Being a Writing Center Tutor

Recently a few tutors reflected on their experiences as Writing Center tutors. Here are two different perspectives. One is from a senior who has worked at the Writing Center for almost three years, and the others is written by someone who just started working there this semester.

Sixth and Final Semester

As I am writing this, I have just begun my sixth and final semester as a Writing Center tutor. The time really has flown by, but if I take a step back and think about these past 3 years as a tutor, I realize just how much I have changed as a result of my time here. I think about my experiences at the Writing Center as impacting two distinct areas: my career, and my life.

For my career, the impact is easy to see. Talking about working in the Writing Center has been the baseline of so many successful interviews I’ve gone on, simply because there is so much to be said about the skills and abilities that tutoring has given me. I could spend an entire interview talking about how tutoring has prepared me to deal with different types of people, how it has taught me to read emotions and body language while adjusting accordingly, and how it has improved my workplace interpersonal skills. (I’m not saying I have spent an entire interview on this, but honestly, I’ve come close.)

Looking at my life outside of my career, I see a lot of the same interpersonal skills I’ve gained at the Writing Center being useful. But beyond that, my time at the Writing Center has taught me to think about things differently, not just in my writing but in my interactions with others. Without a doubt, I can say that I am a much better writer after having worked here for 3 years, but I also value writing more than I did when I first began this job. We recently had an assignment at a staff meeting to free-write by hand, and ever since I have caught myself thinking about what handwriting means and how important it is. The writing center has also provided me with a new network of friends and colleagues, both in school and after graduation. I was once even connected with a person on LinkedIn because we both mentioned the Bentley Writing Center in our bios. While this connection is just one example, the Writing Center has provided me great friends and people that I know I will stay in contact with after I graduate in a few short months. Without a doubt, the Writing Center has impacted my life in college, and I can’t imagine my time at Bentley without thinking about the time I spent in the Writing Center.


Day One

This is my first semester working at the Writing Center, and a few minutes ago, I just finished my very first conference with a student. At first, I was a little nervous, but once the conference was fully underway, my nerves disappeared. I just focused on engaging in conversation with the writer and helping him to the best of my ability. The rest came naturally.

To me, working at the Writing Center means not only helping others improve their writing, but also learning how to develop my own style as a Writing Center tutor. I am also a GB112/212 and MA123/126 tutor for the Office of Academic Services, so I feel that a major part of my job will be finding a way to balance the two different experiences. Since math-based subjects are so different from writing, I need to approach the tutoring sessions very differently. With math, there is only one right and an infinite number of wrongs. On the other hand, almost anything is possible in writing. Of course, some grammatical errors are wrong, but a paper in itself can never be viewed as entirely “wrong.” At the same time, a paper can never be perfect because there is always a way to improve it. In working with writing students, I need to remember to keep this in mind. My goal as a Writing Center tutor is to be a reader, not a writer. I’ll leave the writing to the writer.


Posted in Adina Sklar, Gabby Tetreault | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

A Word Is Worth A Thousand Pictures, Too


by Roma Gujarathi

Some words have an allure of their own. Sometimes it’s the way a word sounds, like mellifluous; the letters flow so smoothly together. Other words, like hiraeth, are surrounded by a sense of mystery. Yet still, there are words like sonder that make you pause in wonder. Each of these words is beautiful.

Mellifluous /məˈliflo͞oəs/: pleasingly smooth to hear. Saying this word aloud brings out its meaning. The sounds blend to create music, of sorts. It reminds you of the solace in taking a walk through the woods, hearing the birds chirping above. It reminds you of driving through a storm, as the raindrops plop onto your windshield. It reminds you of dancing on a stage, matching your body’s movement to the echoing beat around you. Mellifluous describes the rhythm of life itself.

Hiraeth /hiraɪ̯θ/: a Welsh word with no direct English translation. Loosely put, it refers to an intense sense of nostalgia for a place in your past. This place is lost, for you can never return again. Hiraeth is the frustration of returning to an incomplete sentence you had written the night before, and trying to remember your exact thoughts from then. It is the emotion of visiting your old high school and seeing new murals and unfamiliar faces; the place remains yours no more. Even yet, hiraeth is your longing self, broken but healing still, from the loss of a loved one. Hiraeth is the recognition of constant change.

Sonder /ˈsɑndər/: the realization that all the people you pass are leading intricate lives of their own. The man who poured your coffee this morning is thinking about what to buy his daughter for her thirteenth birthday. The woman who stopped her car to let you cross the road is interviewing for a senior role in her company tomorrow. The baby who gurgled and waved to you in the park is just now recognizing that her hands are connected to her own body. Sonder is a simple reminder to share in both the sorrows and joys of the people around us.

