Serving students and faculty since 1971

Posted by & filed under Getting Started.

“Volleyball practice ends at seven tonight, ” I yelled as I left for school in the morning.

“I’ll be there,” would be my Mom’s reply.

This exchange took place every morning, with a few alterations of time and sport.

As life wound its way forward, I found the same words echoing through my own home, for my own children, for baseball, softball, bowling, track, and band. Efforts to provide power packed snacks, specialized gear, clean uniforms, and rides for each and every practice, culminated in them being able to showcase their skills on the field, lane, and stage.

Aside from those few prodigies, and every sport has them, any activity we wish to excel at will require the correct equipment, direction, and dedication. Writing may not be a team sport, but it is a collaborative effort. All writers need support, tools, and venues to showcase their talents. Though the practice field, gear, and uniform may be extremely different, the concepts are ultimately the same; it takes practice, patience, and time to hone any skill.

Surrounding yourself with the appropriate writer’s gear, coaching, and practice venues can make all the difference in your performance. So, what do the support, tools, and venues look like? They can be as simple as a writer’s notebook and personal research, or a bit more involved, such as a visit to a writing center or joining a writer’s group for inspiration and encouragement. What it all really boils down to is practice, patience, and time, put in outside of the required reading, writing, and speaking we may be experiencing in our daily lives, which in turn positively impacts our performance on the writing ‘field’.

Whether it’s the satisfaction of watching that perfect ace strike the floor on your opponent’s court, or seeing your work published for others, the practice, patience, and time you invest today, will make tomorrow’s rewards that much sweeter.

Posted by & filed under Uncategorized.

I have been a tutor here at the Marian E. Wright writing center since the winter of 2014. My time here has been a learning experience and a growing experience. When I started I remember myself being spirited and motivated, however I was nervous and unsure of myself. With the guidance of many great colleagues, mentors, and friends I have settled into a comfortable and confident state of mind as a tutor, a student, and a person as a whole. My experiences in tutorial sessions have taught me a lot about students as writers and myself as a tutor. I have learned that the writers I work with are not much different than me because we seem to have similar fears, problems, aspirations, and dreams. We all have doubts. It is not uncommon to not have a clear idea of where we see ourselves in the future. I found that setting day-by-day goals can be a great way to get going in the right direction. Keeping a positive attitude and following through with goals can lead to a clearer understanding of our dreams, our futures, and ourselves.

My experiences in academia and the lessons I have learned along the way are valuable tools I have used and will use in my life to come. When I first started my college experience it wasn’t very easy to picture myself as a successful and productive person, and while I had an idea of what I wanted to do with my future, the details still weren’t very clear. At this point in my academic career I am much more confident in my abilities and the potential I have of making my dreams come true. This newfound confidence has only been possible through my experiences and the lessons I have learned through those experiences. So, my take away lesson is this: in order to make the transition from a newbie to a veteran you must be active, work hard, get involved, and experience the adventure of life. You can’t be afraid to get your hands dirt, as the saying goes. Hands on, life experience is what helps us learn, grow, and ultimately shapes who we are or what we will become.

Posted by & filed under Re-Writing, Tutoring, Uncategorized.

Halloween is one of my favorite times of the year. The excitement of creating a costume, decorating the yard, carving the pumpkins, and coming up with spooky treats is just the most fun. As a child we would each get a pumpkin and Mom would help us carve it.

She always cut a hole in the top of the pumpkin and then we would have to dig out all the gooey seeds. We would design our own faces on the pumpkins, but she would help us cut them out. Then we got to take them out onto the front porch and after we lit our little candles, we would have to try to stick them down through the hole in the top without burning ourselves. The bottom wasn’t always flat, and sometimes the candles would fall over. Once we got them lit we would all stand back in the yard to admire our creations.

Once I had kids of my own the creation of Halloween (and all the other holidays) became my responsibility. I happily carried on my family’s traditions while creating some new ones. Every year we would go to the pumpkin patch and the children got to pick out their own pumpkin. Here is where things changed. I discovered a lot of new tools which were “kid friendly” so my children could do the carving themselves and I wouldn’t have to worry about them being hurt. And then one year I had a revelation. One of my boys asked me why we cut out the top of the pumpkin. I thought about it for a while, and then I realized it would be so much better to cut out the bottom. When I cut a hole in the bottom I could make sure the pumpkin could sit flat as the boys carved them AND I could set the lit candle on the front porch and simply set the pumpkin over it. Voila!

