MWIS Newsletter

MWIS News, Volume 20:2 (July 2007)

by User Not Found | 10/27/2011
In This Issue...
  • Convention Updates
    • TESOL Conferences, Next and Last: Linda Butler, Dorothy Zemach, and Larry Zwier
  • Articles
    • A Note From the Newsletter Editor: Christy M. Newman
    • MWIS Annual Report to TESOL: Julie Vorholt-Alcorn
    • Mary Finocchiaro Awards
    • MWIS Discussion Groups 2007: Linda Butler, Deborah Gordon, Penny Laporte, and Mona Sherago
    • The Publisher Test: Dorothy E. Zemach
  • News
    • Announcements and Accolades

Convention Updates TESOL Conferences, Next and Last: Linda Butler, Dorothy Zemach, and Larry Zwier

Compiled by MWIS Cochairs-Elect Linda Butler,, and Larry Zwier,, and Past Cochair Dorothy Zemach,

Program Plans for TESOL '08 in New York City

The planning for sessions at TESOL 2008 continues. Much still has to be settled, but it looks like MWIS will be the primary IS in a joint session with the Program Administration IS. We hope to get a clearer window on the textbook-adoption process in ESL and EFL programs.

We're also working on assembling an Academic Session in which some of our highly experienced IS members will do some myth busting, à la the Discovery Channel series. Are there things we do in our materials writing just because we think we're supposed to? How will these habits stand up to serious examination? We hope to have the MWIS myth busters apply some science to them and see what still floats.

Although the number of MWIS presentations for TESOL 2008 hasn't been finalized, our members submitted 52 proposals, up from 50 last year.

A Note From the MWIS Business Meeting in Seattle, TESOL '07

The Teacher's Resource Center

TESOL representatives stopped by the MWIS Business Meeting in Seattle to talk about the new TESOL Resource Center (TRC) launched in February, and to ask our members to consider submitting their materials and/or to help with reviewing them. The TRC is a collection of materials written by TESOL members and accessible to all members at the TESOL Web site at Anyone wishing to submit a resource or become a reviewer can find the relevant information on that page.

MWIS members asked questions such as whether a free "sharing" site such as this is really in the best interest of writers who get paid for their materials. The TESOL reps pointed out that authors do retain copyright of their submitted materials and are allowed to publish them elsewhere later. However, some MWIS members wondered if this would really be possible—after all, once something is up on the Web site, it probably can't be sold to a publisher, because TESOL members will already have been able to download it for free.

The TRC Web page contains the following disclaimer: "The TESOL Resource Center is a peer-to-peer learning resource for TESOL members only. Resources in the TESOL Resource Center (Find a Resource) have been peer reviewed for general appropriateness for TESOL members and the field of TESOL. They have not been professionally edited."

Members can submit lesson plans, papers, articles, activities, teaching tips, tests, bibliographies, multimedia presentations, and so on.

There is no compensation for having materials posted on the TRC, but authors are credited by name.

Note that the former editor of Essential Teacher, Tim Stewart, had proposed an online section to Essential Teacher that would feature photocopiable lesson plans. These would be (or would have been?) selected and edited by a member of the Essential Teacher editorial board.

Be sure to check out Linda's comments on TESOL Conference Discussion Groups and Dorothy's "The Publisher Test." 

Articles A Note From the Newsletter Editor: Christy M. Newman

Christy M. Newman,

On May 17, 2007, Tim Stewart, editor of Essential Teacher, was fired by Sandy Briggs, TESOL president and MWIS member.

Because the Materials Writers IS E-Newsletter Mission Statement allows articles to "be solicited by the editor from specialists in the field to address specific issues and concerns," I requested that Sandy and Tim explain their points of view surrounding the dismissal for the MWIS newsletter readership.

Their responses follow in their entirety. As Sandy initially declined to respond, I asked her a second time because I wanted to be clear that her response would be published.

First from Tim Stewart:

June 1, 2007

Thank you for the kind concern, Christy. I do appreciate all of the support I am getting. But even for people who cannot support ET, there is reason for more general concern regarding the values of the association as stated and as practiced.

