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MWIS Newsletter


Reflections of a First-Time Materials Writer


Article published in TESOL's Material Writers Interest Section March 2010 Volume 23 Number 1.


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I joined TESOL about 2 years ago after speaking to former TESOL President Jun Liu a number of times. He convinced me it would be a good thing to do for my personal development. When it came to looking for an interest group inside the TESOL organization I thought I would join the Materials Writers Interest Section as it was something that I wanted to try but hadn’t the faintest idea of how to go about it.

I was very lucky in regard to the timing of joining this organization because the (mwis-l) forum on the Internet was in full throttle discussing rates of pay for freelance writers, how to get published, submitting an ESL proposal, favorite ESL publishers, and first refusal and noncomplete clauses, among other topics.

Very quickly, I found myself up to speed on the latest developments and gaining confidence as I built up a sound base from which to work. I didn’t have anything to add to the discussions that were going on and felt a bit like a fish out of water; however, I did write in and thank everyone for their contributions because I believed that they were very helpful. Someone even replied, “That’s what MWIS is all about. Welcome Steve,” which made me feel right at home.

There are also many articles from the MWIS Newsletter that can help someone like me starting out. They give a clear picture of some of the pitfalls that people can fall into and areas for concern. There is obviously a lot of encouragement from people within the group, which gives confidence to those who are starting out. There is even a free TESOL resource paper called “Negotiating ESL/ELT Publishing Contracts.”

My opportunity to start materials writing, apart from in my own classroom, that is, came when I was lucky enough to present at the CamTESOL conference in Phnom Penh. My presentation subject concerned a government course that I had developed at Udon Thani Rajabhat University in northeastern Thailand called English for Future Careers. It involves the students writing a résumé and a cover letter as well as taking part in a simulated interview.

The majority of students that I teach in this course are mechanical technology students. Their level of English language proficiency is very low and the possibility of them actually using English to find work very doubtful. I was careful to incorporate many things that they can do and had done into the coursework, to motivate them during the 16 weeks of the course; otherwise there would be no interest at all.

During my presentation in Cambodia, a representative from a publisher in the audience approached me afterward and asked if I was interested in writing some Web-based materials to accompany a coursebook that they had. I showed an interest and was contacted when I had returned to Thailand, and I was asked to produce five worksheets and five sets of answers/teacher’s notes.

I was sent a contract (which was a lot easier to understand having read what everyone had said in the forum) that detailed the work to be completed and the time frame allowed. I made the time in my already busy schedule and adapted my existing classroom materials to fit the coursebook that they were designed to accompany. This I found particularly difficult as I had to change the style of my materials to fit theirs; however, with some encouragement from my editor, I was able to produce the materials well within the allotted time.

The materials are already on the Web. I found the whole experience very rapid and intense; however, there was a terrific sense of achievement at the end of it. Now I am on the lookout for a project where I can write materials for my own book. It only goes to show how joining a group of fellow professionals can stimulate and motivate someone like myself into action. After all, it’s what MWIS is all about!, Powered by Joomla! and designed by SiteGround web hosting