Breaking Down the Narrative Essay Assignment

WRITING CENTER UNDERGROUND

narrative-writing-1-728

One of the most common writing assignments in introductory English Composition classes is the narrative essay. Students are often very familiar with writing an academic essay, such as a classical argument, but when asked to compose a narrative story, many students are flummoxed. It’s true that narrative writing is a different kind of writing than academic prose, but it’s still writing. Once you understand the parts that make up the whole, composing a winning narrative will be a piece of cake. For our purposes, we’ll focus on a typical Comp I assignment for a short 4-6 page narrative essay.

The Event

Most writing assignments ask that you focus on a very small moment in time to make the essay manageable. Trying to write about your entire high school career, a four-year span of time, is too large to cover thoroughly in 4-6 pages. So pick a specific moment in time…

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Actively Writing: Experimentation as a Way to Improve the Writing Process

UofL Writing Center

As writers, we often struggle with what to do with a paper after we have finished saying all that we want to say. This stage can happen at any point in the writing process, from having 3 pages done and needing 5, to needing a conclusion, to just hitting a dead end with the paper. This moment, commonly referred to as writer’s block, is quite infuriating. However, one of the best ways to combat this moment is by redefining how you see writing.

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Most people see writing as a solitary act, one where the writer is stoically sitting for hours on end in front of a computer, unmoving except for one’s fingers across the keyboard. There has been a new emphasis on collaboration as part of the process today, which makes writing slightly more active, but not by much. However, what I wish to propose with this piece is…

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Weaving Stories: Women’s History Month 2015

On Monday, March 9, the TAMUK Undergraduate Writing Center will celebrate Women’s History Month 2015 with two events: a free narrative writing workshop for students interested in telling the stories of the women in their lives, hosted from 10am-noon in the UWC, followed by a free poetry reading by Dr. Cathy Downs of the TAMUK Language & Literature Department from 1-2pm in the SUB, Room 221A&B. 

Students’ narratives will be collected together in a paperback volume which will be available for purchase later in the semester. There is no registration for this event; students are welcome to stop in anytime from 10am-noon. For more information, visit our EVENTS page.

My great-grandmother was an amazing seamstress.

She really was. She could quilt; she could sew; she could knit; she could crochet. On my bed at home, I still have one of the quilts she made. I look at it sometimes and remember Grandma’s hands, soft, pale, and wrinkled – large, sturdy hands that raised three children, numerous grandchildren, and even more great-grandchildren before she passed away when I was seven.

Grandma did not have much in the way of education. She could read and write, but she never learned to drive; so far as I know, she never worked outside the home. But did she ever work inside the home. Her made-from-scratch recipes are still the stuff of legend among my family, twenty-eight years on from her passing; no matter how hard the women in my family try to replicate the taste of Grandma’s cooking, we never quite get it exactly right. My mom might come close with her homemade cherry pie, but there was just something about Grandma that made everything she cooked or baked for us extra-special. Maybe it was just how much she loved us. Or maybe it was thousands of hours of practice, all that time women used to spend in the kitchen before mixes and microwaves became the standard.

Cooking wasn’t all Grandma did. I remember her gardening, planting flowers, dusting, mopping, folding laundry, and, of course, crocheting. I also remember sitting on her lap when I was very small and she would read to me.

Grandma loved reading. Her middle name was Daro; I always found this so unusual, and according to my mother, it comes from a book Grandma’s father read when he was a young man – a book I have tried in vain over the years to find, since no one seems to know its title, and I have never come across that name in literature, despite my Ph.D. in English. Perhaps it was having a literary name or a bibliophile father that inspired Grandma’s own love of books, and particularly of poetry. Grandma wrote some amazing poems in her life. When she died, being the bookish one in my family, I inherited her old pink folder of handwritten verses, something I cherish to this day. I like to think it would make Grandma smile to know her poems sit on the shelf in the office of her great-granddaughter, who is now a university professor in the Department of Language and Literature.

