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.