Oh Christmas Staff

Anyone who has ever stepped into our office during the month of December can gather one important thing about us: here at the DBU Writing Center, we really love Christmas, and we go to great lengths to celebrate it. (If you don’t know what we’re talking about, come by our office anytime between Thanksgiving and Christmas. You’ll get it.)

Why? Well, the classic answer, of course, is that we are excited to celebrate the birth of Christ. We all do our best to not be consumed by the crazy hubbub of shopping and decorating and eating and remember that Christmas is still the precursor to Easter.

The more honest answer is that we have many, many other reasons to love Christmas. So, we polled our entire staff on some of the other aspects of Christmas that get us excited for the season. We asked ourselves two questions: what are we thankful for this year, and what do we want to receive for Christmas this year? The myriad of responses we got were both thoughtful and funny, so we just had to share them with you.

Things for Which We’re Thankful:

Ashley: I am beyond grateful for all of the amazing advice I‘ve received during 2017.

: Outside of those obvious things we talked about, I’m most thankful for the people in my life: my husband, my kids, my grandkids, my friends, and my staff.

Taylor Hayden: I am thankful for the amazing support system of friends and family that I have to help keep me going when life gets rough. Lately, the semester has made life crazy, so having people to cheer me up, distract me, and/or encourage me has helped make it bearable.

Leah: This year, I am super thankful for the oven in my apartment! I love baking, and I can’t wait to make all sorts of Christmas treats now that I am out of the dorms!

Karoline: I am most thankful for words. Specifically, I am reveling in all the ways they can be used to build up, bless, encourage, correct, and teach others. Incredibly thankful that God speaks to us through His gift of language and for all the different means of language we have access to!

Michelle: I feel God has richly blessed me this semester at DBU with new friends, amazing professors, and a supportive family. I believe I am most thankful for God opening the door for me to come to DBU in the first place and experience all He has prepared for me.

Jack: I am most thankful for my family. They support me in so many ways and have done so much for me throughout my life. I am very grateful for them, and I love this holiday season where I can spend time with them.

Savanna: I am thankful for people who actually use their blinkers.

Catherine: I think I’m most thankful for the gift of friendship. My friends I’ve made at college have been the best friends I’ve ever had, and impending graduation is making me realize how much I appreciate their presence in my life.

Lindsey: I’m most thankful for Freeform’s 25 Days of Christmas. I used to watch this Christmas movie marathon with my family every year; I love continuing the tradition even though I’m not at home anymore.

Taylor Hayes: I am thankful for the Chick-fil-a on campus! Without it, I’d probably starve.

Becca: I am thankful for where I live now. I like the people I live with and the environment that feels like a home.

Maddison: I am thankful for a wonderful extended family of friends and immediate family that have supported me throughout my life, but especially my college career. There have been good and bad days, but these relationships are ones that I seek to keep for the rest of my life.

What’s On Our Christmas Lists:

Ashley: I want money for Christmas $$$$$$$$$$$

: What do I really, really want for Christmas? A pony and a place to keep it. Realistically, though, I have all I want or need, so I would like more sparkly pens, a trip to Scotland, or a week in New York City doing all the NYC things on my list. What am I likely to actually get? Who knows, but my husband Michael is the best gift giver ever, so whatever I get is sure to delight the little girl that still resides in my soul.

Taylor Hayden: I am obsessed with baking and kitchen gadgets, so anything related to baking supplies and or/utensils and small appliances for my current and future kitchen are at the top of my list.

Leah: For Christmas, I would like some fancy pens. I really enjoy journaling and hate buying expensive pens out of my own money.

Karoline: My once-sturdy army-green backpack has some significant rips and tears. So a new book bag to tote my heavy essentials around during my senior year wouldn’t be too shabby!

Michelle: Honestly, I cannot think of anything that I want for Christmas. I have a loving family, both at home and at DBU (#DBUishome). But, if I was forced to pick one thing, I would enjoy a drone or electric helicopter.

