Creative Writing Group for International Students

The Creative Writing Group for International Students is back!

Join us for creative writing sessions that will challenge and refine your English writing skills. We will tackle and experiment with new kinds of writing in a small, supportive workshop setting.

Creative Writing Flyer

The workshops will be held from 6-7:30 in 400B Holmes Hall on the following Wednesdays: 2/10, 2,24, 3/2, 3/16, 3/30, 4/16.

Snacks provide. RSVP required:


Writing Center Spring 2016

The Writing Center opens on Tuesday, January 19. This semester, we’ve made it easier than ever to schedule an appointment at a time convenient for you.

northeastern writing center
“To share experience.”

412 Holmes Hall: Visit and select “Spring 2016 – Holmes and Online” from the dropdown menu at the top of the schedule. The available appointments will appear as white blocks. Click appointment you’d like and reserve it. You’ll meet a tutor in 412 Holmes Hall for your 45-minute appointment. If you have a draft, try to bring a printed copy. Your tutor will ask you to share the assignment from your instructor, so you should have access to printed or online version. You can make these appointments up to one week in advance. 

Online: Visit and select “Spring 2016 – Holmes and Online” from the dropdown menu at the top of the schedule. The available appointments will appear as white blocks. Click appointment you’d like and reserve it. At the time of your appointment, you will log in to Click your scheduled appointment and then the text that reads “Start or Join Online Appointment.” An online chat module will appear and you will work with your tutor for up to 45 minutes. Your tutor will ask you to upload or paste your assignment and draft. You can make these appointments up to one week in advance. 

Snell: Snell appointments will be held in both 136 Snell and the Discovery Lab, both located in the back of Argo Tea. You can reserve a Snell appointment online or via phone up to one day in advance. To reserve an appointment via phone, call 617.373.2086. To reserve an appointment online, visit and select “Spring 2016 – Snell Only” from the dropdown menu at the top of the schedule. The available appointments will appear as white blocks. Click appointment you’d like and reserve it. If you have a draft, try to bring a printed copy. Your tutor will ask you to share the assignment from your instructor, so you should have access to printed or online version. These appointments will last up to 45 minutes.

Due to high demand, cancellations now require at least 12 hours notice; failure to show up for a session may result in not being able to use the Writing Center. If you have any questions, visit or email

Writing in the Workplace: Rebecca Thorndike-Breeze, Lecturer at MIT

at tales of professionRebecca Thorndike-Breeze received a BA in Communication and Media at Youngstown State University before earning an MA in English from Kent State in 2004. She entered the PhD program in English at Northeatern University, where she studied 19th and 20th century British literature and earned her doctorate in 2012. Dr. Thorndike-Breeze teaches writing and communication at MIT. Continue reading

Writing in the Workplace: Vanessa Acheampong, High School English Teacher

Vanessa Acheampong studied Psychology at the College of the Holy Cross before earning her M.Ed from Northeastern in 2014. She currently works as a high school English teacher in Worcester, MA. Her own urban public school education compelled her to put her background in psychology and education to use by working with urban public school students.

unnamed (1)What media do you rely on for writing? What genres or types of writing do you do at work?

As an English teacher, I teach writing more than I actually engage in writing. As a teacher I believe that the genre of writing I do mostly at work revolves around providing constructive feedback for students on their own writing assignments.

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Writing in the Workplace: Kerri Smith, Assistant Director for Faculty Programs & Adjunct Professor at New York University

kerri smith northeasternKerri Smith earned a BA in History from the College of the Holy Cross in 2003. She graduated from Northeastern in 2005, after earning her MA in College Student Development and Counseling. She went on to receive her Ed.D. in Higher Education Administration in 2012 from the University of Arkansas-Fayetteville.

Dr. Smith currently works at New York University as the Assistant Director for Faculty Programs in the Office of Residential Life & Housing Services and as an adjunct professor in the masters program in Higher Education & Student Affairs at the Steinhardt School at NYU. Continue reading

We Asked 83 NU Students, Faculty, and Staff Why They Write and These Are Their Responses

The Writing Center celebrated The National Day on Writing in style and on trend. We asked people passing outside Snell Library why they write and got responses that ran the gamut from serious (because it helps societies advance) to lighthearted (because #puns). We loved seeing your responses and sharing them on Twitter, where over 33,000 people shared their reasons with the hashtag #WhyIWrite.


northeastern writing center
“Because you can create UNIVERSES with your fingers. Yeah.”

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Creative Writing Group for International Students

Thanks to all who attended our celebration of the National Day on Writing! We heard from many international students about why they write.


We would like to announce the second installment of our Creative Writing Group for International Students! In a small group setting, students will work with tutors on prompts designed to help develop English writing skills. The environment is supportive, collaborative, and casual.

