Working from a Distance: Tips on Adjusting to Working Away from Campus

Author: Adrianna Waters

Editor: DJ Cox

Now that all WKU classes and activities are officially online for the rest of the semester, finding the motivation to do homework is challenging, especially if you are back home or quarantined to your house or apartment. For some students, writing for class, work, or extra-curricular activities may be difficult. Here are some tips for writing while quarantined:

Find a space with minimal distractions to do your writing:

Before being quarantined to apartments or houses, many students had a preferred spot for studying or completing homework. Although some study spots are still available, such as the Honors College and International Center and the library, their hours have decreased, social distancing limits the number of people able to take advantage of these rooms, and they don’t benefit students who returned home and are no longer in Bowling Green. Other popular spots are closed, such as Spencer’s or Starbucks. If you are able to work in your room without getting distracted, considering setting up a desk area complete with your necessary writing materials, such as sticky notes, pens, notebooks, etc.

However, for several students, the main advantage of library rooms or coffee shops is the removal of bedroom distractions. If this is the case for you, consider recreating a study spot in your house or apartment. For coffee shop lovers, a small spot in the kitchen with a fresh cup of coffee or tea may work best for you. There are also websites and videos of “coffee chat” or “indistinct chatter” for those who work best with background noise.

For those who prize the quiet atmosphere of the library, a spot in your living or dining room could be a close replacement—but be sure to keep the TV off. If you have parents or siblings who are also working from home, choose a spot away from them to avoid the impulse to chat instead of write. While there is no solid method for creating a perfect writing or studying spot, it would be best to avoid areas with temptations of sleeping or watching TV.

Take steps to get in the writing mood:

Some students have trouble getting in the writing mindset even without a quarantine; it’s even more difficult when you haven’t left the house in days. Although it’s tempting to stay in your pajamas most of the day, getting dressed and acting as if you are going to class will switch your mindset from “relaxing” to “working.”

It may help to consider what steps you took to get in the writing mood before the quarantine. Do you make a fresh cup of coffee or tea? Do you listen to classical music? Do you read a short article or poem? Many of these steps can be repeated with little to no changes; however, it is important to make sure these steps do not turn into procrastination.

Seek assistance from virtual sources:

Without in-person classes and office hours, seeking help for essays can be challenging. Each professor has altered how they are delivering their instruction, but several professors are using Zoom, a video conference website, to conduct classes or hold meetings. If your professor is open to it, consider scheduling meetings over Zoom or other video/phone software to discuss writing assignments. While you can still use emails or Blackboard to ask questions, you may receive more information or assistance through conversations.

Of course, you can always use the Writing Center. While we are not open in our Cherry or Cravens locations, all students are available to schedule appointments online—not just students who are off-campus. To schedule an online appointment, either click here or email us at writingcenter@wku.edu.

Several online resources are available for assistance writing papers. Purdue OWL has information on the MLA, APA, and Chicago style guides, and it is also a good resource for grammar rules. For students wanting to do a final check for grammar mistakes or typos, Grammarly offers a basic proofreading review for free—though students should double check all suggestions made by Grammarly to determine that they are accurate within their paper’s context. While online resources are a great supplement to the writing process, they should not replace revising your own work or seeking help from professors or tutors.

Establish a writing process:

The Writing Center has several posts about creating a writing process, and these pieces of advice still apply. With social distancing and quarantining, the temptation to procrastinate the writing process is even higher. However, it is even more important to set aside multiple days to brainstorm ideas, create an outline, draft your writing, and revise your essay. For more assistance with various writing steps, see Adrianna Waters’ blog post about the writing process, Jacky Killian’s post about researching, Abby Ponder’s post about outlining, or Emily Diehl’s post about revising.

While this transition may be challenging for some, we all have to try to adjust to the situation in order to ensure our academic success. Hopefully, this advice will make working from home easier for you.

Opening Yourself: The Journey to Improving Your Writing

Author: Ben Vanover

Editor: DJ Cox

Whether you are a creative writer or writing for the academic purposes that most of us encounter during college, learning to open your writing—and by extension yourself—is one of the most important aspects of the writing process. While the WKU Writing Center has already discussed revising your argument to ensure that you have the best possible case for yourself and your writing, in a post by Kylie Carson that can be found here, revision is only part of the writing process. How do you ever know what to revise in the first place? For that, we have to look at the comments that our peers, professors, and other general allies in life have for us.

