Alumna writing specialist cultivates student work


Malcolm Taylor

Lucy Biederman, 1999 Lab alumna and writing specialist, conferences with a student in the Writers’ Center. After discovering a love for writing while at Lab, Lucy now enjoys hearing students share their identities through their work.

Amy Ren, Reporter

Ever since her Lab second-grade teacher, Donna O’Sullivan, gave her a journal, Lucy Biederman hasn’t stopped writing. Ms. O’Sullivan sparked young Dr. Biederman’s love of writing, and now, decades later, she works in the Writer’s Center, helping high school students cultivate their writing.

“We wrote daily in our journals, and I filled my journal almost immediately, and she was like, ‘Oh, you need another one already?’” Dr. Biederman said. “I had written in the margins, in the back cover. I didn’t know that you could write like that, about yourself for yourself, and I just was so captivated by the idea.”

Dr. Biederman, a 1999 U-High alumna, credits Lab for teaching her how to write personally. She said it is very important to her and more impactful than any formal writing she has done. Before returning to U-High in September, she worked as an English professor at Case Western Reserve University and Heidelberg University. She filled the vacancy left by Michael Autrey, who left in June.

“I, for a million reasons, wanted to come back to Lab,” Dr. Biederman’s said. “I was so excited when I saw that Lab was hiring for a writer, because that’s what I love to do: work with people on their writing.”

While conferencing with students, Dr. Biederman’s strives to be approachable.

“I just want to emphasize when I read people’s writing, I don’t think of it as student writing. I think of it as just writing,” she said. “That’s why I have you all call me Lucy, because I’m a writer, just like you all are writers, and so we call each other by our first names.”

This fall, she has worked mostly with seniors on their college applications. She said she appreciates their candidness.

“These are really conversations about who they are and what they want in their lives, and that requires a lot of openness and vulnerability,” Dr. Biederman said. “I so deeply respect seniors for that and I’m grateful to them for sharing that with me.”

Senior Colleen Cardoza said her experiences working on college applications with Dr. Biederman are enjoyable and valuable.

I think it’s another thing we normalize at Lab — showing people our writing, letting people into the process of our thinking, and that’s really special.

“She’s been extremely helpful. She’s made a lot of great edits to my essays,” Colleen said. “She points out where I could change my tone or be more direct. She helps me find better word choices as well, and points out all these details that are really great. She makes me feel comfortable, and she makes me feel like I’m a good writer.”

Although sharing college applications is personal, so is sharing any writing, Dr. Biederman said.

“I think it’s another thing we normalize at Lab — showing people our writing, letting people into the process of our thinking, and that’s really special,” Dr. Biederman said. “It’s not normal, it’s something really wonderful and hard, and that’s really astounding, just getting to see how people think and getting to experience their willingness to include me in that.”