Revision Exercise: Sticky Notes

Using sticky notes, track what your readers learn on each page. (You could do this once for your ideal audience and once for an unlikely audience.) Use different color sticky notes for different kinds of information–information about characters, about setting, about plot, about stakes, etc. Where does the manuscript start to give more or less information? For example: at a certain point, the purpose of a character’s actions change from new information to playing out or contradiction what we already know. As you look at the arrangement of sticky notes, watch out for information dumps. Remember to modulate: how does the information “tune” a story to its audience and how does a story keep its audience surprised?

Source: Craft in the Real World by Matthew Salesses

Writing Prompt: By the Time You Read This

Goal: To focus on the small things that can happen, plot-wise, and to open up your mind to possibilities.

What to do:

Set your timer for 10 minutes (this is to avoid overthinking it).

  1. Fix your mind on your main character (or one of your main characters) in a story you are writing.
  2. Have the character sit down to write a letter to someone he/she is intimate with, who happens to be not close by at the moment. (It can be an email, if that helps you work, but make it be an email that won’t be read for at least twenty-four hours, as an immediate reading of the email would destroy the point of the exercise).
  3. Begin the letter, “By the time you read this” and make a detailed list of all the things that will have happened by the time the intended recipient of the letter actually reads it.

For example:

By the time you read this:

  • The chicken will be roasted, the garlic and rosemary scent spread throughout the house, the new potatoes baked until their skins are crisp.
  • The baby will have bathed, and smell sourly of her grandfather’s Old Spice shaving cologne that she insists must be rubbed on her back before she allows herself to be dress.
  • The cat will have insisted on having her belly scratched, and will have shown her appreciation by gently biting the hand that strokes her.

Source: “The Making of a Story” by Alice LaPlante

Research Stance: Working with International Adoptees

I’m a transnational adoptee from the Philippines. In 1993, when I was seven years old, my parents and I tried to travel to England for a family reunion. Unfortunately, this flagged immigration and after visiting the US Embassy, the Philippine Embassy, and the British Embassy, we learned I was not a US citizen. In fact, I was stateless and at risk of deportation. Luckily, because my dad is British, the embassy gave me a visa. We were able to go to our family reunion; however, I had to stay and live with my Aunt, Uncle and two cousins until my citizenship was taken care of. I finished second grade at Long Whittingham Primary School.

Though the deportation itself was traumatic (I threw up in the US Embassy), my time in England was fun and reflexive. I imagined I was Mary Lennox and spent my time writing in my Aunt’s garden. As I got older, I became aware of the fact my situation was not unique. Many adoptees find out that they are not citizens when they fill out the free application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), apply for college, join the military, apply for a passport or commit a minor crime. Approximately, 89,000 people were adopted “between 1953 (the earliest federal record) and 1982. None of these people received automatic citizenship” (“National Council for Adoption,” 2019).

Unlike me, who was somewhat protected, the international adoptees I read about ended up back in their birth countries where they did not know anyone, did not speak the language, and did not understand the culture. Many committed suicide. This is unacceptable to me, and so I want to bring their stories to light in a way that is healing, respectful and ethical.

I am working on a Ph.D. in Creative Writing. My passion is connecting people to their origin stories, regardless of how much they know about their birth stories. This involves writing one’s own ethnoautobiography, which is defined as “a visionary and imaginative process that grounds itself in time (smaller and larger planetary and celestial cycles), place (ecology, history of place), history (stories and myths), ancestry, and stories of origin and creation” (Kremer & Jackson-Paton, 79). The word I want to hone is on is “place.” In an interview in “Edge Effects,” Dr. Robin Wall Kimmerer states,

“Gary Nabhan has said, as we try to heal the earth with restoration, with ecological restoration, that’s well and good but what we really need to do is re-story-ation. We need to tell ourselves a different story about our relationship to place. That’s where I think creation stories, either from antiquity or the creation stories we are in the process of writing today about our relationship to place, really matter. They can become a compass for us.”

