Review: Arrival

ARihn-image-300x300Editor’s note: The recent movie, Arrival, provoked many strong reactions from me–and lots of thought! I’m delighted that someone else from the writing center world saw connections to the work that we do. Today’s post comes courtesy of Andrew Rihn, who started working in writing centers as an undergrad at Kent State University – Stark Campus. Today, he works as a professional tutor at Stark State College. 

Arrival is a 2016 science-fiction movie about humanity’s first contact with an alien species, so it’s appeal to writing center people may not be immediately obvious. While much science fiction focuses on domination or conflict, Arrival is unique in its focus on the problems and promises of linguistics. The plot hinges on the work of pursuing communication and avoiding miscommunication, familiar work to anyone who has spent time in a writing center.

In Arrival, the aliens simply arrive with no warning or explanation. Twelve large, mysterious ships hover twenty feet about the ground at seemingly random points across the globe, including one in Montana. The Army is mobilized for defense, but cannot make headway when it comes to communication. They enlist the help of two professors, Louise Banks, a linguist (played by Amy Adams), and Ian Donnelly, a theoretical physicist (played by Jeremy Renner). This interdisciplinary duo sets out to meet the aliens, find a way communicate, and at the behest of the Army, find the answer to the question “What is your purpose on Earth?”

We follow Dr. Banks’ first fumbling attempts to communicate with the aliens, called “heptapods” in the movie (so-named for their seven tentacle-like limbs). The language-learning process is of course very slow. The Army is increasingly frustrated with their progress, so we are treated to several scenes of explanation from Dr. Banks about the hows and whys of language acquisition.

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WLN News Round-Up: September 2016

Here is some of what has been on the WLN news radar lately:

“How to Write Like an Olympian”– In reflecting on the summer Olympics, Shira Lurie draws parallels between writing and athletics and shares tips for graduate students to write at their highest level.  [Inside Higher Ed]


“Gender-Neutral Pronoun Usage in Academic Writing”– This article discusses the importance of avoiding gender bias in academic writing and offers advice on using singular they. [UofL Writing Center]

What do adult students want from college?“- Did you know that over 40% of college students are over 25 years old? This article explores the needs of adult college students. Let us know in the comments if your writing centers have initiatives for adult students!  [Christian Science Monitor]

“College Graduates Weigh In On the Value of Higher Education”– Read or listen to quotes from recently graduated students who chose public, private, and community college experiences. [NPR]

“You Can Write Your Way Out of an Emotional Funk. Here’s How.”– This article reminds us of the therapeutic powers of writing and gives tips on how you can use writing to lift your mood and escape a funk. [NYMag]

WLN News Round-Up: August 2016

Here is some of what has been on the WLN news radar lately:

“A life in review: Writing tasks that academics do that we don’t talk about”– Sue Starfield, Director of the Learning Centre at UNSW Australia, explores genre conventions that academics utilize, but don’t often discuss or teach. [Doctoral Writing SIG]

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“Ditch Writing Stress Through Journaling”– Matt Baker from the University of Nevada, Reno writing center discusses the benefits of keeping a journal and where journaling falls within the writing process. [University of Nevada, Reno]

“Everyone Loves a Slinky”– Brodie Willard from Texas A&M University writing center discusses a tutoring session where using toys helped communicate feedback to a writer. [Peer Centered]

“Four Resolutions for the New Semester”– David Gooblar lays out four goals for his teaching  practice. What are your resolutions for the upcoming academic year? Let us know in the comments! [Vitae]

WLN News Round-Up for the Month of July

Here’s some of what has been on the WLN news radar lately:

“What does OWL mean to you?: Creating New Web-Based Resources for the Writing Center”– This post explores the process of making an online writing workshop about literature reviews, especially focusing on making it interactive using the program Zaption. [UofL Writing Center]

“From the CanLit Guides Workshop to the Writing Centre: Using Think-Aloud Protocol as a Tool for Peer Review”– This entry explains the think-aloud protocol and explains how it was applied in a dissertation bootcamp. [University of Waterloo]

“The (Ghost) Writer in the Machine”– This interview with Matthew G. Kirschenbaum, author of the new book Track Changes: A Literary History of Word Processing, discusses the relationship between writers and writing technology. [The Chronicle of Higher Education]

“WriteCast: Favorite Apps to Save You Time While You Write”– This podcast episode from Walden University shares apps that student writers can use to aid in the writing process. Take a listen below:

WLN News Round-Up for the Month of June

Here’s some of what has been on the WLN news radar lately:

“Managing an anxiety disorder in higher ed is a full time job”- This author discusses their generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and anxiety-provoking assumptions (APAs) in terms of how they directly relate to a career in academia, as well as personal anxiety management techniques that they use. [The Guardian]

“From Learning Commons to Learning Communities”- This article from the American Society for Interior Designers explores how learning spaces can be designed to best fit millennial learners. In particular, the author discusses a “mixed-use learning zone” at the University of Florida. Does anyone have a writing center designed in this way? Let us know in the comments! [Icon]

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“Why Mentoring Others Has Helped Me”- This post discusses how mentorship can be beneficial not just to mentees, but also to mentors. In relation to writing center work, this sentence stood out:

“One wonderful benefit of working with younger students or professionals is that they were more recently in school, and can help keep you current with the latest information, best practices, and new techniques in your industry.”

Within our centers, it is key to consider how tutors can assist in the decision making process when it comes to tutoring techniques and practices, as well as choosing which technologies to use! [Huffington Post]

“Summer Reading List”– As the school year winds down for many of us, we turn to a hobby that often gets neglected during the school year: reading for fun! In this post, Inside Higher Ed contributors share what they’ve been reading lately. [University of Venus]

WLN News Round-Up: May 10-31

Here is some of what has been on the WLN news radar lately:

“They Say Every, I Say Any”– Maria Soriano discusses the word choice she uses when talking about college-level writing and the services that the writing center provides. [John Carroll University Writing Center]

“Transparency & Reflection: Why We Write Logs”– This post explains how writing appointment logs about tutoring sessions connects to the core values and beliefs of DePaul’s University Center for Writing-based Learning. [UCWbLing]

DePaul University

DePaul University

“Faking It? Reflections and Regrets from an Occasionally Insincere Writer”– A senior tutor reflects on his own writing during his college career and offers advice to other college students. [Xavier University]

“The Millennial Learners”– For those interested in teaching strategies that will be effective for millennial students, this post lays out some ideas and explains why they work. [University of Venus]

“Syracuse University students hide 155 love letters across campus for finals week”– Students from the organization Campus Cursive wrote and distributed letters across Syracuse University’s campus to help their fellow students cope with finals week. This article is a reminder that we all need to practice self-love and self-care even during busy parts of the academic year, and pass it on to others as well! [Syracuse University]

WLN News Round-Up: April 25-May 8

Here’s some of what has been on the WLN news radar lately:

“We Need to Retain Highly Qualified Directors in College and University Writing Centers,” – This petition calls on administrators to end the practice of dissolving writing centers and replacing qualified writing center directors with administrators  who have minimal experience in writing center administration or theory. Sign to show your support! []

Joey Pulone for The Chronicle of Higher Education

Joey Pulone for The Chronicle of Higher Education

“A Final Round of Advice for Final Exams” – Because final exams and the end of the school year are fast approaching at many colleges and universities, The Chronicle of Higher Education has compiled highlights from their posts about finals. One of our favorites is approaching finals as a “finale” rather than an exam. [The Chronicle of Higher Education]

“‘Something Magical in Meeting with a Group of Like-Minded People’: Graduate Writing Groups in the Writing Center – This post discusses the structure of writing groups for graduate students at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and then features seven doctoral students who share why they attend the writing groups and what they get out of them. [Another Word]

“Why grad schools should require students to blog”- In this post, Maria Konnikova shares the connections she sees between her academic and popular writing and asserts that academia should more thoroughly embrace non-academic writing pursuits. [Scientific American]


WLN News Round-Up: April 11-24

Here’s some of what has been on the WLN news radar lately:

Special announcement!: The Writing Centre at the University of British Columbia was facing closure, but student efforts have succeeded in keeping the Centre open. You can check out our initial post on the UBC closure here and our interview with tutor Cole Klassen here.