Jack: What I really want for Christmas is an international trip to Europe, Asia, or really anywhere other than here. Of course, the chances of receiving this gift are very slim, but I can dream and continue to ask. Maybe one day it will happen.

Savanna: I don’t want anything realistic for Christmas, so Hamilton tickets would be fabulous. Or if Jack wants to include me in the trip to “anywhere but here,” that would be cool, too. I hear London is beautiful this time of year.

Catherine: I’m hoping for as many Lord of the Rings/Middle-earth books as I can get my hands on, and maybe some money for the new Sonic the Hedgehog game (#jointheuprising).

Lindsey: For Christmas, I want either some Harry Potter wand makeup brushes or a remote-controlled BB-8 droid!

Taylor Hayes: I would like gift cards to basically any of the eateries that surround the Dallas/Fort Worth area. Free food brings me joy.

Becca: For Christmas, I want an external mic to plug into my phone. (Little known fact about me: I wish I could record every conversation I ever have and keep it as a physical copy forever.) In a similar vein, I’d also like for Andrew to Dropbox me the broadcast recording of our Christmas Eve services at church.

Maddison: I would say I’d like to upgrade my very old and cracked phone for a new, not-cracked one.


Sure, we have a lot to be thankful for. We love Jesus, and we love the story of how He came down to live among us and save us from eternal separation from God. But we have some weird stuff on our Christmas lists, too, and that’s okay. Our goal with these questions isn’t to provide passive-aggressive hints to our parents (although, to any who are reading, we hope this helps). Our hopes and dreams make us human, they make us unique, and they draw us closer to God. We want to embrace them as the God-given desires they are, even as we remember all the wonderful things He has already given us.

Merry Christmas, writers, and keep dreaming!

Intro/outtro written by Catherine

Image credit: Catherine Anderson

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Letter to the Patchwork Writer

Dear Patchwork Writer,

You might not have any idea why I just called you a “patchwork.” That’s because I made that name up. All it means is that you like quotes and paraphrases—a lot. If you have a habit of stuffing your papers with words and ideas from other sources and not including many of your own thoughts, pull up a chair—let’s discuss.

Now, for those history majors out there whose papers consist of biographies and other collections of information, you don’t really have a lot of choice. Those kinds of assignments leave little to no room for original thought, so don’t bother trying to shoehorn it in there.

For the rest of us, though, quoting too much can rob us of the most important part of writing papers in the first place—critical, applied thought. If you’re using block quote after block quote, all you’re doing is regurgitating what you’ve read; you’re not learning anything (and neither is your reader!). Adding your own thoughts is a way to connect what you’re reading with what you’re saying and thinking. It also raises your credibility by showing your ability to use research to back up your thoughts.

Imagine trying to sew a quilt without thread or assembling a car without bolts. Nothing holds together, and it falls apart into an unrecognizable heap of useless parts. That’s what an all-quote paper feels like to a reader.

On the other hand, you obviously don’t want to go on a rant and disregard quotes entirely. Your opinions matter, but they are far more convincing when they’re backed by credible sources.

Imagine you’re forced to listen to someone talking about how great (or how awful) their vacation was for half an hour. You can’t leave without offending them, but you’re dying of boredom and want to disagree just so it gets you out of the conversation faster. That’s how your reader (e.g. your professor) feels when you try to write an academic opinion without gathering facts from outside your own head.

So where’s the balance? In reality, it varies from assignment to assignment. I like to structure my papers in a specific way, in what I colloquially call the “quote sandwich.” (Hungry yet?)

Each paragraph starts with a topic sentence. Think of it like the first slice of bread. After that, I add some metaphorical mayonnaise or a slice of cheese by introducing my quote with the author’s name, the title of the work I’m citing, or some other important information to justify the quote’s existence. Then come the lettuce and tomato: the quote itself.

The key with this sandwich, however, is the lunchmeat—explanation. I spend at least a sentence (maybe two) explaining and applying the quote to my topic sentence or thesis. That way, I’m not just pulling a random thought to meet a source requirement; I’m actually using it to back up what I’m trying to say. After that, I might introduce another quote to further my point, but there are layers of mayo or cheese (introduction), veggies (quotes), and meat (original thought). I always end my paragraph with the other piece of bread—a restatement of my topic sentence or a transition to the next paragraph.

