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Tutor attitudes toward tutoring creative writers in writing centers


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Tutor attitudes toward tutoring creative writers in writing centers
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Cassorla, Leah F
University of South Florida
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Tampa, Fla.
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creative writing
tutor attitudes
writing center
Dissertations, Academic -- English -- Masters -- USF   ( lcsh )
government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
bibliography   ( marcgt )
theses   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )


ABSTRACT: This study concerns itself with tutor attitudes toward tutoring creative writers in writing centers. In it, I look at these attitudes and compare tutor definitions of creative writing, tutor comfort with tutoring writers, and tutor training. Tutors attitudes toward their training and their beliefs about what training to tutor creative writers should entail tell a great deal about the privileging of creative writing and creative writers in writing centers. This study is an important first step in considering that privileging, its source, and its effects. For the study, tutors completed an online survey. They were not asked for any identifying information, and online software allowing the tracking of IP addresses and email addresses was disabled so that no identifying information could be collected. It is my hope that this study will aid the writing center field in reconsidering the ways in which writing center theory and practice meet, and in constructing a better way to bring ideals and practice together. Because writing center tutors are in a unique position as frontline practitioners and reader/writers of writing center theory, understanding their attitudes is an important step towards lessening the gap between our ideals and our realities.
Thesis (M.A.)--University of South Florida, 2004.
Includes bibliographical references.
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by Leah F. Cassorla.
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Tutor Attitudes Toward Tutoring Creative Writers in Writing Centers by Leah F. Cassorla A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts Department of English College of Arts and Sciences University of South Florida Major Professor: James A. Inman, Ph.D. Joseph Moxley, Ph.D. Joyce Walker, Ph.D. Donna N. Sewell, Ph.D. Date of Approval: June 25, 2004 Keywords: creative writing, tutoring, training, writing center, tutor attitudes, survey Copy right 2004, Leah F. Cassorla


i Acknowledgements I would like to gratefully acknowledge some of the people who helped make this thesis a reality. I cannot possibly acknowledge all those who deserve it, and I apologize for not being able to do so. I must, howe ver, thank my mentors Drs. Donna Sewell and James Inman. Donna, for refusing to believe that I was in it for the piece of paper. James for asking me to maybe write a bit about one of my ideas. And both, for listening, reading, and critiquing. I would als o like to thank a newly discovered colleague, Dr. Beth Hewett who took the time to listen and respond and exchange ideas. Her valuable input helped me find a way to express what I saw in these survey responses. I must also thank the writing center communit y, first for treating me as a professional in this field and then for taking the time to share their insights about the questions in this study. My committee has been very helpful to me in considering my own biases and definitions. I would also like to tha nk my friend and colleague, Sasha Normand, for dealing with my stress and talking me through much of my writing as well as any tutor could have. And finally, my sisters, Tamar Cassorla and Hadas Aguilar, who provided mathematical and emotional support.


ii Ta ble of Contents Acknowledgements ................................ ................................ ................................ ............ i Table of Contents ................................ ................................ ................................ .............. ii List of Figures ................................ ................................ ................................ ................... iii ABSTRACT ................................ ................................ ................................ ...................... iv Introduction ................................ ................................ ................................ ....................... 1 Intersection 1: A Meeti ng of Minds ................................ ................................ ................ 3 Review of Literature ................................ ................................ ................................ ......... 4 Intersection 2: Mutually Beneficial Tutoring ................................ ............................... 11 Methods and Methodology ................................ ................................ ............................. 12 Intersection 3: An Unexpected Creative Writer ................................ ............................ 21 Summary of Results ................................ ................................ ................................ ........ 22 Intersection 4: Coming Full Circle ................................ ................................ ............... 39 Discussion ................................ ................................ ................................ ......................... 41 Appendices ................................ ................................ ................................ ....................... 47 Appendix A: Survey Invitation ................................ ................................ ...................... 48 Appendix B: Flowchart of Survey ................................ ................................ ................. 49 Works Cited ................................ ................................ ................................ ..................... 57 Bibliography ................................ ................................ ................................ .................... 60


iii List of Figures Figure 1: Respondent Definitions: Defined in One Category ................................ ........... 23 Figure 2: Respondent Definition: By Process. ................................ ................................ .. 25 Figure 3: Respondent Definitions: By Genre. ................................ ................................ ... 27 Figure 4: Respondent Definitions: Any Writing. ................................ .............................. 30 Figure 5: Respondent Comfort: Creative Nonfiction. ................................ ....................... 32 Figure 6 Respondent Comf ort: Fiction. ................................ ................................ ............ 33 Figure 7: Respondent Comfort: Poetry. ................................ ................................ ............ 34 Figure 8: Training Issues: Training Tutors Have. ................................ ............................. 35 Figure 9: Training Issues: Training Tutors Suggest. ................................ ........................ 37


iv ABSTRACT This study concerns itself with tutor attitudes toward tutoring creative writers in writing centers. In it, I look at these attitudes and compare tutor definitions of creative writing, tutor comfort with tutoring writers, and tu tor training. Tutors attitudes toward their training and their beliefs about what training to tutor creative writers should entail tell a great d eal about the privileging of creative writing and creative writers in writing centers. This study is an important first step in considering that privileging, its source, and its effects. For the study, tutors completed an online survey. They were not asked for any identifying information, and online software allowing the tracking of IP addresses and email addresses was disabled so that no identifying information could be collected. It is my hope that this study will aid the writing center field in reconside ring the ways in which writing center theory and practice meet, and in constructing a better way to bring ideals and practice together. Because writing center tutors are in a unique position as frontline practitioners and reader/writers of writing center t heory, understanding their attitudes is an important step towards lessening the gap between our ideals and our realities.


1 Introduction This project began as an informal survey of tutors 1 in my writing center (in a four year regional university) to explor e the possible connection between writing centers and creative writing 2 The tutors, almost all of whom identified themselves as creative writers, were asked to consider their respective comfort levels with tutoring creative writers. Most responded that th ey would not be comfortable in tutorials with creative writers and expressed the worry that they did not have the skills required to help creative writers because these writers were working on art. At the time, we did not discuss what creative writing me ant, and we only touched on what individual tutor fears and discomforts regarding these tutorials might be. I decided to try working with creative writers to see if I could find tools or approaches that would help tutors feel comfortable tutoring creative writers. At the time, I focused on poets because the tutors in my writing center had said they felt they would be less comfortable tutoring poets than other kinds of creative writers. The tutors fears primarily centered on the emotional issues that could be attached to poetry and the forms poetry students were asked to write in. Yet, I found that the primary tools for working with poets was the same as tutoring other writers: ask questions, be flexible. This was no different than what I had been taught t o do with any writer. 1 Because there are many terms for the people who work with writers and their texts in writing centers, I will u se tutor(s) interchangeably to indicate any person involved in any of the pedagogical activities of a writing center (including face to face, online synchronous, online asynchronous, one to one, and one to group). 2 Though creative writing can be broadly d efined, and is rapidly becoming more broadly defined, for the purpose of this study, the term identifies any combination of poetry, fiction and creative non fiction. However, because this study also seeks to measure how tutors define creative writing, ther e will be some discussion of differing definitions.


2 Having come to this conclusion, it occurred to me that if tutors are taught to tutor writers and not texts they should not feel the discomfort they expressed. I began to wonder if (and how) tutors were privileging creative writing. Th is privilege seemed to lie in tutors beliefs that creative writing was art and therefore special. But this privilege also acts as a disadvantage to creative writers. Creative writers may be less likely to become writing center clients if they sense tutors discomfort. Worse, they might not become clients if they are told that only one tutor can handle that or that there is a workshop offered but not one on one tutoring. The privileging of creative writing can also be a disadvantage to writing centers, ke eping writers out and reinforcing the fix it shop or remedial workshop attitudes of some of our colleagues. If we privilege creative writing, then the writing center model in which all writers are equal and all writing is discussed is fiction. I wanted to find out if creative writing was, in fact, privileged and if it was, why. I decided to use the following as my orienting question: How do tutors feel about tutoring creative writers? To address this question, I created a survey, the results of which ar e presented here. I will consider three areas of tutor attitudes: how tutors define creative writing, the link (if any) between tutors self identification as creative writers and their attitudes toward tutoring creative writers, and tutor attitudes toward training for tutoring creative writers. Since this project centers on the pliable concept of creative writing, this study also contains some pieces of narrative explaining my journey to and through this study. Those narratives are presented as intertexts between sections.


