Tuesday, September 18, 2012

A Writing Center Epic, and I Need You!

My name is Shawn, and I’m a sophomore in college working on a major in Creative Writing. I’m also a tutor at our writing center here at California University of PA.
I’m currently working on a project for the upcoming NCPTW, and I need your help. I’m asking tutors and directors all over for their response to this question: In your personal experience, how would you describe what a writing center is in fifteen words or less?
By gathering responses from a variety of individuals from a wide range of area, I hope to understand all the different ways that there are to view a writing center and what its role is in a community.
Then, drawing on my experience as a creative writing major, I hope to craft these responses into an epic poem of sorts that will capture all these different perspectives.
So, make your responses as unique and as creative as you wish! Is a writing center like a steamship churning upriver or a hot air balloon gliding through the air? Is it as infectious as a virus, as comforting as an old shoe, as unpredictable and all-knowing as a Magic 8-Ball? It can be anything, as long as it’s the truth.
I would appreciate if all responses could be submitted by Sunday, October 14, 2012. You can post them below, or you can email me directly at ree2266@calu.edu
Thanks and happy writing!

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Role of the Writing Tutor

What role does the tutor play in helping the student learn about her writing?

The role of a tutor is the ultimate multitasker. The tutor gathers information, reviews material, and determines how they can advise the student regarding their work. The tutor and the student work in a collaborative spirit while they both gain a deeper understanding of the writing process. The student leaves with enhanced writing skills and direction on how they plan to finish their project.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

The ‘Write’ Path

Hello . . .  my name is Anthony, and I’m an addict.

Hi, Anthony.

I'm addicted to language, people, social constructs, beef jerky, sports, diet Mountain Dew and Dr. Pepper, other stuff that'll probably kill me or has at least taken minutes, days, weeks off my life. But what won't kill me or weaken me is my job.

I’m a University Writing Center (UWC) consultant at Texas A&M University, and my goal is not to make someone's writing better by using a red pen and speaking in condescending literary jargon. No, in the UWC, none of that pretentious attitude is found, encouraged, or tolerated. Actually, quite the opposite. Using a collaborative approach and c'mon, yes, push it, much like trainers do in a gym, we consultants strive to shape "non-writers" into muscular, healthy writers.

You'll find us in the Bat Cave (aka the consultant lounge), typing away vigorously, aimlessly sometimes, for more reasons than awaiting the chance to untangle essays for English class. We work in a Communications Center, dammit! Got a speech coming up? Need to format a lab report? Been thinking about breaking up with your girlfriend? Chicago Style confuses you too? Thesis got you down? We consultants got your back. 

I wonder if Aggies know they pay a fee each semester for our services?

I'm glad someone pays me, but being a writing consultant is more than a J.O.B; it's the best J.O.B. on campus. I don’t worry about satisfying the egos of athletes. I don’t worry about asking if he wants a drink with his order. I don’t worry if she has the correct parking pass: I worry about what needs to be said and how and for who [sic]. When Aggies hit the proverbial writer’s block and black out, we're their knights in shining armor.

We do more than joust and slay dragons and chase damsels: we harvest thoughts—thoughts waiting to be picked from a field as vast as you imagine. A farmers market somewhere needs your thoughts. More, thoughts are truly ours, unlike a Facebook account, cell phone plans, and, according to President Barack Obama, everything we do! Know this fact and enter into a level of society far more stimulating than espresso shots at Starbucks or Red Bull vodkas at a bar.

Think about it . . . when you're in prison (hypothetical, of course), you own your brain; your body is owned by the state: Cuba! North Korea! But the brain is exclusively yours, and it is a hub from which flows a continuous stream of thoughts. You own the headwaters, so ride the rapids.

Furthermore, on dry land, writing is a snare with which to trap moments of genius that otherwise would dissipate into the polluted sky. Seen something that pisses you off or inspires you? Write about it and tell the best damn story you can. Tuck the essay away and show it to your kids, or your cat and hamster (but not at the same time). Who cares what Dr. Professor Honorable Balloon Hands thinks of your little darlings. Your thoughts are yours. When you learn how to control them, and help others control theirs, you go from Consultant the Gray to Consultant the White. Once you master this invisible language, people will listen, you will matter, and the One Ring will grant you unlimited power.

Frodo will not rescue you, though. But a writing consultant might. I realize we, as part of “academia,” cannot earn our graduation receipts if we tell our professors to piss off. I don’t like it but I get it, and I play along. In fact, part of the game is caring what professors think, so we should encourage our brothas and sistas to visit our-their writing center and get feedback on writing (see writingcenter.tamu.edu).

Professors enjoy reading or else they would not be professors; they read in their sleep, on the toilet even, and they want you to produce something that doesn't waste their precious time. Because, you know, they need to save enough time so they can research bees, God particles, animal genetics, hurricanes, poor people in different countries, human waste, old ships containing treasures (yes, it's true), and other cool or perhaps not-so-interesting crap that most people don’t think about beyond reading about it the NY Times or Yahoo! News .  . . Oh or from listening to celebrities.

Writing is thinking. Writing is divine. Writing is difficult. If writing were easy then everyone would love doing it. Everyone loves easy, but no one enjoys difficult. Have you seen America's Got Talent? . . . Unlike acting like a buffoon in front of a panel of has-beens, writing is supposed to challenge us.

I assume you know writing is freakin' hard; so, if you know writing is freakin' hard then extend a hand to meet a classmate, a partner, a hot girl or guy that you're scared to talk to but want to. Be proactive, be a leader. Help others find that inner voice, their writer’s voice.

We all have a voice down there, somewhere, waiting to escape. Don't be like Fidel Castro or other megalomaniacs. We all want to be heard. So empower! Show off the Self. Find the substance that makes you, you. Share it. Donate it. Begin the quest in the writing center.

Next live chat: working with non-native speakers of English

We had a great live chat yesterday on PeerCentered. Our subject was "Why tutor?" and the conversation ranged from why folks chose to tutor, why they keep tutoring, and what they gain from their work.  No one dared to try A/V, but the texting was still productive and interesting.

For our second live chat of the season we will be talking on the issue of working with non-native speakers of English at institutions where instruction takes place primarily in English.  We will meet a 12:00pm Mountain Daylight Time (2p EDT, 1p CDT, 11a PDT, 7p GMT), once again, in the SLCC Student Writing Center's online space at https://www.slccswc.org/students/tinychat.php .

You don't have to be a peer writing tutor to participate in the discussion, but that's who PeerCentered is primarily for.

See you on October 4!

Your Written Voice Matters: Embracing Writing Language against the Standards of the Academy

In consultations as a tutor, I notice students struggle with their own written language based on the demands of the academy. Many students e...