This week, Duke Writes interviews Writing Studio tutors. First up: Patrick Horn, a UNC graduate student, shown here in Key West with his writing buddy, Elvis.
How long have you worked as a writing tutor at Duke?
I’ve worked at the Writing Studio since Spring 2007, so I’m currently in my fourth year as a tutor. I also work as a writing tutor with the Ralph Bunche Summer Institute, which is run through Duke’s Political Science Department and focuses on race and American politics. I have also tutored on a limited basis with Duke’s Sanford Institute of Public Policy. In addition, I teach composition and literature courses at UNC.
Describe your particular approach to tutoring.
My favorite moment in a tutoring session is what I like to call the “Eureka moment,” when a student suddenly realizes the crux of his or her argument, or it crystallizes, or becomes refined–or revolutionized! Not every session has a moment like this, but it happens every once in a while, usually about two-thirds of the way through the session, and it can be really exciting. Light shines in, angels sing, and the world pauses to admire the birth of new genius.
However, even when they don’t contain that moment of epiphany, I consider sessions successful if the writer leaves with a more meaningful or nuanced grasp of his or her overall argument as well as some practical strategies for expressing it.
What is your favorite Writing Studio handout?
The reverse outlining handout, hands down. It has changed the way I think about the revision process. I give it to my students, and I now use reverse outlines in my own writing projects.
How would you describe Duke writers? What are their particular strengths and
I’m not sure if “Duke writers” is a meaningful category, because there are so many different types of writers at Duke, and they don’t seem to share any common “essence.” I think of our customers in other categories: first-year undergraduates (who often come for help with Writing 20 projects; sadly, many forget us when W20 is over), other undergraduates (the ones who didn’t forget), application writers (often juniors or seniors applying to medical or professional schools), international students, and non-native English speakers (these last two categories overlap sometimes, but not always).
Most Duke students (both graduate and undergraduate) are very smart and capable, but that does not automatically make them great writers, and after all, even great writers have to work at it. When I give classroom presentations, I like to tell Duke students about my own misconceptions as an undergraduate at a university similar to Duke. First, I thought I was a great writer, so I didn’t need any help. Second, I thought that the writing center was a place that bad writers got sent, so I was thankful that no one ever suggested I go there. Obviously, I was wrong on both counts. I imagine that my senior thesis would have been a much more impressive product if I had known better, not to mention all the papers I wrote that I’m now ashamed to read–my sophomoric/sophomore effort on Braveheart and Sir Walter Scott comes quickly to mind.
What do you do when you’re not tutoring?
I enjoy playing Candyland with my two-year-old daughter, especially when she doesn’t cheat. I’m planning to train for another triathlon, but it’s difficult to get motivated when one lives so close to Guglhupf.
Where and when can writers find you this semester?
Mondays 7-10 at Lilly, Tuesdays 1-4 at Perkins, and Thursdays 10-4 at the Art building on East campus.
Any last thoughts?
As an aspiring literary critic, I especially enjoy working with students on creative writing projects, both fiction and nonfiction.