3 Intersection 1: A Meeting of Minds The week I put my survey online, I announced it at the weekly meeting. I had already told my fellow tutors about my plans for my thesis and my research. I asked them to take the time to answer the sur vey, reminded them that it was completely anonymous and told them I would send each a copy of the URL by email. I expected that to be about it. Of course, it wasnt. Instead, the survey s parked an involved conversation. Because I had talked to all of my colleagues about the survey, I was not surprised at the general response. Some of us didnt feel comfortable with the idea of tutoring creative writers. But the concerns were not about whether they felt they were qualified. Rather, the concern was that tut ors in general would not be qualified to tutor poetry. In fact, tutoring writers of fiction or creative non fiction was not a concern at all for my colleagues. Perhaps because they are poets their answers focused on the art of poetry. I was told that the re is a time in a poets career at which she is most vulnerable and is looking for her voice. At that point, the poet might be damaged by advice innocently given by the tutor advice about whom to read or about how to approach, for example, line breaks. Thi s damaging advice might keep the writer from developing her voice, from moving into her genre, or from developing her originality to its fullest. The conversation was intense, heated, and wonderful. We touched on what I consider to be essential question s for writing centers: If a student comes in with a poem for a class, should the tutor help him with his style or help him focus on the assignment? Are there types of writing tutors are not equipped to handle? Does it depend on the tutors amount of educat ion (i.e. is the tutor an undergraduate, a graduate, or a member of the faculty)? Should there be separate training for different kinds of writing? And if so, should there simply be different tutors for different areas of the curriculum? All these questio ns and more became part of our conversation. We talked for far longer than I had expected we would. For me, the best part was that we didnt reach any consensus. We didnt all agree in the end. This left the discussion open for more exploration and knowled ge building. Yet, everyone seemed comfortable with that level of disagreement. We even continued the conversation, on and off, after the meeting, posing questions and situations, offering possible solutions, and learning from each other. The conversation( s) helped me think through my assumptions in creating the survey. It helped me question my expectations and what I thought I knew about writing center pedagogy.


4 Review of Literature Elizabeth Boquets Our Little Secret: A History of Writing Centers, Pr e to Post Open Admissions offers a useful framework through which to look at the development of writing centers, writing center methods and writing center attitudes as well as the points of dissonance in writing center work and history. Boquet starts fr om the question of tensions in writing center history and method, working from writing center as in class laboratory where teachers can intervene in students writing habits to correct errors as they occur to the modern day writing center (if such a center truly exists) in which tutors, often undergraduate tutors, work with writers through a method of questioning to assist them in reflecting on their writing. Boquets work is useful here because it can be used to trace some of the movements that have produc ed the few articles dealing with creative writing in the writing center. Though, as will be mentioned in Intersection 4, there was written mention of creative writing in writing labs as early as 1951 and perhaps even earlier this study will primarily conce rn itself with what Boquet calls post open admissions, (475) though she remarks that the actual time frame for such an era is difficult to truly define. Boquet begins, however, with the in class laboratory of the early twentieth c entury and swiftly moves to autonomous writing labs (467) in her discussion of the contested sites of writing lab work. She describes the methodological momentum of the 1920s through 1940s as moving from Carrie Stanleys vision of a dialectic mode, which Boquet describes as bei ng much like we do today (467), to a remedial mode, in which individual improvement was often seen as necessary only for remedial students (468). She also discusses the medical method in which, at University of North Carolina,


5 students were sent to the Composition Condition Laboratory because instructors had marked their papers (diagnosed them, in fact) as having a composition condition (468). Boquet then follows writing lab method into the 1940s and the shift to a psychological method in writing labs : The Rogerian model of tutoring, which centered on non directive counseling. Though the Rogerian model maintains the medical (psychological) connection between writing and writing centers, the concept of a non directive approach to tutoring would later be re envisioned and become a foundation of modern, canonical writing center theory. While this medical approach is being built, Boquet notes, writing labs begin to be characterized . as places where average students can get help (470). She then discus ses the general lack of literature about writing labs from the early 1950s. Boquet cites the shift in emphasis, in the 1970s, from remediation to post open admissions crisis intervention, as writing centers were created largely to fix problems that univer sity officials had difficulty even naming (472). During this time there are three major methods in the field, according to Boquet: auto tutorial modules, those critical of them, and those seeking alternatives to the traditional forms of writing center wo rk (473). This era seems to be marked by a return to Rogerian counseling approaches to tutoring. It is also when peer tutors began working in writing cen ters. According to Boquet, available literature on writing labs also changes, and articles on writing labs in CCC and College English focus almost entirely on staff selection and training (475). It is in the late 1970s that the first mention of creative writing work is found in the Writing Lab Newsletter Marian Arkins article, Special Projects in LaGua rdias Writing Center, is little more than a bulleted list of projects, among which is a workshop for creative writers. No further mention of creative writing in writing centers is made in the


6 Writing Lab Newsletter until 1985, in Blake Truscotts Tutori ng the Advanced Writer in a Writing Center. Truscotts argument is for the use of specialized instructors for the benefit of all kinds of advanced writers, and only briefly touches on creative writers who automatically gain entry to the realm of advance d writing because they are creative writers. Truscotts privileging of creative writers is especially troubling in that undergraduate students who wished to participate in the special programs had to test into the program. In some ways the model removes pe rmission for non advanced writers to participate in creative writing. This article by Truscott comes shortly after Stephen Norths articles on writing centers and tutor training, Training Tutors to Talk about Writing, (1982) and The Idea of a Writing Ce nter. Both North articles have become parts of a canonized theory of writing centers, one that pivots on the idea of a writing center as a space in which tutors and writers talk about writing what North deems an intervention in the composing process ( Training 434). Norths idea of a writing center as a space for writers and of writing center work as fully flexible, writer centered, writing talk does not in any way exclude and in fact must in clude creative writers. Yet, North does not, in either of these articles directly deal with this topic. His concern in these two articles is a mix of concern for the ways undergraduates should be taught to tutor and the attitudes he would like his colleagues to have toward the center. Boquet posits that Norths model is reminiscent of the Rogerian writing center (477). That model, she reminds us has been canonized less for what it says about the method of the writing center . than for what it suggests about the professionalization of the practitioner. Fro m this point in the early 1980s, Boquet moves directly into the


7 present precisely because of the canonization of the Northian/Rogerian method of writing center work. But in the time gap between the early 1980s and Boquets 1999 present even our 2004 presen t lie several articles about creative writing in the center. But in the time gap between the early 1980s and Boquets 1999 present even our 2004 present lie several articles about creative writing in the center. Though few writing center articles discuss creative writing in writing centers, the majority do so as a special case. All but one of the articles focus on workshops as a way to attract creative writers to writing centers or guest writers as a form of community outreach. Kenneth Pobos 1991 artic le, Creative Writing and the Writing Center, argues for the need to work with creative writers in the writing center in much the same ways in which we work with other writers. Pobo delineates the ways in which creative writing resembles other writing. Th ough he addresses possible points of difficulty (mostly emotional discomfort), he also offers remedies. However, Pobo is the only writer in this period who advocates the tutoring of creative writers as part of normal writing center practice. Others conti nue the attitude of creative writing as a special case, thus bolstering privileged/disadvantaged position of creative writers. For example, also in 1991, Pamela Farrell writes that bringing in guest artists helps students build a community of writers. Fa rrell posits her argument about bringing in guest artists as a way to improve student outlooks on writing throughout a school. She does not address student creative writers in the writing center context. Farrell is not alone in advocating for bringing crea tive writing into writing centers while privileging creative writers and yet not considering them as regular clients.


8 While Alan Devenish argues for the need to further remove unnecessary divisions between English departments, creative writing, and writin g centers (6), in his 1991 article Decentering the Writing Center, his suggestions for doing so focus on writing circles and writing center outreach to writing groups and the community at large and ignore the possibility of creative writers as writing c enter clients Likewise, Diana LeBlanc, in 1995, explains in Teaching Creative Writing in Writing Centers that creative writers needs differ from those of the typical writing center conferee (1) and suggests specialized training for specialized tutors for these specialized writers. This attitude that creative writers are somehow different and that their texts require different approaches is reflected as recently as 2003 in Eight ways to Tutor Creative Writers, in which Jennifer Hime and Karen Mowrer argue for a different approach to tutoring creative writers despite their colleagues attitudes that the same rules apply to both creative and noncreative writing (par. 1) and those same colleagues claim that tutoring creative writers is much the same a s tutoring other (in Himes and Mowrers words, noncreative 3 ) writers. The authors suggest tutors focus on oversimplification, lack of originality, writer investment, predictability, reader enjoyment (or investment), challenges to the intellect and imagi nation, craft, and imagery. These areas of focus, our authors seem to be saying, are the defining difference between creative and noncreative writers. They may be right about the importance of focusing on these areas, but the question of defining noncreati ve writing changes the premise completely. A writer who lacks craft and originality is likely not being creative, but one who uses both is not necessarily writing anything other than an academic paper. If these areas of focus are 3 Though I intend to problematizes this term as well as what its use suggests in this case, I will continue to use the term noncreative writer for ease of reference.


