The Writing Lab Hotline: Anytime, Anywhere

The Writing Lab Hotline is available 24/7 for your writing needs! In the “Leave a Reply” section below, you can ask a writing question. Write a few sentences or paragraph. Share an idea for a writing assignment. Please share anything that you need help with in the area of writing! We will respond to your post within 48 hours (excluding weekends).

The limit here is a paragraph length work of writing.

If you want to talk for an extended amount of time about your writing assignment, go to, come to the Academic Success Center in FLD 117, or email to set up a 30-minute or 1-hour tutoring appointment with a writing coach.

Material Constructs, Confinements, and Identities of the Writing Lab

Last week, I was chatting with a friend about kairos, focusing on how to encourage kairos to happen in the tutoring session. He told me that I needed to back away from focusing on the tutoring session to answer that question. He went on to explain how the materiality of the Writing Lab (i.e. the images others place upon us) affects and does not affect the happenings of the Writing Lab. The gist of his message was that the institution imposes these certain bounds upon who we are. Perhaps they say we fix grammar. Perhaps they say we are a place for freshmen students or for students who are horrible writers to migrate. It’s not just the institution that labels us though. It’s individual instructors. It’s students. Each of them sees the Writing Lab in a different perspective, and no matter how many times we advertise ourselves that we are a place of meaningful conversation, people still do not understand what we do.

I’m sure I am not the only who has encountered these problems before. In the writing center world, we have people pulling at us from all directions. But when it comes down to it, how does this “materiality” affect the tutoring session, specifically the kairotic moments of the tutoring session? According to my friend, in the end, this materiality matters nil. I instantly wanted to combat with his opinion, but I came to mostly agree with him. Students bring assignment guidelines, instructor expectations, and preconceived notions of writing to the tutoring session, which obviously influences our work. However, we, the tutors, the directors and coordinators of writing centers, represent the writing center during a tutoring session. We have our own ideologies that actively resist not all, but some of these other materialities. Conforming to the materialities of the university and of others would lead to a conformity not representative of authentic writing.

This push seems very anti-university, but I am not advocating a revolution, a complete separation of university and student. I want students to understand academic writing and to understand what their particular instructors want from their writing. I am advocating an understanding of the individual spirit the Writing Lab encourages. The student and I embody our own Writing Lab during each tutoring session. This individuality is the key to critical thinking and student ownership within their writing, and ultimately, to kairos (“the opportune moment”). Within those bounds alone, we work to create an environment where the student has the opportunity to resist and to reflect. Without these options, students will write mindless essays that are of no use to them.

The Writing Lab is a place of choosing. Each student we meet, we make a choice of how to act, what to say, and who to be.

Week 4: Writing in the Disciplines Part 2

Go to Google, the database system, or any other place with research and choose a work of writing from your field. Try to find something other than a typical essay. Look for a unique source. It can be a scientific report examining the importance of doing crunches, a business analysis of gaining additional equipment in a fitness center, a management plan for works in a fitness center, a letter, or any work of writing that is prevalent in your field.

1. When searching for this particular source, what types of writing did you find that were prevalent in your field?
2. Title of writing, author name, publication information, type of writing
3. What is a summary of the writing?
4. What compelled you to read this writing? What was effective with it? What did you think about this piece of writing?
5. What were some stylistic conventions you noticed? This question can include the language of the author, the tone, the point of view (“I” or no “I,” direct with the audience or not), the arguments and logic used, etc.
6. How would you define the author’s writing voice? Upon reading this work and last week’s work, how would you define writing in your field of study?

