Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Improving law students' research skills

Detroit Mercy’s Patrick Meyer recently conducted a study to determine what research abilities law Meyer firms want in new law graduates.  Noting flaws in graduates’ research skills, Meyer's respondents stated, among other things, “Most summers and first years arrive at [our] law firm woefully unprepared,” “Books! They tend to waste time poking around online when they could have easily and efficiently found the answers if the used the state practice series,” and  “PLEASE teach them to be cost-aware . . . and not just dive into expensive research as if it were Google!”  

 To address these and other gaps in graduates’ research skills, Meyer proposes requiring an advanced legal research course and “taking steps to infuse research training throughout the curriculum, as the Carnegie Report recommends for lawyering skills.”  His results are reported in Law Firm Legal Research Requirements and the Legal Academy Beyond Carnegie, 35 Whittier L. Rev. 419 (2014).

(jdf)

January 6, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Mark Wojcik to Receive AALS Section Award Today for a "Significant Lifetime Contribution" to Legal Writing, Reasoning, and Reseach

Professor Mark E. Wojcik of The John Marshall Law School in Chicago will today receive the lifetime contribution award from the Association of American Law Schools Section on Legal Writing, Reasoning, and Research.  The Section Award is given to an individual who has made "a significant lifetime contribution to the field of legal writing, reasoning, and research."

Mark is known for his many contributions to the field, including spearheading international conferences, serving as a past Chair of the AALS Section on Legal Writing, Reasoning, and Reearch, serving three terms on the Board of Directors of the Legal Writing Institute, helping to create the LWI One-Day Workshops, serving as Treasurer of Scribes--The American Society of Legal Writers, and working with the Law Library of Congress, and contributing as an editor of this blog.

Wojcik 2

Section chair Kim Holst will present the award today, Saturday, January 3, 2015, at the section luncheon at the Association of American Law School's Annual Meeting in Washington.

Congratulations, Mark!  He joins this list of past winners of this award:

  • 1993:  Marjorie Rombauer
  • 1994:  Ralph Brill
  • 1996:  Mary Lawrence
  • 2002:  Helene Shapo
  • 2003:  Laurel Oates
  • 2005:  Marilyn Walter
  • 2006:  Terri LeClercq
  • 2007:  Anne Enquist
  • 2008:  Eric Easton
  • 2009:  Richard Neumann
  • 2010:  Joe Kimble
  • 2011:  Betsy Fajans
  • 2012:  Susan Brody/Mary Barnard Ray
  • 2013:  Terrill Pollman/Jill Ramsfield
  • 2014:  Jan Levine
  • 2015:  Mark E. Wojcik

(jdf)

January 3, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, January 2, 2015

Golden Pen Award Presentation Tonight to Judge Michael Ponsor

Ponsor BookThe Honorable Michael A. Ponsor, Judge of the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts, will receive the 2015 Golden Pen Award from the Legal Writing Institute.  The award will be presented tonight, January 2, 2015, during the 2015 AALS Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C.  The event will be held from 8:00 to 10:00 p.m. at the Capitol Ballroom, Lobby Level, of the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, D.C. 

During tonight's event, the Thomas Blackwell Award will also be presented to Professor Helene Shapo of Northwestern Unviersity School of Law.
 
Judge Ponsor is being recognized with the Golden Pen Award for his contributions to the cause of excellent legal writing, both in his opinion writing and in his teaching as an adjunct at Western New England University School of Law and at Yale, his alma mater. Demonstrating his commitment to teaching future lawyers, Judge Ponsor has for the last 20 years taught persuasive writing and advocacy skills in an upper-level simulation course. 
 
