MWIS Newsletter

MWIS News, Volume 23:1 (March 2005)

by User Not Found | 10/27/2011
In This Issue...
  • News
    • Letters From the Chair and Chair-Elect
  • Articles
    • Making the Most of Unemployment
    • The Influence of Public Ratings and Comments on an Online Materials Writer
    • Reflections of a First-Time Materials Writer
  • About This Member Community
    • Plan Your MWIS TESOL 2010 Schedule
    • Gleanings From the MWIS E-List: April Through November 2009

News Letters From the Chair and Chair-Elect A LETTER FROM THE MWIS CHAIR
Gena Bennett, MWIS Chair 2009-2010,

Another convention is almost upon us! Like many of you, I’m looking forward to this annual opportunity to get together with old friends, make new connections, and attend informative sessions.

This year our interest section is hosting a variety of interesting and engaging sessions. Please see the corresponding article in this newsletter for more information on these sessions.

A special thank you to all those who volunteered to read MWIS proposals! The review process is an important aspect of offering quality convention sessions, and we appreciate your time and expertise! Thank you to

Brad Baurain

Ellen Kisslinger

John Beaumont

Jennifer Lebedev

Jenny Bixby

Yan Liu

Sandy Briggs

Robyn Brinks Lockwood

Marcia Bronstein

Susannah MacKay

Linda Butler

Hedy McGarrell

Jeannette Clement

Joe McVeigh

Jennifer Daniels

Laurel Pollard

Steven Darian

Robyn Shifrin

Marta Dmytrenko-Ahrabian

Amanda Starrick

Keith Folse

Stephanie Stauffer

Debra Gordon

Sarah Worthington

Harry Harris

Larry Zwier

Eli Hinkel

We also pleased to announce that our annual Networking Reception will be held on Friday, March 26, from 6:00 to 7:45 p.m. in the Douglas Room at the Westin. As you know, the Networking Reception is an important event for MWISers, as members get to meet publishers and each other in an informal setting. The Networking Reception allows members who write for publication (or want to) to pitch ideas to publishers. They can also learn from publishers about the publishers’ plans and needs for freelance writers/editors, and set the stage for future contacts. At the reception, members can talk to other members about their experiences with particular publishers, contract matters, job possibilities, online resources, self-employment issues, royalties vs. fees, and so on. The Networking Reception is also an ideal opportunity for new MWIS members to meet and ask questions of experienced authors, freelance writers, and freelance editors.

This will be an exciting convention, and I look forward to seeing you all there at the MWIS booth, MWIS sessions, and the Networking Reception!

Gena Bennett
Chair, 2009-2010

Robyn Brinks Lockwood, MWIS Chair-Elect, or

As the MWIS chair-elect, I’ve been organizing the MWIS-sponsored InterSections and Academic Session for the 2010 convention in Boston. I’m pleased to announce that we have three this year: two InterSections and one Academic Session.

Our MWIS Academic Session will discuss ESL contracts. Many of you have referred to the document “Negotiating ESL/ELT Publishing Contracts” that is available on our MWIS site. The document will be updated and will include the latest information on electronic projects and rights. Panelists for the session include publishers, authors, and a copyright attorney: Pam Fishman (Pearson), Christopher Sol Cruz (ContentEd Publishing Solutions and TreeTop Press), Keith Folse, Dorothy Zemach, and Stephen Gillen (Greenebaum, Doll, & McDonald). More information on this session will continue to come your way as the conference draws nearer. Mark your calendars to attend on Friday, March 26, at 1 p.m. in Room 104A of the Boston Convention Center.

MWIS is cosponsoring two InterSections this year. The first is scheduled for Thursday, March 25, at 10 a.m., in Room 105 of the Boston Convention Center. We teamed with the Intercultural Communication Interest Section. Fumiko Kurihara from the ICIS is managing a great panel including MWIS members Kristen Johannsen and Andrea DeCapua. Set aside time for “Material Writing for Intercultural Communicative Competence in a Globalized World” in your schedules.

I’m excited to have another MWIS InterSection for the program this year. Many people approached me about teaming up with the Speaking, Pronunciation and Listening Interest Section to discuss listening materials. I’ve worked with the SPL chair, Robert Elliott from the University of Oregon, to secure some great panelists, including John Flowerdew, Lida Baker, Deborah Gordon, and Laurie Frazier. The session, “Approaches and Materials to Teaching Listening Microskills,” will discuss the top-down and bottom-up approaches to listening comprehension and the ways materials can be used to integrate listening. Material creation will be highlighted. Make time for this session on Saturday, March 27, at 4 p.m. in Room 253A of the Boston Convention Center.

