6th annual Writing Center Summer Institute IWCA
July 12-17, 2009
Temple University
Philadelphia, PA   USA

rebekah's choose your own adventure:

In which you find answers to your questions about the SI and about visiting Philadelphia and in which you discover questions that you didn’t think to ask

I attended the SI last year and was surprised at all it had to offer.  I would much rather write narrative FAQs than talk with people1, but I was able to meet other writing center folks and find time for myself to relax, have a beer, and even sneak back to my room and watch some Project Runway.  There was a nice mixture of group activities and solo work, and I was able to learn about specific issues that interested me with regard to writing center work during the scheduled activities2.  Some people come to the SI with lots of experience, others are just starting out.  There are a number of leaders who are there to meet with participants, discuss ideas, and share stories.  Last year they were very approachable3 and eager to talk shop, and to go and have dinner and drinks.  Be prepared to return with LOADS of materials4, from a binder of readings and activities, to books and great ideas for advertising your center. Are you worried that you don’t have the right number of outfits or worried you may need to recycle clothes during the week?  Have no fear; the SI is an all-casual zone5.  Want to make sure you don’t need to bring along your ceiling fan?  All rooms where the SI sessions will be held are fully air conditioned, so make sure you have “layers” if you tend to get cold.  We can’t regulate the temperature of the rooms, so you may need to do that yourself.  Are you worried about food, and whether the SI will be able to accommodate your dietary needs?  Or maybe you’re a vegetarian?  No problem!  For every lunch, as well as for our opening dinner, there will be a vegetarian option, as well as non-vegetarian options. 

To sum up:  whether you are outgoing and want to meet everyone and create chances for others to meet, talk, and participate in SIGs, or whether you are shy and need some alone time, the SI has a spot for you.

Okay, you’re convinced that the SI fits your personality type.  What about where you’re going to stay?  I live in Philadelphia, and since we’re hosting, I get to stay in my own, fabulous East Kensington three story row house, complete with dog, husband, and three year old (more about him later if you’re looking for activities for your family), but what about you?  Well, I do have one spare bedroom, but most of you will be staying in either 19406, the residential hall on campus, The Conwell Inn, or The Doubletree7.  One location will save you money and give you access to all Temple’s campus has to offer8.  The other will allow you instant access to Center City and the fast-paced Philly life.  Either way, you’ll be able to easily enjoy Philadelphia.  If you’re flying to Philadelphia you can reach either location via public transportation or a local cab9.  If you’ve decided to drive and are staying at 1940 you can park at Temple10 and if you’re staying at the Doubletree you will be able to park in their lot.  Thinking about renting a car?   Unless you want to take a daytrip before or after the SI to somewhere like historic Valley Forge or funky Peddler’s Village, you probably don’t need one. 

You’ve learned about the SI and where you’ll be staying.  Now it’s just the campus and Philadelphia that I need to tell you about.  I’ll save the best for last, so let’s chat about our campus.  Temple University’s Main Campus is located in North Philadelphia about 1.5 miles from Center City.  We have a beautiful campus (pdf campus map) with a number of food trucks, a movie theater, restaurants, a Barnes and Noble, and even a Starbucks if you really need one (but do you REALLY need Starbucks?  Wouldn’t you rather brave coffee from one of the lunch trucks?  I don’t drink coffee, but I’ve heard it’s pretty good).  For those of you who want to know the specifics about the campus, please know that we will make information available at registration.  We do have a fine campus Rec Center and if you are in need of a workout fix you can use the Rec Center11 for $12 for the week.  Do you need to check your email, connect your iPhone, or buy a new book or two for your Kindle 2?  Temple is one of the most connected campuses in the country (we’re ranked 4th) and can service all your computer needs12.  Our campus and conference location is also fully accessible13.  You could probably spend your entire week on campus.  With the restaurants, movie theater, and bookstore you might think you don’t need to leave our little oasis in North Philadelphia, but trust me, there is much more to Philadelphia than Temple University and the SI14.

