Got Writer’s Block? Visit the Scarborough Writing Center!

The 2019-2020 Scarborough Writing Center staff!

I’m writing this article as I sink into one of the blue comfy chairs at the Scarborough Center for Writing (SCW) in Abell Library. I haven’t scheduled an appointment, but the tutors display enthusiasm and patience as I ask questions and seek reassurance about my writing.
I love the imagery you’re using in the first sentence. You’ve definitely captured your audience’s attention really well. Where do you want to go next in your article? 
Hmm . . . I’m not sure.
What’s the purpose of your article? Maybe you want to explain how the SCW works and address concerns students may have about writing centers. How do you think those ideas would work in your article?
If you were like me before I began using the SCW, you may have believed that writing centers:

  • Just proofread;
  • Will help you get an A;
  • Only help with papers, not emails or personal statements for applications; and/or
  • That all their appointments work the same because the tutors only tutor their way.

As Austin College continues to implement more writing into its curriculum–students need one Foundation Writing (FW) and two Advanced Writing (AW) credits to graduate–you need to know the truth:

1. The SCW helps all writers with any form of writing during any stage of their writing process.

All writers struggle. Every writer has frustratingly stared at a blank page; when we fill the page with ideas, we wonder if we’ve thought critically enough and provided good supporting details, and we question the paper’s flow, organization, and creativity. Good writing requires patience and, in many cases, a second set of eyes.

One of the writing tutors, Erin (pictured right), working with a student!

“A lot people feel like they need to have a finished piece of writing in order to come to the Writing Center,” says Sam Marsh, one of the peer writing assistants. “While we do love looking at drafts with writers, we are here to help out with writing in all stages and forms! I often schedule sessions just do brainstorming.”
Dr. Lisha Daniels Storey, the Director of the Scarborough Center for Writing, adds this: “The Scarborough Center for Writing is a dedicated space for AC students to gather and talk about writing. Peer writing assistants are available to provide free help for any kind of writing for any course in any discipline. We work with writers in the sciences and social sciences, as well as those writing in history or literature. And we can help at any point in the writing process—you don’t have to have a completed draft in order to see us. Sometimes talking about your ideas at the beginning of the process can be productive.
“This isn’t a red pen-wielding editor type of operation: it’s peer writing support, which means you get to talk about your writing project with a fellow writer who’s there to listen, to be a reader for your writing, and to help you strategize—without judgment . . . In addition to academic writing, we also work with writers on personal statements for fellowship applications and graduate and professional schools. ”

2. The SCW isn’t just for grammar.

Don’t get me wrong–grammar plays a significant role in communicating language. But as Dr. Storey considers “. . . all that writing entails—planning, generating ideas, drafting, revising, analyzing evidence, organizing (and reorganizing), working with different citation styles—you get a better sense of the many ways that peer writing assistants can support students.”
Sam reaffirms this idea by noting that “. . . [t]he Writing Center is here to help students at Austin College with any writing projects they’re working on. We like to develop skills that students can transfer between writing projects and help people think more about their relationship with writing.”

Sarah and Sam love being tutors!

3. Every appointment works differently.

This holds true because all writers think and work differently! When students schedule an appointment at the SCW, they tell the tutor what they want to work on–they create goals and lead the conversation. The Scarborough Center is not monolithic; it doesn’t teach a specific writing process but rather works with the strategies that students have already adopted. The peer writing assistants facilitate the writing process by helping students shape a positive attitude toward the writing and learning process and while avoiding dominating the conversation or assuming control over one’s paper.
“We treat every appointment case-by-case,” says Sarah Harper, another peer writing assistant. “Sometimes we work on doing an outline. Sometimes we completely change an essay around, and sometimes we just act as someone’s moral support.”

4. The SCW will improve your writing and help you become a better writer.

You probably felt thrown off by the myth listed above that reads, “Writing centers will help you get an A.” One purpose of the SCW is to improve your writing and make you a better writer long-term. Sarah says, “Our main goal as tutors is that students leave feeling more confident about their writing than when they first came in, and we count that as a success.” I’d count that as a success, too! Do you?

Students also use the SCW as a study space!

Dr. Storey says, “The Writing Center demonstrates Austin College’s commitment to writing education, a commitment that’s also evident in the College’s writing curriculum and the writing-rich courses that students take across the disciplines. We recognize that writing is a social (rather than a solitary) endeavor, and that learning to write effectively for different situations is an ongoing process for everyone.”
Each spring, students interested in becoming peer writing assistants take Tutoring Writing: Theory and Practice (WRT 285). According to the SCW’s website page on Austin College, “In this course, peer writing assistants will develop and refine knowledge of theories of writing, writing center theory and pedagogy, writing processes and writing strategies, and rhetorical and genre knowledge for writing in different disciplines and contexts.” Additionally, students will observe peer tutoring sessions at the SCW.
Sam says he became a tutor “. . . because I had always enjoyed reading other people’s essays and critiquing them because I got to learn something new and help someone out at the same time! It was a win-win situation. Because of this, I thought I would enjoy tutoring at the writing center.” He adds, “People write a lot every day, and often times they don’t even think about it! It might seem really complicated, but it’s good to think about how you think about writing. Do you love it? Do you hate it? It’s probably a mix of both, but pinpointing the ‘why’s’ of what you like and dislike about writing can help you to have a more positive relationship with writing.”

After I finish meeting with a tutor, the tutor reaffirms my confidence, and I leave that blue comfy chair feeling that I am a better writer. Now, it’s your turn to schedule an appointment.
To make a free 45-minute appointment, visit Once you register for an account, you can schedule a session with your favorite tutor and learn what hours the SCW operates. You can also stop by to ask questions, use the tutors as sounding boards, or look at reference books and resources.

Hours of operation:
Mon 1-8pm | Tues 11am-9pm | Wed 1-8pm | Thurs 11am-7pm | Fri 11am-4pm | Sat closed | Sun 2-5pm
Social media:
Follow the Scarborough Writing Center on Instagram or Facebook at @scwaustincollege or on Twitter at @ac_scw!

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