Our first meeting is Wednesday, October 28 at 4:00 pm. We will meet again on the following Wednesdays: 11/4, 11/18, 12/2, and 12/9. Meetings will be in 124 Ryder Hall. There will be snacks and good times had by all. If interested, please email: Hope to see you there!


Writing in the Workplace: Brian Plouffe, Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering at Regis College

brianplouffeBrian Plouffe, PhD earned his BS in Chemical Engineering from the University of Rhode Island. He attended Northeastern to continue his study of Chemical Engineering, earning his MS in 2007 and his PhD in 2011. Dr. Plouffe was a Postdoctoral Research Associate at MIT from 2011-2012  and at Northeastern from 2012-2015, where he was also a part-time lecturer He started a company, Quad Technologies, based on his doctoral work and currently works as an Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering at Regis College. At Regis, he is starting the Biomedical Engineering program from the ground up, including the development of 14 new courses, one new math course, recruitment, and budgeting.

Continue reading

National Day on Writing

The Writing Center and Writing Program is celebrating the National Day on Writing! On Tuesday, 10/20 from 10-2, stop by our table in the Snell quad to share your writing motivations. We’ll be sharing our favorites on Twitter with the hashtag #WhyIWrite, as well as on the blog.

We’re interested in any motivation, in any language, for any type of writing project.

Maybe you write to avoid being shamed by Tim Gunn?

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Or maybe you write because you know Coach Taylor is all too right.

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Maybe you’ve discovered the joy of Written? Kitten!

written kitten lorem ipsum northeastern writing center

Whatever your reason, we want to know!

Writing in the Workplace: Duyen Nguyen, Managing Editor of Digital Humanities Quarterly

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Dr. Nguyen after defending her dissertation

Duyen Nguyen, PhD graduated from Canisius College in 2008 with a degree in English and Creative Writing. She earned her PhD in English from Northeastern in 2015, defending her dissertation, “Orphans, Immigrants, and Empire: Making and Unmaking Identity in the Victorian Novel.”

She currently works as a Managing Editor of Digital Humanities Quarterly (DHQ), a writing instructor at Northeastern, and a writing instructor and tutor at the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences.

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Writing in the Workplace: Jesse O’Connor, Software Engineer at Meltwater

Welcome to “Writing in the Workplace.” This biweekly series will focus on how professionals-in any field of work- use writing. If there are industries you’d like us to spotlight or you’re interested in being featured, we’re only a tweet away!

Jesse O’Connor is software engineer at Meltwater in Manchester, NH. He graduated from the University of New Hampshire with a BS in computer science in 2013.1424311751731  

What mediums do you rely on for your writing?

Before any idea gets into my code, every possible scenario resulting from its addition must be considered; the easiest way to do this is on a whiteboard (think A Beautiful Mind). When I have a change in mind to help improve productivity for me and my fellow developers, I write up proposal documents and present them at our next community meeting. Outside of the people in my office, I also work with people in San-Francisco and Jaipur, India. With the California team members, I can usually get away with instant messages and a Skype call if I sense confusion; because my Indian coworkers are 10 hours ahead of us and would need to stay up very late to have face to face communication, I prefer to let them sleep and just descriptively email them instead.

Last but certainly not least, the code itself is where most of my writing takes place.

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The Five Reasons You Should Absolutely Attend One Day One Goal

There’s a boatload of research on the advantages tied to setting a goal and sharing it with a group; this tactic is applicable to virtually any objective (starting a business, running a marathon, learning to crochet), and those pertaining to writing are no exception.L0TXGzR

One Day One Goal is Northeastern’s free writing retreat open to all members of the NEU community. From 10:30am to 3:00pm on Saturday, March 28th, writers from across the University will gather in Holmes Hall (room 400B) for a day of concentrated writing in a supportive group setting. By providing space and support, as well as collective accountability, the Writing Center hopes to bring together a group of writers for this One Day to write towards your One Goal. There’ll be coffee and lunch and all sorts of swag; spots are first come-first serve and they go fast! To sign up, simply send an email by March 24th with your name, contact information, and a brief overview of your writing project and goal to

What can you bring to One Day One Goal? Anything (but here are some ideas to jog your creative juices):

– A dissertation chapter or prospectus that needs finishing

– A short story you’d like to complete (or an idea for one you hope to start)

– A poetry chapbook in need of some polishing

– An article for revision before submission

– An essay for a course you’d like to plan, write, or rework

And now, if you still aren’t entirely cMG_2177-e1405715499407onvinced you should sign up, here are The Five Reasons You Should Absolutely Attend One Day One Goal:

Accelerate (or jump start) performance

Starting can be hard; paralysis by over analysis–or laziness–can get the best of even the most seasoned writer. One Day One Goal offers you an opportunity to experience collective accountability, to “peer pressure” yourself into getting the ball rolling.

Maintain (or foster) engagement

Do you struggle to remain interested ? A fresh perspective on your work could incite the reinvigoration you need in order to finish that passion project…or paper…or dissertation.


