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Social Media and nonprofits

what benefits can you see for utilizing social networking in your own groups?

What are some of the possible challenges?

Consider things like how your writers may view the concept “public space.”


I am majorly uncomfortable with social networking as a whole, in many ways. I mean, in that I am uncomfortable having much information about myself “out there.” My facebook is super locked-down with a fake name and the highest possible security settings, and I still share very little on there aside from lighthearted anecdotes and conversation.

Now I’m imagining if I had been incarcerated, and how that would change my perspective on it even further. I like that question about public space because I don’t think I’d want to share much about my incarcerated time online–I’d rather make decisions about who I disclose that to. I wouldn’t “friend” my institution on facebook–it’s not a friend. Really.

I also see many of the same problems that I outlined in my previous post–the residents don’t have much access.

I’m not dismissing social networking as a tool for an organization like the CLC–I know we can use social networking to do things like invite people to readings, share participant work that is posted on SpeakOut 2.0, and (maybe, depending on access) provide updates to program alumni. We can do community outreach and disseminate information about the program. I have done a couple of these using social networking, actually, and I see the value.

However, I am interested in exploring ways that it could be useful to residents and alumni with limited access to use it as a tool. My question is really about audience. It seems weird to me that Turning Point has a facebook page and that based on the public nature of facebook and the potential lack of access, it is not really something that the clients of TP use–who is it for?

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Online Publishing and the Digital Divide

So, since I’ve spent a lot of time writing on institutionally-based tactics lately, I’m going to change things up and write about Erin Anderson’s article on online publishing instead of Feigenbaum’s on relational and institutional tactics. I’m also interested in this because of the different ways we’re publishing the zine.

So the prompt questions are: What has technology brought to the table in terms of circulating a writer’s work?
Also consider underserved populations and your own groups that you facilitate.

Consider pros and cons of technological publication. 


So technology has allowed us to do some very cool things with our digital copies of the zine–we’ll include a copy of it in the journal burned to a CD, and we’ve been able to post the flash version of the zine (see below) online as well. The flash zine is awesome–it has color, flipping pages, and lots of other great features. It was easy to make and to publish. Theoretically, that’s all we really need–and thanks to technological developments, we had a place to publish it online, free for us and free for readers.


That said–and this is one of those “I thought you might say that” things for anyone who knows me–I am really mindful of access and I found it important to make hard copies of the zine, even though they are lower quality, they are not in color, and they are not as cool or interesting in black and white print form.


Not only do the actual writers of the zine–the girls–have limited access to the internet right now as they are in rehab, but many of them will continue to have limited access when they leave. And I want them to have access.


I think with the decreasing price of computers and of wireless internet access and so on, we take for granted that people have access, but the digital divide still exists in meaningful ways, in that, firstly, some people still don’t have access to the technology, and secondly, many don’t have access to the literacy needed to navigate the technology. Sometimes this can seem abstract, but it is concrete reality for many of the residents there. As we work towards bridging this divide, I believe that there still needs to be other, accessible forms in the mean time.


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Check Out the SpeakOut Zine!, posted below!

This was a collaborative project at the girls house. Each of us (residents, facilitators, staff) made a few pages using magazine cutouts, poetry, printed images, and other materials. We made the cover by asking each writer to list an image they would want on the front of the zine.

This was a great process, and at the Pop Culture Association conference in April, I’ll be talking about the potential (and the drawbacks) of zine-making as hybrid-genre writing for teenage girls. I’d be happy to provide more info!

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SpeakOut! Zine

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Research Update 2

We’re nearing the point of a final draft.

Yesterday I did some revisions to my sections, integrated sources, and sent the draft back to Tobi. I will have some revision to do to make my sections fit the tone of the journal better and we may include a theoretical framework, depending upon how much framing we do in the other sections.

I’m hoping we’ll have a complete draft to send to the journal in a couple of weeks.

Writing a journal article is stressful! It’s my first one, and it feels more high-stakes than a paper for a class or even my thesis because of the needs of the audience (publication). I put a lot of pressure on myself when I sit down to work on it. I’m looking forward to reaching a stage where we can send it to the journal, even if they ask for a few revisions!

