Kimberly Abels, Ph.D., currently directs the Writing Center. She is responsible for the Center’s long-range planning, programming, outreach, and collaborations. Vicki Behrens, Ph.D., is the assistant director. She offers professional guidance and training to the graduate students who tutor in the Writing Center. Gigi Taylor, Ph.D., is one of the Writing Center’s ESL specialists; she helps tutors, faculty, and staff provide effective writing support for ESL students. Percival Guevarra, M.A., and Becky Butler, Ph.D., the Writing Center’s other ESL specialists, conduct workshops on English language and American culture for UNC’s international students and scholars.

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Many of the Writing Center’s tutors are graduate students from a wide variety of disciplines. They have been chosen as staff members based on their superior teaching skills and have undergone more than 60 hours of training in the teaching of writing.

In the fall of 2011, our first group of undergraduate tutors have joined the Writing Center team. These tutors took a three credit hour class, English 402, to prepare them to work with their peers.

Since each tutor has an individual approach, we suggest trying out several tutors in order to find the tutoring style that works best for you. You can learn a little more about some of our tutors by reading their responses to the question “What is writing like for you?”

Abby Writing is like trying to instruct an artist to paint a work they’ve never seen. Your head is filled with lovely but abstract images, and you are tasked with communicating them with precision. You lean in to examine the pixels, staring intently at each small swipe of paint. Reluctantly, you deconstruct your vision into neat components that can be transferred to another mind. You isolate each image, each stroke, each small bit of meaning. You hesitantly pass these tiny swatches of color on to your new apprentice, trusting them to recreate the canvas you once held safely in your imagination. This is undoubtedly a great risk, but one that can bring great rewards. They may stand back and smile, admiring the masterpiece you’ve managed to create out of a paint-by-numbers. Or, they may look back in confusion as you realize that you’ve reduced the Sistine Chapel to a sketch. Whatever you create, you’ll soon realize that your work is never done. You will always keep trying to perfect the now-coated canvas, to show your unknowing student the beauty trapped inside your head.
Alex F. Writing is like…a likeable likening of likened likes to likers likely liked by likelier lichen and likeliest likings alike—in all likelihood, a lifelike likelihood of misliked mislikers misliking unalike lookalikes and unliked likenesses likewise.
Alex W. For me, writing is like painting. First, I make an underpainting in ink to guide the colors that will follow. Then I choose my paintbrushes: small, big, thin, wide, flimsy, sturdy. I dip them in as many different colors as possible and get to work, attacking the canvas from every angle. My paintings are often very different from one another. Sometimes I make miniatures that require patient looking and a monocle. Other times I make murals that are in-your-face and overwhelming. My paintings are usually representational and easy to understand, but once in a while someone will look at one of my abstract paintings, say “hmm,” and walk away. As an artist, I understand that there will be people who don’t like my paintings, and that’s okay. What matters is that my art keeps getting better. Good paintings, after all, get visited over and over again.
Alice Writing is like summiting a mountain. I approach writing assignments as though I’m standing at the bottom of a mountain looking up; it is an incredibly intimidating task. Doubt settles. Will I be able to do it? Sure I will! I begin with large steps, sometimes running even, creating a broad outline of my paper. Occasionally I run into steeper sections and have to stop to catch my breath. The mountain is my main idea, and each step, each sentence I write, brings me closer to expressing it. Closer to the top, feeling the altitude and wind chill–the pressures of deadlines and good grades–I motivate myself through individual steps. I establish small goals in my writing. Small goals, small steps. Soon enough, I’m at the top of the mountain looking down at the progress I’ve made! That moment up at the top is like punching that final punctuation. The process of getting up a mountain, similar to completing a writing assignment is difficult, but the results to both are rewarding.
Billie Writing is like… pulling ivy and honeysuckle vines out of the bushes in your front yard. Perhaps you put it off, thinking “it’s not the right time… too hot, too wet, I don’t want to get dirty right now, I’ll tackle that NEXT weekend.” And then finally the stars align one day and you begin to weed, thinking “oh, this will only take me half an hour or so.” But once you start pulling, you realize there are a lot more tangly weeds than you’d originally thought, twisting through bushes, invading the lawn, running along the ground just under the surface. It’s a bit complicated and kind of messy, and as you pull each vine you’re not entirely sure where it will lead you. Sometimes you strike gold and one big tug yields fifteen feet of vine – very satisfying! Other times you pull hard and POP, you’re left holding a little stub. It’s hard work, but you get into it, into “the zone,” developing a rhythm and a strategy. At the end, you stand back to look at the tidy and beautiful garden bed all your work has uncovered. You’re proud of what you accomplished, and pleasantly surprised at some of the lovely or interesting things revealed by all that weeding….and it only took you about four times as long as you’d thought it would!