You aren’t the only person in the world (or on campus) with a writing project. Come for the consultation and coffee, leave with knowledge of a burgeoning writing community.


Maybe you’ve read and reread your thesis and you’re convinced it just doesn’t jive; perhaps your friends think those poems you scrawl on bar napkins are lame. At One Day One Goal, you’ll find an environment that’s supportive of writing and those committed to doing so.

Free stuff!

As if the coffee, pizza, and sense of community weren’t enough, by attending ODOG you’ll receive a stylin’ One Day One Goal mug, the perfect vessel for your favorite mode of caffeination.

Writing in the Workplace: Ben Cloutier, Sales Representative

Welcome to “Writing in the Workplace.” This biweekly series will focus on how professionals-in any field of work- use writing. If there are industries you’d like us to spotlight or you’re interested in being featured, we’re only a tweet away!

Ben Cloutier is sales representative for an asset management firm in downtown Boston. He graduated from Quinnipiac University with a BA in Political Science in 2013.


What mediums do you rely on for your writing?

At work, my writing is split between my desktop computer and a small notebook, and in both cases usually for the purpose of note taking and pitch generation. At the office we use a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) service called Salesforce, which allows for detailed and lengthy note taking. Outside of work I like to use my phone or a legal pad for ease and accessibility purposes when exploring a particular thought or idea, and my laptop when a word processor seems necessary.

Describe your writing process.

Achieving success in my current role requires a fluid understanding of current financial and market trends and happenings. I seek to come to this level of understanding by absorbing as much information as I can, which is often times through studying detailed notes. In a meeting about a new product or current market conditions I’ll jot down, in shorthand, as much as I can to then re-read later, cementing my comprehension. With clients, I’ll usually do the same; I try to write as much information about them and their individual needs as possible. From these client notes I’ll expand upon my proposed solutions in a straightforward process. First I examine the need objectively, then identify a fitting solution, and end by connecting the two, through writing, in an eloquent and concise way. I’ll later use this writing in direct client correspondence or to supplant my verbal communications with the client.

Outside of work, in poetry, for example, I find efficacy in tossing unrefined ideas onto paper and asking (and writing down) as many questions about the ideas as I can think of, along with their answers.

What kind of feedback do you seek out for your writing?

I request my two business partners provide me with adequate criticisms of my client correspondence and note taking. In this role, I am a novice, and any feedback or advice I receive I attempt to internalize in order to improve upon these skills.

What has been your most challenging writing experience?BC2

In college, I procrastinated (a verb with which I have considerable familiarity, and one which we’ll be covering shortly) writing several research papers until two days before the papers became due, near the end of the semester. I ended up completing the papers, totaling around 70 written pages. Though I walked away with high marks in each, the extended writing sessions were physically exhausting.

What has been your most meaningful writing experience?

I’ve recently taken up writing free form and haiku poetry. I find the exercise engaging and at times cathartic, and I am free to explore and challenge, at will, my own limits of expression. At some point yet undefined I will likely seek to compile and publish a body of work in this area.

What’s your favorite way to procrastinate?

I don’t think there’s really one preferred method for me, but I procrastinate heavily. For example, I wrote the following 5-7-5 haiku instead of answering these questions tonight:

“On Sitars…”BC3


pyuuuuWUUUUnoooo BWEEEyuuuuWEEEEduuum//


Do you listen to music while writing? What kind?

Sometimes I’ll listen to classical music, I have a CD called ‘Bach Jams’. Usually not, though. I find music to be at times distracting.

Most important book you’ve read?

At this point in my life I really like Wherever You Go, There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn. It takes a foundational look at mindfulness meditation and how to practice it day to day. 10/10, would recommend to friend.

Writing in the Workplace: Laurier Nicas Alder, Head of Social at TMW Unlimited

Welcome to “Writing in the Workplace.” This biweekly series will focus on how professionals-in any field of work- use writing. If there are industries you’d like us to spotlight or you’re interested in being featured, we’re only a tweet away!

Alder headshot

Laurier Nicas Alder is the Head of Social at TMW Unlimited, a London-based creative digital marketing agency.  She’s responsible for managing a team of 20 (including 16 social media managers and social content producers) and their work across all social accounts.  Her day-to-day includes team management, maintaining client relations, social content planning, upholding industry best practice, and editing and crisis/risk-managing social and creative output for all social clients.

Laurier received a BA from Stonehill College in 2007, with a double major in Communication and Fine Art (Graphic Design).  She then studied at Goldsmiths, University of London in 2008 where she received an MA in Image and Communication.


What mediums do you rely on for your writing?

I wish I had my life more together so that the answer to this would be medium and not media, but I’m afraid that’s just not going to happen.  Writing to me, whether for work or for pleasure, is a wholly messy process.