I’m sure that some of us are haunted by the terms “Peer Review,” or “Workshopping.” Our disdain for these common practices undoubtedly comes from bad experiences we’ve all had with these forms of collaborative feedback, but that should not prevent us, as writers, from seeking them out from time-to-time. Through her description of the writing process, Adrianna Waters shows us that having others review our work is one of the steps that cannot be avoided if we want our writing to be at its best.

However, this does not mean that you have to show your early drafts to your classmates, professors, or even your editors first. Along the way, anyone can see and make comments on your progress. At first you might think, “They aren’t in my major—they wouldn’t understand.” This can be a fallacy along the writing journey that many of us take. Whether it is your best friend, roommate, parent, or partner, the people in your life may have useful insights that would make your essay or creative piece that much more captivating to your audience. If all else fails and you are not comfortable with anyone in your personal life taking a look at your writing, WKU’s Writing Center can help you out —from brainstorming until the final draft, we’re here for you. 

Who am I to talk, though? Who do I give my writing to, anyway? While many of my friends and family members don’t mind helping me from time-to-time, I typically don’t want to bore them with dense literary criticism or absurdist creative writing. For those subjects, I turn to a dear friend I made during my time as an undergraduate, current Boston University PhD student Tristan J. New. At first, I assumed that fallacy I mentioned earlier: Tristan was a History major in undergrad and by default not in my field of study, what could he possibly have to offer? As it turns out, quite a bit. From philosophy to psychology, he is able to tackle it all. Good writing, as some people define it, seems to transcend majors or fields of study. We can all recognize if something is good—whether we find it dense and boring may be a different matter, but we can all recognize quality.

By that logic, I would recommend that everyone turn to a friend or family member who may be able to help them improve their writing habits. While opening yourself to your cohort may be difficult at first, it gets easier with time. Before you know it, you’ll be bringing every paper to someone you know or a trusted tutor at the Writing Center before submitting it for that final grade. However, don’t forget that your professor could also be a part of this mixture. By bringing a paper directly to them you allow yourself to see exactly what in your writing they do and do not like: what needs work and what should stay unchanged.  Even when not meeting with a professor directly, emailing them with any of the questions about the format and execution of your paper, assuming you give them enough time to email you back, is always a good call.

Regardless of who you send your writing to, make sure that they do their due diligence with it—red ink on a draft may be intimidating, but allows us to grow as writers and develop ourselves along the way . Happy writing, and we’ll see you next time!

I’m Not Lazy, I Just Have Depression: Being a Writer with an Abnormal Mindset

Author: Danny Taylor

Editor: DJ Cox

Being a writer is not easy. Ask any number of writers, regardless if they write for fun or only if they have to, and much of the time the answer is the same: Writing is challenging. Getting ideas from words to paper sometimes seems like an Olympic feat, but when one’s mind is often stuck in an atypical state, it’s ten times harder. Having depression is difficult as a young adult, and being a college student with the constant pressure of deadlines and tests can make an already depressed student want to run and hide under a blanket for the next four years; and having to write paper after paper can sometimes exacerbate the issue.

Motivating oneself to sit down and write a paper often feels like a form of self-punishment. This feels doubly true if you are a student who hardly had to try to get by in high school and have suddenly hit a brick wall in college, you might feel like high school did not truly prepare you for what laid ahead, and having that constant storm cloud over one’s head can give students the dreaded writer’s block, diminishing creativity and motivation.  

Depression for college students can often seem like you’re rolling a boulder up a steep hill, but there is hope. There are plenty of resources on college campuses that can help with anxiety, ADHD, and even depression. Most college campuses will have some kind of mental health facility with trained therapists, whose job is to listen and guide students to better mental health.  No one should feel ashamed for using those resources; even students who don’t have the aforementioned issues go in, usually during finals week or if they are just having a particularly hard week and need someone to help them cope. Even if some campuses do not have mental health facilities, students can always go off-campus to find help. Other times, help is a phone call or a Google search away. There are friends or family one could call, support groups on campus or off where students can talk to like-minded individuals, and there are support lines specialized to help with certain problems.