Bryanne Writing is like a three day trip on a Greyhound. You don’t know exactly where you’re going or how long it’s going to take, which is what makes it great—the adventure. And the thing no one tells you about adventure is that a lot of the time adventure is boring, sometimes it’s tedious, inconvenient—even lonely. But adventure has its great moments too. It begins in a moment of curiosity and optimism; it begins with an idea—like, “I wonder what it’s like in New Mexico this time of year”—and just like that, you’re off. So there you are, alone on the Greyhound. You drink way too much coffee and stay up all night, enjoying the poetry of forward motion along smooth stretches of pavement too much to sleep. You talk about philosophy with a guy in a fisherman’s sweater heading to Mexico and suddenly, around 2AM, you realize this is maybe the best conversation you’ve ever had; this is maybe the best adventure you’ve ever had. Your thoughts are crystalline, brilliant as the stars you see out the grimy bus window. Everything is so clear. You finally fall asleep and when you wake up, the guy is gone. The scenery has changed and you feel like, even though you’ve been sitting still, you’ve really been somewhere. Finally, sometime around noon on that third day, you get there. You arrive. And just like that, it’s as though you’ve always been there. The tedium, the anxiety, the boredom (the stiffness between your shoulder blades) all disappears. All that remains is the story of your latest, and maybe greatest, adventure. A trip you took alone—New Mexico in the winter.
Chris Writing is like dancing. First I have to ask for the dance, to convince you to spend a few pages with me. We move together, writer and reader, as my words connect with your interpretations. We share weight and support each other as we negotiate meaning, learn each others’ styles, play with tension, and surprise one another with the occasional flashy spin. That this dance can never be synchronous only deepens the game as we imagine each other across the text. When it’s done, we’ll each take away something new to share with our next partner.
Claire Writing is like traveling to a foreign country. It can be confusing, exhilarating, adventurous, or boring. You never know what’s going to happen until you get started! Having a map is usually a good idea, but you’re not always lucky enough to have guidance. Dealing with surprises along the way can be pleasant and rejuvenating, but it’s more likely tedious and complicated. Either way, you can’t help but learn something new about yourself, and how you respond to challenges. Each time you travel you incorporate the lessons you have learned, and hope for a smoother journey!
Danbi Writing is like drinking coffee. I don’t like to drink coffee. Actually, that’s not true. I can’t drink coffee because of its bitter taste. But, I have always enjoyed coffee through other mediums such as coffee ice-cream or frapppucinos. And now as I continue to drink coffee through different ways whether that is learning to mix the coffee with hot chocolate or to crave a more bitter taste when eating coffee ice cream, my taste buds are starting to enjoy the bitter taste. One time, I even drank a cup of coffee! (Even if it were an accidental order). The future date of when I can be one of those coffee drinkers is near. In the same way, writing is not always enjoyable from the very beginning. Even though you may enjoy other types of writing-our ice-creams and frappucinos- you still don’t like writing. For me, I didn’t like academic writing from the beginning, but I always enjoyed writing through other mediums such as reading or journaling. But, by constantly exposing yourself to writing, it will become a lot more enjoyable. To push the coffee analogy a bit further, just like how everybody has their own unique favorite of coffee, everybody has their own approach to writing. So, don’t let the bitter taste stop you, it’s time to go find our own “white chocolate mocha soy without the whipped cream”!
Eva Writing is like…

…jumping into a lake with no bottom. I dive in, clueless of where the process will take me. Staring at a blank page, I flounder in muddled, unorganized thoughts. I’m forced to resurface and strap on an oxygen tank of ideas, tidbits that I gather from research and brainstorming. Having this fresh air nearby keeps me focused as I navigate the murky waters of drafting. Sometimes my air runs out, so I rush back up to refill, tweaking my outline or thesis, brainstorming for additional evidence, or surfing the internet for more sources. Swimming back and forth exhausts me after an hour or two, so I trek back to my cozy lake house and sleep on it. The next morning, I’ll grab my gear and leap back in, refreshed and ready to explore the depths again. This time, I’ll go back over the parts I’ve covered before, checking for faulty grammar or stylistic errors. When I resurface for the last time, it will only be to find another lake to explore!

