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Writing Workshop Encourages Latina/o Writers

Aug. 15, 2008

(Dallas) - Fifteen participants gathered Aug. 13-14 at Buckner International in Dallas for a Latina/o Writing Workshop where they were encouraged to claim both their individual and cultural voice.

"We need your stories. You know the helping profession, you know the social work profession, but we need your knowledge and experience in the written form so that others can benefit," said Albert Reyes, president of Buckner Children and Family Services.

"People who have both strong verbal and writing skills shape the conversation. They are the leaders," he said.

The majority of the participants were employees of Buckner International, who gathered from across the state for the event that was jointly presented by the two leading faith and social work journals in the profession: Social Work & Christianity and The Journal of Family and Community Ministry.

The two journals are planning to print parallel issues that focus entirely on "Latino issues written by Latino writers for everyone," said Jon Singletary, editor of the FCM Journal and assistant professor of social work at Baylor. The journal is published by Baylor's Center for Family and Community Ministries in the School of Social Work. SW&C is a publication of the National American Association of Christians in Social Work.

Editorial staff members Mackenzi Huyser from SW&C and Vicki Marsh Kabat from FCM Journal led the workshop with presentations on the differences between academic and narrative articles, APA writing style, literature reviews, and research databases.

Participants had submitted a short essay before the workshop and had several opportunities during the event to work individually or in pairs on their articles. About half plan to develop their essays into academic articles.

Scott Collins, Russ Dilday and Analiz Gonzalez, all from Buckner's Public Relations staff, also talked to the group about profile and feature stories and photography.

"People are often as afraid of writing as they are of public speaking," said Kabat, managing editor of the FCM Journal. "We wanted to get that out on the table and address it. Good narrative writing is good storytelling; the two are not that different and neither are to be feared."

Those interested in writing academic papers were provided information on technical terms, research and citation styles, format, and submission guidelines.

"We are inviting you into an ongoing conversation," said Huyser, assistant editor, associate professor and department chair of social work at Trinity Christian College in Palos Heights, IL. "You want to find out what has already been written on a subject, what the holes are in the literature, and then add something new to that conversation."

Another goal of the workshop was to develop a supportive network of writers to keep one another accountable and encouraged. Several of the participants who attended paired up to continue their work in the coming months.

Three participants from Baylor School of Social Work also attended: one recent MSW graduate, one current MSW student and a licensed social worker on staff.

"You all brought a sense of dignity and appreciation to what we bring to the table. Your words of encouragement and thoughtful advice meant a lot to me," said Kretcha Roldan-Rodriguez, associate director of Baylor's Center for Literacy. "I will forever be grateful."

Laura Cadena, a Baylor alumna in communications and of George W. Truett Theological Seminary, served as a writing mentor and adviser at the workshop.

"I never would have thought I would write an academic article," said Sandra Martinez, director of community ministries for Buckner Children and Family Services. "But Patty [Villareal] and I discovered we have the same topic interest, and so we are going to work together."

"We have been the 'sleeping giant' in the helping profession," said Patty Villareal, community ministry director for Buckner Children and Family Services, and coordinator of the workshop, referring to the Latinos employed by Buckner. "There is no reason Buckner can't take the lead in this."

For more information about the special edition on Latino issues, contact Jon Singletary or David Sherwood, SW&C editor.