Joiya BrightwellJoiya Brightwell [View Image]
Class year: Senior
About me: Hi, I'm Joiya! I was born in sunny Florida and moved to Virginia when I was 13. I moved to Richmond when I was 18 to attend VCU. I love it here and plan on sticking around for another few years! Both reading and writing have been two hobbies of mine since I learned how to do them. Other hobbies of mine include: cooking, playing with my dog (Chloe), and going hiking.
Fun fact: I was born with a hole on the top of my ears! (Weird, I know)
My favorite book: Beloved by Toni Morrison because it is such a complex book and I get something different out of it every time I read it.
I feel most comfortable writing: Personal statements and personal essays
I believe the hardest aspect of the writing process is: Actually starting! I never know where to begin because I always have so many different ideas at once.
Mattie SquireMattie Squire [View Image]
Major: Communication Arts
Class year: Junior/non-traditional student
About me: I'm back in school for art after getting my Master's in Biology and working as a field biologist, teacher, and lab manager for several years. My favorite part about working at the writing center is having a chance to help clients on a wide variety of writing projects, given my background in creative work and science. The intersection of art/writing, nature, and social justice is also something I hope to continue exploring through my studies and career.
Fun fact: I got into cycling in 2019 when I had to do a 250 mile bikepacking trip through Appalachia as training for an outdoor guiding job. Now I find that long rides on my bike really help my creative process.
My favorite book: I really love the works of Mary Oliver--no one quite speaks to the way I love nature quite like her poetry does. I'm also a huge fan of N. K. Jemisin's Broken Earth trilogy for her ability to build such incredible characters and worlds. For similar reasons, Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples' comic series Saga is another favorite.
I feel most comfortable writing: I have a background that includes scientific lab reports, article and grant writing, as well as creative writing for short stories, longer works, and comics (fiction and non-fiction). I also love helping folks write personal statements for graduate school, medical/dental/nursing/etc. school, and scholarships. I am a generalist who can probably help with most things except poetry.
I believe the hardest aspect of the writing process is: Often just starting for me is the hardest aspect. I'm a ruminator — I like to mull over ideas forever before committing anything to paper. Despite this, I find that getting started and writing things out is when my ideas really come together.
Hannah CollinsHannah Collins [View Image]
Major: English M.A. Candidate
Class year: Second Year
About me: I am a second-year English MA candidate and have been a GTA working both at the VCU Writing Center and in the Department of Focused Inquiry since Fall 2019. I graduated from VCU with a BA in English and minors in Creative Writing and Political Science in Spring 2018. My personal research interests include queer (specifically genderqueer) studies in literature, with a focus on the late 19th century/Victorian era. I also have an interest in pop culture studies and have written about genderqueer representation in video games and the commodification of fanfiction in the past.
Fun fact: I have three parakeets named Rosencrantz, Guildenstern, and Hamlet.
My favorite book: My favorite book is Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray. Beyond boasting a classically-compelling plot and dynamic characters, the novel also offers fascinating opportunities for biographical and queer readings (see also The Uncensored Picture of Dorian Gray, edited by Nicholas Frankel, who is a professor in the VCU Department of English).
I feel most comfortable writing: I enjoy helping out with any type of creative writing as well as personal statements. I am also, as a Focused Inquiry GTA, well-versed in working with papers for UNIV 111/112/200 classes. If you haven't started your essay and are looking for help with brainstorming, I would love to talk through potential topics and help you decide what to prioritize in your writing process!
I believe the hardest aspect of the writing process is: I tend to write papers longer than necessary, so defining the scope of a paper and cutting back any unnecessary information can be challenging for me, especially if I find that information particularly interesting.
Joseph PickertJoseph Pickert [View Image]
Class year: Graduate student
About me: I majored in English as an undergraduate, spent several years working in the coffee industry, and then decided to pursue graduate studies economics with an emphasis on environmental resource issues. In addition to working at the Writing Center, I am a graduate teaching assistant in the Focused Inquiry program through the University College.
Fun fact: I rowed competitively in high school and college, and was part of a national championship-winning men's varsity crew in 2005.