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“Streamlining Citations”-  The Modern Language Association is releasing the 8th Edition of the MLA Handbook this month. This article explains some of the major changes and the motivation behind them. Notably, the new edition will include a digital style center. [Inside Higher Ed]

“Is Online Tutoring the Future of Personalized Learning?”- This article discusses the advantages that students who have access to one-on-one learning gain and suggests that online tutoring could be a way to give more students access to personalized learning. While this article focuses on how private companies rather than colleges and universities can leverage online tutoring, it raises important questions about access to educational resources. [EdSurge]

“11 Podcasts for Poetry Lovers”- April is National Poetry Month in the United States! You can celebrate by checking out one of the podcasts in this list. [Book Riot]

WLN News Round-Up: March 28-April 10

Here’s some of what has been on the WLN news radar lately:

“Two-For-One Deal: Killing Boredom with Procrastination”- Lindsay Oden asserts that students are particularly susceptible to apathetic boredom, which he defines as “that feeling of helplessness or desperation produced by overwhelming circumstances when we procrastinate.” He outlines some specific strategies for avoiding apathetic boredom, such as organizing your workspace. [Inside Higher Ed]

From Inside Higher Ed

From Inside Higher Ed

“What counts as academic writing? #ACWri”- Dr. Raul Pacheco-Vega discusses the focus within academic writing on creating “generative text” and asserts that we should place more value on “non-generative text,” such as emails to colleagues and handwritten notes. [Raul Pacheco]

“An Exercise in Bad Writing”- Dr. Amitava Kumar describes assigning “bad writing” to his students in both fiction and non-fiction writing classes. He explains that through the exercise, students have an opportunity to be creative and identify clichéd writing practices. [The Chronicle of Higher Education]

WLN News Round-Up: March 16-27

Here’s some of what has been on the WLN news radar lately:

Screen Shot 2016-03-16 at 12.53.52 PMEverything I Know about Writing I Learned From The Bachelor“- Hillary Wentworth, a writing instructor at Walden University, explores the similarities between writing and The Bachelor. My favorite comparison is the one between academic writing and a group date! [Walden University Writing Center]

“Order and Chaos in English Spelling”- Dr. Anne Curzan discusses the assertion that English orthography makes no sense. For those who claim that they would like English spelling to have less irregularities, she offers the challenge: “Which irregular spellings are you willing to part with?” [The Chronicle of Higher Education]

“What Grammar Pedants and Fashion Victims Have in Common”– In honor of National Grammar Day in the United Staes, which was March 4, this article asserts that grammar rules are often as arbitrary and situational as those of fashion. [The Conversation]

Check out this quote from the article:

If your shoes and handbag don’t match, both items will still be entirely practical. In the same way, ending a sentence with a preposition – location words such as on, in – will not make the message less understandable, yet both, to pedantic minds, show a disregard for what is right and proper.

“How This School Library Increased Student Use by 1,000 Percent”- This piece details how a middle school library in Ohio used trends in makerspaces and personalized learning to transform their library. The post includes a list of technology in the new learning center and a video detailing the transformation of the space. [Cult of Pedagogy]

“How To Beat Creative Blocks”– The video below is from the series “The Science of Us” and discusses how creativity increases as we keep working on a project. My question is: What strategies can tutors use to help writers keep working through difficult subjects and ideas? Let us know in the comments! [New York Magazine]

WLN News Round-Up: February 29-March 13

Here’s some of what has been on the WLN news radar lately:

Who does academic writing serve? In this blog post, Jackson Wright Schultz discusses the importance of making academic writing accessible outside of academia, especially when writing about marginalized groups such as the transgender community. [Inside Higher Ed]

From Utah Statesman

From Utah Statesman

Art in the Writing Center. At Utah State University, the writing center exhibits of the artwork of a different student each month. This article explains how the idea was conceived and the types of artwork the writing center has showcased so far. [The Utah Statesman]

Strategies to feel less busy. For students and instructors overwhelmed with the day-to-day work of academia, this article offers concrete tips on reducing the perpetual feeling of being busy. My personal favorite is capping to-do lists at 5 items. [The Guardian]



WLN News Round-Up: February 15-28

Happy International Writing Centers Week! To celebrate IWCW, staff members from the University of Louisville Writing Center share their favorite parts of writing center work. [UofLWritingCenter]

One tutor, Alex, said,

“Collaborations with writers on resumes, personal statements, and cover letters are my favorite moments as a writing center consultant. There are few moments more nerve-wracking in a person’s life than job or program applications, and I aim to do everything I can to soothe nerves and help writers put their best foot forward.”

Stay tuned for more posts on the blog about International Writing Centers Week, and let us know what your Writing Center is doing to celebrate in the comments!