There are two problems with this situation that stand out from my perspective. One is the lack of clear process. There was no communication from Sandy or the CEO Chuck about any concerns they had regarding my performance, not a single word. I got a phone call on May 10 and was told in a 30-second phone call that I was "being removed effective immediately." So transparency and fairness are front and center it seems to me. The other issue is the effect this will have on the single significant membership benefit of the association. I have only served for 16 months, but I believe that we have improved the product for the membership since my first issue of ET in June 2006 (June 2007 is a nice issue, so look forward to it). I am concerned that this significant disruption in the ET staff (other section editors and columnists have resigned in protest) is not really in the interest of the association membership. Free speech, democratic process, transparency, communication, and leadership are all key aspects of this abrupt decision from the top. Sandy stated in her March 2007 column for ET that her mandate would focus on "community and communication." Is this what she meant? I sincerely hope not.

Thank you again for taking time to write, Christy.

Best regards, 
Tim Stewart

And this is from Sandy Briggs:

June 4, 2007

Dear Christy,
This is a personnel matter so I won't be writing about this. Thanks for offering a forum. Good luck with the newsletter.
My best,

June 27, 2007

Dear Christy,
Thank you for asking me if I have anything to add to what I said about the ET editor earlier. At this time I have nothing to add.
My best,

On June 29, Sandy sent this announcement to the membership:

The TESOL Board of Directors joins me in thanking Tim Stewart for his good work as Essential Teacher (ET) editor and for his collaboration with the ET Editorial Board. Our best wishes to Tim with his ongoing work in the ELT community. There will be no details provided by the TESOL leadership concerning Tim's May 10, 2007 departure as the ET editor in order to respect the confidentiality of a personnel-related matter.

The TESOL Board of Directors also thanks the ET Editorial Board and the Serial Publications Committee (SPC) under the leadership of KimMarie Cole, Chair, for their commitment and good work. The Board and I are requesting that the SPC assist with the selection of an interim ET editor and begin the search for a new editor.

And on July 1, Tim sent this message to the TESOL Board and the ET Editorial Board.

Dear Colleagues,

I have just received a note from Sandy Briggs confirming that my services are no longer required on Essential Teacher. She is to be commended on her efficiency.

I must thank all of you. Whether you supported me or not, you supported transparency and open discussion. These things are worth defending no matter what your point of view. The brief glimpse I have had into the inner workings of the TESOL association have been very instructive. I would encourage TESOL to move closer to its foundational roots of idealism. The world needs that now more than anything else.

The support members have shown me has truly been overwhelming and unexpected. I am humbled and greatly appreciative. There are many good and thoughtful people in TESOL. Let us go forward with integrity and charity.

With my deepest respect,

Tim Stewart
Kumamoto University

Christy M. Newman, MWIS Newsletter editor, is the managing partner at Weston Editorial LLC. She also teaches ESL and writing at the University of San Francisco.


MWIS Annual Report to TESOL: Julie Vorholt-Alcorn

Julie Vorholt-Alcorn, MWIS Immediate Past Chair,

TESOL asks each immediate past chair to complete an annual report based on the interest section's activities and initiatives. I completed our report regarding March 2006-March 2007, the period during which I chaired our IS. TESOL provided a list of questions about professional issues, our activities (including our Open Business Meeting at the TESOL convention), elections, governing rules, and Web site. Below are the highlights from our annual report.

Professional Issues

What major professional issues or concerns have been raised by your IS members throughout the year and how has your IS leadership responded to them?

1. TESOL Resource Center (TRC): It was discussed on our e-list and also at our business meeting at the convention. As a result of our e-list discussion, some members volunteered to work with the development of the TRC prior to its launch.

2. Employment Concerns: Discussions about appropriate compensation and treatment by writers/publishers are recurring topics on our e-list.

3. Contracts: This was addressed by an IS Special Project about 2 to 3 years ago and the published product is available for downloading from our Web site.

4. Submitting Proposals for TESOL Conventions: This is a professional issue because some members receive funding from their schools to attend the convention only if their proposals are accepted. This concern was brought up at the convention, but I don't yet know TESOL's action plan to address this. Last year, an MWIS member's proposal was "lost." It was put in the MWIS list of proposals to read. Members felt it was a better fit with another interest section's topic, so TESOL's Central Office took it off the MWIS list and added it to the other IS list. That member never received an acceptance/rejection message. My assumption is that the proposal was dropped from the system. Of course, by the time the member realized he did not get a message, the decisions had already been made and his presentation could no longer be considered. My recommendation is that TESOL's Central Office advise every IS chair who is transferring a proposal to contact the IS chair who is receiving the proposal. This would confirm that the proposal has successfully been transferred.