We have only 3 days, but I’m proud to have so many MWIS-sponsored sessions on the schedule. Combined with the other sessions and our open meeting, we have plenty to keep MWIS members busy. The convention will be a great time to meet and network. I’m looking forward to seeing everyone there.


Articles Making the Most of Unemployment

Jenny Bixby,

If you’ve recently been unemployed or underemployed, join the crowd. You may have faced the same thing I did this past fall: an empty work calendar and a quiet computer. I’ve certainly been without work before; it’s part of the ebb and flow of assignments for a freelance editor. So when I found myself without a project, I wasn’t worried. But as weeks started stacking up, I began to see that I had a serious issue: free time. I admit that I enjoyed the time off, but the lack of income takes away some of the thrill. I reminded myself that I wasn’t really unemployed, but rather between paid assignments. I trusted that work would surface, and in fact, eventually it did.

For me the key to a positive attitude during my unemployment was to work on my own assignments, even though they were “unpaid.” Here are some of my strategies for how to make the most of unpaid time.

1. Start by cleaning your office. Get rid of files and old manuscripts. Rearrange or spruce up your office to make it a comfortable, inspiring place to work.

2. Read those professional books you buy at conferences. I always mean to read them to keep up with what’s new in TESOL, but never seem to have enough time.

3. Observe some ESL classes. I haven’t taught on a regular basis for a while, so visiting a classroom is something that I always benefit from. I’ve found that it’s essential to my work as an editor and writer to be reminded of what transpires in the classroom.

4. Build your skills. Think about what skills would enhance your résumé or the quality of your work. I’d like to take a web design class, for example, and create a Web site. I also keep an eye out for interesting interactive audio conferences or training modules offered by the Copyediting newsletter.

5. Build your knowledge. Explore materials and links on the TESOL Web site, or browse ERIC. Read up on areas that are not your area of expertise. Although most of my editing has been with reading and writing materials recently, reading up on listening and speaking will mean that I can take on listening projects with confidence. I’ve also been exploring ESL Web sites and online programs to learn more about what is available online.

6. Expand your horizons. Get on LinkedIn or on other professional networking groups. Joining LinkedIn has been a fruitful experience for me because I’ve been able to join some new professional groups. I’m interested in learning more about educational technology, so I’ve been reading messages and posts about that in the group Tools of Change for Publishing. Other groups that I’m in are ESL Professionals, Textbook Authors, and Textbook Publishing Professionals. They often lead me outside of ESL and expose me to new ways of viewing publishing.

7. Step back and look at yourself as a small business. Think about how you market yourself and how to make yourself more visible. What do you do for promotion? How can people find you? Do you have a Web site, and if not, how about setting one up? Talk with successful colleagues and see what they do to promote their business.

8. Use any self-doubt to propel you toward examining your professional development. Yes, those dark questions do come up when you are out of work. Who am I if I’m not working? Why doesn’t anyone want me? Are other freelance editors cheaper / more knowledgeable / better connected / younger / hipper than I am? Will I ever work again? Take a close look at your assumptions about your own skills—in ESL publishing and freelancing, for example—and think about what changes the future will bring. Talk with colleagues and explore other types of writing or editing. As we so often ask students to do, write down what you want to be doing in 10 years and map out what you can do to reach your goals.

9. Revisit your retirement plans. That takes a bit of inner fortitude for a freelancer, but it must be done.

10. Of course, you can do what I’ve done: Write an article for MWIS!

Jenny Bixby has been a freelance writer and editor for more than 20 years. Before that, she worked in-house at Oxford University Press, Addison-Wesley, and Houghton Mifflin. She has a MA in TESL and taught for 10 years in the United States and abroad. She lives with her family in San Jose, CA.

The Influence of Public Ratings and Comments on an Online Materials Writer

Jennifer Lebedev,

What does it mean to be an online materials writer? Let me share one insight.

