Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Showing Their Chops

'Writing is like a first kiss. The prospect creates a palpable anxiety that tightens the chest and inspires impatience. How do I initiate this thing? Part of the problem is that no one is sure of the exact right angle from which to begin. No amount of preparation can prevent it from starting out awkward and sloppy, so the first time is inevitably a disaster. Fortunately, though, with patience and practice, anyone can learn to do it well. Ultimately, it’s quite a thrill.'
--Bob, a graduate student tutor at the writing center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

And Bob isn't the only one at this evidently fine academic writing center who waxes so poetically about the art of writing. Just take a listen to another tutor, Heather:

'Writing is a powerful puzzle. Although the end result may seem linear, I don't think that way. I think in pieces and patterns, and I write that way as well. I almost always do the edge pieces of a puzzle first; then I have my framework, a little something to gauge the relationships between other things in the puzzle. There may be a cloud that I can work on right off of the frame. Or maybe I will need to instead pick out the little red patch of poppies to work on, or that tree that's a different color than all the rest, or the figure of a particular person. Maybe I'll first pile all the, say, red pieces together, maybe not. Pieces get added to the puzzle itself as they are discovered, sometimes randomly as I encounter each piece--like cobbling thoughts together. And there are plenty of moments when the piece I've picked simply does not fit into that space like I was sure it would.'

If you get a moment, check out some of the thoughts of other UNC writing tutors here. Even the group photo at the top beckons the visitor, like a sublimely written lead paragraph wooing a curious reader. Salesmanship counts in writing, too. With gifted and inspired tutors such as these, a student just might learn something. Come on, Case, John Carroll, B-W and CSU, where are your similarly literate writing center spokespeople, people who can teach others how to write well rather than in dense academese? This isn't rocket science, after all. It merely takes a pinch of imagination. Let's start deepening the bench by adding to our supply of Mary Grimm's (here) and George Bilgere's (here). After all, that crosstown pair is one helluva start...


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