Sometimes, all it takes is writing just a little bit a day. Setting goals for oneself and sticking to them can make an incredible difference; a few sentences on Monday, a paragraph on Tuesday, three sentences on Wednesday, all add up until you are finished by the deadline. Working little by little on essays or other assignments leading up to the due date can lessen the pressure that comes with waiting until the night before a writing assignment is due.

On the other side, once you have finished an assignment, proofread it and then have someone else look at it to find things you may not have thought to look for. A second pair of eyes can help alleviate the stress of paper writing. Once you are done putting the finishing touches on it, turn it in and try not to worry yourself. It will only make you constantly second guess your work.

It also good to remember there is no shame in having depression as a student; there are always resources and ways to cope out there.  One thing to always remember, you are never the only one. Talking to a friend, family member, a roommate, a counselor, any of them can make a huge difference in a time of need. Depression does not go away overnight, but there are ways to make it easier.

Meet the Tutors: Adrianna Waters

Author: DJ Cox

Hello fellow writers! We here at the WKU Writing Center wanted to take a moment to introduce you to one of our excellent tutors, Adrianna Waters.

Adrianna has presented her work at the 2018 and 2019 WKU English Department’s Undergraduate Conference on Literature, Language, and Culture. She has also had her writing published by the Ashen Egg and was a finalist in the 2019 Mary Ellen and Jim Wayne Miller Celebration of Writing Fiction Contest.  If you need help getting your writing or presentation ready to share with the world, Adrianna is the perfect tutor for the job!

Adrianna has taken the time to answer a few questions about her relationship with the English major.

What genre do you enjoy working with?

“I enjoy reading, writing, and tutoring most creative writing, but my favorite genre is fiction. I grew up devouring novels or short stories, and fiction has remained an important part of my identity. I also enjoy writing and reading plays or literary analysis papers.”

Why do you enjoy studying English?

“English is central to the art of storytelling. No matter what concentration you are studying—creative writing, literature, professional writing, or English for Secondary Education—some facet of your studies or future career will revolve around stories. In my classes, I have the opportunity to analyze stories and create my own, whether those be fictional stories, accounts of my life, or narratives of other people.”

What advice do you have for students regarding their own writing?

“My main piece of advice is to start writing and stop procrastinating. It seems obvious, but so many students and writers wait until the last minute to begin a project because of one writing myth or the other: writing in chunks is ineffective, writing must be done in one sitting, good writing is only accomplished under pressure, etc. It’s true that everyone has a different writing system, but developing a healthy writing process that does not rely on doing everything (researching, drafting, editing, revising) until the last minute will do wonders for your writing.”

If you are interested in setting up an appointment with Adrianna or another of our fantastic tutors, please visit the Writing Center today! You can drop by in person or set up an appointment online. We’re open from 9 AM to 4 PM in 123 Cherry Hall and 5 PM to 9 PM in the Academic Commons in Cravens, Sunday through Thursday.

How to Draft a Persuasive Book Pitch

Author: DJ Cox

A genre that every student should be familiar with is the academic textbook. Most college students will see a textbook in their career focused on a niche subject. A question that many English majors may ask when looking at these texts is how do the authors of these books convince the publishers to approve the production of their oddly specific text? The answer is that the author was able to craft a convincing pitch for their book. This report will focus on how writers and editors can use effective rhetorical strategies and some concise and clear wording to market their work effectivlly.

Know How to Discuss Content

An author needs to know how to talk about their content. Katelyn Knox, a writing blogger and Associate Professor of French at the University of Central Arkansas, suggest asking the author, “[c]an you describe your project to intelligent non-academics in ways that get them excited about the types of questions you’re asking and objects you’re analyzing” (Knox, 2017)? Many subject specialists struggle with articulating their knowledge to those outside of their content areas. Authors must know how to simplify their language to increase the accessibility of their writing, such as the editor reading over their book pitch. By maintaining an easily accessible tone throughout their pitch, the author stands a better chance of convincing the acquisitions editor to accept their work. 

Know What the Publisher Wants

Selecting a publishing house can be a difficult process. A freshman author is exposed to a vast sea of options and may struggle to find a publisher that fits well with their project. A suggestion that Manya Whitaker from The Chronicle of Higher Education has for authors in this situation is, “If your institution doesn’t have specific publication requirements, then start your search by looking at the books that influenced your project. Who published those texts? You want a press with a strong publication record in your subject area” (Whitaker, 2018). By looking at other works that have been accepted by a publication or seeing which publishing house commonly produces works similar to their work, an author can tailor their materials to best meet their publisher’s requirements.