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Digital Storytelling

I looked at “Untitled” by Saul Ramos and “Privilege” by Teresa Rodriguez in the “Education” subheading of the Center for Digital Storytelling. Both used narration, music, and images—mostly old photographs—to talk about the immigrant experience and how at times it conflicted with their education experiences. The way they used and re-combined images reminds me a bit of the zine project we just did at the girls’ house—it’s a low-stakes way to engage in multimodal composition and it has a lot of potential as a hybrid text to blur the boundaries of writing and challenge our conceptions.

I would love to do this as a project at the girls’ house. Ideally, we could give each of the writers a camera, access to graphics and to childhood photos, and a voice recorder for the narration. I don’t know what kind of software is used to make digital stories, but my understanding is that it’s fairly accessible.

Unfortunately, material and institutional concerns get in the way (there I go borrowing language from my project!). The writers aren’t allowed to have cameras to ensure confidentiality, and though I doubt voice recorders fall under the same restriction, with the level of turnover there, there’s a good chance of the recorders being lost. The writers are rarely able to get home, so getting access to childhood photos like many of the digital storytellers on the website use would be challenging. Further, as a facilitator, I wish I had unlimited time, but I know I wouldn’t have time to edit everything, and since the writers have very limited access to computers, they would also be unable to. It’s an awesome project idea, but there would be a lot of hoops to jump through.

I do think digital storytelling would be a worthwhile pursuit for the CLC as a whole, though—someone could be devoted to just that project, and perhaps choose a population to create digital stories that is not incarcerated and that has access to time and technology.  

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Research update

Currently, I have an outline for the article and I am working on zero-drafting and will fill in sources later.


The article will deal with the following (this is a rough list):

-Introducing the workshop

-A discussion of how feminist and queer pedagogies influence the workshop ground rules, approaches, and outcomes

-How the institutional and material trouble these goals/critical questions

-Examining particular issues/instances

-How do we move towards overcoming these complications?


I feel good about this outline. My main challenge right now is time. Grad school, etc. That’s it. More updates to come.

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Responding to Writing and Trauma

I don’t think I can know all of the ways in which violence and trauma affects our workshop—I believe that it does in many ways we will never hear about or realize.


We see bits and pieces of it. In a poem or a journal entry or even in a discussion, a resident will disclose a history of abuse or assault or neglect or time spent confined in jail. Sometimes we get a small glimpse of the bigger picture, based on a vivid description of a single terrifying moment or through an assumption of “I’m-not-good-at-“ or “I-can’t-write” or “I-have-nothing-to-say.” But I believe that for some of our residents, every decision, interaction, and experience is filtered through their experience of violence and the impact it has on their beliefs about the world, people, and themselves. We can’t always know how trauma colors each person’s perceptions.


We all do what we can—we thank someone for sharing, validate their experiences, listen to them with interest, talk about the importance of their story, tell them they are smart and capable and worthy. We share glimpses of our trauma, too.


I like what Horsman says about the way that trauma and literacy education are intertwined:


           ” I suggest that a shift away from addressing [control, connection, and meaning] solely as

aspects of individual healing and toward a focus on control, connection, and meaning is

integral to literacy learning.”


These integral pieces of healing are integral pieces of literacy work as well, and so literacy work can be part of healing. We can’t address writing until the residents know they have something worth writing and that someone wants to listen. Agency is important. Validating is important. Creating a community of people who will affirm and support is important. And so we do these things, and they serve a dual purpose.

The writers have done this for me, too. I will never forget a time that I prefaced sharing a piece with, “this is not anywhere near where I want it to be; it needs work . . .” and one of the residents jumped in with, “Hey, no negative self-talk!” I was responding to socially-ingrained insecurity and she affirmed me. 

I am thinking about that third part Horsman mentioned, [meaning,] though. I think it’s great that as a writing group people describe each others’ stories as important, powerful, meaningful, and so on. I do wonder, though, about anger. I know in therapy the residents work on tactics for anger. And as facilitators we just had a training about how to deal with secondary trauma, ways to keep a protective bubble, ways to de-stress. I get that. But I also think anger can be important.