9 what define creative writi ng, what, then, defines noncreative writing? The argument set forth in these articles creates a binary of creative/noncreative writing. This binary is problematic on several levels. As this study will suggest, the difficulty in defining creative writing creates particular problems in this arena. Yet, by current writing center theory, such a binary would not come into consideration. Current theory uses a non directive approach to, as North writes, tutor writers. The text, then, is a vehicle for the tutor t o help the writer improve her or his writing improvement that should carry over into all the writing the writer does. Taken together, though, the binary found in these articles and current theory create a paradox. Just as important, they create the privile ge/disadvantage situation creative writers face in writing centers. In the context of writing center theory, the writer would be the center of attention. If so, the binary would apply to the writer, not the text. Thus, a writer would be creative or noncrea tive. If, then, a creative writer were to present a special case to writing center practitioners, that same writer would present a special case if she were to come to the center with a piece of academic writing. The writer remains the same. Can that wr iter be tutored? Are her writing skills greater when she writes poetry? Privileging creative writing in this sense causes a rift between theory and its application. Yet, creative writings standing as special case is prevalent throughout the writing cent er literature dealing with the topic. Boquets history would seem to suggest that this attitude is part of the tension of writing center work. The current trend in writing center theory suggests that a Rogerian model of tutoring/counseling would be as effe ctive with creative writers as any other. Boquet seems to challenge the various methods she chronicles. She tells us that her interest in writing centers is partly due to the contradictions writing centers embrace. For


10 all the contradictions in writing cen ter work, for all the moments in which we refigure, revision, and reinvigorate writing center ideals and methods, writing centers remain places where ideals meet reality. It is in reflecting and changing through intellectual exchange that writing center pr ofessionals build community. But it is in how tutors put those ideals into practice that the community is truly reflected. Tutor attitudes and practice mirror the attitudes and practice of their models. Tutor attitudes are therefore one way to reckon how o ften and how well our ideals meet tutor and writer realities.


11 Intersection 2: Mutually Beneficial Tutoring Sam 4 and I had worked on his poems as part of my project to understand how tutors could help creative writers. Sam had agreed to help me because he was also taking the tutoring class and figured hed be able to use the session for one of his projects. The arrangement would be mutually beneficial. For our first session, Sam brought in a villanelle. Id never seen one before. My first thought was that this was one of the reasons the tutors in my center said they felt uncomfortable tutoring creative writers. So I asked Sam to explain what a villanelle was. Sam told me the rules of the form. The rules, though, only raised more questions for me. I aske d Sam questions for the entire 45 minute session, and as he explained, he used his poem to give me examples. By showing me, Sam found areas he felt didnt work and fixed them. I, in turn, learned about villanelles sort of. I still cant write one, but I have an idea of what it might entail. Still, I know if I were faced with a villanelle Id have to ask many of the same questions again. 4 Pseudonyms are used for all student names.


12 Methods and Methodology This study surveys writing center tutors attitudes toward tutoring creative writers. By be tter understanding tutor attitudes about tutoring creative writing, I expected to better understand the awkward responses I have seen to creative writing in the center and why I had not seen as much literature or as many presentations about creative writin g as I had about most other issues in the writing center field. For me, then, this survey is the first step in a process to better understand the way tutor attitudes shape and are shaped by the writing center field. Surveys are the only re search tool avai lable to obtain . opinions, preferences, beliefs, feelings and other personal information (MacNealy 148). I wanted to know if tutors were uncomfortable tutoring creative writers, if they treated creative writers differently from other writers, and whe ther tutor attitudes toward creative writers jibed with writing center theory. A survey, I decided, would allow me to ask tutors to quantify their attitudes as well as to qualify them. I created the survey and invited users to take it online to expedite th e process (MacNealy 150) as well as to reach a broader audience than a hard copy survey would allow due to costs involved in mailings or phone interviews. Online surveys, however, do have some drawbacks. One drawback of all online surveys is the number of survey providers available and the capabilities each offers as compared to cost. I chose based on SurveyMonkey offering ease of design, a logic component that allowed navigation, and filteri ng and analysis of results. Navigation questions are points at which a survey creator can control movement through the survey.


13 Based on the answer a respondent 5 gives, the logic driver of the survey will navigate the respondent to the next appropriate qu estion as defined by the survey designer. SurveyMonkeys services limited questions to a list of available types. While those types were modifiable in that I could control the response format, there was no way to create a question designed along different lines. For example, I originally planned to ask creative writers to rate their writing on a semantic differential scale, which pits binary characteristics of writing such as strong/weak on opposing ends of a scale with one characteristic at each end of a r ow marked with the scales gradations. Figure 1 : Semantic Differential scale According to Plumb and Spyridakis, this scale is useful for measuring respondent attitudes in a writing centered situation (634). This type of que stion cannot be used in SurveyMonkey, because while SurveyMonkey allows scale questions, the modifier for the question (ie strong or weak) can only appear on one side of the scale, and the scale must therefore be a traditional scale (ie from Strongly Agree to Strongly Disagree). Figure 2 : Traditional scale 5 Any person who completes any part of the survey will be considered a respondent for the purpose of this study. Rate Your Writing: Strong___ ___ ___ ___ ___Weak Rate Your Writing: Strongly Agree Agre e Disagree Strongly Disagree Strong ___ ____ ____ ____


14 Thus the limitations of the tool affected the design of the survey. This, however, would be true of any tool for survey creation and any method for survey delivery. Mailed surveys, for example, cannot allow for navigation questions that keep respondents from seeing (and therefore being put off by) questions they need not answer. An invitation to take the survey 6 was posted to the writing center communitys elist 7 WCENTER. T he invitation emphasized the anonymous nature of the survey as well as identifying qualified respondents: any one who had tutored writing, creative or not. The invitation included a request that members of the elist share the information with others who tu tor writing. In addition, hard copy invitations were distributed at the 2004 Conference on College Composition and Communication convention in San Antonio, TX. Respondents who logged on to the survey were greeted with a welcome screen containing this messa ge: Thank you for joining this survey. In this survey, you will be asked a set of questions about who you are and where you work, as well as your feelings about your work as a tutor/consultant. Your name will not be asked so that all answers can remain an onymous. Questions with asterisks require an answer 8 All others are optional. You may choose to stop the survey at any time. I truly appreciate your taking the time to complete this survey. Thank you, Leah F. Cassorla University of South Florida 6 See Appendix A for the text of the invitation. 7 An elist is an electronic list which sends messages from any subscribed user to all subscribed users. 8 Only navigation questions were required.


15 The su rvey was organized in five sections 9 : demographics, writing reflections, comfort level and past experiences, expected comfort level, and training issues. Sections three and four are parallel sections with tutors who have tutored creative writers answering questions in section three and those who have not answering questions in section four. To better show the relationships between the questions in each section and to emphasize the navigational character of the survey, I will describe each section separately Section 1: The first section, demographics, is intended to ascertain whether sex, age, institution type, or experience tutoring has any effect on tutor attitudes toward tutoring creative writers 10 Respondents we re asked for their sex. This question is d esigned with two radio buttons 11 for the answer one for male and one for female and is optional, but may offer some insight into differing levels of confidence among different sexes in a female dominated profession. Respondents were then asked for their age and asked to provide it in numbers. This information was asked to get a sense of maturity (at least chronologically) and to suggest whether there are attitude differences among tutors at different ages. It was designed to work with the questions of classi fication, institution type, and years of experience that follow. 9 See Appendix B for a flowchart of the survey. 10 I have chosen not to consider these relationships in this study, though the information may be useful for further research. 11 A radio button is a button one clicks on to choose an option. They are generally round and populated by a dot when clicked.


