Tuesday, April 29, 2014


Hello all!

Welcome to the last Topics Tuesday of the 2013-14 academic year (say whaaaat?). It's been a whirlwind of a semester and it's been so great to share all things Topics in Composition with our awesome readers!

Since I missed last week's post, I figured I would give you some top secret evidence...

That's right, the ever-coveted taco I have obsessed about since I started this weekly feature. Today, it's a delicious hard-shelled taco with the perfect amount of juicy beef, ripe tomatoes, crisp lettuce, yummy cheese, and (probably too much) sour cream.

Other than providing you with evidence that these tacos are, indeed, served by the Coe College cafeteria every single Tuesday, I have a little analogy for you relating to Topics in Composition.


Every student and every conference is different, but in general, I see a paper a lot like a taco. During a conference, we start by browning the beef (or other filling of the taco -- vegetarians welcome), which in this strange analogy is the student's main ideas for the paper. Sometimes, cooking all those ideas can take a while, but eventually, the ideas are ready to be used. Browning the beef might be similar to a brainstorming conference, where we just talk through ideas and make sure they are ready to go. 160 degrees, folks. Then, we try to put the main ideas into a shell -- a format that allows others to partake of the ideas. This is the student's structure for the paper. Hard shell, soft shell, or spinach wrap... any structure is welcome as long as it holds the beef. As consultants, we try to help the writer select the perfect shell for her paper so she creates just the dish she wants. Then, we are ready to add the toppings. These are all the stylistic flairs that make a boring old taco into a premiere taco of wonder. Again, the student writer must be the one to select the toppings she wants. It's her taco-paper thing.

Sometimes this process is harder than it looks. The toppings might fall out or the shell might crack. But never fear! The revision process allows students to fix the taco or even to make a new one. At the Coe Writing Center, we are certified for all your taco-fixing needs.

Now, you know you're hungry -- so go make yourself a taco in both the literal and the figurative sense.

With just the right amount of seasoning,

Friday, April 25, 2014

Photo Friday

Happy Friday!

Don't forget that you still have to make it through today...

Grab some CWC coffee to help you get by until the weekend!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Deidre's Doodle #12

Hope to see some of these soon, we've almost made it!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

A Long Overdue Thursday Post


First, my apologies for my lack of Thursday posts. I've been traveling across the country, looking at graduate schools. The problems (or benefits) of being a senior!

Anywho, the Writing Center is hopping! As the semester starts to wind down (or wind up depending on who you are talking to), we are finding ourselves a busy and productive space to get work done or to destress after a long day.

There seems to be a correlation with the end of the semester and eating lots of food (regardless of how good it is for you). When we are stressed, there's nothing better than walking into the Writing Center and seeing food on the front desk. It brings a smile to our faces and also something we can put into our stomachs before diving into homework.

Today is no exception to that rule. We've got some cookies and crackers and (even better) some Easter candy! Compliments of Alison's mother, our Writing Center now has a hearty supply of Three Musketeers, Peeps, Starbusts, and jelly beans. Not a bad spread, right? See here for photographic evidence:

Not necessarily the furniture story, but I think we can stretch this post to getting at the usefulness and object symbolizing hope in the Writing Center. As we turn the corner, moving from the art gallery to our space, our heart flutters with food on the desk. 

Until next week!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Topics Tuesday: Conversation with Chris Fink

Hello one and all!

With finals quickly approaching and a pretty full plate (of tacos, of course, because it's Tuesday), I'm going to make this Topics Tuesday blog post short and... well, spicy.

One thing I appreciate about the Writing Center is that we're always having conversations with the coolest people. Yesterday, Chris Fink, author of the work of fiction The Farmer's Almanac came into our staff meeting. Chris is a professor of journalism, creative fiction, and English at Beloit College, and his book was #4 on Amazon for short stories for a while!

 Check out The Farmer's Almanac and you'll learn what "hefting" is -- is that enough of an incentive for you?

Here is the link to the Google book.


Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Deidre's Doodle #11

Do you remember these days? I don't either. The weather is finally consistently nice, and it's Flunk Day season! I think I can finally stop doodling about the weather.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Topics Tuesday: Eureka!

First order of business: I did not eat a taco today. This is the first Tuesday since the beginning of the semester when I have not eaten a taco. I just wasn't in the mood, and sometimes you have to listen to your (forthcoming) heart (disease) with these decisions.

BUT luckily my food choices don't change that it's still Tuesday... which means it's Topics Tuesday. Get pumped.

Today I have a selection from Spilling the Beans, our staff folklore anthology. Basically, Spilling the Beans is this gem of a book where we collect past and present consultants' thoughts about conferencing, the Writing Center, and writing in general.

I am hopeful that Flunk Day is tomorrow -- a greatly-anticipated surprise day on Coe's campus when all classes are cancelled. In wishful thinking, I am including an excerpt from the section "Eureka! Discovery, Inspiration, and Elation" (how I will feel when I am hopefully woken up by excited college students).

Robin Swale, Spring 2001:

"'Every interaction we have with people changes the reaction we'll have to the next interaction.'

Hmmm, Thought provoking, isn't it? And, the reality is that in its simplistic portrayal, it's so true. Each time we conference, we learn something new. We learn more about communication. We realize more about how our peers work. We gain teaching expertise, and perhaps a little more insight on exactly how important a clearly stated, provable thesis is. Every time a person walks in to the writing center, each time we lead them to the tables in the hallway, we learn something from them as they learn from, and bounce ideas off of, us. And then we take what we learn from them and use it in our next interaction.

Example. When I started our here last year, I had absolutely no clue what I was doing. I remember sitting and feeling overwhelmed when my first conference was not only an upperclassman, but an upperclassman that also worked in the WC. I didn't know anything about revising except for grammar changes, sentence structure, and the dumb reader technique. But I learned. With each and every conference I sat down to, I thought of (or borrowed from other consultants) different ways to approach papers. I realized today as I walked back into the writing center after a conference just how much I have learned through the year and a half I have been here, and just how many different skills I have obtained. I am no longer afraid to ask questions, no longer afraid of those hour and a half brainstorming sessions. My conferences have developed from the five-minute slam-bam-thank-you-ma'am variety to the hour long discussions about organization, thought process, thesis statements, and anything else that the writer wishes to bring up. I am not saying that I am the perfect consultant. By all means, no. I am just saying that I've learned, and that the realization of that fact is amazing.

It's true--'every interaction we have with other people changes the reaciton we'll have to the next interaction.'"
Conferencing itself is full of Eureka moments, but sometimes the moments come long after. Talking to others about writing is a skill, and its development often happens when we're not realizing it. Here at the CWC, we keep on keeping on because practice is key.

All my best,


Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Deidre's Doodle #10

It was beautiful on Sunday, so here's a celebratory ice cream doodle! Even if it's not as warm today... I'll give you another chance, Weather.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Topics Tuesday: Are More Choices Better?

Hello one and all.

Today we're not having Topics Tuesday.

 ...April Fool's! I know, such a good joke. OF COURSE we're having Topics Tuesday, where I write about all things Topics in Composition, our writing center staff development course.

This week, my group worked on our research project. That might not be the most thrilling thing for you to read about at this point (though it will be when we are done)! Instead, I want to direct you to a poignant TEDTalk by Barry Schwartz called "The Paradox of Choice."

I remember watching this video last fall in Topics. I still think about it often, especially in relation to conferences.

In short, Schwartz talks about how more options is not always better. Sometimes, having too many choices paralyzes us.

I think this concept can be true for writing as well. A writer has endless possibilities for the content, organization, and style of the paper. Starting a paper can be incredibly daunting.

When I conference, I try to help the writer focus on a few choices at a time. I ask the writer to think hypothetically about what the paper would look like if they chose to take one particular direction. Thinking about one option at a time can help the writer move forward, even if he later decides on a different path.