Gale Writing is like window shopping and stumbling upon a killer necklace that catches your eye. It speaks to you and calls your name. You know it’s special, but you don’t know why. So, you buy it and take it home. Your mission? Build an outfit around it. You think you have something in your closet that will complement your purchase or make it make sense. So you spend hours trying on and throwing off countless shirts, jeans, jackets and dresses. It’s fun but torturous. After a few “maybes,” some quirky combinations, and a train wreck or two, something clicks. You find exactly what you need. The outfit works. It comes together. That small, killer detail makes a statement. But this time, you know exactly what it says.
Gigi Writing is like rock climbing. As I approach a climbing site (or a writing project), I have a goal, some tools and tricks, some experience, some enthusiasm, some trepidation. I study the rock for a while, figuring out how to approach it, and as I climb, there’s progress…and getting stuck and backtracking and rethinking (…and, I confess, some slipping and swearing and a bit of panic now and then). And there’s always a belayer—a fellow climber who can offer feedback from a very different perspective. And when it’s finished, there’s immense relief and satisfaction at the top.
Glenn Writing is like waiting for Christmas as a child. The process demands patience, discipline, and good habits – yet when we unwrap the present of expression, we know the wait was worthwhile.
James Writing is like…flying a plane. In order to take off, you’ve got to do the prep work. You’ve got to clean the wings, plan a route, and fill up the tank before you ever touch the clouds. Then, once you’re up there, you can coast on autopilot while your words glide out onto the page. And editing, like landing, is perhaps the most tricky part. If the final work is not there, you can still crash and burn on the runway. But if you’re diligent and careful, there is nothing more satisfying than being safe and sound on the ground.
Jessie Writing is like…taking a photograph. You have an idea of what you want your picture to convey, and you must use your tools–subject, lighting, zoom, lens–in order to achieve it.
Josh B. Writing is like jazz music because its greatest practitioners are those who have mastered the art of listening. A great jazz musician is not someone who knows all the tunes or plays with extraordinary technical mastery; rather, they are someone who makes music out of their dynamic conversations with others. The best players are improvisers, capable of conjuring new worlds out of thin air and always choosing precisely the right notes for each particular time and place. The best players are also, however, those with the greatest respect for tradition, those who constantly reconnect us to the reasons why we came to love this messy art in the first place.
Josh L. Writing is like (and in my case, actually is) cleaning a cluttered home. In the course of research and brainstorming, I haphazardly amass scraps of paper, post-it notes, index cards, and entries in various notebooks and computer documents. My shirt pocket and my desktop, both physical and digital, overflow with often uncoordinated snippets of thought. One of my greatest pleasures in writing is how organizing my thoughts in an essay has the physical side effect of reducing this clutter. As ideas congeal in a passage or chapter, the scraps of paper and random untitled word documents go into the recycle bin. My desk, and often my dining table, sofa, and chairs, are restored to functionality. My dog appreciates not having to tiptoe through drifts of paper on the floor. I subsequently measure my progress in writing and my satisfaction with it by this manifestation in my life. Having too many unorganized ideas is a messy home, while systematic and successful writing reduces the clutter.
Kari Writing is like trying to solve a mystery. You’ve got a puzzle in front of you, and to solve it you need more than a simple answer – you also have to prove why your solution is right. So in order to figure out what’s going on, you collect evidence. Sometimes it’s clear what you need to do: find out what this thing means, research what that thing is, etc. And then sometimes you get stuck – all of your “clues” have been dead ends, you don’t know what to do now, and you end up going back to the beginning.
Katie J. Writing is like playing hide-and-seek – without cheating. First, you spend practically an eternity sitting and staring at a blank screen or page because your mind insists you count to a billion while it hides all your ideas. Then when you feel you are finally done counting, you run around frantically, always looking in the craziest places first as you brainstorm and jot down even the most outlandish ideas. Eventually, you have to stop and think about the most logical place your ideas could have hidden. Soon, you fall into a rhythm and it becomes methodical as you discover the hiding places within the recesses of your mind and seek out all the important components to your paper. Of course, your ideas could still get jumbled as they all run to home base, but you’ll just have to begin counting again and start another round of the game.
