Writing center hosts school-wide writing contest


Nehal Chakraborty

During a tutoring session at the Writing Center, sophomore Sarah Luthra helps out a tutee with a homework assignment.

The Writing Center is opening up a school-wide quarterly writing competition that welcomes all kinds of writing around the school to spur interest amongst students to partake in the 8th period club. This provides writers with the chance to experiment with diverse writing styles and genres and submit them for a chance to gain recognition. Contestants can take part in the Writing Center competition and, unlike most writing competitions and school assignments, step out of their comfort zone free from any kind of repercussions and without their grade being impacted. All authors have the chance to showcase their skills in a stress-free environment.


“We’re thinking that we can host an annual or quarterly award and has a couple different categories like poetry, persuasive writing, short stories,” Writing Center tutor Sarah Luthra said. “Then we can ask people to submit their and work, and a team, including myself and a couple other tutors, can review them and give an award. We can open it up to every in the school, freshmen to seniors.”


The Writing Center board members and tutors are planning to organize this contest to increase school-wide awareness of the invaluable experience that the Writing Center can offer to students.


“Not only will [the quarterly award] promote the Writing Center and the services we offer, but it’s also just so that people can try something that they might not have tried before,” Luthra said. “I know that people are apprehensive about writing poetry, but if they see this place where they can submit their poem with any repercussions, they may even win. A lot of people are talented, they’re just not willing to step out of their comfort zone.”


The board members of the writing club are working on the logistics of this award and taking into account the various categories, prizes, and also when to kick off this effort.


“I’ve been working with the board to initiate this project,” Luthra said. “It’s an idea that I originally had and it’s just a way for people to get involved with more writing and be aware of what other people are writing in our TJ community.”


The Writing Center as a club is where students at TJ can get advice on pieces from experienced tutors. In a typical week at the center, tutors have the opportunity to encounter a diversity of genres and purposes from the tutees that come in.


“The main goal of the Writing Center is not only to bring people of all different grade levels together to bond over something that we all have to do, but it’s also just to offer advice, experience, and anecdotes from tutors,” Luthra said. “It can also help people get a better sense of the flow of their papers or find their voice or just feel better about their writing in general.”


The Writing Center, however, is not only for those who significantly need aid with the mechanics of an essay. Writers often times utilize this center to exchange ideas or get their writing revised by a second pair of eyes.

“The biggest misconception that people have is that the Writing Center is only for struggling writers, but you don’t have to be bad at writing to be here,” Luthra said. “In fact, a lot of the people who come through our Writing Center are some of the best writers in the school, and they just want a second glance at their paper.”


Not all tutor-tutee pairs work on essays assigned by their English teachers.


“I have a lot of kids come in with different interests and genres of writing they bring in,” Oliva Johann, a Writing Center board member, said. “It’s not always for school, sometimes it for competitions. Sometimes, I get a set of poems for scholastic competitions, sometimes I’ve gotten a school analytical essay.”


And, to even become a tutor at the center, students must go through an extensive application process to ensure that they are a good fit for being a Writing Center tutor. This way, every single tutee that walks into the room will be in qualified hands.


“The way I became a tutor was my freshman English teacher, Dr. Boswell, recommended me to be a tutor for the center because she saw that I might be interested in such an opportunity through my English assignments,” Luthra said. “Once I was recommended, I received an email with an application with a couple essay questions, such as why you want to be a Writing Center tutor and what previous experience to you have with helping other people. We also had to submit a piece that we’d written in the past do demonstrate our writing capabilities.”


After being selected to become a Writing Center tutor, selectees will go through multiple training sessions, which consist of workshops about how to most effectively boost the writing style of tutees.


“In the first weeks of school we had a Writing Center tutor training and they taught us how to tutor someone, all the logistics, and how to help,” Luthra said.


One may think that the Writing Center enhances the writing of only the people who come in seeking advice, but the tutors themselves often feel they improve the flow of their own writing by regularly catching other students’ mechanical errors and helping tutees expand their vocabulary.


“I think my writing has improved tremendously by tutoring other people. When I’m tutoring someone, I see common mistakes that they make and I see that I could’ve made that mistake too,” Luthra said. “Just going through the motions of having to edit someone’s paper and talking to them about ideas helps me when I’m writing to develop my voice and my style.”


Johann also realized that through the writing club, she has been able to gain a broader insight of how diverse TJ is in terms of writing.  


“The tutors themselves get to see what type of writing is out in TJ. I got to read all these papers for free, it’s great. It helps my writing process and helps me reflect on my writing,” Johann said.


The Writing Center is welcome to anyone: any student can walk in to learn from peers who have similar interests or are in the same situation as them, while at the same time, getting advice from other experienced writers. And hosting this writing contest could entice writers of various levels to come to leverage the benefits of the Writing Center.


“The main reason I wanted to do this is to get people who aren’t in the writing center or who don’t usually come to not only know that there is a writing center but also to step out of their comfort, experiment, and write something new,” Luthra said.


Overall, all students are encouraged to try out a session at the Writing Center, as it could help them realize the presence of nearby resources for help and also of their own capabilities.

“I think that the Writing Center is a really good opportunity for everyone in the school to come together to exchange ideas because there are some really amazing ideas that float around in this room,” Luthra said. “If only people knew what was in store for them when they come. A lot of people come in apprehensive, but leave excited, because of what we Writing Center tutors can do for them.”