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September 30, 2007


So I'm lounging in front of my monitor right now, pumping out a fairly straightforward bit of literary interpretation (Melville's "Bartleby," if you're curious). The word count says I'm at 652, which I'll take for 45 minutes of work. I've done much worse. . . and because I have no attention span to speak of, I'm on the blog again! Great. . . but anyway, a question popped into my head, so I figured I'd toss it to the group: how has consulting for a few weeks changed the way you write essays (or anything else, for that matter)?

Personally, I think I might be operating a bit differently re: strategy in short papers. I can be a long-winded bastard sometimes, which is fine and dandy when I'm off doing my own thing but tends to cause problems on three-page papers. A teacher of mine liked to talk about "insight density"; that is, cramming the most insight possible into each paper. I've always liked that idea, but I've usually applied it to papers that are five pages at a minimum, which gives me room to "get cute" a bit while still getting plenty in the essay.

Since I've had a lot of people coming in to see me from those new 1301/1401 WRIT classes (including, I think, three people on the same assignment) I've been helping people with a lot of shorter papers (like the one I'm supposed to be writing now) and one thing I often encourage is to get to point rapidly and develop it as much as possible. This seems basic, but it's something I'm awful at. I'm starting to think that consulting on shorter papers is making me better at writing them.

Anyone have a similar experience, or am I a tad nutty?

September 28, 2007

what do you get when you cross my inability to focus and a computer?

A blog!

Hai guys,

So I tried posting this blog the other day while attending, but for some reason beyond my comprehension, it never showed up. Basically, I was wondering what everyone is going to be for Halloween. (Of course you'll all be dressing up...right?!) I myself plan on being David Bowie. I've narrowed it down to Ziggy Stardust, or Jareth from The Labyrinth.

Tom's presentation today was interesting, and it got me thinking about topics for my research paper. I still have no idea what I want to focus on. Tom's topic seemed so appropriate; it wasn't too broad, but was broad enough to fill up a 10-12 page requirement. I'm excited to research into something that interests me, but I'm also scared that my topic won't fit in with the assignment. I have to do a lot of thinking before deciding. (I'm quite indecisive, especially when it comes to important things like research paper topics, or what color jacket to buy.) I also found his techniques for gathering information really interesting. I'm assuming that everyone will have their own ways of gathering information, just like we all have a certain style of consulting. (HA HA.) Perhaps that will be part of the fun, finding novel ways of obtaining data. Exciting!

You know what's annoying? (I apologize...unlike Kirsten, I don't have the gift of transitions.)People that talk on their cellphone incessantly, simply because they are on the bus. Come now, there's no need for that. At least not at the volume that I heard. Plus, I don't care to hear that that one girl you knew because she lived on the floor above you last semester got pregnant and her baby is going to be messed up because she does too much crack. I have enough things to think about, I certainly don't need to worry about the next generation through the ramblings of a fourth party. P.S.--you're too loud. Consideration: a little goes a long way.

In other news, I'm covered in charcoal. By this time, it's worked it's way into my heart, soul, lungs, and veins. I AM charcoal now. These, my friends, are the joys of being an art student.

Peace out,

September 27, 2007

Just to make your researching easier....

Thanks to Katie, the consummate writing center researcher, here are those valuable links to start surveying the literature about writing centers:
Writing Centers Research Project
Writing Center Journal Digital Archive
Writing Lab Newsletter
PeerCentered blog

I'm also fan of just visiting our Nicholson 10 library (where you'll find WC books as well as past issues of WCJ and WLN ) or visiting the PE 1404 stack in Wilson library (what ...real books-- not downloadable PDFs?).

What the world needs now is... personal space?

Maggie and I were discussing this today and I thought some class input would be helpful. How close is too close when it comes to relationships with our consultees? For instance, what if they facebook friend you? Are there any good stories about consultees pushing the tutor-tutee relationship too far into the personal zone?

At least I'm doing better than NWA

I no longer feel like a failure at work or life in general. I just wanted to share with the world that as of today, I have TWO frequent fliers. How do you like them apples, Northwest?

September 26, 2007

Wonderful things to hear from students

One thing you all haven't seen yet is the feedback we receive from students about our consulting practice though our online surveys. It's heartening to me to hear the voices of these students, who often express appreciation for what we do in wonderful, smart ways. Thanks to Katie for sharing this lovely comment from a recent student (and huge thanks to Emily H, who received this comment and gave me permission to share with you all):

"My consultant was very helpful in all respects she even helped me expand ideas I had about my topic and was very helpful in giving me great direction without writing or giving me anything. She helped expand my ideas through asking interesting questions."

I was struck by how much this comment resonated with our discussions of Brooks, North, and Harris. Doesn't it express the ideal of Socratic questioning and minimalist tutoring? I recognize, as we discussed, that such methods don't always work, but when they do... geez, how cool.

September 25, 2007

Who're you gonna call??!

1. Candance lent a pair of headphones to two young-lookin boys in the computer lab (their computers were being noisy).
2. Brawl ensues over said pair of headphones.
3. Maggie, attending, fears for the precious imacs surrounding the strife.
4. Candance reminds juveniles that they need to share.
5. Jayashree strolls over, asks if they are students.
6. Response: "Uh...Yeah."
7. Jayashree asks to see their IDs.
8. Younger of the two goes and fiddles with his backpack guiltily and whispers out of the corner of his mouth to the older (but still young) that they need their IDs.
9. Jayashree walks closer to the boys and again asks to see their IDs.
10. "They're...they're in my car...We're PSEO students. We're 17."
11. Younger of the two comes back with the (now broken, from the battle) headphones and asks for another pair.


P.S. Grant you should recruit Jayashree for your SWC security forces.


I am learning two important things at the desk today. 1) Life is boring when we don't blog. 2) People suck. My sunny disposition is fading fast. Even as I am about to blog about rude and annoying lab users, there is a girl on her cell phone. I stared her down and she left. Damn kids.

Anyhow, Katie suggested that I blog about the situation with printing here at the SWS lab. I would venture to guess that I am not the only attendant who finds herself plagued by lab users who print and then don't have money on their cards (or don't have their cards with them, or don't have a card, or don't have a brain...). Given the aversion to more signage expressed in this weekend's emails, I wonder what we can do to ensure that lab users are aware of our printing policies. I also want to make sure that other attendants aren't just letting these would-be free-loaders off the hook and allowing them to take their materials without paying. I don't want to get a reputation as the bad cop in town so back me up on this one people.

New villain for SWS mystery theater

So here I sat, happily attending the front desk, spreading cheer and general goodwill, when I encountered one of the most frightening perils of the Writing Center: the crabby lab user. So this kid rushes in, stalks up to the desk and says "I need to print." With my usual sunny and helpful attitude, I kindly explained to him that he would have to pay with Gopher Gold. [huge, exasperated, rude sigh] "I have a class in five minutes, can't I just pay you cash?" Again, sunnily, helpfully, kindly, with an air of understanding, I tell him no. I thought (hoped?) he was just going to leave in a huff, but instead he went to a computer and printed a paper, ostensibly due in five minutes. By the time he got back to the desk, however, another student had just sneaked in ahead of him to make an appointment. With every question I asked her, every piece of information gathered, he emits another long, painful, extremely rude sigh. Somehow I don't ever picture this guy coming back, but if he does, I think he's a viable suspect for the SWS killings.

What Happens if One is Not a Creative Writer? Sept. 26

The lessons in the style book really helped me think about my own process of drafting and "perfecting" my literarcy autobiography. I have come to realize that my style is not all that creative. In fact, I'd much rather write a research paper and feel more confident about turing in a rough, rough draft of it, even with APA citations if it meant not doing a creative piece! It's not that I don't like creativity. it's just that I'd much rather read it if it came from someone else. I always wondered childrens books would describe the characters, you know the ones like the Fear Sreet and Goosebumps books. The characters like Ann, the girl that lived on Main Street, with the long blonde hair, rosy cheeks that pulls her shawl tight as she steps out on the leaf-covered ground... Haha, that's all good for to read, but as far as me writing it, I've realized that for me to produce this is like pulling teeth! Anway, so my own experience with literacy and draft actually didn't go as bad as I thought. I was having a hard time thinking of an experience to blog about for the first assignment, but after selecting an expereince, I found myself elaborting for the paper. Things went on and after talking with Kirsten, I realized how to keep things on one topic and learn to omitt some aspects that don't really add to the paper. I already had a focus, but because creative writing is a little less formal, I needed more direction. From there, I tried to learn to add in the "active" verbs. Wow, active verbs come more frequently in Spanish, at least in my head! So, I'm sitting in front of my labtop on a few ocassions thinking, "what word to use to make my essay sing?" Well, I don't know if I did it or not, but I'll tell you, I'm proud of my work, maybe even the little mistakes too! It's me, it's my analysis, and I'm stickin' to it. Que bien pa' mi! (Great for me)!

September 24, 2007

Punctuation Stories are pouring in on WCenter

I subscribe to WCenter, the unofficial but widely-used listserv for writing center professionals. Lately, a lot of stories about seemingly random punctuation have been pouring in. Not only are the stories fun to read, but they remind me that writers almost always have reasons for the choices they make. In no particular order, here they are:


I once tutored a student whose punctuation was wildly erratic. Sometimes, it would be right. More often, it would make no sense. I could not discern a pattern, no matter how hard I tried.

Finally I asked her how she determined where to put punctuation. Well, it turned out that she was a graphic design major. That punctuation carried any meaning was news to her--she had believed that punctuation marks were decorative elements, and she had been applying principles of design to her choices of where to put them. Her choices made sense--they were just completely out of context.


I have something of a story, too, but it isn't mine. This was told to me by a colleague at another school. She was teaching research and documentation to a Freshman Comp class. She reviewed the first drafts of their research papers, then returned them for revision.

On one girl's paper, she had written "Too many quotes." When the student turned the final draft in, she had removed all of the quotation marks!


A student athlete I tutored at Sam Houston State University while I was in grad school (remember this was BC [before computers]) put a period at the end of every line whether or not the sentence was complete. The right-hand margin of the paper was a straight line of periods! He said a teacher had taught him to do it that way.


We had a student in the Writing Center whose draft was full of sentence fragments. The tutor asked him to explain why he was ending sentences in mid-thought, and he explained that he'd looked at the sample essays in his text, and calculated the average sentence length to be about 20 words. So he just stuck in a period after every 20th word.


