Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Now Taking Walk-Ins!

Hey Roxy fans! Things have been so rad at the Stone Writing Center that I haven’t had a chance to break away and update y’all. I haven’t even had time to catch a wave! Why? The Stone Writing Center now offers walk-in tutoring, and we are super stoked! If you need help with a writing assignment for any class, drop by the SWC on the fourth floor of the White Library. We have lots of tutors that can help you.

Our hours:
Monday – Thursday, 8a – 7p
Friday, 8a – 1p
Saturday, 10a – 3p

Can’t tear yourself away from the beach? Remember that Del Mar College students have access to our Online Tutoring Program. You can access OTP from our website at www.delmar.edu/swc.

Still have questions? Email us at swc@delmar.edu or call us at 361.698.1364.

See you next time the breeze is cool, the sun is up, and the waves roll into view! ‘Til then, hang ten!

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Defeating the Dreaded Deadline Doom

As final exams are upon us, this will be my last entry of the semester.

On a good day at the beach, it’s easy to lose awareness of time. Whether it’s swimming, enjoying the sand and the water, or sharing time with friends, time can move more quickly than we expect. When this happens, it isn’t long before the sun goes down, and the nice day at the beach is gone.

As good students, we should be aware of the passage of time. Because semesters often pass quickly, it’s always a good idea to manage your time as carefully as possible.

However, there may be times when there isn’t much choice but to work at the last minute. This is not always a time management problem. Sometimes circumstances arise beyond of our control. When this happens, your remaining time left becomes all the more important.

First of all, it’s important not to feel too rushed or panicked by the approaching deadline. Fear and stress are understandable, and they may even be used to help motivate you. However, they can also undermine your productivity and well-being. As you approach the assignment, don’t neglect to take care of yourself as well.

When writing on a short deadline, set a list of priorities for yourself. Focus first on the essentials. For instance, make certain you know the most important elements of the assignment, and do your best to deliver these. If there’s a set page count, think about how much you must write to meet the length requirement. Also consider any content requirements set in the assignment. If the prompt asks for a discussion of literary elements, then each literary element should be discussed in the paper. Consider your assignment prompt carefully and make certain that you’ve included all the required content before turning your attention to anything else.

However, the most important priority when facing a looming deadline is in getting the essay written. While you shouldn’t neglect grammar concerns, especially major errors like fragments and run-on sentences, you first need an essay to revise. Focus on getting a rough draft finished first. If you do have time to do some revision, consider content first, then look at major grammatical concerns before moving to the smaller ones.

Best of luck on your finals!

See you next time the breeze is cool, the sun is up, and the waves roll into view! ‘Til then, hang ten!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

For Future Reference

Although an umbrella may provide shade, it doesn’t cover every area on the beach. It’s similarly difficult to cover every aspect of MLA citation in a simple reference. The current edition of the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers adds up to 292 pages in its entirety, and it covers a wide range of research topics. However, it is possible to account for the most common kinds of sources you might encounter in an essay.

In addition to citing books, newspapers, journals, and web sources, you may eventually need to cite a personal interview. This includes face-to-face interviews as well as phone interviews. When citing an interview in-text, you would only need to cite the last name of the person you interviewed in parentheses. In the Works Cited page, you must include the name of the person you spoke to, the fact that it’s a personal interview, and the date the interview took place. For instance:

Smith, John. Personal interview. 1 April 2014.

If the interview was conducted by phone, you would need to cite it as ‘Telephone interview’ instead. MLA expects this information for the purpose of accuracy and completeness. While telephone interviews are not common in college writing, personal interviews are sometimes required for assignments.

Another possible source you may have to eventually cite is a movie. Sometimes you will need to analyze film, much as you might interpret a novel or a poem. At other times, you may be asked to contrast historical events with a Hollywood film. In those cases, you would cite the film under MLA rules.

When citing a film in a Works Cited, you would only need the following information: the title (in italics), the film’s director, the distributor, the year of release, and the medium of publication. You may also include the names of the lead actors, the screenwriter, or the producer if they’re available and relevant. A typical film citation might look like this:

Gravity. Dir. Alfonso Cuaron. Perf. Sandra Bullock and George Clooney. 
          Warner Bros. Pictures, 2013. Film.