Origin stories have the capability of connecting people to their communities and developing a sense of belonging, a feeling that international adoptees yearn for. Not only would this be a chance for them to voice what citizenship means to them and what it means to belong to a place, it would also raise awareness among the general public, legislators and policymakers. Perhaps it would help them see that adult international adoptees without citizenship is a real issue affecting real people. Perhaps it would create a sense of urgency.

The attempt to pass the Adult Citizenship Act, which would grant retroactive citizenship to adult adoptees, is an unbelievably slow process. We have been trying to pass it since 2015. It effectively closes the loophole created by the Child Citizenship Act of 2000, which protected children from being deported. It gave automatic citizenship to all those adopted after 2001 and gave retroactive citizenship to those under 18 years old. Glaringly obvious, transnational adoptees 18 years and older were not included. Granting international adoptees citizenship is not only a right, but shows that they do indeed belong to a place.

Furthermore, telling these stories is worth doing because having a community is the key to overall health and well-being. As human beings, we are wired for connection. UCLA professor Dr. Matthew Lieberman, author of Social: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Connect, writes, “Connection: Long before there were any primates with a neo-cortex, mammals split off from other vertebrates and evolved the capacity to feel social pains and pleasures, forever linking our well-being to our social connectedness. Infants embody this deep need to stay connected, but it is present through our entire lives” (Lieberman, 11). It is important to note that international adoptees without citizenship who have been deported are in every sense American. They grew up in the US, went to school here, were raised by US citizens, and have friends and family who are also US citizens. They are culturally and unequivocally American. Granting these adoptees citizenship is just the tip of the iceberg.

Episode 12: Interview with Kate Mohler (part 2)


In this episode, we discuss

Kate Mohler on bipolar disorder, accommodations, self-care and supporting colleagues. What is bipolar disorder like? What accommodations can we make for students. How can colleagues be more supportive?

Highlights include:

  1. How have you reintegrated yourself into the campus community? (1:33)
  2. Reconciling our actions (5:23)
  3. How do we recognize signs of a mental illness both in students and in colleagues? (7:23)
  4. What can supporters do for their own self-care when supporting colleagues going through depression, mania or aggression? (12:10)
  5. What about those with the actual mental illness? What can they do for self-care? How can they avoid an episode or at least avoid it interfering with work? (14:07)
  6. Acceptance (17:04)
  7. As we know, anyone can become disabled at any time. What accommodations can be put in place in order to anticipate mental health issues? (20:00)
  8. What might an awareness campaign look like? (22:55)
  9. Can we put some kind of notice in the syllabus? What should it say? (24:43)
  10. Do you have any last advice that you’d like to give our listeners? (26:00)

Resources Mentioned

About Kate Mohler

Kate Mohler earned a B.A. in English from Bemidji State University in Minnesota in 1989 and an MFA in creative writing from Arizona State University in 1994. She has taught composition for Mesa Community College since 1995. She was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2016.

STL Episode 11: Kate Mohler

Episode 11 of my Stereotype Life podcast is up! Please listen here:

In this episode, we discuss

Kate Mohler on bipolar disorder, accommodations, self-care and supporting colleagues. What is bipolar disorder like? What accommodations can we make for students. How can colleagues be more supportive?

Highlights include:

  1. On bipolar disorder and her manic episode (2:39)
  2. The importance of a support network (6:42)
  3. What is Crip Time? (8:05)
  4. What are some accommodations we can make? (10:13)
  5. How we can be supportive (15:11)

Resources Mentioned

About Kate Mohler

Kate Mohler earned a B.A. in English from Bemidji State University in Minnesota in 1989 and an MFA in creative writing from Arizona State University in 1994. She has taught composition for Mesa Community College since 1995. She was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2016.

What is creative writing for?

This talk was originally presented at the Midwest Interdisciplinary Graduate Conference on February 6, 2021.