I have another story to add to this collection. Oh so many years ago when I worked as a peer tutor at Mobile College, I had a student come in to work with me on a regular basis. One day when he was drafting in the center as we brainstormed ideas, I noticed that he was marking things off in the left-hand margin. When I looked more closely, I saw rows of commas, periods, and semi-colons, with a few colons thrown in. He was marking these off as he used them in his paper. When I asked him about it, he said that he had worked up a formula for how many of each should be used in a good paper so he was making sure he met the formula.

September 23, 2007


Okay guys (other than Miranda), I have a question that has to do with writing center "code." We've had some discussions about proofreading code, of our student's privacy code and even about proper dress code, but after two minor but embarassing incidents in Nicholson and Appleby, I need to clarify the speaking code.

Last Friday, Miranda and I were chatting a bit as we both got to the end of our shifts in Appleby, on a relatively quiet day. One consultant was working with a student, and they were both silently reading parts of a paper, so Miranda and I began to gush over how interesting our theory class is, how we feel a little iffy about the Blog (it's still cool, though!), how some people in our class are incredibly skilled at thinking outloud with perfect syntax and grammar maintained, and how Kirsten is able to command a group of talkers like us with the most buoyant of personalities. Amidst this really great conversation, we were suddenly stopped by a co-worker who shall remain nameless, who asked us if we were having a consultation - which we weren't - and then proceeded to tell us that we were being much too loud and were certainly distracting anyone who was there for help. My face flushed, and we both apologized, and then doggedly finished our talk. I felt like such a poor representation of the center - but at the same time, I felt so sad that our talk had been really relevant and invested in our jobs!

And the previous week, I was checking in with Sharkey at the front desk, where he was telling me about my scheduled appointment for the day when an irate computer lab user came up to us, pointed to the "no-cell policy" and informed us that if we didn't allow phone conversations, we shouldn't allow talking either, "because some people are trying to work around here." I know I don't handle criticism well, but I am starting to feel like I am one of those kids that gets repeatedly sent to the principals office!

Is this conflict between maintaining a work space within the rather casual, friendly environment we are trying to set up in class and meetings presenting a problem to anyone else? Should I bring a piece of tape with me to my next shift?

shamefully yours,


September 20, 2007

gettin' down in a town that makes no sound

The discussion in class today got me thinking about my position in the whole "non-native speaker" situation. Normally I wouldn't even consider myself a n.n.speaker. I was born in raised in good ole Minnesota, and learned English just like every other American kid. My parents, although natives of India and fluent Urdu/Hindi speakers, knew English pretty well. (They should, they attended British schools growing up where speaking in any language other than English wasn't even allowed.) But that doesn't mean they stopped talking in Urdu at home. I can't remember when or how it happened, but I just kind of picked up Urdu at the same time I was learning to speak in English. Kind of like osmosis. I don't remember any specific teaching of the Urdu language, while English was pretty much an all the time learning process.

I find that kind of interesting, and it makes me wonder what my parents' intentions were in emphasizing English, if that is indeed what they were doing. Looks like some fodder for our next dinner conversation. And a possible subject to add into my paper...? Anyway, I still think the Urdu language was important to my p arents, and something they wanted me to learn, in conjunction with our culture. It seems like they just overlooked an "official" teaching of it so they could encourage my skills in English, since I would be growing up here in America.

Nonetheless, I picked up some Urdu along the way. I didn't feel like getting into my Urdu experiences during class, because it didn't really seem appropriate to launch into that recap of my life in a cultural context while we were talking about students and consulting and academic writing and learning ENGLISH. :) But that just means I have room to analyze it here in the blog. So, since English was really my first language, I guess I'm a non-native speaker in reverse. Here in America, I just can't seem to get into "Urdu mode." I feel like every time I start speaking in Urdu, it feels out of place or context. Conversely, when I'm in India, I am most definately in Urdu mode. It usually doesn't take me too long after arriving in India to get there, either. It's so much easier to become an Urdu speaker when you're immersed in the culture. I do, however, experience the embarrassment non-native speakers feel we discussed today in discussion. Mostly because my cousins like to make fun of my abuse of the Urdu language...I had bad experiences as a kid. Now that we're all older, and a little more mature, my family was really supportive of me trying to switch into Urdu from English. With that kind of encouragement, I was speaking as fluently as them by the time I left. It's nice to know people are capable of having that kind of effect on someone who comes into the Writing Center as a non-native speaker.

I was really surprised today when Kirsten asked me if it was difficult to relate my experiences in India to friends or other people here in America. I didn't even realize, but that was exactly the case. I thought I just didn't feel like talking about it, but really, it's because I didn't know what to say about my trip. Not only do we have a difference of languages, there is a huuuuge difference in cultures. Even things like my sense of humor and slang words (and some pretty dirty swear words) changed when I was there, learning and absorbing the culture and language all over again. I say "all over again" because I have to re-learn everything every time I visit India. Isn't that sad? I've seen many people assimilating to American culture after immigrating here, while still retaining a strong sense of culture. I think I'm aware of my culture, but it doesn't necessarily play a huge role in my day to day life. Other than, you know, people wondering where the hell I'm from and what kind of name is "Meher" anyway?! (It's Persian.) It's something I want to work on. My parents have even fallen into the trap, and we speak mainly English at home. It's time to bring back the brown.

Aaaanyway. Things I noticed about learning, or in my case re-learning, a language include trying subconsciously to form a language structure while relating it to the structure you are more accustomed to. For me the transition is obviously easier because I've been learning another language since I was a kid. For someone who isn't in the same position, I think it becomes more difficult to switch back and forth between your native language and your non-native language(s) structures. And a lot of times, it is also difficult to try and find a specific formula, if you will, of a language, because there are always exceptions to the rule at every turn. For example, English has the pronoun "it" while Urdu has no such concept. Therefore, things in Urdu have a gender. EVERYTHING has a gender. And things that are of a specific gender cannot be changed according to their actual gender (like a dog always has to be male, even when it's female.). After that, you discover that the rules of finding a gender for the noun do not always apply. See? It gets really complicated, really fast. Just like I imagine English becomes for a non-native speaker.

Another thing I noticed about learning languages: any second language you pick up is stored in a specific part of your brain. I actually have some evidence of this...a friend of mine majored in Spanish studies and told me that the languages you learn after a certain age, or after your first language, are stored in one part of your brain while your first language is stored in another. I remember an oral examination I was giving in my high school Spanish class, where I suddenly started going off in Urdu. When I finally stopped and realized what I had done, my teacher didn't even know what to say. I found myself doing the Spanish+Urdu thing a lot in my college Spanish course as well, except it was in my head instead of out of my mouth (and confusing my teacher).

Damn I'm tired. All that thinking...all that analyzing...I'm mentally exhausted. Thanks a lot, Writing Consultancy. Pffft. But in all srsness, I can't wait to continue this subject in class. SUCH a nerd.


That tricky English language

Inspired by Yi's and Brittney's posts (which are much more thoughtful than this one), I started thinking about what Williams says about language, usage, and unclear style in light of our readings on NNS writers. I like how-- before discussing how to write clearly-- Williams first ask us to consider "some private causes of unclear writing" (p. 4-5). Now, he's not considering cultural and linguistic reasons here as today's readings did, but that question of "why?" not "how to?" seems to me a useful perspective. And, my own experience as a writer and teacher of writing reaffirms for me his claim that, "As we struggle to master new and complex ideas, most of us write worse than we do when we write about things we understand better" (4). and, if that is true, shouldn't we applaud unclear writing (at least some forms of it) as evidence of the learning process? As my comment on Yi's post suggests, maybe this would be a better world if we all embraced the identity of English Language Learners?

“¿…Joo u espeke el inglesih?? Thursday Sept. 20 readings

Ok, so the title for all of us “native? speakers who “should? cringe when we see this says: “Do you speak English?? These articles assigned for class reading reminded of the many friends I have that do not classify themselves as English Speakers. Whether they are immigrants from all parts of the world, or even people who have grown up and the U.S. and come from families that don’t necessary always speak like the most elite, I guess they know how it feels to be classified solely based upon their appearance and their “accent? or “bad? grammar. My friends always tell me stories about them going into stores or restaurants, and just because they can’t “correctly? pronounce a word, some people decide to ask them this intrusive questions of “where are you from, no like where are you really from,? or “what are you saying, speak English?!? Obviously, people now feel disrespected and embarrassed such as many 1.5 students feel throughout their school experience.

As for me, I am a multilingual/multiethnic individual. Yeah, let’s not get into all the things I’ve experienced. I guess what I will say is that I know how it feels to even have moments of trying to recall English words, oh, embarrassing when it happens in public! So, I was working one time, and there were a group of people from Venezuela and Brasil, as a matter of fact, a group of doctors. They came into the restaurant and immediately asked if there was an interpreter. Since there was no formal position, I had taken on the role and they asked to speak to me. I can remember, just talking to them in Spanish and Portuguese while having other people around us frowning and making comments like: They don’t speak English, why are they here? What a disgrace…? Anyway, when they left, I had to wait on one of customers who made the above comments. They asked me did we have something on the menu, and because I had been speaking other languages, my multilingual thing started to kick in. I had to think for a second and recall the word in English. Well, I guess the customer couldn’t wait a second and told me, “…you’re all like, idiots, when it comes to this language…? I simply walked away and give the table to another server and accepted a loss of a tip from a bad attitude.

Okay, [switch brain over to academics]. My little story above helps me to “deal? with these articles. When it comes to real life, articles don’t really cut it for me, and much less to they get to the feelings that the examined population face. I find it slightly difficult to communicate these feelings to monolinguals, because they think that they need to speak another language fluently to learn, but I always encourage to people to think about their high school “world language? classes and when you thought you asked for one thing but in fact asked for another due to limited knowledge of the language or how to use the correct word. So, it is evident that education is key to promoting understanding so that more people won’t be tempted to make such judgments of people, especially of students in a classroom or that come into the center. It is obvious they did something right to be accepted to college or even begin to write a draft.

