Tag Archives: The Consultant Diaries

The Consultant Diaries: If Types of WC Candy Were Types of Writing

One of the best things about The Writing Center is our candy. It’s like a box of chocolates (pun intended)—you never know what you’re going to find each day. Consulting is like a box of chocolates, too. No two appointments are ever the same. There’s always a new client to help and a new piece of writing to help them with. So what if different types of writing were different types of Writing Center candy?

Nerds would be research papers. Nerds go everywhere and you always lose the little bits. With research papers, you lose all the little pieces too: the quotes, the citations, your sanity…

Milky Ways are things you write for non-academic reasons. They don’t have the weight of hardcore candies. They feel light and fluffy, like heavenly clouds, like the types of writing that don’t stress you out.

Laffy Taffies are dissertations. They get stuck in your cheek and you just CAN’T. GET. THEM. OUT. Just like dissertations that hang over your head that you can’t ever escape from.

Mints are reflection papers. Like mints, I find reflection papers refreshing. I like learning about my clients, and reflection papers can be a nice, interesting break from academic papers.

Twix are whatever your favorite pieces of writing are. Twix are my favorite type of candy: they’ve got chocolate AND caramel AND nice crispy wafers. When I’m eating one, I enjoy every moment of it. When I’m helping clients with résumés, too, I completely enjoy it. I love helping them with pieces of writing that could give them new opportunities and potentially change their lives.

What’s your favorite thing to write? What’s your Twix?

The Consultant Diaries: Meet David

Hai! My name’s David, and I’ve been a Writing Center consultant for three months. This is my first consultant diary, so I thought I would talk about what I find most rewarding about this wonderful job.

When I transferred to Michigan State last fall, I came to The Writing Center mainly looking for a steady university job that put my writing skills to use. Coming from spending a year at my last college’s newspaper publication as a section editor and writer, I imagined working in a writing center to be very similar to my work at the (shameless plug) White Pine Press.

Boy was I wrong.

The day I visited Bessey Hall to find out how to join up, a workshop was being conducted for what I assume to be a group of freshmen teaching them what the writing center was. As I waited to meet with our receptionist, Cathy, I passively listened to the workshop taking place. ‘Is this all I’m going to be doing here?’ I thought, suddenly immensely grateful for taking a Public Speaking class in the spring. But when I was told I would be required to enroll in a 3 credit class as part of my training to become a writing consultant, my expectations went from simple presentations explaining writing styles and grammar rules to something much, much bigger. Continue reading

The Consultant Diaries: On Being a Client

A few days ago, I went to The Writing Center as a client. I was working on a cover letter for a summer internship and I wanted it to be absolutely perfect. I anxiously showed it to my consultant-friend, and she said that what was missing was what I would contribute to the company while working there.

I tried to think of what I could contribute, but I literally couldn’t think of anything. My brain was completely empty. My consultant-friend was patient and kind and helpful. And I felt like she was my personal trainer who kicked my butt during a workout.

The next day, I was consulting a client who had the same problem. She just couldn’t think of anything to write. She was totally stuck. I felt like I was watching myself from the day before. I remembered how I had felt—frustrated, lost, and slightly embarrassed. Being able to empathize with her made me feel like I could be more patient. And remembering how my consultant-friend had helped me made me feel like I could be more helpful.

So, to get up on my soapbox, I hereby announce that all consultants need to be clients every once in a while. For one, it allows you to observe other consultants and learn from them. And more importantly, it reminds you that you are working with people—not robots—who are just like you.

The Consultant Diaries: Learning about Being Quiet

Hey there! Welcome to my very first Consultant Diaries post. I’m Erica, and I’ve been working at The Writing Center for exactly one semester (and a half).

I absolutely love working at The Writing Center. It’s not a boring on-campus job where you’re doing the same thing every day. I mean, you kind of do the same thing every day (you consult people, obviously), but each consultation is different and there’s something new to learn from every single one.

This week, I’ve learned about the importance of being quiet, of sitting back and letting the client think or just take off writing. In WRA 395, the class you take to become a consultant here, we called this “letting the client lead the session.”

For instance, the other day I had a client who wanted help writing a cover letter. She had never written a cover letter before, so I spent a few minutes explaining the general requirements for content and organization. The client took notes while I explained all this. Then suddenly, she dove in and started writing her intro paragraph. I just sat there and let her write. She got stuck and asked me for advice. I gave her some, and then she started writing again. So I sat there and let her write. And so we continued for most of the session.