To check out the YouTube video associated with this prompt, go to

Let’s Imagineer Together

Pure Imagination (song from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory)

Willy Wonka:
Hold your breath
Make a wish
Count to three

Come with me
And you’ll be
In a world of
Pure imagination
Take a look
And you’ll see
Into your imagination

We’ll begin
With a spin
Traveling in
The world of my creation
What we’ll see
Will defy

If you want to view paradise
Simply look around and view it
Anything you want to, do it
Wanta change the world?
There’s nothing
To it

There is no
Life I know
To compare with
Pure imagination
Living there
You’ll be free
If you truly wish to be

If you want to view paradise
Simply look around and view it
Anything you want to, do it
Wanta change the world?
There’s nothing
To it

There is no
Life I know
To compare with
Pure imagination
Living there
You’ll be free
If you truly
Wish to be

This song is very subtle yet direct in its message. It’s a soft-spoken sort of song but has such assertive claims: “Wanta change the world?/There’s nothing/To it.” If only we emphasized that in our classrooms. Willy Wonka created a fantastical place, but students can do. Students can make a difference, even in their composition classrooms. But they have to believe that they can, and teachers can help students believe. Students must be allowed to go into their imagination, to explore all that it has to offer.

A shout out to the IWCA/NCPTW Conference that will take place in Orlando at the end of October/ beginning of November! The main thread running through the theme of the conference is a Disney-esque centered principle called Imagineering, which according to Walt Disney is “the blending of creativity and imagination with technical know-how.” This next year, the MBU Writing Lab is planning to imbue this principle into our mission.

We often teach students (or see others who teach students) to play it safe in their writing. Check off a series of items on a list of requirements, and your writing will be great. Here’s where the “but” comes in. BUT then the writing is boring. If you put no creativity in your writing, who is going to want to read it? Yes, I know, teachers assign grades for the writing; teachers read the writing (though I can name a handful of teachers who probably do not). To bounce back to the blog post I posted a couple of weeks ago, grades should not be the sole reason students are motivated to write.

The Disney Corporation does not produce movies and TV shows and amusement parks and plush toys and my personal favorite, keychains, just so they can get the approval of their fans and receive money for their efforts. Okay, that might be part of the reason. I like receiving an “A” on an assignment as much as any other person, but a couple of things really discourage me about feedback for writing assignments: when instructors mark off or only comment on grammar and when instructors do not write anything at all. Either way, they are basically saying, “I don’t care about what you have to say in this writing assignment.”

If we place an Imagineering spin on writing, then writing is partly “technical know-how” but also “creativity and imagination.” Writing is an expression and a discovery, a world of possibilities awaits beneath its surface. So often we only allow students to remain at the top because it’s easier to keep track of them up there. It’s easier to assess the student’s grammar mistakes than the student’s imaginative qualities or levels of thought. It’s easier to mark that there’s no thesis statement or topic sentence than to question the student and to engage with the student as a reader and as a scholar. It’s easier to treat the student as in-superior than to actually care about what he/she has to say!

Okay, that’s enough. I get a bit impassioned when it comes to this topic.

I want the Writing Lab to live the Imagineering lifestyle. I fully believe that in our tutoring sessions, we are doing so. We encourage students to discover, to think, and to find an identity in their writing. This fall semester, we want to live it campus-wide. The Writing Lab is tucked away in the basement, and even though we are a small university, and we advertise like crazy, not everyone comes to see us. Thus, the Portable Writing Lab was born, or is in the process of being born. We are going to explode the campus with writing. Every Friday, a couple of the writing coaches and myself will be traversing the campus doing outrageously Imagineering type things, whether Flash Mob Literature or an endless story or something to get students thinking about writing. We want to show that the Writing Lab can exist anywhere. That writing can take place anywhere. That writing is not restricted to five paragraphs.

I want students to feel as if they can do anything. I want them to be creative with their writings, to take risks that give their writings some originality. I want students to be free. I stand by this empowerment pedagogy. I’m not saying to do away with the rules of writing but to not be so restrictive that students don’t write anything with purpose and don’t enjoy what they are writing.

The Writing Lab will lead by example. We hope that students will follow suit and Imagineer with us because if they don’t, well, I don’t want to know what the consequences of that are.

Week 3: Writing in the Disciplines Part 1

Go to the library database system and find an essay in your field. Read through it and answer the questions below:
1. Title of article, author name, publication information
2. What is a summary of the article?
3. What compelled you to read this article? What was effective with it? What did you think about this piece of writing?
4. What were some stylistic conventions you noticed? This question can include the language of the author, the tone, the point of view (“I” or no “I,” direct with the audience or not), the arguments and logic used, etc.
5. How would you define the author’s writing voice?