This brings me to my point about the Thonus article and the comments the teacher makes to the center when calling about their “foreign student.? I have more to say about this in class if the conversation goes there today!!! Over the summer, I participated in a summer research program, in which I researched project entitled: English Language Learners: An Investigation on the Effect of Mobility of Academics.? In this project, I analyzed the academic achievement in relation to their enrollment of all year to partial year enrollment of English Language Learners of color in two Minneapolis Public High Schools. So, I’m not saying that I’m an expert in this area, but I will say that after researching for a literature review and 25-page extensive report of my work, some of the terms used in the assigned articles started to swirl around in my head. What’s ELL? What’s and ESL(er), bilingual/multilingual, 1.5 generation… AHHH! So, one thinks they know a lot from articles, but based on some the academic jargon added, it seems as if the true experience of students is completely lost, especially when it comes to reporting on how schools are graded based on student performance.

It should be no secret that students who do not speak English as their first language will encounter problems in school, and what if English is perhaps their third or fourth language? The articles on the 1.5 generation take in interesting approach that seems to be the answer for dealing with these students, because, well you know, their all the same, right? No, wrong! Through my research, I found many variations of students, and even what happens when they are second, third, or fourth generation like me. There are still the same problems that are associated with these populations as are with 1.5ers. Anyway, what I’m saying [much clearer if I were not blogging] is that all cases are different and we must remember that when a 1.5er of a fourth generation, or even a student born in raised in the U.S. comes into the center not to bust out the theory on them and think how to size them up. Are they like what the 1.5-generation article describes, or are they more of the poor lost minority with broken language skills that Reid describes. Trust me, too much locura (craziness)!

I understand that these articles seek to provide information, so I can’t wait for the class discussion and to hear from the CE group about their work. Does it compare to the articles, if you wrote an article, how might it look? Also, I would also like to know how other consultants feel in situations when working with such populations. I know when I work with students and the say things like “he be in home? that they want to say “he is at home? but “ins? and “ats? get confusing, so they just say it like it comes out. For this reason, more classes should be focused on getting into the head and making sure that what comes out on the paper is what the student means to communicate. I always say that if the student wrote it, the are the author and the find nothing wrong with it, so that’s why we all have a job!

The reality that this population of people is growing rapidly, and are in fact the largest growing subgroup in U.S. high schools. A statistic I used for my project is that the population of ELLs in U.S. public schools have increased by 105% in the last ten years, according to the National Council of Bilingual Studies. Basically, I advocate for reading research, but most importantly would like people to think of themselves in foreign environment, whether it is another country or even another state and you have an accent. How do you ask for help? How do you help someone in this situation? Maybe all we need is a pen, notebook, and an open mind and heart, que no (why not)?

September 19, 2007

Product of the Middle: Generation 1.333333333333...

I am a Generation 1.3333333 student. More specifically, I am an immigrant student who moved to the US with my family and spent half of my life in the US education system. I used to know how to write fluently in Chinese (yes yes believe it or not I forgot...practice makes perfect?), but now I write mainly in English. I, as Reid describes, am a product "between the extremes." Stuck in the middle. Therefore, I do not understand a lot of the Chinese proverbs, and I do not understand some English jokes. Well, that's why I make up my own jokes now, so ha! (karma....karma....) Now, I am to help people who are sort of like the me eight years ago. So excited.

But then, as I read on, I found Generation 1.5 students aren’t really similar to Generation 1.3333333333 students at all. Generation 1.5 students have "limited or no literacy in the[ir] first language," they tend to write the way they speak (because they learn English mainly through hearing), and they also are often the first in their families to become literate! I think the three articles for tomorrow do a great job of clarifying the difference between Generation 1.5 students and other nonnative speakers, but what does it all mean? If Generation 1.5 students don’t belong in the Freshman English classes or ESL classes (Harklau’s article, though, mentions that other sources suggest Generation 1.5 students should be placed in “mainstream classes?: maybe they should take both!), then how should we, as Writing Consultants, help them? And why can’t “functional bilinguals? be considered as English language learners? Writing, after all, is a very, very important part of the English language.

In Harklau’s article, she mentions pointers that might help college writing consultants/faculty to better work with generation 1.5 students. Topics such as “be aware of students’ prior academic literacy experiences? and “promote academic literacy? all gear towards the same point—that Generation 1.5 students need to develop a wider range of writing skills by engaging in critical thinking and practicing their editing skills. By promoting broad improvements such as “help students develop critical literacy,? Harklau is suggesting to us that our education system should be reformed. Generation 1.5 students need to not only learn proper grammar and critical thinking, they also need to simply practice—practice writing, practice grammar exercises, and most importantly, practice reading. Reid too stresses that all immigrant & and international students “need additional linguistic and rhetorical information, careful analysis of their writing weaknesses by professionals in the field of teaching ESL, and consistent support and resources to improve their skills.? Also, helping nonnative speakers, as Reid says, takes patience, understanding, and most importantly, time. So, I think as writing consultants we not only need to help Generation 1.5 students & nonnative speakers in general to improve their writing skills (Maggie is already doing this by making weekly appointments with consultees who are interested in improving their writing skills gradually) but also emphasize to them the importance of practice outside of writing.

Let's encourage everyone to read a book! Any book! I know, I know, this is such a novel idea in this digital, Fahrenheit 451 age...but if nonnative students read more, then maybe they will be able to identify the difference between “while? and “why,? learn how to better organize their ideas, and recognize/learn the structures of the written English language. Maybe... -_- --> ran out of words to say ;_; so here's a picture :P

September 18, 2007

Blogging, why do you hate me??

Oh man...I still don't really get this whole blog thing. So, I've been commenting on all ya'll's ( :) that's fun) blog, and it's been showing up Anonymous because I haven't been signing it.


So, Kirsten, I have been commenting- I'm just not that blog savvy.

defensive minimalist tutoring

brooks' description of defensive minimalist tutoring made me think about my sessions where i've had trouble deploying the 'give students responsibility' tutoring technique, and it strikes me that it's not always just resistance to this type of collaborative work that can get in the way. i think it's a skill to be able to work collaboratively just as it's a skill to tutor that way. i've had some sessions where i felt like the students were really good at talking out their ideas and thinking on the go, which made their sessions go smoothly. it seems like part of the difficulty of trying to put this into practice sometimes is that classrooms, and teacher-student interactions, and universities in general often don't operate on the collaborative principles that writing centers are so big on...

i don't know if there's a bigger point. it just seems that writing center ideals often fly in the face of what we're used to as university students-- that's a disconnect that makes putting all these ideas into practice a bit harder.

Life 101: The Standardized and Manufactured Version

So, let me just say that I know today is Tuesday and not Monday, but this other class I have is really kicking me around. So what I do is read the materials when I can before Monday, but since I have do critical analysis of like I lost count of the number of books, I try to blog on Monday, but sometimes it just works to do it now and even make my comments as I go. So, forgive me for the “late? response, but here it is.

Okay, so here’s what it do, I’m just gonna spit it like this: I feel that true learning comes from experience. While I’d like to believe the in inspirational stories, especially about the student with so much newfound ambition and emotion for writing after have visited a writing center, I can’t help but think that there is more to this story. Thinking about my past consultations, I have to say that I truly am lucky to have this job in order to support people and their writing. I know how it is, one brings in a paper, don’t know really know what to do with it, but just know it needs to be done.

This feeling is not going to automatically yield feels of self-confidence or a new sense of glory for the art of writing, rather for 45 minutes, I, as the consultant have the ability to make or break this student’s day. I choose to make it by listening to them, sin rodeos, sin mentiras (without loopholes or lies). I let them talk for awhile to see how they are and what they want, but I never allude to playing the role of the “counselor? like many of articles almost seem to suggest. Mira, te voy a decirlo asi, (look, I’m going to tell it like it is), these students have no expectancy of what “should? happen during a consultation, so I try to make each one as individual as it can be and only hope for the outcome to be useful and meaningful to both the student and myself.

It seems as if some of the articles or even the style guides are on this quest to find the “best? way to consult, when it really has to be up to the person(s) involved. It also seems that everything ends in a lovely flowing manner, when in reality, where are the stories about the students who come in frustrated, those who leave still frustrated, or those who simply find themselves at a loss when it comes to writing. My heart goes out to these students. I just know that the article about the students with Dyslexia really made me feel like there has to be a way to consult that does not over praise when it’s not necessary or a way not to degrade the student. All I know that is that when the consultant starts asking “active? questions like, okay, what would you put here, or how would you say this? Totally makes the student go crazy with nervios (nerves) and not know what to say. Great, gracias (thanks) for the embarrassment, I’ll be sure to come back now, is what I hope they don’t say… but what does a consultant do if this is their style of consulting… AHHHA! I say it like this, because I know I can just imagine walking into a math center, already the biggest second-guesser on multiple choice questions as they come, I, would feel intimidated by both the behavior of a consultant to constantly be complimenting me or to be totally destroying me and my work.

Therefore, I come to the conclusion that consulting is definitely just like dancing. Whether is fast or slow, one can only hope that the other hears the same rhythm. I’m really into “trying? to read people. I always use the step up, step back rule when it comes to getting vibes from other people. I’m not afraid to slow down or speed up or change styles depending on the person. It seems like articles kind of focus on “one? go get ‘em attitude that may or may not always work. Anyway, all this just leads me to thinking about how to begin to structure some the thoughts about writing centers. It’s clear that they can’t all be the same, but I just like to be the person to help, but more so to support.

As a critique, I wish the authors communicated a more simple fashion by stating that all the students before coming to the center have gone through the struggle of learning to read, write, and speak, which reminds of our literary papers to be due soon, but anyway, it’s just something to keep in mind when working with people. We are there to support and help, but to over praise or destroy, because I believe that our role is just too critical waist time coping styles when we could just do what we do best, be original and truly have the students in mind and not the idea of creating a inspirational session to go down in history.

Hope this all makes sense, I really prefer verbal conversation as opposed to blogs… I’m not really good and typing what I’m thinking in my head, hence that’s why there are phrases in Spanish. I’m blogging my thought process…scary! :D

September 17, 2007

"I wanted you to know me for who I am."

Although it is not my week to blog, I must say that I agree wholeheartedly with all of you who found the readings cheesy. I, too, Maggie, was laughing hysterically at my book while sitting outside the back of Coffman Union. I think I made a guy who was in the vicinity leave. Just kidding. He left, just not right away. I did notice all the lovely quotes from the book that have already been brought up while reading. One of them that made me bust a gut was the title of my blog, featured on page 14:

"But I wanted to be honest," Ted said. "I wanted you to know me for who I am. And I wanted to thank you."