The medium will depend on the specific source you used: Film, DVD, Blu-Ray, Slide program, or Filmstrip. However, you must include other information if you viewed the film on a streaming website such as Netflix. When citing a movie published online, include the name of the website (in italics), list “Web” as medium of publication, and include the date of access. The citation would then include the following:

Gravity. Dir. Alfonso Cuaron. Perf. Sandra Bullock and George Clooney. 
          Warner Bros. Pictures, 2013. Netflix. Web. 14 April 2014.

Finally, when citing a movie in the body of your essay, it is preferable to do so without a parenthetical citation. Cite the film in italics as you discuss it, but make sure you include the film’s name in your sentences as you paraphrase what takes place.

See you next time the breeze is cool, the sun is up, and the waves roll into view! ‘Til then, hang ten!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The Play’s The Thing

On the surface, the beach might seem like a natural stage. In some sense, it is. Any setting is nothing more than a backdrop for human drama. When looking at a play, a literary critic is trying to see the meaning that lurks beneath the words on the page. The play, like any form of literature, is a pool that can reflect human emotions and timeless ideas.

Although analyzing a play may seem similar to other forms of literature, be aware of the intended purpose and audience. Unlike prose or poetry, a play is not meant to be simply written and absorbed by a reader. A play is designed to be performed for an audience, and any analysis should at least consider this. Consequently, there are visual and auditory components to a play that text alone cannot duplicate. This does not make the form better or worse than others, but it has distinctive elements that a literary analyst should consider.

Firstly, a play will not have the same level of vivid description that a prose story will, although it may include classic literary elements. A play will generally include setting information and stage directions, though these will usually be very brief. Because of the shortage of detail, the reader must determine how the stage directions should be interpreted.

Different readers will imagine the setting and the action in various ways. For instance, one recent BBC interpretation of Hamlet imagined Hamlet’s father and uncle as twin brothers, which allowed one actor to play as both characters. While there is nothing in the original play to suggest that Shakespeare ever intended this, it also doesn’t contradict anything Shakespeare wrote. Different performances will interpret the script and stage directions differently, which any analysis of the play should be able to account for.

A modern performance of a classic play will take liberties with the original script. Sometimes the differences will be based in the performance itself. For instance, in Shakespeare’s day, female characters were portrayed by male actors. A modern performance of Romeo and Juliet would not be performed that way today.

In addition, modern interpretations of a timeless play will often cast the story in a new light.  A character that was treated as heroic centuries ago might be seen as deeply flawed today, since social views have evolved after the play was written. A modern performance might even update the setting to modern times, so the story may change to reflect the new setting.

Part of the reason that many plays are studied for centuries is that they may be interpreted in many different ways. Any literary analysis of a play should be able to find a new way to look at a work that has lasted the test of time. Account for the elements that make a play distinctive, and the analysis explores a deeper layer of meaning.

See you next time the breeze is cool, the sun is up, and the waves roll into view! ‘Til then, hang ten!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Closing Arguments

Sometimes it's hard to leave the beach after a great day of surfing. If the sun is going down, it may be a good idea to head home. One of the most important skills to master in writing is knowing when it's time to leave. If you’re writing an essay, you’ll want to be aware of the pace of the essay and understand how long you should stay as well as finding the best time to leave. Don't overstay your welcome. 

Consider writing a conclusion as much like being a guest in someone else’s home. While you don’t want to leave the scene too early, as that may cause offense or concern, you also don’t want to stay too late and impose on your host. Consider your audience, then, to be your host, and always try to consider what the audience needs when deciding how long you should stay.

Admittedly, it’s often difficult to decide how long you should stay for your audience, and you may not easily know the right answer. Some readers may expect more and some may expect less. However, with practice and experience at writing, you may gain enough of a sense of audience awareness that you can guess. Sometimes it may just “feel right” to leave at a certain time.

Still, there’s always a balance that any writer should consider when deciding when to finish an essay. A sentence or two will not be sufficient for several reasons. Think about the flow of your paragraphs and how much you’re giving the reader in each paragraph. Is what you’ve written enough to keep an easy rhythm between your paragraphs, or are you just stopping because you don’t believe you have enough to say? Consider whether adding to your conclusion might also add balance and flow.

Also think about the visual space in your paragraphs as you’re writing them. If your body paragraph is a wall of text that consumes over a page, then an overly short paragraph won’t look satisfying in comparison. The reader should be able to see that there are new thoughts that help give shape to the conclusion, and the shape should look balanced against your introduction as well as your body paragraphs.