16 The classification question sought to place the respondent within an education al level category using an option list with the following ranges: Grade 9 12 Student, Undergraduate Student, Mast ers Student, Doctoral Candidate, Faculty Member, Staff Member, Professional Consultant, Other (Please specify). Choosing other prompts a text box for clarification. Respondents were then asked what type of institution they tutor in. This question was or iginally designed as an option box, but because of the long list of possib ilities, was changed to an open answer format. Though this format makes the data harder to sort, it allows for more accurate data. This information was expected to provide insight in to how and whether institutional settings affect tutor attitudes. Finally, respondents were asked how much writing center experience they had. The question was designed as a set of options of ranges: < 1 year, 1 5 years, 6 10 years, 11 15 years, 16 20 yea rs, or > 20 years. The data from this question could be used in conjunction with the other data in this section to measure whether and how tutor attitudes change with tutoring experience. Section 2: In section two, respondents were asked to reflect on the ir definitions of creative writing as well as their own writing practice. First, respondents were asked to define what creative w riting means to them in an open answer format. Though the standard definition of creative writing has long been poetry and fic tion (short or novel), the idea of creative nonfiction has taken root as well, and creative writing is beginning to be identified in all forms of writing. By asking respondents to define creative writing I hoped to get a sense of how they view the world


17 of creative writing and how the lines are or are not blurred. T hese attitudes I felt, might affect attitudes toward tutoring. For example, if a tutor wrote that all writing was creative, that tutor should be comfortable with all tutoring and would also be l ikely to think no specialized training was necessary. The second question in this section asks respondents whether they consider themselves creative writers, in a yes or no format. This question is designed to measure how respondents see themselves within the definition they s upplied for the first answer and to see if considering oneself a creative writer positively affects comfort levels in tutoring creative writers. It also sought to answer some of the questions raised in the original informal survey I co nducted with tutors. Though almost all of those tutors defined themselves as creative writers, almost all identified creative writers as clients they would feel uncomfortable tutoring. I wanted to find out if this attitude/trend applied to a broader set of tutors as well. Respondents who answer that they are not creative writers are moved to section three of the survey. Respondents who self identified as creative writers were asked to describe and evaluate their writing processes. I wanted to measure respon dent attitudes toward their own creative writing to see if there was a correlation to attitudes toward others writing. Respondents were therefore asked, Describe and evaluate your writing process. This approach I felt, would allow each writer to discus s his or her writing processes as a whole. Section 3: Section three began with the navigation question: Have you tutored creative writers in a Writing Center? Respondents who answered no moved to section four. Respondents who have tutored creative writer s continue d in section three.


18 The first question asked what kind of creative writers respondents had worked with. This question was also designed as a navigation tool. I had planned to create this question with a list of options: poets, fiction writers, wr iters of creative non fiction, and other, in order to allow respondents to choose more than one. This design would have simplified my survey by allowing easier navigation among follow up questions. Unfortunately, SurveyMonkey was incapable of handling mu ltiple answers on a single question, so I listed five options for navigation instead: Poets, Fiction Writers, Creative Non Fiction Writer s, More than one of the above, or Other (Please Specify). In addition to allowing respondents to navigate to a disc ussion of tutoring with more than one of the three main kinds of creative writers I had chosen to focus on, the approach allowed respondents to navigate to a discussion of creative writing in their own terms and expand on experiences with other types of wr iting they may have defined as creative in an earlier question. Based on the respondents answers, the survey then navigated to a question that asked if they were comfortable tutoring that kind of writer (in a yes/no format). That question was followed by two open answer questions: Please describe your most successful experien ce with this type of tutorial and Please describe your most difficult experience with this type of tutorial. These questions were designed to evaluate relationships (if such existe d) between stated comfort and how the tutors viewed success and difficulty. Respondents who answered More than one of the above were led through these three questions (comfort, success, difficulty) for each of the types of writer. However, instead of the comfort question having only yes or no as options, respondents were also


19 offered the option: I havent tutored a followed by the type of writer (ie I havent tutored a poet) This option included directions to skip the descriptive answers for that que stion and go to the next type of writer because of SurveyMonkeys limited navigational capability. By creating this range of options, I hoped to enable tutors to more fully express their comfort levels. These respondents were then navigated to section five because section four was only for respondents who said they had never tutored creative writers. Section 4: Section four measured comfort levels for respondents who answered that they had never tutored creative writers. Because tutors expectations might a ffect tutor behaviors and attitudes, this section comprises two questions. First, respondents are asked if they would feel comfortable if faced with a creative writer in a tutorial in a yes or no format. The second asks for an explanation of (or expansio n on) the answer to the first. Here, tutors can describe their attitudes toward tutoring creative writers beyond a simple question of comfort. After these questions, respondents were navigated to section five. Section 5: The two questions in section five m easured tutor attitudes toward training for tutoring creative writers. I expected that if, in fact, tutors were uncomfortable tutoring creative writers, this section would allow them to explore or suggest tools they thought would increase their comfort lev els. The first question asked respondents what training they had received for working with creative writers. This question was designed to build some knowledge base about whether and how regularly writing centers tutors were train ed to tutor creative writ e rs The second asked for suggestions on what kinds of tools


20 tutors felt would help them to work with creative writers. I hoped that such suggestions would help me evaluate comfort and discomfort and general attitudes. I thought it might also act as a start ing point to other studies that could provide tutors with the tools they needed or wanted.


21 Intersection 3: An Unexpected Creative Writer Jesse came in to the writing center with a problem. He was a business student trying to get into an MBA program and trying to get a scholarship. The scholarship, he explained, was not specific to any major. The only requirement: that he write a story for children 8 12 years old. The problem, according to Jesse: the story had to be between 110 and 240 words. He had mo re than 300, was not yet done with his story, and wanted to know how to cut the story down. Jesse and I talked a good bit about stories and how to tell them. He told me about his idea for what he called an epic which sparked a discussion of how one wou ld fit an epic into 240 words. I read his story. It was not a story, but an outline for a novel. The word count seemed too limiting. Jesse said he didnt think it made sense either. We talked about some choices he had made and how he could cut the story. B ut we couldnt find parts Jesse felt comfortable doing without, so we logged on to the site where he had seen the scholarship looking for a loophole. We checked the details. The contest called for a novel for children 8 12 years old. The parameters were 1 10 240 pages Ive never seen someone so relieved. Jesse asked if I thought he could do that with what he had. We discussed it and he decided he could. We sat down and talked about how to go about writing a novel. He wrote the first chapter within a few w eeks. Jesse was hooked. Jesse is not the creative writer we often think or talk about when we discuss bringing creative writers into the center. He doesnt think of himself as a creative writer; he just had a story to tell and is teaching himself how to t ell it well. Jesse would not be considered an advanced writer. He would not have come to a poetry reading held at the center. He would not have responded to an invitation to creative writers on campus. Yet he walked into our center and brought a story al ong and made me realize that sometimes creative writers come with error filled texts, no intention of being writers, and beautiful stories they can tell well. The deadline for the scholarship has long since passed, but Jesse continues working on his nov el anyway.


22 Summary of Results In considering my results, I decided to focus on three areas: definitions of creative writing, respondents comfort levels in tutoring creative writers, and training issues. Because the survey did not require a respondent to answer all questions, the number of total respondents does not equal the number of respondents in each of the three areas. Of the 115 respondents, 90 defined creative writing, 105 answered comfort questions, and 71 responded to questions on training issues I analyzed the answers in these three areas by coding them into categories. I had defined the categories through reading and rereading the responses in what Wendy Bishop refers to as an intuitive way (117). Much like Bishops description of Helen Rolfe s experience coding results to achieve data reduction, I found that the more I read through my respondents answers, took notes about how they chose to answer, and looked at how those responses fit together (with other answers and other respondents), the more certain categories suggested themselves. Defining Creative Writing: Though creative writing has traditionally been defined in terms of poetry and fictional prose, some definitions also include forms of creative nonfiction such as literary journalism, memoirs, and personal essays. Moreover, there are those who say that any act of writing is an inherently creative act. Defining creative writing is thus a fairly slippery slope, yet the definitions are important to this study because tutor definitions of creative writing affect how they view tutorials with creative writers. Tutors were asked to define creative writing and were given an open text space in which to do so. There were no limitations placed on the length of tutor definitions. The


23 data was then coded into several major categories with subcategories in some. The major categories within tutor definitions were: B y process B y genre A ny writing A s opposed to academic writing B y lack of facts D escriptive A nomaly. Of the 90 respondents who chose to d efine creative writing, 50 defined it in only one of the major categories. These responses are represented in Figure 1: 0 2 4 6 8 10 12 14 16 Process Genre Descriptive Any writing Lack of facts Not Academic Anomaly Figure 3 : Respondent Definitions: Defined in One Category


24 Of the 50 respondents whose definitions fell into only one major category, most defined creative writing using either process or genre with 14 and 12 respondents, respectively, in each category. Ten respondents gave purely descriptive responses such as beautiful emotive 12 while only 5 defined any writing as creative writing. Three respondents each provided definitions of creative writing as opposed to academic writing and as defined by a lack of facts. And three respondents gave definitions that were entirely anomalous either because they were questions to other answers or because they made no sense to me as definitions These definitions were: I occasionally journal and then cull those journals for poetry, Hot stuff, and Alchemy of the soul. The remaining 40 respondents wrote definitions that encom passed two or more of the major categories. Within the first 3 major categories, I coded responses into subcategories that expand on how those categories of definition were expressed. For definitions that relied on process, those subcategories are imaginat ion, artistry, authorial intent, and impetus. Of the 90 respondents, 21 included process in their definitions. Some examples of process based responses follow: I think that is being able to open up to more details and letting your imagination flow W riting whose primary impetus and basis stems not fr om prerecorded history or data but rather from the individual's own psyche 12 All respondent answers have been edited for spelling and grammatical errors. I have decided, however, not to change punctuation as in some cases that change would require me to make a decision about specific intent. The responses are often written in the general shorthand used online (with extra spaces used to connote additional thoughts, etc.), the responses may therefore sometimes seem odd. I felt, h owever, that it was important to leave them as they were though I did remove extra spaces for ease of reading because to me these responses also exhibit a level of comfort that connotes tutors were involved more in answering than in being correct.


