In eighth grade, my social studies teacher, Mr. Barstow, taught me how to make and support an argument. From that point through high school, I understood pretty well what my papers should look like, and I produced clear, well-organized papers that must have been better than those of most of my peers at the large, public school I attended on the prairie. When I got to Amherst College, however, writing papers and getting the highest grades turned out to be much more difficult. At the time, I thought the problem was that I wasn’t as smart as I thought I was. Perhaps that is true, but from the perspective of a writing teacher, I now see that I was limiting myself by not spending enough time exploring and developing my ideas before hand-drafting and then typing my papers.
My training in teaching composition at the University of New Hampshire and my subsequent experience teaching literature and writing at several colleges and high schools—along with my experience as a sometimes struggling and sometimes “brilliant” writer—have convinced me of the value of using writing as a tool for thinking. Writing with an exploratory attitude, rather than simply “writing up” the ideas you’ve already had in advance, tends to make the writing process less painful and more productive; it can also result in work that demonstrates both greater energy and greater depth of thought.
This belief in writing to explore is always present in my work with students at the Writing Center, so don’t be surprised if you find yourself fast-writing during a session with me. I work with students at all stages in the writing process—from getting started to revising a complete draft—on all kinds of projects—from First-Year Seminar papers to fellowship and graduate school applications to final research papers and theses. In addition to giving workshops on a range of topics, I offer Writing Counseling to help students perform closer to their potential by improving their approaches and attitudes towards writing, as well as their management of time. Having written B.A. and M.A. theses about literature, as well as a dissertation that examines early modern English notions of race, I am especially eager to help thesis writers on their own long, independent projects.