I hadn’t planned to return to graduate school. But I was restless, wanted a challenge, and, as a 30-something business and technical writing consultant in Western Canada, began to notice the contracts went to those with a Ph.D..
But, once in a doctoral program, I became hooked on studying language and how it shapes us. And writing. And writing about writing processes. I found a mentor – the celebrated Donald Murray – who encouraged me to write my doctoral thesis as narrative nonfiction. I published my Ph.D. thesis as narrative prose (Literacy and Living, Heinemann, 1989).
The study of cultures and everyday practices; journalism’s distant cousin – has been a passion of mine since I read Whyte’s Street Corner Society in one gulp on a bus home from Cambridge, Mass in the 1980s. My scholarly work has focused on observing reading and writing, particularly women’s, in education and contemporary culture.
Monthly columns for an international journal on reading for teachers morphed into another book, A Stone in my Shoe (Peguis, 1992), an academic best-seller about literacy issues in the contemporary classroom, now out of print.
Ten years into my academic career, immersed in feminist perspectives on writing and research, I published Knowing her Place (Caddo Gap, 1998), which won an international award for research writing from the National Council of Teachers of English (College Level). It’s a collection of personal essays, images, and poetry about my intellectual curiosity and growth – I am at heart a bricoleur, and find this form exciting and challenging.
Writing and the arts.
I have published countless scholarly articles, all of which duck (or push) the boundaries of standard academic writing: my work includes poetry, narrative, dialogue, lyric language and alternative structures. (This is how I’ve survived the academy). I’m not alone. About twenty years ago, scholars across the English-speaking world, especially, began to challenge conventional approaches to research and publishing. Arts-based and arts-informed research and writing have changed the landscape of scholarship in education and the social sciences. I’ve edited several books of such creative scholarly work and supervised (and served as committee member or external examiner) on innovative theses and dissertations that take the form of short stories, novels, poetic narratives, plays, memoir, and other literary texts.
Most of my writing is now for a public, rather than an academic, audience – poetry, creative nonfiction (memoir, lyric essays). I continue to work for change in the academy to include women’s (and underrepresented) voices. My contributions over the last twenty years include serving on the boards of national and international organizations and task forces, on local committees, and on editorial boards of scholarly journals. I’ve been a scholar-in-residence and visiting scholar at three Australian, one New Zealand, and four Canadian campuses, offering workshops, primarily for women graduate students and faculty. My LifeLines seminars and workshops (see link on this site) have also been designed for academic writers.
In 2005, I was awarded Mount Saint Vincent University’s Research Excellence Award. Contact me directly for an updated copy of my curriculum vitae (firstname.lastname@example.org).