25 Writing combining self expression with any learned form of writing styles. Basically it is writing done for personal or enjoyable reas ons but can include writing in assignments. Writing that comes from the writer's imagination as well as writing that requires personal input and description Developing written art that portrays ideas in a n in formal manner Something that steps away from t he constraints of scholarly writing to explore the depths of a writer s imagination Of the 21 respondents who included process in their definitions of creative writing such as these, 10 cited imagination and 6 artistry. Of these two most popular definitio ns, 9 mentioned only imagination and 3 mentioned only artistry. 0 2 4 6 8 10 12 Imagination Artistry Intent Impetus Figure 4 : Respondent Definition: By Process


26 Intent, from 3 respondents and impetus from 2 are not at all mentioned without some other co mponent in the definition. The heavy emphasis on imagination and artistry may indicate some of the reasons why creative writing is privileged (and disadvantaged) in the writing center 13 Thirty four of the 90 respondents who defined creative writing specifi ed genres in their definitions. Many of these writers also employed language that fell into other major categories. Here are some of the ways in which respondents used genre to define creative writing: Writing of stories poetry and scripts designed to ente rtain and/or teach (This response was coded both by genre and by process as intent) Creative writing is writing in which the writer is concerned with craft. Academic writing is often creative writing as are the genres more commonly listed under creative writing: fiction poetry drama creative non fiction. Writin g that heads toward literature writing that attempts to use literary devices to create art writing that involves literary genres (memoir fiction poetry etc.) -okay I suck at defining terms. Creative wri ting includes nonfiction prose poetry fiction or other wri ting generated from experience observation knowledge and imagination. Creative writing is intended for a broad audience but does not necessarily exclude the academy. C reative nonfiction poetry p rose hypertext that primar il y emphasizes the expressive function 13 This point will be addressed further in the discussion section.


27 The subcategories of genre used are fiction, poetry, creative non fiction, drama, song 14 and other (primarily genres such as hypertext as in the above example but also including other def initions such as journal entries). 0 10 20 30 40 Fiction Poetry Other Creative nonfiction Drama Song Figure 5 : Respondent Definitions: By Genre All respondents who mentioned genre (34) mentioned fiction, and only 3 did not mention poetry. Creative non fiction though one less person included it (12) than respondents who had included a genre that fell under the other category (13) is the third defined category with drama and song (7 and 3 respectively) with the least mentions. Therefore, though creating the survey with three defined genres of c reative writing is inherently limiting, 34 respondents defined creative writing within genres and among those, most worked within the three definitions used by the survey even though they had not yet seen the questions that used specific genres. In additio n, though tutors 14 I have included song separately from poetry because respondents did so. I also note that though drama and song were so seldom mentioned, they are the oral precursors of written language, a point that calls for further investigation into tutor attitudes.


28 were allowed to include other writers in their answers to later questions, only 4 of 115 overall respondents did. In addition to process and genre, I found that of the 13 respondents who said any writing was creative, 7 qualified their a nswers, placi ng any writing on a continuum while six allowed all writing to stand, either defending their choice or simply leaving it as such. Below are the thirteen responses: I define creative writing as writing that pushes limits and tries new thing s in whatever format -an academic essay to a v illanelle. In our institution it usually gets defined as fiction drama or poetry so my definition is a bit broader I guess. Any writing actually -but for these p urposes poetry short stories and creative nonfi c tion (a circular answer I know) All writing is creative writing in that the author infuses his or her work with his or her own particular voice and brings to light specific points the writer feels are important. Even the most mundane topic calls for int e resting presentation and a writer's unique style is always evident to some degree. Personally all writing has some creative element to it. Like on a continuum -some leans far more toward the technical which I do see as the opposite pole and some writing l eans far m ore toward the purely creative while most writing that students do lies somewhere in the middle. Any kind o f writing is creating however for tut oring I define it as narrative fiction and poetry. Broadly as creativity in writing ta sks. Narrowly/i nstitutionally as fiction/poetry and creative non fict ion. And in the middle ground as any hybrid writing using


29 the established conventions of these discourses (probably among others). In any case where we recognize_ writing as creative I believe we are matching elements of that writing to the conventions of established discourses which are identified as creative at various cultural sites. In other words I think the creative is recognizable in established forms of discourse which have more or less sta ble rules and conventions of their own (like fiction for example but not just fiction). It is not simply the product of free fl i ghts of invention that transcend the normal rules (how we tell creative from nonsense). And I believe that creativity in thi s way involves methodologies that can be taught. I think almost any k ind of writing can be creative when it requires us to use our imaginations. All writing is creative including nonfiction. I guess most people define it as imaginative fictional works but I think any work with a strong sense of voice or personality to it is similar to imaginative fiction. Creative writing is writing in which the writer is concerned with craft. Academic writing is often creative writing as are the genres more commonly li sted under creative w riting: fiction poetry drama creative non fiction. I define all writing as a creative process. All writing is creative to me. Creative nonfi ction fiction poetry lyrics s peeches persuasive writing etc. A ll writing is creative writing bu t some writing is more creative than others. It usually includes poems and s tories designed by the student and for purposes beyond classwork.


30 I think all writing is creative in some broad sense. The difference between creative writing and academic or expo sitory writing may lie in the ultimate purpose of each though even that distinction may be blurry. Cre ative writing wants to delight to challenge to make us see anew to reveal Truth and takes up residence in our hearts. Expository writing wants to convince to make us s ee more clearly to show truth and lives in our minds. B ut no -the more I think of it the more impossible it is to differentiate between the two. As can be seen, even respondents who felt all writing was creative expressed a need to situate the ir definitions within their beliefs of the surveys or their academic communitys expectations. 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 All All, but dependent on academic definitions All, but there are levels of quality Figure 6 : Respondent Definitions: Any Writing Though 6 of the respondents defined all writing as creative 5 more defined all writing as creative but added that in the academic world such definitions are not accepted or


31 expressed that they expected the survey to not include anything outside of traditionalist notions of creative writing. An additional 2 respon dents qualified all writing as creative by stating that there were levels of ability and creativity used in writing and therefore some types of writing are more creative than others. Three respondents classified creative writing by its lack of facts, such as this description: Any writing that is not purely factual. Made up works. Descriptive definitions were those that described the effects of creative writing, or defined writing in vague descriptive terms s uch as with flair, not wordy. Comfort Levels: Unfortunately, there were not enough respondents with experience tutoring writers in any given category of creative writing to tell whether identifying oneself as a creative writer made a tutor more comfortable tutoring creative writers. According to Maso n, Lind, and Marchal Chi Square should not be applied if more than 20 percent of the [frequency] cells have expected frequencies less than 5 (p.522). The only possible trend that can be measured is that regardless of self identification, respondents seem more comfortable with creative nonfiction than with either fiction or poetry. Fiction was the next area in which respondents said they were comfortable, and poetry was last.


32 0 5 10 15 20 25 Comfortable Not comfortable Creative writer Not Creative writer Figure 7 : Respondent Comfor t: Creative Nonfiction In fact, among non identifiers 15 who responded regarding their comfort with nonfiction, all said they were comfortable with such writers. Of creative writers, 8.3 percent said they were uncomfortable tutoring writers of nonfiction. In the two other genres for which respondents were asked to describe their comfort level, the positions were reversed. Although the majority of non identifiers (76.9 percent) said they were comfortable tutoring fiction writers, a higher percentage (97 perc ent) of creative writers expressed comfort. In fact, of the 34 creative writer respondents who answered the questions about fiction, only one said he or she was uncomfortable. Hence in this relatively small sample, self identified creative writers were con siderably more comfortable tutoring creative writers than non identifiers. 15 I will use this term as a matter of convenience and because it would be inaccurate to refer to these respondents as non creative writers (both because I am of the school that sees all writing as inherently creative and because these respondents did not identify as non creative writers ; they simply did not identify as creative writers).