My favorite book: "The Parable of the Sower" by Octavia E. Butler. It's a science-fiction novel set in the near future, during a period of ecological collapse, social decadence and authoritarian governance. Sound familiar? Although Butler wrote the novel in 1993, it predicts the world of the early 2020s with uncanny accuracy. The protagonist, a young woman of color with a mysterious syndrome that causes her to physically feel the pain of others in her environment, founds a new religious movement called Earthseed, which conceives of God as Change and, amidst the quickening decay of civilization, envisions a future for humanity among the stars. I can't think of a more relevant statement for our times than this novel, although Alfonso Cuarón's 2006 film "Children of Men" comes very close.
I feel most comfortable writing: Research papers, personal statements
I believe the hardest aspect of the writing process is: For me, the transition from writer-based to reader-based prose can be treacherous. Whether I consciously intend to do so or not, I tend to start by writing for people who think and feel as I do. Viewing my writing through the eyes of people whose perspectives may differ from mine is challenge, and I often find myself surprised by the feedback I receive during workshops and in peer review (although not necessarily in a bad way). Writing for a wider audience often requires us to give up the parts of our writing that feel the most "relatable" to us, that speak most to our sense of a fixed identity. The things that excite us the most about what we've written are sometimes the very things that stand in the way of our writing success. Acknowledging this and making changes to our writing accordingly can be quite hard sometimes.
Daisah BoydDaisah Boyd [View Image]
Major: English & Gender, Sexuality, and Women's Studies
Class year: Junior
About me: Hello! My name is Daisah and I am an undergraduate consultant at the Writing Center. I came to VCU because I wanted to get a feel of living in a major city surrounded by people from various places! In my free time I love to explore Richmond and try new things. I also enjoy reading and writing poetry. Poetry is one of my passions and is something that I thoroughly enjoy!
Fun fact: I didn't learn how to snap my fingers until high school!
My favorite book: Citizen by Claudia Rankine. This is my favorite book because it explores so many social issues through beautifully produced poems.
I feel most comfortable writing: Personal statements, creative writing, and anything in the humanities
I believe the hardest aspect of the writing process is: I believe the hardest aspect about the writing process is simply getting started! I always know what I want to discuss, but I struggle with getting something down on paper to begin with.
Erin HanleyErin Hanley [View Image]
Major: Counselor Education
Class year: Third (final) year doc program
About me: I truly enjoy supporting students and seeing them succeed. Whether in the Writing Center or doing writing and research of my own, my goal is to help people find their footing and share their stories.
Fun fact: I was a high school counselor before coming back to school! I'm glad working at the Writing Center means continuing to work with students.
My favorite book: Too many to name!
I believe the hardest aspect of the writing process is: Getting started! Sometimes I want things to be perfect before I get started, and I should really know better!
Class year: Second Year Graduate Student
About me: I’m a second year graduate student in VCU’s English program with a concentration in rhetoric these days. I’m interested in digital rhetorical infrastructure and memory, historical reading and composition publics, and, broadly, American modernism. Outside of the writing center and school, I love writing fiction, trying to make traditional southern food vegan, practicing yoga, playing tennis, and obsessively doing crossword puzzles.
My favorite thing about working at the Writing Center is working alongside students as they develop a unique writing voice, and I am also passionate about the ways that the center can be both a personal and communal site for transformation.
Fun fact: I love trivia (see crossword obsession), so if you meet with me, bring me a fun fact of your own! I especially love linguistics trivia.
My favorite book: It’s hard to pick an all-time favorite, but I love everything by Olga Tokarczuk I’ve read. Her writing is funny and eccentric but seriously meditative and poignant, too. Flights is really stunning, and her works as a whole are great if you are interested in literature in translation.
I feel most comfortable writing: The two kinds of writing I have worked with most frequently are Focused Inquiry/UNIV papers (both research and reflective) and personal statements. I love working with these assignments because they usually give me the opportunity to learn something new—about the world, or about the person across the table.
I believe the hardest aspect of the writing process is: If left to my own devices, I will write the introduction of a paper over and over and over, trying to get a perfect start before I get to my main content. I love to write introductions because that space is a chance to entice a reader and settle into whatever niche in which my topic belongs. Because of this, however, I will sometimes give the whole paper away before I really get started, and my introduction will be several pages longer than necessary. It’s a challenge to get the balance just right!