Really? I think it's a little much to expect a student using our services to display this kind of gratitude. I mean, if you're getting stuff like this in your consultations, then you must be doing something right. Really, really right. I can only hope I get something like this one day. ;) <--(I hope that this emoticon properly conveys my feelings and body language in my physical absence. )

The "The Idea of a Writing Center" article was just too long. I understand what North is trying to say (quite clearly, in fact) and I think he could have said it in about five pages, instead of 15. But hey, maybe he's like me and needed to rant. Sometimes you just can't stop until you've got it all off your chest. Good for you, Stephen.

In other news, in my experimentation with tutoring styles, I have discovered that it's not a good idea to be too friendly or casual. But moving along...

Out of the three consultations I have had so far, there was one that really got me thinking. The student had two letters to write for scholarship applications, both of which were due that same evening. In addition to feeling all her frustrations and understanding exactly how she felt trying to meet her deadline, I felt like I was really getting inside her head. She was writing all over her paper, and talking about her ideas with me. It was great! It had such in impact on me, as completely St. Martin's-esque cheesy as that sounds. It's still on my mind and I am hoping she got everything in on time. As I discussed with Grant and Maggie later on that day, I wonder if I'm getting a taste of how Psychiatrists feel, listening to their clients' problems all the time. Of course, I couldn't touch their level of expertise or impact on their clients, but still. I'd like to think I'm slightly cooler than I used to be.

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I can feel it caaalling in the air tonight, oh Lord..."

see you later!

Mr. Sandman [Reprise]

AND she's asleep again.

Katie and I are having a hearty laugh.

Mr. Sandman, bring me a dream

Okay, I'm attending, and I hear snoring. I look over and I see that somebody TOTALLY fell asleep at the computer, and she's snoring real loud.

I'm not joking.

September 16, 2007

Center Stage On The Mic (Let Me Clear My Throat)

I don't know who this Joseph Williams guy is, but I'd like to buy him a drink. I think Kirsten mentioned in class once that a previous class had ripped Style to shreds, which is interesting to me; I think I agreed with pretty much everything in those first twenty pages or so.

What I would like to focus on, at least for the moment, are the tutoring implications here. Specifically, I'm thinking of how to deal with the "Invented Rules," as Williams (can I call him Big Willie Style?) calls them. Those are rules I wrestle with all of the time; let's say that I want to prominently split an infinitive. But someone could come along, read what I've written, and just assume that I'm borderline-illiterate for breaking such an obvious rule. That's a trade-off I'm usually willing to make, although I still catch myself doing stupid crap like writing convoluted sentences just to avoid ending on a preposition. (I think I've even done that on this blog once or twice.)

Anyway, my point: how should we deal with that kind of risk-taking in a paper that isn't ours? Especially when the writer isn't even aware that they're (and there are all kinds of fun things to say about the gender bias stuff, too) breaking a pseudo-rule. Especially especially if English isn't the writer's first language. Then, maybe it's easier to just say "hey, it's a bad idea to start your sentences with 'but'". That throws us directly in conflict with the minimalist tutoring idea, though: we really ought to stop and explain the how "this rule isn't really a rule, but lots of people think it's a rule, so maybe it's best just to follow it anyway." I could see that doing a lot more harm than good, though.

Most (nearly all?) of the people who come into the center aren't going to be nearly as interested in grammarian politics as I am; they just want to figure out how to write a paper their professor won't hate. I probably don't have the right to try to force my love of "nontraditional Capitalization" on them; instead, I should probably just help them get through it. It's related to the idea of keeping our expectations in line for any given consultations; since we can't cover everything, it's probably best to focus on more pragmatic goals.

Hmmmmm. I work Monday mornings, and I can get grumpy on short sleep. It'd probably be for the best if I put a lid on this for now.

On One-Draft Writers, Hobgoblins and Dyslexia (which probably isn't that funny)

Okay, so I am in agreement all of you - some of you don't know it yet, but you will - who think that the first Murphy/Sherwood reading is a tad bit stuffy, and chock full of odd examples and paraphrasing. The story-like scenarios found under the "Stages of the Tutorial" heading include ample dialogue that reads a bit like a script for a soap opera - well, a very intellectual soap opera about very succesful and attractive writers, who have exotic names like Sabah and Yaroslav. Some of my favorite quotes include:
-"Is this akward for you?" he asked...Sabah was relieved and grateful for the chance to unburden her feelings.
-"I can't read," Ted said, laughing. [is that funny?] "At least not the way you do. I have dyslexia. [he chortled again]
and my personal favorite theory about writing:
-""When you're in the trucking business, you'd better get it right the first time."
Whew. I guess I can see why some people come to the writing center to unload some of their personal baggage!

Okay, I also wanted a chance to finish up an idea I had last week when we all sort of freaked out on Harris for her analysis of one- and multi-draft writers. I really liked that article! And I really liked her writing style - I actually thought she acknowledged several times the small scale of her study, and that no writer could be put into a set category. As I read about the typical habits of "one-drafters" I felt like she was speaking my language - and I do think that we who follow the one-draft persuasion DON'T enjoy the process of writing as much as others - because if we did, we could write the same paper several times! Back off of Harris, geez..Just kidding.

And finally, on page 17 of Style, Williams refers to very commonly repeated errors as "hobgoblins," which I thought was a particuarly quaint way of putting it. Did you know that a hobgoblin is also a legendary character from folklore referring to Robin Goodfellow, AND a strong, dark ale? Wikepedia is so great.

Devil Emoticons

I am in agreement with Maggie. ARG. I can't say I enjoyed reading The St. Martin's Sourcebook...oh, EXCEPT perhaps, the part in "The Tutoring Process" when the author(s) claim that,

"If both tutor and writer are experienced computer users, accustomed to chatting online, such 'emoticons' as wink or smile symbols can replace some of the interpersonal features of face-to-face tutorials" (24).

This is hilarious. And totally lame. As much as our daily lives involve technology, I think it is insane that emoticons could ever simulate actual human body language. Especially if we take into account North's essay which explores the holistic approach to tutoring. North writes that in order to implement the desired "participant-observer methodology," it is necessary for the tutor to "fit into [...] this ordinary solo ritual of writing" that each student has (39).

This field observation thing is hard enough when the student knows you're staring at them and poring over their paper. If it is so crucial that consultants feed on body language and other physical signs, it seems silly that this book would even suggest fake online "gestures." In fact, trying to squash this whole process onto the web makes the observation more blatant. Every pre-teen knows that the internet is this big, colorful, ambiguous space that you can do (almost) anything in. Shoving the observation and writing/brainstorming processes into a virtual realm, fraught with misinformation and impersonators, is sort of a weird idea.

At Friday's staff meeting, I happened to be in a group with Linda, who told us that many times students participating in online consultations will--after receiving the comments from the consultant--cop out on the actual chat portion of the session. I thought this might make for a nice discussion. The lines of communication are muy fuzzy on the internet. It allows kids to ditch out on the most important part (the observation part) of consulting, maybe because they're offended, maybe because they're excited to continue writing, or maybe because they're lazy. But, when students can hop in and out of this learning atmosphere without leaving a trace, I can't see why The Sourcebook is wasting its time discussing little yellow limited faces. Interaction is what's at stake. The essays we've been discussing are centered on student-consultant relationships, so to speak. How can we force this semi-intimate situation into a bizarre virtual one that includes thousands and thousands of other people, words, stimuli, and more processes besides the paper-writing one?

This is a pretty gigantic topic. I'm kind of regretting having launched into it...eek.

Hooo, boy...

Thank GARSH I'm not one of the assigned bloggers for this Tuesday! I'm pretty sure my neighbors think I'm crazy for laughing to myself repeatedly as I read out on the front lawn. Am I the only one who thinks the readings in the Writing Tutors book are a little cheesy?? Yes, the essays have some good tips and ideas...but c'mon.

Examples of things that made me chuckle:

"I, too, can feel the coldness of your thermos." (???)

"Personal essay...Oh, I get it! Like, from my life!" If you're going to use an intelligent ex-trucker as an example, then don't make him confused at the term "personal."

Imagining North, the second assigned piece's writer, getting teased on the playground as a child for his ideas of what a writing center is. That must be why he's so emotional about it in his essay.

And in the last one, by Brooks, the image of pushing my rolling chair back from the desk, yawning, looking at a pretend watch, and twiddling my thumbs as someone urges me to edit their paper. (It makes me think "if you ignore them, they will go away.") In reality, though, I probably should've used that technique last week in one of my sessions when a grad student frantically tried to get me to purely edit in the last five minutes of the consultation...

September 14, 2007

The Haunted Karma Fortune Cookie


Day 0

After drinking the last gulp of her favorite spicy noodle soup at Bona, Yi carefully picks out one of the six fortune cookies in front of her. Yi does not particularly like fortune cookies. Instead of getting "You will be successful in your career and retire early to live on a beach" or "A pleasant surprise is coming your way," she always gets those slips that either give some incomprehensible proverb or instruct her to do something to improve herself. Yeah, who needs those. So, with no expectations in mind, she munched through the first half of the fortune cookie before opening the "fortune" slip.

"Enhance your karma, be nice to people."

Yi bursts out laughing. Even though she realized the fortune cookie must've been addressing her frequent joking nature, she has always joked around with friends. She has always, in one way or another, been mischievous. So, of course, Yi ignored the slip and moved on with her life.

Day 4

Yi arrives at a student organization free food event. Yes, she was there for the free food. She sees one of her newly-made friends 89757,* and they sit down to chat.

Yi: "So, do you like Minnesota/America?"
89757: "Yes, I like it very much."
Yi: "How do you like the food at UDS?"
89757: "It depends..."
Yi: "Hahahahaha noooo!!! UDS food sucks!"
Yi's other friend: "It's OK, we all know that UDS food is bad. You don't have to be polite."
89757 stares at Yi + friends blankly & chuckled nervously.

--------Half way through chatting & finishing up with their free foods---------

After firing 80 billion jokes at 89757 (Yi does that sometimes, especially when she's eating delicious free food), Yi starts to realize that 89757 didn't even understand a quarter of them. Yi starts to feel a bit stupid.

Day 5

Yi runs back to Nicholson after her Appleby shift, since she had forgotten that this particular Friday was the day to turn in time cards. Since Maggie was the one that took over after Yi left (at the attending desk), Yi looks at her mischievously and says, "Maggie, why didn't you remind me to sign my time card?!"

Maggie, in an unknown tone, replies, "are you threatening me?"

