In my “other role” as Secretary of Blackfriars (Agnes Scott’s very own theater troupe), I am in charge of all publicity for this years’ productions. It has often occurred to me that many of the things I do are related to the non-writing side of writing—editing and publication. Sometimes how your words are laid out is just as important as what they say, especially in the realm of publicity and general attention-catching-awesomeness. So for all of you aspiring publishers, even if the extent of that ambition is making posters for campus events, here are some tips to make them dazzle.

 
1.    Layout : Keep it neat. The less number of words you can use to get your point across, the more likely it is that people will pause on their way to get a biscuit and read about your event. Humans are simple creatures, and our eyes are attracted to large or bold words first—but watch out for the catch. IF ALL YOUR WORDS ARE EQUALLY HUGE NONE OF THEM WILL BE MORE IMPORTANT THAN THE OTHERS AND YOUR SIGN WILL NOT ATTRACT ANY MORE ATTENTION THAN IF ALL THE WORDS WERE TINY. The golden answer to this conundrum is to increase the size and prominence of important words in order to draw your viewer’s eye to the title, time, or place for your event. Keep the witty catch phrases and less important details smaller—you’ve got to hookem before you can entertain ‘em.

 
2.   Font: The best kept secret about publishing regards serif fonts versus sans serif fonts. Times New Roman has little ticks at the tops and bottoms of every letter—serifs! Arial does not. Hence, Arial is a “sans serif” font. The human eye naturally is drawn toward sans serif fonts, but prefers to read blocks of text with serifs neatly in place. This is so important for fliers—put your title in a large clear sans serif font, and other info smaller and be-serif-ed. I promise that this is the rule all professional publications go by, and it will greatly improve the readability of your signage. One last warning: don’t go font crazy. Use two or three fonts, tops, on any one sign. Your readers will thank you.

3.   Images: Everyone loves cutesy clip art and lolcats (well, I don’t, but I’ve been told that I may be the only exception in the world). Images are a great way to draw attention. However, they work best as single, large, clear image, particularly something vivid that can become emblematic of your event. Think of the most memorable posters for movies or plays--The Silence of the Lambs, The Phantom of the Opera, The Dark Knight--all of these have a single image associated closely with them—the white face with the moth over its mouth, a half-mask, the Joker’s creepy image. Go simple and memorable, and you won’t regret it.
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Multiple images and no main focus make for a distracting poster
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Clear memorable image and fewer words tend to draw an observer in much better
With these ideas about layout, font, and image, you can bring the masses in to your events and have them stealing the posters off the walls. To frame. Because they’re just so great. 

 
Promise.

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Molly Saunders is a sophomore English Lit major and Writing Center tutor.
 
Exciting news! Slam poet Jon Goode will be the featured guest at the Open Mic Nite on Friday Jan. 29th from 7-9PM. Goode was featured on HBO’s Def Poetry Jam. Thanks to Tom Bell with Agnes Writes and the Decatur Book Fesitval for connecting us!

 In addition to Goode, tons of Scotties will be reading from their work  so come support your friends!
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Shannon Yarbrough graduated from Agnes Scott College in May of 2009. She's a co-coordinator of the Agnes Scott Writing Center and the Digital Design Fellow.
 

Note that the title says “participant” and not “winner.” National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) isn’t over yet, but it is very possible I will not make the 50,000 word count required to win. NaNoWriMo is all about quantity over quality, but it’s a surprisingly difficult task to write so much without getting hung up on revision! Someone asked me what my word count was the other day, and I refused to tell him out of shame. However, I’d like to own up to my word count now, and tell you why I’ve loved (and am still loving) this experience.

I haven’t written every day, but the four times I have, I’ve focused completely for two hours and churned out a surprising amount of material. Unlike some of the other more dedicated Scottie Wrimos, I did not have a plot or story in mind before I started writing. I began the moment I sat down at our first write-in and wrote whatever came to mind. The result of this first session was a mixture of a pep talk to myself, reflections on how difficult writing like this was, and a few detailed scenes in which various unrelated characters emerged. By the end of the write-in, one character began to take centerstage, Wilburt Clodfetter of Tennessee, a 12-year-old boy who likes baton-twirling and his mother’s green beans.