Madison CorellMadison Corell [View Image]
Major: M.T. Secondary English
Class year: First Year of Grad School
About me: Hello! I recently graduated from VCU undergrad with a major in English and minor in Spanish and I am now in VCU's Master's in Teaching program. When I am not in class or at the Writing Center, I am probably cooking for my friends and family, on a run or working on what will one day become a novel. I also enjoy traveling (when I can) and embarking on new creative endeavors like knitting, learning French and watercoloring.
Fun fact: I have a lemon tree. No lemons yet, but it has blossomed!
My favorite book: Currently: The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera. My favorite book changes almost every day, but this one I like because it is super meta and philosophical. Kundera utilizes interesting symbolism, crafts very unique characters and its set in Prague, so you can mentally travel around Central Europe while you are quarantined.
I feel most comfortable writing: Research papers, literature reviews, creative fiction, personal statements
I believe the hardest aspect of the writing process is: Getting started! I will spend days, even weeks, dreading getting started. I let the fear of not having much to say or the right words to use keep me from writing. Once I start writing, however, its never as difficult as I built it up to be.
Michelle KimMichelle Kim [View Image]
Major: Mass Communications: Broadcast Journalism
Class year: Senior
About me: A mass communications major that loves everything and anything creative! Passionate about writing, visual arts, nature/wildlife, and of course food. Always looking forward to meeting new people and helping others express their true selves.
Fun fact: My retirement plan is to buy 100 acres and build my own dog sanctuary.
My favorite book: Tuesdays With Morrie -- it's a beautiful, emotional read about life, love, and death and made me appreciate the little things in life.
I feel most comfortable writing: Personal narratives, personal statements, research papers, and reflective essays
I believe the hardest aspect of the writing process is: Getting past the "mad man" stage - organizing all my ideas and seeing which ones are developed and ready to use.
Hope ButlerHope Butler [View Image]
Class year: Junior
About me: I enjoy roller skating on and off campus. I enjoy sitting outside with a cup of coffee or tea before starting my day. I am a laid back person who values the individuality of a student's voice and how they show that through writing!
Fun fact: I have a roller skate tattoo.
My favorite book: The Other Side of Paradise because I enjoy Fitzgerald's style of writing and I am a hopeless romantic.
I feel most comfortable writing: Personal statements, narrative essays, focused inquiry material, short stories, craft fiction
I believe the hardest aspect of the writing process is: Finding your voice! I often feel I am too professional and formal in my papers, but I don't always need to be.
Daniela WeilDaniela Weil [View Image]
Major: Kinetic Imaging
Class year: Senior (Spring 2021)
About me: I am a self-taught animator and editor. While working as a full-time student, I have become a sewing assistant, editor of multiple books, and freelance illustrator.
Fun fact: I love baking in my free time. (Especially pies)
My favorite book: The Illustrated Man; I’m a huge fan of short stories and sci-fi that is both thrilling and enveloping.
I feel most comfortable writing: Scientific/lab reports, argumentative essays, and fiction.
I believe the hardest aspect of the writing process is: Final drafting/proof reading; trying to polish an essay while thinking of the reader as well.
Major: Computer Science
Class year: Junior
About me: Hi, I'm Gabby! I'm a VCU junior studying computer science and english. In my free time I like to read and (big surprise) write. I also love making art, especially portraits.
Fun fact: I can say the alphabet backwards in under 5 seconds.
My favorite book: The Stranger by Albert Camus – I had to read it for my 10th grade english class and hated it at the time, but the discussions we had about it in class had a formative effect on my worldview. I see ripples of the philosophy all over my life today.
I feel most comfortable writing: Reflective writing and personal statements
I believe the hardest aspect of the writing process is: Getting started! There's nothing scarier than an empty page, but once I get started the ideas flow out more easily.
Major: Early Education
About me: I've lived in Virginia for all my life, having transferred to VCU from John Tyler a few years back. My goal is to become a teacher, preferably teaching 2nd grade. Writing is one of my favorite pastimes, and I also like to draw and watch movies (horror movies are my favorite!)
