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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 coach at the Writing Center. Gigi Taylor, Ph.D., and Becky Butler, Ph.D., are the Writing Center’s ESL specialists. They help writing coaches, faculty, and staff provide effective writing support for ESL students. They also provide instruction about academic communication, English language, and American culture for UNC’s international students and scholars.
Many of the Writing Center’s writing coaches 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 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 writing coach has an individual approach, we suggest trying out several coaches in order to find the style that works best for you. You can learn a little more about some of our writing coaches by reading their responses to the question “What is writing like for you?”
|Alex||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.|
|Andrew||Writing is like tending a garden. In the spring you make a plan on what to plant. You need to take account of the soil and climate, but also your preferences for vegetables to put in your diet and flowers you think smell nice. Once you plant, the work isn’t over. You need to weed the garden constantly, water it regularly, and keep the soil fertile. You also might decide to plant something new or tear out a plant that isn’t growing well. In the fall, after all your hard work in the hot sun and careful patience, it’s time to harvest and enjoy the fruits of your labor! Like gardening, writing takes planning, hard work, good decision making, and sometimes more important than anything, patience to let things grow.|
|Anna||Writing is like those little parachute men you would throw off the deck as a kid. Sometimes you make it to the ground with a perfect landing. Sometimes you’re hung up in a tree waiting for someone to rescue you. But most times you make it to the ground with just a few bumps.|
|Carla||Writing is like swimming against a current. The writing process requires an enormous amount of effort and endurance. At times, you get stuck with writer’s block and feel frustrated or exhausted or both, just as you would feel when pushing against that current without really moving forward. But at other times you feel energized and can swim through easily as words just flow to the page. Most importantly, at the end, you feel relieved that you swam to the finish with an overwhelming sense of accomplishment.|
|Caroline||Writing is like getting a new puppy. The puppy, like a really hard paper, might frustrate you and keep you up all night. But after a while, after you’ve lived and worked with that puppy, she will stop eating your shoes and will become a wonderful, fuzzy little thing you love.|
|Candace||Writing is like a jigsaw puzzle without its box. You frequently have a vague notion of what it should become, but you lack a clear picture of the final product. Moreover, in writing just as in puzzles, you possess thoughts and ideas i.e. pieces that you need to organize into a cohesive writing assignment. Similarly, writing and puzzles are often time-consuming and frustrating. And yet, in both cases, you have accomplished no small feat when you complete them.|
|Gabriel||Writing is like running a 10-mile race. Before you begin you think it’s going to be easy. As soon as you start you begin thinking “Why am I doing this? I could be watching TV at home.” But the moment you reach the finish line, you get an overwhelming feeling of accomplishment that makes you want to do it all over again. Also, just as running, you only get better with practice.|
|Geovani||Writing is like living. It is, more specifically, the difficult and often perplexing process of decision-making. We will not be perfect at it. All we can do is to hope to learn from our experiences (and mistakes) and improve along the way.|
|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.|
|Kaylyn||Writing is like… moving from place to place. For me, moving was a formative part of my upbringing that enabled growth and change. The reorganization, packing, repacking, and unpacking that come with moving translate well into my writing process. A major part of my journey involves discovering new places and ideas, repacking my thoughts, and occasionally heavy lifting with boxes or words.|
|Kenneth||Writing is like daydreaming. Thirty percent of the time you are staring listlessly at a wall or a blank Word document—and that’s on a good day. Data from very legitimate scientific experiments has shown that a large percentage of time is taken up by talking—excuse me, rambling—to yourself, along with experiencing moments of intense self-loathing, sighing loudly, and pacing back and forth while mumbling under your breath. All of these are common symptoms. Less common is banging your head on the table, as most people, once the dizziness fades, are cognizant enough to stop doing so after the first time. All of this culminates in sudden bursts of brain activity, followed by furious typing which takes up the last five percent of extremely productive time spent. Test subjects have reported finger cramping as a result, and taking frequent breaks is therefore recommended.|
|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.|
|Kimmie||Writing is like participating in the Olympic decathlon. There are times you sprint, times you dig deep to run the distance, times you high jump with joy over your success, and times you want to javelin-throw your writing into the trash. You might be more experienced with some parts of the writing process than others, but you will probably need to explore several of its steps to unlock the full complexity of what is bouncing around your brain. To do your best, you might need to begin training in some skills (like brainstorming, pre-writing, research, and proofreading) that are unfamiliar or hard to you. All of these skills – like the ten events of the decathlon – combine to create your final product. That product may not be exactly what you hoped it would be but you will know that it was the best you could do and be proud of yourself for giving your all.|