In my next writing session, I discovered Wilburt’s twin sister, Jima, a terribly shy little girl who hides under the stairs and applies her mother’s lipstick. Mr. and Mrs. Clodfetter are also present, but I don’t know them very well yet.

Despite my shameful word count, I’m having an amazing time taking on this challenge. I’m sure other Wrimos will agree that there’s something special about that word count building. No matter what I write, I feel a surge of pride every time I see that hundred-mark tick up, followed by the thousand-mark. The writing process is what’s important, not the product, and with this approach I see value in every word I think to compose.  

So what is my word count? 5, 072.

Whether you start prepping for next year’s NaNoWriMo or you just start writing on your own, I highly recommend the judgement-free writing philosophy that NaNo encourages—I bet you’ll be surprised what material happens.

I’d like to send big, heartfelt thanks out to Daren Wang and Tom Bell of the Decatur Book Festival and Agnes Writes for their support at our write-ins. Tom connected with two best-selling writers, Pearl Cleage and Patti Callahan Henry, who wrote inspirational advice on writing that we read aloud to the NaNo group. He also invited Joshilyn Jackson, a New York Times best-selling author and NaNoWriMo participant to join us last week. It was such a treat to write with her!

--
Shannon Yarbrough graduated from Agnes Scott College in May of 2009. She's a co-coordinator of the Agnes Scott Writing Center and the Digital Design Fellow.
 
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Molly at the workshop
The Travel Writing Workshop is a special event co-sponsored by Agnes Scott College’s Center for Writing & Speaking and the Office of International Education. It is dedicated to helping students deepen their study abroad experiences through writing. This year, the event took place on November 18, 2009.

 Dr. Cozzens, English professor and director of the Center for Writing & Speaking, began the event by asking everyone to “always have your notebook and be ready to write,which topped her list of “Things to remember about travel writing of any kind.” According to Dr. Cozzens’ own experience, note-taking has proved to be an incredible way to record, discover and understand things we see during our trips. It has “transformed the way I collect information and hence the way I write,” said Dr. Cozzens. Ever had a hard time remembering what happened in that beautiful picture you took along the road? Next time, bring a notebook and write down the story so that you may relive the moment in the future the way you experienced it the very first time.

 The next thing to remember about travel writing is to do research before, during, and after the travel experience. This is especially important if you are to publish your travel story in a magazine, because you would want to hold yourself credible by giving the correct information. The last thing on the list is to follow your interests, instincts, whims and passions—jot down the things your heart is really drawn to, because they are most likely to evoke memories and emotions when you revisit your notebook later on.

 Dr. Cozzens went on to show the audience examples of her own journal entries and offered some useful tips for future travel writers, such as using your notebook as a scrapbook, capturing specific moments and examples to “let the experience speak” for itself, and using the present tense and lots of verbs to bring your experience to life.

 Shannon Yarbrough, co-coordinator of the Writing Center and the college’s digital design fellow, came on after Dr. Cozzens to talk about using blogs as a medium for sharing one’s travel writing. She showed the audience blog examples of recent Agnes Scott graduates, and introduced them to a few typical blogging styles that cater to the interest of different travel writers.

 For more information on blog writing, please refer to the Writing Center’s handout on this particular topic: (handout #68).
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Zijia Sun is a senior and Writing Center tutor at Agnes Scott College. She is from Shanghai, China and a lover of travel writing.
 
Let’s admit it: most of us are a little uncomfortable with reading and writing poetry, yeah? When’s the last time you wrote a poem? Was it that haiku for 7th grade Language Arts? Do you think of poetry as necessarily rhyming? Does it strike you as the domain of either predominantly 200 year old white British men or emotionally overwhelmed teenagers? If you nodded your head 'yes' to any of these questions, perhaps it’s time you revisit the possibilities of poetry.