Women’s History Month celebrates the lives and contributions of women who have paved the way for greater equality of women of all races, classes, languages, and nationalities. This year, the theme of Women’s History Month is Weaving the Stories of Women’s Lives. Here at the TAMUK Undergraduate Writing Center, we will be celebrating the women in our lives – women like our mothers, grandmothers, sisters, tías, and wives – and the stories they have woven as they have stitched together our families. These women may never be recognized in White House speeches or honored in national ceremonies, but their stories are no less a part of the fabric of our society than the pioneering doctors, educators, historians, writers, artists, and politicians who receive national and international attention for moving forward women’s rights. When I think about my great-grandmother, I remember that for all of us, male and female, women have been the ones behind the scenes weaving the stories of our lives from the beginning. I hope many of you will come out to honor their contributions by stopping by the UWC on Monday, March 9, to write about a woman who has been important in your life.

Dr. Sunny Hawkins, Undergraduate Writing Center Director

Inky Breadcrumbs and the Forgotten Magic of Writing by Hand

EJB Writing Studio

Photo by Erin J. Bernard Photo by Erin J. Bernard

Hey, writer! When was the last time you took a good look at your own hands? I mean, a really, really good long look?

Sure, they’re fluttering in and out of the periphery of vision over the course of any average day, assisting in the picking up and setting down of life’s dull and delightful objects. But, most often, their task feels secondary – to hold up for inspection the things you’ve deemed far more fascinating: smartphones, babies, books, burritos.

There’s little incentive to notice them. And this strikes me as odd. So do it now. Have a good, long gander. What do you see? Look carefully: your hands are miraculous, surprising, ordinary, and, for my money, entirely underappreciated.

You’re in good retroactive company. I’m first writing this by hand, in fact, down here in Mexico, though by the time it reaches its final destination…

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Mashups, Cutups, Crossovers, Powermixes, and Plagiarism (Or, the Conundrum of Using Sources in the Digital Age)

Digital technology makes copying and pasting easy, of course. But that is the least of it. The Internet may also be redefining how students — who came of age with music file-sharing, Wikipedia and Web-linking — understand the concept of authorship and the singularity of any text or image. – Trip Gabriel, The New York Times

Scene: The Undergraduate Writing Center. Characters: Consultant and client. Plot: Client’s paper includes two paragraphs that stand out in Arial font from the rest of the Times New Roman paper. The consultant asks whether the client copied and pasted this material from an outside source.

Client: Yeah. I found that on this website about the death penalty.

Consultant: Okay. Did you…Are you planning on citing that? Like putting quotes around it and showing where it came from?

Client: Do I need to? The page didn’t have an author…

If you are a Writing Consultant (and I assume you are, if you’re reading this blog, or at least someone interested in Writing Centers), you have probably encountered a situation something like our hypothetical scenario above. If you haven’t, I can almost guarantee that at some point, you will.

Most students – and consultants – have heard of “plagiarism.” It’s the big, bad, scary word teachers trot out to remind students of the consequences of using someone else’s words or ideas as your own without giving the appropriate credit, as my syllabus puts it. Those consequences can run the gamut from failing an assignment to failing a class to being expelled from the university. Clearly, academics think plagiarism is a big deal, and we don’t want students to do it.

When I started teaching (and tutoring) college writing in 2001, plagiarism seemed like a simple concept. If you “borrowed” your roommate’s paper from last semester; swapped out your name for hers at the top; and turned it in to your professor as your original work, you had plagiarized. If you bought a paper from a “paper mill,” you had plagiarized. If you copied the text of a scholarly article into your essay and turned it in as though Author X’s words were yours, you had plagiarized.

Then, things started getting complicated. It wasn’t that the definition of plagiarism had changed. It was that youth culture’s understanding of “authorship,” or, as Trip Gabriel of The New York Times says, “the singularity of any text or image” – that any text or image can or should stand on its own, “owned” by a person or an institution, off-limits to anyone else who wants to “borrow” it – had changed.