On the traditional front, my desk is covered in Post-Its and scraps of paper, and I love scribbling on a variety of legal pads.  On the digital side, I have a bad habit of keeping Notepad windows open on my laptop with any number of thought starters (often nonsensical), and don’t get me started on the Notes section of my iPhone.  Basically, when the inspiration strikes, I scribble on paper, keys or touchscreen.  Eventually I cobble the pieces together into linear thoughts.  I find it easier to edit something than start from scratch, so I get it all on a page, and, even if it looks ugly, I’ll eventually craft it into something respectable.TMW value

Describe your writing process. 

Given the industry that I work in, it’s almost entirely brief-driven.  We know that our clients are looking for something in particular, whether that’s a specific content calendar or broad strategic recommendations as part of a major campaign, and we work to the parameters in relation to the task – objectives, KPIs, target audience, media budgets, timings, societal/cultural context, extenuating circumstances, etc.  I aim to approach every task, big or small, with the brief in mind to make sure I’m producing the appropriate work.

It makes it sound really dry and dull, but the boundaries really do help me create the best content possible.  There’s nothing worse than a bad brief: it’s like staring at a blank page – no direction, no insight, and you’re doomed to fail because you don’t know the measures of success.  Knowing who you’re speaking to and what you want to achieve from that communication is a necessary foundation to create great work.

What kind of feedback do you seek out for your writing?

In a professional context it’s important for me to get quite critical feedback – I want someone to try to poke holes or find faults.  It’s about stepping into the shoes of each stakeholder – the client, the consumer, the competitor – and trying to see it from every angle.  The best thing about feedback is that ultimately you can ignore it.  It’s just smart to get everything on the table so you know what you’re up against.

What has been your most challenging writing experience?

You know, there hasn’t been one standalone writing experience that has been more challenging than another.  It’s been my lifelong approach to writing which has been a challenge.  Growing up, I would never have considered myself a writer.  It’s the same way I would never have considered myself an artist.  Sure, I can write… but I’m not a writer.  I am artistic… but I’m not an artist.  The titles were too definitive to me, and I would become too defensive: “I’m not an expert, I’m not a professional.  Don’t look at me for answers.”  Approaching any one discipline as a standalone skill has always been difficult for me because I’m a package deal – Laurier Nicas Alder, Jack of All Trades, at your service!  That’s why I work in social media / digital marketing; it requires a varied skill-set and it’s ever-evolving which allows me to keep learning and adapting.

One thing I wish I realized earlier in my career journey (don’t get me wrong, I love where I am now, but it’s nice to recognize your strengths earlier than 30!) is that MANY jobs include this ability – you don’t have to be a scholar, journalist or author to be a writer.  Don’t think in job titles; just do what makes you happy.

What has been your most meaningful writing experience?

To be completely honest, probably my college essay.  (NO PRESSURE, KIDS!)  It’s not really about what I wrote but rather what that then unlocked.  I was all ready to go to a different university, but that essay got me noticed at Stonehill, and I went there instead.  I loved Stonehill, and, besides the brilliant education and lifelong friendships, I had an invaluable opportunity to study abroad in London.  International study is something that is at the core of Stonehill’s offering and that experience then led me to return to pursue a Master’s degree in the UK after graduation… where I started my career, met my husband, and am currently living happily ever after.

Looking back on how important that essay was now, it makes me cringe (the way something you wrote 12 years ago would).  My submission was a satirical look on the hoops we jump through and the efforts we go to please admissions staff on the arbitrary choice of who is worthy to attend their college.  The title was something like “How to Write a College Essay.”  A very big thank you to Stonehill College admissions staff for having a sense of humour and also for determining my path in life. (NO PRESSURE, ADMISSIONS STAFF THE WORLD OVER!)

Lo & AndrewWhat’s your favorite way to procrastinate?

The internet is a goddamn playground.  I’m happy to justify the distraction and say that procrastination is crucial to my process.  Before I sit down to complete a big writing task, I have to make the rounds.  I check my email, hit up the social platforms (mainly Twitter, Facebook and Instagram), browse reddit, and scan the news.  It’s almost as if I can’t feasibly get work off my desk if I don’t know the internet state of play.  I mean, what would someone think of me at the water cooler if I said I didn’t see that #ReplaceAMovieTitleWithGoat was trending?

Helpfully, my favorite ways to procrastinate are also the ways that I get most inspired.  After falling down the internet rabbit hole, you start to really envy the work you’re consuming* and realize that if you just put the proverbial pen to paper that you’d be able to create great stuff too.  So whether it is a clever piece of brand content or a silly Buzzfeed video, it gets the creative juices flowing.

*perhaps not the goat movie hashtag, but maybe… depending on the day

Do you listen to music while writing? What kind?