Writing poetry

I think the discomfort with writing it comes from some common perceptions of poetry, which I will swiftly dispel below so you no longer need quiver in your boots at the thought of taking that poetry writing class:

1)      You must have talent to do it. I recall my poetry professor, Sabrina Orah Mark, who visited Agnes Scott during fall ’07 and spring ’09, once said that writing poetry is about 5% talent and 95% practice. The words of a professional poet, y’all. 

2)      You have to have something interesting to say to write poetry. Poetry can be a medium through which you create or find something to say, something you may not have even known you could think of. Though poetry can certainly give voice to some profound metaphysical or political understanding, it doesn’t have to. Poetry can also be treated like a road trip without a map – the fun, adventure, and danger of it lie in not knowing what will come next. At the same time, a good poem follows a set of rules, and breaks them if necessary. Check out http://www.poetryresourcepage.com/teach/pex.html for exercises to jump-start your process.

3)      Poetry has to rhyme and have form. While formal poetry structures can be fun to play with, you certainly don’t have to box yourself into them. One thing I’ve discovered in my poetry classes at Agnes Scott is the way that form and content can inform and influence one another to shape the reader's experience of the poem. For instance, prose poems, blocks of text with stable margins which look like prose on the page, are often used to contain unstable and wild ideas, creating dissonance, a sense that the form is the one thing that is preventing the poem from exploding. You can find forms to play with here at http://www.poets.org/page.php/prmID/197; try the abecedarian.


Reading poetry

I have both noticed and experienced a fear of poetry, especially in the classroom. In part I think this stems from not knowing how to interpret it. Though I have no easy solution, I encourage those who are interested to confront this initial discomfort and assert your right to not understand a poem. Who does know how to read poetry? It is frequently ambiguous, complicated, and layered; it can keep secrets and tell lies. Try to cultivate a sense of curiosity about what a poem has to communicate. Be patient with the process. Reading poetry is an exercise in listening which requires all of your senses, your intuition, imagination, and intellect. Feeling bewildered, I've found, is the first step in reading a poem, and that's probably a good thing; once you've found yourself bewildered, you can begin to explore.

Get started now. Then bring that poetry into the writing center and let us know where you end up!

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Katy Flinn is a junior and a tutor at the Agnes Scott Writing Center.
 

With the paper guidelines (a 5-6 page scholarly response) in one hand and my primary text (Shakespeare’s The Tempest) in the other, I walked back to my dorm after class, sat down at my desk, and started procrastinating. I thought of all the things I wanted to do: take a nap, watch TV, and even clean my messy dorm if it would give me a reason to avoid getting started on my paper. I knew I had a general idea of what I wanted to write about, and I knew I had some idea of how to use the text to support my argument, but I was dreading taking the next step: sitting at my lap top, just me and Shakespeare, and starting to write. As a writer who frequently stresses herself out about putting initial thoughts on the page, I can sympathize with those who have a mental block on starting the paper writing process. But don’t get sucked in by the temptation of a long afternoon of watching random YouTube videos and updating your Facebook status. Use that time to get started, even if it’s just the first few steps.

Try a ten minute, uninterrupted free write about your intended paper topic. Don’t worry about perfecting the ideas or editing the mental process of the initial brainstorm. You may even discover things in this process that are important to your topic that you didn’t realize were there. Before you worry about sentence structure and clarity of ideas, write what comes out and let it, if nothing else, get your ideas on paper and out of your head.

I often talk to my roommate about my initial ideas for papers, and even though she may not be in the class, she can offer good general suggestions and give me preliminary feedback on my approach. It can always be helpful to talk to a peer, especially a classmate or someone whose opinions you trust. Don’t hesitate to schedule a Writing Center appointment, even if you haven’t written anything yet! We tutors love to talk to you in the early stages of the writing process. And if you have any misunderstanding, questions or concerns about the assignment, schedule an appointment to talk it over with your professor. They are great people to bounce ideas off of and can tell you if you’re heading in the right direction.