To watch the YouTube video that correlates with this prompt, go to

Bazerman, C. (2009). Issue brief: Discourse communities. National Council of Teachers of
English. Retrieved from

Derrida, J. (1997). Of grammatology. (G. C. Spivak, Trans.). Baltimore: Johns Hopkins
University Press. (Original work published 1967)

Harris, M. (1995). Talking in the middle: Why writers need writing tutors. College English
57(1), 27-42. Retrieved from config=jstor

Motivation for Writing Essays: Wise Words from a Writing Lab Coordinator To Care or Not to Care

This week in the Writing Lab, I have been researching what motivates people to write, academically and non-academically. Writing has always been a part of my life, from the stories I would sell to my neighbors to my journals in the third grade. Writing became a personal journey for me, one where I could pursue whatever I wanted. I could travel to a faraway land in the stories I made up, or I could write about my deepest, darkest thoughts, which were not very deep or dark in the third grade. Writing was an escape. What a cliché.

I have always been self-motivated to learn and to write, even in academic contexts. I love the process of doing research, tasting the sounds of the words on a page, testing a new idea, finding a new identity. It’s magical. Though I have always known this, I have not always been taught this way, and without this teaching, I was not guided to perform my writing in this way. From elementary school through my undergraduate years, I learned that writing is a formula. As long as it sounds pretty and is properly formatted, I will be set for life. Graduate school slapped me out of that belief system. During my first semester of graduate school, one instructor told me I had not found my identity as a writer yet, or my “writing voice.” I didn’t know I was missing it because I had never been told, never been taught to find a writing voice.

I thought I was motivated to write before, but it was not until graduate school that I fully embraced what I could do. When I was allowed to search for a writing voice and was allowed to use a voice that was completely mine, I became more in love with the writing process and more engaged with what I wrote. Being heard motivates people to write. What’s the point of words if they have no purpose? That question is a bit recursive, but many people disregard it. Writing demands interaction, a reaction to the text to initiate more thinking about the text and more exploration of its ideas.
When what you have to say matters to someone else, you feel more inclined to think about what you say more. It’s common sense. Okay, I might be playing a bit of a logical fallacy here by claiming that merely listening and caring about what students say will make them want to learn more and do better in their writing, BUT I have seen it work. I have also seen the opposite too. Students come into the Writing Lab, and they need help with formatting and only formatting. Why? Their instructor gave them a C on their last paper for messing up their APA headers. It doesn’t matter that what they have to say is straight summary of the article, nothing meaningful, nothing they care about. The only thing that matters to their instructor is that their formatting is flawless, which affects what they focus on in their essays. They won’t put effort into writing something meaningful if nobody cares about what they have to say. Is that the way learning should function?

Mindset is vital for writing. It’s half of the struggle. Parnimavada – a yoga terming meaning that you are a different you every time you come to the yoga mat. The same principle applies with writing. Every time you write, you come with different emotions and thoughts and issues. But, having some foundational ideas to that “you,” that identity, that writing voice is important. It’s good to know that you are allowed to have different writing voices when you write, but equally important to know that each writing voice should be yours. It should be shaped by who you are, and it should matter to you.

When an instructor, or tutor, cares about what students write about, it changes the stakes in the game, for the best.

Week 2: The Writing Process

Think of a previous essay you wrote or are currently writing and read the following questions. The main objective of this exercise is to think about what you do from the beginning of your writing process to the end of your writing process, so you do not need to respond to every single question. The first post is an example of my writing process.

o What did you see in your mind before you started writing?
o When did you realize you had your topic? When did you realize your topic had you?
o What did you do first? Did you outline? Freewrite? Imagine a first line? Compose a paragraph in your head?
Just start writing the whole thing?
o What happened after your first line or first paragraph? Did you write quickly, not stopping? What was the
tempo of the following paragraphs?
o Did you revise as you wrote? Did you write the whole draft then begin changing?
o When did you make your biggest changes? What were those changes?
o Did you seek any feedback from other people? When and how did you seek response from someone else?
o How did response help you or affect the piece?
o Did you get stuck at any point? What did you do then?
o When did you realize what the piece was really about?
o When did you figure out how you wanted to end the piece?
o When did you realize the piece was finished? What told you it was finished?
o Can you outline the steps you went through to compose this piece?
o What is a metaphor for your writing? Either post a picture or write it down or both!

