Tag Archives: writing

Not So Quiet Voices

Each of the readings this week focuses on having a voice, particularly as a minority woman. There were aspects I identified within each essay as a woman, but I do not wish to take away from the impact of the message these women are attempting to get across as women of a minority.

Some of the places in which I identified were:

Near the end of Bell Hooks piece (chapter 3) of Talking Back, she quotes a young black female student, “I am not relieved by voicing my opinions…My fear is that I will not be understood…I will not be respected…they will disregard me” (17). As a woman, I’ve felt this from not only men but other women, particularly those who have some measure of authority over me. I think most of us at some point has had their comments dismissed or misunderstood. The harsh response of indifference or dismissiveness hurts, and it silences us. We get the message that we and what we have to say are not important. Why do we do this to each other?

This question leads me to the second article How to Tame a Wild Tongue by Gloria Anzaldua. Her article expresses such inner conflict, not only with being a woman but also with how to identify herself by her language. She repeatedly mentions how depending on where one lives the language is different, and Chicano is an evolved language for a people that carved out their own place, not being Anglo nor Spanish; to claim an identity. She goes on to say, “There are more subtle ways that we internalize identification, especially in the forms of images and emotions. For me food and certain smell are tied to my identity, to my homeland” (83).

This hit home for me because as I read it, I thought about how roses remind me of my grandma, and pot roast of being at her house, where so many wonderful memories were made. These smells take me home to where I was loved and accepted. They remind me of who I am. It is strange, but I think this is exactly what Anzaldua was getting at. I think the overall impression is, how did we let the world or another culture take our identities?

Moreover, how can a writing center help students of other nationalities, and women find their unique voice? I do not have the answer for this. It is as complex as the number of individuals that impact a student.

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Posted by on March 5, 2016 in Uncategorized


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Writing Centers Should Be Bolder

This week’s articles dealt with the terminology used in and about writing centers. The first was Reading Our Own Words: Rhetorical Analysis and the Institutional Discourse of Writing Centers by Peter Carino.  I couldn’t find the whole article online for you. The copy I read came from the journal, Writing Center Research: Extending the Conversation. I am coming to like Mr. Carino’s approach to writing about writing centers. In this article, he took a rhetorical approach to what writing centers say about themselves. He pointed out the strengths and weakness, but my favorite part was after pointing out the way directors of writing centers explain or emphasize the tutors are skilled, sometimes using “expert”, trying to maneuver through being marginalized, and be inclusive to everyone of all writing levels across all curriculums,  he pointed out how paranoid and over promising they sound. He asked this one question (my favorite), “Does the description of the biology department in our institutions’ catalogues assure students that the faculty are qualified? What an empowering question! Why is it English department, and writing centers, in particular, feel the need to tell others on their campus they know what they’re doing? Carino discussed several other topics in this article. It is worth reading if you are interested in writing centers.

The second article was Writing Centers and the Idea of Consultancy by William McCall. This is not a long essay. It is interesting, but it did something that frustrates me about English majors writing about what they do; make a disclaimer after working to support their thesis. This essay tackled whether using “tutor” or “consultant” conveyed what the position really does. Now, personally, having been a tutor for several years, I’m partial to “tutor.” “Consultant” sounds too stuffy to me, and I was surprised that McCall agreed in the beginning. He built his case and them showed his acceptance of using “consultant” as what better describes what goes on in a writing center. He went so far as to have a chart comparing the two. I’m not one to accept change easily, but was convincing me. And then, BAM! He says, “No designation for writing center staff is without its shortcomings, and this is as true of writing consultant as it is for tutor, writing fellow, or writing assistant. But we might ask ourselves which term offers the best and most complete description of our work not only in the center but also out of the center, and, in this regard, the consultancy model also has much to recommend it.”

Now you might read this and think he is actually supporting it. But is he? Look closely, he is definitely taking a step away from his argument. It goes back to what Carino was saying earlier about why writing center directors feel the need to say they and their staff are competent. All I could think was, Be bolder McCall. You were convincing even me! But that step backwards made me question you.