Finally, give yourself the luxury of time. Start early so that you don’t have to rush the necessarily gradual writing process. Complex ideas can take time to develop and come together, so allow them to “marinate” in your brain before you try and pull a paper out of them! And when you’ve written a rough draft, let it sit for a day or two. Get some sleep, some food, and some perspective. Doing so will allow you to start the revision process in a constructive frame of mind. When it’s all over, you’ll feel confident in your finished product. Go ahead and update your Facebook status, “I finished my paper!”

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Leah Kuenzi is a sophomore and a tutor at the Agnes Scott College Writing Center.
 
Careers in technical writing are on the rise, and Auburn University in Alabama offers a stellar program that prepares its graduates for jobs as a writer, editor, information analyst, web developer, and proposal specialist among others.

On Friday, October 30, Jo
Mackiewicz spoke at the Writing Center about the Master of Technical and Professional Communication (MTPC) program at Auburn. In addition to honing writing and editing skills, students learn document design and production techniques of both online and print media. The masters’ program also sets students up to pursue compositional or rhetorical studies. Additionally, some choose to pursue doctoral study in technical and professional communication upon graduation.

The program is small, with approximately 14 people currently enrolled. For those interested in applying, Mackiewicz stressed they are looking for individuals who are highly motivated, with high GRE scores and good writing skills (though not necessarily with a background in English). Students come from a variety of academic backgrounds, including foreign languages and computer science.

Students who attended the information session asked Mackiewicz a variety of questions about the program and technical writing in general. One student asked about the opportunities for legal writing in the field. While the Auburn program doesn’t have any classes in this particular area, Mackiewicz said that a degree in technical writing would prepare someone for this career. Dr. Christine Cozzens, among others, asked about grant writing, as many students are interested in pursuing careers in a non-profit organization. They set up the possibility for a grant proposal workshop at Agnes Scott in the future, so those who missed out on this interesting talk might have another opportunity. 

For more information about the program, contact Jo Mackiewicz at
mackiewicz@auburn.edu or visit http://www.auburn.edu/mtpc.

--
Rachael Jenkins is a senior double major in English Literature and Political Science at Agnes Scott College.
 
Hammering away at the keyboard of your laptop, you glance at the clock as it strikes one o’clock in your darling tie-dye tee paired with your cozy sweatpants. Every hour, minute, and second marks an instant closer to the impending deadline of your assignment. As your roommate rests peacefully, you realize that your sole companion is the indie music blaring from your iPod. Working hard all evening, you feel alone and exhausted, evident from the bags under your eyes along with the brightly-colored heap of empty Sour Patch Kids bags.

You deserve a break. Relaxation is an essential yet often overlooked component of the writing process. Not only does leisure time reduce stress and emotional buildup, but it also allows you time to fluidly develop your thoughts as well as create objectivity with your paper.

Because it can be a daunting and painstaking activity, writing a paper is in many ways similar to operating on a patient. As the writer, you are the surgeon. In turn, your composition is the patient. The surgeon must remain calm in order to appease the patient. If you are tired and stressed, your fatigue and frustration will be evident in your writing. Because your essay is the product of your emotional state, it is extremely vital that you remain replenished, restful, and composed throughout your writing process. By giving yourself time away from your paper, you will become calmer, happier, and more prepared to write.

Whether you realize it or not, you will provide your mind with the opportunity to think clearer, permitting it to rest and recuperate from those hours of intense concentration. In addition to peace of mind and clarity, impartiality will develop as you return to your essay with a new pair of eyes. This fresh look at your writing will provide you with the ability to strengthen your assertions, recognize ambiguous and awkward word choices, as well as correct grammatical errors. If a good surgeon would never operate on a patient when she is worn out, why would writing your paper be any different?

