Making Spaces for Diverse Writing Practice - National Council of Teachers of English
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Making Spaces for Diverse Writing Practice

This post is written by members Ryan Skinnell and Cindy Baer.

sanjoseSan José State University, site of the 2017 Western regional summer Conference on College Composition and Communication (CCCC@SJSU), is in the heart of Silicon Valley.

We are at ground zero of start-up culture and the innovation economy, home of the world’s largest and most influential tech giants and inventive visionaries. And yet, anyone who lives or works in Silicon Valley can tell you that our innovative reputation results in as many novel challenges as it does groundbreaking solutions. In our lives as teachers, and especially as writing teachers, we see many of the challenges personified in students, and frankly, in ourselves. Chief among them is finding the time and the space to write. Pressed into noisy buses on the way to campus, or into overcrowded coffee shops or labs and testing rooms between classes, we and our students rarely enjoy the idyllic spaces we often imagine for ourselves as writers.

What are these idyllic spaces and how can we realize them for ourselves and others? As instructors, how can we carve out time and space in our classrooms (be they virtual or face-to-face, synchronous or asynchronous) so that we may join our students in their moment of writing and turn that activity into learning? As administrators how do we carve out time and space from university budgets and priorities and policies to allow instructors and students to write together, to learn and to realize learning in the spaces outside the idylls of our classrooms?

Much of our current work here at SJSU is involved in this effort to collaborate within the spaces we cohabit as learners, students, faculty, administrators. We are searching for best practices and sustainable programs and sound policies that will make our campus spaces more inclusive and responsive to the tremendous diversity we enjoy here—a diversity that promises to make SJSU, if we can conjure the appropriate spaces—an idyll for multilingual, multicultural learning and writing, and perhaps (at its best) an oasis in a country struggling to breach nationalism and embrace the promise of globalization.


So we look forward to the 2017 CCCC Regional Summer Conference at San José State University, which will allow us to hear each other’s ideas about what it means to make spaces (temporal and physical) for diverse writing practice in a world that does not always align with our ideals. We look forward to carving out three days in June and meeting rooms at SJSU for times and places where we might be teachers and writers together, thinking together, and reinvesting in ourselves and our literate lives.

Truth be told, the idea of making space for writing is not an innovative idea—anyone who knows about CCCC knows it has always been an occasion for writers and teachers to reconnect and reengage. What is innovative is that the regional conferences like CCCC@SJSU will bring CCCC to new audiences and new participants—regional teachers, writers, administrators who can contribute to and benefit from the acts of making spaces for diverse writing practice that the national CCCC has long represented.

CCCC@SJSU is a three-day event at San José State University, organized to model our theme by opening spaces for diverse writing practice.

The first day provides a full-day Writer’s Retreat for attendees. During the retreat, we will host writing activities and ample time for writers to just write alongside other writers. On the second day, we will host a full day of concurrent panels, plus a keynote lunch. And on the third day, we will host a morning of concurrent panels in the morning and an afternoon of interactive workshops. A combination of formal and informal functions will allow attendees to connect and discuss panels and workshops. We invite you to propose an individual paper, a panel with colleagues, and/or a half-day workshop, and/or to apply to participate in the Writer’s Retreat.

We especially hope that people who have never had the chance to attend the national convention will join us.

To that end, and thanks to generous support from CCCC and SJSU, we have structured affordable conference registration rates. The conference itself is $20. To attend the conference and the Writer’s Retreat or a Workshop, the cost is $30. And to attend all three, the cost is $40. Some meals are included with registration. There are affordable housing options.

We are thrilled that Asao B. Inoue will join us as our keynote speaker. Inoue is Associate Professor, Director of University Writing, and Director of the Writing Center at the University of Washington in Tacoma. He has researched and published extensively on the intersections of writing assessment and racism. In 2015, he published Antiracist Writing Assessment Ecologies: Teaching and Assessing for a Socially Just Future; and in 2012, he co-edited a collection, Race and Writing Assessment, which won the CCCC’s Outstanding Book Award. Inoue was also recently elected as the Assistant Chair of CCCC.

The deadline for proposals is January 16, 2017.

For more information about the conference, please visit

Ryan Skinnell and Cindy Baer are both assistant professors and assistant writing program administrators in the Department of English and Comparative Literature at San José State University. Cindy is the Stretch Program Coordinator and Ryan coordinates program assessment and the teaching associates program. Along with several colleagues, they are hosting the 2017 Western regional Conference of the Conference on College Composition and Communication, CCCC@SJSU.