CCCC 2006 in Review
As I sat listening to these four amazing women speak about publishing, I realized that I was getting much more than a "to-do" checklist for attaining fame in the academic publishing world. Instead, I—and everyone else in the audience—received encouragement and empowerment to use our own senses and self-awareness, to make our marks by being true to ourselves as writers, to write our worlds the way we see them, and to stand proud in our writing rather than hide behind it. Not your everyday recipe for academic success.
Fishman began her "How-to Guide" by asking us to listen, not just with our ears, but with our eyes. Close listening, like close reading, is a precursor to good writing. Listening allows us to follow the ongoing conversations, to understand the multidisciplinarity of the exchanges, and to join in ourselves fully prepared, not just with the what—the content—but also the how—the rhetoric. Her contribution to this special event included listening to: canonical texts in our field; the scholarship; the methodologies and materials chosen by the authors; the language used; and the continuing conversations about performance. Listening helps us to know what we know, and how to present it.
Mattingly warned us not to go blindly into the world of academic publishing, but to do our homework, know where and to whom we send our work, and to have a good idea how it will be treated when it arrives. She reminded us to know the journal we choose to publish in, and to make sure that our article fits. She goes one step further, imploring us to know the editor(s), to understand the trends in editorial policies of our chosen journal, and how they might affect our chances for publication. She provides as examples the editorial policy changes made by the past four editors of College Composition and Communication, and let's us in on a little known strategy: watch for a new editor's first letter, which usually indicates the direction of new trends.
Smitherman said it's foolish to talk in someone else's tongue. Write in your own "linguistic thang"—and understand the risks and benefits of doing so. She led us on a journey through her past, where Standard American English was a foreign language, and ebonics her first. She recounted how she spent 8 years writing Talkin' and Testifyin' only to do battle with overzealous copyeditors who misunderstood and changed her meaning when they changed her words. "Keep on keepin' on" does not translate to "carrying one." In a sense, she's telling us that it's the words that make the meaning taste so good, and not to let someone else put words in our mouths.
Perl gave us permission to know ourselves and to write ourselves into our own work. First-person is more than okay—it's required—because we cannot "separate the knower from the known." She let us hear how ridiculous we sounded when we thought we could: "this study shows…," "one can see…," or the dreaded, "this author concludes…." The "faceless, voiceless, objective" self of the 70s has a champion in the 21st century: the new ethnography and creative non-fiction, which she charged with offering us truth and with removing the veil that previously hid the author behind the conclusion.
Listen, watch, taste, know. Know myself, see others, chew on my words, and let others see me in my writing. If I can't do that, why should anyone else care to read what I've written?
— Leslie Olsen
For more information on the CCCC 2006 conference,
visit the NCTE Web site at http://www.ncte.org/profdev/conv/cccc/.