Meher, Grant (who were around), and Yi all started to laugh. Meher couldn't stop laughing, Yi was laughing confusingly & nervously. Grant...who knows. He laughed nonetheless.

Day 5.5
None of the other fortune cookies Yi has gotten has stuck with her for so long. However, it seems like no matter what Yi does, a voice in the back of Yi's head keeps whispering, "karma....karma.....karma...."

Sitting at her computer, Yi does not know why she had just typed a bunch of gibberish. Maybe it's her way of saying sorry. Maybe it's her way of trying to remind herself that there are indeed people in this world who are different than her and do not get her jokes. Maybe, for once, Yi should let fortune cookies haunt her.


*Codename for Yi's new friend, has no particular meaning except it's the title of a Chinese pop song.

September 13, 2007

Well, that was strange

I tell you what: writing this little biography has been plenty weird. I've never been the type to keep a journal or anything like that, so trying to sit down and write about myself (not an especially interesting topic) was. . .strange.

It was, however, the first thing I've written in DarkRoom. I'd highly recommend it if you have a short attention span (which I do); I think there's a superior Mac-only program for those of you who go for that sort of thing, but I really enjoyed the DarkRoom experience.

September 12, 2007


Hello all,

All of my scheduled consultations ended early this afternoon, so I had a chance to hang out at the attending desk with Adam R. and Grant to talk about our consultations. I don't remember how we got on the topic, but we started brainstorming a movie about a mystery/thriller that would take place in 15 Nicholson.

We have most of the plot/killers/victims/other characters mapped out already, we just have to sit and write it and add in details.

Anyway, I just wanted to let you know that you'll have some entertaining writing joining the rest of the blog entries as soon as we get time to write it all down ("COMING SOON, TO A WRITING CONSULTANCY CLASS BLOG NEAR YOU!!!"). Any suggestions for plot twists, etc. should be directed to Grant, Adam R., or me.

September 11, 2007

I'm becoming a blog addict

So I'm in the middle of reading the "Composing Behaviors of One-and Multi-Draft Writers" article and I imply had to stop--mid-sentence-- to blog. At the bottom of page 180, in the section entitled "Preference for Beginning with a Developed Focus vs. Preference for Beginning at an Exploratory Stage" (c'mon, who says that? who writes a fifteen-word title for a one and a half page section of an article?), Harris writes "Among the consistent behaviors that one-drafters report is the point at which they can and will start writing. All of the four one-drafters expressed..." Please explain to me how this woman can describe a trait shared by four of the millions of "one-drafters" (does she also call sandwiches "sammies?" ew.) a "consistent behavior. I am so frustrated that I want to scream. And the worst part about it is that the behaviors she goes on to describe fit me to a T. Drat.

Commands do not Equal Education

After reading the selection on teacher and student accounts of learning to come to terms with learning, I found that I really agree with some of the other comments made about it it feels to be made to learn. I believe that no student can truly benefit from being "made" learn to read. I always believe that students should be encouraged to learn and given the proper amount of time to become comfortable. No one learns when they are afraid of the teacher or the lesson. I also believe that it would take a massive school reform to solve some of the major issues, which is what acts like NCLB thought it was doing, but in some cases has made things worse. It's hard to teach to a test or assignment when students already lack the skills and confidence to succeed. Therefore, teachers should play a role more like what we do as writing consultants and encourage that student to do better and work with them to get them to that point rather than criticize their process. This article, as one can see from my response really stuck me and I just wanted to express my opinions. The other articles touched on other central themes that we encounter as writing consultants and future educators, but this article here really helped me to see how systems have the ability to dictate how one operates and how others are left out. I really have a strong interest in these types of educational stories. Hey, I should use this for my "teaching philosophy" assignment! ~Paz~

September 10, 2007

blogging?! i thought i knew what i was doing...

I feel your pain, Grant...does anyone know how to get my break lines to show up? When I wrote it the first time I had four distinct paragraphs. Now I have a gigantic mass that no one will want to read. :(

I do wanna say one thing...

So, I'm of the old-school, as mentioned in a previous blog, and I do need to say that while I do appreciate the blogging assignments, I really hate blogging. Mostly because I hate typing. Friends and colleagues have lovingly [I think] referred to me as "Grandpa" in the past because of my aversion to technology.

Oh! twenty-first century, why do you mock me with your web-logs?

Kicking and screaming, Comrades. Kicking and screaming.


The feeling I got from all of this week's readings was...teachers kind of stink. They give us deadlines to rush/delay our creative process when writing, and then require us to follow a writing schedule that doesn't suit our style or pace. Although I can certainly understand that teachers have to work within deadlines themselves, I have to agree that it can put unnecessary strain on writing assignments. In this way I could relate to the Composing Behavior article, which notifies us of the problems of trying to follow a teacher's deadlines and paper structure when they clash with your personal writing style. However, I have to disagree with this article as a whole. I don't believe giving such broad classifications to writers will help in improving their writing. These groups may help understand a writer better on a superficial level, it's not an analysis that will help in substantially improving their writing. Each case will be different, not only for the individual, but also for their assignment. For example, when I have a writing assignment, I usually wait until one or two nights before it's due to even begin. This isn't to say I wait until then to think about it as well. I usually start forming ideas mentally as soon as the assignment is given. According to Harris, this classifies me as a "one-drafter." Unfortunately, I would also classify under "multi-drafter"; I have what would qualify as an explosion of ideas, which I proceed to dump onto paper, using many many sheets to fine tune my ideas. While this is horrible organization on my part, it's also the way I produce some of my best writing. If it isn't confusing enough that I classify as both extremes of Harris's classification system, I don't think anyone would benefit from referring to this study to help me improve my writing. It's a good theory, it's just not that important.

Daiker's article on Learning to Praise is something I can agree with, for the most part. Most people will respond positively to encouragement (for proof, see my previous blog). But praise only helps if it's constructive. I would be terribly annoyed if my instructor simply gives me a "that's great" without explaining what exactly it is that I was so good at. The same applies to criticism. I can't stand instructors that tell me what amounts to "this is horrible" without giving me something to go off of, and improve my work for next time. Case in point: my photography professor, who shall remain nameless, but was an ass nonetheless, would give me horrible grades and no feedback. None, whatsoever. All I took away from that class were many slips of paper with "B-" on them, and nothing else. Of course art is much different than writing, and has a lot more room for objectivity. Which makes his behavior even worse. Not giving feedback, especially in an INTRO class, results in no improvement or productivity, just a bunch of grumpy students.

I agreed the most with the third article by Capossela. As I said earlier, teachers can make writing hell for students by forcing them to write in a style and pace that is not comfortable for them. However, there isn't really much to be done about this. Unless we go through nationwide teacher reform, which would take close to forever, teachers and their ideals and expectations are something that all students will have to deal with eventually. The best way to remedy this problem is to make a stop at your friendly neighborhood Writing Center, sometime between the assignment being handed out and it's due date. This article just made me appreciate what we do here in the Writing Center even more. The student will still end up working within the limitations set by their teachers, but we as consultants can help them figure out how to push those boundaries. Here's to the C4W, rebellious badasses extraordanaire.

Just because I love writing long blogs, I would also like to address the readings from the previous week, as a whole. These make it clear to me that there is a distinct line between consulting and teaching. The problem is (as many of my more experienced co-workers know by now...because I won't leave them alone about it) where exactly is that line? I think a lot of consulting is just going by your gut, and while I can refer to these readings and the guidelines of the center to know where my boundaries are, I will also develop my own style of consulting and know when to say what, with experience and practice.

*thanks for the tip Katie!*

Let's talk about [theory], baby

A few thoughts on the article, "Learning to Praise"...

Now, let me preface this with a little personal history. My father is an English teacher with a doctorate in education. I also went to a college-prep school. Because of these two things, I have had strong support in my development as a writer. I understand that I am an exception in writing development as opposed to the rule; not everyone has had strong writers standing behind them at every point in their lives, smacking them in the face with the protocols of good writing technique.

Now, this said, I am used to a lack of praise during the editing/grading process. The reason is because there is an implicit understanding between me and the editor/grader that the paper is good and the purpose for editing/grading is to point out areas where the paper is weak and to fix them, in the case of the grader, or to not make the same mistake on future essays, in the case of the grader. I have always had a great amount of critique on the essays, but always prefaced with statements like "This is a very strong paper, but..." or, "Excellent work! But take a look at..." At the same time, all of the English/History/et al. teachers I had throughout high school were not big on making comments, period. Notes were marked in the margins when a passage was particularly strong or weak, and saved most of the comments for the end.

In reflecting on the article, I do support the need for praise as discussed in the Daiker article. Positive reinforcement is important. Like flies to the honey, experiments like those discussed in Dalkier's essay [105-106], students are certainly in tune to praise and take it as encouragement to push themselves to improve upon their writing. At the same time, praise for praise's sake is not necessarily a good thing. Peppering the student's essay with "good", "well done" and other variations on the aforementioned is ultimately shallow and not beneficial to either student or teacher. It wastes the ink instructor's pen and does not help the student understand why the passage is good or well done. I do understand that the theory described throughout the article is a bit deeper than that, but, to play Devil's Advocate, the "enlightened scholarly views" [105] of making the writing process "positive, joyous, [and] creative..." [105] are akin to holding hands and singing Kumbaya. I'm okay, you're okay. Daiker's argument would be stronger if he offered a synthesis of the "school" and "scholarly" traditions [105], which is, I think, what has been given to me during my educational career. Using language to present praise and criticism at the same time ["Good, but..."] would be the greatest form of praise. I suppose if I had to choose a camp between the "scholarly" and "school" traditions, I'm certainly of the old-school. But that doesn't mean I'm going to rap the knuckles of a student for poor grammar. Gentle criticism and selective praise is probably the most helpful and useful for student and teacher.

September 9, 2007


I had very mixed feelings after reading Brannon and Knoblauch's article On Students' Rights... I thought it a noble cause to give more confidence to student writers and give them ownership of their writing, which would hopefully increase the incentive to write, lead to better writing, etc.