How does your IS leadership keep track of professional issues and concerns that are expressed by your IS members throughout the year?

This happens primarily via the e-list. Issues and concerns are also discussed at the business meeting at the TESOL convention. Sometimes members contacted me directly, via e-mail, and off of the e-list.

What type of TESOL advocacy activities has your IS undertaken in the 2006-07 year? (e.g., provided feedback on a TESOL position statement, submitted a motion at the IS Assembly)

Three of us attended the IS Assembly so that our IS was able to use its maximum number of votes (three). The attending members were Melvin Andrade, Bill Walker, MWIS e-list moderator, and Julie Vorholt-Alcorn, MWIS chair. Melvin works in Japan and Bill and Julie work in Oregon, so our IS was represented by members living abroad and in the United States, reflecting the diversity that we are always striving to increase.

2006-07 Activities

Open Business Meeting: I submitted a copy of the agenda for the Wednesday evening membership meeting. TESOL also asked about concerns, and I identified "lack of volunteerism from the membership." While we do have members who volunteer, it is an ongoing struggle to find volunteers for activities such as staffing our booth at the TESOL convention or offering to serve in a leadership position (volunteering as chair, newsletter editor, or e-list moderator) for our IS. We do usually have a healthy number of volunteers for reading proposals for the TESOL convention.

Elections: Our elections were conducted online before the convention and we plan to follow the same procedure next year.

Governing Rules: No revisions to our governing rules were presented. If any necessary revisions are needed in 2007-08, Kelly Sippell, the current chair, will be responsible.

IS Web Site: We have a Web site, hosted on the TESOL server.


Julie Vorholt-Alcorn, MWIS immediate past chair, teaches ESL students at Lewis & Clark College. 

Mary Finocchiaro Awards

Michelle Campiglia, Sharon Widmayer, and Janice Penner were awarded the 2007 Mary Finocchiaro Awards for Excellence in the Development of Pedagogical Materials at the MWIS reception in Seattle.

Michelle from Lee, VA, and Sharon from Annandale, VA, are transitional ESOL teachers in high school programs. They won their Finocchiaro Award for "A Literacy Curriculum for Secondary ESOL Students."

Sharon Widmayer (left) and Michelle Campiglia display their awards.

Those wishing to learn more about the curriculum can contact Sharon ( Michelle ( or download information and samples from and

Janice is a full-time faculty member at Douglas College in British Columbia, Canada. She has also taught in colleges and universities throughout Canada and in Beijing, PRC, Taipei, ROC, and Kyoto, Japan.

Janice won for her project entitled Think First, Then Write:101 Writing Topics, a collection of prompts for fluency-writing tasks.

Janice Penner

The materials are available in CD and print photocopiable format and can be ordered through Delta Systems, Inc., or from the author

MWIS Discussion Groups 2007: Linda Butler, Deborah Gordon, Penny Laporte, and Mona Sherago

Linda Butler,, and Deborah Gordon,

A. TESOL Conferences, Next and Last
MWIS Discussion Groups may well be our favorite sessions at TESOL. As participants, we like the casual format, the ease of interaction in a small group, the exchange of ideas, and the chance to connect with new people both during and after the discussion. As Discussion Group leaders, we get to propose topics that we want to learn more about. The learning takes place during both the discussion itself and the preconvention preparation—whether it's a bit of reading that we might not have done otherwise, an informal survey of writers and editors, or time spent organizing our own ideas on a topic. In either case, as participants or leaders, we always find that an MWIS Discussion Group is worth getting up early for. It's the best way to start the day at TESOL.

We are both independent materials writers who often work alone and as a result can sometimes feel isolated. For this reason, the connections we make in Discussion Groups are particularly valuable to us. While the Discussion Group content is often very worthwhile—such as strategies for time management or getting the most out of the review process—we appreciate even more the chance to connect with colleagues who work under similar conditions.