Most discussions of plagiarism in the digital age point to the ubiquity of illegal downloading and file sharing online, which we academics have been quick to blame for what may seem like students’ blase attitudes toward the cardinal academic sin of PLAGIARISM. Universities spend ridiculous amounts of money on plagiarism policing tools like Safe Assign and TurnItIn, and yes, there are teachers who seem to live for the “thrill of the chase” – catching out that student who has plagiarized so they can bring the full wrath of the almighty institution down on said undergraduate’s head. And probably, in some cases, such wrath has been earned. After all, according to the Council of Writing Program Administrators, one of the reasons students give for making the decision to plagiarize is that they believe there will not be consequences, even if the plagiarism is detected.

Certainly, we don’t want to let students leave our universities operating under the assumption that it is “okay” to plagiarize because nothing will happen to you if you do. Yet blaming digital piracy for plagiarism still seems to me to be treating plagiarism like a crime, and plagiarizers like criminals. It’s as though we cannot escape our tendency as academics to conflate “plagiarizing” with “stealing.” But is it? If I copy the lyrics to a song my roommate wrote and claim them as my own on a track that goes on to sell millions of copies, we could with a straight face call that stealing, I suppose. But if, like the client in the above scenario, I copy and paste the words of a website into my paper for Freshman English 101, turn the paper in, receive an A, and no money whatsoever changes hands, have I “stolen” anything? Have I harmed the economy? Have I damaged, in a tangible way, the author of the website from which I plagiarized?

Rarely do I encounter students or clients who would steal from another person. Even more rarely do students whose intent is to plagiarize (to deliberately claim someone else’s words or ideas as their own) come to the Writing Center. Why would they bother, if they were just going to use what someone else had written and pass it off as their own? It helps here, I believe, to distinguish, as the Council of Writing Program Administrators has, between “plagiarism,” that which is intentional and deliberate, and “misuse of sources,” that which occurs because of a lack of understanding of how to use, cite, and document sources. Furthermore, I want to suggest that we start thinking about the underlying logic of plagiarism, or more accurately the misuse of sources, not in negative, criminalizing terms, but in positive, meaning-making terms:

The adolescents in our classrooms, many of whom were born just as the World Wide Web exploded (or later), regularly use social networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter, as well as blogs, wikis, instant messaging, texting, and YouTube…Today’s children and young adults use these forms of communication to engage in textual and visual production that is collaborative, patched together with pastiche and allusions, and shared in what has been characterized as environments of digital intimacy. – Ebony Elizabeth Thomas and Kelly Sassi, “An Ethical Dilemma: Talking About Plagiarism and Academic Integrity in the Digital Age”

The pastiche, the patchwork, the collage, the collaboration – I cannot but think here of the sorts of meaning-making efforts that have come out of music, itself its own kind of “composition.” When I did a quick Google search for the term “mashup,” I was immediately directed to the Wikipedia page, which defines a “mashup” as “a song or composition created by blending two or more pre-recorded songs, usually by overlaying the vocal track of one song seamlessly over the instrumental track of another.” Interestingly, the entry’s authors go on to say that “to the extent that such works are ‘transformative’ of original content, they may find protection from copyright claims under the ‘fair use’ doctrine of copyright law,” citing the Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Online Video from the American University Center for Social Media as their source.

If copyright law is not being infringed, then a “mashup” (a pastiche; patchwork; collage; or collaboration) is not “stealing” from another artist, so long as the newly-mixed work becomes something unique (“original”) and contributory (“transformative”) through its re-mixing of others’ material. Doesn’t that sound to anyone else like what writers do? We are always building on others’ ideas, others’ research; we internalize grammar, syntax, spelling, and mechanics through reading the prose others have written. Of course mashups aren’t claiming to be “original” in the sense of having been written by an individual artist. The creativity, the transformation, the originality is in how the artist puts what has come before together – in how they collaborate with other texts.