However, I am a bit resistant to the article’s main assertion that “the teacher’s role is to attract a writer’s attention to the relationship between intention and effect, enabling a recognition of discrepancies between them, even suggesting ways to eliminate the discrepancies, but finally leaving decisions about alternative choices to the writer, not the teacher? (218). I have respect for teachers- or at least most of them. I am attending the University of Minnesota because I want to learn, to grow, to tap into others’ wisdom and knowledge and become a better writer, reader, student, and person. I see my professors as people who have put a “monton? (I couldn’t think of a word in English, so I reverted to one of my favorite Spanish words) of energy and time into studying this subject, thus deserving my respect. Obviously, teachers are not infallible and make mistakes. I can COMPLETELY relate to writing based on what I think a professor wants to hear (which I think is a very sad state of affairs, as it doesn’t allow for critical thinking or stepping outside the box), but I felt like the process that Brannon and Knoblauch advocated was not giving teachers enough credit and power to assert objective truths or to correct faulty interpretation.

Not only does this process require multiple drafts for the student, which, as we read in Harris’s article, isn’t necessarily the best option for all students, but it also forgets the need for student’s to learn. Let me explain. My senior year, I was in AP English, and I thought I was a pretty good reader/writer. However, it soon became very clear that I had much to grow in these faculties, especially in analyzing texts. It wasn’t until I did practice exam after practice exam, responding from critiques from Mrs. O’Brien and put these skills that I learned to use, did my skills increase. If the focus would have been solely they intentions of my writing, I would not have become a better reader/writer. I am not foolish enough to say that there is only one right interpretation of a text, but I will say that there are more right interpretations, interpretations that take all parts of the text into account to make an educated argument. Part of writing is an ability to analyze and to draw conclusions, but if students are never trained to look at a text in that way- they could write all they want and get their point across clearly, but never say anything of substance.

When the focus switches from analyzing text, making arguments and drawing conclusions to “what the writer means to say and what the discourse actually manifests of that intention? (217) it lessens academic growth. What if, dare say, that the intention that the student was attempting to convey, was wrong? It just didn’t make sense, and he/she read the text incorrectly. While they were able to assert their claim correctly, they asserted a claim that was faulty. How is this going to improve their writing, their critical thinking?

I acknowledge the good that this process would do, giving a “sense of genuine responsibility? to writers, but I feel that more attention and importance should be placed on students response to teachers critiques- we must not become too wrapped up in HOW something is being conveyed, and forget WHAT is being conveyed.

Learning to Praise...well.

The moment I began reading Daiker's "Learning to Praise," I was convinced this was going to be an article for me. Hemingway is my favorite author of all time (I've read all but two of his works of longer fiction) and A Moveable Feast is one of his best, though not particularly well-known. Anyhow, I settled comfortably down to read in the basement of my sorority during silent "Study Tables" and immediately burst into a muttered diatribe about the article-- not good, considering that Study Tables and their mandated silence are under my purview as Vice President of Intellectual Development. I was a little ashamed, but it was righteous indignation, I assure you.

While I get the concept of praise and will admit from experience that it is difficult for us English people to do, I found Daiker's article frustrating. While he implies that it is important for teachers to "[label] and [explain] the desirable characteristics of their students' writing," he also makes irksome comments such as "[students] receive even vague compliments like 'nice' and 'good' and 'well written' with gratitude and thanksgiving." The picture Daiker paints here is of a beneficent teacher, tossing her gold coins of praise to groveling, ultimately undeserving students. Aside from that revolting nature of that mental picture, the point is not to praise just to make the student feel better about himself, but to demonstrate that there are things he does well so that he can mirror them in future writing.

Several of the comments given in the article in response to the "Easy Street" theme provide a nice example of the issues I take with "Learning to Praise." What, pray tell, is a student supposed to learn from comments like "I like this" or "Nice title" or "Nice structure?" It is not just in criticism that readers and teachers should seek to be constructive, but in praise as well. Many students, especially those who are unsure or inexperienced writers, will not understand even seemingly simple jargon such as 'structure.' Perhaps a more helpful comment would have been along the lines of "Nice structure-- moving from specific to general works very well here." I can't tell you how many times I've received a draft back from a professor with nothing--zero comments-- except the word "Good" scrawled at the bottom. What the hell am I supposed to do with that? I have thrown several rather ungracious fits when those papers have gotten less-than-satisfactory marks.

Although he hints at it several times throughout the article, Daiker would have done well to discuss explicitly the importance of constructive praise. Constructive praise is instructive praise, as I always say. Actually, I've never said that before but as it contains a nice rhymey duet and thoughtful repetition of the key word 'praise,' I may make it my life's mantra. See what I did there? Specific praise. I promise, it feels a lot better to the student than the oh-so-insufficient "good." Now, if you'll excuse me, I am going to go try and rid myself of this negative association with the beloved Ernest.

September 6, 2007

no gods, no ghosts, but...

It’s a little strange, considering my lifelong love of books, that my earliest book-related memory should involve being paralyzed with horror. The book was Cuentos de Terror – Tales of Terror – a small, blue, hardcover book with a sharp-edged spine and a shiny layer of shellac over the top. I don’t remember much of the book’s contents, because as a child I was always too afraid to even look at the book from across the room, much less open it. It was squeezed in on the far end of the bottom shelf of our living-room bookshelf, and I remember being in that room alone, around age 5, overwhelmed by its presence, and definitely not looking at the book – that would be madness – but always keeping its image on the periphery of my vision, testing my limits like I was chewing on a cankersore.

On the cover, under the nondescript black title, was the stark scene, all browns and yellows, of a little boy crouching behind a rock, watching a witch riding a broomstick above him in a muddy gray sky. I can’t say what made me so deliciously afraid of this image. The burnt, colorless landscape, maybe. Or my sad certainty that there was nothing off the edges of this picture; that this kid had no house, no family, no mother, and it was just him and the rock and the witch floating around up there, perpetually just about to discover him.

That particular image isn’t terribly important to me today. I’m indifferent and sometimes actually hostile to a lot of the what gets called “horror? these days. But remembering it has got me thinking about the powerful, physical presence that books can have in a given space. That little book transformed my whole reality, creating a kind of vortex where the textures of the book bled out into our yellowed curtains and into the dark of the patio behind.

I hope I’m not reproducing a clichéd Neverending Story narrative here, but it’s true. As much as I use fiction as a means of escape from reality, reading is also a physical act for me, an act that engages me with my surroundings in unexpected ways. I’m not a mystic, I swear, but growing up into political and cultural consciousness has only strengthened my awareness that text can act on the world, and that stories can enter into and transform it. Which might be the central reason, actually, for my aversion to most horror movie narratives: I worry about this rapidly growing mass of fictional hells, because they’re real, in a sense, and we human beings are responsible for them.

literacy... OK; numeracy? not so good

Just from talking about our reading/writing selves in class on Tuesday and now reading your own stories about developing literacy, my head is spinning with memories, feelings of "yea, me too," and "whoa, THAT'S interesting!" Biking home on Tuesday night (after reading just the first couple posts), I had a vivid memory of my kindergarten classroom and the "letter people." Did you all have those cartoons posted up in your elementary classrooms? All the vowels were female, and the consonants were male. Since I didn't want to be a boy (aren't 5 year olds the most obsessed about gender?), I chose to be "Miss I" for an in-class performance about something that began with the letter (the exact moves of my "itching dance" are best left forgotten). At that time, I was terribly shy, so I'm sure the stress of performing in front of my classmates is what burned it into my brain.

Yet, I had completely forgotten something else I used to do that now seems related: when learning about numbers, I turned those into characters too, drawing hair on them and assigning each a personality and gender. 1, 2, 6, 8, 9 were female; 3, 5, 7, and 10 were male. I was never quite sure about 4. I was always thinking about the numbers as characters, although their characteristics could change. I'm sure that had something to do with my love of stories and characters in fiction. I don't remember when I stopped thinking about numbers as characters, but I don't think I've ever really had a rich sense of connection with numbers since then. I'm always transposing numbers in my head, I forget them quickly, and I've never felt like I "got" math the way some people did (even though I'm quite proficient at plugging numbers into formulas to pass those kinds of tests). I wonder if my illnumeracy is what illiteracy feels like: there's a world of symbols and texts out there, but I'm not really "in" it.

Miranda is a dummy

This entry stemmed from a few confessions of blog illiteracy...So, Katie, Miranda, Brittany, and Jenna are going to learn-- together-- how to use the "hyperlinks" function.

Okay, Katie here. M, B, J: any places you want to link to?

J: How about YouTube?

M: Or the website with the bus stories? I had a funny one this morning with a couple who were clearly enamored with each other, kissing and reminiscing, and the man loaks at his partner wistfully and says, "It all began with a bottle of wine and can of Pringles..."

B: It's hard to top that bus story... still thinking about a website!

K: Okay, let's link to a Youtube thingy, "Overheard in Minneapolis," and, if all else fails us, MetroTransit. (M also just mentioned that arbitrary misspellings bother her, and she has a great example, to which we will link mysteriously.)

So, to do hyperlinks, you will need the url of the site to which you want to link. And that's about it. Also, the little chainlink icon in the composing window will help so that you don't have to know html. Because, feh.

Here's a youtube url:
Now, to make it clickable and pretty, you set it up:

Check out [wait here and hit the hyperlink button]

To get the words to link, and not just the ugly ol' URL, delete the stuff between these brackets (>stuff here<) and replace it with whatever word you want to link. So now, check out The The Impotence of Proofreading.

So, bus stories--hit it, Miranda:
Bus stories.


This. *Drives Miranda crazy*

J: Well, that's about it! My job is to close out this blog, and I am not witty. Alas, Adieu.

i hit the roof but i had aimed for the ceiling

To be completely honest with you, I think my biggest motivation for writing is my own ego. When I was a kid, I think I already had a knack for writing well because I read entirely too much. But every time I heard praise for my writing from teachers, or my parents, or anyone else really, it just bolstered my ego and encouraged me to write more. Disgusting, I know. What's even worse is, I think that still applies. But all superficiality aside, I also got a rush every time I saw something I had written that really worked beautifully. It still happens to me. Every once in a while, when I'm writing a 12-page paper at 3 am, I'll bust out a gem of a sentence and then I just sit there and look at it and love it. I suppose I'm just a big ball of self-promotion.

Of course some of the credit for my literary development goes to my parents, they were always very encouraging about my writing when I was younger. It's also possible I picked up my reading habit from my mom, who still goes to the library and comes back with a stack of books about two feet high. I'm not even kidding. Usually I have to help her carry them all into the house, in a couple of shifts, while trying to squish my own books into the pile. I also need to give credit to my first grade teacher, who recognized my love for reading and told my parents I was reading at a fourth grade level. That was a huge deal to them, bless them, so they nurtured my literary obsession. I really do think that before you can write well, you need to be exposed to other great writers. It's inspirational, and it develops all the language skills you need. Of course then you would go on to create your own style, and your own taste in your writing. But that's where it all starts, for me at least.