Judge Ponsor presided over the first death penalty case in Massachusetts in 50 years, and he recently wrote a well-received novel, The Hanging Judge, about the legal and moral issues involved. The nomination of Judge Ponsor recognized him as 
[a] respected and compassionate jurist as well as an exceptional writer, teacher, and mentor. . . . He has engaged the judiciary, current and future lawyers, and the public in a much-needed dialogue about two major challenges facing the criminal justice system: the death penalty and the extremely high rates of incarceration in the United States. 
PonsorThe Legal Writing Institute's Golden Pen Award honors those who make significant contributions to advance the cause of better legal writing. These contributions may take any form, such as promoting the use of clear language in public documents, improving the quality of legal writing instruction, advocating for better writing within the legal community, outstanding scholarship or journalism about legal writing or legal topics, or exceptional writing in law practice. The award is normally given to someone who is not an active member of LWI, but active members are considered in exceptional circumstance
 
The 2015 Golden Pen will be presented during the Blackwell Award Reception, which honors the recipient of the Thomas F. Blackwell Memorial Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Legal Writing and is scheduled from 8-10 p.m. Friday, January 2, 2015, in the Capitol Ballroom, Lobby Level, Omni Shoreham Hotel.
 
The LWI Awards Committee includes Co-Chairs Lurene Contento and Susan Bay and members Anne Enquist, Myra Orlen, and Kathy Vinson.
 
Hat tips to Linda Berger, Lurene Contento, and Susan Bay
 
(mew)

January 2, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Blackwell Award Presentation Tonight to Professor Helene Shapo

Shapo, HeleneProfessor Emeritus Helene S. Shapo of Northwestern University School of Law, a previous winner of the Burton Award for legal writing education, tonight receives the Thomas F. Blackwell Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Legal Writing.  The award is presented jointly by the Legal Writing Institute (LWI) and the Association of Legal Writing Directors (ALWD).

The Blackwell Award Reception will be held from 8-10 p.m. on Friday, January 2, 2015, during the AALS Annual Meeting in Washington D.C.  It will be held at the Capitol Ballroom, Lobby Level, at the Omni Shoreham Hotel.

The Boards of the Legal Writing Institute (LWI) and the Association of Legal Writing Directors (ALWD) jointly created this distinguished award to honor the life of Thomas Blackwell, a professor at Appalachian Law School who was murdered by a deranged student. The award commemorating Thomas Blackwell is presented annually to a person who has made an outstanding contribution to improve the field of Legal Writing by demonstrating:

  • an ability to nurture and motivate students to excellence;
  • a willingness to help other legal writing educators improve their teaching skills or their legal writing programs;
  • and an ability to create and integrate new ideas for teaching and motivating legal writing educators and students.

 Helene exemplifies these qualities and has been a pioneer in the legal writing field. As explained in her nomination letter:

[T]hroughout her 35-year career in the LRW field, she has quietly but firmly pushed for both more and more diversified course offerings and for more credits for those courses, better faculty salaries and status, and greater job security.

In just about every way possible over her incredible career, Helene has been an innovator and a leader in our field. Through her writing, speaking, service, and curriculum design, she has been a guiding light in advancing the discipline of Legal Writing, improving the way it is taught to students, and improving the status and security of Legal Writing faculty.

The previous winners of the Blackwell award are:

2014 - Jan Levine, Duquesne University School of Law

2013 - Judy Stinson, Arizona State University

2012 - Suzanne Rowe of the University of Oregon 

2011 - Carol McCrehan Parker of the University of Tennessee

2010 - Steve Johansen of Lewis & Clark

2009 - Linda Edwards of Mercer Law

2008 - Diana Pratt of Wayne State

2007 - Louis Sirico of Villanova Law School

2006 - Mary Beth Beazley of Ohio State

2005 - Ralph Brill of Chicago-Kent

2004 - Pam Lysaght of Detroit Mercy

2003 - Richard K. Neumann of Hofstra University

(mew)

January 2, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, December 22, 2014

Save the Date: 2015 Burton Awards for Excellence in Legal Writing

The Burton Awards for Excellence in Legal Writing is, without a doubt, the single most glamorous evening for legal writing. That's been true for years, and next year's award ceremony promises to continue that trend.  It will be held at 4:45 p.m. on Monday, June 15, 2015 in the Great Hall of the Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress.  Awards will be given for public interest, public service, "Legends in Law," distinguished legal writing awards, outstanding journalist in law, and an award for "Outstanding Contributions to Legal Writing Education."  Entertainment will be provided that evening by Kristin Chenoweth, the Emmy and Tony Award winning superstar.  It's a black tie event and tickets can be pricey, but the value of the evening makes it all worthwhile.