The very first teacher of color I ever had was in my MFA program. Her name was Bhanu Kapil and she was British Punjabi. She was also the first and only teacher who ever tore up my short story, put the pieces in a State Farm insurance envelope with a crayon drawing of the Rocky Mountains and handed it back to me. At that moment, I became a poet. She introduced me to experimental prose, which is a multimodal, mixed genre, prose poetry form that was started by LGBTQ+ community in the Bay area and picked up by poets of color. This hybrid form was a breath of fresh air – decolonial and antiracist – and, unlike traditional creative writing, it was a form that many felt could better express BIPOC experiences, including my own.

I share this because in traditional creative writing workshops, we have preconceived notions of what writing, especially good writing, is. It is often grounded in a heteronormative, cisgendered, white patriarchy. In the traditional model, there will be generally be five to ten minutes of praise of the piece, after which the rest of the hour becomes focused on criticism and opinion. The writer is generally silent, except for the last 5-10 minutes in which they are allowed to ask questions about the work. The process is not to be dialogic or responsive in real-time; the theory behind this pedagogical strategy is that the writer could get defensive if allowed to speak or engage in any way in a conversation about their own work.

This model is flawed. It doesn’t consider the writer’s positionality nor does it consider who the audience is meant to be or what the writing is for. It is better, I think, to look at what writing is for. I think of my indigenous Filipino heritage and the word kapatid. It means brother or sister. It derives from the word kapwa, which is essentially about recognizing our shared humanity. This can be further broken down into the words ka, meaning relationship, and puwang, meaning space. I believe this is what good writing is, giving the space to explore relationships, to share what it means to be human. Because our experiences are all different, after all, you can never fully know the internal texture of someone else, and we all come from different socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds, I believe the kapwa framework in creative writing can translate to thinking about how we choose what to read, and how we workshop and assess students’ creative writing.

In choosing what to read in the creative writing classroom, it’s important to consider the makeup of the class. We need to see ourselves represented in what we consume, to know that we’re worth being written about and that our experiences matter. We need to know what’s possible. In 2014, Junot Diaz wrote a piece titled MFA vs. POC for the New Yorker. Why, he asks, do we read William Gaddis, Francine Prose, or Alice Munro, but not Toni Morrison, Maxine Hong-Kingston, Arundhati Roy, among others?

Diaz also described how two writers of color got shut down in the writer’s workshop. One peer edited out the big words in another’s piece saying that Latinos don’t use big words. Another student stated that people of color seemed to only show up when crimes or drugs were involved and that when she brought it up, her peers said the class was about writing, not political correctness.

There’s another word derived from kapwa and that’s pakikipagkapwa. It roughly translates as fellowship. The instructor is called tulay, which means bridge, and the participants are the kahalok, which means co-researchers. Together they form the umpukan, which is the group working together with mutual respect and camaraderie. It means to connect oneself with others. And isn’t the writer-reader relationship about connection? To dismiss the student as being too PC is to forget what writing is for.

I have an acronym I use in creative writing courses. It’s this group CARES. CARES stands for confidentiality: you’re always free to talk about your own experience. Please don’t talk about anyone else’s without that person’s agreement. A is for Acceptance: there’s no “wrong” way to engage in the writing process. Please accept yourself and each other without criticism or judgment. R is for Respect: we celebrate diversity and allow for differences in culture, process, opinion and style. E is for Empathy: we hold each other’s work gently and with compassion. And S is for support: we offer constructive feedback using I-statements, encouragement and wisdom.

When workshopping each other’s pieces, rather than critiquing whether the writing is good, we ask, what is the writer looking for? What does he/she/they want feedback on? What with the piece resonates? In one workshop with Bhanu Kapil, we passed around our pieces. Spending about 1 minute on each piece, we quickly highlighted words and phrases that stood out to us, that remained emotionally hot or vivid in some way. This more somatic way of thinking about the workshop helped the writer figure out where the story was.

Another way to level the playing field, so to speak, is to have everyone write their origin stories. Have students write a short ethnoautobiography, which asks the question, who are you? It is a visionary and imaginative process that grounds itself in time (smaller and larger planetary and celestial cycles), place (ecology, history of place), history (stories and myths), ancestry, and stories of origin and creation. It takes ethnic origins (genealogy) as one of its pivotal starting points.