Maybe that is the real key to writing centers being successful across curriculums and within their institutions–be bold and stop apologizing and explaining your ability and need to be there. At UNL I don’t see our Business School explaining why they are there or that they are qualified to educate students. They present themselves more as: where do you think you’ll be without me?

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Posted by on February 8, 2016 in Uncategorized


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Writing Centers: When Thos in the Academy Do Not Agree

This week for English 480 Writing Theory and Practice, we were assigned three readings: Minimalist Tutoring: Making the Student Do All the Work by Jeff Brooks, A Critique of Pure Tutoring  by Linda K. Shamoon and Deborah H. Burns, and Power and Authority in Peer Tutoring by Peter Carino. I’ve listed them in the order in which I read them; this also happens to be chronological. Also, as I mentioned before, the articles I am reading are from The St. Martin’s Sourcebook for Writing Tutors for those interested.

I have to confess to you that when I started this course, I wanted something more focused on technic and improving my writing. I knew this course centered on writing centers and tutors but, nonetheless, thought the primary subject matter would be technic. We may get to some of that down the road; I don’t know. I saw “theory” and “practice” in the title of the course and signed up. Maybe I should thoroughly read course descriptions better. However, I am really enjoying the majority of these articles on writing centers.

The reason these articles were so interesting to me is because, well, I didn’t have any interest in the writing center or tutoring in it before. One reason for that is in Jeff Brooks’s article. It is full of how to ask questions of students so they can make the paper all their own. He goes as far as to instruct tutors not to hold a pen in their hand, sit beside not across from a student, and physically lean away from and not touch a student’s paper. All this to attain a nondirective approach of egalitarian tutoring. It seems the concept is to help a student create their own knowledge by asking lots of questions. I am a writer and an editor. I love my red (and green, and blue) pens. And, I have been doing it for a long time. I have some skills that, according to Jeff Brooks, I would have to stifle to help a student.  As I read this essay, I kept thinking, Yep. This is why I have zero interest in participating in a writing center.

Then I got to Shamoon and Burns’ essay. I thought I was going to get more of the same but, that was not the case. In fact, this is the best essay I’ve read so far, and not just because I agree with it. They used other disciples to show how knowledge from and “expert” is imparted to a student, such as music. They also discussed how the knowledge of writing seems to be held back until a student is working on their masters’ degree with a professor working one-on-one with them over their dissertation. Much of what happens in these one-on-one sessions is the professor marking up, even rewording and reorganizing the paper. The student learns from this much the same way a musician learns from their teacher. It is directive tutoring, a passing of knowledge rather than creating knowledge.

As much as we might like to think we create knowledge, it seems that it is passed to us from someone else with more knowledge, either in a directive or nondirective way. We might be able to build upon that knowledge but, I am not convinced we actually create it within ourselves. But this gets into a more philosophical debate, does it not?

The third essay by Peter Carino compares directive and nondirective tutoring and settles on a combination of the two. He points out that saying a tutor has no authority or power is hurtful to what a tutor does in a writing center. Carino does not hold back his thoughts on the two different approaches, pointing out when a center is uncomfortable with authority and power it becomes marginalized and subject to budget cuts and, most detrimental in my view; teachers use it as a remedial center for unprepared students.

These articles had me wondering if a writing center boasted it was directive and hierarchical, would professors find them unsettling. Would they feel their toes were getting stepped on? Because according to Peter Carino, “I think the kind of tutoring I am calling for and Cogie describes has been going on for a long time in many centers, without being widely acknowledged.”

While I still agree with Stephen North that writing centers are about growth and learning of a writer; I am not sure I agree with a nondirective, nonhierarchical approach to tutoring. A knowledgeable tutor has a lot to offer and to expect her/him to hold back that knowledge seems a disservice to a student, and in some ways a disservice to the tutor, as they will not be able to grow either.

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Posted by on January 23, 2016 in Uncategorized


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Collaboration! What is it Good for? Huh!

This week’s post centers on three different articles, regarding writing centers. First is a history of writing centers authored by Elizabeth H. Boquet titled, “Our Little Secret”: A History of Writing Centers, Pre- to Post-Open Admissions.