I believe an inter-textual way of looking at use of sources in the digital age could be powerful for student writers, and for writing consultants, for it gives us an ethical basis quite apart from institutionalized consequences that can guide how we use others’ material. Whether an author is cited on a webpage or not, the ethics of intertextual collaboration dictate that we must still credit where words and ideas that are not our own came from. Yet we must do more than cite and document, as well. From the intertextual point of view, the point of writing with research is not to report on what others have said. It is to use what others have said to inform – to re-mix – new, fresh ideas that we, the writer, will combine in fresh, original new ways, transforming what has previously been done, thought, and said into a text that makes its own contribution to the academic conversation, that becomes a text other texts can collaborate with. Whether our text is a paper on the death penalty for Freshman English, a senior thesis on the Healthcare Affordability Act, or a blog post about plagiarism in the Writing Center, our ideas, blended with and striking out from the ideas of others, add a voice to this polyphonic, (inter)textual universe.

So…what do you think? If we taught students to think of writing as a mashup, a cutup, a crossover, or a powermix, would this make a difference in the way students use sources? Feel free to leave some comments below – I welcome ideas from what other consultants and writers think!

Dr. Sunny Hawkins, Undergraduate Writing Center Director

Texas A&M University-Kingsville


References:

Defining and Avoiding Plagiarism: The WPA Statement on Best Practices.” Council of Writing Program Administrators. N.p., Jan. 2003. Web. 21 Feb. 2015.

Gabriel, Trip. “Lines on Plagiarism Blur for Students in Digital Age.” The New York Times. N.p., 01 Aug. 2010. Web. 21 Feb. 2015.

Thomas, Ebony Elizabeth, and Kelly Sassi. “An Ethical Dilemma: Talking About Plagiarism and Academic Integrity in the Digital Age.” English Journal 100.6 (2011): 47-53.

Quick Tips for Organizing your Research Paper

WRITING CENTER UNDERGROUND

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If you’ve ever tried writing a research paper, you know that organizing the masses of information you’ve compiled can be a daunting task. If you’ve waited until the last minute to begin writing the paper (sound like you?) below are some quick tips on how you might put it all together.

Note that there is not one correct way to organize a research paper. The most important thing to consider is first your assignment guidelines. Does your instructor ask you to place your thesis at the conclusion of the introduction, or wait until you’ve set up your points of argument? Do the requirements call for a pro/con paper, a problem/solution, or another type of format? Is your audience hostile or sympathetic to your position? Although these are questions you might want to consider before you move forward, below is a basic formula for organizing the classical argument.

Title

Don’t discount…

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Remembering Sarah

This post is a departure from the usual here at The Culture of Writing, but it seems necessary to pay tribute to a Writing Center colleague we lost much too soon just a few short weeks ago.

One of my great privileges as a Writing Center Director is to get to know the amazing young people who wish to work in peer tutoring environments. Every semester, I have those students who apply for a position with the WC thinking it’s going to be an easy gig – they’ll correct a few comma splices, do their homework during downtime, hang out where the cookies and music live (because, let’s face it, cookies and music are the lifeblood of a Writing Center). As I interview prospective Writing Consultants, it’s difficult to put into words what I’m looking for. Enthusiasm, sure. Impressive GPA, of course. Solid faculty recommendations, no doubt.

But there has to be something else, as well. A spark, I suppose you could call it. A coming-to-life in the eyes and voice when I ask, Why do you want to work with other writers? 

There is no right answer to this question. Some Writing Consultants tell about their own horror stories in first-year writing classes, struggling to make the transition from high school to college writing until some kindly writing instructor (or tutor) took them in hand and helped them see what was expected of their writing at this level. Others talk about a passion for writing itself, a love of the written word, a curiosity about the writing process – their own, as well as others’. More than a few say something like, “I just want to help people; I think I could do that here.” Honestly, this may be one of the best, and most honest, answers a Writing Consultant can give.

In the Writing Center, we don’t just deal with papers. We deal with writers: other human beings across the table from us, who bring to us their fears, anxieties, struggles, successes, failures, hopes, and frustrations. We see students right after they have received a failing grade on an essay, when they can hardly look us in the eye for shame and disappointment; we see others right after they have walked out of a terrific class period, exuberant about their next assignment and unable to wait to get their ideas down on paper. Every Writing Center consultation is a negotiation of this human interaction, a one-on-one meeting of the minds that makes it impossible not to connect with our clients as unique, complicated human beings.

