What You Missed at Writing Week!

By: Jeannie Buchanan

Writing Week took place October 24th -28th; this exciting week was filled with different activities related in some way or another to writing.

Activities were created by Writing Lab staff to combine writing and fun!

The first and most popular event was Mole Day, which was a way to celebrate science by performing an array of science experiments. Two of the most popular experiments were the dry ice Boo bubbles and the film canister rocket experiments. The writing coaches incorporated writing by having students describe what was happening in each experiment using words of imagery and onomatopoeia. Student practiced using descriptive writing techniques to show vs. tell what was going on in the experiments. They were also able to experiment with their own experiments using the ingredients provided. These experiments allowed students to create and play in ways that extended beyond the typical essay.

Including in Writing Week was a new and exciting event called Vote Smart. Writing coaches brainstormed a way to involve politics without the pressure of the 2016 election; the result was Vote Smart. This mock debate took place between favorite Disney and Nickelodeon characters. Participants had the opportunity to represent one person and debate with their peers on mock topics. Students were to stay in character as they responded to the questions. The finalist was voted the “President.” Vote Smart was full of improv, humor, and critical thinking. In addition, writing coaches created handouts for students to learn how to to chose their future president similar to how the Nick character Spencer (from iCarly) was elected. Even though this time was meant to be fun, its aim was to get student thinking about the election and how to use critical thinking and unbiased sources to choose their president.

Next on the schedule was Blackout Poetry! This event grabbed the attention of students at the Perk to evolve their creativity skills. Writing coaches handed out a page from a book and students were to black out the words that did not fit their poem. Once completed, they read their piece, and judges chose the best piece. Writing Lab Coach Mason Crabtree states that it was “cool when people would finish a page and go back to get another page to make another poem because they enjoyed it so much.” Even though there was only one winner, every student that participated had a great time learning this new creative way of writing.

Wednesday night brought comedy, singing, poetry, and good conversations with the Open Mic Night event. MBU students who were involved showed their creativity in a variety of unique performances. Prices were given out to the most creative and best performance. Both audience members and participants enjoyed snacks provided by the Writing Lab staff.

To wrap up a fantastic week of writing, the Murder Mystery was a great success. The theme for the Murder Mystery was book heroes/heroines. Characters included Harry Potter, Tris, Bella, Edward, and more! Students came together during this time as heroic characters. Bella (from Twilight) unfortunately met her demise that evening. After her death, the characters had to search through evidence to figure out the culprit.  As the event came to an end, the identity of the murder was revealed by the characters’ impressive detective skills. The entire night was filled with snacks, improv, and mystery. Participants would like to get involved again next year to watch another engaging storyline be uncovered.

All and all, Writing Week was time for students at MBU to relax, have fun, and enhance their writing skills. Many who partook in the events will be joining us next year for another week of new and returning activities involving writing.  

For Tutors with Suitcases Under Their Eyes

By: Abby Crain

This blog is for the peer tutors of the world who are getting a little burnt out.

First of all, let me just say that I am right there with you (figuratively, of course). I have had my moments of distress, even during a tutoring session, where I have questioned every decision that led to to that point. Tutoring is hard, and there is no doubt about that. Sure, it can be easy if you do not actually care about the results of your labors, but if you are anything like me you probably worry a LOT about whether you are actually doing any good in your occupation at all. Let me just say that on your worst day of tutoring, when you are running out of steam and you have your own homework looming in the back of your mind, you are still valuable and you are more helpful than you will ever know. The encouragement you provide in a tutoring session may be just the balm for a struggling English composition student’s soul. That day, you may be the only person telling them that they are doing a good job with something.

I am not saying that you will only get that type of students, because I have had my fair share of unwilling participants and extra-credit-seeking students. I know the struggle to hold my tongue when a student walks in, asks for me to only look for grammar and spelling mistakes, and huffs when I tell him/her we have to work on higher-ordered concerns first. My personal favorites are the students who try to nonchalantly get me to write their papers for them, acting just interested enough in their topics to make me think they are writing down catch phrases when in reality they are trying to copy down the entire paragraph of speech I just stated. Just beneath that category, in my opinion, is the student who sits back in the chair and can only listen halfheartedly due to either the headphones in one ear or the cellphone in his/her hand. As terrible as these specific appointments are, they are truly in a small percentile of my appointments. I only mention them to demonstrate how I can relate to bad days of tutoring.

Some of the best tutoring sessions are the ones I don’t expect to hold much at all. Many times, I’ll expect a lot of appointments to come in for the same assignment from one teacher, so I’ll assume they all care the same amount about the paper (read: not much. At all.). But I am often pleasantly surprised, and I have found myself trying to go into sessions with no preconceived notions whatsoever. Without assuming anything about what an appointment will hold, I leave more room for the student to take control of his/her own writing and dictate how much effort will be placed into the assignment. I encourage peer tutors to start trying the same approach, at least with some appointments; you may have a breakthrough with the one person you may have previously dreaded tutoring, or you may just have a few interesting appointments.