When you are incapable of focusing on your paper any longer, it is time for you to unwind. Several helpful ways in which you could relax include:

  1. Taking a twenty-minute nap or going to sleep if you are exhausted! A tired brain cannot write.
  2. Drinking a glass of water or a cup of hot tea. Chai, anyone?
  3. Speaking with a friend about a topic other than your assignment.
  4. Watching a favorite television show or movie, preferably a lighthearted comedy with a simple plot, depending on the amount of time you have until the deadline.
  5. Exercising. Working out is an amazingly effective way to blow off steam. Try lacing up your sneakers and jogging on a treadmill for thirty minutes or watching the latest yoga instructional video with those tricky poses you have been dying to try.
Although as a Writing Center tutor I do not encourage pulling an all-nighter, if it becomes your last resort, I would suggest completing your paper in a space with other students to keep you company. Notably during finals week, a number of students can be found in the Center for Writing and Speaking (CWS) engaging in an assortment of activities from working on their essays to revamping their Facebook profile pages. Nevertheless, with any luck, you will prevent this vexing episode by visiting the CWS sooner rather than later. When you feel your eyes blurring or shedding a tear, come up for air and take a deep breath. Good luck and happy writing!

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Dani Adamson is a sophomore and a tutor at the Agnes Scott College Writing Center.
 
 
Imagine this.

You are sitting in the front row of your last class of the day listening to your professor drone on and on about another dead white guy who wrote some other great classic that you have yet to get your hands on. You could care less about the book. After all you’re still having trouble grasping the meaning of the word, dilettante, a word this dead guy decided to use eight times within the first four pages of his epic novel. 

To keep yourself from dozing off in front of your professor you decide to put your I-phone in your book so that you can secretly text your friend about how bored you are as your peers turn the pages of the arduous novel. Immersed in conversation with your friend (she’s just revealed to you that there’s a sneak peek of the new Michael Jackson movie at the AMC down the street in two hours and Michael has been the object of your every desire since Thriller; you never left his side even through the rumors, you knew the real MJ), you miss the thirty minutes your professor uses to explain to your classmates that a dilettante is a person who loves fine art. 

Frustrated with the last text your friend has sent you (the MJ tickets sold out to the sneak peek within in five minutes of it being announced) you slam your book on your desk, dropping your phone on the floor. Your professor glances at you with a questioning stare. You don’t mind him, he doesn’t understand. He doesn’t know that you know it was Michael’s fair-weather fans that bought up all the tickets. Those fans weren’t around when Michael was on trial, as a matter of fact they were the ones screaming he was guilty. You weren’t like them, though. You knew he was innocent.

Bending down to pick up your phone you hear your professor announce that you have to write a fifteen page essay on the significance of the main character of the novel being a dilettante. Not only do you need to describe this significance but your professor also wants you to relate this to the dead white guy who wrote the book that is now causing you such grief. 

You panic.

You’re behind on your reading, you could care less what a dilettante is much less do you feel like looking up the meaning, and you have no idea how to begin this paper. What now?

You glance at your classmate next to you who is vigorously writing in her notebook. She looks up at you and smiles, telling you how excited she is about this assignment. She’s been taking copious notes during your class discussions writing down not only comments made by the professor but also comments by your peers. Not only has she done this, but to further help herself she reveals to you that while reading the book for class she wrote down quotes she found interesting and looked up words she was having difficulty understanding. Because she has done all of this preliminary research for the assignment she can’t wait to start her paper.

You grunt at her. She’ll probably get the first draft of her paper done within an hour or two. You like the fact that your own process usually begins seven at night and ends with the sun rising the next morning.

You decide to go stand outside the sneak preview of the new MJ movie to see if you can dupe someone into giving you their tickets. You need to be at this showing, you are his biggest fan, his truest fan. At the same time you’re on your quest, your classmate is in her dorm room happily typing her paper. 

Have you learned your lesson? Not yet. But two weeks later, you’ll be searching your brain for some inspiration that just might have come to you faster if you had paid attention. Perhaps the next time your class meets, you will take notes so that you, too, can be excited when your professor doles out an extensive assignment.

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Jeanine Pounds is a junior at Agnes Scott College with a major in English Literature Creative Writing and a minor in Classics. She's a tutor at the Writing Center
 
Sitting in the big
squishy chair, drinking something
hot, I am writing  

some senior sem thing.
It's pretty awful, you know.
But maybe I can  

get it tutored in
the next ten hours? 
Because it is 3 am.

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Caro Simpkins is a senior English Literature and Women's Studies double major at Agnes Scott College. She is a Student Coordinator at the Center for Writing and Speaking.