33 0 5 10 15 20 25 30 35 Comfortable Not comfortable Creative writer Not Creative writer Figure 8 Respondent Comfort: Fiction Among respondents who answered the questions regarding comfort with poets, a lower perce ntage of creative writers (87 percent) said they were comfortable than those who had answered regarding fiction. Among non identifiers, the level of comfort expressed was also lower, with two thirds saying they were comfortable, and one third saying they w ere uncomfortable.


34 0 5 10 15 20 Comfortable Not comfortable Creative writer Not Creative writer Figure 9 : Respondent Comfort: Poetry The two phenomena, therefore, that I mark from these data are the similar patterns of comfort within the two groups, and the overall comfort lev el among respondents. M ost respondents were comfortable tutoring creative writers and the pattern of comfort ranked from creative nonfiction (at the greatest level of comfort) to poetry (at the lowest level of comfort) regardless of respondent identificat ion or non identification. Training Issues: The final section included two questions about training. The first asked tutors to explain what training they did have to tutor creative writers; the second asked what training they would suggest tutors have be fore they tutor creative writers. Seventy one of the 115 respondents answered the first question, and 61 answered the second. Their answers vary and overlap. Respondent reports of training they had fell into 7 categories:


35 None/not much Writing, reading, a nd tutoring Re gular training sufficed Workshops only T utoring experience and workshops Writing center offered specialized training And s everal other combinations of these training types. Tutor Training 0 5 10 15 20 25 Combinations of all None/Not much Read, write, tutor Regular Workshops only Tutoring and workshops Specialized training Figure 10 : Training Issues: Training Tutor s Have Nearly a third (20) of respondents claimed a combination of tutoring experience, workshop experience, and their status as a writer or avid reader as their training for working wi th creative writers including such responses as:


36 Well I am the direc tor and my Ph.D. is in creative writing so.... I write I read I have taken creative writing workshops at both undergrad and grad levels at two different universities; I have participated in non academic writing groups with other creative writers; I have been tutoring and teaching writing since 1993; I teach a un it on creative writing history theory and pedagogy as part of the grad level course on teaching writing that all GTAs at my university take before teaching the first time; I read fiction voraciousl y! ....? No specific training. My training comes from my own ex periences as a creative writer and from the arsenal of strategies I've developed during my three years of tutoring. Creative writing workshops. Extensive participation in workshops at undergra d and graduate levels. But only 2.81 percent (2 respondents) said they had received specialized training for the task as part of their formal writing center training. Most significantly, only 11.26 percent (8 respondents) said their regular writing cente r training sufficed. The respondents training for tutoring creative writers did not seem to translate into their ideas of how tutors should be trained for tutoring creative writers. Of the 61 respondents, 30 suggested some form, or combination of forms, o f specialized training.


37 Training suggested 0 2 4 6 8 10 12 14 16 None Anomaly Classes/workshops Only creative writers Impossible Not sure Figure 11 : Training Issues: Training Tutors Suggest Of the 61 respondents, 2 said it was impossible to train tutors to tutor creative writers, and 3 expressed the belief that only creative writers could tutor creative writers including one respondent who went into detail about why he or she felt that way. That respondent wrote: hmmm... I hate to be the bearer of bad news but I do not see a way right now that tutors can be trained to work with creative w riters. Tutors wouldn't know what to do what to read fo r. O ne can be trained in such matters but if one's scholarship has nothin g to do with creative anything and all that one person cares about is how to tutor in one genre -then... there 's bound to be some resistance i.e. writing centers aren't places where such tutoring can (should) take place.


38 One respondent wrote, Taking crwr classes ONLY if they're interested and if not they shouldn't have to tutor creative writers in response to this question. Howeve r, 21 respondents suggested workshops and 9 suggested that practice with these kinds of tutorials, writing, and reading would suffice to train tutors for this kind of tutoring. For example, one respondent wrote, take a creative writing course or two and r ead lots of creative writing that is successful. Of the 61 respondents, only 14 said they did not think any specialized tutoring was necessary. One respondent wrote: I think the best training for working with any (type of) writer will necessarily include student writer voices. So the best training I could imagine would include the voices of those who consider themselves creative writers. I'm not convinced however that tutoring creative writers is all that much different than tutoring other creative but not CREATIVE writers. Responses coded as anomalies were those that spoke about how to tutor a creative writer rather than how to train tutors to tutor creative writers.


39 Intersection 4: Coming Full Circle In early March, 2004, Laura Butler, a member of WCENT ER the writing center professionals elist, posted a comment and question about creative writing in the writing center. In the past ten years, I have noticed a distinct lack of utilization of writing center for creative writing, (par. 1 ) She then asked if anyone knew of literature besides the little she had seen. I am hoping to hear anecdotal evidence of your experiences as tutors or directors (par. 2). The responses created a thread that comes full circle for me. I see in it the foundation for my arg ument. Sylvia Newman responded with an explanation that creative writers see themselves as good writers and not in need of help: I have also found that most of my tutors don't feel comfortable or qualified to critique creative writing the way they do academic writing -although every year I have two or three tutors who are experienced creative writers and we direct those few students who do bring in their non academic writing to them. (par. 1) Newman also told of a creative writers group that met in t he writing center the previous year, but said writers and tutors had lost interest, though the program had been successful. Laura Merrill responded with enthusiasm, When students walk into our WC for help with a creative writing assignment, I jump at the chance to work with them. I have my MFA in poetry and I love to have conversations with students about their creative writing (par. 1). In dealing with training issues, Merrill suggests that creative writing specific training might help reinforce writing center pedagogy: You asked about training tutors to respond to creative writing. In our training, we have tutors practice responding to a variety of writing assignments. I wonder if including examples from beginning creative writers might increase tuto rs comfort level, and also help them to see that, when working with creative writers, theyll ask lots of the same questions as they do when working with students from other disciplines. Specific examples may also spark a conversation about whats differe nt about helping students with creative work. For example, since many creative writers feel a powerful connection to their writing, it may be even more important to offer praise for something even if its a line or sentence thats working particularly wel l in their piece. (par. 4) Amy Zenger considers another dimension connected to creative writing. She points out that the question tells us a lot about how we are perceived as a remediation center and ho w we privilege creative writing. If we imagine it as being for the BENEFIT of all writers (especially as they define benefit for themselves), it probably would incorporate creative writers easily. But if we think of the center as a place for writers who NEED help (especially as defined by other people) we'l l be more likely to work with required/ academic writing (par. 4)


40 Laura Butler posted again, saying the conversation had been exactly what she was looking for and added that she intends to use creative writing to change that attitude in her particular c enter. Bringing us full circle, Neal Lerner posted a quote from a 1951 conference workshop: The third type of writing laboratory discussed in the workshop, of first interest to some of the members, has not so much a service function as the other two [a lab for remediation and a lab open to any student at any level]. Here appear voluntarily students who want advice about creative writing -narrative, poetry, etc. The advantages of prizes and publication as a part of this laboratory were pointed out. (par 2) The points made in this discussion point directly to what I wish to discuss. I agree that drawing creative writers to the center can change the way a center is perceived. I feel, however, that special writing groups or workshops work to attract the se students as a privileged group and leave them in that position. The key, I think, is to attract creative writers to the center as clients of the center just like any other client. When I speak of creating a writers space, I imagine that space to be a place writers write and talk about writing. I imagine a place that is part computer lab, part tutoring space, and part coffee house. I imagine this space as elevated beyond remediation not to keep remedial students out, but to motivate them to be there and yet not privileged to writers in the exclusive sense. I imagine this space because writing, at any level, is an activity that is both lonely and communal, and the writing center should be the place where a writer can be either or both.


41 Discussion Defin ing creative writing seems as difficult as explaining what qualifies some books for placement in the Literature section of a bookstore and leaves others in Fiction or Poetry. Both speak to questions of canonicity. The difficulty of defining creative writing can be seen in how tutors who responded to the question on defining creative writing approached the task. That tutors struggled to find definitions of creative writing is not surprising. Most official definitions 16 tend to fall in line with the 5 re spondents who defined all writing as creative but added that writing can be perceived differently, dependent on the situation. One such respondent wrote, Any kind of writing is creating however for tutoring I define it as narrative fiction and poetry. Th is tutor defines all writing within the realm of creativity, but acknowledges that tutoring requires one to draw more specific lines and create a more guarded definition. But why does tutoring require this? Still another respondent limited the definition b ased on her or his expectations of the survey: Any writing actually -but for these purposes poetry short stories and creative nonfiction (a circular answer I know). The respondents answer clearly identifies her or his expectations in this situation. Fo r these purposes the tutor knows she or he will be asked to limit the definition. And though this respondent is somewhat right (the definitions of creative writing were broadly defined in this study) she or he is also somewhat wrong (respondents were als o offered the opportunity to create and answer questions about any other kind of writer they chose to define as creative). 16 The Oxford English Dictionary online, for example, defines creative writing as imaginative; exhibiting imagin ation as well as intellect, and thus differentiated from the merely critical, academic, journalistic, professional, mechanical, etc., in literary or artistic production. So creative writing, such writing; also freq. in the U.S. as a course of study.


