National Writing Project

NWP’s E-Anthology and the National Gallery of Writing

By: Mike Rush
Date: September 14, 2010

Summary: Writing from teachers across the nation who have participated in NWP's E-Anthology is being featured on the National Gallery of Writing as one way to celebrate the National Day on Writing, which occurs this year on October 20.


"My life as a basketball player means that I am tenacious, aggressive, persistent, disciplined, single-minded, focused, and goal oriented. If you are going to get really good at something, you've gotta practice," writes Katherine Rowe, a teacher from the San Joaquin Writing Project in her piece "My Life as a Basketball Player ."

You could say that Rowe's life as a basketball player is a metaphor for the determination and perspiration needed for writing and learning in general.

"My Life as a Basketball Player" is just one of more than one hundred pieces from NWP's E-Anthology that are featured in the National Gallery of Writing , a website created by NCTE as part of the National Day on Writing. The National Gallery of Writing is a place where people who perhaps have never thought of themselves as writers—mothers, bus drivers, fathers, veterans, nurses, firefighters, sanitation workers, stockbrokers—post writing that is important to them.

While NWP's E-Anthology has traditionally been a closed forum where teachers from nearly 150 sites share their personal and professional writing each year, last year, for the first time since its inception, many E-Anthology pieces were featured in the National Gallery of Writing as part of NWP's celebration of the National Day on Writing.

Along with encouraging local Writing Project sites to open their own galleries, NWP invited the E-Anthology E-Team—a group of teacher-consultants who respond to and encourage the anthology's teacher-writers—to curate a gallery with pieces drawn from the E-Anthology.

The E-Anthology might be best described as a massive online writing workshop where teachers explore writing in digital environments by publishing in NWP's online environment. Participants in multiple invitational summer institutes post pieces of their writing, respond to others' posts, read and respond to comments on their own work from other E-Anthology members around the country, revise, and repost.

Posted pieces grow in number until the frenzy reaches its peak at several hundred pieces a day, and ultimately total approximately 7,000 each summer.

Typically, only the E-Team and participants in the invitational summer institutes that are registered to participate in the E-Anthology have the opportunity to read the poetry, short stories, memoirs, classroom vignettes, and, yes, even chapters of books posted there. The E- Anthology is a closed forum for good reason: It strives to create a safe medium for writers to go public with their work and participate in an online environment, sometimes for the first time.

But now pieces in the E-Anthology are no longer available solely to the people who contributed to it; they've got someplace to go, and the world, not just the NWP, is able to enjoy the work of Writing Project teacher-writers from all over the country and learn about the way teachers face challenges in their classrooms and find expression for their creative impulses.

Writing Our Future

The gallery's theme is "Writing Our Future: E–Anthology teachers/authors explore writing in online environments" and includes pieces on a panoply of subjects—everything from one piece titled "Math Is" to another titled "Strawberries Don't Have Topic Sentences" to another piece that is a digital comic strip, "Boolean Squared" (the Gallery accommodates any composition format—from word processing to photography, audio/video recording to text messages—and all types of writing—from letters to lists, memoirs to memos).

In one moving piece, "No Child Left Behind ," Judy Beemer, a teacher-consultant with the Flint Hills Writing Project in Kansas, heroically tries to reach a boy who is danger of being left behind.

"And my mom, she's an addict, and I can tell you, Mrs. Beemer, rehab doesn't work," the boy confesses to her. "I don't touch the stuff. The only thing I do that I shouldn't is sex, like I told ya before. That's not the problem. But my mom, she and my dad are divorced, and when I don' feel like comin' to school, it's just so easy to go to her house and have her call the school to excuse me. I think she's tryin' to make me like her by lettin' me do whatever I want. But it's just so hard, Mrs. Beemer, to do what I know I should when it's so easy not to."

In another piece, "Improving Writing in Kindergarten Using Proofreading and Editing Skills ," Sue May from the South Dakota Writing Project discusses how she tries to focus on just one or two skills at a time to keep student motivation high, and in the editing process targets specific skills individually for each student (see the image of the student writing below).

"'What should we put at the end of each sentence?' I asked. She [the student] was able to independently go back and add periods in light green. Then we talked about where capital letters should be, and she was able to go back and notice some letters she had made uppercase and then change them to lower case. This was a good example of how editing and proofreading prompts can lead students to observing their work and making changes to improve their writing given appropriate prompts."

The Excitement of Taking Things Public

E-Team members, who spend the summer reading and responding to pieces on the E-Anthology, perform the task of finding the pieces that populate the NWP Gallery. But how to choose? Short of just posting all the work of the E-Anthology in the NWP Gallery of Writing, they look for representative pieces that illustrate the range of work done in the E-Anthology.

Both authors and E-Team curators enjoy the process of preparing a piece for submission to the NWP Gallery. Team members and authors pass revisions and suggestions back and forth through email until the piece is exactly what the author wants in the Gallery. Ultimately, there is the excitement of authors and their editorial partners seeing their piece on public view in the NWP Gallery.

The E-Team will continue to post pieces in the 2010-2011 year to celebrate the 2010 National Day on Writing. Be sure to check out the National Writing Project Gallery .

About the Author Mike Rush is a writer and public educator at Vilonia High School in Vilonia, Arkansas, a co-director of the Great Bear Writing Project, conference committee coordinator for the RSN 2011 conference in Little Rock, and a member of the E-Team.

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