In this article from 1999, Boquet recounts the history and highlights the many struggles of the writing center along the way. Many of these struggles point back to the same difficulties noted in my earlier post. There continues to be a want on the part of educators to use a writing center as a place for students to go to get up to speed. It would seem that teachers have a need/don’t need view of writing centers. Kind of a go there to learn to write in a way that I find acceptable, but don’t question my instructions or assignments. This, to me, has the potential to suppress the student’s desire to learn and grow as a writer, communicator.

Speaking of a communicator, this leads me to the second article titled, “Peer Tutoring and the Conversation of Mankind” by Kenneth A. Bruffee, published in 1984.

I liked this article, not only for its content but because it focused on writing as a form of conversation, albeit, that conversation can sometimes be one-sided. But, I think the goal of this article is to open a dialogue and have a conversation about peers tutoring and what takes place when they do. As Bruffee states, “Peer tutoring was a type of collaborative learning. It did not seem to change what people learned but, rather the social context in which they learned it.” This statement is one reason, I believe, teachers do not support writing centers, or only use them as a fix-it shop. They understand that if this statement is true, it is also threatening because “The better we understand this conceptual rationale, however, the more it leads us to suspect that peer tutoring (and collaborative learning in general) has the potential to challenge the theory and practice of traditional classroom learning itself.”

The article goes on to discuss and lay out, nearly step-by-step, the conversational exchange that happens when someone writes. Bruffee points out that the value and natural exchange that takes place when someone discusses vocally their thoughts before writing. This collaborative learning has a place and value within writing centers.

Collaboration takes me to the third article, “Collaboration, Control, and the Idea of a Writing Center” by Andrea Lunsford of Stanford University. I read the article in The St. Martin’s Sourcebook for Writing Tutors, but the link is to a public newsletter and the same article. While this is a good article, I found myself continuing to ask, “Who gets the credit and acknowledgment for the work with collaboration?”

So what does collaboration mean? According to Merriam-Webster, collaborate has two main definitions: 1) to work with others (as in writing a book) and 2) to cooperate with an enemy force that has taken over a person’s country.

Lunsford does a great job of pointing out and cautioning about the use of collaboration throughout the article, to the point I started to wonder if she was buying her own arguments. Maybe because I’m an overly cautious individual, and I would be quite upset if while collaborating with someone they used my quotes and/or research and claimed it as their own. In a case such as that, I would be inclined to relate more with definition number two than one. Whatever the cautions and challenges that may come through collaboration (and there are many listed within the article), Lunsford makes some insightful comments such as,

“I believe, collaboration both in theory and practice reflects a broad-based epistemological shift, a shift in the way we view knowledge. The shift involves a move from viewing knowledge and reality as things exterior to or outside of us, as immediately accessible, individually knowable, measurable, and shareable—to viewing knowledge and reality as mediated by or constructed through language in social use, as socially constructed, contextualized, as, in short, the product of collaboration.”

This view, however, takes some power away from the writing center, and I’m not sure that is entirely a bad thing. What I mean by this is the focus of what a writing center is changes from keeper-of-the-skills key to the individuals and the conversations they are having.

Another notable quote from Lunsford article (and a hard to argue against one) is “Collaboration promotes excellence. In this regard, I am fond of quoting Hannah Arendt: ‘For excellence, the presence of others is always required.’” Think about that for a moment. I’m an individual that is comfortable with my own company, an introvert who likes to think I excel all on my own, but I can’t think of a time that I succeeded without having a conversation with someone about my aims, my goals, my thoughts. When was the last time you excelled without having a conversation about it?

I think this is at the heart of what a writing center does, helping people excel through conversation. Call it collaboration, or call it being what humans do, either way, it is helping each other achieve our goals, succeed…grow.

Check out our class blog for other thoughts on the subject.

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Posted by on January 17, 2016 in Uncategorized


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What is a Writing Center?

It has been a long while since I’ve posted here. In my time of blogging silence, I’ve been attending UNL to finish my degree in English. Which leads me to this interesting post I’ve blogged for you.