It’s so hard for me to not get distracted with music while writing.  First off, let me put something on the table… I have a truly awful taste in music.  I like some great stuff, but I’m also the first to admit that I like some utter shit too.  The problem I have is consistency; I’ll pretty much listen to anything.  I’ll flit between musical soundtracks to gangsta rap and everything in between.  I mean, my top three bands are Nirvana, the Bloodhound Gang and the Grateful Dead and my favourite night of the year is Eurovision (if you’re not familiar, that’s definitely an internet rabbit hole that you want to fall down, Alice); I challenge you to find a common thread there.  Questionable taste aside, it’s just a mess up here in my head when I mix all those different styles onto a playlist and try to make it work.  It becomes full-on sensory overload and that’s not conducive to coherent thought and storytelling.

Taking this into consideration, I recently discovered that I do my best writing when I remove the distractions completely.  I try to limit myself to familiar classical music (The Best of Bach), ambient sounds (Rainy Mood), albums with limited or repetitive words (Deadringer by RJD2), or just plain ol’ silence.

Most important book you’ve read? 

That really depends on the way you define importance, because at different stages in life it has meant different things.  Importance in a moment, to me, is more telling than importance overall. Basically, this is an elaborate cop-out wherein I will give you several answers:

  • 1989: Where the Sidewalk Ends, Shel Silverstein – When I realised that words could be fun and funny, a key distinction.
  • 1994: The Baby-Sitters Club series, Ann M. Martin – When I became completely invested in characters in a series. (Shout out to the Scholastic Book Club!)
  • 1999: A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens – When I acknowledged that it’s acceptable to have a dissenting opinion and not like something that is widely considered a success. (Sorry, Dickens, taking practically two pages on the detail of lace nearly killed 14-year-old me.)
  • 2003: The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger – When I was encouraged to embrace adulthood and leave behind the teenage angst.
  • 2005: Mrs Dalloway – Virginia Woolf – When I recognised that disagreeing with authority (in this case, a professor) was not only possible, but sometimes completely necessary
  • 2011: Bossypants, Tina Fey – When I felt most inspired to do take risks and do something with passion.
  • 2013: Everything is Perfect When You’re a Liar, Kelly Oxford – When I realised that I could have a story to tell that’s worth hearing…

Writing in the Workplace: Ben Engle, MS Urban Planning

Welcome to “Writing in the Workplace.” This biweekly series will focus on how professionals-in any field of work- use writing. If there are industries you’d like us to spotlight or you’re interested in being featured, we’re only a tweet away!

Ben Engle 1Ben Engle is an Urban Planner in the Leadership Fellow Program at the Port Authority of NY & NJ, a 2-year rotational program . His first rotation was in the Storm Mitigation and Resilience Office – working on advancing SuperStorm Sandy recovery and resiliency projects. Ben received his Masters of Science in Urban Planning from Columbia University and his B.S. in Environmental Science from Union.

What mediums do you rely on for your writing?

Since writing is a process, I tend to use different techniques at different stages. Writing for me starts and ends with paper and pen. Outlining, which I do with a piece of paper, is really helpful for me – it gives me an opportunity to see where my thoughts and ideas may take me. The real meat and potatoes of my writing at work takes place on the computer, but I print my work out to do edits. Hopefully I don’t have too many errors for this piece!

Describe your writing process.

Ah! Looks like I started to answer this under the previous question! The foundation of my writing process is a constant, despite having to adjust to deadlines, types of writing, or whom I’m writing for.

I’m an outliner- I need to scribble notes on a page, cross things out, draw arrows to this or that, and oftentimes I’m un-crossing things out by the end. Sometimes I’ll write the first paragraph by hand (I did that for both my undergrad and graduate theses and most academic papers), but when you are under tight deadlines, you don’t always have the benefit of writing by hand.

Using my outline, I type up a draft (and when I have time, I put the draft to the side and come back to it later) and print it out to edit. I use my colleagues as other pairs of eyes, which is especially helpful when you are new to an office. I’m an advocate for the environment and saving paper, but I print a lot when editing and finishing up a project.

What kind of feedback do you seek out for your writing?

Critical feedback is the most helpful. It’s nice to know that someone likes my writing style, but it’s even more helpful for someone to say honestly what bothers them. I’m willing to make edits or move paragraphs – as long as the reader makes a good argument. Hey, but who doesn’t like a compliment?

What has been your most challenging writing experience?Ben Engle 2

The academic and business worlds are so different in how writing is used and evaluated. That transition is challenging in itself. I enjoy writing for both forums and each is difficult in their own ways. My theses were stressful – most people’s are, but I always knew there was a light at the end of all the research and writing. The business world requires me to think on my feet and get creative quickly to solve problems, which can be challenging (and at the end of the day very rewarding!). As writers, we always need to be aware of our audiences, and in both cases, writing in a way that makes sense can often be the most challenging obstacle to overcome.

What has been your most meaningful writing experience?

