By Logan Brown, Shyene Joubert, Kylie Lohmeyer, Christina Roberts, Lindsey Howell, Iris Saltus, and Izzy Comin
Step Five: Gearing Toward Your Writing Goals
Just as Happy’s brother, Grumpy, exited the University Writing Center, Snow Write came to greet them in the waiting area. The excited dwarf stood up and introduced themself to Snow Write, “My name’s Happy, and I’m so excited you’re here. Doc recommended you!” Happy shook the consultant’s hand, trying to hide their nervousness. Sure, they tried to stay positive about school, and sure, Doc had recommended this place, but this was scary. Happy felt as though they weren’t a strong writer.
“How do you do? I’m Snow Write. Oh, I love your shirt!”
The pronouns, “They/Them,” were printed across the front of Happy’s shirt. “Thanks! We’re raising awareness about gender identity this week,” they replied.
The two strolled down the hall to Snow Write’s alcove, making small talk along the way. Well, at least she’s nice, Happy thought.
Once settled in the room, Snow Write asked, “What ever did you come in to work on today?”
“I have an English paper due in a week. I got the rough draft done, but my writing is terrible. My papers always come back with a bunch of red marks.” Happy shrugged. “I’m just not good at it!”
“Want to know a secret? Everyone can improve their writing! It’s simply just a matter of practice,” Snow Write answered. “Why, hasn’t your instructor given you feedback for this assignment?
Happy twiddled their thumbs. “Actually, I just had a meeting with him this morning. We read through my introduction and reviewed my thesis together,” they replied. “My instructor said my thesis is arguable, but my introduction could provide more context to my audience. He also said I should work on my sentence structure!”
Snow Write pulled out a quill and began to jot a few notes on her blue notepad. “We can definitely discuss either of those concerns if that’s what you’d like to work on during our session.”
“Really? Great!” The dwarf yanked a crumpled set of stapled papers from their knapsack. “Okay, here’s the essay. Let’s read through it together!” They’d heard it’s always good to read your own writing aloud.
Snow Write smiled. “Well first, we must to decide what your goal for the appointment is. We only have a half hour, which goes by as fast as a fox fleeing a forest fire, so what do you think is most important to cover between your introduction and sentence structure?”
“I think we could start by discussing my introduction. My teacher said that my introduction is really broad, but there are so many ideas in my essay. I don’t know how to introduce them all!”
“Oh, introductions can be as tricky sometimes,” Snow Write replied. “We can definitely focus on narrowing the scope of your introduction so that it provides more background to your argument. Why, have you ever heard of a reverse outline?”
Snow Write explained how a reverse outline is a strategy used to check the development of ideas throughout an essay. “For each paragraph, you write one sentence that summarizes the main idea and how it supports your thesis. Once you’ve finished writing a summary sentence for each paragraph, you can see how each of your main ideas support your thesis! We could begin a reverse outline to figure out what main ideas need to be introduced in order to focus your argument for your audience. Doesn’t that sound like an idea?”
Happy was ecstatic. “Wow! That sounds like an amazing idea! It sounds like I could even use the reverse outline after our consultation ends!”
“Oh! Absolutely. As we generate the reverse outline, we can even adjust the summary sentences to fit into your introduction as snug as a bug. If we read through your essay together, could you create each summary sentence?” Snow Write prompted.
Happy nodded. “Let’s do this!”
Step Six: Feeling Unabashed While Reviewing Your Writing
Bashful sat quietly with her head down, feeling uneasy about the thought of sharing her personal essay, as she waited for Snow Write to wrap up her appointment with Happy. Like Happy, she lacked confidence in her skills as a writer—which is what she wrote about. All she ever saw were slashes of ink as red as blood across her paper, which only worsened her self-doubt.
The fretful dwarf tried to reassure herself as she mentally prepared to review her draft with Snow Write. Doc said Snow Write is wonderful. I’ve had face-to-face consultations with other consultants here, but never with the princess. What if she rips my paper to shreds?
Bashful was lost in a flood of “what-if” scenarios until she heard her name sung out in a melody that immediately took a slight edge off her nerves. That must be Snow Write, she thought. I didn’t even notice Happy leave!