When I got older and found refuge from the hell that is middle and high school in music, I think that had a huge influence on my writing as well. I always listened to the lyrics in my music (I usually can't do that music where you can't understand what is being said, or does not have meaningful lyrics. I feel like it's missing something, like a pizza without cheese or something.) and had so so so much admiration for the people that wrote them. That's probably why I put song lyrics in my blog titles. I find them really inspirational. A lot of times if I feel something, and I can't quite put it into words, I usually find it in a song somewhere and think "how did you know, backstreet boys?!" (Just kidding. About the backstreet boys.) It's incredible when someone can take such a delicate, somewhat indescribable thing like an emotion and put it into words. So music really fuels a lot of my creative writing. I would never steal someone's ideas, but I definitely find that they push me to be more creative and inspire me quite a bit.

That was horribly long and I apologize. But in response to the blog site question, I'm a hardxcore user. peace out.

Ha ha ha John the extended entry idea is excellent ^o^

Freshmen Year, Semester 2
Intermediate Expository Writing

Personal Essay 2 Assignment Description: Write about a personal conflict.
Mr. B's blatant in-class "hint": "I've gotten so many essays that gives a description of a perfect family. Bull****. No one is perfect. The best essays always consist of some sort of struggle"

Crap. Crap. Crap. Conflict? When have I ever written about conflicts before? In my early high school years, all we did was write one five paragraph essay after another. Compare Frankenstein with The Fifth Child? Sure - depressing, but sure! Spot and analyze metaphors and foreshadows? Sure - it might take me awhile, but I could do it. However, after all my effort to follow these "guidelines" and "rules" of writing in my earlier grades, 12th Grade AP Composition shattered my previous perception on English. Our teacher, Ms. S., discouraged us from writing five paragraph essays. She threw away the restricted writing topics and conventional grammar rules and told us to find our own styles, our own voice. I was shocked - I can now ignore the red, underlined "errors" that Word always gives me for my fragments and mispe...OK, maybe not misspellings hahaha. At the beginning, I was nervous about not being able to write our weekly in-class essay because the topics were always so broad...and personal. However, the more I wrote, the more I enjoyed this newfound freedom to write whatever I want in whichever way I wanted. I can finally pen down my beloved one word sentence. Joy. My paragraphs also began to vary in length and style. It was like discovering a new side of me.

However, even though I wrote about my personal stories and experiences in AP Comp, there was never a topic that asked us to write about something unpleasant. Weeks after weeks I wrote about enjoyable childhood memories and fun activities. The closest I came to write about conflicts was describing the hard times just after I came to the US with my family (and of course at the end I turned that experience into something positive since I was, after all, looking back 8 years after my moving experience). That's why after hearing about the expectations of my very first assignment in Expository Writing, I almost choked. I've never written a depressing, conflicted, and raw piece before. I never had to. I never wanted to.

Of course, I eventually got over my fear and spent countless hours writing that essay because, in the end, I wasn't going to give up and get a bad grade on it. Even though it was a difficult experience, I overcame it blah blah blah. But seriously: just as AP Comp (and Ms. S) was pivotal to my writing experience, writing this personal conflict essay changed, yet again, how I approached writing. In the back of my head, I always knew what I wanted to write about. In the back of my head, I knew the one conflict that was bottled up inside me had to have an outlet. Mr. B not only warned us to not conceal the conflicts in our lives in our writings, but he also warned that by writing the raw conflict down on paper - we're putting our vulnerable selves out in the world. We're letting strangers judge who we are as a person, a daughter, a friend. We're naked in a room full of curious eyes... (OK that sounded a bit weird, especially in the 21st century *cough*). the end I chose to be "naked." In high school, I would never have written about that conflict: not even to Ms. S, who I looked up to and admired the most. Although - maybe that was why I didn't want to write and analyze the darkest moments of my life. I was afraid to show Ms. S the indecisive, conflicted side of me. I was afraid to tarnish my image in front my favorite teacher.

But now, I'm not scared anymore.

Or am I?

Can't think of a clever title, so I won't try!

I have always been an avid reader- I guess it could be blamed on genetics. I remember in second grade, instead of listening to the teacher explain the lesson of the day, I would hold my book on my lap, ignore her, and delve into a world that was far more interesting than the abc’s. I don't remember a particular situation that has really challenged me in my reading comprehension or developed this talent. Perhaps it was a product of being the middle of seven children, and I needed something to make me stand-out.

However, I'm the type of person to take things at face-value. By nature, I don't question things immediately. Consequently, while reading a novel, story, etc, I would not question the setting, the plot, the characters’ reactions, and the narrator’s view-point. This caused my reading to be somewhat shallow. While I was able to pick-up on key concepts and bring together themes, symbols, etc, I felt like I was always missing something. It was not until my freshman year at the U of M, with my Shakespeare 1001 professor Joanna Klein, did I realize what I was doing wrong. There wasn’t a particular comment or situation, but through the course of that class, I began to understand, little by little, that literature is a medium and not absolute truth. When I began to read these fictional novels with more of a critical eye, my understanding of the theme greatly increased, and I was able to be more of a critical reader! Kind of nerdy, but fun! ?

Jenna Krause

September 5, 2007


In response to John's call for blogs--and having torn my hungry self away from the food blog Emily mentioned--here are a buncha blogs I haunt:

  • Candleblog, a blog by one of my best friends from high school. Topics include coffee, filmmaking, free speech, grammar, "the nerd life," Vermont (my home state), and many more.
  • The Masala Dose, another blog of a high school friend. A former copyeditor, Spine (the author) is now a grad student and T.A. in Portland.
  • Dohiyi Mir, another blog by a Vermonter, this one focused on politics, free speech, the peace movement, photography, and the author's pack of Dogz and Catz.
  • New York Hack, a New York cabbie's blog, less frequently updated nowadays since she's turned many of the entries into a book.

I guess my knowing about all these blogs is a direct result of another literacy experience: writing--and, more to the point, putting off writing--my dissertation.

Thursday's Prompt

My parents were the ones who influenced me most when I was a kid and it became time to develop my reading and writing skills. When I was young, reading became such a comforting thing to me that I curled up with a book as often as I could. I also saw that my mom was a big reader and I think part of me wanted to be just like her. She would take my siblings and me on a weekly library visit, where we would inevitably end up arguing with her about how many books we were allowed to take home with us--the three of us must have been so obnoxious, running around the children's section and making huge stacks of books that we just HAD to read that week. Now it's turned into a costly habit of going to all the great used book stores around the city. Once I'm inside those doors, I turn back into that little kid who just wants to take home every book she sees...Now, though, instead of my mom telling me "There's just no way we can get through twenty stories this week! Put half of them back!", it's my friends dragging me out of the store annoyed that I've made them stay in a musty old bookstore for over an hour.

My dad was responsible for my inner-editor. I remember in eighth grade I had to write a ten page essay on the President of our choice (Ronald Reagan?! I honestly chose him because we had pictures of all of the Presidents on our classroom wall and I thought he was the most handsome). I felt as if I was shuffling toward the gallows as I shakily approached my dad to look over my essay. Even though he is generally a nice guy, his style of editing both content and grammar was so intimidating and harsh that our editing sessions would end with me in tears. This Reagan paper had been no different--after nervously waiting for what seemed like hours, he set the paper down and said something like, "Is this your best work?" Ouch. We then had to go through a 300 page Reagan biography to try to find better content, even though I had been working on the paper for weeks and it was due in just a couple of days. He is amazing when it comes to final drafts, though, and it was usually worth these dreary editing sessions to shape the way I write today. It ultimately made me care a lot more about the things I write and it made me more aware of errors in grammar and punctuation to avoid. Unfortunately, I still have an inane fear of others reading what I write (which is the cause for this darn blog entry taking almost an hour to write), but I think, or rather, I hope, that the fact that I care so much will come in handy as a Writing Consultant.

The horrors of standardized tests. . . (Thursday Prompt)

As part of the continued playing-about-with that defines my interactions with Movable Type, we're going to try. . .

. . .writing this in the "extended entry" box, to see if it goes after a jump (because those are always cool). (EDIT: hey, it works! Neat-o!)

Right. So anyway: I blame the ACT. It's that damned test's fault that I don't spend my days lounging in some class about Chinese politics. See, we didn't have much of an English class in high school; that's not the teacher's fault (she's a pleasant enough lady), but when you're dealing with sub-20-person classes things tend to get a bit screwy. We listened to Tale of Two Cities on tape, and we watched the Leo DiCaprio version of Romeo & Juliet; that sort of thing.

In our last week of class senior year, the teacher dropped a little packet on our desks titled "MLA Format" and said that we'd need that for college. That=my HS writing education. So when I showed up here and they told me I was exempt from the frosh writing requirement (apparently because of my ACT English score), that sparked a bit of worry down in the depths of my soul. I didn't know how to write a damn paper--I hardly knew how to write a book report. I told the adviser as much, and I ended up in 1021V ("back in the good old days," as they say) in the EngC department. That class (and the ensuing directed study) did enough to alter (or, perhaps more accurately: to create) my writing style and my overall mode of thought that I was sent fleeing from the PoliSci department, and. . .here I am, I guess.

