The Unintentional Reader: Is It You?

In my first year writing course at the University of Washington, Tacoma, students have completed their first of three essays for this quarter, a brief piece of writing known as “the personal essay.” The theme of the course is “Create Your Own Adventure,” so their topics varied from cooking to snowboarding. A bit of explanation: instead of assigning them specific topics this quarter, they are free to choose their own within the parameters of three general categories: 1. The Personal Essay; 2. Rhetorical Analysis essay; and 3. Argument essay. By the time they leave the course, they will have gained a bit of experience in writing the kinds of essays which they may encounter in some form in their other courses.

This week, we have been discussing the meaning of “rhetoric,” applying our analytical lens to essays in The Best American Essays, 7th College Edition edited by Robert Atwan (2014). Believe it or not, those of you out there who did not particularly enjoy your first year writing course, we’ve been having some great conversations about context, audience, and the making of meaning.

One of the toughest concepts for any writer–myself included–is the notion of “audience.” When you’re a first year college student taking a composition course with 19 other first year college students, who can your audience be outside of your instructor and a few classmates? How can I make this writing “real” for them? My experiment (if I can get them to buy into it) is to allow me the privilege of sharing excerpts from their work on this blog. I want them to meet their “unintended reader.” Who is this mysterious person who stumbles across an essay in a happy set of circumstances? I want to meet this person! At any rate, the idea that someone outside of our classroom may read their work sounds like a good way to give them a sense of an actual audience rather than a manufactured one.

For this to work, I need your help: my students need readers!

So I am inviting you–YOU, the mysterious entity who is reading these very words–to stay tuned for some interesting pieces of writing from some highly motivated first year college students. The deadline for their work will be in a few weeks, so here is how I plan to prime the pump in the meantime. As this blog will be posted on Facebook, I will be inviting all of my friends to agree to help with this project for the benefit of the students. To participate, you need to do two things: read their posts and leave a comment.

I will be back next week with an update: in the meantime, happy reading!


Today is a first for me–I will be “appearing” on a podcast hosted by a local guy in Tacoma, Jeff Richardson.  It is called “Everything is Awesome Podcast”–if you’re interested, check it out.  I don’t know what to expect, so I will post again later today to describe the experience.  It will be fun to talk about my music, maybe sing a few tunes, talk about my forthcoming book, and who knows what else.  Maybe I will make some new friends!  I know podcasts have been around for awhile, but I am just coming around to the concept.  It’s a great way to hear new stories, as well as–such as in the cast of NPR–a great way to gain insight on current events, sort of peeking behind the curtain.  I guess it’s a kind of radio broadcast, yes?

Here is a link to the site if you want to look around and take a listen.  All of the broadcasts are archived, so listen in and discover something new!

P. S.  Just got home from the podcast and it was awesome!  Turns out I taught Jeff at Gig Harbor High School in 1991! How cool is that?  Here we are 25 years later and I’m on his podcast!  The world is certainly an interesting place.  I also met KC, Jeff’s co-host, who set me at ease right away.  We had a great time.  See the selfie below:

podcast crew


Academic writing is fun!

I love to do research.  I love to write.

I also dread it.

I know many others will relate to this contradiction.  I get great personal satisfaction from working on a project and seeing it to completion.  Of course.  But it is also a pain in my side, an itch I can’t scratch, and a flat out compulsion.  Yikes.

When I found out about I was excited to begin posting my academic papers, none of which had been published before.  This morning, I went to that site for the first time in a while and noted that many people had downloaded my papers and not only that–many of them had left comments for me as to why they had found my papers useful.  It is not surprising that many of them are students, but I was pleased to see that many of them were from other countries.  That is just the coolest thing.  Here we are, thousands of miles apart, sharing information like we were in the same room, or at least on the same campus.  It is times like these that I love technology!

Here is the link to my page if you are so inclined.  I need to get back to work, or, is that FUN?