I have often said, then, that Writing Consultants don’t need an extensive knowledge of grammar; a god-like command of APA, MLA, and Chicago Style citation; or the most sophisticated writing process ever. What Consultants need is compassion, an ethical commitment to helping this person with whatever writing issue, good or bad, has brought them into the Center at this moment.

Sarah Dowker had that. It was never my privilege to supervise Sarah in the Writing Center at the University of Southern Indiana; I knew Sarah instead as a graduate student in the Master of Arts in English Program there. Yet I heard Sarah often connect what she was learning in our graduate class with the work she had done in the Writing Center. Her concern for and commitment to her clients – especially those whose first language was not English, who were often far from home in an unfamiliar country pursuing their educations – infused her with a desire to be the kind of educator who would help students find their voices. Sarah wanted to show students how writing could make a difference in their lives, and by extension, allow them to make a difference in their professions and communities. Sarah believed in the power of literacy. Sarah cared. 

The tragedy of Sarah’s death reverberates far beyond the walls of the Writing Center in which she worked. The loss is of course felt most acutely by her friends and family. But for those of us who knew her as a student and a colleague, the loss is still profound. I feel it most when I think of all the lives Sarah would have touched throughout her career. I imagine the Writing Center she would have directed; the students who would have sat in her classrooms; the school-community partnerships she would have established; the Writing Center conferences we would have attended together, sharing our research and our stories, and my heart aches for the loss of all that possibility, all that bright potential.

Still, I think it is important to remember that while she was here, Sarah did touch lives. Her life was not in vain. The work she did mattered, and continues to matter to those of us who knew her professionally. So I dedicate this post to her memory, and to her family, which, for her, was the most important thing in the world.

Dr. Sunny Hawkins

Undergraduate Writing Center Director

http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/perrycountynews/obituary.aspx?n=sarah-dowker&pid=174056691&fhid=16643

Identity, Difference, and the Writing Center Conference

“The self is only a threshold, a door, a becoming between two multiplicities.” – Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari

For International Writing Centers Week Day #5, I am posting today about the research project currently underway in our Undergraduate Writing Center.

I remember my dissertation director, back when I was a doctoral student, suggesting that I find a title for my research project before I delved into scripting out the methodology. This turned out to be excellent writing – and thinking – advice; knowing the title gives a shape to my project, keeps me focused when I could get lost in the minutiae of planning out an “empirical” (systematic, field-based) research project. Thus, for the project I am proposing to undertake with a co-researcher this fall, I have come up with the title “Between Two Multiplicities”: An Ethnographic Study of Identity and Difference in the Writing Center Conference.

The title is an obvious reference to the above quote by French philosophers Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari (seriously trippy dudes, if you ever have a long weekend and want to bend your mind around their master work, A Thousand Plateaus). What our research will be interested in is the identity politics of Writing Center conferences. Harry Denny’s fantastic book Facing the Center initially opened my mind to the idea of “identity politics” in the Writing Center:

Wherever I’ve gone in the U.S., I’ve seen writing centers staffed with people in generally privileged positions working with clients who were more often than not first-generation, working-class, or non-traditional students, as likely to be people of color as white….Veiled at every turn – whether the object of concern was a center’s staffing, its clients, administration, mission, philosophy, structure or processes – were bodies in the center, bodies with identities, bodies with faces, politics and implications. 3, 4

Those bodies, “bodies with identities, bodies with faces,” can be easy to overlook in our theorizing about Writing Center work. We can forget that outside the practicum courses and training manuals, what happens in the Writing Center dozens of times a day are human encounters:  one-on-one, face-to-face, live-action conversations between two individuals who bring to their table intersections of race, gender, class, language, age, sexual orientation, nationality, and religion, not to mention the possibility of physical and/or mental disabilities, which combine to make these two “bodies” the somebodies who are engaged in this Writing Center conference.

How do Writing Consultants negotiate these differences? How, for instance, do identity politics come into play when a black, queer, middle-class consultant sits down to tutor a white, straight, working-class client? Does a consultant’s awareness of her “identity” increase as a result of these encounters? Does the malleability, the mutability, the performativity of “identity” become more apparent to consultants as we learn to negotiate the delicate interpersonal balance of talking about writing with another “somebody“?