Time and time again, you hear the saying “a picture is worth a thousand words.” But some words bring countless images to mind. They transport you to a world that stretches your consciousness of memories and expands the realms of your imagination. After a pause, you realize that sometimes a word is worth a thousand pictures, too.

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Writing Center Open House Pictures

When new students came to the Writing Center open house this year, we asked them to do one of two things: add their own thoughts to a collaborative exquisite corpse story or respond to some images we had on the wall. Here’s what it looked like:

Before after WC open house

Before and after

And here are some closeups with the clever, thoughtful, and sometimes silly responses to the images:

And, of course, some silly drawings:


Thanks to everyone who participated! We hope you’ll come visit again soon!

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Library Open House Exquisite Corpse Project

Today the Writing Center participated in the library’s open house, and when new first-year students visited us, they were asked to participate in one of two writing projects. One of them was an exquisite corpse project where they were only able to see a portion of what was written previously.

What follows started with the prompt below and was completed in parts by a variety of new Bentley students.

To all who participated: thank you! We hope you’ll come back and visit us again at the Writing Center!


Initial Prompt: “Dear Me” by Brian A. Klems

“Opening up your lunch box, you expect to find your normal mixture of baby carrots, a slightly-mushed sandwich, and a clementine. But today’s different. Instead of the food you swore you had packed that morning, there’s a mysterious note signed by- yourself? What does it say, and why can’t you remember writing it? Perhaps most important, what will you eat for lunch?”


With shaking hands, I gingerly unfolded the paper at the bottom of the box. “Dear Me-“it read. “How is that possible?” I thought. That was certainly my handwriting, but I had no memory of writing any notes. There was more. Carefully, on the bottom of the page was the tiny inscription, “You aren’t safe here. You’ve been framed. Wait until you are alone, then get out.” My eyes began to jolt across the room: I was alone. But what could I have meant? Framed for what? The worst crime I could have possibly committed was jaywalking, and that would hardly warrant a chilling note from myself. I packed up my things, and headed back towards my office. Only, I wasn’t alone anymore. Police officers lined every inch of my office. Some paced, others sifted through my files, one even clicked his way through my Inbox, nodding to the others. His eyes then lifted from the screen, locked with mine, and began to dart around the room. “Get ‘em!” he growled. In a panic, I bolted for the door.

While making my exit, a few officers ran after me. In haste, I reached into my lunch bag—which, I miraculously still had in my hands—and forcefully threw the clementine at an officer’s face. He caught the clementine and threw it back at me, running towards me as he did so. But little did the out of shape officer know, I’m an MMA fighter. I got in my stance and waited for him to approach me. Then, out of nowhere Connor McGregor showed up, dressed as a police officer. I was terrified! They were about to arrest me when I started to fight them. Connor quickly knocked me off balance with a swift chop to my throat. After training in the mountains of northern China for almost a decade I released his grasp and made my way towards the exit. I could feel the handle in my sweaty palm when I was suddenly felt myself choke on the collar of my shirt. Spongebob had ripped my shirt off from the back. I quickly spun around and to my surprise Spongebob had begun to sprint away from me, laughing maniacally. I then noticed he was chasing his neighbor Patrick all the way to the Krusty Krab.

As I made my way to the Krusty Krab I met my professor, Billy Joe, my GB101 professor. He was next to Spongebob flipping those sexy burger patties.

Spongebob looked at Billy Joe and yelled, “THERE CAN ONLY BE ONE COOK!” And so the battle for head chef began. Spongebob began flipping patties by the dozens, as he was a very experienced cook. Billy Joe, having no idea what was going on, began flipping his patties faster thinking he would be fired if he was slower than Spongebob. I stood there watching each of them flipping hundreds of patties, sweating profusely and swearing at each other. I realized I needed to do something or I would never get a chance to meet my professor. I ran towards the battle, but I wouldn’t have if I knew what was going to happen next. Surprised by my rapid approach, Billy Joe swung his head around with such speed that he cracked his neck. Reacting to the pain he kicked the grill, stubbing his toe, but also causing the grill to topple over leading a river of grease in my direction. Suddenly the river of grease turned into a river of fire, I ran for my life!

