USF Writing Studio

Archive for April, 2017


A Creative Writer Walks into the USF Writing Studio…

Wednesday, April 19th, 2017 | Posted in Uncategorized by dmfarrar | No Comments »

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By Georgia Jackson, Writing Studio Consultant

As a consultant, mental gymnastics ensue: What do I do?, What will they expect from me?, What if it’s poetry?

This reaction is only as dramatic as it is common. Creative writing consultations make us nervous. But, they shouldn’t. USF Writing Consultants see everything from (deeply) personal statements to ream-length dissertations. So, what is it about a piece of creative writing that puts us on the spot?

Instead of answering that question, I propose a deep breath.





In the introductory craft book The Art and Craft of Fiction: A Writer’s Guide, Michael Kardos proposes a checklist with which readers can learn to read like writers. Kardos’s book is square-ish and lime-green and probably on the shelf of every student who has matriculated through USF’s creative writing program. Still, Kardos’s checklist is often overlooked.

While the checklist is designed as a reading guide for beginning writers, when applied to a work-in-progress, the checklist functions as a metacognitive challenge: “Why does this story begin when it does?” Kardos asks. “What is the main character’s underlying problem, and how does the story bring this problem into sharper focus?”

Other highlights include:

  • “Is the writing ever less clear than it could be?”
  • “Which parts of the story are dramatized through scenes?  Which parts are summarized?  Why?”
  • “How is the story [or poem] structured?  How else could it be?”

The majority of Kardos’s questions focus on authorial choice (why did the author do that? why not this?). And, by acknowledging that every word, line, and scene, is indeed a choice, Kardos emphasizes the endless possible forms a piece of writing can take.

Next time a creative writer walks into the Studio, remember that we need not practice creative writing ourselves to challenge a writer’s work in a constructive manner. (Why does the story or poem begin where it does?  Might it make more sense to begin somewhere else?).  Let the writer play defense; it’s good craft.


What’s Wrong with Wikipedia?

Monday, April 10th, 2017 | Posted in Uncategorized by dmfarrar | No Comments »

Paul Blog Pic SPR17.fwBy Paul Flagg, Writing Studio Consultant

“Wikipedia can be a great tool for learning and researching information. However, as with all reference works, not everything in Wikipedia is accurate, comprehensive, or unbiased.” (From “Researching with Wikipedia”)

Wikipedia, the free online encyclopedia, isn’t always recognized as a favorable website amongt professors and instructors of all levels of education. It’s an extremely popular source for information, however, so why is it criticized so much in academia? And when is it okay to use Wikipedia?

“Wikipedia is not considered a credible source”—This is the first sentence in the Wikipedia article for “Academic Use.” Despite lacking credibility, it is used by many, even in the academic sphere, whether by middle school, high school, or college students or university professors—and even doctors. The fact that Wikipedia can be edited by anyone is what diminishes the content’s authority. This isn’t to say that Wikipedia is a bad source; rather, it is an information source that should be approached with caution and should be used solely as a tertiary source. Generally, it’s not supposed to be used in formal research or for publication, but it is excellent for basic learning (or what is often called informal research) to get a general idea of a specific topic.

Even Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales said to Business Week in 2005 that the site should not be cited as a source, further stating that encyclopedias in general should not be cited. In terms of research, encyclopedias, including Wikipedia, provide background information and can be used as a guiding source but not as the main substance of one’s research. Encyclopedias, particularly print versions, become outdated quickly, and the information included may no longer be relevant. One of the many benefits of Wikipedia is that it can be updated instantaneously, contributing to the information’s timeliness; however, this same facet can be regarded as its downfall. Information on Wikipedia can be edited or changed at any given moment, and even though Wikipedia has several bots and policies in place that oftentimes protect pages from vandalism, it is not completely foolproof.

In an academic sense, Wikipedia can be a good “jumping-off point” for research because it provides sufficient background information (not to be cited, however). External links from Wikipedia articles connect information-seekers with relevant outside information, and references point users toward specific articles, journals, and other credible sources on which Wikipedia content is based more often than not. So next time you question why Wikipedia isn’t allowed as a source in your research paper, remember that it isn’t considered credible but that there are valuable ways to use this free online collaborative encyclopedia.


Incorporating Learning Strategies into Your Writing Process

Tuesday, April 4th, 2017 | Posted in Uncategorized by dmfarrar | No Comments »

Study Skills - email-02By Dr. Wendy Duprey, Writing Studio Consultant

Along with the Writing Studio, Study Skills Tutoring is another great resource on campus to help writers cope with the stressful demands of writing.  Located on the second floor of the library in the Academic Success Center, writers can schedule one-on-one appointments with a study skills tutor in order to understand and change their counterproductive behaviors while studying or writing, such as procrastination, lack of motivation, and poor time management.

Stephanie Sanchez, a Graduate Assistant and Study Skills Tutor in the Academic Success Center, highly recommends three evidence-based strategies that can help writers effectively plan their time, visually organize their ideas, and actively read for their assignments.

Planning: Schedule Intense Study (Writing) Sessions

When planning your time during the writing process, Sanchez recommends scheduling intense study (writing) sessions based on one hour blocks of time.  For each hour, break up the writing assignment into smaller goals.  By chunking the writing process in this way, Sanchez claims the assignment becomes less overwhelming and more manageable to accomplish.

Here is how she describes an intense study session:

  1. Set a specific and attainable goal (2-5 minutes). For example, if you have to read an article that is 20 pages long, set a realistic goal of reading 3-5 pages over the next 30 minutes.
  2. Work on accomplishing your goal (30-40 minutes). In the case of reading, actively engage in the process by taking notes, highlighting the text, or creating a concept map.
  3. Take a break (10 minutes). After working on the task, purposefully take a break to clear your mind.
  4. Review your progress (10 minutes). Finally, reflect on how well you understand the material; or, in the case of writing, review what you’ve written and assess your work from a reader’s perspective.

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Organizing: Create a Concept Map

Concept mapping is a tool that can help writers organize their ideas visually, quickly, and holistically.  As Sanchez notes, concept maps can be useful during any stage of the writing process for:

  • Representing how ideas are connected
  • Showing the whole picture
  • Getting the creative process flowing
  • Tapping into a deeper level of attention
  • Saving time while brainstorming
  • Improving memory and concentration

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Reading: Engage in the Parrot Process

As shown in the image, the Parrot Process encourages active reading through the following method:

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Sanchez points out that most people tend to focus on the reading part of the Parrot Process, hoping that they will retain the information.  However, she emphasizes that an active reading process requires previewing and questioning your prior knowledge about the material before reading, along with being able to explain and organize what you read in a tangible way (flash cards, concept maps, outlines, notes).

Along with these three learning strategies recommended by Stephanie Sanchez, studying skills tutoring can help if you are having difficulties managing your time, keeping up with assignments, or passing exams.  For more information, visit the Academic Success Center on the Second Floor of the Library or call 813-974-2713 to schedule an appointment with a study skills tutor.

(813) 974-2729

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