I know Philadelphia15 is the Birthplace of the Constitution, but I’m sure you’re wondering if there is anything else here besides the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall16.  First, I must admit that I’m not a native Philadelphian.  I’m married to one, but I’m from Minnesota17.  This is important for a number of reasons but all you really need to worry about is that I have had the experience of being a stranger to Philadelphia.  I know what it’s like to move from a city of around 300,000 to one that’s over 1.5 million people.  I’m hoping that those of you with urban anxiety will realize that Philadelphia may be large, but it is very accessible and has something for everyone.  I learned to love it enough to call it home and feel that it is a big city with a small town feel (which can at times be a bit annoying).

First of all, let’s teach you some lingo and talk food.  Philadelphia is known as the City of Neighborhoods18, so you might want to get used to people talking about Center City, Old City, or South Philly.  Next, it’s important to understand that in Philly, we drink soda19.  We also love to eat20.  Last summer in Madison, there was some bragging about ice cream.  We here in Philly think that ice cream is overrated.  What you really need to try is our water ice21.  We also have to brag about soft pretzels and cheesesteaks22. The Reading Terminal Market is within walking distance from the Doubletree and a quick bus or subway ride from campus.  There you’ll find everything from fresh fruit and veggies, to Italian pork sandwiches, to super-rich brownies, to excellent fresh Mexican food.  Remember that if you want that sandwich on a longroll it’s called a hoagie23.  And Philly’s idea of a vacation?  Going “down the shore"24.  There are many more Philly terms, and you can read some here25 (and we’ll be happy to quiz you if you want).

Enough about food.  Getting around Philadelphia is a breeze.  The Subway runs from Center City to Temple’s Main Campus (as well as all throughout the city) and there are a number of buses and cabs that you can take if you need to get somewhere fast.  Once you’re in Center City everything is very walk-able.  The hardest part is trying to decide where to go.  There are so many choices, I don’t know where to start.  Okay, let’s start with one of our most famous “heroes.”  Yes, you can run the Rocky Stairs26 and even scream, “Yo, Adrian!” if you want.  If you are up for a stroll along the river after you check out some art, feel free to walk, bike, run, or rollerblade along the shores of the Schuylkill River27. Madison had a toilet museum, but we have The Mutter Museum which is full of medical oddities. I love the collection of items the doctor pulled out of people’s throats.  Don’t go there on a full stomach.  We also have the Mummers28 and a wonderful Mummer Museum in South Philadelphia.  If you want to travel a little, the Barnes Foundation has one of the largest collection of Impressionist, Post-Impressionist, and early Modern paintings, including a number of Cezanne, Matisse, Renoir and Modigliani. There are also wonderful visits to areas in the city including South Street29 with shops, bars, restaurants, and clubs and the Italian Market30 in South Philadelphia, full of great food and fun people watching.  If you are looking for a good place to drink, Philadelphia has a number of neighborhood brew pubs, bars, and small restaurants specializing in craft brews.  We’ll almost certainly do a pub crawl one night during the SI.  Not into drinking?  There are over 113 AA meetings in Center City alone.  You can be sure to find one that fits your schedule. 

Remember that three year old I mentioned?  If you’re planning on bringing your family to Philadelphia, they’ll have lots to do.  My son’s favorite spot is The Please Touch Museum, which has the piano from “Big”, a carousel, and a full day’s worth of fun.  There’s also the Philadelphia Zoo, Camden Aquarium, Franklin Institute, and the Academy of Natural Sciences.  If you’re really adventuresome you can even ride the Ducks.  Looking for something free?  Smith Playhouse is wonderful as well as the Playground at Franklin Square Park.  Philadelphia has a number of fun neighborhood parks and if you’re looking for something specific and age-appropriate, just ask.

