Peck Symposium on Research and Writing

Held each spring and generously funded by the Richard & Virginia Peck Foundation, the Peck Symposium on Research and Writing is a one-day mini conference where an invited scholar provides a keynote lecture about their research and facilitates a workshop on its pedagogical applications.   

The Peck Symposium has two purposes:

  1. to engage writing faculty from area universities and secondary schools in considering timely issues in the research and teaching of writing, and
  2. to bring together members of the WPA Midsouth affiliate of the Council of Writing Program Administrators for our annual meeting.

Past speakers for the Peck Symposium include Paul Kai Matsuda, Andrea Lunsford, Cheryl Ball, Elizabeth Wardle, Derek Mueller, Christine Tardy, Christine Tulley, Laura Micciche, and Tarez Samra Graban. 

Peck Community Writing Project

Instead of meeting in-person at MTSU in February 2021, we facilitated the Peck Community Writing Project. Since the Peck Symposium is all about developing and sustaining community with regional partners, we invited interested participants to share an in-process writing and/or related artifact with a small community of regional writers. Participants mailed a selected writing or creation to their community writing partners, and then reflected on the experience on a postcard. We invite you to view the postcards from the 2021 Peck Community Writing Project in the gallery below.

Thank you for creating, facilitating & even financing such a creative & rewarding experience. Sending notes to new friends & through the mail & not email. This was a joy. - Michael RifenburgThis was a great way to reflect on this year, share some of how I’ve survived throughout (and sometimes even thrived despite!) the pandemic. I was so touched by my pen pals’ thoughtfulness and care—their packages were wonderful pick-me-ups.I’ve been in Zoom overload this semester, as I’m sure we all have, and this opportunity to connect with colleagues in a non-virtual format has been a welcome experience. I hadn’t written snail mail in so long! The format of this event also allowed me to “meet” people who I probably wouldn’t have had the opportunity to do so otherwise. I can’t wait to plant my seeds! 😊 - ElizabethI enjoyed reading the works of my fellow Peck contributors. They were creative and amazing! Reading the poetry and seeing the creative scrapbooking techniques to display those poems really was eye-opening to me and made me want to investigate these creative avenues as well! This was a fun process!Hello! This exchange was such a welcomed breath of fresh air. I looked forward checking [sic] the mail while awaiting my pen pals’ letters. After I received them, I felt connected to people I’ve never met—their stories, poems, photos and more really showed me the interesting ways we manage our lives & profession. Thank you! - Kim LaceyHi, all! First, amazing idea for the “Postal Edition”! I kicked things off with my group with what I call my “Pandemix”, sending my peers a mix CD of music that’s helped me during this tough year(+). (Remember CDs? 😊) The responses I received were wonderful. I received kind letters, a book by Isabel Allende (“The Soul of a Woman”), a list of recipes another peer has enjoyed during the pandemic, and a very kind handwritten letter. Thank you all for this great idea - ALL my best, Jacie CastleIt was an absolute joy to receive the letters from my symposium pen pals. It’s great to connect with people this way, at a slower pace and when I’m feeling up for it. Very much in alignment with ??? time and accessibility. I would love to participate in something like this again! Big thanks to my pen pals & everyone who organized this year’s Peck Symposium. - Liz MillerI only got one letter, but the letter I got was great! It was wonderful to get mail and to meet new people and learn about their research and pandemic experiences. - AmandaI loved hearing from fellow scholars from all over the place! I felt less alone & definitely related to some of the struggles and interests they expressed. I hope to maintain contact. Best, - Michelle CowanIt was wonderful to connect in this way with colleagues from across the country. I heard about favorite novels and plans for future research and scholarly writing—even plans to merge scholarly & creative writing. I read writing from a past grad seminar scholar was returning to and am eager to share venue ideas. It was a joy to share some of my own experimental writing in this space. It felt like an exchange of gifts. Such a welcome break from the pressure of having such judged in typical academic contexts.The Peck-by-Mail symposium was such a treat to participate in! I loved getting packages from the colleagues I was matched with and figuring out what I was going to send. It felt like we were sending care packages to each other—and I definitely have connected with them in ways I wouldn’t have had we just met in person. I loved reading the writings they shared (and wished I’d sent something more personal once I received theirs!). Thank you for facilitating this! - Andrea OlingerThis has been such a rejuvenating and joyous exchange! It’s been so lovely to see what colleagues across the USA are up to! Such brilliant, caring, creative folks out there! - AmieThe 2021 Peck Symposium has been a unique and enjoyable experience. :) I know this sounds very extreme, but I almost forgot how to handwrite things! It was so nice to sit and actually compose a letter—something I have not done in some time. There are more ways to communicate—not just Zoom & email!! Thank you for this amazing opportunity. Warmly, Whitney Adams Berry CollegeDear y’all, This was a lovely experience. Receiving a hand-addressed personal letter is a delightful treat. Delightful treats have been hard to come by this past year, and I am grateful for your organization. It was also difficult handwriting! Writing to strangers who are peers! Introducing myself and saying something interesting! A humbling reminder of student experiences with unfamiliar genres. - Gracias, Alanna FrostThank you for this wonderful idea—I welcomed the anticipation and act of writing and reading the correspondence. I savored opening the letters and reading the words of new friends. Thank you again for making this possible. - Paul