“What does all this have to do with the writing center?” You ask. A few things. In the writing center there are people who know about all kinds of cool tools to help writers. Sometimes using these tools can help us create our papers without “hurting ourselves.” And sometimes while we are working on papers in the writing center the tutor asks just the right question and we realize just how much easier writing could be if we just look at the task in a different way. Sometimes it is so much better to cut out the bottom instead of the top!

Posted by & filed under Getting Started, Quick Tips, Stress Relief.

By the time I got to my senior year in college, I was so sick of learning about the writing process. Pre-writing, drafting, revising, editing, proofreading. All right, all right, I get it. Do we really need to go over this again?

One thing that we have to pick up from all this repetition is that everyone has a different process. Everyone writes a different way, or supports their writing with different habits.
Some people dive right it. Some people like outlines. Others may free write or brainstorm.

I certainly have my own quirks. I always sit down to write with a hot cup of coffee. I like it to be quiet and I like to take long breaks in between writing and revising and then more revising.
I’ve also been a dive right in kind of person. I never cared for free writing, and I certainly didn’t feel like wasting my time with bubbling or maps or lists or whatever.

Lest you think I think I’m perfect, let me inform you, I did have a big problem. Sometimes I couldn’t write.

And I mean couldn’t write. Like, it’s due tomorrow, I don’t have a single word, oh no, what am I going to do, couldn’t write.

It depended on the assignment, how challenging it was, or if it was structured differently from what I usually write. Particularly rough was a sociology paper where I was supposed to analyze some activity using one of the frameworks we had been studying. Looking back on it now, I should have just gone to the writing center and asked for help developing a topic, but at the time I would just sit at the computer or with my notebook, and sit. And sit. And sit. I suffered in silence.

It was here though that I recognized the pattern. I recognized that sometimes I was just blocked. So I decided to do something different. I took out a blank sheet of paper, wrote down something vague in the center, and I made a map. At first it was awful. It was just as hard as sitting alone in front of my computer, my brain sweltering under the strain. But after a little while there were some words, and then some more, and then even some phrases. Finally I had an idea for my paper and I could start writing. Ah, the joy. The pure unadulterated joy.

So even though my writing process doesn’t involve pre-writing, I now have it in my back pocket for those extraordinary times that I need something extra to help me out. If an assignment topic seems very hard, I may freewrite a few paragraphs to get some thoughts together. If a paper is structured in a challenging way, I may plan a little outline. Most of the time, I just dive right in, like with this blog post. But I have a few extra tools that I can use at my convenience, and that helps me as a student and a writer.

It always starts with knowing yourself and your writing process, but don’t feel boxed in, and don’t be jaded against learning new tools. Writing is a dynamic process and you will be stretched and bent and contorted in ways you just can’t anticipate. Having tools, like pre-writing activities, or even revision activities, in your tool box can only help you. There’s no need to suffer in silence. Build your tool box, have a plan, and keep moving forward.

Posted by & filed under Stress Relief, Uncategorized.

Life is not easy; not that I really have to tell any of you that. Things aren’t always good and sometimes we have to avoid them to keep ourselves safe. In the event that things get out of control, it becomes categorized as an interference on life and sometimes a mental illness.

Treatments often include coping methods and therapy and other times medication is required. Living like this makes life even harder. Trying to process these things can be a whole different traumatic experience. If you’ve ever been through therapy, the first thing every therapist seems to suggest is to keep a journal. Not everyone can write about the problems they have because sometimes they can’t identify them. There are other times that while writing might help, they need to digest the events of their life first. I’m one of these people; I can’t talk about things right after they happen and a big reason for it is that I simply can’t always wrap my head around what consequences are to come. Whenever a therapist told me to “give it a go” I rolled my eyes and told them that it was a useless activity for me. I’ve changed on that statement.

