National Writing Project

Dipping into the 2002 Summer E-Anthology

By: Christina Cantrill
Publication: The Voice, Vol. 7, No. 5
Date: November-December 2002

Summary: Read highlights from the 2002 E-Anthology, an online forum where teachers at summer institutes across the country share their writing and experiences.


With Shirley Brown and Michelle Rogge Gannon

In the second week of July, I sit down at my computer and bring up the National Writing Project's homepage. At the Interactive section, I click on the link that tells me that I am registered for the E-Anthology. As the page loads, I wonder, "Who is out there, and what are they writing about today?"

There is always someone and something new. Teachers from writing projects all over the country participate. They are teachers from many backgrounds, experiences, and schools, but they have one thing in common—they are all participating in their first summer invitational institutes. The E-Anthology is an option for the site to introduce its local community to the national network of colleagues we call the National Writing Project.

Many participants simply take the opportunity to introduce themselves in the guestbook. Others leave a daily log from their summer institute, providing a window into the life of their local writing project. "9:00 Coffee cups filled to the brim, we began. Stephanie reminded us to turn in our learning logs ..."

And then there are the writings posted in the "Open Mic"—creative writing, quick-writes, writing about critical issues in classrooms, and writing about critical issues in each other's lives. Each posted piece includes comments and guidelines for response, sharing, and dialogue. The writing is posted here for different reasons—as an experiment, a requirement, an opportunity, and sometimes as an act of bravery.

The E-Anthology is an online forum that begins in May/June and ends in August. Now in its seventh summer, the E-Anthology began as a summer experiment by the NWP Electronic Design Team—a leadership team exploring the intersections of technology, writing, and learning. The idea was to provide a friendly online environment that would both allow summer institute participants to share their work and serve as an introduction to the national network. The designers also understood it as an opportunity to gather a picture of the rich work happening across the country every summer.

Seven summers later, the purposes of the E-Anthology have not changed much, although the quality and quantity of activity grows every year. Summer 2002 has been the most active yet, with over 70 sites registered and hundreds of teachers participating.

So, what's behind the scene/screen that lubricates the smooth workings of the E-Anthology? It's the E-Team, a group of seven dedicated people who log on repeatedly over the course of a day to read and respond to the postings. This hardworking team includes Will Banks (Illinois Writing Project), Peter Booth (Vermont Writing Project), Tim Mathews (Northwest Indiana Writing Project), Mary Lynne Monroe (Oregon Writing Project at Lewis and Clark College), Shelbie Whitte (Oklahoma Writing Project), and Shari Williams (Little Rock Writing Project). Shirley Brown (Philadelphia Writing Project) and Michelle Rogge Gannon (Dakota Writing Project) coordinate the project.

By email in July, I interviewed E-Team members to get their take on how the project was going after the first month.

C.C: Please tell me about yourself as a teacher/writer and your role at your local writing project site.

Tim: I wear many hats at the Northwest Indiana Writing Project (NWIWP). In addition to serving on the E-team, I am the technology liaison and the E-facilitator for the site. This means I maintain the website, contribute to the quarterly newsletter, compile the annual tech report, and encourage teacher-consultants from this year's institute to post to the E-Anthology. Outside of NWP, I'm starting my ninth year of teaching high school English, the second at Valparaiso High School. I'm particularly grateful to the NWP because my experiences with technology have encouraged my administration to add a class in Information Technology and Global Systems to my teaching load.

Shelbie: I teach English I and Reading for Pleasure at Norman North High School in Norman, Oklahoma. I am the tech liaison for our site and served this summer as the co-director of the summer institute.

Shari: At Benton High School in Benton, Arkansas, I teach drama; Oral Communications; Fine Art Survey; and Writing Essentials. I am the co-director of Little Rock Writing Project [LRWP] at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. In this capacity, I help direct the summer institute; coordinate activities for continuity meetings that we have the second Saturday of each month; plan other alumni activities; and present workshops in the area schools. Two projects that I am working on for this year are an alumni retreat and a Rural Voices CD modeled after the NWP Rural Voices [Radio series].

As a writer, my first piece to be published will come out this fall in a collection of essays and poems written about the natural beauty of Arkansas. The work was compiled by Dana Steward, a writing consultant for the LRWP Summer Institute. My poem is entitled "If Life Could be a Float Down a River." I am currently working on material for a book for secondary teachers on writing in the content areas.

C.C.: What are your impressions of the E-Anthology so far this summer?

Tim: I'd encourage anyone interested in writing to spend a few minutes cruising through the E-Anthology. Anyone who is tired of the old saw "Those who can't do, teach" really needs to look at the quality of writing that these teachers are doing. I'd be happier if there were a little more back-and-forth dialogue between the teacher-consultants about the writing. Between the E-Team and the other teacher-consultants, everything posted gets a response or two, but it's only occasionally that someone responds to the comments another writes.