WalkerDear friends, Thank you for the opportunity to participate with the Postal Edition of the Peck Symposium. I received a lovely poem, collage and artistic explanation. I love getting mail, so this was heart warming and connected me to colleagues (new) in a touching and thoughtful way. I got my packages in the mail later than I’d hoped, but enjoyed the process of putting together packages just the same. This was a wonderful idea and I hope to participate again. - Warmly, Karen TrujilloWhat I enjoyed the most about this exercise was connecting with other academics, but having a space where I wasn’t necessarily required to write academically. Thank you! - HeidiThe pen pal style embodied in this year’s symposium was so innovative! It really showed how we can still gain enjoyment from the simple things in life. Solely relying on the postal system, and no technology (or minimal), for communicative purposes allowed me to be more thoughtful and intentional in deciding what to share with my peers. Although invisible in many ways, I could still feel the warmth of community as I received my packages and I deeply think that that is a feeling that we all long for and graciously cherish, in these times. Thank you for giving me that. 😊April 1, 2021 I had to miss the 2020 Peck Symposium (the first I’d missed since 2009!) to care for my sick son, so after that I was really looking forward to gathering in person again to learn from & catch up with friends & colleagues old and new. Even though we couldn’t meet in person this year, the emails from Amie & mailer w/the seed packet & post-its was a welcomed reminder that this community is still out there, supporting & encouraging us. The letter from Michael did the same. So glad for the chance to connect, even if only on paper! Thank you! Julie MyattThis was a lovely, low-pressure, bright spot at the end of a dreary winter. Writing about my creative outlets during lockdown made me realize things about myself & my need for creation that I hadn’t explicitly acknowledged before. It feels quaint & warm to write to a pen pal, especially in the midst of social distancing. What a gift! - Madelyn F. DefagoThe postal edition of the symposium came at the perfect time to remind me of the world of community out there and the amazing people who still want to connect, collaborate, and share joy despite (or because of) these uncertainties we face. I feel assured & energized by our community. Thank you all so much!Hope is scarce, the reasons to abandon numerous, but we continue on. Research and writing remind us why we’re here, who we can be, and what we hope to become. Yours gives us a flash of hope in a dark time. Thank you.Dear organizers—This has been a beautiful experience, ushering in spring for me. The letters arrived as the birds began singing & the crocus started popping up here in Pittsburgh, and all of it has worked mysteriously together to energize me, giving me hope and some much-needed joy after a hard time. Thank you for this—for your thoughtfulness, the invitation to be slow and engaged, both. Peace! ShanDear Peck Organizers, As I write this reflection, I am most struck by the powerful connection and intentionality of writing when it is pen to paper. It is incredible how easy it is to forget how the technology of the computer can take away, add to, or rearrange writing on a whim. With the technology of pen to paper, though, I find myself taking more pauses to think things through, with regard to the intention of my writing. I also feel more of a connection to my writing and the recipients of my writing. Knowing the writing came from my warm hand, and will go to the warm hand of another, makes it more connected than traveling over the waves of the Internet. Best, Katie MusickI first heard about the Symposium from a s/o on Rhetoricity, and was eager to participate when I heard it went postal. Reader, I was not disappointed. As a creative contrast to the neoliberal taskmastery I’ve felt pressured into as of late, it was refreshingly rewarding to return to a snail’s pace. Having received craft supplies and heartfelt reports from my newly assigned pals, I felt more connected in my sheltered ontology than in a majority of my digital engagements. Even as we return to regular programming and physical assembly, I would be pleased to continue these epistolary links as a pause point to the pace that academia seems to prefer. Thanks for this great experience, y’all! In Kind, Jason MichálekUnfortunately, I did not receive any letters from my pen pals. However, I enjoyed the process of reflecting on my current research and having the opportunity to share. Rebecca Badcock Thanks for the seeds!Peck goes postal! This program has been a very good thing! The feeling of anonymity allowed for a kind of candor I don’t often experience. And I felt brave enough to share creative writing, which has been a new thing for me during the pandemic. And my seeds are sprouting! Literally & (I hope) otherwise! - Monica MillerWhat a wonderful opportunity to connect across the social & geographic distance! There’s something magical about holding an old fashioned snail mail letter in your hands, sharing words with a stranger who may become a friend.Wed. 3-31-2021 Hello! This pen pal experience reinforces the material nature of writing . . . of literally inscribing the world. It has reminded me that making and writing are keenly connected. Even this short note bears the markings of making and of revision. I wish I shared the incredible talents that my pen pals evinced—sending hand-made books, ready to be filled and ready to be read. This experience of sharing my writing was palpably different from working with an editor or with a writing group. This time I shared what I wrote without thinking about “What’s next?” for this piece of writing. Liberating, actually! All best, Ethna LayMy letter writing has been much more consistent over the course of the pandemic than in previous times, & it was lovely to have that extend into my more professional work. I enjoyed catching glimpses of personality & progressing work from my pen pals, and the low-stakes nature of the exchange was refreshing. - B.



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Contact Information

General Education English Director:

Dr. Christopher Weedman
Peck Hall 324

(615) 898-2579