Inside Higher Ed

Inside Higher Ed

Practice self-care to avoid burn out. Though this post focuses on self-care tips for graduate students, anyone within higher education can benefit from a self-care routine. [Inside Higher Ed]

Is there a connection between doodling and writing? This post outlines several learning styles and provides ample links to resources about them. The author, Veronica Oliver, suggests that explicit understanding of your learning style can lead to improved prewriting and drafting. [Walden University Writing Center]

WLN News Round-Up: February 1-14

Here’s some of what has been on the WLN news radar this week:

Small changes can improve teaching (and tutoring!). James M. Lang offers three activities for boosting engagement in the first few minutes of class. These strategies—such as asking what they already know about a subject—can be useful to tutors as well. With many institutions starting up a new semester, now can be a great time to re-examine teaching and tutoring practices! [The Chronicle of Higher Education]

A new book advocates creating a more individualized higher education experience. This article explores the ideas in Todd Rose’s The End of Average: How to Succeed in a World that Values Sameness. In terms of colleges and universities, Rose advocates for less focus on grades and “seat hours” and more student agency. [Times Higher Education]

Teaching and writing for the ear. Like many writing center professionals, Dr. Stuart Sherman believes in the connection between good writing and reading out loud. Complete with sample feedback, this article walks readers through Sherman’s approach to teaching writing, which relies heavily on students writing for the ear. [PC Mag]

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Special Announcement: Introducing WcORD of the Day! This Facebook page, curated by Patrick Hargon, shares daily posts from WcORD, a searchable database of writing center resources. WcORD invites all members of the writing center community to add their own resources and share the database on their websites and social media outlets!


WLN News Round-Up January 18-31

Here’s some of what has been on the WLN news radar lately:

Connecting Martin Luther King, Jr. and writing center initiatives. A tutor at DePaul’s University Center for Writing-based Learning, Kieran G., commemorates Martin Luther King, Jr. Day by connecting the practices of the DePaul’s Collaborative for Multilingual Writing and Research, which holds weekly events for English Language Learners, to themes of Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. She explains,

Ideas like equality and justice can sometimes seem abstract and distant, and, in a way, they are. At the same time, we can’t forget that those simple actions we don’t normally see as significant, like learning about someone else’s culture, can embrace the same message that Dr. King posed in 1963.

How can we avoid plagiarism and “de-plagiarism”? Stuart Rigley discusses how allowing students to see their TurnItIn reports leads to “de-plagiarism,” or the ability to see where they’ve copied large chunks of text and change words and phrases while still using the idea. To avoid this, he suggests writing by hand and more writing centers in the UK!

From EdSurge

From EdSurge

A FitBit approach to higher education. Rather than banning technology from the classroom, this article suggests that higher education embrace data collection on teaching, learning, and student habits in the classroom. My question is: how can writing centers specifically capitalize on this approach? Let us know in the comments!



WLN News Round-Up January 4-17

Happy New Year from WLN! Here is some of what has been on our news radar lately:

New year, new journal. Looking to set a resolution for the new year? This post suggests that writing daily in a journal can yield benefits ranging from bolstering creativity to helping you lose weight. [Upworthy]

Write Here connects students and community. Student tutors from Westminster College in Utah are providing tutoring to community members of the city of South Salt Lake through a program called Write Here. Tutors work with community members on tasks ranging from writing personal narratives to homework. [KSL]

Technology trends enter the classroom. From wearable technology to virtual reality, 2016’s technology trends are poised to enter higher education. What kind of new technology would you most want to see used in your writing lab? [EdTech]

From NPR

From NPR

Can setting goals change your life? Research shows that expressive writing combined with goal-setting, a process that Dr. Jordan Peterson  of the University of Toronto calls “self-authoring” can aid in motivation for students, especially among at-risk populations. [NPR]


WLN News Round-Up December 21-January 3

Here’s some of what has been on the WLN news radar lately:

Purdue Writing Lab tutors gain digital badges. Using Purdue’s Passport program, consultants gain badges for accomplishments like completing the tutor training course and presenting at conferences. You can check out lead tutor John Bomkamp and Associate Director Tammy Conard Salvo’s article on using Passport in their Writing Lab in WLN! [Purdue]

Check out this video about Passport:

A reflection on singular ‘they.’ Dr. Anne Curzan reflects on the use of singular ‘they,’ especially after its approval in The Washington Post style guidelines and explains how she has advocated for its use in her own work. [The Chronicle of Higher Education]

A first-year writing instructor weighs in on student writing in various genres. John Warner comments on how first-year writing instructors cannot prepare students to comfortably write in every academic genre and offers advice on assigning writing in non-English courses. My question is: What initiatives do your writing centers offer to help student writers get acquainted with new types of writing? [Inside Higher Ed]

What kind of news would you like to see in the WLN News Round-Up in 2016? Let us know in the comments!



