One writer mused on how the foam churning at the river’s edge resembled a “film of mashed potatoes.”
Another’s pen painted a picture of kayaks dipping paddle blades in the ripples.
They are just two images inspired by the ebb and flow of life along the Fox River in downtown Oshkosh – moments captured as part of the 2011 Fox Valley Writing Project (FVWP) Summer Institute’s featured “writing marathon.”
“The writing marathon is a writing activity where we write about what surrounds us,” said Lisa Weiss, a classroom teacher, reading specialist and, most recently, a literacy coach with the Oshkosh Area School District who helps lead the FVWP.
Hosted within the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh’s College of Education and Human Services, the FVWP 2011 Summer Institute ran through July 8. The project, which launched in 1986, is affiliated with the National Writing Project, whose chapters have often featured writing marathons as part of workshops.
Downtown Oshkosh proved fertile ground for this summer’s FVWP writing marathon.
“People find places to write, observe the area, write, and move to another location to repeat the process,” Weiss said. “Besides providing another practice in writing, the marathon also focuses the group as individual writers; writers pay attention to things that slip by ordinary people, and the writing marathon puts our writers in a position to take in their surroundings, notice what might otherwise go unnoticed, and write about them.”
The broader project immerses K-12 educators in writing, bringing them together into “a professional learning community where language and literacy are central to learning in all content areas.”
The summer institute helps writing teachers hone their classroom teaching and personal writing talents. This season, participants hail from school districts throughout eastern Wisconsin, including Appleton, Beaver Dam, Campbellsport, Oshkosh, Shiocton and Slinger.
Weiss said each summer’s writing marathon, or “WM,” is always analyzed after each writer brings back his or her collection of work. The project participants discuss how the exercises might be woven into a K-12 classroom.
“The writing people recorded that day is writing of rough first drafts; it is not yet polished, but it is powerful and fascinating to see where a walk downtown took each person,” Weiss said.