It felt weird just sitting there because I didn’t feel like I was helping the client. But then I realized that what I was really doing was letting her follow her own writing process. And that always leads to the most success.

Those are my words of wisdom for the week. I’ll be back in a couple weeks. Until then, drink some tea, write a lot, and come say hi to us at The Writing Center! If you’re lucky, there will be chocolate in the bowl on the counter. =)

Brienna and Cassandra Reborn: A Second Entry

Bri eating some playdoh. Cassie looking on in judgment Brienna and Cassandra, pull free from the persistent claws of death and continue their pursuit of honest consulting. They have learned their lesson with classy brandy and have thus taken up a new vice, play-doh. It is not that they eat it, nor liquify it and apply it to steaks as a salty sauce, no, they roll it…constantly.

Cassandra: I think I like play-doh better than brandy. (She rolls her play doh into a slug.)

Brienna: yes…there is a certain peace to it. (she rolls one slowly into a blue log then very suddenly slams her fist down, flattening the perfect roll before starting again.)

Cassandra: Yes it makes me think about all the consultations that I’ve done. Although I have to admit, not all of them went well.

Every now and then, consultants come to a point where they can go no farther with a client. Cassandra and I have tagged this moment as the ‘failure moment’. While it isn’t technically failure, it tends to give the consultant a similar feeling.

Brienna: The good thing about play-doh, is that there is no failure. If you screw up, you just start again and reform it. I think this method can be applied to consulting.

Cassandra: In what way? I don’t think you can start over an appointment just because it’s not going well.

Brienna: Well, start over no, but reform your approach, definitely. Just as you might reform the play-doh when the dog you were making looks more like a demon grandma.

Cassandra:That makes sense, because I had to do the same thing when I failed in my first consultation. It did not go well…

Brienna: Please Cassandra, tell me more…(she makes a lopsided house, then smashes it with her hand and starts again).

Cassandra: Well a client came in asking for me to review his paper. I looked over his paper and saw a lot of inconsistencies, and when I pointed them out I don’t think he understood. I tried to explain in multiple ways but I think that only made things worse. It could be because he wasn’t a native speaker, but I took it as me not being able to explain my reasonings well enough. Continue reading

The Consultant Diaries: Introducing Brienna and Cassandra

Two consultants stand on the brink of an epiphany. They sit in silence, staring at the wall above the others head, considering where to begin the budding saga of their consultant careers. Brienna twists the top off a brandy decanter and pours the amber liquid into a sifter, only missing the glass once. She swirls it, sniffs it, coughs, and hesitantly trickles the warm liquid into her mouth, hiding a grimace unsuccessfully. Cassandra rolls her eyes at her comrade’s lack of class and snatches the decanter from her hands tossing back a blazing mouthful of the fiery liquid.

The brandy heightens their senses and they tumble into enlightenment.

This is their revelation.

Cassandra: I never had an official interview before I started working at The Writing Center, so when I came here and started consulting I felt like a fish out of water at first, as if I didn’t belong there. (Her eyes glaze over in thought.)

Brienna: (She swirls her glass, and puts on an air of civility). I started off second guessing myself at every turn. I asked myself (and continue to do so) questions like “am I qualified to do this”, and “will this screw up their paper?” It took me at least 10 consultations before I remembered that I was more than capable of helping people spice up their papers. How did you feel Cassandra?

Cassandra: I think for me, I was more worried that other consultants would think I’m doing it wrong. I felt that they were listening in on my consultations, and I wasn’t measuring up as a consultant. Sounds stupid, I know, but I didn’t have confidence at first so I assumed other people were judging me for it. Now I know  it was just me being stupid.

Brienna: I love seeing how other people write, it is one of the main reasons why I was so attracted to the publishing field initially. I love that every person in the world has a story and their own way of telling it.

Cassandra: Me too! I even read some stories that made me want to cry. There were others whose stories so closely mirrored my own experiences, that I felt we shared a bond. That we were long lost kindred spirits.

Brienna: I know! I can’t believe some of the things that people have gone through in their lives. I am baffled by what some people have gone through just to get here (MSU).

Cassandra: But I’m grateful for the opportunity to learn these things. I swear I learn something new from them everyday. It’s not just them learning how to be a better writer, but I’m also learning how to be a better consultant.