(mew)

December 22, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Study documents gender bias in student evaluations

A recent study reinforced previous conclusions that student evaluations are biased in favor of male instructors. Among its findings, it documented an interesting result on an item that could be objectively verified.  Two professors gave students feedback at the same time. But on a question about their promptness, the instructor students thought was a male was rated 4.35 out of 5, while the instructor they thought was a female was ranked 3.55.

Hat tip: Michael Higdon

(jdf)

December 11, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Proposals for the 2015 Storytelling Conference in Seattle

Here's one last reminder:  The deadline for submitting proposals for the 2015 Applied Legal Storytelling Conference is on Monday, December 15, 2014. The call for proposals is on the Legal Writing Institute web site, under “Related Conferences,” or by clicking here.   That pages also includes a bibliography of articles on Applied Legal Storytelling (a preview of the bibliography that will be published in Volume 12 of Legal Communication and Rhetoric: JALWD in Fall 2015). 

The conference will take place from July 21-23, 2015, at Seattle University School of Law.  The conference is jointly sponsored by the Legal Writing Institute, the Clinical Legal Education Association, and the Seattle University School of Law.

If you miss the deadline, you can probably come up with a good story as to why they should accept your late proposal.  (I'm not sure that they'll do that, so do it properly and get your proposal in on time!).

Hat tip to Christopher Rideout.

(mew)

December 11, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Surprise! The United States Code Has a New Title!

United States CodeBack in September when nobody was looking, a new title (Title 52) became effective for the United States Code.  The new Title collects sections on voting and elections that previously appeared in Titles 2 and 42. There is no change to the text of those sections, just a change in where you find them.

The reorganization of the United States Code is discussed in an article by the Office of Law Revision Counsel, which notes that "[t]he short-term inconvenience of adjusting to new Code citations is greatly outweighed by the benefit of making much needed long-term improvements in the organizational structure of the Code."  Click here to read that article. 

Hat tip to Ann Schwing and Scribes--The American Society of Legal Writers

(mew)

 

December 9, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

The advantages of examples in law school classrooms

PollmanCognitive load theory shows why law professors should use examples in their classrooms. So writes UNLV Professor Terrill Pollman in her article The Sincerest Form of Flattery: Examples and Model-Based Learning in the Law School Classroom in thethe November issue of the Journal of Legal Education. She explains that cognitive load theory concerns the learning of complex tasks where “learners are often overwhelmed” by the need to process and apply a number of elements. Cognitive load theorists suggest that teachers should give students specific guidance in order to lighten their cognitive load. Using examples in both doctrinal and legal writing courses is one way to do that for law students as they become familiar with the legal field. But research also shows that courses for more experienced learners might include fewer examples and prompt students to grapple with problem solving, Pollman writes.

(jdf)

December 9, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, December 8, 2014

AALS Section Award Winners Announced

AALS LogoThe Association of American Law Schools (AALS) has announced the winners of its 2015 awards for excellence in legal education. The awards are hosted by several AALS sections that are organized around various academic disciplines and topics of interest. The winners will be acknowledged at section programs during the 2015 AALS Annual Meeting, January 2-5, 2015 in Washington, D.C.

“I’d like to congratulate the 2015 AALS section award winners,” said Daniel B. Rodriguez, AALS President and Dean, Northwestern University Law School in a press release issued by the AALS. “These law professors represent the very best of our academic community and their commitment to our students and excellence in our profession is rightly celebrated by these section awards.”

