USF Writing Studio

Archive for March, 2016


iSessions, MySessions

Thursday, March 31st, 2016 | Posted in Uncategorized by dmfarrar | No Comments »

This semester I have begun doing iSessions with (essentially) all of my writers. At first, I was a bit skeptical: 1) writers have less responsibility to make note of any changes to their writing, as I am making the changes and emailing the pdf to them after 2) the sessions are recorded which initially added stress about saying something incorrect or giving bad advice (maybe not in line with a professor after-the-fact) and 3) I was thoroughly enjoying the pencil (pen) and paper physicality of the regular sessions. All that being said, I think I can confidently state that I am a full supporter of the iSessions and the added benefits provided to the writers.

Most of my writers have been unaware that their session was an iSession. This tends to result in some confusion at first with getting an electronic copy and convincing them that they will be provided the same services as a normal session with iPad and TV for better visualization. [I had one writer arrive and made aware of the iSession, resulting in her (nearly) shouting, “Nooooo, I want to work with a REAL person, not an iPad!!” To that the deskstaff calmly responded, “She is a real person…she’s sitting at the back table.”]
Once all of the confusion is cleared up and the writing is pulled up on the TV, almost every writer is initially in awe of the capabilities. I have found that, contrary to my initial assumptions, writers are more engaged in the conversation of amending their writing, even though they do not need to write everything down. It seems to me that removing the burden of transcribing allows for the writers to be more attentive to interact with me and discuss potential changes in the writings.
I have been using the app Notability for all of my sessions. [Side note: many of my writers have been so impressed with the app that they take down the name to download later for themselves.] I (luckily) used the app in the last few years of my coursework, and so I have become proficient- there was definitely a learning curve at the start. This allows me to more seamlessly make notes, write out complete legiblethoughts/ideas, change colors for different things (i.e., one color for grammar mistakes, a different color for new opening/closing sentence ideas, yet another color for highlighting and moving sentences/paragraphs). I love colors!! I think the end result is a very visually stimulating revision of the initial writing piece. All in all, I think iSessions make it easier for the writer to follow along with the changes made during the session and make the corrections later by themselves.
Yay, Team iSessions!!

By Melanie Pickett, Ph.D. in Environmental Engineering (in progress)


Online Consultations

Friday, March 11th, 2016 | Posted in Uncategorized by dmfarrar | No Comments »

When I first learned that I would be doing online consultations I was slightly intimidated, having not had much experience video sessions or Skype in general. My only experience with Skype had been when my mother would video-call my uncle for Thanksgivings or Christmases so that we could see our long-distant cousins in Delaware. My sister and I would crowd in behind my mother and my grandmother who would talk extra slow and loud, perhaps thinking the Skype session required this kind of exaggerated speech. Sometimes my uncle’s face would freeze, his mouth hanging open, mid-sentence and his eyes shut in a blink. A lot of times there were What?s and What did you say?s. I was kind of dreading trying to consult a writer for fifty minutes, knowing well the many hijinks that came with Skype sessions.
On a recent Wednesday evening, I knew I had an online consultation at 8 PM. I printed the writer’s work and opened the plastic bag carrying a brand new headset, carefully laying aside the yellow sticky note that clarified: FOR ANNALISE. I adjusted them and readjusted them, trying to find the perfect fit before signing onto Skype and calling my evening client. At 8 PM on the dot, I called my client, who answered on second ring. And to my surprise, the connection was clear, and sitting before me was a client just like any of my others who come into The Writing Studio. At first, we did have trouble hearing each other, but once volumes were adjusted, we were not interrupted by any technical difficulty.
One thing I didn’t anticipate was not being able to share the document on the screen within Skype so that the client and I could both see the paper together, like a Google Doc. Because of this, we simply had to adjust our language and be specific about what paragraph and which line we were looking at at the time.
My client stated that they hadn’t been in school for about seven years and that they felt like they needed to get back into the swing of writing. We read through their work carefully, line by line, and I was able to provide comments for things that they could choose to do, if they wanted. The session was successful in that the client gained confidence again in their own writing, saw ways of how they could write differently, and even in how I gained a new understanding of a topic I knew little about before this session took place. We used the whole fifty minutes and by the end, the client was asking for my hours and if we could do another online consultation again soon. Gladly, I provided them, and left for the evening feeling the rewards of my job, and also, a new confidence in proceeding with online consultations. 

By Annalise Mabe, MFA student in Creative Writing and Writing Consultant

The Importance of Flexibility and “Venting Time” During Appointments

Friday, March 4th, 2016 | Posted in Uncategorized by dmfarrar | No Comments »

When writers sit down to work with writing consultants, they immediately engage in “work mode,” right? Laptops are open, scratch paper is handy, and the writer and the consultant dive into whatever piece the writer has brought, working at a furious pace and stopping only when the allotted length of time has expired. This scenario plays out 100% of the time in your sessions, right?

If you’re scratching your head and saying to yourself “None of my appointments ever follow this format,” then you’re not alone. As writing consultants, we have to come to terms with the fact that it’s okay if a fraction (maybe even the majority in some cases) of the time in our consulting sessions will inevitably be spent doing other things. It’s simply the nature of the job.

To illustrate my point, I’ll give you an example involving one of my “regulars” that happened a few weeks ago. Let’s call him Sammy. Sammy came in for his weekly appointment as usual. Nothing about his demeanor or facial expression suggested anything out of the ordinary. However, as he sat down at the table and opened his laptop, Sammy’s attitude changed. 

I asked him how a paper he recently submitted for one of his classes was received by his professor. That’s when the floodgates opened. In a flurry of complaints, sighs, and protestations, Sammy proceeded to point out all of the professor’s inconsistencies among the assignment guidelines, the rubric for the paper, and her specific feedback regarding Sammy’s paper. I sat beside Sammy, calmly nodding and only replying in sporadic monosyllables.

This went on for about 30 minutes. When he had finally exhausted himself, I agreed that he made several good points during his tirade, and I advised him to raise these points in a conference with his professor during office hours (while stressing the need to do so in a composed, respectable manner). He agreed, and we spent the rest of the session talking about a few MLA conventions that his professor had pointed out.

I relay this exhaustive story to demonstrate an important though often overlooked aspect of our jobs. As writing coordinators, it’s important that we allow writers to voice concerns about their work, talk about their days, and, occasionally, vent about an issue they’re facing. Of course, our primary goal is to help them improve their writing, but the creation of a safe space – one that makes the writer feel comfortable communicating with the consultant about whatever is on the writer’s mind – is extremely important in our field. Letting the writer know that he or she is welcome to use some of the appointment time simply to vent is vital in fostering relationships with writers that best serve their academic interests.

Here is a link to an article that addresses this issue of effectively listening while someone is venting.

By Seth Spencer, MA student in Literature and Writing Consultant
(813) 974-2729

4202 E. Fowler Ave. LIB122 Tampa FL 33620

Library Initiatives

Scholar Commons | Karst Information Portal
Holocaust & Genocide Studies | Florida Studies Center
Oral History Program | Textbook Affordability Project

Follow Us