Finally, any good conclusion should deliver that final strong sentence that should wrap up your content. The final sentence should never leave the reader wanting more, but should instead answer all of the reader’s remaining questions. Does the conclusion feel like it just suddenly stops, or does it guide the reader towards a satisfying close? The final sentence should speak with power and leave nothing left to be said.

See you next time the breeze is cool, the sun is up, and the waves roll into view! ‘Til then, hang ten!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Getting Personal

While the beach is always a place for surfing and swimming, there are times when it’s important to stop a moment, enjoy nature, and reflect. Sometimes a walk along the beach can be a personal journey of discovery, and you might learn more about yourself by taking the first step.               

The act of writing can often reveal more about the writer than about the topic itself. A personal essay might be used to release the writer’s own concerns or frustrations in a constructive way. When Stephen King wrote The Shining, it flowed from his own past with alcoholism. In this way, a poem or a short story can often reflect the inner world of the writer as well. Sometimes writing can raise and answer questions that the writer doesn’t intend to necessarily share with the world, but may address issues that can still connect with an audience.

When you write anything, it will inevitably be some kind of reflection of yourself as a person. Sometimes you may do this consciously because you have something to say about your own experiences, as with a personal narrative. At other times, you may unintentionally draw on yourself during the writing process. While this may seem a bit frightening, this is a perfectly normal process. We typically write what we know, and it’s generally true that we know ourselves best. Indeed, it can often be difficult to distance yourself from a piece of writing.

The good news is that this revealing aspect of writing can be used for your own benefit. If you’re not certain about why you’re drawn to a topic, or why you’re feeling blocked, you can always freewrite to answer those questions. Find some time to write in a quiet space; this can be at home or even in a peaceful space at the beach. Once you’re settled, just make a commitment to keep writing nonstop, not pausing for even spelling or grammar. Search yourself for answers as you write, keeping in mind the questions you want to ask yourself.

Writing is a personal act. By knowing why a piece of writing is important to you, it becomes stronger. The world may never know the answer to your personal question, but it’s important that you alone know that answer. The answer should be able to drive your writing along until you reach your final draft.

See you next time the breeze is cool, the sun is up, and the waves roll into view! ‘Til then, hang ten!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

A Question of Style

Although MLA Works Cited pages or APA references lists may seem unimportant, consider them like leaving marks in the sand for others to find. When other people want to retrace your steps on the beach, they need marking points to identify the path you’ve taken. Citations are the bread crumbs that writers leave to clearly mark the direction the research has gone.

Each citation style has been developed by professional organizations that expect specific standards by those in their disciplines. The Modern Language Association (MLA) is concerned with citations that are relevant with the humanities, such as literary essays and other English papers. The American Psychological Association (APA) is a scientific organization that concerns itself especially with the social sciences; their style reflects that focus.

When comparing MLA and APA, they appear not to agree. Those differences reflect the standards set by those organizations. MLA does not require URL addresses in the Works Cited page, though specific instructors may request URLs from their students. Instead, MLA only requires that the essay’s author list whether a source is “Web” or “Print”. The humanities are less concerned with where the information came from than the general source. APA, however, will ask for the URL address as well as the date of access, since scientific information requires rigorous testing and exactitude.

Similarly, APA will require the year of publication of each source in the body of the essay, while MLA does not. Indeed, APA considers the year of publication so important that this information is always the second piece of information cited in an APA references list. Because APA has a scientific focus, scientific writers must look at the year of publication to determine how current it is since they want to know the information sourced is still true and reliable. Because scientific understanding is always changing with each new discovery, a scientific writer must always consider whether information has changed since publication.

Even the basic formatting of the essays will be noticeably different. MLA usually will not require a cover page, though some instructors may ask for one. APA, however, will usually require one, and they are looking for specific information such as the author’s name, the title, and the name of the institution you’re writing for. (For instance, if you’re writing the essay for a DMC instructor, the institution is Del Mar College.) There may be other information you’ll have to provide as well, depending on your instructor’s expectations.

That having been said, the two styles can be deceptively similar in many other respects. When using MLA or APA, be aware of the specific rules, using a style guide as needed to develop the proper citations. Each style adopts its rules for specific reasons, and you should be aware of those reasons when you cite those sources.

See you next time the breeze is cool, the sun is up, and the waves roll into view! ‘Til then, hang ten!