Presenting the speakers at ELTABB

I’ve been volunteering as Events Coordinator for ELTABB e.V., the English Language Teachers’ Association of Berlin-Brandenburg, for the better part of two years now. We have had some wonderful events recently (Andreas Grundtvig, Marjorie Rosenberg). Here’s the line-up of highly respected speakers who will be honoring us with their presence in the coming year: Ian Badger, Nick Bilbrough, Lindsay Clandfield, Rebecca L. Oxford and Penny Ur.


In addition, the EAP Day 2014 is being hosted by the University of Potsdam on 10 May – a collaborative effort between reps of four different local universities and ELTABB. The speakers will be determined in November.



Nepenthe rises above Big Sur, a complex of buildings on the side of the mountain, with a famous restaurant and café. We had blueberries and muffins and coffee that we brought up from a roadside shop that morning, before they opened, and watched the fog lift over the Pacific. Dinner the night before had been very visual, surreal. The mountains smell of wild herbs. A serene place where you just want to stay put.

Down to you, constant stranger

It’s time for some honest self-help. Writing is extremely authoritative, it’s just the writer out there, and that is truly intimidating. It’s a fear of failure, the nightmare of being defenseless before a group of hostile assessors. I can hear their sneering voices in my dreams, and wake up mumbling “give me a break”.

I thought writing a coursebook was done by a big cohort. It is, but not the way I thought. The author does the writing, and then in comes everyone else to do their bit, like giving feedback on whether they would use it with their classes, or following up on photo rights.

Feeling trapped in this situation, I’m frustrated about myself and quickly aggressive towards others. My instinct is to build a cave inside this trap, to take shelter and lock everyone and everything out. Take command of the key.

I made a pact with Helmut this morning: When he comes back, this unit will be finished. It’s down to you, constant stranger.

Oops, 10:30. Back to work.

Writer’s block

How do you overcome writer’s block? I didn’t think it would happen to me, but here I am, stuck. The method that helped me before, writing every new bit as if it was a scene that can stand alone,  is not working. I have ideas, but they’re not connected, they’re loosely strewn across the floor, and I can’t string them together. I feel ridiculous, staring at them.

When I do arrange them in sequence, there is no inner logic. Then I’ll lose myself in a detail, until, hours later, I realize I’ve followed a false bend. What a mess.


So much has changed since Helmut and I came here from Munich three years ago. We’ve moved twice, and in the new year we’ll be moving again. Three moves in as many years. Just a month ago we were sitting on the shore in San Francisco wishing for a real home. San Francisco felt so right. Something encouraging about the rolling ocean, and the general upbeat friendliness we encountered. The new place, which is very Berlin but also very different from what we’ve known so far, I hope will be a peaceful and productive environment for things to fall into place.

Every move means pulling up roots, putting them down again, new neighbors, changing routines, solving mundane details of daily life. The perspective of disruption has come in a period of excessive time pressure. Now I’m worried that I’ve lost concentration, energy and momentum to the extent that I won’t be able to finish the old project in time to begin the new. Shelter and regroup.


My overall time management has gone off in my writing project. What I have noticed lately is that I assume too much. Assume has two meanings:

  • to think without knowing for a fact
  • to take on as a job, task or role

I do too much of both. To handle the crisis I’m in, I have to do more, not less, first. Focus.