This year in Seattle, the MWIS Discussion Groups were

  • Starting TESOL in MWIS Style (Mona Scheraga and Sandra Briggs)
  • Productive Writer Editor Relationships, part 2 (Deborah Gordon and Penny Laporte)
  • Are Free Online Archives Boon or Boondoggle? (Tim Collins)
  • Five Things I Learned Writing ELT Materials (Curtis Kelly and Marc Helgesen)
  • Author/Editor Dynamics for Series Writing Teams (Cynthia Schuemann, Patricia Byrd, Joy Reid)
  • The Pros, Cons, and Maybes of Authoring (Kelly Sippell and Keith Folse)
  • Using Corpora to Guide Lexically Based Materials (Bill Walker)
  • Coming to Terms With Publishers (Tay Lesley and Lynn Stafford-Yilmaz)
  • Getting Started As a Freelance Materials Writer (Kristin Johannsen)
  • Corpora and Materials Writing Beyond Vocabulary (Gena Bennett and Lawrence Zwier)
  • What's the Scoop on New Editions? (Kelly Sippell)

As always, too many good things were scheduled at the same time at TESOL, so we didn't get to as many of these sessions as we would have liked, but we're already looking forward to next year's MWIS Discussion Groups in New York.

Every IS usually gets between 10 and 12 time slots for Discussion Groups, although that may change with the shorter conference in 2008. Proposals for Discussion Groups should be sent to Larry Zwier at and/or Linda Butler at before August 1.

If you're coming to the conference, please consider proposing a Discussion Group. Remember, you don't have to be an expert on the topic. You just need to be a good discussion leader, something most teachers are pretty adept at!

B. Productive Writer-Editor Relationships, Part 2

Deborah Gordon,, and Penny Laporte,

This Discussion Group was a continuation of "Productive Writer-Editor Relationships, Part 1", a lively discussion held in Tampa at TESOL 2006. Many of the participants at the end of that session asked us to do a repeat performance in Seattle, and so we complied. There were about 15 participants this year, with approximately two thirds of the participants being writers and the remaining third editors from a variety of publishing houses. The focus of the conversation this time was on how to restore a productive relationship after things go awry, a situation many of us have experienced at one time or another for a variety of reasons such as a change in editor mid-stream, a change in publisher goals, a reappropriation of the editor's allotted time for that project, unrealistic schedules, a lack of respect for each other's time constraints, or simply a communication breakdown between the writer and the editor.

Various solutions were discussed, most of them returning to the obvious: a need for frank and open conversation concerning what had caused the relationship breach, and a discussion determining the best ways to avoid the problem in the future. A few participants felt that it may be incumbent upon the author to initiate this conversation. A common source of tension seemed to be authors complying with due dates only to find that their editor wasn't able to get to the materials for another week or two. For this reason, participants discussed the need for editors and writers to be open with each other about their time constraints, and especially for editors to tell writers when they should expect to hear back from them. This would help writers to be able to more effectively and efficiently schedule their own time, especially important for writers who work on more than one project at a time. Another problem seemed to be a possible overreliance on communication by e-mail when telephone communication might actually be more efficient and less time consuming. Also suggested was that editors and authors confirm receipt of e-mails as soon as they get them, even when there isn't the time to actually respond properly to the e-mail.

Once again, as so often happens in Discussion Groups, the session ended with many topics still left to discuss. 

C. Discussions, Presentations, and Energy Breaks

Mona Sheraga,

TESOL President Sandy Briggs and I did our traditional "Starting TESOL in MWIS Style" for newcomers to our IS on Wednesday morning. They must have been convinced because all of the Discussion Group participants showed up at the open meeting on Wednesday evening.

I also worked with Susan Maguire on a presentation on getting published. Susan's PowerPoint presentation targeted every phase of writing, submitting, dealing with editors, contract issues, and so on. It was a standing, sitting, crouching-on-the-floor session with attendees asking myself and Susan to repeat it again during the conference, which we couldn't, and to make the session longer next year, which we may.

Happily my Energy Break table on "How to Get the Most Out of Teachers' Guides" was full. We discussed what to look for in a good teacher's guide, what to be concerned about, and how to check the TG before buying student books—if the teacher can't use the book, it isn't going to work for the students.