Don’t worry; we’ll make sure to have more information on specific events throughout the week as well as a chance to check out some of what has been mentioned above.  I feel that I’ve been able to cover a number of questions you might have, but if something isn’t answered or if you need some more specific information, feel free to search for the answer on the web (I find wikipedia to be pretty reliable). 



(After your side trip down here, you can use the "back" button in your browser to return to the main text of Rebekah's Choose Your Own Adventure FAQ.)

1. For those of you who care, I’m an INTJ.

2. On Sunday afternoon, July 12, 2009, we'll hold registration in the Tuttleman Learning Center lobby, 1809 North 13th Street, when you can say hello to some of the institute staff, ask questions, and pick up materials and your name tag. The optional Introduction to Writing Center work, (“Writing Centers 101”), which a number of you have expressed interest in, will be held from 1:00 to 3:00 that afternoon, at the Writing Center. We’ll have an opening reception on Sunday evening in an awesome secret location that we will disclose to no one.  At least not yet.
During the week, the Writing Center ‘s main room will be open for informal conversation starting at 8:00 AM, and morning sessions will begin promptly at 8:30. We'll have two different morning sessions, with a substantial break between them. Lunch will be approximately Noon to 1:15. Then there will be two afternoon sessions, ending around 4:00. Some of the sessions will be plenary, on topics of broad interest; at other times, there will be breakout sessions on more specialized topics, with up to four concurrent options. In addition to the formal scheduled sessions, we're hoping that there will be many informal gatherings to keep talking about writing-center issues at various locations across our beautiful campus.  Over lunch, later in the afternoon and on some evenings, we'll encourage participants and leaders to initiate "special-interest groups" --optional informal discussions on any topic you want to keep talking about with interested colleagues. One of the great features of a residential institute--as opposed to a conference--is that conversations can easily keep going over the course of the week, and anyone--participants or leaders--can initiate a special-interest discussion on a topic that interests them. Every morning and afternoon we'll do our best to offer stimulating, engaging sessions on topics of interest.

3. All of the leaders will be in residence throughout the institute and will be attending all of the sessions. During open times in the schedule, they'll be eager to meet individually or with small groups. Or please feel free to invite them to join you for breakfast, coffee, lunch, or dinner.

4. We'll have a materials-exchange table in our main meeting room starting Monday morning. We’ll write to you about what to bring from your Center.  How many copies?  There will be 55 participants plus 10 leaders at the institute.

5. Casual dress--including shorts--is fine. You'll be on a university campus in the summer. We’re declaring a casual zone in the rooms for the SI. For the opening buffet on the evening of the 12th, we'll be in an attractive super secret, password protected location with a gorgeous view of something, so you might want to aim for nice casual that evening, though please don't feel obligated.

6.According to Temple’s Website, 1940, “opened in 1999, offers guests beautiful two-bedroom suites with private bathrooms. Conference guests will appreciate the central air-conditioning, grassy courtyard, fitness room, two recreation rooms, laundry facilities, television lounge, and computer laboratory. Internet access and cable are available in every room.”

7. First, I must admit I’ve never been in The Doubletree in Philadelphia but I’m sure it’s a nice hotel (everything in Philadelphia is nice) and if it’s like any other Doubletree they’ve got those great, warm cookies (yum).  It is located at 237 South Broad Street, 19107 and is easily accessible by bus, subway, and cab.  It’s about 3 miles south of Temple University and the conference location.

8. Visit http://www.temple.edu/about/index.htm for a virtual tour of Temple.

9. Information about getting to campus can be found in the accommodations page of this site.

10. Information about parking can be found in the accommodations page of this site.

11. If you are interested in using the Rec Center, you must pre-register by June 30, 2009 in order to gain access. 

12. If you need wireless access, you will receive a username and password once you register and will have wireless access throughout campus during the week.  Not bringing your laptop?  Not a problem.  You will also have access to computer labs in the Writing Center.

