Writing the way to social change

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Learning to talk about social issues is one of the first steps to writing about them. Writing as a means for social change was the continuous discussion over a two-day conference to promote a way for individuals to make a positive difference and start conversations about sensitive topics.

Held Nov. 12-13 the fourth annual Writing for Social Change conference offered several panels, lectures and workshops designed to help attendees understand the need for social change in various situations and how to address these situations through writing. Several of the presenters were students. This offered them the invaluable experience of being able to share their ideas and be heard by an audience.

“Language shapes us,” said Amanda Steele in her presentation on gender equality. “We cannot express feelings or identities that we do not have words for.”

Many of the panel sessions focused on the intricacies of writing and how to handle social issues in a tactful manner while still opening up a discussion. In a session dealing with the language of social change students Steele, Isabella Jack and Shea Haskell presented their papers dealing with different areas of language and how each pertains to making social changes.

Multiple topics were covered throughout the conference, including religious traditions, mental health awareness, learning the language of social change, gender issues and international communities. Additional highlights for the conference included a keynote address by Diane Raptosh and a screening of a short documentary directed by Torben Bernhard, “Transmormon.”

In Jack’s presentation, she addressed the concern of offensive language and topics in a college classroom setting. She argued that society can’t make positive changes if it is unwilling to talk about sensitive topics.

The panels offered attendees an opportunity to ask questions of the presenters to learn more about their stance on a subject or about how each individual can learn to accept others views and bring attention to their own viewpoints.

“You sometimes have to judge it beyond your personal criteria,” said Haskell while addressing these differences.

Steel agreed by saying, “Take the time to connect with people that (sic) are different than you.”

Keynote speaker Diane Raptosh also conducted a session about how poetry can be constructed in a different way than is usually used. The workshop presented students with the opportunity to experiment with creating poems using headlines from different newspapers and magazines. Many of the themes that arose dealt with a variety of social situations and observations of human nature.

“Diane was very helpful and insightful on how vast poetry can be,” said freshman Trennen Rasmussen. “The things we read and see everyday can be used to write poetry aimed at social change.”