Ken Writing is like running a foster home for puppies. At the beginning you rely on your instincts, natural talent, and limited understanding to raise the first few. This inevitably leads to poorly trained animals, ripped up furniture, a lack of sleep, and a stinky house. You get negative response from potential adopters of your puppies and end up struggling to find them homes. Luckily, through repetition and experience you begin to learn that consistent discipline and effort along with a better understanding of training animals improves the behavior of the puppies. You try out new strategies to improve potty training, focus their attention on chew toys instead of a variety of household items, and consult other dog owners to get new tips. There still exists variability in the outcome, since no puppy is alike, but you begin to understand and appreciate the fruits of your effort. In the end, you begin to receive positive responses for your hard work and the puppies find good homes.
Keren Writing is like taking an unplanned road trip. You sort of know the general direction where you are heading, but are not quite sure how you will get there. You can go on a road trip alone, but it is much more fun to have companions in some locations on the way. You start your morning with a map and with the understanding of where you are and you slowly make your way towards the end of the day. It is not about getting somewhere; it is about the paths, roads, cafes and people that you meet along your route. I always feel that my writing is taking me to places I never knew existed. In the end I usually end up close to where I planned, but never in exactly the same place.
Kim For me, writing is like grocery-shopping. It’s a familiar routine for which I have developed favorite strategies over time; yet each time, it’s a new experience with new needs, products, and timing to negotiate. I like having a list, and often do, although I’ve learned that making the list is its own exercise. I usually need to brainstorm menus, review what’s in the cupboards, and find out if my family’s cereal and lunch box preferences have changed. With list in hand, I tuck my cloth bags in the cart and wander up and down the aisles filling the cart. I revise my menu as I see what vegetables look good, what’s on sale, and what new ingredient I might like to experiment with this week. When there’s no time for a list, I wing it with a strategic scan of the shelves and a “reminder” march up every aisle to help me think through what we need. While grocery shopping is a chore, once I’m cruising the aisles, tasting the free samples, I enjoy the process of making choices and imagining the cooking ahead.
Kirsten Writing is like drinking a Coca Cola. Sometimes it starts out great and fizzes up in my belly and I can’t get enough, but then it goes flat and I’m stuck trying to find the fizz again. Other times it starts out flat but shake it up a little and I’m on a roll.
Libby Writing is like… baking a cake. The prep work always comes first. When baking a cake, you need to preheat the oven in advance for the cake to cook quickly and evenly. When writing a paper, you need to brainstorm in advance for the writing process to become quicker and easier. The next step is gathering your materials. Just like the ingredients are essential for baking a cake, the reserach, quoations, and ideas are essential for writing a paper. Then, you move on to the hard part. When baking a cake, mixing the batter can be difficult and tiresome. You have to make sure everything is stirred nicely together. In the same way, writing the actual paper can be very frustrating at times. However, you have to make sure that your sentences and paragraphs transition smoothly in one another. Both baking a cake and writing a paper require careful attention. Just like you have to check on the cake every once in while, you have to continuously proofread and edit you paper. After this is completed, it is time to add the finishing touches. When baking a cake, adding icing and candles make all the difference. In the same way, revising your paper and re-reading make your paper complete.
Manny Writing is like building a new home. Homes come in a variety of sizes and designs; some homes are grandiose and others are small and humble. Each home begins with a concept or inspiration, which is a big decision point for the paper. After the design has been created we lay the foundation for the home. In most cases the foundation of a paper is the thesis. After the foundation is finished we build a framework for the home, followed by the roof and the walls. This corresponds to the arguments, evidence, and conclusions we use to build the paper. Then we finish the home with all the important small details that make a house into a home. This means lots of proofreading, editing, and possibly some restructuring. Finally we have a finished product!