The 2015 AALS section award winners are:

Section on Academic Support Award
Paula Lustbader, Seattle University School of Law

Section on Clinical Legal Education William Pincus Award
Ann C. Shalleck, American University, Washington College of Law

Section on Criminal Justice Junior Scholar Award
Saira Mohamed, University of California, Berkeley School of Law

Section on Evidence Wigmore Award
Peter Tillers, Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law Yeshiva University

Section on Federal Courts Best Article Award
Seth Davis, University of California, Irvine School of Law

Section on Law Libraries and Legal Information Award
Billie Jo Kaufman, American University, Washington College of Law

Section on Legal Writing, Reasoning and Research Award
Mark E. Wojcik, The John Marshall Law School--Chicago

Section on Minority Groups Clyde Ferguson Award
Mario Barnes, University of California, Irvine School of Law
Angela Onwuachi-Willig, University of Iowa College of Law

Section on Minority Groups Derrick A. Bell Jr. Award
César Cuauhtémoc García Hernández, Capital University Law School

Section on Pro-Bono & Public Service Opportunities Deborah L. Rhode Award
Gerald Lopez, University of California, Los Angeles School of Law

Section on Pro-Bono & Public Service Opportunities Father Robert Drinan Award
William P. Quigley, Loyola University New Orleans College of Law

Section on Torts and Compensation Systems William L. Prosser Award
Michael Green, Wake Forest University School of Law

Section on Women in Legal Education Ruth Bader Ginsburg Lifetime Achievement Award
Herma Hill Kay, University of California, Berkeley School of Law

The Section on Legal Writing, Reasoning, and Research Award will be presented at the Section Luncheon on Saturday, January 3, 2015. 

December 8, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Lincoln Cathedral's Copy of the Magna Carta on Display at the Library of Congress

Lincoln CathedralIf you're going to Washington D.C. this January for the annual meeting of the Association of American Law Schools, plan an extra day to stop by the Library of Congress which will have a special exhibit on the Magna Carta.

The year 2015 will mark the 800th anniversary of the 1215 Magna Carta, the first document to limit the power of the King and to uphold the rights of the individual.

An exhibit called "Magna Carta: Muse and Mentor" will open at the Library of Congress on November 6, 2014 and continue to January 19, 2015. It features the "Lincoln Cathedral" copy of the Magna Carta, which is being loaned by Lincoln Cathedral in England (pictured here).

(mew)

December 6, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, December 5, 2014

One of the One-Day Workshops

The Legal Writing Institute has hosted one-day workshops each December since 2009, when the first two workshops were held in Chicago (at The John Marshall Law School) and New York City (at St. John's University).  The number of workshops has grown, and in some years we've had as many as 16 workshops across the country.  This year there are ten workshops.  Seven of them are being held this weekend and three others will be held next weekend.

One of those workshops is being held today at California Western School of Law in San Diego.  Speakers and moderators there include:

  • Niels Schaumann (California Western School of Law)
  • David W. Austin (California Western School of Law)
  • Allison Cato (Calfornia Western School of Law)
  • Elizabeth Carroll (USC Gould School of Law)
  • Maureen Johnson (Loyola Los Angeles)
  • Ruth Hargrove (California Western School of Law)
  • Jeanne Merino (Stanford Law School)
  • Lisa Black (California Western School of Law)
  • Charles Calleros (Arizona State University)
  • Kathryn Fehrman (California Western School of Law)
  • Joe Kimble (Western Michigan University Thomas Cooley Law School)
  • Roberta Thyfault (California Western School of Law)
  • Julie Ryan (USC Gould School of Law)
  • Fiona McKenna (Golden Gate University)
  • Tim Casey (California Western School of Law)
  • Lance Long (Stetson University College of Law)
  • Mark E. Wojcik (The John Marshall Law School)

The conference is well attended, with attendees from across California and from other states including Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Michigan, and Washington. And the presentations are just great -- these one-day workshops offer participants a great opportunity to re-energize in the middle of the academic year and to share ideas and experiences with other colleagues.

(mew)

December 5, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, December 4, 2014

The Fall AALS Newsletter is out

WojcikThe Fall 2014 newsletter of the Association of American Law Schools Section on Legal Writing, Reasoning, Shapoand Research is now available. Its inside information about legal writing speakers and topics at the AALS Annual Meeting in January will be especially helpful to those thinking of attending the meeting. It also announces that the legal writing community will have greeters available there for those who want to connect with others. And it reminds readers not to miss the luncheon for the section award, which will go to Professor Mark E. Wojcik of The John Marshall Law School (pictured at left), and the reception for the Blackwell Award, which will go to Professor Helene Shapo of Northwestern University School of Law (pictured at right).  