42 The difficulty in defining creative writing essentially affects both tutor attitudes toward creative writing and expectations of w hat/who a creative writer is. In the common definitions, we look toward published writers in specific genres. But this set of expectations can be misleading because the most basic of writers often enjoy creative writing their use of imagination, their impe tus to write, their process is no less creative for the apparent errors they make or for the skills they apparently lack. By limiting the scope of creative writing to advanced writing, we take away the most enjoyable writing some students have (often stude nts who are otherwise very resistant to writing). In addition, by privileging creative writers in this way we exempt the advanced creative writer from the work of the writing center reflection on and intervention in the writing process. This attitude towar d creative writing may also affect comfort levels for tutoring creative writers and the feeling that a tutorial with a creative writer is somehow different. The privileging affect this train of thought has can be detrimental to the creative writer who co mes in for a tutorial for example, that writer might be directed to the centers workshop instead of the one on one work that writer was seeking. I had expected to find that tutors were uncomfortable tutoring creative writers, but most tutors said they wer e comfortable with it. I then surmised that because 74 of the 105 respondents indicated that they were creative writers, a matter of self selection for a survey on tutoring creative writers was at play. However, there is not a large enough sample to draw a ny statistically significant conclusions as to whether there is a correlation between identification and comfort. Further research is necessary to ascertain this statistical independence to a generalizable degree.


43 What is clear is that among this sample o f respondents, the difference between those who were comfortable and those who were not was greater among creative writers in the categories of fiction and poetry, but not in nonfiction. Though both groups show greater comfort than discomfort in fiction an d poetry, a higher percentage of non identifiers show discomfort (23 percent of non identifiers as compared to 2.9 percent of creative writers). Only one respondent expressed discomfort tutoring a creative writer. This respondent described the discomfort o f his or her most difficult tutoring situation, and that situation seems to be the only experience this respondent had tutoring a fiction writer: I can only remember one time that I worked with a fiction writer. For some reason we had a hard time getting a sense of her audience so it was difficult to know what to focus on. In addition, the general trend, among both those who identified as creative writers and those who did not identify as creative writers, was to be most comfortable with creative nonficti on (100 percent of non identifiers and 91.66 percent of identifiers), next with fiction and finally least with poetry. It is only in the area of nonfiction that all non identifiers reported comfort with tutoring such writers and in each other case (fiction and poetry), the non identifiers had a lower rate of comfort than those who did identify as creative writers. This raises the question of how tutors define non fiction and their own attitudes toward fiction and poetry. Though this question clearly needs m ore in depth research, the results seem to suggest that respondents may feel that they are more comfortable with the conventions of nonfiction than with those of fiction and in particular those of poetry. In fact, one respondent suggests just that: I have helped several students


44 turn in letters to the editor work that I consider to be creative non fiction. Here the rules are not too different from normal tutoring so I feel much more at ease. Unfortunately, not enough respondents chose to answer questions in the other category for there to be generalizable data for this category. Though I designed this category to allow respondents to further their definitions of creative writing, only 4 respondents chose to do so. Of the 4, however, one commented in gene ral about why she or he felt tutoring creative writers was more difficult than tutoring other writers (in this response academic writers): I have a difficult time tutoring creative writing that I don't really see as going anywhere. This is an odd admissi on to make but somehow I seem to be more critical of creative writing than I am of academic writing. Maybe it's because I rarely think my own creative writing is any good. Hmm. The comment offers a different look at why some creative writers might find it more difficult to tutor creative writers. Respondents who had never tutored creative writers were only asked about their general comfort level with creative writers (again leaving open the opportunity for these respondents to define the term for themselv es). These respondents were also given the choice of other in answering whether they would be comfortable tutoring creative writers. Of the 30 respondents who answered this line of questioning, only 1 respondent chose this option and in response to the p rompt to specify why he or she chose other, the respondent answered, I would enjoy working with beginning writers. Showing them small techniques, such as the use of strong verbs, ways to tighten their language.


45 Overall, then, respondents are comfortabl e tutoring creative writers. However, the results of the training section of the survey suggest some surprising and troubling possibilities for explaining why despite general comfort creative writing is privileged in writing centers, and these attitudes to ward training for tutoring creative writers bears more examination. I did not know what to expect from the questions about attitudes toward training, but the majority of current theory would indicate that no specialized training should be necessary. The th eory that a writing center professionals job has most to do with the writer, not the text (North, Training 436) should preclude specialized training for work with certain texts. Yet, 34.4 percent of respondents suggested some combination of practice t utorials, reading, writing, and/or lectures by a creative writing instructor as their preference for training. An additional 14.7 percent said the training should be through the use of workshops and/or creative writing classes. Taken in comparison with onl y 22.9 percent of respondents who said no specialized training was necessary, the expressed attitudes of these 49.9 percent of respondents seem to indicate a gap between canonized theory and tutor attitudes. Also, in light of such articles as Eight Ways t o Tutor Creative Writers, these results demonstrate a need for intense scrutiny of both tutor attitudes and canonized theory. This suggestion is promoted in some of the canon, notably in Norths Training Tutors to Talk about Writing. North, in presentin g his theory of tutoring, suggests that the principles for tutoring and tutor training [he outlines] need to be tested, need to be studied (434). Yet these principles have not been tested. In essence, Norths principles have been accepted wholesale and c anonized, despite his suggestion that they be studied. But the results of this study begin to indicate


46 that though Norths principles have been canonized, they may not reflect practice and may require the very testing North advocates in his article. In add ition, the results of this study indicate a need to further investigate tutor attitudes. It is critical that both theory and practice be researched with the goal of refining both. The current theory may not meet the needs of all writers or all writing cent ers. Tutor attitudes may provide some insight into what methods do meet the needs for all writers. Because tutors tutor primarily with the methods and attitudes modeled to them, such an investigation would be conducive to a better understanding of the real ities of the field as a whole. A further investigation could also illuminate the reasons that writing centers seem to privilege creative writing as an act reserved for advanced writers, and how that privilege creates privilege and disadvantage for writers at all levels. It could also reveal how that privileging affects student, faculty, and administrative attitudes toward writing centers. In retrospect, Beth Boquets history seems to trace the arc swing of a pendulum in writing center methods: At one extrem e is the medicinal clinic/fix it shop and at the other the completely non directive, hands off method. Research and testing of methods along the gamut of possibilities could help to close some of the current gap between writing center canonized theory of m ethods and writing center tutor attitudes and behaviors a change that could help writing center professionals to better meet the needs of all writers. For though our ideals should always be greater than what we can truly accomplish, our goals must always b e to come as close to the ideals as possible.


47 Appendices


48 Appendix A: Survey Invitation The following is a copy of the invitation that was sent out on WCENTER, the Writing Center elist: Dear Centaurs, I'm currently working on a graduate Thesis in Rhetoric and Composition. The focus of my thesis is tutor attitudes toward creative writers in the center. I have created a survey to gather information about this. Anyone (at any level) who tutors in any kind of writing center is invited to take the survey wheth er he/she has worked with creative writers or not. The survey is completely anonymous. It does not ask for names, nor does it track email addresses. I'd like to invite you all (and all of your tutors who are interested) to participate in the survey Your r esponses are greatly appreciated. Just click on the link below to enter the survey http://www. SurveyMonkey .com/s.asp?u=29262410101 Thanks, Leah F. Cassorla Graduate Consultant, USF Writing Center Member at Large, SWCA Executive Board


49 Appendix B: Flowcha rt of Survey The Survey Flowchart follows the order of survey questions included below: Survey Questions: Section 1: Demographics 1. Sex a. Female b. Male 2. Age (please use whole numbers only) 17 3. I am a: a. Grade 9 12 Student b. Undergraduate Student c. Masters Student d. Doct oral Candidate e. Faculty Member f. Staff Member g. Professional Consultant h. Other (please specify) 4. In what kind of institution is your writing center housed (i.e. K 12, 2 year college, technical, 4 year regional etc.)? 17 One respondent wrote in Eighteen. This response was changed to the integer 18 for use in the database.


