Skip to content

Conversations About Writing: Eavesdropping, Inkshedding, and Joining In, First Edition, 1st Edition

By Cornelia C. Paraskevas, M. Elizabeth Sargent
Instructional Resources
Digital teaching aids may be available for this title. All instructor requests are reviewed by our team before the files are made accessible.
Soft Cover
480 pages
ISBN-10: 0176414983
ISBN-13: 9780176414986
Publisher: Top Hat
Edition: 1st

Created by a writing expert and a linguist, Conversations about Writing, an innovative composition reader, is based on the assumption that the subject of a writing class should be writing itself. Bringing composition theory into the writing classroom, this reader introduces students to the major theories and debates in composition theory, and explores through a variety of genres how one is taught to write and how writers develop ideas of correct writing. The text provides a range of readings on language, research on the writing process, debates about academic versus personal writing, and reflections by many writers--from poets and fiction writers to scientists--on how and why they write. Through sustained reflective practice and exploratory writing (encouraged by frequent writing prompts throughout the book), students using this text can become more conscious of their own writing processes and of the choices open to them as writers.


  • Balanced: Balances composition and rhetorical scholarship with advice and expertise of working writers.
  • Selection: Readings from a wide range of genres - journals, creative nonfiction, interviews, speeches - demystify the writing process.
  • Canadian: An indigenous textbook with many selections provided by Canadian-born and educated writers.
  • Writing Encouragement: Inkshedding prompts provide suggestions for exploratory writing in response to text's reading selections, and encourage students to share their reactions with others.
  • Feedback: Students are encouraged to give productive descriptive and evaluative feedback on writing-in-progress.
  • Flexible: "Conversations" (chapters) and reading selections can be taught in any order.
  • Context: Brief introductions to each "conversation" (chapter) contextualize selections.

Table of Contents

  • Introduction.
  • A Letter to Students Using this Book.
  • 1. Life Without Language.
  • Linda Trichter Metcalf & Tobin Simon, Putting Voice Back into Writing and Awakening the Auditory Imagination.
  • Helen Keller from The Story of My Life.
  • Malcolm X, Saved.
  • Eva Hoffman from Lost in Translation: A Life in a New Language.
  • June Callwood, Why Canada Has to Beat Its Literacy Problem.
  • Stephen Pinker, An Instinct to Acquire Art; Chatterboxes.
  • 2. Reflecting on the Writing Process.
  • Natalie Goldberg, Writing as Practice; The Power of Detail; Writers Have Been Good Figures; One Plus One Equals a Mercedes-Benz; Be an Animal.
  • Donald Murray, A Writer''s Habits.
  • Gail Godwin, The Watcher at the Gates.
  • William Stafford from Writing the Australian Crawl: Views on the Writer''s Vocation; You Must Revise Your Life.
  • Kim Stafford, My Father''s Place.
  • Alistair MacLeod, Writing the Known Life.
  • Student Writing: Inksheds.
  • 3. Exploratory Writing and Inventions: Freewriting/Inkshedding/Writing-to-Learn.
  • Duncan Carter, Five Myths about Writing.
  • Maxine Hairston, The Winds of Change: Thomas Kuhn and the Revolution in the Teaching of Writing. Russell Hunt, What is Inkshedding?
  • Toby Fulwiler, Freshman Writing: It''s the Best Course in the University to Teach.
  • NCTE Commission on Composition, Guidelines for Using Journals in School Settings.
  • M. Elizabeth Sargent, Strategies for Writing-to-Learn/Invention Strategies; The Loop Writing Process.
  • James A. Reither and Douglas Vipond from Writing as Collaboration.
  • Sondra Perl, Guidelines for Composing.
  • Student Writing: Process-Writing Inksheds,
  • Writing-to-Learn Journal Inksheds.
  • Essay Summary/Annotation.
  • 4. The Academic Writing Debate: What is Academic Writing for?
  • David Bartholomae, Writing with Teachers: A Conversation with Peter Elbow.
  • Peter Elbow, Being a Writer vs. Being an Academic: A Conflict in Goals.
  • Carolyn Matalene, Experience as Evidence: Teaching Students to Write Honestly and Knowledgeably about Public Issues.
  • Patricia Nelson Limerick, Dancing with Professors: The Trouble with Academic Prose.
  • 5. The Grammar-as-Style Debate: Does Grammar Instruction Hurt of Help Student Writing?
  • Stephen Pinker from The Language Mavens.
  • Cornelia C. Paraskevas and M. Elizabeth Sargent, Understanding Grammar as Style.
  • Natalie Goldberg, Make Statements and Answer Questions; Very and Really.
  • Lewis Thomas Notes on Punctuation.
  • Student Writing: Inkshed.
  • 6. Organization and Genre.
  • Rick McConnell, Beginning to Understand the Beginning.
  • Nancy Mairs, The Literature of Personal Disaster.
  • Robert Root, This is What the Spaces Say.
  • Mary Paumier Jones, Meander.
  • John C. Polanyi, Science and Arts: Two Ways of Seeing; Confessions of a Scientist.
  • Student Writing: Summary/Annotation; Interview with a Science Writer.
  • Quick Reference: Citation Styles.
  • 7. Margaret Atwood, For whom does the writer write?
  • Nancy Mair from Voice Lessons: Becoming a (Woman) Writer.
  • Peter Elbow from Ranking, Evaluating, and Liking: Sorting Out Three Forms of Judgment.
  • Lori Mammen, When Teachers are Writers: An Interview with Peter Elbow.
  • Student Writing: New Beginning.
  • 8. Raymond Carver, Foreword to John Gardner''s On Becoming a Novelist; On Writing.
  • Donald Murray, Internal Revision: A Process of Discovery.
  • Nancy Sommers, Revision Strategies of Student Writers and Experienced Adult Writers.
  • David Bartholomae from The Study of Error.
  • M. Elizabeth Sargent, Preparing Final Copy.
  • Student Writing: Collage/Segmented Essay.
  • Bibliography: Other Voices to Bring into the Conversation.
  • Index of New Practices to Take Forward.
  • Quick Reference: The Craft of Punctuation.
  • Quick Reference: Joining Clauses.

Author Information

M. Elizabeth Sargent

Professor of English at the University of Alberta, Betsy Sargent served as Writing Coordinator for the Department of English and Film Studies from July 1999 until January 1, 2002. Her areas of research include the teaching of writing, composition theory, and D. H. Lawrence. She enjoys jogging, eating the Greek food her co-author cooks, hiking in the Canadian Rockies and Oregon Cascades, and watching/discussing films with her husband, Garry. She visits her daughters, one a political science graduate student at Brown University and the other an Associate Editor at Travel & Leisure magazine in New York City, as often as possible.

Cornelia C. Paraskevas

Born in Athens, Greece, Cornelia came to the United States on a Fulbright Scholarship to complete her PhD at the University of Kansas. She has been teaching linguistics and writing courses at Western Oregon University since 1989. Her areas of research include linguistics, specifically grammar and writing, as well as language and writing standards. Outside of teaching and spending time with her husband Frank, son Alexander and daughter Athena, Cornelia bikes, rafts, travels, and cooks excellent Greek food.