I once wrote a speech for a significant college event, but was not chosen to give it. While nobody ever heard me present the speech nor was it ever presented to a large audience, it was a writing experience that gave me the opportunity to 1) build a theme 2) challenge my theme and 3) execute a theme. I was excited to write it, happy with the end product, and bummed that it wasn’t chosen – but that’s life! I’m just as proud of that speech now as the day that I submitted it.

What’s your favorite way to procrastinate?

I can only pick one favorite way to procrastinate!?! There are so many that I enjoy (in no particular order): Watching the Mets, playing SimCity 2000 (I’m an urban planner, can you blame me?), watching The West Wing for the 18,000th time, and Twitter. All dangerous ways to procrastinate.

Do you listen to music while writing?  What kind?

I listen to way too much Dave Matthews Band, but when I really need to focus, the music goes off. When I make maps or presentations  (remember, I’m a planner!), I try to find fast pump up music – for whatever reason, I make my best maps while having Macklemore’s “Can’t Hold Us” playing on repeat.Ben Engle 3

Most important book you’ve read?  

Easy question – The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York by Robert Caro. All planners and lovers of cities, parks, and roads should read Caro’s biography of Robert Moses. It’s a huge book but it’s worth it. It makes me think about the built environment and how quick decisions can impact generations decades down the road (no pun intended).

Writing in the Workplace: Alex Stoyle, Business Development Coordinator


Welcome to “Writing in the Workplace.” This biweekly series will focus on how professionals-in any field of work- use writing. If there are industries you’d like us to spotlight or you’re interested in being featured, we’re only a tweet away!

Alex (left).

Alex Stoyle is a Business Development Coordinator (professional friend/Tweeter) at GYK Antler. He graduated from Brandeis University, where he studied business and played basketball. 

What mediums do you rely on for your writing?

My place to write is in my idea book: that’s where I jot down my myriad (sometimes) brilliant thoughts, observations, and notes. Sometimes these are very pertinent to my work- part of my job is to come up with creative ways to build and maintain client relationships; other times, the ideas I jot down are for creative, non-work related projects. The front sides of pages are “work,” and the back sides, “personal.” Outside of that, I’m constantly emailing, texting or tweeting (@realstoyle) from my phone or scribbling in a notebook. I also write proposals, but those are much less fun to talk about.

Describe your writing process.

My writing process has evolved quite a bit since, well, last month! I never figured it out in college: I would just write what I had to, as quickly as possible, on my laptop. The way I wrote and edited was backwards. I would end up with a bunch of solid ideas realized as scattered fragments. I was never able to play with or develop them to a point where I felt proud, instead of merely relieved to be passing in a paper. Now, when I’m writing for work or for fun, I take a lot more notes. I work with my ideas by hand, in my idea book. Writing with a nice pen has become therapeutic and a great way to figure out what I really want to say. It’s kind of like with sculpting (Note: Alex is something of a metal sculptor):  I like to throw together a sketch before actually getting my hands dirty. Once I have a better idea of what I want to say, I I hit the keyboard. In short: I write, I think, I type. This process (having a process at all, really) has been central in developing my mind to think about work, when I’m not at work, in fun, interesting, creative ways.

What kind of feedback do you seek out for your writing?

When I’m writing proposals at work, it’s usually my boss just moving some stuff around and telling me what I should change. At this point the writing I’m doing at work is much more standardized and templatized and he’s a pro when it comes to proposal writing/language. I’m working on personal project on the side, too, though I’m not sure if it’ll be a book or a blog or whatever. The feedback I’m looking for there is mostly from my close friends, and hopefully someday, I’ll be getting feedback in a more public forum.

What was your most challenging writing experience?

This paper I had to write in college on the Canadian Broadcast System. 15 pages, and I started the night before. I ended up actually learning a lot and liking the topic, but I didn’t have enough time to polish my ideas and ended up with a pretty sub-par paper. This experience actually instigated my change in writing philosophy. As far as work goes, the challenge is less intellectual and more creative. I’m constantly considering the many ways GYK Antler can improve its social media presence; this makes things like tweeting for work less stream of conscious, as the 140 character limit forces premeditation and some research. 

What was your most meaningful writing experience?

 I’ve had a few cool tweets (see page 58 of A World Gone Social by Ted Coine #shameless). But right now, I’m most excited about the personal project I’m working on. It’s perfect timing for me to answer these questions because I’ve never enjoyed writing as much as I have with this project. I guess it seems a little more meaningful because I never thought about myself as a “writer” until I started writing (haha).

What’s your favorite way to procrastinate?

I’m a seasoned vet when it comes to procrastination. I’ve done it all, from hitting the bar to cleaning my house. My preferred method, however, is probably food. I’ll usually eat to procrastinate: how healthy of me.

Do you listen to music while writing?  What kind?

I’ll end up listening to all kinds of stuff. Sometimes classical.  I don’t know anything about it but I swear it makes you smarter.

Most important book you’ve read?

So far, I’d have to go with Ishmael by Daniel Quinn. One of my teachers in high school made me read it and it totally changed the way I think. I also loved Tuesdays with Morrie.