All in all, there is no one perfect formula to follow that will help you boost your morale with tutoring, but it is a delightful job most of the time. Bad days will happen, bad appointments will occur, but I try to think of those circumstances as stories to tell my friends later (still following privacy laws, of course). Peer tutoring is one of the most rewarding jobs, not because it pays well (it doesn’t always), but because we as tutors are able to help share our knowledge and talents with fellow students who have different strengths than we do. If we try to refresh our mindsets often enough, our sessions will be renewed and more fruitful, and we will hopefully be able to demonstrate to our peers how marvelous and practical writing is.

The Messy Reality

Students that come to the writing center often ask me how they can get better at writing. In my head I giggle to myself sometimes because it seems as though they are asking me for a “quick fix” so to speak. However, if one would ask any writer–any artist–how he or she became a good writer, I would be willing to bet that many responses would include something about time, trial, and error. There are very few of us that are born with excellent writing skills. In fact, I have yet to meet anyone that was a “natural born” writer. The reality is that writing is a skill as much as it is an art. In this sense one must learn the grammar rules, styles, professional vs. unprofessional writing, etc. before he or she can create independently. This reality involves a lot of editing, rewriting, rephrasing, and editing once more. The process can be quite grueling to many. However, this period of frustration presents artists with a choice: We can choose to let the frustration make us bitter (and eventually cause us to stay away from the pen all together) or we can take it as a challenge–rising to the feat. We can choose to take each road block as a chance to grow and learn. Life shows us in more than one way that in order to grow we must experience some sort of tribulation. As artists, we learn quickly how not to view this process as a set back. We wrestle with these rules and regulations so that we can get to the core of what our individual art looks like. We have learned that creating art is a journey, often taking more twists and turns than we expected. Perfecting the art of writing is a beautifully messy but wildly rewarding process.

So how do we even begin on this journey if we can’t see a path in the first place?

To begin, we have to give ourselves the freedom to create outside the realm of structure (i.e. putting something–anything–down on paper just for the sake of putting our thoughts out into the world; even if these thoughts are unorganized and unfocused). Think about it this way: When you wake up on a Saturday morning and (assuming your Netflix or Cable is down), how do you plan your day? Does this TERRIFY you? Do you think, “Oh no! I have a COMPLETELY FREE day! What if I make the wrong choice? What if I totally waste my time?! What if I MESS UP. I CANT START OVER. IM GUNA DIE.” Not typically, no. So, why do we look at a blank sheet of paper and suddenly assume the world is ending? Why do we look at a blank canvas and feel we don’t have the “grandiose artistic ability” to create something fantastic? Why can’t we just DO instead of thinkthinkthinkthinkthinkthinkconvinceconvinceconvinceconvince THEN do?

An issue with our culture is that we label everything, causing people to lie to themselves about what they can and cannot do. It says: To make art, you must be an “artist.” To write a story or put your thoughts down on paper, you must be a “writer.” To make music, you must be a “singer.” You get the gist. But in reality, this thinking is completely flawed. I cannot tell you how many times I ask friends to go to a coffee shop with me and paint, and the response I get is, “I’m not good at art.” Ahem, I didn’t ask you to create the next Mona Lisa with me at Starbucks. Why can’t we just take a risk and see what happens? The same goes for writing: Just because you’re sitting down to write intentionally doesn’t mean that what you put down defines you.

This is how free writing begins.

We have to give ourselves the freedom to put something down and not worry about how it comes out. This habit is a difficult one to form, but it is (in my opinion) the best way to practice giving yourself the freedom to create without boundaries. From there, papers will get easier and easier to tackle. Many times when students don’t take time to free write, they sit down to write an essay and immediately have writers block. They’re somewhat, “out of practice.” If they are free writing every day, or even twice a week, writing will be infinitely more free-flowing. They will get used to seeing their thoughts on paper and understand more of their writing style.

Free writing not only helps us with writing, but it also helps us better understand ourselves. When we allow our thoughts to run rampant on a page without regard to structure or focused subject, we get to see our mind in a concrete form. In fact, we almost get to look at ourselves from an outside perspective. When we see our mind on paper, sometimes we can more clearly understand our thoughts processes which could lead to gaining greater understandings of our lives as a whole.

 

I encourage any any and all students to engage in free writing not only to clarify and further their own skills, but to engage in a journey to a fully realized self.

A Story: In Six Words Nonetheless

By: Elizabeth Busekrus

“For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” –Ernest Hemingway

This sentence, albeit six words, implicates a story, imprints an image in the mind of what never was, and describes a scene of loss. For those who have read Hemingway, they know of his minimalistic ways of telling a story. He incorporates his journalistic talents into storytelling, a direct, no-fluff style based as much on assumption as on explicitness. As I read the story above, I wonder about the baby who never wore the shoes, of what happened to him or her, and of how long it has been since the baby passed.

