to involve into the project made my heart jumping.

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Our travel-activity (foto: Anne Kirschbaum).

A nice side effect of the conference was the travel together with my lovely team. We had lots of fun playing a famous German game called “Stadt-Land-Fluss” and replacing the standard categories “city”, “country” and “river” with writing center-related ones such as “type of writer” or “equipment of the writing center”. By this, we developed new types of writers and figured out what belongs into the equipment of a writing center and what not. The new type of writer named “The Radish” became popular within our team: The Radish type of writer likes to write tricky and difficult parts of his or her texts at a very first stage of his or her writing. Furthermore, he or she is in love with challenging kinds of phrases and structures of his or her text. This writer is very eloquent both in written and spoken words.

During the whole time of the conference my heart was dug into an ocean of friendship and the warm atmosphere of belonging. I spent very beautiful moments on our balcony in abstract and philosophical conversations with some team members about the power of love and it’s sometimes appearing impossibility, using the metaphor of an elephant to explain. Moreover, I was deeply touched by the amazing grasp of a hidden value catalog within people hearts. I am thankful in eternity for this conference and the nice community.

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Networking at it’s best (foto: Dilnaz Alhan).

“Don’t walk behind me – I may not lead!

Don’t walk in front of me – I may not follow!

Just walk beside me and be my friend!”

(Albert Camus)

(Diana)

 

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