There are many possible explanations for this, of course. The teacher-consultants digest a lot of information over the course of a summer insti-tute, and it's understandable that they may not have a large amount of time to not only revise their work, but also explain how they made those revisions. And a lot of conversation is taking place back channel [ie. via personal email], too.

Shelbie: The E-Anthology is an outstanding tool! We used it for the first time this summer at the Oklahoma Writing Project Summer Institute. [Everyone] posted writing once a week and responded to at least three pieces of writing per week from other writing projects. It was a terrific way to see all of the writing that the fellows were doing . . . .

Shari: The overall quality of the pieces being submitted seems to be better this summer. There is also a wider variety. There have even been some dramatic pieces submitted. It seems that we are getting more writing from people who are really looking for a place to get their work out there for others to read. I have been a little disappointed that the conversations that have been so much a part of the E-Anthology in the past years have not really materialized so much this year. Not many people respond to the comments that I make . . . even when I ask a question about their work. Of course, there are those who have responded in ways that make it seem worthwhile to make the comments.

C.C.: What inspired you to get involved as an E-Team member this summer?

Tim: I saw the posting on the technology liaison's [discussion] list, and thought this would be a great way to share my own experiences with the writing life with other teachers. It's also a chance to kind of refresh myself by commenting on writing without the added step of having to put a grade on it.

Shelbie: I wanted to help the Oklahoma Writing Project become more involved nationally. I thought that by encouraging our institute to participate in the E-Anthology, we were making a good start. Yet, I wanted to be involved even more, so I volunteered for the E-Team.

C.C.: Anything else you'd like to tell a national network?

Tim: Just to encourage anyone who thinks their work has an audience to stick with it. During [my] summer institute, I was drafting "The Big Cookie: A Novel About Ugly Guys Trying to Get Pretty Girlfriends," but I was really encouraged when my co-participants really seemed to "get" the humor of the situations the protagonists got themselves into. The novel is episodic . . . I was worried that, seeing only one of the episodes outside of the larger context of the novel, my peers would consider the humor a tad sophomoric. But when they were able to identify [with] Vic and Wally and see them for what they were . . . not the stereotypical college guys, but guys who were really interested in forming meaningful relationships, I was encouraged to continue. I did, and now it's a real thrill to see my book on bookstore shelves and on with the likes of other "real" writers.

Part of our mission is to encourage students to find authentic outlets for their work; I wouldn't want our teachers to forget that this step is out there for them, too.

Shelbie: What did we ever do before we had the E-Anthology?

Shari: This is such a powerful tool for the NWP. It has helped me to make our summer institute participants realize what a large network of teachers they have become a part of. Before they just saw it as a local group; now they are communicating with summer institute participants from all over the country.

Although the E-Anthology is largely a publishing site, there is an added benefit for all who participate actively by posting and responding. The publishing is, as we have already noted, a brave act, but so is responding. Teachers constantly struggle with how to respond in a way that is encouraging yet useful; participating in the E-Anthology provides that practice.

When asked to reflect on their experiences in the 2002 E-Anthology, members of the team were enthusiastic about their experiences but recognized occasional bumpy spots. Peter Booth, one of the team's new members, noted:

I definitely found myself dreading having to sit down (especially on a beautiful day here in Vermont) in front of a computer and read the writing of people I didn't know and find some way to respond to every single one. . . . I'd start and every single time, almost without exception, I'd be drawn in and find at least one piece of writing that would touch me in some way.

William Banks, one of the team's more veteran members, commented:

I noticed that the quality of writing this summer was way up. I'm not sure why—maybe more people participated or maybe more writing projects took the E-Anthology seriously—but I know I enjoyed the readings this summer much more than the past.

The E-Team did an extraordinary amount of work, but it sounds as though it was a labor of love. As Shari Williams said:

I really love working with the E-Team and getting to know folks from across the country.

The 2002 E-Anthology is now closed, however, highlights from the forum, as well as information about next year, can be found online at All writing project sites are invited to register in the spring. In addition to the information on the website, members of the E-Team will be available during the NWP Annual Meeting in Atlanta to discuss how the E-Anthology might work at your local site.

(New) Title: How Vocabulary Came to the People
Posted July 24 by Lee Waldman, Denver Writing Project
Responses: 4
Topic/Genre: Fiction
E-Team Recommended
Author's comments: Please Shred!
This piece was a response to a writing assignment in a fundamentals-of-reading class I took last year. I liked it so much I decided to keep working on it.

A heading attached to each E-Anthology piece offers readers a host of information. Read more about the E-Anthology online at

About the Authors
Christina Cantrill is a program associate with the National Writing Project.

Shirley Brown is a member of the Philadelphia Writing Project's coordinating team and the cochair of the National Writing Project's newly formed Teacher Inquiry Communities Network. She is the program administrator for the Bryn Mawr/Haverford College Education Program.

Michelle Rogge Gannon is a teacher-consultant with the Dakota Writing Project in South Dakota.

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