Download LWRR Newsletter 2014 for short articles and more news, including information about colleagues’ publications.

(jdf)

December 4, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Symposium on the Enduring Legacy of the Magna Carta

Date: Tuesday, December 9, 2014 
Time: 2:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m. 
Place: Library of Congress, Thomas Jefferson Building, Coolidge Auditorium, 10 First Street S.E., Washington, D.C. 

Scholars, historians and contemporary thinkers will discuss how Magna Carta's political and legal traditions have carried into our current times at a Library of Congress symposium on Dec. 9. The symposium, "Conversations on the Enduring Legacy of the Great Charter," is being held in conjunction with the Library's exhibition "Magna Carta: Muse and Mentor." 

The afternoon program, "Contemporary Conversations on Magna Carta," is open to the public and starts at 2 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 9, in the Coolidge Auditorium on the ground level of the Library's Thomas Jefferson Building, 10 First St. S.E., Washington, D.C. The symposium, organized by the Law Library of Congress, is free. Tickets are not needed. 

A highlight of the program is an interview by David Rubenstein, co-founder and co-CEO of The Carlyle Group, with Associate Justice of the Supreme Court Stephen G. Breyer. The interview, "American Law and the Great Charter," begins at 2:05 p.m. 

The Library of Congress exhibition "Magna Carta: Muse and Mentor," which runs through Jan. 19, 2015, celebrates the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta and illustrates the great charter's influence on laws and liberties throughout the centuries. The centerpiece of the exhibition is the 1215 Magna Carta, on loan from Lincoln Cathedral in England, one of only four surviving copies issued in 1215. The exhibition features 76 items drawn from the collections at the Library of Congress. 

Featured Speakers for the Afternoon Program 

Opening remarks by Deputy Librarian of Congress Robert Dizard Jr. 

"American Law and the Great Charter" 
David Rubenstein conducts an interview with Associate Justice Stephen G. Breyer 

"Drafting Modern Constitutions" 
Participants: A.E. Dick Howard, White Burkett Miller Professor of Law and Public Affairs, University of Virginia School of Law; Cornelius Kerwin, president of American University; and David Fontana, Associate Professor of Law, George Washington University Law School. Moderated by Jeffrey Rosen, president and chief executive officer, National Constitution Center 

"Rule of Law in the Contemporary World: Civil Liberties and Surveillance" 
Participants: Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI), Member, Committee on the Judiciary, and Chairman, Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security and Investigations; Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Member, Committee on the Judiciary, and Member, Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. Moderated by Orin Kerr, Fred C. Stevenson Research Professor of Law at George Washington University Law School 

"Proportionality Under the Eighth Amendment" 
Participants: Vicki Jackson, Thurgood Marshall Professorship of Constitutional Law, Harvard Law School; Craig Lerner, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Professor of Law, George Mason University Law School. Moderated by Carrie Johnson, justice correspondent, National Public Radio 

"The Enduring Value of Magna Carta" 
Participants: Jonathan Jacobs, director of the Institute for Criminal Justice Ethics and chairman of the Department of Philosophy at John Jay College of Criminal Justice; William C. Hubbard, president, American Bar Association, and partner with Nelson Mullins Riley and Scarborough, LLP. Moderated by Roberta I. Shaffer, former Associate Librarian for Library Services at the Library of Congress. 

"An International Perspective" 
Sir Robert Worcester, chairman of the Magna Carta 800th Anniversary Commemoration Committee 

Closing Remarks 
David S. Mao, Law Librarian of Congress 

The Library's exhibition "Magna Carta: Muse and Mentor" is made possible by The Federalist Society and 1st Financial Bank USA. Additional support comes from the Friends of the Law Library of Congress, BP America, The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, the Earhart Foundation, White and Case LLP, The Burton Foundation for Legal Achievement, the Office of the General Counsel of the American University, and other donors as well as contributions received from Thomson Reuters, William S. Hein and Co., Inc., and Raytheon Company through the Friends of the Law Library. The Library also acknowledges the support and assistance provided by the British Council. The exhibition is supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities. 
 