Instructional materials in print are edited by publishers, tested in classrooms, and reviewed by teaching professionals before their official release. Feedback is given constructively and in detail. In contrast, many materials published online move directly from the author’s computer to public view. Within the first 24 hours of their debut in cyberspace, the materials begin to generate ratings and comments. Students and teachers have equal voice in giving feedback. Comments can be tactful or blunt, detailed or general, appreciative or critical. (Colleagues, I should note, are consistently supportive. Thank goodness.) Comments combined with ratings can make you feel like a classy five-star restaurant or a two-star burger joint.

It has been more than 2 years since I posted my first video online, and I find it amusing to realize how accustomed I have grown to having a public evaluation of my work as an ESL teacher and materials writer. My videos, audio podcasts, interactive exercises, and blog entries have all been rated and commented on. It is tempting to dismiss ratings as unreliable (do you always agree with the thumbs-up and thumbs-down verdicts of movie critics?), yet the majority of raters are the learners themselves and they are using a tool to express their wants and needs.

Ratings and comments are a means to communicate with the author, and they are unique to online materials writing. The experience of public feedback has a profound effect on both the users and the author. Learners feel empowered, and an author’s sense of accountability is heightened. An online materials writer must aim to please. Of course, just as a student should not focus on the final grade but rather the learning outcome, an author should concentrate on delivering quality instruction and not getting a five-star rating. Nevertheless, a succession of low ratings drives traffic away and threatens the author’s reputation as a competent teacher. This relationship between public feedback and traffic has made ratings and comments valid forms of quality control—control of what is already published and what will be published, because feedback may not lead to revision, but it can be applied to future materials. My online work has improved greatly thanks to communication from the users. I should mention that in many cases, people search for a means beyond public feedback and use e-mail to make me aware of their wants and needs as learners and teachers.

Ratings and comments can be a source of anxiety for an author at first, but if viewed as forms of support and quality control, this public feedback can be welcomed. Communication from users simply reverses the review process materials writers are familiar with. Normally, feedback is provided before publication. Creating digital media for online use, however, usually means working without the benefit of editors and peer reviewers, so authors must trust their individual abilities to revise, proofread, and edit. Public feedback tells an author if he or she got it all right, so to speak.

With the above in mind, I will boldly state that those with experience in teaching and materials writing have the best foundation for online instruction. An author does not have to be a full-fledged Webhead to cross the bridge into the Internet world. My own experience working with editors, publishers, and cowriters has taught me lessons about formatting, sequencing, consistent wording, applying cultural awareness, and more. It is my skills as a materials writer as much as my skills as a teacher that have allowed me to work solo in creating videos, audio podcasts, and interactive exercises. The Webhead in me is still emerging, but I believe that from the start, English language learners in cyberspace forgave my lack of skills with technology and welcomed my contributions because I taught clearly, chose interesting contexts, and created a logical lesson format.

The bridges to online opportunities are there. Our colleagues who run the Electronic Village, both online and at the TESOL conventions, collectively provide resources and training to support your move into ESOL in cyberspace. I hope more materials writers will venture over. The good news is that you can have one foot in both places because the bridge goes both ways. There is still an undeniable need for traditional materials, and yet there is a growing world of English language learners hungry for quality online instruction. Want proof? Visit some online communities and read the comments posted on ESL materials. Many voices are asking for the same thing: more.

Jennifer Lebedev has been an ESL/ EFL teacher since 1996. She is a consultant, materials writer, and blogger for Pearson Longman and also provides private instruction online. She creates digital media for YouTube and under the name JenniferESL.

Reflections of a First-Time Materials Writer

Steve Graham,

I joined TESOL about 2 years ago after speaking to former TESOL President Jun Liu a number of times. He convinced me it would be a good thing to do for my personal development. When it came to looking for an interest group inside the TESOL organization I thought I would join the Materials Writers Interest Section as it was something that I wanted to try but hadn’t the faintest idea of how to go about it.

I was very lucky in regard to the timing of joining this organization because the (mwis-l) forum on the Internet was in full throttle discussing rates of pay for freelance writers, how to get published, submitting an ESL proposal, favorite ESL publishers, and first refusal and noncomplete clauses, among other topics.

Very quickly, I found myself up to speed on the latest developments and gaining confidence as I built up a sound base from which to work. I didn’t have anything to add to the discussions that were going on and felt a bit like a fish out of water; however, I did write in and thank everyone for their contributions because I believed that they were very helpful. Someone even replied, “That’s what MWIS is all about. Welcome Steve,” which made me feel right at home.