Brienna: I agree with that wholeheartedly. Working as a consultant has given me so many opportunities to learn. Not just factual data, but writing styles, and consulting tips that can really help me articulate my thoughts to the writer. I have also gotten a glimpse into the stories of many international students. I feel like I can understand their position better now because of it. Continue reading

The Consultant Diaries

pic of Corrine V.As a graduating senior, I’m approaching the end of my time at The Writing Center.  I honestly can’t believe it’s already been a year, but time flies when you’re eating candy and playing with toys… I mean, working and consulting.  But let’s face it, I’ve been eating candy and playing with toys while consulting, it’s a pretty good deal.

What I didn’t realize when I first signed up for Writing Center Theory, WRA 395, two years ago was the amount of experience I would gain in just one year as a consultant.  And I don’t just mean another job to add to my resume.  Through working one-on-one with clients I have gained more listening and critical thinking skills.  I mean, I cannot zone out when someone is counting on me to help them with their personal statement that may or may not get them into graduate school.  I’ve also gained a broader understanding of the variety of cultures at MSU.  Before working at The Writing Center, I knew that MSU had students from all over the world, but by working with them, I have been able to meet some of them and hear their stories.  That’s, honestly, one of my favorite aspects of working here, just constantly meeting new students and hearing about their experiences.

What I also didn’t realize, even at my interview with Trixie and Dianna, was how many other professional development opportunities I would have.  After giving about five workshops this semester, I can now get up in a room full of students and give a workshop without having a mini panic attack.  I can also honestly say I’ve been to a conference, I don’t think it’s necessary to add that I only talked for about five minutes.  But I now know how a conference works and am better prepared for any future ones that I may attend in graduate school.

Overall, it has been a good year.  I’ve gained valuable experience while enjoying a relaxed, easy going environment.  And I’ve had the opportunity to spill my guts about it every couple of weeks while writing this blog.  So if you enjoy writing, candy, and toys and want to gain some awesome experience work at The Writing Center or even just come visit.

The Consultant Diaries

pic of Corrine V.Consultants periodically get to go to writing Center conferences.  We can go to one just for the experience and then we can go to more if we are presenting.  I recently went to the Eastern Central Writing Center Association (ECWCA) conference and presented with the rest of the Website team (the Koalas) in good old Clarion, Pennsylvania.

After a lovely five and a half hour drive, we arrived in a beautiful rainy Pennsylvania and then had some delicious pizza… well some people had salad with fries on top.  The presentations started bright and early Friday morning with poster presentations.  The koalas presented at two and we were pretty awesome if I may say so myself.  As a panel we discussed the website itself, the content, and social media.  I specifically talked about the Consultant Diaries and why I chose to write them and how I go about doing so.  Overall, it was a good experience that again showed me a different aspect of consulting at our Writing Center.

The Consultant Diaries

pic of Corrine V.So I just recently gave a Digital Video workshop and failed miserably with correctly displaying the videos on our Smartboard.  This only goes to show that consultants are not good at everything.  But hey, we try!  And working with the class instructor, we were able to come up with an effective solution to share everyone’s videos on the small screens.

I feel like a constant part of the consulting job is to find alternate solutions to problems.  Even when a client comes in with a paper that has already been reviewed by their instructor, we work to try and find alternate ways to improve a sentence or the content.  If an appointment is going well, we must alter our strategies to best fit the client.  Every person that comes into The Writing Center is different.  They have different work, needs, wants, plans, etc., so when working with different clients we have to constantly alter consulting strategies to best fit the situations.  Similar to having to alter a workshop to make sure people are able to share their videos with their classmates.

The Consultant Diaries

pic of Corrine V.There are many good things about being a Consultant, but one of my personal favorites is the mass amounts of candy.  Whenever I have a sweet tooth, which is rather often, I seem to have candy at my fingertips.  I always have a dessert after my lunch and a pick-me-up when I’m tired.

Since Valentine’s Day, I have come to work at The Writing Center only to find a delicious bowl of Valentine’s Day candy beckoning me.  It is quite possible that this wondrous bowl has caused a little bit of weight gain and a whole lot of sugar rushes, but I still check it every time I walk through the doors of 300 Bessey.  My personal favorites lately have been the Mini Crunch Bars and the Strawberry Chocolate Doves, but Lifesavers and Laffy Taffys are always great too.

But seriously, if you ever get a hankering for candy, don’t bother buying any, just come see us at The Writing Center.  I mean, what more can you ask for? We’ll help you with your writing and give you candy.