A blog for tutors to share their ideas, experiences, and insights.

Author Archives: khaawf

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How I felt posting

The prospect of an interactive, blog-based forum intermingled with a class, initial left me wary and concerned. I once had a professor insist on a Facebook page devoted to class, on which we were required to devote the equivalent time that I assume Facebook users typically devote to time wasting. I flat out refused–no Facebook for me! Besides my personal disinterest and disdain for Facebook, I very much disliked the idea of the type of interaction associated with blog/social networking type stuff penetrating the collegiate academic environment.  Well I enjoy class, it is very important to me to maintain a professional presence when on campus and in classes. Perhaps this is because I feel like I don’t belong in college, that I should never have been accepted, yet I do feel that we are all incredibly lucky to be attending such illustrious institutions and we should all dress, talk, and act accordingly. So for me, taking on blogging, which I have never done before- was a very scary concept.

Interacting with Word Press, the difficulty of usage for a slightly dyslexic individual such as my self,  and the nature of blogging continuously made me feel as if I had just vomited onto the internet each time I posted.

Setting aside my personal experience with Word press and my own romantic yet dated vision of what college should be, the concept of the blog and the resulting interaction and discussion was, in my opinion, very valuable and an enriching addition to the course.

Well the mechanics and fluency issues of Word Press are to be expected, I was very impressed with the overall interaction, interest, and posts of my fellow bloggers. As the semester progressed it was nice to see the initial rigidity and formal nature dissipate to leave a friendly and helpful community of potential tutors.

I enjoyed reading everyone’s posts, and thank you if you read mine. Best of luck to everyone.

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Giant Squids, Robotic Narcotics, Constipated Dragons? Here’s my card! 

Like a timid squirrel, my initial experience with the writing center was a long and delicate matter. I would run up to the door, sniff around, look around, and then run off for a time to hide nuts in a tree. Eventually, my nuts dutifully stored, I brought a research paper into the writing center and was instantly in love with everything about the place. “Yes,” I said, “these are people I would gladly share a scavenged meal with.”

 

Sometime later, I decided that I would bring a piece of fiction into the writing center. Why not? After all, it is free and hey, just maybe, if my writing is any good the tutor will enjoy the chance to take a break from working on academic writing to read some fiction. Well I am still not sure if my writing is any good, but my suspicion that a writing center tutor would enjoy the chance to work on some fiction was correct. Since that fateful, and cliché-ly phrased day I have been occasionally taking creative writing to the center.

 

In most cases the tutors I worked with preformed with admirable grace in smoothly adjusting and adapting their tools and style to work with fiction writing. Since then I have become a profit of ill-repute, shambling through upbeat creative writing classes with a coffer in hand, declaring that the almighty WC is near and ready to be your friend. Yet most fiction writers see themselves as students whom the academic types look down upon. The general feeling among the fiction writers I have spoken to is that the writing center is not for us; it is for students writing academic papers who need the help. After all, we have workshops.

 

Writing workshops are fantastic if, and I put a heavy emphasis on IF, the right components come together to make for the right environment. Stuff like good professors, and dedicated peers willing to do more than simply scan your story to ensure that whatever minimum standards of credit that a professor has set are met. Yet even with all the help showering down on you like naked men or women or whatever you like to have shower down on you glistening in naked glory, workshops can still fail to help you improve as a fiction writer.

 

And alas, what a beautiful coincidence it is that comfortably fitted into a snug area of the library is a coven filled with delightful believers ready and willing to help fulfill your un-met needs. Workshops are essentially all endgame. Even worse, at least for those of us with a competitive streak, it is very hard to look at a workshop opportunity as exactly that, a workshop opportunity. I would never dream of brining a story into a workshop that I wasn’t already sure was excellent. (I must note here that this is only possible after horrendously beating my doubts to a bloody death.) But the thing is is that it can be incredibly hard to get to a place where you feel confident enough to trounce into a workshop beseeching the humble folk within to gaze upon all the glory that is your story. Depending on your style, (lets say like King who writes from the gut or like Tolkien who spent more time world building than writing) it can be sometimes be difficult to shape the never ending wet stream of vomit that is character ideas, and settings into a coherent and lovely piece of art.

 

Creative writing classes aren’t about sitting down and just talking out what you are trying to do. Typically people read your story and after the class talks about it, while you sit dutifully silent, you get about twenty rushed seconds to ask questions. There is never a, “lets sit down, let me pitch this thing to you,” exercise. Which is sad, because this can be enormously helpful. Truthfully, sometimes it’s easier to get someone to listen to that crazy dream you had the other night than actually sit down and listen to you pitch a book or story. Maybe this has to do with this weird divide that exists where you are either another filthy artist who should get a real job or “Good show Sir!” worthy. I am getting off topic. My point is that there is a huge middle ground before you get to work shopping in fiction where having a smart, kind and qualified person sit down and work with you, help you explore the ideas that you are trying to lay down into not just clear prose, but art, is something that is invaluable to us mortals.

 

In my experience I found that the WC, already so filled with skills and tools and friendly faces, can and will provide the same debilitatingly delightful help that it already offers to the eager pupils with academic papers, to fiction writers.