And then I woke up. I was still at lunch staring at my empty lunchbox. It occurred to me I had dozed off and fell into a Spongebob induced coma. Maybe I watched too much Nickelodeon last night. Suddenly, there shows up several the walking dead. And you can only survive by shooting them in the heads. I quickly grabbed my shotgun under my bed and started to kill off the zombies. It was scary. Unfortunately, my aim was off and I shot myself in the foot. The blood sprayed everywhere, painting the grass red. But not really. The sun was shining and the birds were chirping as planes flew overhead. As the planes came into sight, the sirens began to scream. It was no longer safe to stay outside, which just reminded us that we don’t have any homes to go to. The once beautiful symbol of freedom, an open, blue sky, had become a fearful sight, as the planes never came in dreary weather.

The planes turned into giant humming birds who swooped down and carried me away into the now cloudy sky. They flew me to a volcano where they told me that they need a sacrifice for the volcano god. I was surprised at how gently the humming birds dropped me off at the edge of the bubbling volcano considering what they intended to do with me. Before the birds could flap away, the steaming lava began to stir. Out of the red liquid came what I assumed were the volcano gods. But actually, they were just Spongebob and Patrick. And that cause my credit card defuction. So young teenagers, you guys should forget all the things and start your trip of Pokemon trainer! Or maybe not and can do something else also, your choice. Or you could do nothing at all. Or you could marry a monkey and live in the wilderness.

RIP Harambe. Rip Harambe. RIP Harambe.

Stay woke, they said, even though it has been weeks since the incident.

Harambe’s death served as a single incident to remind the city of Cincinnati that all was not well. In the months following the shooting, human-gorilla relations strained.

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Good Luck! 3 Pieces of Advice for Graduating Seniors

by Greg Farber-Mazor

At the end of every year, as the graduating senior Writing Center tutors are preparing to move on from the confines of the library basement (and Bentley), I typically write them a short note of thanks and wish them well in their future endeavors. This year, for reasons I can’t quite put my finger on, I find myself particularly reflective. As I consider what to say to this year’s seniors along with what I’ve written in the past, I’m struck by three pieces of advice that I often find myself returning to. (As a caveat, I’m typically opposed to advice for graduating seniors, because it’s often prescriptive and didactic. I hope this isn’t…at least not too much.)

  1. Advocate for yourself. Often new graduates feel that they have no voice when it comes to their first job. It’s true that you certainly don’t have the kind of leverage you may get as your career progresses. But if you’ve gotten to the point where you’ve been hired, companies aren’t going to rescind their offers if you make reasonable requests. They may say no. But asking is unlikely to ruin your career. Try Googling something like “should I negotiate my first job offer?” You’ll find A LOT of responses. All of which say “yes.” Many also encourage you to negotiate beyond salary, because advocating for yourself doesn’t always mean just asking for more money. Negotiate a start date that works for you. Advocate for promotions and raises. Ask for responsibilities and don’t let yourself get taken advantage of. All of this may seem like a lot, especially if you’re the lowest in the pecking order. And certainly how you go about asking—making sure you take the right tone and approach for your particular situation—is essential. But getting into the habit of advocating for yourself will benefit you for the rest of your life (especially if you’re the type of person who finds this idea terrifying).
  1. Money isn’t everything. Obviously this is a cliché. And don’t get me wrong; salary matters. Raises matter. But discussions of starting pay can sometimes overshadow other forms of compensation and other parts of a job. Especially as you’re considering what jobs to apply for, which job to accept, or how you’re pursing advancement in your career, it’s useful to think about what else matters to you. Where you live, who you work with, and how much vacation time you get can matter. A lot. After leaving grad school, turning down jobs in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and in Farmville, VA (seriously, Farmville) may have caused me some short-term financial uncertainty and possibly even less money in the long-term. But they were among the best career decisions I made. Being closer to family and communities that matter to me (some of which didn’t exist in those places), have been worth the financial cost. Which brings me to…
  1. Don’t forget who you are and what you love. Making the transition from college into the corporate world (or grad school…or temporary unemployment) is a big one. You have a new job that’s suddenly consuming most of your time. Your nights out get shorter and less frequent. Thursday nights are no longer part of the weekend. There’s suddenly less time for everything. While you can’t do everything you did in college (the opportunity to participate in clubs, sports, and service, all while having plenty of time to catch a ball game then go out for a drink is part of what makes college unique) you need to make time for the things that really are important to you. For me, it’s carving out the (not insignificant) time to work on a new batch of homebrew. But whether it’s setting a regular day for pickup basketball games, joining a local choir, or just making time to read and write, make sure to find physical, mental, or creative outlets that matter to you. It can become all too easy to not just prioritize work, but to treat it as the only thing that exists.