13.If we can help with any accommodations, please let Lori Salem (lsalem@temple.edu), Dan Gallagher (dagallag@temple.edu) or Rebekah Buchanan (rebekahb@temple.edu) know.

14. We’re working on a 5 picks list of restaurants, stores, venues, and more from various members of our staff.  We’re hoping to have that available in both online form before you arrive as well as hard copies when you appear at our doors.

15. Although we would like to assume that everyone has heard of Philadelphia (the Phillies did win the World Series last year and we are the 7th largest city in the United States), for those of you who might need a little more information, Philadelphia is in Eastern Pennsylvania.  It’s about 90 miles south of New York City and 130 miles northwest of Washington, D.C.  Philadelphia is in the Eastern Time Zone of the United States, the same time zone as New York City).

16. If you are coming to Philadelphia early or staying after the SI is complete, Historic Philadelphia has lots to offer.  Located in Old City, you can spend days learning about the history of our city and country by just walking the streets.  To learn more about all you can do in historic Philadelphia, visit http://www.ushistory.org/). 

17. Just for reference, Minnesota is that state that’s above Iowa and left of Wisconsin (both literally and figuratively).

18. Philadelphians talk about their neighborhoods as if they were cities of their own.  This can be quite confusing for folks who are visiting.  (And even for those of us who live here—there are over 200 neighborhoods in the city of Philadelphia.)  Here are some of the major areas of the city you will probably need to know.   Center City is just that, the center of the city.  It is where the Doubletree is located as well as City Hall, major businesses, shopping, and dining.  North Philadelphia is where Temple is located.  It is north of Center City (and some other neighborhoods) and is about a 5-10 minute bus, subway, or cab ride from Center City. Philadelphia was originally laid out on a grid with four parks representing four areas of the city and City Hall in the center.  Though you are free to explore all parts of the city, some of the neighborhoods that are easily accessible and have historic and tourist sites include Old City, South Philadelphia, Rittenhouse, Art Museum, and Fairmount.  You can search for them by name.  Also, ask a local, they’ll tell you their favorite parts of the city.

19. I know; it took me a long time to get used to saying “soda” instead of “pop.”  You folks from the Midwest will just have to rough it out for a week.  Oh, and you people from the South—Coke is a brand name, not a descriptive term for everything.  It’s like calling tissue Kleenex. 

20. Philadelphia is a town with an eclectic food tastes.  From soft pretzels and cheese steaks to five star restaurants, Philadelphians love their food (which might be why we’re ranked the second fattest city in the United States—Houston beats us out).  Although there are a number of restaurants near Temple’s campus, you will find that a short subway, bus, or cab ride will take you to a number of wonderful restaurants throughout the city.  When you register on Sunday afternoon, you’ll receive a copy of the restaurant and coffee-shop guide.  And feel free to ask locals for suggestions--there are wonderful restaurants waiting for you, and we want to help you find them.

21. You really need to taste water ice to get the full understanding, but according to Wikipedia (now you know it’s true), water ice is a “frozen dessert made from either concentrated syrup flavoring or fruit purees. It is not shaved ice that is flavored; rather, it is made using the same process by which ice cream is made: mixing ingredients and pouring them into a batch freezer.”  There are a number of places to get water ice throughout Philadelphia, including the Rita’s shops, which are all over the city, and some of the trucks throughout campus.  Please don’t leave Philadelphia without trying water ice—come on, it’s vegan-friendly.  According to Lori, mango is the best flavor, and lemon is a close second.  The “candy” (bubblegum, etc.) flavors are for chumps.  I myself prefer strawberry or sour apple or the old faithful, cherry.  Dan likes blueberry, but says he really hasn’t come across a flavor of water ice he doesn’t like.