December 3, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Deadline Approaching for the Storytelling Conference

The deadline for submitting proposals for the 2015 Applied Legal Storytelling Conference is December 15, 2014. The call for proposals is on the Legal Writing Institute web site, under “Related Conferences,” or by clicking here.   That pages also includes a bibliography of articles on Applied Legal Storytelling (a preview of the bibliography that will be published in Volume 12 of Legal Communication and Rhetoric: JALWD in Fall 2015). 

The conference will take place from July 21-23, 2015, at Seattle University School of Law.  The conference is jointly sponsored by the Legal Writing Institute, the Clinical Legal Education Association, and the Seattle University School of Law.

If you miss the deadline, you can probably come up with a good story as to why they should accept your late proposal.  (I'm not sure that they'll do that, so do it properly and get your proposal in on time!).

Hat tip to Christopher Rideout.

(mew)

December 2, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, December 1, 2014

Advising Students on Careers in International Law

Career Book PhotoMany legal writing professors also have an interest in teaching international law, coaching international law moot court teams (such as Jessup, Niagara, Space Law, and the Stetson International Environmental Law Moot Court Competition), and in advising law students about possible carrers in international law.  So many professors will be happy to be reminded that the American Bar Association Section of International Law has published a popular book on "Careers in International Law," and that you can recommend it to students.

Mark Wojcik (one of the editors on this blog) is one of the contributing authors on the book.  He's pictured here with another co-author, Jeff Golden, who is an American lawyer living and working in London, England.  They each authored chapters in the book.

December 1, 2014 in Books | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Save the Date: 2015 Burton Awards

The Burton Awards for Excellence in Legal Writing is, without a doubt, the single most glamorous evening for legal writing. That's been true for years, and next year's award ceremony promises to continue that trend.  It will be held at 4:45 p.m. on Monday, June 15, 2015 in the Great Hall of the Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress.  Awards will be given for public interest, public service, "Legends in Law," distinguished legal writing awards, outstanding journalist in law, and an award for "Outstanding Contributions to Legal Writing Education."  Entertainment will be provided that evening by Kristin Chenoweth, the Emmy and Tony Award winning superstar.  It's a black tie event and tickets can be pricey, but the value of the evening makes it all worthwhile.

(mew)

November 26, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Guest Blog Post: A Writer’s Racialization, and Keeping Black Writers in Their Ethnic Places

The events in Ferguson Missouri have focused much needed national and global attention on race issues.  Although the following guest blog post is not about legal writing, we are pleased to share the insights and challenges from writer Leonce Gaiter.

A Writer’s Racialization, and Keeping Black Writers in Their Ethnic Places

I am black and in my latest novel, all the main characters are white.

My previous novels portrayed black principals and almost all-white supporting casts.  They received admiration from publishing houses, but few takers.  Publishers told me that they could not see a route to commercial success for my books. I soon learned what that meant.

There remains in publishing a very Jim Crow notion of what black authors should write.  We are supposed to write about “The Black Experience.” That means we can write about slavery and the civil rights movement; we can write protest fiction of one sort or another; we can write victimized characters who take the world’s abuse and turn it self-destructively inward. 

And black writers know this.  That’s why self-censorship enters the picture.  We know what kind of books will gain mainstream acceptance, and we know what kinds of books will receive the polite publishing industry ‘no thank you’ regardless of merit.

Partly due to the boundaries mainstream publishing erects around black letters, I wrote a book with white principal characters. Then I discovered a writer who had done the same over 50 years ago, and his example shows how little has changed when it comes to African-Americans and American mainstream publishing.