 

With a break from my long winded and clarity defiling blathering, simply put, my plan is to investigate how writing center tutors can adjust their style, technique, and tools to work more proficiently with writers who enter their domain with fiction.

 

The perceivable personal value of my many years of writing fiction and taking creative writing classes can assuredly be contested, yet in my experience I have found that using the trusty tools we writing tutors keep in our belts, I have been able to improve my writing process dramatically. Well my experience with tutors who adapt to work on the fiction I have brought in has been remarkable; I think that with a few slight adjustments the writing center can become a fiction writer’s best friend. The kind who always welcomes you with hot tea, warm cake and a smile, no matter how long you have stayed away.

 


In my experince there has always been a slight amount of culture shock when traveling abroad. Even up in Canada I experienced a wall between effective communication. Here in America the vast, sometimes ironically disdainful dependence on mostly American things, such as our strange media, allows for a fast track, so to speek, when communicating. The use of idioms, references to our culture, and unique adaptions of the english language allow us to bypass longer routes of expression and communicate what we are thinking in shorter ways. Keeping up with my dated reference theme, an American can communicate so much simply by saying, “Well they just jumped the shark.”

The use of our culture to maintain short cuts to understanding through communication is something that has become deeply imbedded and mostly subconscious in our day to day communication. When I have travled abroad it always takes me a conversation or two to remember to bypass the short cuts in communication that our media and culture have provided us. I think that this somewhat restricted, interwoven stretch of highways, whom individuals not familiar with American culture may be unaware of, is most likely the greatest cause of miscommunication at a basic level on our part.  Of coarse I would be a fool not to mention the cultures of the individuals we engage in sessions with as well as the more respectable clash of our own deeper cultural identity, yet I think that approaching communication doing ones best to avoid these “fast tracks” would allow us to commit ourselves to practicing routes of expression that are somewhat untended by those of us who rely so much on our vast bank of references to quicken understanding.

I find it somewhat humorous that we use such “fast tracks” without really considering the implications. Every time we use an expression such as, “jump the shark,” we rob ourselves of using our brains to create new froms of expression. Think how weird things would be if a poet were to create the perfect, lets say, three line poem that expresses all the angst of losed love. If we all immediately began to turn to this easily expressed cultural poem we would rob ourselves of the chance to craft our own words and thereby advance our intellect.

Personally, I feel that the opportunity to work with non-native speakers is rich with opportunity and formost amongst the benefits for the self, is the opportunity to be challenged to effectively communicate in a simple way without relying on our own bak of cultural references. 


I have always been relatively successful when writing essays, yet I must admit that I very much dislike conforming to the one size fits all essay outline we have injected into our skulls at early ages. At some point in high school I decided to garnish an essay concerning what I am sure was an extremely important topic, with some creative writing and inserted observations of a philosophic nature. The results where astounding. Well the factual portion of the essay was rather weak and the whole thing was quite fluffy, my teacher awarded me top marks. Being a young and lazy writer I immediately adapted the Michael Bay approach to writing. WIth enough explosions, special effects and possibly some models who can’t act, I decided I could take a terrible piece of work and pass it off as A level work. Some where along the way I forgot that writing in this way was a gimmick, and it slowly became my go to style.  During my fist year of college I read a lot of writing from fellow freshman who had picked up the same technique.  It makes me sad to say that up until my second year, writing in this way earned me top marks. Only rarely did a Professor chide me on my weakened and fatty writing. Eventually I fell in love with writing and my perspective on my work changed dramatically. My aim with a paper was no longer to just get a good great, but to improve as well as do the best work I could. Unfortunately I had picked up a filthy habit. It wasn’t until I had a lengthy discusion with a professor in which we discussed the possible value of taking the academic format outside to get it some sun and fresh air, that he said something to me that has since transformed my writing. He said to me something close to this, “So you love creative writing? Me to! But this isn’t creative writing. Maybe to some people adding a splash of color to the correct style is nice but when it comes to academic essays it will ALWAYS be graffiti. So, write creatively, but think of your self as two writers. There is Kyle the creative writer and there is Kyle the academic writer. DO NOT LET THEM HANG OUT!” When Kyle the academic writer is writing for me you need to lock Kyle the creative writer in a closet.”

It has taken some time, yet I have come to truly appreciate this advice and try my best to no longer water down, or try and disguise a scrawny paper with a fancy clothing. I think that this idea is something that I would have benefited from greatly in the earlier days of my college experince.

A lot of writers look at themselves as one person, one guy or girl with a toolbox full of tools. As they work on different things they acquire new tools, and because they keep all these tools in one box sometimes they pull out the wrong one for the job. If we instead separate ourselves into the different writers that we are, each with a toolbox full of only those tools related to that type of writing, then it becomes much easier to specialize and improve in each type of writing we do. 


My name is Kyle Main and I am majoring in creative writing at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Having explored a number of career paths, (I worked as a data analyst with Oliver Wyman’s Life and Sciences division. I am also a certified interpretive guide, specializing in backpacking in mountainous terrain.) I have found my way back to what I love best, writing and education. I hope to earn both a master’s degree and a PhD in the coming future.