Standing Desks and Satanic Cats: Writing with Jeremy Bushnell


This is the first post in a series called “Writing Projects,” through which we aim to produce bimonthly narratives pertaining to the  process by which a particular work comes about. Though we are obviously interested in people writing novels, we aren’t just interested in people writing novels: if you’re working on any sort of project in which writing plays an integral role, let us know

The satanic cat-idol adorning the cover of Jeremy P. Bushnell’s The Weirdness (Melvillle House, Spring 2014) glared at me every Monday for a month before I Googled the novel’s title, leading to an exploration of  cat-worship. Somewhere between that instant and reading the novel’s opening line, “Billy Ridgeway walks into a bar with a banana in his hand,” I emailed Jeremy, asking if we could sit down to talk about process. The Weirdness is Jeremy’s first published novel, though hardly his first project; he’s had myriad explorations in various mediums of expression, including poetry, short-stories, board game design (watch the video), and various experimental digital mediums.

When I entered Jeremy’s office, his perusing screengrabs from Abbas Kiarostami’s Certified Copy steered our initial conversation toward film (Jeremy is an unabashed movie buff) and eventually to Meanwhile, an unpublished  Joycean writing project of his. The Weirdness marks Jeremy Bushnell’s foray into what he describes as a “more traditional” style of storytelling, appealing because “I had gone so far in the direction of experimental writing that it led me back to more traditional writing—it felt  experimental to write a story with a beginning, middle, end, and protagonist.” Precipitated by his agent’s excitement about a book that could be pitched, this flirtation with “traditional experimentation”- with (the) “weirdness”- was elucidated in the hour Jeremy and I spent talking.

For a project described by the author as “experimental,” writing The Weirdness consisted of very little pre-work. Jeremy describes the process as sitting down, opening a Word document, and aggregating a page or so of idea-strands. Comparatively, the aforementioned Joycean piece demanded substantial premeditation, actualized as heaps of complex spreadsheets detailing a network of characters. The latter, Bushnell recalls, was simply no fun: instead of explicitly building a foundation through gathering, he vastly prefers to research as he writes: he is adept in the art of “Google-fu.” 

In discussing the luxuries and drawbacks inherent to the contemporary writing process, Jeremy divulged that there was no circumstance in which he would willingly part with technology. In addition to “traditional” search engine practices, he also shared a wonderfully ingenuitive use for Google Earth’s Street View: “in the new novel, I have a character being chased through Brooklyn by an assassin, and when trying to describe the scene I used Street View to look around  the neighborhood  where the action was happening. When I did this, I noticed that all the buildings in the area were adorned with those little grey DirecTV dishes, so they ended up mentioned in the scene. It saved me a location-scouting trip.”

While Jeremy is a clear proponent of using the digital tools modern writers are afforded, he understands that doing so has its pitfalls. To avoid subjecting himself to the likes of Oh Long Johnson or the fruitlessness of aimless hyperlink exploration, Jeremy Bushnell stands. It’s impossibly easy to catch an acute case of writer’s block and get “stuck” in the internet: “checking emails” will almost always devolve into “reloading Twitter every thirty seconds.” Jeremy is hyper aware of the web’s trappings, and claims that writing at a standing desk can reduce squandered time:

“I still find myself stuck in the writing just as often,” he muses, “but I’m not also stuck in a chair.” In a handful of mornings every week for the 15 months it took to draft The Weirdness, Jeremy paced around his office when he couldn’t write, and was shocked by how quickly simply turning around could jostle dormant creativity.

The Weirdness was written in a series of what Bushnell calls “sprints.” He would write six chapters or so and, when appropriate, share them with his writers’ group. Jeremy swears by this cohort of Boston-based fiction writers, directly attributing the polish of the novel’s early drafts to their critical workshopping. Each “sprint” was revised and workshopped  multiple times, making the eventual editor’s job comparatively easy. Additionally, the process gave Jeremy confidence in his writing: knowing that his story had successfully navigated the waters of workshop and managed to avoid (substantial) evisceration meant it was ready.

Jeremy Bushnell’s The Weirdness is informed by a unique ferment of film, fiction and nonfiction writing, and collaboration. His forthcoming fiction marks a return to a more serious style that precedes The Weirdness, though public praise for the humor that’s so prevalent in the latter has encouraged  him to keep utilizing comedy as an element of his ongoing work.


Writing Tip: “A,” “An,” and your Ear

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 Writing Tip: “A,” “An,” and your Ear

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When dealing with single-subject nouns, article-choice (“a” versus “an”) is determined by sound; as such, deciding between “a” and “an” can be an issue for native and non-native English-speakers alike. The distinction becomes intuitive through repetition (after all, nobody’s ordering “an Grande, Quad, Nonfat, One-Pump, No-Whip, Mocha”), and having a working knowledge of English’s underlying rules (and their outliers) can only serve to enhance your command of language.