Now that you’re good and hungry, let me clarify that there’s no magic ratio of quotes to thoughts. It’s just important that you, as the writer, demonstrate a clear understanding of how these different ideas from different places support your claim—and not just to please your professor. When you are forced to include your reasoning, you often come to better understand it yourself, which is the whole reason you’re writing a paper to begin with. Seize this chance to explore new things about yourself and experiment—the end result will be much more delicious when you do.

Written by Catherine

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How to Stay Organized in College

I like to think of myself as an organized person. I have my classes separated by colored folders. I write down any relevant information on sticky notes and place them with the appropriate class notes. Each year I buy a planner and color code my classes with different pens. However, as the semester goes on, I find myself forgetting my planner or forgetting to write things down. I use my phone notes instead of sticky notes. Then the end of the semester rolls around, and I am scrambling to figure out where I wrote down the information I need. I guess I am not as organized as I thought.

Over my college career, I have learned a few things that helped me stay organized and on top of my assignments. The first thing I learned was to prepare the materials I needed the night before. Since I am an education major, I often change bags depending on if I am teaching a lesson in an elementary school or simply going to my college classes. This caused me to forget certain necessary items that I would need the next day. But once I started putting together my materials the night before, I found myself not rushing around trying to make sure I did not forget anything. I could have a relaxed morning and enjoy my coffee.

Another thing I learned was to write down the due dates of all assignments in one single place: a journal, a spreadsheet, a planner, etc. I used to only write down the due dates in my planner on the day they were due. This caused me to procrastinate and forget that some assignments were due on a Monday since my week ended on a Saturday. By writing things down in one central place, not only was I able to check off assignments that I had completed, but I was able to get ahead. This saved me a lot of time and stress when the really big projects were being assigned.

Finally, I learned to color code my notes. When I used just one color, I often could not find specific information that I needed within the pages and pages of lecture. All the words and information began to run together into an illegible mass. So, I decided to invest in some multicolored-G2 pens. I would begin by writing the date at the start of the notes to help me remember what was learned on each day. Then, I would separate the main titles of topics my professors talked about for a while. I would write all the pertinent information for those topics in a separate color to help me distinguish between each idea. This helped me immensely when I studied and had to go back through all the stuff I had written down.

Now, these tools may not work for everyone. These are only the ones that I found useful. If the three I talked about do not peak your interest, the internet has many more resources and articles of advice. Do not waste away and let stress and disorganization overtake you. There may have to be some trial and error, but eventually, you will find something that works for you.

Written by Maddison

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The Writing Center Is a Home

The DBU Writing Center has been around for more than 20 years. In that time, many student workers have come and gone, but every once in a while, they return to visit and catch up. The UWC must have been a wonderful experience for them if they are still coming back after years away. Even though Directors have changed and the layout of the room seems to always be shifting, the work done inside the walls of the UWC coupled with the people who work there create an atmosphere of comfort and acceptance.

Life in the Writing Center has its ups and downs. No work place is perfect, but the UWC strives to create a family setting for the individuals who work there. When people are confined to the basement in a room with no windows, tempers can run high. However, that is not the case in this space. Two walls feature cross configurations; token decorations from Christmas’ past are scattered around; and beautiful art work and books fill any extra space there may be. Even with what seems like clutter in every nook and cranny, the UWC has a homey feeling about it.

I remember this one time when a lady came in, let’s call her Agatha, and she was taken aback by the room. Being an older lady, she was a little overwhelmed at first. However, as Agatha kept coming back for session after session, she has opened up to me and the rest of the people in the UWC that she feels comfortable in this space. She can learn and not feel judged in this space. That was the most encouraging comment we, in the UWC, had ever received. To know that our room is a safe place for learning and growing is so comforting and uplifting.