Writer Ching-In Chen suggests a simple exercise to start the process. The instructor would have everyone write an origin story for their name. If they want, it can start with the etymology or meaning of the name, but it doesn’t have to. I wrote one; it’s in my book, titled Marilyn. Some context before I read it. I am an adoptee from the Philippines and my birth name is Marilyn Malinao. My adoptive family is Irish.


“Reavey” is the Anglicized form of the Gaelic “O’Riabhaigh.”
It means “brindled,” “grizzled.”

Twelve years ago my family and I went to Ireland to meet relatives and research family origins. Hanging upside down we kissed the Blarney Stone. We touch the North Shore. Roamed the streets of Belfast. We saw the library at trinity College and the Book of Kells, the calligraphy swooping down the page like vines. I touched the soil. My cousin, 11 years old at the time, cried and said, “Do you feel it, Amanda? Our ancestors came from here.”

I smiled, “yes, yes. I feel it too.”

Later I took a walk alone in an old cemetery down the street in Swords. There was a Celtic cross grave marker with worn etchings surrounded by a rusted iron-wrought fence and overgrowth. I wanted to touch it. This beautiful, forgotten grave marker.

Wanting towards. My wanting is not the grid’s wanting. Marilyn, remember your name. Malinao, remember your story.

Name and story and tribe are the same thing. A name is a story and a story is a tribe’s identity. Malinao. It means “clear.” From a phrase in Bikol-naga: malinao na isip. Because my ancestors had such “clear thoughts,” they birthed an island.

I cannot give birth to an island.

Midwest Interdisciplinary Graduate Conference 2021

Happy to say the proposal that my friend Danielle Harms put together was accepted. So I’ll be presenting with her and with Nora Boxer about creative writing pedagogy.


The 16th Annual Midwest Interdisciplinary Graduate Conference at The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

Virtual Conference February 4th-7th, 2021

Keynote Speakers

Rachel Cargle

Alfred L. Martin, Jr., The University of Iowa

About MIGC

The 15th annual Midwest Interdisciplinary Graduate Conference is an annual graduate conference organized by graduate students at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. 


Roundtable Description

Title: “Pure Craft is a Lie,” Now What? 

The field of creative writing pedagogy has established with growing clarity the many ways that the concept “good craft” in writing is a problematic tool of literary “gatekeeping” and creates harm. Still, the work of deconstructing pedagogical practices that adhere to outdated and corrosive ideas about “quality” and “craft” is ongoing. Writers like Matthew Salesses, Janelle Adsit, Renée M Byrd, and Ocean Vuong have clarified and expanded the conversation around how “pure craft is a lie,” as Salesses argues, one derived from a literary tradition that evolved to accommodate violent structures like sexism, colonialism, and white supremacy. And yet teachers often continue to bring problematic ideas around craft into the classroom, from college settings to community workshops. This panel will explore ways to turn this awareness into pedagogical action. What can it mean to offer a more expansive, equitable, and socially just vision of “craft” in creative writing pedagogy? How can educators work to examine their pedagogy and practice to recognize the impact of how “literary writing” or “good craft” is applied and conceived? What action needs to happen, and what research still needs to be done? This panel will offer a conversation of the theoretical background and history of “craft” as a concept in creative writing, provide pedagogical strategies and practices participants can apply to their own work.  


Craft, creative writing pedagogy 

Stereotype Life: Episodes 6-10

DJ Lee’s book Remote: Finding Home In the Bitterroots. How does “place” function as an archive? How is writing also a spiritual experience? What were mental hospitals like in the 40s and 50s? What does it mean to write through shame? How is mental illness in some ways un-boundaried like the wilderness? 

Listen here.

The importance of multimodality and making online classes accessible with Kristine Koyama. What were the challenges and accessibility issues you faced when moving classes online amidst the pandemic? What are some of the tenets of creating an accessible online classroom? How does multimodality fit with creating an online learning space?

