May 13 conference cultivates academic writing's creative side

Cornell’s first Conference on Creative Academic Writing, exploring the relationship between artful prose and scholarly production, will be held May 13 in Klarman Hall. The community is welcome, and the conference is free.

Although all graduate students are expected to become professional writers, few of them have the opportunity to study writing as an art and a craft, notes conference organizer Aaron Sachs, professor of history. The conference is intended to help students add some “creative spark” to their academic writing and to broader-audience writing projects. People from 30 academic departments will participate in hands-on writing workshops (registration for the workshops has closed).

“I’m thrilled to see the hunger out there for this kind of approach,” Sachs said. “I don’t imagine that every participant will have exactly the same writing goals, but we’re all united in the belief that academic writing can be more compelling than it usually is – and that we ought to make more time for learning the relevant techniques.”

The conference is organized by Historians Are Writers (HAW). The group, founded in 2007, is based in the history department and consists mostly of graduate students, although anyone is welcome to join and members represent a wide variety of fields, such as anthropology, science and technology studies, and English. They share a belief that producing good books depends on good writing – on literary quality as well as scholarly quality.

Two plenary roundtables will be held in the morning. The first, “Artfulness for Academics,” will include former HAW member Laura Martin, M.S. ’10, Ph.D. ’15, now at Harvard University. The second roundtable, “Writing and Publishing for a ‘Broader’ Audience,” will include former HAW coordinator Amy Kohout, M.A. ’11, Ph.D. ’15, assistant professor of history at Colorado College.

The conference will conclude with a happy hour and history slam in Hollis Auditorium, Goldwin Smith. The event will be open mic, and any type of creative academic writing is eligible to be read (each reader limited to five minutes).

The slam allows authors to hear their work read aloud and “forces you to focus at the sentence level on rhythm, the use of suspense. And it’s really fun,” says Joe Giacomelli, HAW coordinator and a graduate student in the field of history.

Conference sponsors include the Department of History, the Institute for Social Sciences, the Society for the Humanities, the College of Arts and Sciences, the Graduate School, and the Knight Institute for Writing in the Disciplines.

This story also appeared in the Cornell Chronicle.

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