|Kiran||Writing is like music. It has two parts: technique and expression. First of all, you need to gain the skills to write successfully. There is a means to acquire skills for each of these disciplines—scales, tone exercises and etudes and the like for the one; grammar, clean sentence structure, and large-scale structuring for the other. Each of these skills is acquired through practice. Once you have your technique in hand, you can start to express yourself. You can persuade, you can inform, you can evoke. A solid technique helps you to express yourself however you desire.|
|Megan||Writing is like an exploration of an unknown land. Writing affords us the opportunity to think about our topics and, oftentimes, ourselves in a different way. When writing, you do not necessarily have a clear idea of how the paper will end nor a means of getting there, but by golly, you know there will be a paper. Similarly, explorers embarking on a journey do not always know where they will end up or what will happen along the way, but they set out on their journey anyways. The best travel stories are oftentimes not those describing one specific place where the explorer ended up but the stories filled with tales of all the adventures the explorer experienced along the way. Look at Columbus—he set out to find Asia, but his journey led to him discovering a whole new world. Now where we would be without that?|
|Michael||Writing is like bouncing a ball. With some practice you can get a rhythm going, but repeating the same thing over and over can get boring. You can learn some new tricks from a friend or experiment on your own. As you get going, you might find yourself picking up momentum or slowing down, or the ball could encounter an obstacle and go off track (or simply in a new direction). And whenever you think the ball has rolled to a stop, you can pick it up and start it bouncing again.|
|Molly||For me, writing is like a flood. I have ideas and words and phrases in my head that begin rising, and as they rise, they begin to overflow the banks of my mind. Sometimes, this flood spills out into speech, but when I am intentional, I direct it into a dam that provides energy to write and group words and phrases into sentences, thoughts into coherent paragraphs. Unless it’s not a flood. Then it’s a drought, and I am thirsting for more words.|
|Rebecca||Writing is like an expedition into the uncharted territories of your own brain. The legwork of your paper, which includes things like ideas, research, and content, can feel like traveling hundreds of miles or scaling a mountain. After this adventure comes the creation of a map. Writing your paper is like sketching a map to lead others into the territory you have discovered. If your readers can’t follow the map, why scale those mountains and cross those rivers in the first place? The best maps and the best papers are accurate, simple yet thorough, and sometimes even beautiful.|
Writing is like stargazing. You don’t need to know all of the technical information or constellation names in order to appreciate the raw beauty of space. At first as you look up, you stare in wonder and mutter to yourself, “how can I possibly see the outline of a Greek god in this darkness?” You’re doubtful, but eventually, an image forms. The image might materialize because of your helpful friend who points it out or the creative gears in your mind are finally beginning to turn. Soon you’ll find the black empty expanse has been filled with countless stars, planets, and galaxies. You might even spot the Tardis. Or maybe the sky remains blank for the entire night and every night to follow. It’s just dark until finally, you spot the slightest glimmer.
Who knows what you’ll see or when you’ll see it,, but that’s exactly the point. Nobody knows what or when you’ll see, because there are no rules to what you can see. And I love writing for that reason. The page is the sky and my words are the stars. Most of the time, my sky looks as if I mindlessly threw glitter at it. But eventually, the sparkle fades and an image forms. The main points arise from the ground and stand firm. The supporting details filter in like doves. All in all, it might take a while, but eventually, I’ll find my own Greek warrioress up there.
Writing is architecture of a sort. Your mind makes magnificent castles, complete with moats and drawbridges and a dragon keeping watch. You’re sure there are at least three turrets stretching towards the clouds. If you squint, you might make out a throne room with arched ceilings and stained glass windows.
But your words are clumsy. Your sentences don’t craft turrets so much as artless piles of bricks and gobs mortar. Paragraph upon paragraph, these piles grow, but no castle emerges from the sprawl. You begin to think your drawbridge is an unnecessary extravagance and the throne room is definitely an impossible dream. The dragon has flown far, far away and you wonder if it ever existed in the first place.
Still, you feel fiercely possessive of your pile of bricks. Sure, it’s not a castle. It doesn’t have a moat or a drawbridge or a fancy throne room. There are no flag-topped turrets skirting the skies. But it’s yours. And it’s a start.
|Trent||Both writing and cooking are acts of creation, bringing together a medley of ingredients into something cohesive and, hopefully, nourishing. For me, both are accompanied by putting on a new record, fixing a cool drink, and setting to work. Writing is like cooking, except for that annoying final part where you open the oven or taste your broth and find the taste so revolting, the crust so blackened, the smell so pungent, that you have to throw the whole thing out and start over. With writing, you can’t ruin it. If you dip a spoon into your writing and, upon taking a mighty slurp of words, notice that it is too salty, you don’t have to consider it relegated to the garbage can. Instead of the desperate hope that the trick grandmother taught you of dropping in a potato will soak up the salt and set everything to rights, you can simply restructure your work. Remove paragraphs, add words, shift points… you can add, remove, or rebalance these “ingredients” at any stage of the process to get that elusive, delicious, savory flavor you were seeking.|
|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.|
Kim Abels – Director
Vicki Behrens – Assistant Director
Gigi Taylor – ESL Specialist
Percival Guevarra – ESL Specialist
Becky Butler – ESL Specialist
Kim Allison – Business Manager