There were all sorts of mini-moments along the way (like meeting my buddy Matt and his mastery of the footnote), but I'd say it was that ACT score that originally sent the train flying off the tracks. I could have been in frosh comp, just taking my sweet time. . .

it takes years

I was going to write this out, edit and copy and paste it here, but then I decided that was missing the point of what a blog is supposed to be about.
As far as learning to read I remember being read to a lot as a very young child. Several people deserve the credit for my learning to read. My parents, older siblings, grandma and, of course, Sesame Street. When I was five, going on six, my older brother was very sick and lived in a bubble room (laminair flow?) at the U of M hospital for a few months. Thankfully we lived in Minneapolis and my parents didn't have to commute far. My grandmother watched my other siblings and I while my parents were spending time at the hospital. I don't remember it at all, but my mother claims that all of the sudden I was reading and she credits my grandma. It was probably a group effort though. I have always been a good reader and loved it. I've never thought of it as a chore.
Writing has always been easy, too. But I'm not one of those people who writes a lot. I've never kept a journal, written a poem, or anything else that didn't have some assigned purpose. I'd rather spend that time reading. Writing is very technical and when I'm given a task usually have a general outline in my head before I'm done reading the assignment.
There are a few writing related events I remember through my life that I guess influenced me. My horrible failure of my first book report in fifth grade is one. I really liked my teacher and the book (cant recall the book) and I started to sum up every page, every moment of the book. At that rate my report would have been as long as the book. My teacher quickly steered me right and suddenly the idea that I was to sum up in one or two pages what the whole thing was about made total sense.
My 12th grade English teacher was determined that we would enter college knowing how to write papers and had us write several, covering all the basics such as "descriptive" and "compare and contrast" and "argument". She made it seem so simple and was the first to make it seem like a process that had steps and standard organization instead of just a blank sheet of paper.
In summary, I guess I agree with Emily S that there really wasn't one event, one person, but a whole series that influenced my reading and writing


Like Miranda, I dug through my memories, both fuzzy and clear, and couldn’t really put my finger on any one person or event that had a huge influence on my literacy development. What I did find was a bunch of vivid images. In my mind I searched for a face that had an impact on me, but instead, came across the rustling pink dress I imagined on one of the sisters in “Striped Ice Cream,? a thin novel my mom read to my sisters and I countless times in steamy July. When trying to recall an event of significance, instead came to mind the big plastic “reading bubble,? inflated by a fan in a corner of the classroom and painted with fish by my fellow first graders—a place to silently read during free time. And then there was the memory of a winter supper of bread and milk in the dog-centered story of “Sable? in third grade, the orange light of a fire flushing the faces of hobbits and trolls, and the dusty, sugar smell of cut grass and dry dirt roads in “Dandelion Wine.?

My manner of development has been gradual and marked more by sensory milestones than people and places. While this does not exactly make me an expert on the journey to words and understanding, I think it is still important. That I can physically remember the words I have loved and perused will—I hope—give me something to entice with, something I can hold up as a sign of my growth, something that may encourage others.

(Also...blogs that rule:

Cover Your Mouth

good idea John)

writing history

the main influence on my writing over the past five years has been Ralph Ellison. His fiction hasn't had much of an effect on my writing style as I am a lousy fiction writer; his non-fiction essays, however, have influenced my writing in several ways.

For example, one technique I use often in my writing is that of the parenthetical statement. often times the parenthetical statement will consist of a clever turn of phrase or with some sort of relevant free-association riffing on the given subject.

Being a History major, I also make references a lot in my writing, whether it be to Shakespeare, or hard-bop jazz of the 1950s, or to Lyndon Johnson, or whatever else may work. Ellison did the same in his writing because, though he wasn't a history major, he was concerned with historical events, figures, et cetera and their influence on his craft.

Above all, Ellison was concerned with emphasizing the musicality of language in his writing; I try to do the same.

[Now, I am not doing the aforementioned to the best of my abilities in this blog entry, seeing as I am sitting at the front desk of the writing center and have to split attention between work and homework.]

At the same time, the largest influence on my writing, period, has been my father. He's an English and Theatre teacher and as such has served as a bit of the literary rod with which the child was spoiled while I was growing up. I remember one time in 3rd grade I was having a hard time with writing a five page report for school. [Five pages? What vile cruelty!] For almost a half-hour, he pummeled me with the question, "Why are you writing this?" To which I would reply, "Because I have to!" Finally, on the brink of tears, I realized what he was asking: why was my report important? What was I trying to convey with the report? And then it all made sense. That Socratic query is what I always ask of myself and others when writing [though I ask in many different ways, not just repeating the same vague question].

Look Ma, I'm on the Internet!

First of all, I want to say that Movable Type is so much nicer than Blogger, it's not even funny. This may be way too cool for me.

Anywho, since we're going to be doing a fair amount of blogging on our own I thought it'd be fun to get a feel for what other blogs people read. There's quite a range out there, so if you want to chime in with a few choice blogs you like to frequent that would be schweet.

Since this is my post, I might as well get the ball rolling with a few of the (way too) many blogs that I read:
The MN Gameday Writer's Blog (where they have one particularly handsome contributor. . .)
Ezra Klein
Talking Points Memo
Marginal Revolution
Lawyers, Guns and Money (I'll save a rant on the Oxford comma for a later date)
Free Darko

That's a decent overview, I suppose. Now, tell me which awesome blogs I'm missing out on.

Re-Learning Literacy in Summer School

This past summer, I had the opportunity to work as an Americorps teacher in North Minneapolis. Being an English major, and an avid book reader, I thought I had already mastered most of the primary skills of reading and writing. Was I wrong. Even more surprising was realizing that I was re-learning the ABC's from an eight-year-old Hmong girl for whom English was a third language.

As we sat together in silence during the third week of school, I racked my brains trying to think of a way to get her to start writing. Although there was a language barrier between us, it seemed like we had a more basic communication problem. Over and over the two of us would talk, read books - I even discovered her love for Hangman. As we talked, she would construct elaborate descriptions of her family, her favorite foods and games, but when I asked her to write it down she just stared at the paper.

Finally, the problem dawned on me during a training with a Hmong language specialist. She explained that Hmong speakers were quick at picking up oral language, but couldn't grasp the idea of written words as quickly - because their native language had never included an alphabet until it was compared to English! I had never even contemplated a language with a written component, and I realized how narrow my point of view had been when working with my student. From that day, I learned that I would have to re-learn my idea of reading and writing as I knew it.

When we started school the following Monday, I turned to my eager Hmong student, and asked her if she wanted to work on a story. She nodded furiously, and began to tell me about a princess in a castle who was being chased by evil witches and monsters. Obviously, she was a natural writer. It was me who had the trouble recognizing it.

This experience has helped me re-define my idea of what it means to be able to read and write - sometimes that is a process that has many more factors than grammar and a good thesis. As I work on my literacy development, I try to keep in mind the fact that all writers are learning. In my case, I want to learn how to improve the nuance of capturing moments like this one with my student - for her, it meant learning the ABC's.

Thursday's Assignment

The most important element in my literacy development has certainly been my mom. An undergraduate English major herself, my mom is an avid reader and always encouraged the same in me. Because of her, I spent my childhood reading Lewis, Tolkein, Plath, and Frost. When I was a little girl she bought me a book called 'The Bed Book' because Sylvia Plath had written it. To this day it is one of my favorite books. In addition to instilling in me a love of literature, my mom helped me to realize my love of writing, encouraging me to keep a journal and write letters to my parents when I was angry with them.

Most of my memories of my mom from early childhood involve literacy: reading books together before bed, studying for spelling tests, even writing poems about the election of Jesse Ventura. As I have grown older, these memories have become more dear and the lessons she taught me have gained even greater meaning. When I was sick with mono this summer I filled my very empty days reading books, from travel to memoir to some twentieth century classics. In fact, this renewed focus on my first passion led me to reevaluate my career plans. The end.

Thursday Assignment: Reflection of Experience with Reading and Writing

For me, writing has always been a large part of my life, mostly because of my love for communication and self-expression. From a young age, both of my parents stressed the importance of becoming well-educated, which they believed came most effectively from reading and engaging in intellectual conversations. I have seen many pictures in our family photo albums of either me sitting with a book in my own little corner, or pictures of me with my mom reading a book to me, or pictures of me reading to my younger brother. As I grew up, I noticed that it was very important to become a good reader and writer, even if it meant trying over and over again to win the attention of a teacher or fellow classmates to vote your writing to become the “best? in the class. Honestly, I was glad to move on to bigger and more important issues, which propelled me to continue reading and writing about my own interests for my own enjoyment. From that experience, I found that writing must first become a person’s passion, and from there the writing one authors must be dedicated to an audience reflective of why one writes- with the intent to communicate an effective message to those most interested in its existence. Beyond this point in my life, I found myself reading books on various topics in order “become? like the authors I most admired. A pivotal experience for me came when I was completed a research project in the fifth grade about a selecting a famous person to create a short presentation on their lives and their contributions to the world. After much deliberation, I chose to research the writings of Phyllis Wheatley, a West African woman, who spoke French and was enslaved during the 1700s. She later became well-known for her expressive poetry and other writings. From this point on, I knew that it was very important for myself as a woman of color to use writing and verbal communication to advance myself and those around me in order to communicate messages and give voice to underrepresented peoples and themes in discourse literature. During the high school years to the present, I have found myself becoming very passionate about writing in various styles and languages in order to one day have the privilege to publish my work and make it accessible for all people, who at some point in their lives have had the desire to express themselves and share their experiences with others.

Sept. 7 Prompt

I thought a lot about this question on my busride home, and part of me kept balking at it. I don't write that to be contrary or overly clever; that's an obnoxious tone that I don't want to set in this class. I just have very little to say in direct response to it. I can think of lessons picked up here and there-- the English teacher who pushed me to use "muscular" verbs instead of passive ones provided a particularly useful one-- but overall, I find myself at a loss when asked to identify pivotal people or events in the development of my writing.

In general, when we try to take stock of our present selves, there's a tendency to look for big watershed moments. These surely exist, but can be overemphasized at the expense of processes which fuel change and development more slowly. My writing, perhaps because I've never really worked at it, has evolved more like this-- quietly and gradually. What's more, I have rarely noticed it happening. Much of the time, I write intuitively, and would be hard-pressed to trace the stylistic tics that characterize my writing to particular teachers, or authors, or projects.

As I'm finishing up that thought, I've realized a project I recently completed that has raised a lot of questions about my own writing processes. I could have written about that, but I want to leave this post, because I think it suggests an issue parallel to that raised in the prompt. For all the lessons and influences we can identify as important to our writing development, much of what we've learned about writing we do unconsciously or intuitively. And so my hanging question for the semester: how can I work to make my own writing process less mysterious in order to help others with theirs?

September 4, 2007

Welcome to our course blog!

Hello, fellow members of the Writing Consultancy course! We are all the authors of this blog and responsible for its content, so please take some time to get to know both this web interface and the Movable Type Publishing Platform (which you access by logging into the UThink site: Feel free to experiment and practice with this online tool (I know I have much to learn about its features as well).

Our first blog assignment is to create an entry responding to the following prompt by class time on Thursday:

Describe for us a person or event that was pivotal in your experience of learning to read and write. What happened? How did that experience or person influence your literacy development?

Be sure to print out your entry (a bit ironic, considering we're posting online, I know) and bring it to class for our consulting practice.

I'm looking forward to getting to know one another via this medium as well.