I learned about Frank Yerby from Troy Johnson of the African-American Literature Book Club (aalbc.com).  I contacted Troy about marketing my new white-charactered book to his mainly black audience. Troy mentioned how rare it is for black writers to ‘write white’ and mentioned Yerby as a one who had done so starting back in the 40s, and whose reputation suffered for it.  Per the New George Encyclopedia:

“Yerby was often criticized by blacks for the lack of focus on or stereotypical treatment of African American characters in his books. Thus, ironically, while Yerby held the distinction of being the first best-selling black novelist, he also became one of the most disparaged for his lack of racial consciousness.”

Further research led me to an essay on Yerby by A.J. Aronstein in Bookslut. In it, Aronstein discusses Yerby’s first and breakthrough novel, “The Foxes of Yarrow.”

“For the last forty years, defenders of Yerby have attempted to justify the fact that he wrote romance novels, suggesting that he dodged confrontations with racial issues in order to publish on his own terms. According to these readings, the value of Yerby's work arises mainly from his rejection of expectations imposed upon his generation of African-American writers. But a reading of The Foxes of Harrow presents an opportunity for rethinking Yerby's handling of racial themes, and suggests that we should reconsider the importance of his work among mid-century African-American writers like Wright, Hurston, and Ellison.”

Kudos to Aronstein for working to resurrect a writer he finds underrated; however, it’s interesting that the grounds on which he attempts to resurrect him are the very well-worn fields of the African-American race novel—a soil Yerby spent a great deal of his career purposefully sidestepping.  Discussing his indifference toward typical racial themes in a 1981 interview, Yerby called the ‘race novel’ “an artistic dead end,” from which he said, “I’m glad to have escaped.”  Nonetheless, Aronstein insists in stuffing him into a category the author himself minimized.  It’s as if Aronstein knows that publishing only admits black writers through a particular back door, so that’s the one through which he tries to slip Yerby.

Aronstein wrote, “Yerby did write romance novels. But genre snobbery risks brushing aside his significant accomplishments in the publishing industry, and ignores the way race actually operates in his books.”

Aronstein rests Yerby’s literary significance on his incorporation of race into his novels, as if that is the only standard by which a black author could or should be judged.  Perhaps, like Wilkie Collins or Marion Zimmer Bradley, he produced a genre masterpiece that deserves in-print status through eternity.  But Yerby is black, so that cannot be the basis for his reconsideration.  He has to be made ‘a credit to his race’ instead.

Publishing seems desperate to keep ethnic writers neatly sealed in racial Zip Lock bags. The underlying idea is that writers write novels. Black writers write Black Novels, a decidedly separate and unequal subset.

The hope is that more black writers will exploit our exhaustive intimacy with the American mainstream to cast our eye and voice upon that world, and so put the lie to the idea that our range, ambitions, or abilities should ever be limited.

++++++++++++

Leonce Gaiter is a prolific African American writer and proud Harvard Alum. He's contributed articles to theNYTimes, NYT Magazine, LA Times, Washington Times, and Washington Post, and has written two novels.  His newly released novel, In the Company of Educated Menis a literary thriller that highlights racial and socio-economic themes.

Hat tip to Stephanie Armiger

(mew)

November 25, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

LWI One-Day Workshop in San Diego

Ocean at Sunset CliffsThe Legal Writing Institute's One Day Workshops offer a fantastic national opportunity for legal writing professors to gather and exchange information not only on the day-to-day topics that confront us in the classroom but also on the larger issues for all legal writing professionals.

San Diego, California, is one of the host cities this year, where an LWI one-day workshop will be hosted by California Western School of Law on Friday, December 5, 2014. 