Percival Writing is like visiting Los Angeles. For tourists, there are plenty of places to visit, but it’s impossible to do everything in one trip. For natives, only a few hotspots are frequented. Although those places may have similar attractions or are relatively close to each other, driving is unavoidable. For tourists, this means hours of traffic, possibly gridlock. For natives, this means using a variety of strategies: avoiding rush hour, using the carpool lane, or taking a side street. After arriving at the destination, even more decisions present themselves. Tourists are likely to overspend, trapped by superficial attractions. Natives know how to weigh decisions to make economic choices, while at the same time take some risks. At the end of the trip, some tourists will never return, while other tourists may come back. With each trip, returning tourists will find and learn something new. Over time, these tourists will be indistinguishable from natives.
Russell Writing is like cooking. Anyone can learn. Everyone can improve. Books and friends can provide helpful tips, but learning to cook requires regular time in the kitchen, even when I’m tired. Sometimes what I cook isn’t very good. That’s okay. I just throw it out, learn from my mistakes, and try again the next day. It’s good to make cooking social, sharing the product with others as well as cooking with friends and family. Sometimes I make a big mess and then clean it up at the end; sometimes I tidy as I go. It’s better if I’m not rushed, but sometimes I’m running late and just need to get dinner in the oven before guests arrive, so I sprint to the finish line. Some tools are essential for any cook, others only useful for particular styles. Too few ingredients is bland; too many is an overwhelming mess of flavors.
Sarah Writing is like getting somewhere. If I have a lot of energy and feel confident about where I’m going, I might propel myself off the ground to run, jump, or leap! But most of the time, I walk, each step leading to the next. I could change direction with any step, but if the paths are familiar, paved, or well-worn by the steps of others, I hardly notice the steps I’m taking. Other times, when I think I’ve found a short cut, or I’ve decided to take the scenic route, or I want to explore new territory, I go off the path. At these times, I might think about each and every place I set my foot. At the end, my steps create a new path for my reader to follow, and if I haven’t left too many obstacles, crossroads, and empty expanses, we’ll meet at around the same spot.
Savannah Writing is like having a conversation. It starts out really general at first, but the more you talk, the more specific it gets, and you leave the conversation knowing more than you did when it started.
Svet Taking a cruise to the Bahamas. In the beginning it starts with a thought, with an aspiration to experience something new, to discover something different. Then comes the planning. You think of the organization and the logistics. What are the steps that will get you there in the most exciting and meaningful way? As the trip begins, you stick to your plan and you think about the final goal – this mesmerizing tropical island, this piece of heaven on earth. Yet, as much as you think about it, as much as you stick to your plan, you soon discover that each step of the journey, every day on the ship, every restaurant that you visit, and every paragraph that you write is meaningful in its own way. You begin to explore. You visit different decks, check out different books, introduce different perspectives, yet you are still thinking about this island, this dream, this goal which every wave and every sentence are mercilessly carrying you to. And one day you are there. The palm trees are even more glorious than you had thought. All your experiences on the ship have now climaxed into the fulfillment of your dream. The Bahamas are magnificent. Your writing assignment is complete.
Vicki Writing is like making a piece of pottery. I have all kinds of ideas about what I’d like to create, and I can spend hours daydreaming about what a beautiful bowl or plate or vase I’ll have when I’m done—but at some point I have to sit down with a big, slimy lump of wet clay and get to work. Bending over the wheel can be tiring, and it’s discouraging when an almost-finished piece collapses in a heap. After the basic form has dried, it’s time for my favorite part—decorating and glazing it in preparation for the final firing. I have to remember to leave myself enough time to get the details just right—it may take several tries to make a good handle for a mug or find an appealing combination of glazes. The object I end up with may not match my vision perfectly, but it’s usually functional, and sometimes it’s even kind of pretty.

Full Time Staff Contact Info

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Pictured from left to right: Kim Allison, Kim Abels, Gigi Taylor, Percival Guevarra, Vicki Behrens

Kim AbelsDirector
(919) 962-4426
kabels@unc.edu
Vicki BehrensAssistant Director
(919) 962-4799
vicki@unc.edu
Gigi TaylorESL Specialist
(919) 962-0725
vgtaylor@unc.edu
Percival GuevarraESL Specialist
(919) 843-9604
percival.gv@unc.edu
Becky ButlerESL Specialist
(919) 843-6532
becky.butler@unc.edu
Kim AllisonBusiness Manager
(919) 962-7710
kallison@email.unc.edu