Now fill the space with people – people of every gender, ethnicity, and major. Of the six free chairs in the UWC, almost all of them are filled with a wonderful soul at every hour of the working day. These people serve students like no other. Whether sitting at the Receptionist’s desk to welcome students and answer phone calls or being a Consultant and working with students on their papers, the employees of the UWC strive to represent Christ through their work. And it is not just students that the UWC serves; they serve each other as well. Through secret encouragers, kudos kards, and simply inquiring about each other’s lives, the people of the UWC want to form a family unit that is strong and edifying.

Just recently, the UWC had a staff meeting. We revealed who each of our secret encouragers were. There was an abundance of tears, mainly from one person. We filled out comment cards regarding how we felt about the whole arrangement. Being able to read through those comments made my heart so full because everyone was engaged and felt loved. I hope to continue secret encouragers in order for it to continue to be a way that we can build one another up in love and support.

Even though every person’s time in the UWC is different, they will always leave feeling loved and appreciated for the work they have done and the friends they have made.

Written by Maddison

Image credit: Kā Riley

Letter to the Opinionated Writer

The Great Gatsby, written by the infamous F. Scott Fitzgerald, tells the lonely tale of a wealthy man: known by everyone, yet never truly seen. Nick Carraway, a pathetic lowlife who moves to New York in hopes of gaining popularity and fame, narrates the story, which is kind of unfortunate because his character is really annoying. At the beginning of the story, Nick goes to dinner with his cousin, Daisy Buchanan, the novel’s most high-maintenanced and selfish character. She and her husband, Tom, live in a rich neighborhood. Nick obviously doesn’t belong, but he is lucky because, by the grace of God, he is introduced to Daisy’s golfer friend, Jordan Baker, who Nick quickly titles “Lady Friend of the Week Award,” yet he never actually verbally admits to it. One would think that their acquaintance would be the highest point of action at this particular dinner party because, hello, he’s Nick, and she’s supposedly gorgeous and richer than rich can get. But then, Nick finds out that Tom is having an affair with some side-chick, Myrtle Wilson, and everybody knows about it, including Daisy. Still, nobody directly addresses the issue with Tom, and instead, they all continue about their extremely awkward, I-can-literally-see-the-tension-in-this-room kind of evening. Weird, right?

Then, a couple days later, Nick goes with Tom to visit this Myrtle character, which is extremely uncomfortable for everyone, and Fitzgerald really shouldn’t have put the experience in his book at all, but then again, he’s from Minnesota, so he’s probably accustomed to weird circumstances, don’t yâ knōw? Anyways, eventually, Nick, Daisy, Tom, and Señora Baker all end up at the most extravagant party, hosted by Mister Jay Gatsby himself. Well, it says that he hosted it, but literally nobody sees the guy until he very creepily and gently whispers “well, hey there, Old Sport,” into the ears of Nick, who is spending time with his “friend,” Jordan. Then, he asks to speak with Jordan alone, which one would think would leave Nick feeling pretty jealous because, if Nick and Gatsby were to get into a fist fight, we all know Jay would sock the “k” right off of the end of Nick’s incredibly unoriginal and over-used name. However, when Jordan leaves, Nick transfers all of his emotional energy onto Daisy, who we all know he secretly, but unadmittedly, has a crush on, and it’s like Jordan doesn’t even exist until she comes back to tell Nick about a secret love that Gatsby and Daisy used to share, which blows everybody’s mind and definitely gives the readers clarity on why Daisy acts like a complete and utter psychopath. And that’s pretty much all of the most important parts of the story, or at least, the only ones worth reading.

The end.”

Well, kind of.