What about productive anger?  It’s important for the writers to have agency and decide how they want to respond to their trauma. But I don’t think we talk about anger enough. When I hear their stories, I get angry. When I see them struggle, I get angry. This year, I plan to go to Take Back the Night for the first time in years. I want to read radical authors and make more people angry, too. I’m sure some of the writers feel the same way. 

 I have no meaningful conclusion to that, just a question: Is there space for productive anger in literacy? In healing?

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I noticed that a lot of the assessment measures on the proliteracy website were for programs that promoted functional literacy. So the links talk about things like tests to measure English fluency and questionnaires to test knowledge. Those types of things wouldn’t fit for a program like SpeakOut because of the need to have flexible, participant based goals and the generally creative nature of our workshops.


My sense is rather than evaluation, conversation and participation would be beneficial to keep programs like SpeakOut successful. Participants should have an agenda-setting goal and there should be time set aside for participants to give feedback and discuss whether their goals are being met. I think that having predetermined standards for assessment would not leave enough flexibility for the program to respond to the needs and interests of the participants.


It could be that I’m misunderstanding the concept of assessment in this context because I found the proliteracy website difficult to navigate. However my thoughts are that flexibility, reflection, and open conversation serve that purpose here.


I feel SpeakOut at the girls’ house is doing well along these lines. We try to respond to what the girls are interested in and we give them a lot of affirmation on their writing and we try to give them positive experiences with writing, which can be very meaningful for people who feel that what they have to say doesn’t matter. We spend time getting to know the girls as individuals and learn about their interests and strengths. One thing we could do better is set aside more time for agenda setting—while we ask for suggestions and feedback, we’ve never asked the girls to write up a list of the types of writing they’d like to explore or the types of projects they’d like to do. Maybe that’s how we’ll start our semester in January!

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I decided to take a look at a couple of very practical readings for this blog. I’ve been eyeing up that stack of graphic novels on the desk and thinking about how I’d like to bring Persepolis in for the girls, so I found a couple of articles that discuss reading and teaching Persepolis.


Chute, Hillary. “The Texture of Retracing in Marjane Satrapi’s ‘Persepolis.’” Women’s Studies Quarterly 36.2 (2008): 92-110. Print.


Chute establishes Persepolis as a feminist text based on the ways in which Satrapi portrays multiple identities of herself throughout the text. Much of the content of this article is theoretical literary analysis which wouldn’t be very accessible or feasible to cover at SpeakOut!, but some of the things that Chute points out about the text would be worth discussing there.


She talks about how the stark images, besides fitting into a long line of tradition in Persian art, complement the narrative in that it is a complex story told through the eyes of a child, which Satrapi’s character is in the beginning of the narrative. This is interesting when considered alongside Scott McCloud’s idea in ch 2 of Understanding Comics that says that many comic artists choose a simple style because it promotes identification with a character or a landscape—that is, a very detailed face or landscape is unmistakably a representation of that person or place, but one with less details filled in could be anyone or anywhere. I think discussing these features with the girls at SpeakOut would be an interesting way to consider some of the theories about why the images are simplified.


Wiener, Steven. “Show, Don’t Tell: Graphic Novels in the Classroom.” The English Journal. 94.2 (2004): 114-117. Print.


Wiener recommends teachers use graphic novels because, they “can enrich the students’ experiences as a new way of imparting information, serving as transitions into more print-intensive works, enticing reluctant readers into prose books and, in some cases, offering literary experiences that linger in the mind long after the book is finished” (115). He recommends Persepolis as a companion to Maus because they are both historically significant memoirs. I do take issue with Wiener presenting graphic narratives as a more accessible transition to prose works because I believe they are a valuable in and of themselves, but I think it’s interesting that he recommends the piece be paired with Maus since we have both.


Another article I will look at when I have time is: Gurel, Perin. “Transnational Feminism, Islam, and the Other Woman: How to Teach.” The Radical Teacher. 86 (2009): 66-70. Print.


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