Reading has been a big part of my life since I was able to get my grubby little hands on a book. I like stories and characters I can relate to-not unlike other readers- and many of my favorite pieces to read have been those that tie into my identity and the intersecting pieces that play into it. Since starting college, I’ve been finding and receiving more of these kinds of books and pieces to read; many have been related to race and ethnicity. I’ve been able to find meaning for myself in these pieces, but never wholly. This has been something that I’ve discussed with many others and have found they are drawn to similar conclusions. It probably doesn’t help that there are not many South Asian female writers who want to write about living in the United States. Realizing this, I’ve found an answer to the question that has been lurking over me for the past several years: what are you going to do with your degree? Write. I’m going to write a book; something memoir-ish but also dabbling into creative non-fiction to tell my experience as an Asian American.
Growing up, it was hard to even talk about my race and ethnicity without getting picked on. Being Asian American in a mostly white town was tricky and invalidating. No one wanted to say they were racist when they made Asian jokes at me or when they voiced their doubt about my heritage. It hurt and left scars on my psyche that I’m still trying to heal from. In my studies, I’ve found that writing about it to tell my story has helped greatly and therefore why I’m writing this to you. By delving into this project, I hope for a couple of things. First, I hope that the end product will help someone also struggling with living in the grey area of race. That is truly the only way that I want to measure the success of this project. My second goal however, is to be able to repair myself by going through this. Since I am writing with the hope to help others, it is easier to say what I need in an artistic way; in a way that I don’t have to be blunt and put all of myself out there.
This writing has been therapeutic already and I would suggest it to anyone else. Our stories and experiences are unique, but humans have an infinite capacity for empathy; writing is the way to tap into it.

Posted by & filed under Professional Writing, Quick Tips.

A few semesters ago I took a poetry writing class. For one poem, I was trying something different with my line lengths and rhythm. The teacher commented on the first draft that the rhythm was not working, and that I should try to break the lines up more.
Breaking the lines up more was exactly the opposite of what I was trying to do. So, I of course totally ignored that advice.

My sister was trying her hand at writing a novel and she gave me a draft to read. One of my biggest notes for her after reading it was how hard it had been for me to keep track of all the different characters.
“So you want me to cut some characters?” she asked, clearly heartbroken at the idea of getting rid of anyone.
She didn’t cut any characters.
Only the writer has control over the text, because only the writer knows the ultimate goal for that project. Only the writer knows the plan, or the point, or mission of that project. So a writer must always protect that mission, and choose which suggestions or ideas to take and work with. Only the writer can decide where to take his or her writing next.
So was my teacher wrong when she said I needed to make my lines shorter? Was I wrong when I said there were too many characters?


Your reader cannot be wrong. A reader’s job is to relay his or her experience interacting with the text. I can’t be wrong with my experience. I was confused by the number of characters. Period. That’s what happened when I read it and that is a fact the writer has to deal with.
What matters, what is up for discussion, is how the writer chooses to deal with advice. My sister added more detail and depth to the characters. Instead of cutting characters from the fold, she made them easier to remember.
Likewise, my teacher was right. The rhythm in my poem wasn’t working. But instead of cutting lines, which would have ruined the thing I was attempting, I made the lines longer. The poem suddenly opened up, and was even published in the student magazine the following year.
Academic writing faces the same dilemma. Our job at the writing center is to act as readers, but you can also have classmates, teachers, friends or family act as readers for your academic writing. And no matter what they tell you, they aren’t wrong. As a reader, I may be confused by some language. I may not follow the line of reasoning. I may not see the connection between the argument and the evidence.
As a writer, you should not automatically do what I suggest, but you should think about what I am saying, and what that means.
You must ask yourself, why is my reader confused? Why does my reader think that?
And if your reader, even a writing center tutor, gives you some advice, you don’t have to take it. However, it is in your best interest to think about where that suggestion is coming from. If a reader suggests a new way to organize a paper, you should ask, why does my reader think that makes more sense?
If you don’t agree with the suggestion, you still need to address the concern.
Instead of organizing it that way, what can I change so that the reader understands it better?
As a writer, the decisions are up to you, but you asked that reader for advice so you might as well take heed. There is something valuable you can get from each reader, even if it isn’t exactly what they said.