There are also many articles from the MWIS Newsletter that can help someone like me starting out. They give a clear picture of some of the pitfalls that people can fall into and areas for concern. There is obviously a lot of encouragement from people within the group, which gives confidence to those who are starting out. There is even a free TESOL resource paper called “Negotiating ESL/ELT Publishing Contracts.”

My opportunity to start materials writing, apart from in my own classroom, that is, came when I was lucky enough to present at the CamTESOL conference in Phnom Penh. My presentation subject concerned a government course that I had developed at Udon Thani Rajabhat University in northeastern Thailand called English for Future Careers. It involves the students writing a résumé and a cover letter as well as taking part in a simulated interview.

The majority of students that I teach in this course are mechanical technology students. Their level of English language proficiency is very low and the possibility of them actually using English to find work very doubtful. I was careful to incorporate many things that they can do and had done into the coursework, to motivate them during the 16 weeks of the course; otherwise there would be no interest at all.

During my presentation in Cambodia, a representative from a publisher in the audience approached me afterward and asked if I was interested in writing some Web-based materials to accompany a coursebook that they had. I showed an interest and was contacted when I had returned to Thailand, and I was asked to produce five worksheets and five sets of answers/teacher’s notes.

I was sent a contract (which was a lot easier to understand having read what everyone had said in the forum) that detailed the work to be completed and the time frame allowed. I made the time in my already busy schedule and adapted my existing classroom materials to fit the coursebook that they were designed to accompany. This I found particularly difficult as I had to change the style of my materials to fit theirs; however, with some encouragement from my editor, I was able to produce the materials well within the allotted time.

The materials are already on the Web. I found the whole experience very rapid and intense; however, there was a terrific sense of achievement at the end of it. Now I am on the lookout for a project where I can write materials for my own book. It only goes to show how joining a group of fellow professionals can stimulate and motivate someone like myself into action. After all, it’s what MWIS is all about!

Steven Graham is a teacher at the Language Center, Udon Thani Rajabhat University, in northeastern Thailand. His main areas of interest outside of materials and curriculum design are teacher training, ESP, and primary English language development in rural areas of Thailand.

About This Member Community Plan Your MWIS TESOL 2010 Schedule THURSDAY, MARCH 25, 2010 InterSection Material Writing for Intercultural Communicative Competence in a Globalized World
Presenters: Robyn Brinks Lockwood, Fumiko Kurihara,
Kristen Johannsen, Andrea DeCapua
Boston Convention Center – 105
3/25/2010 10:00 a.m. – 10:45 a.m. Experiencing TESOL in Materials Writers Interest Section Style
Discussion Group (45 mins.)
Presenter: Sandra Briggs
Westin - Grand Ballroom D
3/25/2010 1:00 p.m. - 1:45 p.m.
YouTube and Beyond: Blending Teaching and Materials Writing Online
Discussion Group (45 mins.)
Presenter: Jennifer Lebedev
Boston Convention Center – 208
3/25/2010 5:00 p.m.- 5:45 p.m.
MWIS Open Business Meeting
MARCH 25, 2010
Location TBA
5:00 – 7:00 p.m. FRIDAY, MARCH 26, 2010 Freelance Editing and Writing: Connect and Discuss
Discussion Group (45 mins.)
Presenters: Jennifer Bixby, Dorothy Zemach
Westin – Hale
3/26/2010 10:00 a.m. - 10:45 a.m.
MWIS Academic Session ESL/EFL Publishing Contracts
Presenters: Robyn Brinks Lockwood, Keith Folse, Dorothy Zemach, Christopher Sol Cruz,
Pam Fishman, Stephen Gillen
Boston Convention Center - 104 A
3/26/2010 1:00 p.m. - 3:45 p.m. Hyperlinked Text: ESL Materials Development Caught in the 2.0 Web
Practice-oriented Presentations (45 mins.)
Presenter: Robyn Shifrin
Boston Convention Center - 206 B
3/26/2010 4:00 p.m. - 4:45 p.m.
SATURDAY, MARCH 27, 2010 Best Practices for Successful ESL Editors
Practice-Oriented Presentations (45 mins.)
Presenters: Jennifer Bixby, Linda O’Roke, Mari Vargo
Westin – Bulfinch
3/27/2010 10:00 a.m. - 10:45 a.m.
How To Publish When the Big Guys Say No
Practice-oriented Presentations (45 mins.)
Presenters: Marsha Chan, Julaine Rosner, Marianne Brems
Westin – Bulfinch
3/27/2010 1:00 p.m. - 1:45 p.m.
InterSection Approaches to and Materials for Teaching Listening Microskills
Presenters: Robyn Brinks Lockwood, John Flowerdew, Lida Baker, Deborah Gordon,
Laurie Frazier, Robert Elliott
Boston Convention Center - 253 A
3/27/2010 4:00 p.m. - 5:45 p.m. ADDITIONAL MWIS-RELATED SESSIONS SPONSORED AND SELECTED BY TESOL Experiences With Publishers Over 30 Years
Presenter: Judy DeFilippo
Westin - Grand Ballroom C
Thursday, 3/25/2010, 7:30 a.m. - 8:15 a.m.
Tips for Writing TESOL Convention Session Proposals
Presenters: Christine Coombe, Gertrude Tinker-Sachs, Valerie Jakar, Suzanne Panferov, Bill Eggington, Eric Dwyer,
Beth Witt, Mark Algren, Diane Carter
Boston Convention Center - 253 C
Friday, 3/26/2010, 10:00 a.m. - 10:45 a.m.
Redesigned Fairness Review Guidelines Help Reduce Bias
Presenter: Willisa Roland
Workshop (1 hr., 45 mins.)
Westin – Hale
Friday, 3/26/2010 1:00 p.m. - 2:45 p.m.
Re-Imagining How To Assess Reading Level and Fluency With Technology
Presenters: Heidi Hyte, Amie N. Casper
Poster Session (1 hr., 15 mins.)
Boston Convention Center - 210 A
Saturday, 3/27/2010 12:30 p.m. - 1:45 p.m.