Some of these questions are from the following source: Anderson, O. R. (2001). The writing process rejected. The Quarterly 23(2), 30-33. Retrieved from

To watch the YouTube video that correlates with this prompt, go to

Engaging Students in a Tutorial by Using Karios

By: Elizabeth Busekrus

Here is the first blog post on the Writing Space! My blog posts are going to relate to tutoring, writing, and rhetoric and ways that students can apply what they learn in a tutoring session to their future writings and their writing processes. Enjoy!

Kairos is a Greek term that is actually undefinable in the English language. It can be interpreted in a number of ways. It is the pivotal moment of a tutoring session. It is known as the point of tension and the opportune moment. It is the moment of “aha,” of enlightenment, and of movement. Let me set up this theoretical idea in terms of a tutoring session. A student comes to the Writing Lab with a research paper in hand. She has written a couple of paragraphs on the importance of exercise. We start discussing the body parts involved in exercise and the different types of exercise. We gear on cardiovascular exercise and then on running. We discuss the oxygen intake involved, the glycogen process, and the physicality of it. Then, I ask her, “Do you run?” She responds with a “yes,” and I respond back with “Why?”

She becomes animated about analyzing the motivations behind why she runs. This discussion into the psychological side of running creates a strong and narrowed topic for her essay. Kairos occurred during this session, when the questioning and discussion process began to move the session in a different and insightful direction.

Why is kairos such an important topic to discuss? How do you cause kairos to occur? There is no easy answer to these questions, but let’s take a look at what would happen if kairos was absent in a session and what spurs kairos to happen. Every tutoring session is different from the next because every student has different beliefs and backgrounds (personally and within the context of writing). However, tutors have certain ways that they approach tutoring sessions, and these formulas can sometimes inhibit kairos. I usually start with greeting the student, asking them what they would like to work on, and going through the essay in a chronological fashion with this certain lens. Following every step of this tutoring formula can debilitate creative moments, especially if the student or I are not willing to diverge from the plan of action.

This structure also does not show a realistic writing process, which can often be chaotic rather than linear. The writing process should encourage students to deepen their thoughts about their essay topic and their identities as writers. Doing so involves stepping away from the idea that there is one correct way to write an essay or one correct way to form a tutoring session.

Kairos is oftentimes a result of the circumstances. It is not a matter of chance, but if the student’s core concern is “I need to focus on fixing the grammatical errors in this essay,” kairos may not occur. Recognizing these places (the beliefs, values, attitudes, and background of the student) is a step in the right direction though. When the student and the tutor are both aware of where the student stands, they can practice shifting those places. Reevaluating their places (not just within the paper but within themselves as writers) can bring about a moment of ingenuity, movement, meaning, and creativity: also known as, kairos.

Kairos can happen within the writing process too. Think upon the following kairos-related questions as you write a story, poem, essay, or other piece of writing:
1. How do I relate to this topic (personally, culturally, academically, etc.)? What are some preconceived ideas about this topic and why do I believe these things?
2. What are some of the common perspectives people have about this topic? How can I think about this topic in a new way? What is a lens, approach, or a metaphor that I can use to guide this writing?

Writing Lab Hotline: March 19, 2014

Ask a question. Write a few sentences. Share an idea. Anything that you need help with in the area of writing, please share! You will receive immediate response on this hotline from 6 p.m.-12 a.m. on Wednesday, March 19, 2014, but if you post a writing question or short piece of writing any other time in the week, we will get back to you as soon as we can!