Linda Butler is cochair-elect of the Materials Writers Interest Section. She is the author of Fundamentals of Academic Writing, the reading and vocabulary textsPassword 1 and 2, Basic Grammar Links and Grammar Links 1, and the ESL Reader's Companions. She has worked on many other publications as a freelance writer and editor. She teaches part-time at Holyoke Community College in Holyoke, Massachusetts, USA.

Deborah Gordon is a materials writer and part-time instructor at Santa Barbara City College and the University of California Extension at Santa Barbara. She has authored or coauthored student texts including ICON Book 3, Up Close Books 1 and 2, and Listen For It, plus various workbooks, TEs, assessment instruments, video scripts, and teaching materials for companion Web sites. She is also a past MWIS chair.

Penny Laporte is publishing manager for ELT at Cambridge University Press.

Mona Scheraga is an author, consultant, teacher-trainer, and workshop presenter in the United States and abroad. She plans to continue in the field and attending international TESOL conventions until they carry her out in a box.


The Publisher Test: Dorothy E. Zemach

Dorothy E. Zemach,

In the last MWIS newsletter, I published "The Author Test," which editors and publishers could give to potential authorsand that—authors could take themselves to evaluate their potential. Naturally, all MWIS members passed with flying colors. So now, it's time for a test that authors can give to publishers. Note that this test works best if you have published colleagues fill it out about a past relationship. Giving it directly to a publisher could work against you! Have your colleagues read each question or statement and circle the response they feel their publisher would be mostly likely to give. Then use the answers to help you determine where to mail your manuscript.

1. I'm submitting a proposal for a new coursebook, Masterpiece. Please let me know if you have any questions, and when I might expect to hear back from you.

a. [complete silence]
b. Welcome to the promotional mailing list for social science teachers! In this weekly newsletter, we have information about all of our upcoming state conferences. And, as a back-to-school special, we're offering our new subscribers a 5% discount on any set of our hardback series sets for three or more classrooms!
 c. Thank you for your submission. It generally takes us two or three months to consider a new proposal. If we don't get back to you within that time, please feel free to e-mail me about the status of your proposal. In the meantime, may I pass your resume on to some of our editors who are looking for some ancillary writers?

2. I'm writing to inquire as to the status of Masterpiece, the coursebook that teaches ESL entirely through art. Have you had a chance to make a decision yet?

a. [complete silence]
b. Our markets indicate that teachers and students do not relate well to art. We won't be going forward with this project.
c. We've discussed your proposal quite a bit in our group. Frankly, we like a lot of your ideas, but don't think that the market will support a coursebook based entirely on art. However, we are interested in the idea of a coursebook that uses strong visual support. Please read the attached comments, and then let me know if you'd be interested in arranging a phone call to discuss a possible adaptation of your proposal.

3. I'm not entirely comfortable with the noncompete clause in the contract, especially the line that reads "Author may not so much as have a conversation with anyone about a subject even remotely related to the Work." Could that be removed or altered?

a. Sorry, that's the standard contract for all ESL materials, and it can't be changed.
b. Oh, I wouldn't worry about that! I don't really know what all that legal stuff actually means, but I don't think it's ever been a problem for anyone before, at least not in the three months that I've been working here.
c. We can remove that line. If there are other lines you're not comfortable with, could you send suggested revisions? I'll discuss them with our legal department and get back to you.

4. I just noticed that the contract says I have to write the teacher's guide, but that no additional compensation is available for that.

a. Yes, that's correct.
b. Well, if you're not going to write it, then we'll have to pay someone else to do it, and subtract his or her fee from your royalties.
c. That's standard for our skills books. However, since you're writing a coursebook, I think we could arrange for you to get either a flat fee or a small royalty for the teacher's guide. If you think that you wouldn't have time to write it, we could hire someone else to do it.  Please let me know what you would prefer to do, and if you'd like me to call you about it.