Most publishers have a set of criteria that each submission must follow if the author hopes to have their work accepted. By understanding these rules, the author can save themselves a lot of time not only in the writing process but also in selecting the publishing house they wish to work with. An author who is hoping to publish their work should thoroughly research their options to ensure that they are submitting to the publishing houses that offer them the best chance at being accepted.  

Know How to Use Persuasive Language

Using persuasive language is arguably the most important aspect of drafting a successful book pitch. An author can talk all day about their content but if they cannot convince their audience, the publisher, that their knowledge is not only important but also marketable, then they are wasting their time. Whitaker has a checklist of requirements that every proposal should use while developing their pitch:

 “In no more than a page and a half, you should be able to convince an editor that:

  • Your topic fills an obvious gap in the field.
  • The content will be innovative while still being in conversation with other texts.
  • The intended audience will find the work useful.
  • The book will be well aligned with the press’s current and future publishing goals” (2018).

The above requirements are useful to an aspiring author because by ensuring that these criteriums are met before submitting work for publication, the writer will show to the acquisitions editor that they have considered the impact that their work could have on the publisher. This would vastly improve the author’s likelihood of being accepted for publication.

The Role of Editors in the Pitch Genre

Professional writers can be on both sides of the publication process that have been discussed by either editing the work of an author or through the work of an acquisition editor. In both cases, the role of editors remains the same: to analyze the authors’ content and to determine if their work is sufficient for publication. While the two roles are looking out for their respective client’s interests, the goal of producing a high-quality product remains the same. By understanding the conventions of the pitch genre, the professional editor will ensure that they consistently please their clientele by producing consistently high quality work.

If you are working on a book pitch or any other piece of writing, visit the WKU Writing Center today! While our tutors are not editors, we can help you address issues such as accessibility and persuasiveness in your writing to make your work shine.

Works Cited

Knox, K. (2018, December 21). Should You Pitch A Book to an Editor at a Conference? Consider This. Retrieved February 11, 2020, from https://katelynknox.com/writing-first-humanities-book/pitch-book-at-a-conference/

Whitaker, M. (2018, March 6). Crafting a Convincing Book Proposal. Retrieved February 11, 2020, from https://www.chronicle.com/article/Crafting-a-Convincing-Book/242741

Meet the Tutors: Samantha Williams

Author: DJ Cox

Hello fellow writers! We here at the WKU Writing Center wanted to take a moment to introduce you to one of our excellent tutors, Samantha Williams.

Samantha has received both the Goldenrod Poetry Award 2019 and the Jim Wayne and Mary Ellen Miller Poetry Award 2019 as recognition of her outstanding skills as a poet. If you need help with understanding or creating a piece of poetry, Samantha is definitely well-versed and would be happy to help you the next time you visit the Writing Center!

Samantha has taken the time to answer a few questions about her relationship with the English major.

What genre do you enjoy working with?

“Personally, I’ll write anything.  I love writing creative nonfiction and poetry, but I also enjoy literary analysis and criticism.  When working with students in the Writing Center, my favorite thing to work on is a personal narrative.  I love hearing students’ stories, helping them develop their tellings and focusing the purpose for telling them.  A close second is argumentative essays and developing rhetoric for a solid, convincing argument.”  

Why do you enjoy studying English?

“English is a broad discipline, and I have a lot of interests.  It doesn’t limit me to just one area of study; I get the chance to do whatever research I like and use it to write something or analyze something in a new way.” 

What advice do you have for students regarding their own writing?

“Don’t be afraid to pre-write; it makes writing your drafts much easier.  Keep a writing journal to get your thoughts in order. Describe what you’re working on to a friend.  If all else fails, lie in bed and think about what you’re going to write. That’ll help, too.”

If you are interested in setting up an appointment with Samantha or another of our fantastic tutors, please visit the Writing Center today! You can drop by in person or set up an appointment online. We’re open from 9 AM to 4 PM in 123 Cherry Hall and 5 PM to 9 PM in the Academic Commons in Cravens, Sunday through Thursday.