According to the Purdue OWL (grammar inquiries needn’t be limited to Writing Center appointments!), “The choice of article is actually based upon the phonetic (sound) quality of the first letter in a word, not on the orthographic (written) representation of the letter.”

If you’re looking for a “rule,” so to speak, it would be as follows:  “a” precedes words beginning with consonant-sounds, and “an” goes before words that begin with vowel-sounds.

For example:

A Canadian goose pecked at the discarded McDonald’s bag.

Two women, in an olive-drab Lexus, argue over immunizing their mini-schnauzer.

There are, of course, some exceptions.

Before an unsounded “h,” as in hour,  an is used; this is due to the fact that the first phonetic sound is a vowel (“o” in the case of hour). Similarly, when “u”

makes the same sound as the “y” in “you,” (unicorn) or “o” makes the same sound as “w” in “won,” (one)  “a” is used.  The following sentence illustrates a handful of examples:

An honorable lumberjack got stuck in a hailstorm, for an hour, trying to rescue a unicorn at his daughter’s request.

Reading work aloud-especially to yourself- may seem a bit silly, but as a practice it’s invaluable. Not only can it help in deciding between “a” and “an,” but  it can also improve sentence fluidity and allow you to make better decisions regarding punctuation, too!

Was this helpful? Are there writing questions you need answered? Let us know on Twitter!

Writing in the Workplace: Ben Morse, Paralegal


Welcome to the  very first “Writing in the Workplace.” This biweekly series will focus on how professionals-in any field of work- use writing. If there are industries you’d like us to spotlight or you’re interested in being featured, we’re only a tweet away!


Ben MorseBen Morse is a paralegal at a law firm in downtown Boston; he graduated from Penn State University in 2013 with a B.A. in journalism and is in the process of studying for the LSAT.


NEU Writes: What mediums do you rely on for your writing?

Ben: Most of my writing is done at a computer, in the office. We work with a program, called Salesforce, which allows us to take detailed notes on potential clients. Additionally, paralegals are charged with keeping the lawyers informed of virtually everything: this mostly entails the writing of detailed, formal memos.

Describe your writing process.

My writing process is very much front-loaded. At work, the quality of my writing is heavily dependant on the notes I take beforehand. As I mentioned, writing is very much a computer-centered activity for me, though when I’m actually interviewing a prospective client, I revert to a pen and paper.

What kind of feedback do you seek out for your writing?

When I started working as a paralegal, I sought feedback regularly: when it comes to the client-interview process, there’s a definite learning curve. I wanted to be sure my notes and the subsequent memos were substantive enough to provide the necessary information to the lawyers I work with. My background in journalism made the transcription and framing of the notes I’d taken a pretty simple task. After a few weeks-as the process became second-nature- I sought less feedback; now, I’m in a position to answer questions less-seasoned coworkers might have about memos and such.

What has been your most challenging writing experience?

Hmm. My most challenging writing experience happened at my last job, before moving to Boston. I worked as an insurance broker, and often had to construct riders and write addendums for clients’ contracts. This was entirely different from any other sort of writing I’d done to this point: there was very little argumentative language, no “thesis” to speak of. It taught me how to construct succinct sentences using precise language: a skill I find extremely useful in my current position.

What has been your most meaningful writing experience?

My most meaningful writing experience didn’t happen at work: it was an essay I wrote in my last year at Penn State. I took a course on the history of punk rock and wrote a paper comparing the general tone and sentiment of early 80’s rap with those prevalent in punk-rock during the previous decade. The paper allowed me to blend studies of pop-culture and history, both subjects that  have always interested me. I suppose highlighting the connections between two genres that are typically cast in very different lights was just really fun. I’d like to do more work along these lines.

What’s your favorite way to procrastinate?

Podcasts! I’m big into music and an avid reader, but nothing beats a nice hour long episode of Radiolab or listening to Seth Godin spew entrepreneurial brilliance. With music or vegetating in front of a TV, there’s usually not much going on, mentally. Podcasts are the perfect way to trick yourself into believing you’re actually doing something useful, even when you aren’t.

Do you listen to music while writing?  What kind?

Always, but it can’t have any words. Words distract me, completely derailing any semblance of thought. I create playlists on Spotify all the time, so I’ll usually just throw something instrumental on. J Dilla. Madlib. A lot of Flying Lotus, lately.

Most important book you’ve read?  

The most important book I’ve read, at least in terms of my own reading experience, is probably Buzz Bissinger’s Friday Night Lights. It’s an amazing snapshot of high school football in Texas, as well as the socioeconomic and racial tensions of the time. The book is very well written, and it really portrays the pressure that communities can pile onto high school athletes and coaches. The idea of Bissinger’s total immersion in the culture of a small Texas town, carefully noting the tiniest details, is what drew me to my initial pursuit of journalism.