Posted by & filed under Tutoring.

Shhh. Don’t tell anyone… but I have the most fun job on campus. Why is it the most fun job on campus, you ask? Because I get to meet all different kinds of people from all different kinds of places who are studying all different kinds of subjects, and writing about all different kinds of topics. It is the most fun! And there is always candy.

Let’s face it, writing can really be a pain sometimes. We can all struggle with communicating our ideas clearly. The writing process is different for everyone, and there are times that it doesn’t go as smoothly as we want. I get to work with people who are struggling, fearful, worried, confident, or even just a little unsure about what they are doing. During a session, we just talk about whatever the writer is working on, and I get to help them be confident that they are saying what they mean. And, they get to have candy.

I get to meet writers who are studying all kinds of things I may or may not have thought about, and learn from those writers. I love this job in part because I get to read about all kinds of interesting things – from art history to zoology and everything in between. Sometimes the writer is writing about something they are very comfortable with, and sometimes they are writing outside of their own personal comfort zone. Either way, I get to learn from them… and eat candy.

My co-workers are all people who are kind and compassionate, and who know how to talk to writers about writing. They are also very creative and come up with all kinds of fun activities like writing contests for Valentine’s Day, and Poetry month. Also, we have candy.

Part of the fun of coming to work at this job is the “unknown” component of each day. On my drive up Saginaw Street I often wonder; “who will I get to meet today?”, “what will I read about?”, and “what wonderful things will I learn?” What I am sure of on my drive is that my day will never be the same as yesterday. I will never be bored, and I will leave the writing center with more knowledge than I came with. And they pay me to do this! Yes indeed, this is the most fun job on campus. And, did I mention there is candy?

Posted by & filed under Getting Started, Quick Tips.

Sometimes, there’s no way around it. You have to write a summary or analysis of a reading handed to you by your professor.
Yep. Gotta write it. Go on. Just do it and think about how you are sharpening your skills.
Sometimes though, assignments give you some choice. Assignments can be broad prompts that make you narrow in on your own topic. This is an important opportunity that you have to take advantage of, especially in English 111 and 112 where you are the most likely to get some freedom.
Research papers, argumentative papers, even choosing an article yourself to respond to; these are places where your choice can help you in your personal and professional life, so you have to make them work for you.
Whatever career you’re planning for yourself, you know that college is just the beginning of your professional education. There’s insider information, new ideas and exciting developments that will make your field a dynamic place with lots to learn. A research paper is a key way to get a head start.
How would you make a research assignment work for you?
Healthcare Major
• New drugs
• Treating chronic illness
• Hospital stats
• Malpractice lawsuits
Engineering major
• Specific technological advancements
• Patent rules
• Working in international settings
• Ethics
Education majors
• Child development
• Multicultural literature in the classroom
• Cross-curriculum
• Literacy
• Bilingual education
Business majors
• Development of a brand
• Copyright and trademarks
• Plagiarism and theft in the business world
• Sexual harassment

Many of these topics could also be turned into argumentative essays. You could argue for bilingual education, against tougher trademark rules, for new malpractice regulations. The point is, there is information you need to know to be successful in your field, and you don’t have to wait to find out some of those nitty gritty details. If you have to crack open some books anyway, they should be the books you would read as a professional.

On the other hand, let’s suppose you haven’t picked a major yet, or that you need a break from it. You can still pick a personal topic that will benefit you. Think about things you care about, read one or two articles or peruse some blogs. A question will strike you and you will want to know more. Go, student, use your assignment as a golden opportunity to learn more about what it is you find interesting.
It is essential that you use every possible assignment to your advantage. Classes like English 111 and English 112 are meant to help develop critical writing skills that are necessary to succeed in college and in most professions. It is a fact that people write better when they care about the topic, so choosing a fabulous topic is about more than just that valuable information (which you need anyway), but getting as much as you can out of your class. So whatever you do, make every class and every assignment worth your while.
(And if you don’t like my research suggestions, it is because you know better ones. Post your suggestions below).

Posted by & filed under Getting Started, Professional Writing, Tutoring.