Listen here.

Karen Tang on the correlation between addiction and mental health, and developing mindfulness and self-compassion. How can we design classes so that we as instructors help to minimize burnout? What is mindfulness and why is it important for self-compassion? How can mindfulness and meditation lead to better engagement and studying and working within the academy?

Listen here.

Having lupus, the perception of attendance and the accessibility of Dungeons & Dragons for training with Chrissy Mackey. How can we better support students who suffer from chronic autoimmune diseases? How does it affect attendance? What policies could instructors put in place in the syllabus so students could show how they are engaged in the coursework? How does gaming apply to industrial/ organizational psychology?

Listen here.

Authority, identity and unknowability in the classroom, as well as the intersections of feminist pedagogy and disability studies, and incorporating objects into teaching and learning with Krista Grensavitch. What does feminist pedagogy look like in the classroom? How do we make the material personal? How might we think about teaching in terms of creating learner communities? How might feminist pedagogy intersect with disability studies and making our classrooms accessible?

Listen here.

Stereotype Life: Episode 5 Dr. Katie Rose Guest Pryal

Connecting with Dr. Katie Rose Guest Pryal on her book, Life of the Mind Interrupted: Essays on Mental Health and Disability in Higher Education. What are some of the pros and cons for keeping a psychiatric disability hidden? How do we challenge stereotypes and the notion that seeking accommodations is cheating? How do we raise awareness and change the narrative? How do we practice care for ourselves and for our students while also protecting ourselves inside of a neoliberal university system? What advice would you give to those who are thinking of leaving academia?

Highlights include:

  1. What are the pros and cons of keeping a psychiatric disability hidden? (3:04)
  2. Raising awareness and creating communities of care (7:56)
  3. How do we navigate intersectionality and de-centering authority in the classroom in terms of socioeconomic background, race, gender and other kinds of privilege (11:02)
  4. How do we challenge the narrative that people who need accommodations are faking their disability? (16:31)
  5. The mad genius stereotype (24:19)
  6. Persevering in the midst of a mental illness, the challenges of working inside a neoliberal university system, and saying “no” (30:14)
  7. Advice for those working in academia (36:30)
  8. Advice for those wanting to leave academia (40:00)

To listen to the podcast and/or view show notes, resources mentioned, our guest’s brief biography, and a downloadable, accessible PDF transcript, please visit:

Stereotype Life: Episode 4 Jason Anderson

The fourth episode of Stereotype Life came out today. Apologies for the two day delay. As someone who wears hearing aids, I was struggling with creating the transcripts despite using a program (transcripts need to be double checked since the software isn’t perfect).

I sent out a call asking for an editor and luckily, someone volunteered! Her name is Frankie Martinez, a fiction writer from California. I’m so grateful. You can learn more about her here at and also on her website

Anyway, in the fourth episode of STL, we discuss self-accommodation, self-advocacy and building resilience with Jason Anderson. How do we make accommodations for ourselves, learn how to self-advocate, and figure out what we need so that we can get what we need to be successful? What does it mean to build resilience? What are some resources in the community to help students with disabilities?

Highlights include:

  1. How Jason became involved in disability services (3:01)
  2. The differences between little “d” and big “D” in the Deaf community (4:53)
  3. Asking for help (10:31)
  4. What is self-accommodation and how do we build self-advocacy skills? (12:14)
  5. The differences between 504, IDEA Act and ADA (16:12)
  6. What is the process for working with an Access Specialist? (20:55)
  7. How do you have the conversation about accommodations with your instructor? (23:06)
  8. What is resilience and how do you build it? (24:55)
  9. Jason’s example of advocating for captions as a student (28:10)
  10. What are some resources out there to help students? (31:55)
  11. Do you have any final advice? (38:32)

To listen to the podcast and/or view show notes, resources mentioned, our guest’s brief biography, and a downloadable, accessible PDF transcript, please visit: