Category Archives: down time

Reading Series Announced

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If you’re new to campus, you might not know about the annual reading series hosted by and held at St. Jerome’s at UWaterloo.  This year’s theme is Languages of Home. Visiting writers find language for their personal and cultural homes, revealing how diversely the experience of home can be understood and expressed.


Elizabeth Greene, Friday 20 October 2017, 4:30pm, SJ1 3027
* Her collection, Understories, “is an exploration of things visible mostly to the inner eye and memory, things below the surface. It explores loss, but also recovery through memory and language. Two poems in Understories were short-listed for the Descant/ Winston Collins Prize.”

Raoul Fernandes, Friday 24 November 2017, 4:30pm, SJ1 3027
* His first book of poetry, Transmitter and Receiver, won the Dorothy Livesay Award and the Debut-litzer Prize in 2016 and was a finalist for the Gerald Lampert Memorial Award and the Canadian Authors Association Award for Poetry


Mariam Pirbhai, Friday 12 January 2018, 4:30pm
* Her debut short story collection, Outside People and Other Stories, will be published by Toronto’s Inanna Publications, in fall 2017.

Kate Cayley, Friday 2 February 2018, 4:30pm
* Playwright-in-residence at Tarragon Theatre, her short story collection How You Were Born won the Trillium Book Award.

Liz Howard, Friday 2 March 2018, 4:30pm
* Howard’s debut poetry collection, Infinite Citizen of the Shaking Tent, was shortlisted for the Governor General’s Award, and the Griffin Poetry Prize.

…plus a bonus Spring reading by Sarah Tolmie. Stay tuned!

Hope to see you at the readings. The readings are free and all are welcome, so please spread the word!

For updates see the reading series website.

We acknowledge the support of the Canada Council for the Arts, which last year invested $153 million to bring the arts to Canadians throughout the country. Nous remercions le Conseil des arts du Canada de son soutien. L’an dernier, le Conseil a investi 153 millions de dollars pour mettre de l’art dans la vie des Canadiennes et des Canadiens de tout le pays.


What Professor Mom wants you to know, part 1

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In the countdown to orientation week, many parents are contemplating just what to say to their children who are entering first year. English’s own Dr. Frankie Condon is no different. Read on for what a professor wants her children to know as they head to university. –JLH

Dr. Mom’s Tips for Success in University


Go to class (duh!) and do the assigned reading before class (duh!). If there’s a pop quiz, you’ll be ready. Class discussion, you’ll be ready. Preparing for exams, you’ll be ready.


Sit in one of the front two rows every day in class. And…check out which hand your professor writes with. Choose a seat on the opposite side of your professor’s writing hand when she’s turned toward away from students and toward the white board, black board or screen. I’m not kidding! Really do this!


No matter how hard it may be at first, put your phone away during class! Keep your head up and your mind alert. Believe me! Your professors will see you on your phone and may well infer (based on experience) that your mind is elsewhere, that you don’t care about their subject or about the learning you and your classmates might accomplish. Stay awake, interested, alert to learning.


If you are handed a syllabus at the beginning of the semester, put it in your binder ASAP. If your syllabus is online, print it and put it in your binder ASAP. Then, go to what will probably be the final page of the syllabus for the class schedule. Put every due date for every assignment into your agenda ASAP. For every due date, consider how long it will take you to complete that assignment (be generous and add time for procrastinating cuz, well, you know). Put start dates for each assignment into your agenda. If you are given handouts in class, put them in your binder (in other words, don’t lose shit cuz it annoys your professors and suggests that you don’t care or that you’re careless).


Raise your hand to ask a question or to contribute to class discussion at least once during each class meeting. If your class is having a difficult discussion about race or gender or sexual orientation or religion or war, BE BRAVE. If you hear something that troubles you, ask why or how your classmates or your teacher came to think or believe in the ways they do. BE BRAVE! Tell your classmates and your teacher how you have come to think and believe as you do. Link your comments and questions to the readings you’ve done for class or on your own. BE BRAVE. Share the contents of your mind and the processes of your learning with your teacher and your classmates, no matter what the subject.


University is a great time and place to imagine all the things you might do and become. Practice seeing the world and yourself from new vantage points. Whether you are in class or on the ice, demand the best of yourself, give the best of yourself, and open yourself to the learning that becomes possible when you risk failure by pushing yourself beyond what you know you are and can do. Go to the outside edges of what you know and see what you can learn from there.


If you are the student who shows up consistently, who is prepared for class consistently, whose written assignments demonstrate thoughtfulness, engagement, and care, then you are probably the student who can ask for an extension or extra help and get a positive response.


If you already knew everything you’re going to university to learn, you wouldn’t need university at all. Ask questions. Go to every one of your professors’ office hours at least once during the term. Talk with your professors about what interests you in their class, about the things that make you curious. Share your interests with your professors and ask about their interests too. You will learn so much more in such conversations than you will ever learn by merely going to class. If you need help to understand something you’re being taught, ask for it. Your professors’ jobs include providing this support to you. Just remember, the better the question you ask, the fuller the answer you’ll get. Do the reading, review your notes, do a bit of research on your own then explain to your professor what you’ve done to try to find the answer on your own. Trust me, they’ll be impressed and they’ll want to help you.


Everything you do – from processing your course readings to all of the writing you produce in university – will be better for having a dialogue about them. And writing centres are awesome places to work when you’re a student!


Don’t always look for the folks who look like you, talk like you, think like you. BE BOLD! Reach out to folks who are different from you. And reach out to those who may need care. BE KIND! Seize the opportunity to grow your soul and your mind by coming to know all kinds of people, by heeding your upbringing and your intuition, and by thinking about who you want to be in this world and bringing the best you can imagine of yourself to every relationship you make.


University can be stressful. There will be times when you doubt yourself, wonder if you can succeed or achieve your dreams or make your family and friends proud. Whatever your fear or worry, whatever your failure, whatever your sorrow, reach out. Go to the gym regularly before during and after your season. Sleep! But also, and most importantly, talk to your family, talk to your friends, talk to a counsellor or to a professor you trust. Never allow yourself to believe that success means going it alone. Reach out and know that you are loved!



Summer reading: or, trapping a nine-year-old

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It must be that point in the summer when children are driving parents a little crazy; I am constantly asked “what are your children reading?” We have a secret: we trap our children places where there is little to do except pick raspberries, build sandcastles, and read whatever books are around. Notably, we bring the first book from series my nine-year old has refused to read at home. Inevitably, he picks one up, reads it, and then wants to know why I didn’t pack the rest of the series–pretty much guaranteeing more reading will happen upon return. Here are some of the top successes:

Percy Jackson. I asked the students in UWaterloo’s Harry Potter class what series they liked best after Rowling’s, and Rick Riordan’s series won hands down. My son read the first book in February on an island; he couldn’t wait to get home and find out what happened next. Bonus: he now knows Greek mythology inside out.

Artemis Fowl: A generation was raised on the tales of this boy criminal.

The Name of this Book is Secret: I read the first two pages aloud, and then it was snatched from my hands so it could be consumed more quickly.

The Land of Stories: I admit, this one was introduced by my son’s teacher. But every time he sees one in a bookstore, he raves about it. All I know is the author was on Glee.

Tuesdays at the Castle: Plucky heroine, animated castle, and adventure; it’s a bestselling series for a reason.

Mrs. Smith’s Spy School for Girls: Online reviewers report girls are devouring this book. It is incredibly satisfying.

Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library: author Chris Grabenstein manages to write adventure novels about reading and books. He has collaborated with James Patterson who has also proved a hit with a trapped child.

Capture the Flag: this is the first in a series by Kate Messner. It is very American in orientation, but it’s also one of the few middle grade adventure series that features a black male child as a protagonist.

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Lumberjanes: A graphic novel series set in Miss Qiunzella Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet’s Camp for Hardcore Lady Types. Wins for the catch phrase “What the Joan Jett?” and references to other female figures of note.

Neil Flambe Capers: One would think murder mysteries for children featuring a tween chef would be a hard sell—but apparently they have just the right mixture of wit and adventure.

Spy School: Booklist writes of Stuart Gibbs’ series “This romp is a great choice for reluctant readers of either gender.”

Lemony Snickett: Familiar to most—I tried to find them second hand since they do seem to be quick reads.

Look Out for the Fitzgerald-Trouts: There are only two books in the series so far by Canadian author Esta Spalding, but they’ve been well received. Children in a blended family living on a tropical island + hijinks = The New York Times gave it a positive review.

Eva Ibbotson: Ibbotson hasn’t penned a series, but her books have been such hits that more have been requested.  The Secret of Platform 13, Dial-a-Ghost, and Monster Mission were all massive hits.

Galaxy Games: The first book in the trilogy is split between Nevada, Japan, and outer space. Finding light-hearted middle-school summer reading with ethnically diverse protagonists can be challenging, but this is great fun, if difficult to track down.

The Creature Department: Buzzfeed described the first book as “a bit like if you took Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Monsters Inc. and shoved them in a TARDIS.”

Rita Williams-Garcia: I’ll admit, the first book in her award-winning series hasn’t been cracked yet. But we still have time this summer!

Alumna on unicorns

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If one of our UWaterloo English PhD graduates is interviewed in a national newspaper about unicorns, there is no way I’m not going to post about it. So yes, UWaterloo PhD alumna Dr. Isabel Pedersen, Canada Research Chair of digital life, media, and culture at University of Ontario Institute of Technology, was asked by the Toronto Star to talk about unicorns in popular culture, and she did.

U2 licenses alumnus’s work

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This is probably one of the more unusual Words in Place posts. It appears U2 (yes, that U2, with Bono) has licensed the work of UWaterloo English alumnus George Elliott Clarke, in advance of their upcoming Vancouver concert. Clarke, as you may recall, is currently poet laureate of Canada. As reported by Quill & Quire, they will feature “Ain’t You Scared of the Sacred?: A Spiritual” and “Elegy for Leonard Cohen.”

Counselling Resources on Campus and in Waterloo

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This week has been a difficult one for many in the UWaterloo community, following the death of a student. There have been many conversations in hallways, classrooms, and online spaces about how we can support–and better support–our students and community members. While this is not meant to be definitive or close down discussions about future initiatives and improvements, I do want to flag current counselling resources on campus and in Waterloo and urge those in need to access them, and/or encourage others to access them. These resources are from the UW Counselling webpage.


 UW Counselling Services 519-888-4567, x32655
Crisis Clinic Grand River Hospital 519-742-3611
Good2Talk 1-866-925-5454 or 211
Health Services 519-888-4096
Here 24/7 1-844-437-3247
Kitchener-Waterloo Distress Line 519-745-1166
Kitchener-Waterloo Sexual Assault

Support Centre (24/7)

Mental Health 519-888-4567, x31976
Telecare Distress Line Cambridge 519-658-5455
Mobile Crisis Team (24/7) 519-744-1813
University of Waterloo Police (24/7) 519-888-4911
Waterloo Region Sexual Assault/Domestic Violence  519-749-6994

Other UWaterloo Resources:

MATES (Mentor Assistance Through Education and Support) is a counselling-based, one-to-one peer support program offered by the Federation of Students (FEDs) and UW Counselling Services. MATES provides services to students who are experiencing social difficulties, mental health challenges, and transitional challenges adapting to university life or different cultures. Monday – Friday: 8:30 am – 4:30pm  Located in Counselling Services at Needles Hall (New Expansion – 2nd Floor).

On campus? Call ext 22222
Contact Campus Police for emergency services on campus also at Ext. 84911  OR (519) 888-4911
Away from campus? Call 911

In crisis?
Feel unsafe?
Worried you might hurt yourself or others?

  • Contact someone you trust
  • Go to the nearest hospital or safe place
  • Call a local help line
  • Contact us during regular University of Waterloo hours at Counseling Services, Mental Health, or Health Services, and we’ll try to find local supports to help you
  • See the list of Waterloo Region emergency contacts below
  • If you are out of the country we will do our best to accommodate your communication needs and appointment time requirements. Teleconference, phone etc can be accommodated as necessary.
  • Let us know how we can help


Top Ten Words in Place of 2016

Many of us are still reflecting on the events of 2016, and in that vein I decided it’s not too late to do a round-up of our top ten Words in Place posts published in 2016. This doesn’t mean they necessarily got the most hits; a few older posts have remarkable traction (anything to do with a certain Boy Who Lived, turkeys, Syria, or yoga). But they do represent the most read posts published during the calendar year. Read on to find out which posts had the furthest reach, perused by readers from Australia to Zimbabwe. And once again, thanks to all who participated in Words in Place in 2016.–JLH

  1. Congratulations to our newest PhDs
  1. The tragic hero, Twitter, and a teach-a-thon?
  1. Welcoming Dr. Vershawn Young to English
  1. English alum Rupi Kaur makes top seller list
  1. Using his degree at Microsoft: Alumnus Richard Lander
  1. How did Brittany Rossler’s MA jumpstart her career?
  1. A new book on Antiracist Pedagogy from our faculty
  1. Alumna Airlie Heung: where did her MA take her?
  1. An English MA by co-op?
  1. Rigel Nadaf: undergrad and onward!