Gleanings From the MWIS E-List: April Through November 2009

Bill Walker, MWIS E-list Moderator,


Negotiating ESL/ELT Publishing Contracts

Dorothy Zemach applied for an Interest Section Special Projects grant to “update the fabulous ‘Negotiating ESL/ELT Publishing Contracts’ that Lynn Stafford-Yilmaz did for our interest section in 2005.” Dorothy decided to forgo the grant, but the upshot is that she and others have updated the document and there will be an Academic Session at TESOL 2010.

Subscription Report: April to November 2009

From April to November 2009, the number of official MWIS members increased from 482 to 526, while the number of unsubscribed members increased from 799 to 994.

TESOL Convention Length

TESOL conventions are now 1 day shorter than they have been in the past. In May 2009, we learned that the Executive Committee had voted not to sponsor a survey concerning the convention length because a Convention Survey had already been completed, saying “The online convention evaluations received to date numbering 1,418 respondents show a 67.3 percent rating for the timing and length of the convention as good or excellent.” Moore also noted that TESOL has been hit by the economic crisis. “We currently estimate that TESOL will realize a loss of over $400,000 effecting [sic] this fiscal year due to lower convention registrations in Denver.”

A flurry of responses by MWIS members questioned the Executive Committee’s decision, wondering if perhaps the survey was truly valid, and also wondering if TESOL members were getting their money’s worth out of attending the shorter conferences, noting how difficult it has been to go to sessions and official meetings and engage in networking when so many events need to overlap.

Being Frugal and Eco-Friendly

For economizing, Dorothy Zemach mentioned a new font that uses up to 70 percent less ink when you print ( Dorothy and others made suggestions on how to be “printer smarter” and recycle paper.

No Textbook Adoptions in California

Joe McVeigh drew our attention to the fact that statewide budget cuts on education in California mean “no new textbook adoptions for grades K-8 until 2016!” Joe also mentioned an article in the New York Times that “maintains that the days of printed textbooks are numbered: they will soon be replaced by digital content, much of it free.”

Hardcopy vs. Digital?

Karen Stanley asked if other people have “noticed differences between the ways that [readers] use/process digital vs hardcopy.” This led to some exchanges about’s Kindle®.

Internet or internet?

Jane Petring asked if internet should be capitalized. It was suggested that the answer depends on whether internet is a proper noun (capitalized) or not.


Chantal Pons asked if anyone had samples of videos for teaching adult ESL students. It was suggested she have a look at the YouTube Screening Room.


Valerie Borchelt, TESOL programs and services manager, reported that a message is to be sent out to e-list members every 45 days. The message reads as follows:

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