[TYPES/announce] Onward! 2011 Call for Essay Workshop (NEW)

William Cook wcook at cs.utexas.edu
Sat Aug 13 10:22:04 EDT 2011

Note: Onward! did not accept any Essays this year. In order to encourage
more essayists, Onward! is issuing a special call for an

	           Onward! Essay Workshop
                      October 23, 2011

                       Co-located with
ACM Conference on Systems, Programming, Languages, and Applications:
                Software for Humanity (SPLASH'11)
                       Portland, Oregon
                   Sponsored by ACM SIGPLAN

Onward! is looking for ideas – interesting, challenging, and
provocative ideas – and are looking to Onward! Essays to provide them.

While SPLASH and Onward! authors are adept at writing technical papers,
the essay form has proven to be more elusive. This year the Essays Track
will take the form of a writer’s workshop.

Authors are invited to submit a proto-essay, a draft, of their idea.

Selection for the workshop will be simple: does the idea look
interesting and does the draft show potential.  We will also ask if the
author is committed to the development of the idea and completion of the
draft at the workshop.

There are no absolute limits as to page length but authors should heed
the following guidelines. Two-to-three pages are probably ideal.  Less
than one page hints that the idea is insufficiently conceived.  Four
pages is close to the limit for valuable and detailed feedback.

Ideas that make it through the workshop and become essays will be
published in the ACM Digital Library as part of the Onward! Companion.

== Important Dates: ==

Friday September 23rd – Ideas submitted. (Early submission is
encouraged.  You will receive prompt notification and feedback that
would allow for revision and resubmission before the final deadline - if

Friday September 30 – Final notification of acceptance.

Wednesday October 5 - Accepted Author(s) must register to attend.

Monday, October 10 – Workshop groups formed, authors supplied with
copies of all essays in their group.

Sunday October 23:  Essay Workshop at SPLASH, 1-5pm

Thursday October 27: Essay Presentations at SPLASH (Time TBD)

== Submission ==
  Essay drafts should be sent directly to the Essay Committee Chair - Dr.
David West atprofwest at fastmail.fm

== Discussion ==

If you wish more background for composing your draft, consider Robert
Atwan's comments on writing essays, especially the second paragraph. The
point of the workshop is to help authors, and readers, use the essay as
"an act of discovery, an opportunity to say [think] something they had
never before thought of saying."

"Years ago, when I was instructing college freshmen in the humble craft
of writing essays - or "themes," as we called them - I noticed that many
students had already been taught how to manufacture the Perfect Theme.
It began with an introductory paragraph that contained a "thesis statement"
and often cited someone named Webster; it then pursued its expository
path through three paragraphs that "developed the main idea" until it
finally reached a "concluding" paragraph that diligently summarized all
three previous paragraphs. The conclusion usually began, "Thus we see
that…." If the theme told a personal story, it usually concluded with
the narrative cliche, "Suddenly I realized that…." Epiphanies abounded.

What was especially maddening about the typical five-paragraph theme had
less to do with its tedious structure than with its implicit message
that writing should be the end product of thought and not the enactment of
its process. My students seemed unaware that writing could be an act of
discovery, an opportunity to say something they had never before thought
of saying. The worst themes were largely the products of premature
conclusions, of unearned assurances, of minds made up.… So perhaps it
did make more sense to call these productions themes and not essays, since
what was being written had almost no connection with the original sense
of "essaying" - trying out ideas and attitudes, writing out of a
condition of uncertainty, of not-knowing….

The five-paragraph theme was also a charade. It not only paraded
relentlessly to its conclusion, it began with its conclusion. It was all
about its conclusion. Its structure permitted no change of direction, no
reconsideration, no wrestling with ideas. It was - and still is - the
perfect vehicle for the sort of reader who likes to ask: "And your point

William Cook <http://www.cs.utexas.edu/users/wcook>
Associate Professor, Computer Science <https://www.cs.utexas.edu>
University of Texas at Austin

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