I am in a writing theory and practice class that has a focus on writing centers. I will be posting my personal thoughts on readings from this class each week. You are invited to comment and share your thoughts. It is my hope that we all grow and learn some. 

So, what is a writing center?

Last semester, in September, I had the good pleasure of listening to Professor Stephen North. His comments were interesting in that he used his failure to speak up when he thought he could have made a difference, at his university in Albany, when they were constructing a curriculum for the English department as a way to motivate a younger generation to do what he did not, or feels he failed to do which was, for one thing, educate educators and students on what a writing center is.

It is completely ironic to me, as an English major, we do not have the verbiage to explain exactly what we do. Sure there are words like author, novelist, poet, Professor of English Studies, and writer. But what do they do and how do they get there? Professor North spoke about this as well, and his frustration was clearly heard.

I often wonder if we lack the verbiage because in the past we called ourselves scholars, and set ourselves apart as elitists, pushing interest away from the Literature and Writing in the process. It is disheartening to see English departments collapsing in on themselves. Here at UNL, there is much talk among students and those who work in the Writing Center, about lack, of funding, funding being cut, or underfunding. But how can funding be given when the majority of university staff do not even agree on what the Writing Center is, or what it does?

In The St. Martin’s Sourcebook for Writing Tutors, Professor North has an article titled, “The Idea of a Writing Center.” Though the article is entertaining to read, much as he was in person to listen to, Professor North doesn’t have any clear direction other than it is hard to get people to understand what a writing center is. Even faculty of a university do not agree. Is it a place where professors send remedial students with “special needs” for help in getting a paper done? Is it where accomplished writers go when they have writer’s block? Is it where an average student goes to get a paper proofread for grammar mistakes?

According to Professor North in his article listed above, “For faculty members the two primary criteria were grammar and punctuation” for the usage of a writing center. However, according to Muriel Harris, a professor of English at Purdue University, in her journal article “Talking in the Middle: Why Writers Need Writing Tutors” says, “Writing centers do not and should not repeat the classroom experience and are not there to compensate for poor teaching, overcrowded classrooms, or lack of time for overburdened instructors to confer adequately with their students.” Writing centers are place for students to go for many reasons though. Some include to understand the verbiage a teacher uses, to talk through an idea, to have someone ask them questions about their writing, etc. It is a safe, unintimidating place for students to better their writing. Even Wikipedia is getting it, saying it is a place to learn.

From Professor Harris’ article, I learned that from her student surveys many students are learning and growing as writers, in whatever field they are writing in. One thought I had was, a writing center seems closely related to what constructive workshops and critique groups do for a creative writer. Now I do have to admit that my first experience with the Writing Center at UNL back in 2014 was not the best…nor was my second. It was loud and crowded, with only two students being helped. The rest of the chatter was from others there with nothing to do. I left to go work on my own where it was quiet and I could think. Although I strongly support writing centers, the location and space was not conducive to learning or discussing anything for me. Now in 2016, after waiting and waiting, UNL is finally renovating their writing center. At the moment, they have been relocated to Love Library, where I am typing this blog outside the room, and you know what? It’s quiet. Not silent, but quiet. I can work and students are learning and I hope (fingers crossed) that when they are moved back into their renovated space, it remains a quiet place conducive to learning and growing as a writer.

I can’t help but wonder if I’m the only student that wants to use the writing center as a quiet space to converse about my writing with a tutor, to bounce ideas off of them and grow as a writer? Or would the university suggest I find a critique group or a workshop?

But I ask you when you think of a writing center, what does it mean to you? Have you ever thought about it? And how can we better change the static notion of the majority that a writing center is only for those who need extra help because they didn’t learn what they should have in high school into what a writing center really is?

To read other blogs on this topic check out our class blog.


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Posted by on January 14, 2016 in Uncategorized


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A Taste of What I Am Currently Writing

My only disclaimer is that this is a work in progress, not a polished first chapter. I understand there is a risk putting it out here for all to read in its current state, but I wanted to share this process with you. No writer’s first, or even tenth draft if perfect. Simply appreciate the process and enjoy the excerpt.