Set Yourself Up for Great Writing: The Tried-and-True Tricks

Author: Mo Stevens

Editor: DJ Cox

So you’ve got a plan—finish a novel by the end of the year, write that big paper for class, or craft a poem for a contest—and for this, you’re to be commended. Many would-be writers never buck up the courage to let themselves aim this high. It takes guts to let yourself dream big. 

If you want these dreams to come true, however, good intentions won’t be enough. You need discipline to see the deal through. Habits. While such practices can be a difficult to actualize, I’ll personally testify to their necessity. After almost a decade of writing fiction, I’ve (reluctantly) ingrained a few basic practices that help me make every second count in my writing sessions. Check them out!

Habit #1: Meet Your Needs

Some years ago, a writing mentor once shared an essential secret with me: you can’t write if you’re dead, Mo. Perhaps this comes off a bit abrupt, but the first time I heard it was an important moment in my journey as a writer. I thought of all the times before where I’d charged into a writing session with noble intentions, but very little sleep under my belt, and nothing but some coffee and a skimpy granola bar for breakfast.

Point blank, this lack of preparation was ludicrous. I rarely got any work done on mornings like this, at least compared to times where my body’s physical needs came first. I went from struggling to get something on the page, to where I’m now able to consistently pack on the words in each writing session, all by simply focusing on my physical needs first.  

For starters, you need sleep. Follows the doc’s orders and get a full eight hours if you can, though six-to-seven will work in a pinch. Past this, you’ve got to eat well and stay hydrated. A cheap takeout pizza and crisp soda might be easy on the taste buds and the wallet, but do yourself a favor and stick to what your body really needs: carbohydrates, protein, and of course fruits and veggies. As for drinks, well, there’s a reason our bodies are seventy percent H2O: keep yourself in steady supply of it!

Habit #2: Cut Out Distractions

This habit is one that more readily comes to mind when we think of writing, but in practice it might be the hardest to implement. We live in a world that desperately wants our attention: phones. Ads. Music. Friends. I am a firm believer that [UNPOPULAR OPINION INCOMING] multi-tasking is a lie. While human beings can do several things at once, this gift quickly becomes a curse in most situations. The more you try to balance at once, the more each endeavor becomes capped in its potential payoff.

The same logic applies to writing; therefore, I advise finding a physically enclosed space where you can “shut the door”, as renowned fiction writer Stephen King would say, and block out distractions. A library study cubicle will work fine, or even your own bedroom. You want a spot where people can’t freely come and go, but if all you have are open areas like study lounges or living rooms, noise cancelling headphones or music might be your best line of defense.

Of course, we also have to consider technology. In my early writing days, checking my phone nonstop was undeniably my biggest roadblock. Admittedly, we all have to stay somewhat in tune with the digital world out of necessity these days—but ladies. Gentlemen. Unplugging for a few hours will not kill you. If that sounds like too much of a sacrifice, I’ve got bad news for you: writing may not be the profession for you. It takes serious focus get serious writing done! With that in mind, here’s a tip for your next session: silence that phone, and toss it across the room. Congratulations—you’re already miles ahead of countless other writers who are struggling to give their writing the attention it deserves! 

Habit #3: Cultivate Inspiration

I won’t spend long detailing this habit, but it can be incredibly helpful to add on once you’ve got the hang of habits one and two. If writer’s block is getting you down, here are my suggestions:

  • Read about things that interest or inspire you – Poems, essays, magazines, or novels will work—whatever is relevant for your writing. You’ll catch inspiration quick, or at the very least, see things you might feel like trying in your own work.
  • Listen to instrumental music – Film scores can be great here, but either way, find something that’s charged with the feelings you want to evoke in your writing, and listen to it as you go!
  • Look up art, photographs, or film clips that are relevant to your work – Getting a visual of what you want to encapsulate with words can be refreshing, and tons of fun. WARNING: don’t get so caught up in your searching that you forget to do the whole “writing” part!    

Habit #4: Write, Write, Write!

Start writing, and don’t look back. You’ve got your basic needs met, distractions cleared, and creative furnace going, so nothing should stop you from getting down to business. I could spend more time divulging my hard-earned secrets, but this is an excellent stopping point. Develop these practices my fellow writer, and watch your word counts begin to increase!