UofL Writing Center

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Archive for the month “December, 2013”

Graduate Students: We’re Here to Help You With Your Coursework, Too!

Meghan Hancock, Assistant Director for Graduate Writing

Here at the U of L Writing Center, we work with a lot of graduate students on their master’s theses or dissertations.  These are always fun for us, as they give us the chance to not only hone our own skills in helping students with larger projects, but also the chance to learn about the up and coming research of U of L graduate students across the disciplines.

You don’t have to wait until you’re working on your culminating project, though (and in this context I’m talking about master’s theses or dissertations), to come to us as a graduate student.  The writing you do during your coursework can be challenging as well, and we’re here to help!

hancockAs a fellow graduate student myself, I know how difficult coursework can be.  We’re often juggling coursework with responsibilities as TA’s teaching several courses at once, with our work as research assistants, with our time in a work-study position, or sometimes even balancing coursework with a full time job while taking care of our families.  In other words, we have a lot on our plates.  Finding the time, then, to dedicate to weekly seminar course preparation as well as the time needed to research and write toward a seminar paper due at the end of a semester can be difficult.  Not only this—sometimes (when you’re a new graduate student especially) you might be encountering some of the writing genres expected of you for the first time.  I remember, for instance, how lost I felt when I had to write my first seminar paper.  Was it the same as the research papers I had to do as an undergraduate, or were there differences that I didn’t know about?

This is where consultants at the Writing Center can help.  We’re familiar with those genres.  Your coursework (while often thought of as something to get out of the way before you begin your degree’s culminating project) is the time when you learn how to write within your discipline and enter the scholarly conversation others in your field have begun.  Coming to the Writing Center to work on things like seminar papers, then, might give you some insight on your writing as a graduate student that will help you when it comes time to write your thesis or dissertation.   Many of the elements of a typical seminar paper, like a short review of relevant scholarship, critical engagement with sources, and a semi-original argument that contributes to your chosen field in some way, will also be expected in your thesis or dissertation.  It helps to start working on these skills sooner rather than later.  In other words, it’s never too late to try the Writing Center if you’re a graduate student!

How I Write: Jeffery Carter — Podcaster

Our “How I Write” series asks writers from the University of Louisville community and beyond to respond to five questions that provide insight into their writing processes and offer advice to other writers. Through this series, we promote the idea that learning to write is an ongoing, life-long process and that all writers, from first-year students to career professionals, benefit from discussing and collaborating on their work with thoughtful and respectful readers. The series will be featured every other Wednesday.

This week we feature our first writer from beyond the university community. Jeffery Carter lives and works in Louisville, KY. His hobbies include boxing, video gaming, reviewing video games and movies, and hosting his own podcast. In his podcast, Nerds Socialize, Carter discusses a range of topics from changing social contracts, to addictive tendencies, to the latest pop culture. With his podcast, he aims to spread the message that “interacting with others is a great thing, and can help you overcome great obstacles in life.”

How I Write: Jeffery Carter

carter_workspaceLocation: Just about anywhere, but on the floor in my room is best (see the bowl? Yeah, I’m on the “poor bowl ‘o noodle” diet)

Current project: Unsung Knightmares (various short stories and eventually, and hopefully, a novel), and Game Reviews

Currently reading: This blog

  1. What type(s) of writing do you regularly engage in?

    I write a lot of short stories and create characters. I also like writing reviews for various types of media like video games and tv shows.

  2. When/where/how do you write?

    When Do I write? I write when I feel the mood. I usually write a little bit during most days, and if I’m not writing, I’m usually thinking up ideas or concepts for other stories, or existing ones. The best time for me to write is when I get a really good idea or concept that just makes me excited, cause then the words just seem to flow from me. I also write after I review games or shows, when they’re still fresh in my head.

    Where do I write? well… I’ll write just about anywhere. One of my recent writing habits is writing on my iphone using the “notes” app just about anywhere, espeically when I get cool ideas on the spot.

    How do I write? Well, in a review, I write heavily in my own voice and opinion. I tend to right my own voice as a bit hyper and eccentric at times. The reason for this is mainly due to the fact that when I review, I’m usually very very excited and hyper in general after wathcing or doing whatever is that I’m reviewing at that time. When I write for a story, I try my best to get into the character as much as I can, so I can think more like that character, and think up actions that said character would do in the situation they are in.