It’s at least the end of a terribly long, and border-line offensive, example of a highly opinionated summary of Fitzgerald’s most popular piece of art. That’s right, the information above is in no way factual, practical, or acceptable for use by any of you hooligans looking for information to include in your own book reviews (I’m talking to you, highschoolers; just READ the book). In fact, the only purpose for the nonsense written above is to prove this point: personal opinions, while valuable and worth having, seldom have a place in academic writing. Even if one might think that Nick is the bratworst*, that information is not, in anyway, relevant to the events that actually took place in the story, unless the author specifically said so. Trust me, there are times when I, too, want to rip a story to shreds and tell my professor exactly what I thought about every character and event that took place, but I can guarantee you that there isn’t a single professor on this green earth who would have accepted the work above as a book review of The Great Gatsby without handing it back with some pretty stern, probably red, opinions of his or her own written on it, too. Don’t get me wrong, there is a time and place when opinions are acceptable, even welcomed, in academic writing. Most professors love hearing about their students’ personal thoughts and perceptions of things; however, when those are what they’re after, they make it abundantly clear in their instructions. So, when you’re unsure if you should include personal opinions in your writing, look to your assignment sheets, syllabi, and Writing Center family to help you determine if doing so would be appropriate. In fact, consider taking an even bigger leap and ask your professor directly! Doing so will not only clarify what he or she wants, but it shows that you truly care about your work and want to succeed.

So, to the opinionated writers who have stuck with me this long, know that you are not alone. We’ve all been there, and it really is difficult to completely eliminate opinions from certain assignments, but it is possible, and the UWC is here to help.

* Brat•worst, (brätˌwurst): a play on words. Taking from the extraordinary vocabulary of The Karoline Faith Ott.

Written by Haley

P.S. I promise The Great Gatsby is one of my favorite books, and I respect Fitzgerald’s work with all of my being.

P.S.S. I have nothing against Minnesotans. All good things here.

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Letter to the Writer Who Doesn’t Really Care

Dear Writer Who Doesn’t Really Care,

So you’re trying to write a paper and you just can’t seem to work up the motivation to finish it. Maybe you think you’re almost done, and you’ve just been working on it for too long at this point to care about the conclusion. Maybe you haven’t even started writing yet, and you’re just staring at your topic with paralyzing apathy. No judgment. I completely understand. My work here at the Writing Center focuses on creating videos for our YouTube channel, so I don’t do a lot of writing unless I have to. In fact, I am late turning this blog in to the UWC social media expert because I did not care about writing it at first. At first! So how did I come to care about it in the end? I followed a few of the tricks I fall back on whenever I find myself not caring about something important. Want to know my secrets? Then read on for some tips to inspire just a little more interest in your papers.

The first question I generally ask myself when I don’t care about something, whether it’s a topic I’m supposed to be writing about or an activity I know I’ll have to do at some point, is “How could anyone possibly care about this?” To answer this question, look no further than to your friends! No matter how well I think I know my closest companions, they still regularly surprise me. Recently, I had to put together a debate centered around private prisons in the United States. I did not care about this topic in the slightest, and in a moment of frustration, I reached out to a friend and described to her my predicament. She responded with a history of her views on private prisons, surprising me with how much she cared about the topic. Hearing her talk about her opinions sparked a desire in me to learn more about private prisons. I fed off of her interest in the topic and was able to work out a solid debate. In many situations, your friends can be a source of inspiration.

I never know when I’ll learn something that will become a passion for me. During my first semester at DBU, I was enrolled in a basic speech class. I was not excited about the prospect of working on my speech-giving skills because I was uninterested in public speaking. In fact, I hated public speaking. I told myself while registering that I would be done with this general education credit soon enough and move on to the more exciting aspects of my broadcast major. As I sat through more and more sessions of the class I didn’t care about, something began to take root in my heart. My professor used the subject of general speech to teach us a little bit about the different ways in which people relate to each other. I was fascinated by the information I was getting and by the passion my professor had for communication. In fact, I was fascinated enough that I changed my major to Communication Theory after that semester. When I’m disinterested in a topic I’m writing about, I sometimes like to think back to this experience to remind myself that, while I’m researching the topic that couldn’t seem more boring, I might learn something new that becomes deeply important.

A friend of mine told me once that the presentation of information should be viewed as an act of love rather than a performance. I sometimes remember this advice when writing papers and struggling with boredom. Thinking of my paper as a performance that I’m being graded on by my professor never fails to dig me deeper into apathy. In the end, it doesn’t matter how well my professor thinks I do on a project. What matters is how much I learned while doing the project and how I apply the knowledge to the rest of my life. Thinking of a paper as an act of love, though, encourages me to work diligently. Expressing love in any form is an idea I can get behind. If I need to learn about my topic and my professor needs to see what I’ve learned, then I can work in love by meeting those needs.

