Upcoming Webinar: “What We Tell Ourselves About Writing”

The National Day on Writing (October 20) is an annual event sponsored by the National Council of Teachers of English and recognized by Congress. The day celebrates the importance of writing in our lives.

In recognition of the day, Excelsior will host a webinar entitled “What We Tell Ourselves about Writing: Cultural Stories of Writing and Their Effects” featuring Doug Downs from Montana State University. Dr. Downs’ presentation, entitled “What We Tell Ourselves about Writing: Cultural Stories of Writing and Their Effects” will focus on the stories we tell about writing and the lessons we can learn from them.


American cultures are replete with images, stories, and truisms about writers and writing. The story of the “grammar nazi” teacher and the students who cower beneath her bleeding-red pen. The story of the college educated student who is still a failure in writing clear, concise workplace communication. The story of the talented and inspired genius novel writer for whom writing comes easy.

But how much do these stories reflect the actual experiences of mature, professional writers in a variety of cultural writing scenes—the marketing copy—writer, the engineering designer, the office worker, the journalist, the public advocacy specialist, the civic activist? And how many of the underlying metaphors and conceptions of writing shared by our cultural stories of writing are accurate and actually reflective of what research shows us about how writing and writers work?

In this talk, Doug Downs will re-tell some of these stories in order to un-tell them: to question their premises and what they cost us, both culturally and as individual writers and learners-of-writing.

After Dr. Downs’ presentation, Dr. Joe Bocchi, Writing Program Director at Excelsior College will briefly share his work at Excelsior College to bring a new story of writing to the writing program and the College. He will share plans for a new inter-disciplinary writing degree at Excelsior College.

The evening will conclude with a brief presentation by Dr. Crystal Sands, Director of the Online Writing Lab, of the winners of the Excelsior College National Day on Writing essay contest with time for questions for our guest, Dr. Downs.

Doug Down Biography

Doug Downs is associate professor of Writing Studies and Director of Composition in the Department of English at Montana State University, where he also designed the department’s broadfield Writing major. He studies composition and research pedagogies through lenses of cultural and personal conceptions of writing (via discourse and metaphor analysis), and his most recent research examines student reading practices in the unfolding age of screen-literacies. He is author of numerous book chapters and articles including “What Is First-Year Composition” in Rita Malenczyk’s A Rhetoric for Writing Program Administrators (Parlor, 2013), and a 2010 Reader article, “Teaching First-Year Writers to Use Texts: Scholarly Readings in Writing-about-Writing in First-Year Comp.” With Elizabeth Wardle, he wrote Writing about Writing (Bedford/St. Martins, 2nd edition 2014), a ground-breaking anthology of Writing Studies research that supports the writing-about-writing pedagogies. The two first wrote about WAW pedagogies in their 2007 College Composition and Communication article “Teaching about Writing, Righting Misconceptions: (Re)Envisioning FYC as Intro to Writing Studies.” Along with research on reading practices and writing pedagogies, Downs studies undergraduate research in the humanities and mentors undergraduate research extensively. He is incoming Editor of Young Scholars in Writing, the national peer-reviewed journal of undergraduate research in writing studies and rhetoric.


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