Fun fact: I have one of the rarest blood types in the world.
My favorite book: My favorite book is "The Dark Flight Down" by Marcus Sedgwick. It's the sequel and final part a great series - I love the dark, mysterious atmosphere of the book. The way it's written is very beautiful in an odd, melancholic way. It's an awesome book!
I believe the hardest aspect of the writing process is: For me, the hardest part is getting started. Finding the ideas that I want to incorporate and sorting them out in a way that becomes a unified paper is a little daunting to me. BUT! After getting past that hurdle, things become a little bit easier!
Mary PurcellMary Purcell [View Image]
Major: Psychology and English
Class year: Senior
About me: This is my 4th year at VCU and 2nd year at the Writing Center. I love being able to meet with students and work with them through their writing process. I'm currently studying Applied Psychology and am planning to get a Master's in Mental Health Counseling. Aside from school, I love creating music, long boarding, and (thanks to quarantine) knitting.
Fun fact: I play guitar.
My favorite book: My favorite book is The Secret Life of Bees. It's such a profound and beautiful story about the power of women.
I feel most comfortable writing: I feel most comfortable with persuasive essays because those are the kind of papers I'm usually writing for my English and Psychology classes.
I believe the hardest aspect of the writing process is: I often have a hard time organizing my papers because there's always so much I want to say and I can get a bit off topic.
Class year: Second Year Graduate Student
About me: I graduated from VCU with a BA in English and minor in Biology in Spring 2019. I am currently a second-year graduate student in the English M.A. program and I work both with the Writing Center and the Department of Focused Inquiry as a GTA. My personal research interests include ecocritical literary studies and the Environmental Humanities in general. I especially enjoy working with writing and research on transitional ecosystems.
Fun fact: I love knitting, whittling, and cooking.
My favorite book: I have many, but I especially love Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer because it offers such unique perspectives of nature’s agency and our relationship to the environment.
I feel most comfortable writing: I feel comfortable working with any writing, but have worked a lot in the past with UNIV 111/112/200 papers, personal statements, and scientific papers.
Major: English, minoring in Urban and Regional Studies
Class year: Senior
About me: My name is Lauryn Brooks and I'm a senior graduating in Spring 2021. I've worked in the Writing Center for 3 semesters so far and have enjoyed every minute of it! I'm from Virginia Beach, VA and find myself missing Richmond a lot these days being away from campus due to COVID. What I enjoy doing for fun are going on walks, bullet journaling, and baking various desserts and when I have the time, I love reading comic books or playing video games.
Fun fact: During quarantine, I made no-churn chocolate ice cream for my family. It was super easy and very delicious.
My favorite book: I enjoy reading any book written by Maurene Goo. The books I've read by her have always been very funny and very relatable. My favorite book by Maurene Goo is called The Way You Make Me Feel. I don't read romance novels often but I found that one too good to not read.
I feel most comfortable writing: I feel most comfortable working with personal statements and any assignment for UNIV classes.
I believe the hardest aspect of the writing process is: I find the hardest aspect of the writing process putting my conclusion together. A lot of times this is because I'll be burnt out or I'll have no idea how I want to end my paper. I find that I put a lot of pressure onto myself to create a strong conclusion. Depending on the paper, I usually spend a lot of time on conclusions and trying to leave my paper on a strong note.
Class year: Second year in M.A. program
About me: Grew up in Idaho. Worked as an academic librarian in central New York and West Virginia before returning to graduate school here at VCU. I like to run long distances and eat ice cream cones.
Fun fact: I am very good at handstands.
My favorite book: Probably The Man Without Qualities by Robert Musil. It is very funny, which makes it a pleasure to read and it was never finished/doesn't properly end (like the writing process, I guess) so you can kind of exist in its world indefinitely.
I feel most comfortable writing: Probably most comfortable with things like personal statements or English papers. With that said, I worked as a science librarian for a few years and am familiar and comfortable with scientific writing as well.
I believe the hardest aspect of the writing process is: After getting all my thoughts on paper I struggle to organize them in meaningful and compelling ways. That is to say, I find the large scale, framework and organization aspects of the writing process pretty difficult while on the sentence level feel quite comfortable.