Friday, January 6, 2017

Crystal Gayle Is Candy Land: Sweet Inspiration at the Writing Center by Elaanie Jackson


Author Elaanie Jackson

Some in the college game never know how to “use the tools in their toolbox” (KP). When it comes to freshmen especially, it seems they are not always aware of the many blessings and opportunities bestowed upon them. I know this because I am one of those freshmen. Although there are so many services provided at Hofstra, all helpful in one way or another, one all too misunderstood and overlooked by me had been the Writing Center. I would not have gone had it not been required, yet I found out that this is the place to be. It became my go-to zone to discuss topical ideas and develop persuasion strategies, not just in any single essay but in how I approach writing as a whole.

Seeing how my first impression was a bit of a burn, one would think I would list all the reasons one’s feet should never touch the Writing Center floor, but first impressions are like heating up a bag of popcorn. Sometimes one puts the bag in the microwave and gets perfect popcorn back. At other times, one puts that popcorn in for too long or too short and it comes out burned or unpopped. This was true of my first ever experience with the Writing Center, that is, I managed to both burn some popcorn while other kernels remained unpopped. Although I brought an essay I had already written, I had not really considered its strengths or weaknesses nor in what ways it wasn’t what I really wanted to say. Not knowing what I wanted set the stage for an unproductive session, a distracted tutor and my own disgruntled mood. However, word spread in class the next day about a certain tutor at the Writing Center who was really manifesting the heart of the service and who could “help you connect your writing voice with your actual voice” (Seay). Since this is my goal in writing, I made an appointment with this tutor, and this time I had a most life-changing experience.

Crystal "Candy" Gayle

Every kernel popped and not a single one burned when I sat down with Crystal Gayle! For openers, she was so intrigued with what I brought to the essay. While talking at length about the strengths my draft already possessed and then analyzing specifics that could improve it even more, the hour flew right by. It was a complete three-sixty from my first encounter. It turns out that who she is and what she represents has helped me turn in to who I am at my best as a writer and as a human being. Adopting the nickname “Candy” from her sister, Crystal comes straight from one of New York City’s finest boroughs: Brooklyn. She has so many different sides to her that greatly contribute to the amazing woman she is today: a driven, passionate, dedicated, sweet but tough cookie. Daughter to an immigrant mother, she understands what it means to be fearless. “That’s me: throw anything at me and I’ll survive” (Gayle). When interviewing her, I thought of the line from The Way of the Sword: “True strength is keeping everything together when everyone expects you to fall apart” (Bradford). Crystal is the definition of keeping it together. From John Jay College of Criminal Justice for her Bachelors in Political Science, to Queens College for her Masters, to right here at Hofstra University for her Juris Doctorate, she has pushed through any and all obstacles. She told me, “I’ve always been about law. Everything I’ve done, all of the schooling, it’s all just a means to an end” (Gayle). Her passion to help others adds something truly amazing to the Writing Center that is its real heart: someone whose only game is to get others to be the best player they can be.

That’s when I realized Crystal’s middle name ought to be clear as in Crystal Clear. The range of knowledge she has gained from life as well as her three degrees really helps a young writer like myself when siting face-to-face with her. Her intelligence not only reassures; she brings focus, candor, confidence, empathy, advocacy. She told me, “I want people to come and relax and not be scared. I’m in school, I know the game” (Gayle). Students do not do well when ruled by the fear of the written assignment, and one symptom of this fear is to treat the Writing Center as a grammar correction service. Crystal said, “Students are conditioned into thinking that their only problem is grammar when that isn’t the only thing” (Gayle). Fortunately, for the misinformed Crystal’s Socratic method can help students see the larger picture by first owning their own voice and their own ideas. Her client-centered approach is true skillful means; she doesn’t give me the answer to my problem so much as challenge me into solving it with her help. According to my peer in class, “Crystal is very sweet, and made me feel comfortable. She genuinely wants to help and proved to be supportive in helping me brainstorm ways to journal on the blog posts” (Boretsky). The epitome of a service provider, “Candy” exemplifies why one should give the Writing Center a chance.

On subsequent visits there, I discovered that her colleagues share the same end goal: to help us achieve maximum success. My own increased empowerment as a writer has caused me to stop being afraid to use the services one’s “pay-rents” (KP) are putting their money towards. It is ludicrous to have so many advantages and go all four years without employing a single one. I also realized that it is up to me to direct the tutoring session, to seek out the tutors who can help me the most and to not fold up my tent at the first sign of discouragement. One might have a bad experience today and a remarkable one tomorrow. First impressions are a lot, but it is salient for one to remember that things may at times go wrong. Often wrong is merely the prelude to the kind of metamorphic session that Crystal offered me for she opened my eyes to a whole new world of composing an essay. The Writing Center is the place where words and ideas become a picture, and where pictures become a thousand words. If one never explores the opportunities one possesses, one will never fully know or better oneself. Like Crystal, I am prepared to take a chance, live on the edge and try something I would never have thought to do before. Now, when approaching professionals for help---whether a professor, tutor or administrator---I ask: What kind of Candy are we talking about?




Works Cited

Borestsky, Monica, WSC, class discussion (September 15, 2016)
Bradford, Chris, The Way of the Sword, (August 7, 2008)
Gayle, Crystal, WC Interview, (October 31, 2016)
Gordon, Kirpal, WSC, class discussion (September 15, 2016)
Seay, Charlotte, WSC, class discussion (September 15, 2016)


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