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Writing into the world: Writing marathons for teaching writing, place, and advocacy

Susan R Martens, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


The writing marathon is a simple, powerful, adaptable writing-in-place activity that sits at the intersection between writing instruction, place-conscious education, and community advocacy. This dissertation explores how marathons benefit teachers and students in a variety of contexts within these three areas. It connects the theory and practice of writing marathons to scholarly work from a range of disciplines, including composition, place studies, ecocriticism, spatial theory, public rhetoric, and community literacy. It also provides examples, resources and strategies designed to help teachers use marathons effectively in their own schools and organizations. Chapter One describes the origin and practice of writing marathons within National Writing Project sites, programs, and classrooms. It explores how marathons help students develop as place-conscious citizens and writers through processes such as sensing, writing, telling, mapping, dwelling, questioning, and acting. Chapter Two examines how writing marathons fit into the work of several existing scholarly disciplines and how marathons might contribute to their pedagogical and intellectual goals. Chapter Three identifies the ways that marathons support the writing process, the development of writers' identity, and writing communities. Chapter Four examines how teachers use marathons to get students out into the world beyond the classroom, improve their powers of attention and observation, explore and map their communities, learn about place through interacting with people, process experiences, and synthesize new knowledge. Chapter Five illustrates how marathons and their pedagogical applications help writers advocate for communities through celebration, invitation, and inquiry and by bearing witness to the stories they encounter. It also explains the important role marathons play in advocating for teachers within professional development contexts and by facilitating their own growth as writers and place-conscious community members. Drawing on marathon writing and experiences from elementary, high school, and college students as well as from their instructors, this project illuminates how marathons can teach writing, place, and advocacy to help people become better writers, better teachers, and more engaged citizens.

Subject Area

Language arts|Teacher education|Rhetoric

Recommended Citation

Martens, Susan R, "Writing into the world: Writing marathons for teaching writing, place, and advocacy" (2013). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3590320.