Before coming back to the MEW Writing Center at UM-Flint, I worked at a writing center at a community college. One day when it was a little slow, I struck up a conversation with another writing tutor. I asked him if he had used the writing center recently.

“Oh no,” he said right away. “I’m a good writer. I don’t need the writing center.”

I just about choked on my coffee. Don’t need the writing center? What?

I was beyond shocked at this admission; I was also really disappointed. This tutor held the same misconception that many students do; that the writing center is a place to go if you’re bad at writing, that the writing center can be beneath you.

I use the writing center all the time. I bring in scholarship applications, cover letters, essays that I can’t get started, essays that I’ve already rewritten three times. I bring it in.

Once in a while, a tutor laughs nervously when I come for an appointment. Tutoring a tutor certainly feels like the stakes have been raised. It feels like we need to catch every answer, like we need to be perfect.

But the writing center isn’t about catching errors. We’ll help you learn to catch your own errors, of course, but that’s not our mission. No writing tutor excitedly runs through the door, saying, “Let’s catch those comma splices!”

I don’t go to the writing center because I need someone to catch my errors. I go to the writing center because I need someone to talk to about the big, hefty task I have in front of me. I need someone to help brainstorm ideas. I need someone tell me how it sounds outside my head. I need a person to talk to.

Writing is a social activity. It involves people, lots and lots of people. Sure, I write my first draft alone somewhere, but I’m writing it for someone, for my teacher, for an employer, for a newspaper audience.

The writing center is for us social creatures, students, writers and learners alike. We help our clients organize their thoughts, make the best use of evidence, and follow through all the way to the end. We become the readers, and share the experience we had reading that essay, that story, that analysis. We tell writers what we got out of the piece. We ask important questions that may not have occurred to the writer. We’re going to show where we get lost and when we want to know more. We’re going to commiserate about the hard work writing is, and offer our best techniques for getting started or rewriting.

So everyone out there hidden in a dorm room or buried in a library cubicle, writing away, feeling alone with your thoughts, remember: the writing center is here for you. For all of you.

Posted by & filed under Uncategorized.

Since my time in grade school, high school, and even now in college I have been well aware of the system of hierarchy embedded within the education system and in all of academia. As I am presently experiencing the role of a writing tutor I have recently begun to question the hierarchy system in academia and whether or not it could actually be detrimental to the writer or student. In my recent experience of tutoring English 109 through the writing center I have seen the student/tutor hierarchy from the tutors’ point of view. So I ask the question where “the line” of hierarchy should be drawn between student and tutor. Should there even be a set standard of hierarchy?

In grade school I was always told what to do, what not to do, what is right, and what is wrong. By the time I reached high school I had developed a case of “red pen syndrome,” or the fear of getting back papers with red marks all over them telling me what I had done wrong. It became difficult to explore thoughts and ideas that were interesting or important to me. I found myself following the linear path that was set before me by my teachers. My state of mind was changed to that of satisfying the teachers’ needs in order to avoid the red marks and earn good grades. Although I have more freedom to express my thoughts and ideas in college there is still a system of hierarchy that at times seems to put me back on a linear path of satisfying an instructor.

As an English 109 tutor I have been able to view academic hierarchy from the perception of the tutor. As a tutor and student I have noticed that students (including myself) sometimes need specific direction and prefer a linear path to follow. I have also noticed that this need for direction comes from the fear of doing an assignment wrong and from the desire to earn a good grade. I have observed students far more concerned with the specific requirements of an assignment rather than the overall purpose of the assignment. Once the final result of a passing grade is reached the knowledge is easily forgotten in pursuit of the next passing grade. As students (including myself) it can be easy to lose priority of our reasons for being here.

During some of my best tutoring sessions I reached a “level playing field,” or equal level of hierarchy with the writer and we seemed to be able to talk to each other like a couple of friends sitting around a camp fire drinking a couple of cold ones. We would bounce ideas off of each other throughout the entire session. Our eyes would light up with excitement every time this exchange of information turned into a golden thought or idea and I knew that writer would not be losing that knowledge any time soon. I would like to see academia lean away from the structured hierarchy system and a little closer towards the pair of buddies having a good time around the fire.

Kris Price