In what seemed like no time at all, the princess and the dwarf exchanged pleasantries in the waiting area, resituated themselves in a room, and geared right into setting an agenda. Because Bashful wanted to review how her essay meets the genre expectations of narrative writing, they decided to read through her draft together and highlight phrases and sentences that showcase narrative conventions.
Bashful was already feeling more at ease now that she and Snow Write had negotiated a plan for reviewing her work. However, she knew the inevitable was near. The time was coming for Bashful to share her personal narrative. I hope she doesn’t judge my story, she thought.
As Bashful began to read through her paper, she suddenly stopped, finding it hard to continue. Snow Write noticed the sudden roadblock and offered encouraging feedback on what had been read so far.
“Oh, it’s so tough to reflect on hard times,” Snow Write prompted. “I worry awfully about your self-doubt and defeat. But don’t you know that’s how I should feel while reading about this experience of yours? I feel like I’m right in your shoes! Why, you should highlight this.”
With this positive reinforcement, Bashful felt that reading through the rest of her paper would be more bearable. She was no longer so focused on receiving criticism. As Bashful and Snow Write continued to read, they highlighted areas of the draft that showcased narrative conventions like foreshadowing, imagery, and pathos.
The princess and the dwarf also noticed a few areas where Bashful could further use rhetorical devices to enhance her narration. They chose one of these areas to focus on, and after discussing potential devices that would develop the plot structure, Snow Write encouraged Bashful to take a stab at integrating one of those devices into her writing.
“I think I could rewrite this section using dialogue since it’s basically a summarized interaction between my instructor and I,” Bashful contemplated, to which Snow Write reassured would make perfect sense.
With a newfound confidence, Bashful spent the remainder of the session drafting a dialogue to integrate into her draft.
By the end of the consultation, Bashful flipped through her draft, pleasantly surprised at the lack of red ink on the document. Instead, her draft contained yellow highlights that identified effective use of conventions and green highlights that identified areas where she could further develop her language and conventions. Bashful realized that there were more yellow highlights than there were green.
For the first time, Bashful felt like she had agency as a writer.
Step Seven: Summarizing Your Session
Dopey sat on the lawn, confused. Naturally, he was staring off into space, thinking about two ducks he’d seen on campus that afternoon. It was so easy to get distracted by all of the things the University had to offer.
Earlier, Dopey had scheduled an online appointment with Snow Write, who was recommended by his brother’s friend, Doc. Since Dopey wasn’t much of a talker, Doc reassured him that he didn’t have to physically be at the Writing Center for his online consultation. The dwarf was thrilled that he could get feedback without having to speak to anyone, even though he’d heard the princess was as sweet as pie.
Once the consultation began, Dopey decided he’d get some fresh air at the Quadrangle. The dwarf eventually nodded off near a tree stump; however, a loud quacking noise rang through the evening air, waking him up from his catnap.
Dopey panicked. Oh no. What time is it?
The face of Dopey’s watch read, “7:28p.m.” Oh, he thought, only two more minutes until Snow Write finishes my online consultation! Unsure of what to expect, the dwarf pulled out his MacBook Pro and stared at the screen before him.
Dopey’s eyes grew wide as a new email appeared on the monitor. It was a summary report from the princess herself! Dopey opened the report and skimmed through Snow Write’s feedback. He was so excited that he even mustered up the courage to read it out loud to himself.
The summary report read, “Why, Dopey scheduled an online consultation to glance at his thesis and in-text citations. As I read through his draft, I left comments and questions and suggestions to refine his thesis and citations. I also left highlights as gold as honey on key terms that were used throughout his body paragraphs, which he could use to focus his thesis. Oh, and I suggested that he should work on his transitions as he continues to revise!”
Dopey also noticed a new file was attached to the report form. Upon opening the file, he saw that Snow Write had written him a letter that explained her feedback. Along the margin of his document, she had also left comments that focused on his thesis and citations.
With this feedback fresh on his mind, the dwarf ran home to finish his essay. For the first time ever, Dopey was excited to write.