5.  Hi Christine, I'm just writing to see where we are with Chapter 7. Did you find out if the essay topic is going to be OK?

a. I'm sorry, I assumed you had already changed the topic. Please send me the new essay by Friday, because we're on some very tight deadlines now because of the accelerated production schedule. 
b. Hi, this is Jennifer. Your e-mail to Christine was forwarded to me. As you may know, Christine was moved to another project back in June. I'll be taking over this one for the interim until Heather can come on board. I hope to get up to speed quickly. In the meantime, if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me!
c. Hi, sorry for the delay. I've been compiling market feedback on this topic, which I'm attaching so you can see what people have been saying. It looks like Japan and Korea are really not very comfortable with this topic.  I've made a list of possible substitute topics (also attached). Why don't you look through them and make some notes about what you'd like to do, and I'll call you tomorrow. I see you're out of class at 1:00, so shall I call you at 1:30? Please let me know.

6. I'm afraid I'm not going to be able to meet my deadline for Chapter 9. I have finals and then end-of-term grading coming up in two weeks, and then I'll be away for three weeks over the holiday break (remember, I mentioned that to you in our last call). I'm working as hard as I can, but I really don't see how I could make it.

a. Read your contract. Chapter 9 must be in by the 22nd. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions or problems.
b. Well, OK, send it whenever, but that's going to throw the whole production schedule off, and will probably delay the book's release by a year. Just so you know.
c. How much of the chapter have you completed already? Is there anything I could do to help you finish it on time? For example, find articles or flesh out exercises? However, if necessary, we can find a freelancer to help finish it. The freelancer's fee will have to come out of your future royalties, but I'm afraid we really can't let this deadline slip because of production schedules. I'll call you later this afternoon, and we can talk about our options for completing this chapter on time. Don't worry, we'll work something out!

7. Thanks for sending the pages for Units 1-5. They look great! However, I was a little surprised to see that the topic of Chapter 5 has completely changed, from art in public high schools to shopping in Asia. To be honest, I don't think the new topic fits the book at all, and I don't understand why it was changed.

a. Oh, Gloria (our group's director) changed that. She thought it was more appropriate. Don't worry, we'll take care of making all the related changes.
b. Well, actually, since the focus of the book has been changed from "art" to "money," we here all thought that Chapter 5 needed to be updated. When we send the pages for Units 6-10 next week, you'll see they've all been updated as well.
c. Remember I e-mailed you that permission for the main article you wanted to use had been denied? When I didn't get a replacement article from you, I went ahead and made the changes myself. If you're not happy with any of the new content, let's talk about it. Are you free to talk any time today?

8. Wow, the book looks great!  Thanks so much for your hard work. Will I be able to do a presentation about it at TESOL this year?

a. Sure, go ahead. Let us know if you get anything accepted.
b. Sorry, our publisher slots this year have already been filled with Famous Authors.
c. I'm afraid we're not planning any kind of formal launch for TESOL, although we will certainly feature it at our stand, and our sales staff have all attended briefings on the book and its highlights. However, we'd be very interested in having you do some regional presentations, such as at your state TESOL affiliate conference. We will of course be happy to pay for your conference registration and one night's accommodation. We can also arrange to have sample books handed out at your presentation, if you let us know how many you'd need. If you have any information on conferences in your area, could you please forward it to us?

Dorothy E. Zemach is a freelance editor and materials writer from Eugene, Oregon. Dorothy was the 2004-05 MWIS cochair, with Carlos Islam. Her current interests include EAP and business English, testing, the teaching of writing, and humor in ESL materials and the profession. She has never received any "wrong" answers from a publisher on the Publisher Test—but did once, after applying online for an editorial position, find herself subscribed to a K-12 social sciences advertising list. It took nine months to unsubscribe.

News Announcements and Accolades

TESOL 2008 in New York City

Building Communities of Practice, Inquiry, and Creativity

Wednesday, April 2, to Saturday, April 5, 2007
(Plan for a full day of sessions on Saturday.) 
New York, NY, USA

Due August 1: Poster Sessions, Hot Topics, Video Theater, and Discussion Groups

For details, visit

View TESOL 2007 Sessions Online

You can now access online more than 50 hours of audiovisual "event cast" recordings (including all plenary sessions) from the 2007 TESOL Convention and Exhibit in Seattle, Washington, USA. (Sessions from the 2006 TESOL Convention and Exhibit in Tampa, Florida, USA, are also available.)

TESOL members who attended the 2007 TESOL convention can access the event casts for free.

TESOL members who were not able to attend the convention can access the event casts for a registration fee of US$15.

For complete program access and registration information please visit