Graduation is always a bit bittersweet for me. I’m fortunate to have an opportunity many professors do not: I get to work with the same excellent, motivated students over the course of several years. But, as with all teaching positions, those students depart. While seeing them move on (and knowing they’re going to be amazing wherever they end up) is inspiring, it’s also sad to see them go.

With that, I wish all the graduating seniors good luck. Good luck negotiating and advocating. Good luck balancing your time and navigating your new path.

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The Dos and Don’ts of Professional E-mails

By Alison Fortier

Bentley definitely prepares us well for the business world with all the GBs and even CDI, but we’re left to figure out other things on our own. For example: writing professionally for day-to-day business. Don’t worry if this part of business isn’t your favorite thing in the world because there are several aspects that, if you master, will put you on the right track.

  1. DO use full names and follow suit on name usage.

The first step in e-mail is to address the recipient by name.

Make sure that the first time you e-mail someone, you use that person’s first and last name. For example: Hello Mr. Jonathon Smith.

If, when you receive a response, Jonathon Smith signs his name as “Jon,” you may then follow suit and call him “Jon” in the future.

  1. DO begin with a professional tone and then mimic your recipient’s tone.

In your original e-mail, keep things formal and professional. Then, if your recipient keeps up the professionalism in his reply, you should too. However, if your recipient replies casually, you may do the same.

  1. DO proofread.

Proofread every e-mail you send so that no silly spelling mistakes are made. This is one of the best ways to make your writing look professional!

  1. DON’T use slang.

Similarly, avoid slang words (like bae, LOL, etc.) at all costs, even if your conversation has turned casual. Not only could your recipient misinterpret what you’re trying to say, he could be offended by a certain term.

  1. DO be brief.

Another important skill in e-mailing is to be brief and get right to the point. In business, everyone is busy all the time, and e-mails can pile up quickly. To keep your reader’s attention, use detailed, relevant subject lines and get to the point of your e-mail within the first two sentences. Prove to the reader that you respect her time.

  1. DON’T wait to respond.

It is important to respond to business e-mails within twenty-four hours. If you don’t receive a response from someone, it is appropriate to wait one business week before sending a follow-up e-mail.

With these quick and easy tips in mind, e-mailing can become so much less stressful and so much more professional. Learning to write in a professional e-mail format is an important skill, and future employers will appreciate it, so don’t let the idea of writing worry you!


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Character Development in Creative Writing

by Nicole Wong

Most of us here at Bentley spend our time writing research reports or critical analyses on other peoples’ work.But what happens when you are the creator of that work yourself? For the past year, I have worked on transitioning my skills from analyzing literary work to writing my own pieces from scratch, pieces that are meaningful to others.

When creating work instead of reporting on it, the idea of turning your own ideas into a convincing character is a difficult one. While the plot may seem to dictate who is going through the actions, it should be the opposite. Even though a story is only a small snapshot of important events in a character’s life, the characters themselves are complicated and more complex than what is happening at that moment. They have a greater set of emotions and experiences that can make them seem realistic, convincing and intriguing, as long as you—the writer—know what these characterizations are.

If someone were to ask a random question about your character, possibly not even directly relevant to the story, you should know the answer as if the question was about you.

Those details may not end up in your story at all, but thinking about who your characters are and what they have been through is very important. As with real people, experiences change how characters deal with future events. Without a concrete picture of what motivates a character, it is much harder to keep that character consistent through the entire work.

With that in mind, some important questions to ask when formulating a character are

  • What happened in their childhood?
  • What was an impactful moment for them?
  • Where are they from?
  • What are they afraid of?
  • What do they love?
  • Where do they see themselves in the future?
  • Who have they interacted with?
  • What was their biggest challenge?

The snapshot of a character’s life that we see in a single story is important, but in order for it to be convincing, it should appear that the reasons behind their actions are not out of the blue but because of who they are. A well-developed character has the ability to strengthen not only imagery and dialogue but also the plot itself in most cases. By better understanding what has gotten a character into his or her critical situation in the first place, the predicament becomes more believable. Most problems in real life are not random events that happen by chance to random people; instead they are trials that people go through because of who they are and situations they have faced in the past.

When creating a character, you are not just imagining the person that lives through a rising action, a crisis, climax, conclusion, and then a falling action. You are creating a life that the character has lived, just like any other real person would. They may have qualities that resemble the people you know, the person you are, or the person you want to be, but they must be a complete idea before they can convince any reader that they should be listened to and read thoroughly. A character’s life beyond his or her story matters, and having the insight into that idea makes creative writing all the more real.

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