  3. What are your writing necessities—tools, accessories, music, spaces?

    A computer or an iphone. Thanks to technology, writing can be done pretty much anywhere at anytime. A perfect example of this is social media, and how often people tweet or post on twitter and facebook when they’re away from their houses… where all their stuff is… that everyone now knows is unguarded. So all I need is some kind of technology that has a word processor on it. now as for music, it is usually one or two songs on repeat. what those songs are just depend on my mood, or the “vibe” of what I’m writing. For intense fight scenes in my stories, I’ll listen to a lot of loud metal, or intense techno. The most frequent song is the Mortal Kombat theme music. And as for space, well, just about anywhere, BUT my preferred space is on my floor, computer on my coffee table, TV on (but on mute), music blaring with a drink of some sort near by.

  4. What is your best tip for getting started and/or for revision?

    If you’re writing a story, then just let it play out. Don’t second guess yourself, else your wrting becomes forced and un-natural. If you write a story that plays out how real life would, people can relate more to what’s going on.

  5. carterWhat is the best writing advice you’ve received?

    Be you. When you try to write how you think people want you to, then you’re not writing what you want anymore.

On Early Writing Advice

Jessica Winck, Assistant Director

This week’s feature was adapted from an earlier post on Jessica’s blog Daily Inventions, which focuses on writing, teaching, and the teaching of writing.

DSCN1660As I work on finishing my M.A. project, I’ve been thinking about how my views on writing were shaped when I was younger. After studying rhetoric and writing for the past two years, I’ve become more conscious of how some of my own views, behaviors, and habits suggest something I learned early on that stayed with me. In other words, I’ll become aware of something I’m doing, and I’ll say (sometimes out loud), “Where did that come from?”

Throughout my teens I saw myself as a fiction writer, and the writing of fiction was Writing to me – so people who wrote it were Writers. I got a sense of this in so many of the books about fiction writing that I read. There was a sense in these books – this discourse – that good writers have a gift. Certainly they work hard, but they have an indefinable quality, so at best, advice about writing for people who don’t have this gift can only help them artificially replicate what gifted writers possess naturally.

Now I see this as a flawed assumption, but I bought into it when I was younger. When I was 20 or 21 I showed a short story to a guy I worked with who also wrote fiction. His initial response was, “Well, you can write!” On one hand, that’s just stating the obvious. On the other hand, that’s not what he was talking about at all. He meant I had some kind of ability beyond competence.

There were consequences for this kind of view of writing and writers. Though my undergrad curriculum consisted of several creative writing workshops, collaboration wasn’t a major priority – in fact it was discouraged because it was seen as a distraction. Someone once told me that writers who work at coffee shops or with others just want distractions because they aren’t committed to their craft. Real writers toil alone, if not for concentration’s sake, then because their gift for writing – all that genius – leads to bad social skills or neuroses. The Writer/Suffering Genius was a persona more than anything else, and my peers and I all desperately ached toward it.

peter elbowClearly I disagreed with these “truths” to some extent, otherwise I wouldn’t have been so frustrated by their limitations at the time. But they weren’t my only influences. When I was in high school, I read two important writers: Peter Elbow and Natalie Goldberg. Something distinguished them from the other people I read during that time and later in undergrad: they didn’t tolerate the view of “Writing” that I’ve elaborated here. For them, improving as writers is first a matter of writing more and being more methodical about how you use your writing time (ie., scheduled or timed writing). Though I read Elbow and Goldberg early on, they stayed on my shelf all through undergrad as I worked through developing an identity as a writer. I thought that improving as a writer couldn’t possibly be a matter of persistence, which is available to everyone.

As I work on my Master’s project now, I’m realizing in really profound ways that at a fundamental level, apart from other factors and forces that bear down on me in this process, that I will finish my project in a reasonable amount of time if I just persist methodically. This isn’t to say that challenges won’t come up, or that I won’t ever feel like it’s hopeless, but it’s to say that there is plenty of evidence that says I should have faith in this process.

There are also benefits for teachers and writing consultants to examine early influences on our views of writing. This is a view of writing that leads us to assume that everyone can write, as Peter Elbow suggests, and that doing well and “being successful,” however defined, is a matter of persisting, not of innate talents or gifts.

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