None of Us Are Herrings

Wriiting Center TA David Aitchison

Wriiting Center TA David Aitchison

By David Aitchison. Hear David read this blog post with his wonderful accent. A few weeks ago, I had an appointment in our Main Writing Center with a sophomore, Amanda, who was working on her application essays for the Business School. With just a thirty-minute slot to look at three 250-word essays we had little time to waste. I remember three things in particular. First, it was fun – one of those sessions that gallop by because it’s late in the day and the two of you have the sillies, though that doesn’t stop you from thinking sensibly and strategically. Second, it was easy – Amanda was the kind of student who, even if she didn’t know it herself at first, was bursting with all the right ideas that, as I saw it, were exactly what her essays needed. Third, as we were wrapping up, she confessed that, much to her relief, coming to the Writing Center was nothing like she’d expected. “You know,” she said, with a bit of a blush, “how everyone’s ALWAYS nervous about coming to the Writing Center for the first time. It’s daunting.”

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Writing Across the Foreignness

John Anderson

Writing Center TA John Anderson

By John Stafford Anderson. Saturday, at a party we had celebrating her upcoming dissertation defense, a friend of mine tearfully took me aside.  She wanted to know if I would be available next week to help her with some writing points on her dissertation.  Of course, I agreed to help, but I wanted to know why she was so tearful at this amazing South African-themed braai being held in her honor.  My friend is not prone to drama or gossip; she is quite practical.  Since she arrived in Madison, she has maintained course in some particularly ugly storms without needing tissues.  The tears were definitely out of place.  She pulled me aside, away from the music, out of earshot from others, and dropped the bomb:  “my advisor,” she said, “said my writing is awful:  he said I write like a foreigner.”  Well, my friend is a foreigner who is fluent in three languages besides English.  How else should she write, I wondered?  “He said I should write like an American,” she explained.

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Starting a slow-writing movement

slow_writing_movementgraphicAs we launched a new semester in our writing center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison this past week, I loved listening to the lively buzz in our center emanating from conversations about writing projects.  And as I eavesdropped, I was reminded of how much I value slow, detailed, substantial conversations about writing in progress.

Our writing center burst back into conversation last week, despite the arctic conditions of January in Wisconsin—through the first four days of the semester, 170 students already came in for consultations or scheduled ones.  These student-writers were, as writing center students always are, wonderfully varied: sophomores writing personal statements to meet a February 1st deadline for applying to our school of nursing, seniors sprinting to finish applications to some graduate schools that have later deadlines, grad students and senior-thesis students resuming regular weekly sessions as they work through long writing projects, students with incompletes from last semester anxiously trying to finish a project they wish they had finished already.

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What We Talk About When We Talk About Seaweed

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Rebecca Lorimer

By Rebecca Lorimer. A course coordinator in Biology was explaining to me that her students were having trouble in their discussion sections. I nodded as I mentally sifted through my grab bag of discussion-leading strategies. When she asked, “do you have any ideas for our TAs?” I was ready.

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On Being a New Writing Fellow in a First-Year Interest Group

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By Molly Rentscher.  As my first semester in the Writing Fellows program reaches a half-way point, I find myself reflecting on the rewards and challenges of being a Writing Fellow. I am thrilled by the overwhelmingly positive experiences the program has provided me and quite frankly, how much fun I am having. The course for which I fellow is a First-Year Interest group (FIG): a “learning community” of about 20 students who are enrolled in a cluster of three classes that are linked by a common theme. As a new Writing Fellow in a Literature in Translation FIG course, I feel as though I have not only been initiated into a peer mentoring program, but a unique writing community of first-year students.

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Welcome to a New Writing Center Year!

WAC workshop for writing-intensive TAs

WAC workshop for TAs teaching writing-intensive courses

From all of us in the UW-Madison Writing Center programs, welcome to a new academic year!  We’re off and running on an exciting new year.

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New Podcast Interviews with Neal Lerner

lerner_idea_writinglaboratory_coverWe’re delighted to share three new podcasts from our research and professional series, featuring Neal Lerner, who is the director of training in communication instruction for the program in writing and humanistic studies at MIT.  Neal is a long-time writing center director and tutor, a former co-editor of The Writing Center Journal, an award-winning scholar and researcher, and the author of The Idea of a Writing Laboratory (Southern Illinois University Press, 2009). These interviews were recorded during the March 2010 Conference on College Composition and Communication in Louisville, KY.

If you’re interested in writing center history, in the history of science education, in the history of educational reform, or in archival research, you’ll really enjoy hearing Neal Lerner talk about his research.

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The UW-Madison Writing Center Turns 40

Last October the Writing Center held an open house to celebrate the Center’s 40th birthday. Well over 100 students and colleagues came from across campus to—

  • chat with our staff
  • peruse posters about our programs
  • sample our podcasts and our online consultations and videos of in-person consultations
  • nibble on birthday cake from Lane’s Bakery
  • and hear short presentations reflecting on the Writing Center’s history and its impact across campus and beyond

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