Speakers there will include:

  • Dean Niels Schaumann (California Western School of Law)
  • David Austin (California Western School of Law)
  • Elizabeth Carroll (USC Gould School of Law)
  • Maureen Johnson (Loyola Los Angeles)
  • Joanne Merino (Stanford Law School)
  • Lisa Black (California Western School of Law)
  • Charles Calleros (Arizona State University)
  • Joe Kimble (Western Michigan University Thomas Cooley Law School) [Winner of the 2010 Lifetime Contribution Award from the AALS Section on Legal Writing Reasoning and Research]
  • Julie Ryan (USC Gould School of Law)
  • Fiona McKenna (Golden Gate University)
  • Tim Casey (California Western School of Law)
  • Lance Long (Stetson University College of Law)
  • Mark E. Wojcik (The John Marshall Law School-Chicago) [Winner of the 2015 Lifetime Contribution Award from the AALS Section on Legal Writing, Reasoning, and Research]

Registration for the One-Day Workshop is an extremely reasonable $45.00 (with discounts for speakers and host school attendees).  Click here for more information and for the registration link.

Hotel information:

The Sheraton Four Points, 1617 First Ave., San Diego, CA   619-239-9600 · 866-716-8133, is located one block from California Western School of Law.  Discounted rooms are available for this conference, please reference California Western when making your reservation. The room rate is $99 per night (plus 12.5% tax and fees) Thurs., Dec. 4th & 5th.  A free airport shuttle to and from  the hotel is available daily from 7:00 am to 10:00 p.m., and the hotel is then only a three-minute walk from the school.

The Westgate Hotel, 1055 Second Ave., San Diego, CA   619-238-1818· 800-221-3802, is located in the heart of downtown San Diego near the Gaslamp nightlife area, approximately four blocks from the Law School.  Discounted rooms are available by using the reference California Western and the number 308649 when making your reservation. The room rate is $149 per night (plus 12.5% tax and resort fees) (10 minute walk from the school).

Other hotels are of course available, including one on Sunset Cliffs in Ocean Beach (not far from where the picture above was taken).

Hat tips to the Legal Writing Department at California Western School of Law

 

November 25, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

One Day Workshops: How About This International Workshop in Detroit?

One-Day Workshop at the University of Detroit Mercy, co-hosted by the University of Windsor, on Friday, December 5, 2014. 

Theme:  Reaching, Teaching, and Employing Today’s Evolving Law Student

The Premise:  Students in the “Millennial” and “Next Gen” generations approach the world,  collaboration and social interaction, and the use of technology differently than previous generations.  On the one hand, these characteristics may have a positive influence on their capacity to learn and on the practice of law.  On the other hand, some behavior is equally likely to create challenges for these students.  Either way, this generational shift invites us to explore how we might adjust our teaching approaches for Millennial and Next Gen  students.

Special Conference Opportunities:  In addition to a series of thoughtful presentations from our colleagues, you can

1.  Consider the topic from several unique perspectives:

  • *Undergraduate writing professors who can foreshadow what is to come
  • *Judges and employers with insight into the impact Millennials are having on the practice of law and the challenges they may face
  • *International speakers from Canada and Qatar;

2.  Participate in an interactive roundtable discussion where participants  explore how they might adjust their teaching approaches  in light of the day’s presentations;

3.  Celebrate Detroit, at the beautiful and historic conference setting, UDM’s Dowling Hall, which was built in1890 and restored just in time for UDM Law’s 100th anniversary in 2012, and enjoy a special outing to the Detroit Institute of Arts and its “Friday Night Live”; and

4.  If this wasn’t sufficient reason to share the day in Detroit,  please bid a fond farewell to Pamela Lysaght, who is retiring from UDM next spring.   She will be honored (including a Skype appearance by LWI President Linda Berger) during the conference luncheon for her many contributions, including her leadership as a former President of ALWD, her work with the LWI and LWI  Journal of Legal Writing, and her active role with the ABA’s Section of Legal Education and membership on its powerful Accreditation Committee.  In addition to all of this, however, Pam may be most respected by her UDM colleagues as the Program Director who led the charge on security of position.   As a result of Pam’s efforts over the course of more than ten years, UDM Law shifted  from an adjunct program, to a program with one-year renewable contracts, then to clinical tenure, and, finally, in 2007, to a tenure and tenure-track program.

For all of these reasons and more, the workshop organizers hope you will join them on December 5.   Please visit our conference page for registration and other logistical information:

http://www.law.udmercy.edu/index.php/conference-home

(mew)

November 25, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)