Writing a TESOL conference proposal

Poe is not amused by academic writing.

Poe is not amused by academic writing.

It wasn't until my first year teaching at the University of Oregon that I felt confident enough to try to write a TESOL proposal.  During grad school, I suspected conferences were better left to the 'experts' and I neglected to consider what or how I could contribute to the field.  If you're in grad school and thinking the same, don't.  Try it out now--you surely have ideas that would benefit others.

Without a buddy I don't know if I would have taken the plunge either.  Danielle Bus and I were working together at the University of Oregon when she suggested that we try writing something. We had shared experiences over the course of the year that raised questions that we wanted to investigate, so we invited two senior instructors to join us to try to widen our perspective.  

My first year, I submitted three joint proposals, and all three presentations were accepted.  I do not take credit for this, as I was fortunate to collaborate with exceptionally talented mentors and friends.  Last year, I had two TESOL presentations accepted.  Acceptance rates are still hovering around 25%, so a lot of it has to do with luck, I think. 

Here are six things that I've learned about the proposal writing process:

1. Collaborate

I always write proposals with other people.  It just makes it more fun, and I don't have to feel guilty about tossing my ideas around or asking someone to proof something.  Plus, when my thoughts are getting a little jumbled, I have others to reel me back in and keep the writing focused. (Thanks, Danielle!)

2. Write now

Start now.  The hardest thing to do is start.  If you haven't started it yet, get going! (The deadline is June 2nd.)  You want to leave yourself some time to look it over before you hit submit.

3. Get feedback

Find a colleague who has presented before to give you feedback on the proposal.  It's helpful to have someone consider your writing from the prospective audience's viewpoint. 

4. Use what you're already doing

In the past, I've had a habit of biting off more than I could chew.  We had big, far-reaching ideas and wanted to conduct research and present the work.  While I learned a lot while doing this, it has often been somewhat stressful to take on outside research on top of a full time teaching job. Other sessions we've presented have been centered on what we're teaching or doing in class, and these sessions are often more comfortable for me.  They are more manageable. 

5. Read the rubric!

TESOL provides a rubric that shows how proposal readers will rate each submission.  Read it carefully and aim to get the highest mark in every category.  Joe McVeigh has provided a list of other TESOL proposal writing tips that are worth reading. 

6. Be clear

In a Writing for Publication class, the professor, Graeme Sullivan, repeated the mantra, "Clear writing reflects clear thinking."  I hear these words every time I sit down to write.  And I attempt to follow them.  He also likened the written word to Monty Python's "Every Sperm is Sacred."  He told us that we should remember that "every word is sacred."  Eliminate what isn't essential. 

That's what I've learned so far.  Have I forgotten anything?  


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