Writer’s Center

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What is the Writer’s Center?

The Writer’s Center is a valuable resource for all U-High students. The Center offers one-on-one assistance to students of all ages and abilities, from ninth graders making the transition into the high school curriculum to twelfth graders seeking help on their college application essays.

We assist students with writing in a variety of ways, giving them feedback on individual papers and helping them with any stage of the writing process, including the development and organization of ideas, composition, and revision. Students may bring in writing assignments from any subject area, including creative writing or summer internship applications. Students may also use the Writer's Center as a quiet, private place to write; we offer 20-minute "Writing Time" appointments for just that purpose. 

Each year the Writer’s Center works with more than half the U-High student body. Many of these students come in for help on a regular basis.

The Writer’s Center staff does not write students’ papers. Instead, we help students become more aware of their writing strengths and weaknesses so they can improve not only particular assignments but also their overall writing skills.

How do I schedule an appointment?

The Writer’s Center is open during school hours, with additional before- and after-school hours, as well as evening hours, via Zoom. Students are limited to two visits per week. Students may book up to two appointments per week. Students can sign up on the Writer's Center Calendly page, or on the iPad outside the Writer’s Center (Judd 307). We also welcome walk-ins. 

Who works in the Writer’s Center?

The Writer’s Center is staffed by:

  • Christine Himmelfarb, director of the Writer’s Center, is an English teacher with 13 years of experience at the secondary level. She joined the U-High English department in 2013 and has taught at each level of U-High’s English program. She has an MA in humanities from the University of Chicago and has worked as a journalist and copy editor.

  • Lucy Biederman, ’99, writing specialist, holds a BA in English literature from Washington University, an MFA in creative writing from George Mason University, and a PhD in writing from the University of Louisiana-Lafayette. Her scholarship, poetry, plays, short stories, and multimedia work has been published widely. Her novel The Walmart Book of the Dead, published in 2017, was a finalist for the Foreword Book of the Year and was adapted for the stage. She has taught writing courses at Case Western Reserve University, Heidelberg University, the University of Michigan, Cleveland State University, and in Illinois Humanities’ Odyssey Project.

What happens during a Writer’s Center appointment?

If you are coming to the Writer’s Center to discuss a specific piece of writing, feel free to share it ahead of the appointment by emailing or sharing a Google doc with writerscenter@ucls.uchicago.edu. You can also bring a paper copy to the appointment. 

At the beginning of the session, you may be asked to say a few words about your goals for the piece of writing you’ve brought, any strengths or weaknesses you perceive in the writing, and/or any concerns about the piece. 

Think of the appointment as a conversation, rather than a matter of telling you what you did wrong or seeking and finding errors in your writing.

What kinds of writing can students bring  to the Writer’s Center?

We will help with any type of writing. Students often bring in writing assignments from English, history, or science classes. We also help with writing for extracurricular activities, applications or essays for summer internships, fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction essays. Students can also come with ideas that are not written down, to simply talk about writing. We can talk to you about writing projects at any stage of development: from brainstorming and creating a writing schedule to final drafts. We welcome reluctant writers who hope to change their relationship to writing. 

How can the Writer’s Center help students with their college applications?

Each year, in collaboration with U-High’s college counselors and the English department, the Writer’s Center hosts a College Essay Workshop for rising seniors. The workshop is usually held in late August, and students spend three days working on their college essays under the guidance of faculty. Information about the workshop is distributed to families in the spring of grade 11, and registration for this free program happens by the end of that academic year.

In fall and winter, twelfth graders can make up to two appointments per week to brainstorm, draft, edit, and revise their Common App essay as well as supplemental pieces of writing for college admissions.