One last tactic I like to employ when facing apathy for a writing topic (or writing in general) is to turn everything I don’t initially care about into a joke. About a month ago, I had to write an obituary for my Writing Across Media class. I had no idea how to go about writing an obituary and no interest in researching the process. As I was walking back to my apartment from class, however, I remembered that my professor had specified that I was allowed to make the obituary a lighthearted piece. I wondered just how lighthearted I could be while still taking the assignment seriously. And then, suddenly, I thought of what was, in my humble opinion, the greatest play on words to ever be thought of in the history of mankind: a turtle that dies “expectedly” because he runs into oncoming traffic so slowly that everyone saw his death coming. I know. Hold your applause. And so, with this exciting idea in my head, I ran the rest of the way to my apartment to read the entire chapter of my textbook on obituaries. I then proceeded to write the most well-crafted piece I daresay has ever existed on a turtle named Spunkmister who cured the common cold, won a Nobel prize, became the write-in President of the United States, and sadly passed away at the tender age of seven. I received a full one-hundred-percent grade on the paper. The power of humor on motivation cannot be overestimated in my case.

top hat turtle

If you’re struggling with disinterest while writing, don’t fret. I’m right there with you almost every time I have a deadline for a paper looming closely overhead. Feel free to give some of my suggestions a try to inspire interest. After all, they couldn’t hurt. And don’t give up! You can get through this paper!

Love,

Becca 🙂

Image credits: Header image, Top Hat Turtle

Letter to the Unsure Writer

Dear Unsure Writer,

We’ve all been there: the place where we’ve written a paper and turned it in, and we’re afraid of the possibility of a failing grade. We’ve all produced papers that we feel are not up to par with the grades we want on them. But take heart! We don’t always have to feel like what we’ve done isn’t good enough. There are a few ways to check and make sure that the work we’re about to turn in is exactly what we want it to be.

The first and easiest way is to simply read the paper out loud, especially from the first to the last paragraph. Take 10-15 minutes to sit down with the paper and go through it. People often find that by reading their work out loud, confusing phrases and typos are brought to light and can be easily fixed. The ear is the best tool to check for mistakes after slaving over a paper for who-knows-how-long, but remember to spend some time away from the work before reading it to give the brain a break.

Get a friend or two to read it. Not only can they catch typing and phrasing aberrations, they can tell if the ideas present in the paper go along with what the writer wants to say. This prevents rabbit trails and ensures every point refers back to the thesis. Plus, it isn’t the author tiredly rereading the same material without actually noticing anything wrong. Most of the time, minor errors that were previously over looked could add up to a large percentage of points counted off by the professor.

Ask the professor if s/he will take a rough draft and give comments/corrections. The professor is the one grading the final product, so s/he knows what is desired when the work is turned in. This is a great way to understand which direction to go on a paper and ensure that the all the guidelines set by the professor are met. S/he can give helpful advice either on the paper or what to do if s/he will not look at a rough draft.

Finally, the option that will give authors the most help possible: visit the University Writing Center (UWC). At the Center, a trained consultant is able to sit down with authors and walk through their papers in a friendly, helpful way. The consultants at the UWC are well trained in the most up-to-date practices and rules of grammar and writing needs. They are paid to walk alongside students with their works, so why not set up an appointment to go through a paper? Their job is to help all writers become more confident in their skills and to make sure those writers understand what mistakes they make on a regular basis so they can be fixed. A consultation may bring to light some obscure meanings or flow issues that had not been detected by the author’s ear or friends.

After working hard on a paper, it is a wise decision to get all the help available in order to be confident about the product being turned in. There is no need to be unsure about the work produced when so many options are available to help improve it.

So the next time a paper is due, don’t feel uncomfortable about the work being submitted. Take advantage of the many choices available, especially the UWC, in order to be confident with the final product.

Written by Maddison

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