posted April 7, 2000

Presenters at Conference

Three Hope students presented papers during the Associated Writing Programs National Conference, held in Kansas City, Kan., on Wednesday, March 29, through  Saturday, April 1.

          Lori Jean Irving, a senior from Rochester, N.Y.,
  Dana Lamers, a junior from Hudsonville, and Sally Smits, a
  junior from Denver, Colo., developed a seminar on the uses
  of interviewing in the writing of creative nonfiction.
          The AWP National Conference is the most
  prestigious writing meeting in the United States, according
  to Dr. Heather Sellers, associate professor of English at
  Hope, who assisted the students in developing and preparing
  the session.  She noted that the event draws many of the
  best-known writers from around the country as speakers and
  participants, with the major writing organizations
  sponsoring panels and booths.
          The students' well-attended session was one of
  only two undergraduate panels to be offered as part of the
  regular offerings at the conference.  Teachers in the
  audience asked for copies of the presentation, and an author
  expressed interest in using some of the Hope students'
  findings in a textbook on creative writing.
          The panel, drawing from recent research in
  feminist communication theory, the psychology of gender, and
  intercultural code theory, offered new insights into the
  effects and value of the interview, especially for female
  students.  Deconstructing "interview" by dividing the word,
  "inter view," the three panelists each provided new ways of
  teaching the interview in the nonfiction classroom.
          Interviewing, they conclude, provides a way to
  gain depth and perspective in an author's writing, but also
  affords a deeper understanding of self for the author and
  the interviewee, a deeper "inner view."  They explain that
  awareness of the mutuality, and awareness of one's own
  "views," is what might be focused on in teaching nonfiction
  research, and that the journalistic model may not work for
  many student writers, and/or many of their topics.
          Irving focused on the intercultural nature of
  interviewing.  She noted that interviewing another person,
  finding out that person's story, inevitably crosses cultural
  boundaries.  Teaching students the techniques of
  "inter/view" equips students, she said, for leaving "their
  comfort zones, their cultural codes, their conditioned
  stereotypes to meet with others and be able to understand
  another way of thinking, another culture and experience."
          Smits used the space between "inter" and "view" to
  suggest that the interviewers look inward.  An interview,
  she said, must bridge the gap or space between different
  "'lookout points,' different opinions and visions, and the
  experiences that have brought us to those points."  An
  interviewer, Smits explained, must watch for silences that
  indicate a deeper, unspoken story that needs to be told.
  Her presentation urged listening sensitively to one's body,
  to students' needs and to one's sense of compassion.
          Lamers used feminist communication theory to lay
  out a better way of presenting "tips" for how to do well at
  interviewing--for students in journalism as well as creative
  nonfiction.  Building on a rhetorical analysis of women's
  magazine articles on "How to Do Well On a First Date," she
  showed that women are made vulnerable by following the
  traditional model, and that their stories may elude them in
  the traditional approach.  Her new approach invents ways of
  approaching story and subject, allowing for the messy,
  repetitive staccato vagaries of conversation.