Joyce Kinkead, Utah State University – Slow Writing

Not everything has to be written digitally.

Joyce Kinkead, distinguished professor in the department of English at Utah State University, examines bringing the slow movement to writing.

Joyce Kinkead joined USU in 1982, taking on the role of director of the Writing Center and then director of the Writing Program. Since then, she has served extensively at the university, as creator and director of the Writing Fellows program, associate dean for the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, vice provost, and associate vice president for research, among other roles. Kinkead led the USU undergraduate research program for 11 years as the associate vice president for research, from 2000 to 2011. During her time, she brought about many advances in the program, including Research on Capitol Hill and the Undergraduate Research Fellows program. She also established the Utah Conference on Undergraduate Research (UCUR). Kinkead has helped increase the number of students participating in undergraduate research, as well as increased the number of those students winning awards for their research. With 13 books, 15 book chapters and numerous articles, her publication count is the highest in the Department of English. Over the years, she has mentored 20 undergraduates, served on 20 master’s and doctoral candidates’ committees and headed the initiative to provide research funding to those in the humanities, an overlooked area in the research world.

Slow Writing

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Noted writer and actor Emma Thompson calls herself a Luddite because she writes longhand with a fountain pen. Actually, she may be in the vanguard of a cultural shift that I’m calling “slow writing,” part of a larger movement that includes slow food, slow travel, and slow fashion. What characterizes slow writing? First, the material culture of writing: pens, ink, paper. Even if Hemingway didn’t truly use a Moleskin notebook, millions of devotees prefer this option to digital note taking, and research shows that hand to brain learning is better. The increasingly popular bullet journal offers an embellished to do list. A manual on letter writing advises, “A handwritten note is like dining by candlelight instead of flicking on the lights.” Send your epistles “by escargot,” snail mail, savoring the choice of paper and stamp. Slow writing also involves ethical choices. Disposable pens are just that: disposable. Americans discard 1.6 billion pens annually. Using handmade paper from Nepal supports a 1500-year-old tradition and also helps earthquake victims. A Thai elephant sanctuary funds itself through the sale of Poo-Poo paper. Writing is tied to its origins in communication with the gods.  This notion of writing as sacred may have dimmed, but it’s never gone away entirely. As a manufacturer of exclusive pens advertises, “Refill your soul by writing.”

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