Beyond My Father’s Sins

Chapter One

“Run, Justus! Run!”

I watched my little brother’s back as he stirred up dust, running frantically down the long gravel driveway, away from the rundown shack we called home. The screen door swung open and banged against the side of the house. I turned to watch as our father stepped out onto the porch with a beer in one hand and his shotgun in the other. He leveled the barrel down the driveway. The screen door wobbled as it swung closed, bouncing several times before finally resting its bare wooden frame across the doorway. Flakes of chipped, white paint fluttered to the porch like snowflakes. I dropped the basket of eggs I had just collected from the chicken coop and ran to stand between him and Justus. Not that it would do any good if he intended to shoot him. He could see over my head from his place on the porch.

A hot summer wind blew across the dead grass that had long given up on growing around the house. Even the trees were dull. The leaves sagged under the weight of the dust that clung to them, choking out what life remained within. I looked at him, willing him to lower the gun, my arms stuck to my sides. I’m not sure which I felt more, fear or courage.

He fired off a round into the air. I jumped, and he laughed a low, menacing laugh that said he was totally in control, but really wasn’t. Birds scattered from their hiding places among the treetops. Jerking my head around, I looked for Justus. He was gone. He would be safe at Mrs. Dean’s house. He always ran to Mrs. Dean’s. I turned back to face my father. He drained the last of his beer, crushed the can in his hand and tossed it into the yard with a belch. I wanted to be mad at him. I wanted to hate him. Each time I thought I had the nerve to scare him with a loaded shotgun the way he did Justus, I remembered the way he cried late at night.  The thin walls of our home offered no barrier to the despair.

Right now though, he looked like a wild dog with his stained, sleeveless white shirt and grungy old jeans. There was no telling how many days he had worn the same clothes. His eyes, however, looked lonely, bereft, like a stray dog that wanted love, but had no reference for how to accept or even give it in return.

“Your brother is just like your mother. Weak. I hate weak.” He stumbled across the rotting porch to a rusted metal chair. The blackened boards curled up at the ends. It was only a matter of time before someone fell through them and broke a leg. I retraced my steps to pick up the basket of eggs, hoping they were not all broken. “He’ll run off just like her someday.”

“Can you blame him if he does?” I asked, making my way up the steps to the porch with the few unbroken eggs.

“He wants to play the flute. The flute! He already plays that blasted piano. He’s a sissy. My boy! A sissy,” he said shaking his head in disgust.

“That’s why you chased him away?” I opened the screen door.

“It’s embarrassin’. My boy, a girly flute player.” He spit out the words as though they tasted foul. “He should be playing football, or even baseball for crying out loud.” He hit the arm of the chair with his fist.

“He’s thirteen. He’s just trying out different things to see what he likes,” I said, letting the door close behind me.

“Get me another beer while you’re in the kitchen,” he yelled after me. I considered pretending I didn’t hear him, but decided it would be prudent not to test his foul temper.

I put the eggs into the refrigerator and grabbed him a beer. Besides the beer, eggs and a half-empty bottle of ketchup, the refrigerator was bare. Looking up at the clock, I knew Mrs. Dean would be fixing Justus lunch and giving him an extra piano lesson to pass the time while he waited to return home. Justus, in turn, would help her with something around the house. She knew we didn’t have the money to pay for piano lessons. She also knew we didn’t want a handout, but she saw something in Justus…a talented musician.

Stepping onto the porch, I handed him the cold can and said while wiping the sweat left from the can on my hand against my hip, “I know we don’t have much money, but we need some food in the house. I don’t get paid until next week. Do you have any you can spare?”

He grunted and pulled out his wallet. After taking the cash from him, I reached for his shotgun that lay across his lap. He allowed me to take it from him.

 “I’ll give you another twenty if you can hit that bottle on the fence post,” he said motioning in the direction he was talking about with the beer in his hand.

“Deal.” I stepped to the edge of the porch and brought the bottle into my sights. I took several steady breaths. As I let out the last one, I pulled the trigger, letting my shoulder absorb the recoil. I knew I hit the mark before lowering the weapon.  My father was laughing.