Six words do not speak of the whole story but invoke the possibilities of what could be, leaving the reader thinking. From now until the end of September, Missouri Baptist University (MBU) campus will be abounding with these six-word stories. The MBU Writing Lab is hosting the third annual six-word story contest. For this contest, participants write a story in six words; the story can be in whatever format the writer desires. Posting these stories can be done via Twitter or a paper slip in the Writing Lab.

To differentiate the contest this year from previous years, we decided to use Twitter as the main platform. The Writing Lab’s Twitter account will hopefully reach a greater span of individuals and will be a more interactive format. In previous years, the entries were submitted to the Writing Lab without others seeing the entries. Viewing them on Twitter can inspire others to think of their own six-word stories and create more community across the campus.

My question for you is, why should you write a six-word story for the Writing Lab this year?

1)To win a $25 Perk gift card

College, for me, brought me into the world of coffee. Coffee from the Perk helped me function in my everyday life. Besides coffee, the Perk also sells a multitude of food products. For those who would disagree about this need to have caffeine for survival, you can purchase a variety of other items. Who wouldn’t want to have free food and drink from the Perk? The winner of this contest will receive a $25 Perk gift card and will be announced the first week of October.

2) To tell a story that shows your creative expertise and leaves the reader imagining

What message do you want to convey? What is your story? Freewrite for a few minutes, giving background about your story. This background information does not need to be included in the story but will provide some understanding of what you want to imply in your story. Similar to Hemingway, carefully consider word choice and punctuation. Hemingway focuses on the words “baby shoes.” Using a colon after “for sale,” Hemingway emphasizes what exactly is for sale, and the comma denotes a characteristic of the baby shoes, in that they were never worn. Based on your freewriting, choose six key words which convey your story.

3) To provide more community at Missouri Baptist University and more perspective on varying topics

Since the contest takes place via Twitter, the platform allows students to retweet their stories so that more can view them. This networking increases the sense of community at MBU, fostering conversations on particular topics and varying worldviews. The contest encourages interactions among MBU students on the Writing Lab Twitter page. It can give you, as an MBU student, the opportunity to share your voice, thoughts, and story.

Is it possible to write a story in only six words? Let’s put that question to the test! If you are interested in showing off your creativity, submit to this contest. Contact Elizabeth Busekrus at writing@mobap.edu or (314) 744-7629 for additional information.

 

8 Things Your Tutor Wants You to Know

Being a tutor in the writing lab is a lot more rewarding than you would think. As a tutor, I enjoy seeing the personal growth in each session that I have with my students. These are some of the things that your tutor wants you to know.

  • We are here by choice. We have chosen to pursue this position of being a writing coach. This means that we enjoy writing and helping others find their voice. We want you to succeed and continue to grow in your writing. That is what makes this “job” so rewarding.
  • We are also students. By this I mean, we get it. We understand what it was like to be in that English class. We understand what it feels like to have an insane amount of homework and not know where to begin. We know what it is to try to balance school, work, and a social life all while trying to get an appropriate amount of sleep. We might seem like we’ve got it all figured out, but we are just as busy and stressed as you might be.
  • Non-writing conversations are welcome. As I said before, we are also students. We enjoy taking a break from writing talk. We would love to talk about what’s going on in your life. We want to build a relationship with you. I love being able to walk out of an appointment feeling like I could talk to my student outside of the writing lab. Some of my best friends were students who came into the writing lab for help on a paper.
  • We are not responsible for your end grade. As much as you might like to blame us, at the end of the day, you are responsible for your grade. We cannot write your paper for you; therefore, what you turn in is your words. It is what you chose to write; we will do our best to help you get the grade you want, but we cannot guarantee anything.
  • We are more than English majors. The writing lab is full of diversity. We are not all English majors. Some tutors are business majors; some are biology or science majors. We all just enjoy the writing process. This is all to say that not all of us received A’s on all of our papers in freshman English class.
  • If you come in one hour before your paper is due, do not expect much help. This might seem like an obvious statement, but you would be surprised how many times I have had a student come in to me with nothing fully written, expecting me to be able to help them write a STRONG three-to-five-page paper in less than an hour. This is nearly impossible. We will do our best to help you as much as we can.
  • There is a hierarchy of needs within every paper.  By this, I mean if you come in for help with grammar within your paper, and I see that your thesis is non-existent, we will work on your thesis. Grammar comes as a last resort fix. If nothing else is wrong, then I will look at your grammar. The thesis statement, organization, and voice within each paper will always take precedence.
  • We care. No matter where you are in your writing, we want to see you improve. And not just a temporary improvement. We want to see you improve in the long term. We want you to find something within the writing lab that you can take with you for the rest of your life. We care about you as a student, and we want to see you do well. One of the most rewarding things for me is when I see someone get it. I love seeing the “light bulb” moment for each of my students.

I hope you keep all these things in mind the next time you meet with your writing lab coach. We are more than just tutors.

By: Kelsey Mundle