A larger question I bring to this research is whether our talk about difference needs to happen differently. Deleuze and Guattari theorized that there is no such thing as “the Other” – that our emphasis on what makes us different from one another is only the result of our interpolation into a hegemonic culture that wants us all to see our identities as fixed and static, rather than fluid and dynamic. In other words: There are times when being a queer has greater influence over my sense of self than others; there are times when being a woman more greatly determines my “self-hood” than others; there are times, like now that I have moved to South Texas, when I become acutely aware of my own whiteness, whereas in Indiana, where I lived before, I hardly ever thought about my race. It seems to me that encounters with difference and/or with being different do make us more aware of the intersectionality and constructed-ness of our identities – that this “self” we think of as whole, contained, and unchanging is instead, as Deleuze and Guattari say, only a threshold to a world of multiple, potential selves: white woman, queer woman, working woman.

In the end, every human being on this planet is, at bottom, a human being, regardless of race, class, gender, nationality, language, or religion:

Whether one is rich or poor, educated or illiterate, religious or nonbelieving, man or woman, black, white, or brown, we are all the same. Physically, emotionally, and mentally, we are all equal. We all share basic needs for food, shelter, safety, and love. We all aspire to happiness and we all shun suffering. Each of us has hopes, worries, fears, and dreams. Each of us wants the best for our family and loved ones. We all experience pain when we suffer loss, and joy when we achieve what we seek. On this fundamental level, religion, ethnicity, culture, and language make no difference. – His Holiness the Dalai Lama

One outcome I would like for our research study – which will be conducted in the Writing Center, through observations of writing conferences; interviews with writing consultants; and questionnaires completed by consultants, a mixture of qualitative and quantitative methodologies – is to theorize a new way of thinking about identity and difference that foregrounds the fluidity of identity and the connections, rather than the divisions, between people of different races, classes, genders, religions, etc. As all Writing Consultants know, connecting with a client is paramount to helping him or her become a better writer. Would we not perhaps also become better human beings if we learned how to use these connections across borders, across boundaries in all walks of life, as well as in the Writing Center?

Dr. Sunny Hawkins, Undergraduate Writing Center Director


References:

Dalai Lama XIV. Toward a True Kinship of Faiths: How the World’s Religions Can Come Together. New York: Harmony, 2011.

Deleuze, Gilles, and Felix Guattari. A Thousand Plateaus. Trans. Brian Massumi. London: Continuum, 1988.

Denny, Harry C. Facing the Center: Toward an Identity Politics of One-to-One Mentoring. Logan, Utah: Utah State U.P., 2010. Print.

(Re)Defining the Writing Center

dictionary addition (SOLD)

“The new writing center, far from marking the end of an era, is the embodiment, the epitome, of a new one. It represents the marriage of what are arguably the two most powerful contemporary perspectives on teaching writing: first, that writing is most usefully viewed as a process; and second, that writing curricula need to be student-centered. This new writing center, then, defines its province not in terms of some curriculum, but in terms of the writers it serves.” – Stephen North, “The Idea of a Writing Center,” 438

Should you happen to be in the business of Writing Centers, the above quote is likely familiar to you. Should you not be, let me mention that North’s “The Idea of a Writing Center” was published in the journal College English in 1984. The “new” Writing Center he speaks of surely cannot be “new” anymore, can it?

That all depends on how we define “new.”

It may be 2015, but I would be willing to wager that in many classrooms – and not just writing classrooms – students still encounter instruction focused on products rather than processes – i.e., the outcomes of high-stakes testing, rather than the struggles to learn and apply knowledge students have been going through. Teaching too often becomes about teaching material, when what really matters is not the material itself but the students being taught, students who will learn in different ways, at different paces, for different purposes. Even in writing classrooms, although instructors may talk about (and even purport to teach) writing as a process, more often than not what gets focused on is the product any writer produces. The reason for this is understandable. Papers can be graded. Processes cannot.