WLN News Round-Up December 7-20

Here’s some of what has been on the WLN news radar this week:

Happy Hanukkah!  Check out this list of 8-book themed gifts for Hanukkah that will delight the readers and writers in your life. [Bustle]

  goetheWriting centers connect internationally. Dr. Stephanie Dreyfürst, who founded and directs the Writing Center at Frankfurt’s Goethe-University, shares about her visit to the University of Wisconsin-Madison Writing Center and discusses academia and writing center culture in both Germany and the United States. [Another Word]

A TESOL instructor reflects. Professor Jessica McCaughey shares the biggest lessons that she learned teaching English-language learners and how she sees those lessons as transferrable to other kinds of classes. [The Chronicle of Higher Education]

Rather than delaying your writing projects, start now! For those of you reading this as you procrastinate on finals work, British philosopher Alain de Botton suggests that procrastination stems from perfectionism and that we should find a way to begin projects rather than delay them. [Business Insider]

Check out this video that depicts de Botton’s ideas on procrastination:

WLN News Round-Up

Assistant blog editor, Amber Slater, shares some of what’s on the WLN news radar this week:

College of Charleston and Citadel Writing Centers Connect. The College of Charleston Writing Lab consultants created presentations for their Citadel peers, and the staff members discussed similarities and differences between their two writing centers.  [CofC]

From The Guardian

From The Guardian

It’s the year of the emoji. In the wake of the OED choosing the “face with tears of joy” emoji as the word of the year, this article traces their history and offers a crash course on some key emojis. My question is: have you seen any projects in your Writing Centers using emojis? [The Guardian]


Long Night Against Procrastination event celebrates students’ academic work. Dr. Allison D. Carr reflects on Coe College’s first Long Night Against Procrastination event, in which students logged 546.25 combined hours writing, reading, and working together. [The Chronicle of Higher Education]

What writing and tutoring-related news do you have to share with us this week? Let us know in the comments!

WLN News Round-Up

Assistant blog editor, Amber Slater, shares some of what’s on the WLN news radar this week:

Why do writers love to run? Nick Ripatrazone explores the parallels between writing and running, aiming to explain why so many famous authors have been known to hit the track or the trails. [The Atlantic]

From CBC

From CBC

College students offer tutoring to Syrian refugees. Using Skype, a group of students from McGill University is offering English language tutoring to Syrian refugees who are studying for the TOEFL exam. While it is currently a pilot project, the students hope to involve more of their peers and spread awareness about the refugee crisis. [CBC]


A PhD student explains the utility of writing groups. Travis Grandy explains the personal benefits of writing groups and offers tips about how they can be structured and planned. [Inside Higher Ed]

A youth writing center will be recognized by the White House. The center, the Telling Room, is based out of Portland, Maine and offers writing programs for refugee and immigrant high school students. The organization will receive a National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award of $10,000 to expand its programming. [MPBN]

Watch a video about the Telling Room here:

What writing and tutoring-related news do you have to share with us this week? Let us know in the comments!

WLN News Round-Up

Assistant blog editor, Amber Slater, shares some of what’s on the WLN news radar this week:

Students provide NANOWRIMO tutoring. Utah State University Writing Center tutors are currently staffing a community writing center that is offering resources to writers completing the National Novel Writing Month (NANOWRIMO) challenge, in which participants write a 50,000 word novel during the month of November. [HJNews]

From New York Times

From New York Times

Poetry goes viral on Instagram. Poets are building readership by publishing  on Instagram and Tumblr. For some, this online popularity leads to mainstream publishing deals. My question is: How can writing centers best support writers who are publishing their work through Instagram and blogging platforms? [New York Times]


An NCPTW discussion continues. At the National Conference on Peer Tutoring in Writing (NCPTW), the presenters of “(De)Centering Stories about Teaching and Tutoring: A Narrative Round Table” have shared a Google doc with their stories about navigating the duality of working in a writing center and teaching composition as graduate students. They have invited other writing center professionals who have experienced duality in their writing center roles to share their stories on the doc as well.

What writing & tutoring-related news have you been reading this week? Let us know in the comments!