50 5. How long have you been tutoring in a writing c enter or other tutoring facility? a. <1 year b. 1 5 years c. 6 10 years d. 10 15 years e. 16 20 years f. >20 years Section 2: Definitions 6. How do you define creative writing? 7. Do you consider yourself a creative writer? (Navigation question) a. Yes (Respondents who chose this option continued to the next question) b. No (Respondents who chose this option skipped to the next section) 8. What kind of creative writing do you do? 9. Please describe and evaluate your writing process. Section 3: Tutoring creative writers 10. Have you tutored cr eative writers in a writing center? (Navigation question) a. Yes (Respondents who chose this option continued to the next question) b. No (Respondents who chose this option skipped to section 4) 11. What kind of writers have you tutored?


51 a. Poets b. Fiction Writers c. Creati ve Non Fiction Writers d. More than one of the above (Navigated to screen that asked questions 21 32) e. Other (please specify) (Navigated to screen that asked questions 30 32) 12. Were you comfortable tutoring a poet? a. Yes b. No 13. Please describe your most positive exper ience tutoring a poet. 14. Please describe your most difficult experience tutoring a poet. 15. Were you comfortable tutoring a fiction writer? a. Yes b. No 16. Please describe your most successful experience tutoring a fiction writer. 17. Please describe your most difficult exp erience tutoring a fiction writer. 18. Were you comfortable tutoring a writer of creative non fiction? a. Yes b. No 19. Please describe your most successful experience tutoring a writer of creative non fiction. 20. Please describe your most difficult experience tutoring a w riter of creative non fiction.


52 21. Were you comfortable tutoring a poet? a. Yes b. No c. I havent tutored a poet (if you choose this option, skip the next two questions) 22. Please describe your most successful experience tutoring a poet. 23. Please describe your most difficu lt experience tutoring a poet. 24. Were you comfortable tutoring a fiction writer? a. Yes b. No c. I havent tutored a fiction writer (if you choose this option, skip the next two questions) 25. Please describe your most successful experience tutoring a fiction writer. 26. Ple ase describe your most difficult experience tutoring a fiction writer. 27. Were you comfortable tutoring a writer of creative non fiction? a. Yes b. No c. I havent tutored a writer of creative non fiction (if you choose this option, skip the next two questions) 28. Please describe your most successful experience tutoring a writer of creative non fiction. 29. Please describe your most difficult experience tutoring a writer of creative non fiction.


53 30. Were you comfortable tutoring this kind of writer? a. Yes b. No 31. Please describe your mo st successful experience tutoring this kind of writer. 32. Please describe your most difficult experience tutoring this kind of writer. Section 4: Expected comfort level for those who havent tutored creative writers 33. Would you fell comfortable working with c reative writers? a. Yes b. No c. Other (Please Specify) 34. Please explain (or expand on) your previous answer. Section 5: Training 35. What training do you have for working with creative writers? 36. How would you suggest tutors be trained to tutor creative writers? Thank you for taking the time to answer these questions. I appreciate your feedback. Thanks again! Leah Cassorla


54 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Yes 9


55 No 10 11 Yes No 12 15 18 30 13 16 19 31 32 20 17 14 21 24 27 30 22 25 28 31 32 29 26 23


56 End 33 34 35 36


57 Works Cited Arkin, Marian. Special Projects in LaGuardias Writing Center. Writing Lab N ewsletter 3.2 (1978): 3. Bishop, Wendy. Ethnographic Writing Research: Writing it Down, Writing it Up, and Reading it Portsmouth, NH: Heineman, 1999. Boquet, Elizabeth H. Our Little Secret: A History of Writing Centers, Pre to Post Open Admissions. College Composition and Communication 50.3 (1999): 463 82. Butler, Laura. [wcenter] creative writing in the writing center. Online Posting. 3 March 2004. WCENTER. < bin/ >. ----. [wcenter] Re: creative writing in the writing center. Online Posting. 4 March 2004. WCENTER. < bin/ >. Devenish, Alan. Decentering the Writing Center. Writing Lab Newsletter 18.1 (1993): 4 7. Farrell, Pamela. Guest Artists Add Reverence for Writing. Writing Lab Newsletter 15.8 (1991): 7 8. Hime, Jennifer E. and Karen J. Mowrer. Eight Ways to Tutor Creative Writers. The Dangling Modifier 10.1 (2003) 2 Apr il 2004.


58 LeBlanc, Diane. Teaching Creative Writing in Writing Centers. Writing Lab Newsletter 19.9 (1995): 1 4. Lerner, Neal. [wcenter] Re: creative writing in the writing center. Online Posting. 8 March 2004. WCENTER. < bin/ >. MacNealy, Mary Sue. Strategies for Empirical Research in Writing New York: Longman, 1999. Mason, R., Lind, D., Marchal, B., Statistical Techniques in Business and Economics Special Edition Series: University of Phoenix. Boston: Irwin/McGraw Hill, 1999 Merrill, Laura. [wcenter] Re: creative writing in the writing center. Online Posting. 4 March 2004. WCENTER < bin/ >. Newman, Sylvia. [wcenter] Re: creative writing in the writing center. Online Posting. 3 March 2004. WCENTER. < bin/ >. North, Stephen M. The Idea of a Wr iting Center. College English 46.5 (1984):443 46. ----. Training Tutors to Talk About Writing. College Composition and Communication 33.4 (1982): 434 41. OEDOnline 2004. Oxford English Dictionary. 9 June 2004. < >. Plumb, Carolyn and Jan H. Spyridakis. Survey Research in Technical Communication: Designing and Administering Questionnaires. Technical Communication 39.4 (1992): 625 638.


59 Pobo, Kenneth. Cr eative Writing and the Writing Center. Writing Lab Newsletter 15.6 (1991): 5 7. Truscott, Robert Blake. Tutoring the Advanced Writer in a Writing Center. Writing Lab Newsletter 9.10 (1985): 14 16. Zenger, Amy. [wcenter] Re: creative writing in the wri ting center. Online Posting. 4 March 2004. WCENTER. < bin/ >.


60 Bibliography Adams, Katherine H., and John L. Adams. The Creative Writing Workshop and the Writing Center. Intersections: Theory Practice in the Writing Center Ed. Joan A. Mullin and Ray Wallace. Urbana: NCTE, 1994. 19 24. Birnbaum, Lisa. Becoming a Creative Writing Cent er. Writing Lab Newsletter 20.10 (1996): 6 7. Bishop, Wendy. Teaching Undergraduate Creative Writing: Myths, Mentors and Metaphors. Journal of Teaching Writing 7 (1988): 83 102. Freisinger, Randall R. Creative Writing and Creative Composition. Colleg e English 40.3 (1978): 283 87. Harris, Muriel. Talking in the Middle: Why Writers Need Writing Tutors. College English 57.1 (1995): 27 42. Hollis, Karyn L. Feminism in Writing Workshops: A New Pedagogy. College Composition and Communication 43 (1992 ): 340 48. Lardner, Ted. Locating the Boundaries of Composition and Creative Writing. College Composition and Communication 51.1 (1999): 72 77. Mandel, Barrett, J. The Writer Writing is Not at Home. College Composition and Communication 31.4 (1980): 370 77. Maloney Grimm, Nancy. Rearticulating the Work of the Writing Center. College Composition and Communication 47.4 (1996): 523 48. Strang, Steven. Product and Process: The Author Led Workshop. College Composition and Communication 35.3 (1984): 3 27 33. Welch, Nancy. Playing with Reality: Writing Centers After the Mirror Stage. College Composition and Communication 51.1 (1999): 51 69.

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Tutor attitudes toward tutoring creative writers in writing centers
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ABSTRACT: This study concerns itself with tutor attitudes toward tutoring creative writers in writing centers. In it, I look at these attitudes and compare tutor definitions of creative writing, tutor comfort with tutoring writers, and tutor training. Tutors attitudes toward their training and their beliefs about what training to tutor creative writers should entail tell a great deal about the privileging of creative writing and creative writers in writing centers. This study is an important first step in considering that privileging, its source, and its effects. For the study, tutors completed an online survey. They were not asked for any identifying information, and online software allowing the tracking of IP addresses and email addresses was disabled so that no identifying information could be collected. It is my hope that this study will aid the writing center field in reconsidering the ways in which writing center theory and practice meet, and in constructing a better way to bring ideals and practice together. Because writing center tutors are in a unique position as frontline practitioners and reader/writers of writing center theory, understanding their attitudes is an important step towards lessening the gap between our ideals and our realities.
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tutor attitudes.
writing center.
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