In the Writing Center, primarily because we don’t hand out grades, we are free to do the opposite. “In a writing center,” North says, “the object is to make sure that writers, and not necessarily their texts, are what get changed by instruction. In axiom form it goes like this: Our job is to produce better writers, not better writing. Any given project – a class assignment, a law school application letter, an encyclopedia entry, a dissertation proposal – is for the writer the prime, often the exclusive concern. That particular text, its success or failure, is what brings them to talk to us in the first place. In the center, though, we look beyond or through that particular project, that particular text, and see it as an occasion for addressing our primary concern, the process by which it is produced” (438).

For International Writing Centers Week, which begins today (woo-hoo!), the International Writing Center Association asked Writing Centers to define what it is that we do – what a writing center is. I would say, quite simply, that a Writing Center is a place for writers to come and talk about their writing with a person who has been trained to talk about writing; who is a writer her- or himself; and who cares about the writer, more than her or his writing, improving based on the Writing Center session. Our job, as North says, is “to interfere, to get in the way, to participate in ways that will leave the ‘ritual’ [of writing] itself forever altered”; to “not only listen but draw [writers] out, ask them questions they would not think to ask themselves” (439-440).

So, what is a Writing Center? To us, it is a place where the writer is what is central, where we are willing to meet a writer wherever she or he happens to be, without expecting certain standards of proficiency based on whether one is a freshman, sophomore, junior, or senior, an English, Biology, Engineering, or Philosophy major. As Writing Consultants, our job is to get to know each writer as an individual, to engage him or her in a conversation about his or her unique writing process in ways that will resonate far beyond the writing consultation. In that sense, I suppose, a Writing Center can never be defined. We are something new, something necessary, for every writer who walks through our doors.

Dr. Sunny Hawkins, UWC Director

sunny.hawkins@tamuk.edu


Reference:

North, Stephen. “The Idea of a Writing Center.” College English 46.5 (Sep. 1984): 433-446. Print.

Please Allow Me to Introduce Myself

I should apologize for the Rolling Stones reference in the title of this blog. If you spend the rest of your day with those song lyrics running through your head, you have me to thank for it.

This post, our first ever for the Undergraduate Writing Center at Texas A&M-Kingsville, is one of many “introductions to the Writing Center” I have put together over the last three weeks. One thing they don’t tell you when you become a Writing Center Director: wear comfortable shoes. According to the Walkmeter app on my iPhone, I literally walked six miles around campus the day before yesterday, working my way from building to building, classroom to classroom, trying to put a “face” on the Writing Center as I introduce our services to classes across campus.

Of course, introductions work both ways. In visiting classes, chatting with folks in the Student Union, sitting in on faculty meetings, etcetera, etcetera, I am also being introduced to all of you, the students, faculty, and staff who make up this university. I have met some very interesting people this week, from a returning student and veteran who let me pet his beautiful service dog, Titan, while I was filling up on my daily dose of Starbucks, to the young woman who let me lean on her while I was walking out a cramp after my early morning run. I was embarrassed, but she assured me it was no problem. Turns out she wants to work in sports medicine.

There are so many other stories I could tell, about my Writing Consultants, or my colleagues, or the wonderful administrative support staff here at TAMUK. My point is that at every turn since my arrival in South Texas a little over one month ago, all sorts of individuals have gone out of their way to make me feel welcome. I wanted to use this first blog post for the UWC to express my gratitude for that. (And also to express my horror at learning this morning that you have alligators in Kingsville. Alligators.)

We have some exciting plans for the UWC this semester. What you can expect to find on this blog are reflections from Writing Consultants, as well as from me, Dr. Sunny, about the process and challenges of writing; the work of Writing Center folks (who tend to be pretty groovy, just so you know); and the culture of living and writing on our campus here in Kingsville. I invite you to subscribe to the blog; to follow us on Twitter @tamuk_uwc; or to visit our website, www.tamuk.edu/writingcenter. Better yet, just come by and see us – we are on the second floor of Jernigan Library. Blessed be!

Dr. Sunny Hawkins

Associate Professor, Language and Literature

UWC Director

sunny.hawkins@tamuk.edu