IWCA/NCPTW 2019: The ART of It All

Conference: October 16-19, 2019

Location: Columbus, OH

Deadline to Submit Proposals: April 15th, 2019

Conference Co-Chairs: Laura Benton & Mike Mattison

Need the 2018 IWCA conference program? You can download this here.

When the tourism bureau of Ohio adopted its state slogan in 1984—The Heart of It All—it did so for two reasons: the shape of the state does resemble a heart, and the bureau believed that the state offered such a wide array of activities and events for visitors—including a good number of museums. As we gather for our 2019 combined IWCA-NCPTW conference, we wanted to utilize this slogan to propel our thinking about writing centers, not only as the heart of something—a university, a way of thinking—but also as a place of art.

Of course, this is not the first time that someone has connected writing center work with art. In particular, we are reminded of Steve Sherwood’s 2007 article, “Portrait of the Tutor as an Artist: Lessons No One Can Teach,” in which Sherwood asks us to consider the difference between an artist and an artisan: the first a “breaker of new ground” and the latter “striving not for uniqueness or originality of expression but for successful imitation.”

One overriding question, then, is whether or not writing centers, administrators, and tutors are more artists or artisans. Do we aim to produce original work or do we aim to successfully imitate what has been produced before—essays, writers, tutors, sessions? We encourage you to examine the canvas of your writing center space and consider the benefits of each identity:

As an artisan:

  • When might unoriginality be a virtue? Do certain disciplines benefit from a standard approach? Certain genres? Are there good reasons to have tutors run each session in a similar manner?
  • What actions are repeated in your center? What templates are used for reports, or what practices have been kept over the years? Why?
  • Do those outside our field hold certain views of our work that contradict our own? Do others ask us to be artisans, expect us to be? How should we, how do we, respond to those expectations?

As an artist:

  •  As a tutor or director (or writer), how do you approach your work? What is your style, your method? Are you more Frida Kahlo or René Magritte? Or perhaps Bob Ross?
  • How do you present your work to others? How does the audience factor in: are they wandering through the rooms or are they interacting with the materials?
  • Is there a natural talent for writing center work? Or for writing? Do we find great artists, or do we train them? Can anyone become a tutor? Or a director? Or a better writer?

And we can also ask how we draw the line between artist and artisan. How do we measure “art”? How do we determine what is a successful imitation of previous work? The art world ascribes high value to certain works rather than others, yet the process for doing so can be mysterious. So how do you measure the work done in your writing center? How do you come to determine what is valuable for your interactions with writers?

These are but a few of the questions that could serve as inspiration for your proposal. No doubt you can, and should, imagine others. We hope merely that this call gives you some incentive to talk about the work you do with writers and writing however you choose to do so. Whether you consider yourself an artisan or artist, or both, we invite you to contribute to the gallery of work that will comprise the 2019 NCPTW/IWCA conference.

Session Formats

The 2019 IWCA-NCPTW Conference consists primarily of 75-minute concurrent sessions. Participants may propose one of the following types of presentation:

  • Panel Presentation: 3 to 4 presentations of 15-20 minutes each on a specific theme or question.
  • Individual Presentation: 15-20 minute presentation (that will be combined into a panel by the program chairs).
  • Workshop: A participatory session that engages attendees in active learning.
  • Roundtable Discussion: 15 minutes of introductory framing by the leader(s), followed by a facilitated discussion among attendees.
  • Special Interest Groups: Strategic conversations led by colleagues who have similar interests, institutional settings, or identities.
  • Ignite Presentation: A 5-minute presentation composed of 20 images each lasting 15 seconds
  • Poster Presentation: A research-fair style presentation in which the presenter(s) create a poster to shape their discussion with attendees.
  • Works-in-Progress: Roundtable discussions where presenters briefly (5-10 minutes) discuss one of their current (in progress) writing center research projects and then receive feedback.
  • Something else: Concurrent sessions will be 75 minutes long; come up with something else that you can do in that time—present, perform, model, interact, etc.—and pitch your idea.

Deadline to Submit Proposals: April 15th, 2019

Contact Laura Benton ( or Mike Mattison (, IWCA-NCPTW 2019 Conference Co-Chairs, for any additional information.

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