“Now why can’t my boy do that? He shrinks away from my guns like a cat from a broom.”

I held out my hand for him to pay up.

“Because, if he knew how to use one he might shoot you.”

This made him laugh even more. He slapped a twenty into my palm.

“One can dream,” he said with a drunken laugh. “One can only dream.”

I shook my head and walked down the creaky steps to my old Ford Escort. Rust was gaining ground around the fenders, but it ran and got me where I needed to go. Right now that meant to check on Justus and buy some much needed groceries.

As I drove down the dusty driveway, many thoughts weighed my mind. The summer after my senior year of high school was not as carefree as some of my friends. I call them friends, but in reality, they are more like lifelong acquaintances. My childhood in no way reflected theirs. They were spending their days working part-time and floating down the river on inner tubes. I was working full-time and standing between a drunk with loaded shotgun and my little brother.  The girls I knew spent hours talking about their latest crush, make-up and how they were fat. I didn’t have time for a boyfriend. Besides, there was a high possibility of my father shooting any boy that ventured near our door. There wasn’t enough money to spare for make-up when the fridge was empty, and I certainly didn’t have the time to waste on frivolous talk about being fat when I was grateful simply to have food to eat.

There was only a few short weeks left for me to teach Justus to drive. He wasn’t old enough for his license yet, but he could see over the dash and reach the pedals. The reality was, it was safer for him to drive without a license than leave him trapped at home with our father. Maybe, if I spoke with Mrs. Dean she would let Justus to stay with her while I was away at boot camp. Dad never went to Mrs. Dean’s house, even in a drunken stupor he refused to venture near her door. No wonder Justus always ran to her. I crossed my fingers and said a little prayer as I drove away from the house, hoping Mrs. Dean would agree with me.

Looking in the rear-view mirror, I watched as my father finished the last of his beer and threw the can near the other in the yard.

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Posted by on April 19, 2013 in Uncategorized


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That’s What I’m up to…What’s Up with You?

I hope you all have enjoyed the guest bloggers and interviews I’ve posted the last two months. They have been exciting for me to have as guests.

The goal was to introduce you to new writers that have a passion for the genre in which they write. I do believe that goal was accomplished! Thank you, Regina Tittel (Inspiration Fiction), Linda Lee Greene (Family and Historical), Naomi Musch (Faith-based American History), Nancy Dane (Civil War Historical Fiction), Cathy McRae (Scottish Historical Romance), and Michael Lorde (New Adult Sci-Fi/Fantasy) for your willingness to stop over at my blog to entertain and tempt us with your writing.

As for me, I am still plugging away at my latest WIP (work in progress). The title will be Beyond My Father’s Sins. So far it has proven to be an enjoyable challenge to write. I’ve been researching firearms, the CIA (this caused my computer to get bogged down for awhile. LOL), and cover jobs that might work for an operative of the CIA. I must give a huge THANK YOU to Big Shots Gun Range for helping me with the research on different firearms. I couldn’t have written some scenes with accuracy without your help.

In the way of book signings, I’ve signed on to be part of Love Affair- A Romance Event in Omaha, NE on Saturday, May 18, from 10-4pm. If you are in the area stop in to check it out! There will be many vendors present and many drawings for gifts AND a Quarter Auction with gifts from each vendor that will benefit the Midwest Heart Connection. I hope to see you there.

On a personal note, I’ve taken up knitting. So far it is a love-love-hate-love relationship with me an the needles. If you’re a knitter and want to post a tip or two, please do!

As always, if you are on Facebook send me a friend invite. I’m always having contests and such for free books. Last week I gave away three autographed copies, two for the contest and one for the encouraging posts of a ‘friend’.  Every now and then kindness wins for kindness-sake. 😀

Finally, if you are still experiencing Winter as we are in Nebraska, stay warm. I toast your perseverance with a cup of hot cocoa. If you are enjoying a beautiful and warm Spring, share the warmth with another.

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Posted by on April 18, 2013 in Uncategorized


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