22. My favorite spot is Tony Luke’s in South Philadelphia (but I also only eat chicken cheesesteaks and you can get great ones there).  Jim’s on South Street is my husband’s favorite.  There is also Pat’s and Geno’s which are right across the street from each other in South Philadelphia and are the famous “must-visit” cheesesteak spots for people looking for “authentic” Philly cheesesteak experiences.  Make sure you ask a local about the best way to order a cheesesteak.  For instance, you can get a “steak wiz wit-out” meaning a cheesesteak with cheese whiz but not onions, or a “wiz wit” for one with cheese whiz and fried onions. (See, cheesesteaks are an art.) Oh, if you’re a vegetarian or vegan, there are great vegan cheesesteaks at Govinda’s at 1505 South Street (Broad Street and South Street) or Gianna’s Grille at 507 S. 6th Street (between Lombard and South Streets).  If you ask me, you can get some of the best cheesesteaks at any local pizzeria and you don’t need to bother with Pat’s, Geno’s, or any other “big” name place.

23. Some of you might call these subways, grinders, or sandwiches (or heroes), but in Philly it’s a hoagie (we even have cheesesteak hoagies).

24. If you are coming to Philly early, or leaving after the SI ends you might like to take trip down the shore as well.  Down the shore refers to visits to shore points in New Jersey, such as Ocean City (my favorite), Wildwood, Cape May, and Atlantic City, most of which are under 2 hours away.

25. * “Blue Route” = I-476 between Chester and the Pennsylvania Turnpike.
* “Conshohocken Curve”=Where the Schuylkill Expressway turns from a predominantly eastward direction to a predominantly southward one, across the Schuylkill River from the city of Conshohocken (and speeds slow to near-stopped).
* “The EL”=SEPTA's Market–Frankford Subway, which is elevated for part of its route
* “Iggles”=The Philadelphia Eagles football team
* “Jawn”=Noun that is used in casual conversation to describe any person, place, or especially a thing. The slang term is often pronounced as "jawn" or "jawnt," but is most likely a corruption of the word "joint."
* “Judy Garland Park”= Officially named Schuylkill Park, a well-known outdoor gay cruising area at the edge of Center City, at the Schuylkill River waterfront between Locust and Lombard Streets
* “The Lakes” =FDR Park. Located in the very south end of South Philadelphia.
* “The Linc” = Lincoln Financial Field (Iggles home stadium).
* “LOVE Park”=J.F.K. Plaza, site of the famous "LOVE" sculpture.
* “(The) Main Line”=Affluent suburbs to the Northwest of the city, name for the former Main Line railroad.
* “Pashunk” =Passyunk Avenue, a popular street in South Philadelphia, also known as P’unk Ave
* “The Schuylkill”=The Schuylkill Expressway (I-76) (pronounced "skookil")
* “The Speedline”=Port Authority operated PATCO High Speedline between Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Camden County, New Jersey
* “Wooder” --  water
* “Yo”=A traditional Philadelphia greeting. Or, a way to get someone's attention. Common among all types of Philadelphians, but especially Italian Americans.  Feel free to double or triple it, as in “Yo, yo, Dude.  Wassup?”  Or “Yo,yo, yo, put that down!”
* “Youse”=You all (you plural), you guys.  As in, “Yo, d’youse guys want some wooder?”

26. The Rocky Stairs are in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, which is a wonderful place to visit and has a number of events going on throughout the week including the Cezanne exhibit.  If you have some free time, check it out.

27. Pronounced SKOO-kill, which is Dutch for “Hidden River,” the Schuylkill River is part of Fairmount Park, the largest city park in the country.  There are places to rent bikes and rollerblades as well as places to eat, jog, sit, and enjoy (but don’t go swimming in it).

28. Mummers are loud, drunken, Philly natives who love to dress up in women’s clothing and play instruments (but only on New Year’s Day).

29. South Street is, depending on your point of view, the “hippest” part of the city or the zone for poseurs.  You’ll find storefronts ranging from tattoo parlors to art supply stores to places that sell items designated “for tobacco use only” even though no one uses them for tobacco.

30. It’s an open-air market with lots of fresh food and Italian people.  ‘Nuff said.