Tracking an Author (x2)

I forgot to post last week, so I am posting about two authors this week. Both of the authors I chose to track are columnists for The New York Times, which I felt was appropriate given the fact that the majority of the authors I have tracked in weeks past have been published in the NYT.

The first is Maureen Dowd, who previously worked at Time magazine and Washington Star. Although the venues in which she has been published are limited, the scope of her work is not. Despite currently being a reporter on current (and often controversial) affairs, Dowd was originally an editorial assistant turned reported who often covered sports news before moving onto metropolitan news. I thought this was interesting because it reminded me of Chuck Klosterman, an author I have tracked previously, who is/was heavily involved in the world of sports writing, and has been published in the NYT.

The second author I chose to follow is Gail Collins, a fellow NYT’s columnist who is, like Dowd, known for her liberal/progressive journalism. Unlike Dowd, however, Collins’ work has been published in/by several venues. This includes the Hartford Advocate, the Connecticut State News Bureau (an organization she founded herself), the Connecticut Business Journal, United Press International, New York Daily News, and Newsday, all before joining the NYT and becoming its first-ever female Editorial Page Editor (!!) before returning to her position as a columnist. Collins has also written several books such as When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of American Women from 1960 to the Present, The Millennium Book, Scorpion Tongues: Gossip, Celebrity and American Politics, America’s Women: Four Hundred Years of Dolls, Drudges, Helpmates, and Heroines, As Texas Goes: How the Lone Star State Hijacked the American Agenda, and the introduction for The Feminine Mystique, of which I have read excerpts for one of my other classes (small world).

Tone Summary

Thus far, the two experiments I have proposed have had a fairly strong opinionated tone, as I have been discussing my experiences/opinions of modern romance. Now, working on my third experiment, I worry that my tone is too judgmental, so I am considering (attempting) to make my piece more objective, although I don’t plan on being successful, at least initially. If this proves unsuccessful, I may try to change the format rather than content, however I’m not sure if my last experiment was modified enough in terms of content to allow this. I’m also wondering if there is a format for my future site that could accommodate/warrant the strength of my opinion? I’m still in the works of developing answers to this, so I am looking forward to my meeting with Ray this week to discuss my thoughts/concerns further!

Tone of Past Experiments

Both of my experiments so far have been more informal than my usual writing. For the first, this style was mostly the result of my broad approach to the subject I was tackling. If I had tried to be more serious with my thoughts and structures, it would have opened the piece up to some obvious criticism given the intangible nature of the topic. The best way I could make order out of that chaos was to allow my ideas to flow without much careful construction, and that approach lends itself to the informal tone the experiment has overall. Still, I do not interject with my own voice so much and keep my opinion out of the discussion, so it is not as informal as my second experiment. For that, I tightened up the borders of the subject and made a more concise argument, though the subject is still one best taken with a tone similar to the first. This is further softened by the experiment’s shift to an audio medium, as I believe that the sound of a voice – when performed as I would perform in this instance – has a more fluid and informal feel than words in a text, which are stagnant and usually interpreted by default as stern.

Taking this into consideration, I feel that I should attempt to have a different tone for my next experiment, for the sake of experimentation, if nothing else. I was thinking of going forward with a more creative approach. The subject of my past experiments having been essentially about discussion fiction, I figure why not make fiction of my own that reflects the ideas I’ve been playing around with. Since my topic is about characters who garner audience empathy despite their bad morals, I think the tone of this piece would likely be darker and more serious than my past experiments. Taking the darker ideas of the first experiments and removing them from the abstract will no doubt have this effect, and I think it will make for a good change from what I have done already, allowing me to keep the inquisitive nature of the subject while adding a more confident, formal tone.

Tone

My first experiment included a sample interview with a professor of mine, and the questions were designed to answer a question I had explored in a close reading essay. The tone of that was investigative. The questions were written with the assumption that my subjects identified as feminists, because that was who I needed to ask, but they are still objective in that I did not want to give away the answer I was looking for.

My second experiment involved research of artists whose work was used in protests for different social justice movements. I displayed the information about the artist, the piece, and the movement along with a picture of the piece I had researched. The tone is meant to be inspiring and reminiscent of the energy of these activists.

For my third experiment, I decided I needed to do something more personal. I am working on a personal essay about what it is I want to say, and how I would use art to say it, if I ever decided to use that as my medium. The tone of this is meant to be animated and impassioned. I want to stress that I feel very strongly about this statement, and I really want to make something to represent it, but for now I’ll just write about what that would look like, and how it would feel to show people.

Tracking an Author: Joyce Johnson

In her book called The Voice Is All: The Lonely Victory of Jack Kerouac, Johnson does not focus on their relationship that occurred around the time On the Road was published, but dives into his background, paying a lot of attention to the fact that his is a French Canadian background. There are a great deal of biographies about Kerouac, but Johnson’s is the only one with so much focus on this fact, and only she had gained access to his large archive that has been kept in the New York Public Library since 2002. Johnson was not granted permission to quote the archives, so it is all paraphrased in The Voice Is All. And even though she writes at length about the value and brilliance of the works she had found, she does not include any examples of them. Johnson seems to be very reserved when it comes to Kerouac’s work, and the work of others like him.

The Voice Is All: The Lonely Victory of Jack Kerouac was published by Penguin Books in 2012.

My Experiments and their Tones

My first experiment was an analytical research paper on how displays of emotions in public are viewed by society. I was very insistent on keeping the paper professional and academic: in other words, my personal beliefs would not be injected, and I would not use the word “I.” Therefore, I would characterize the tone of this experiment as formal, and perhaps even a little distant and unyielding.

For my second experiment, I wrote a personal narrative about an experience I had about being uncomfortable with my emotions in a public space. My natural tone when I write is fairly informal, so I truly let that loose in this experiment (in my first draft, I used a lot of swear words). In the nature of the topic (emotionality), this experiment’s tone was vulnerable and honest. I would argue that you have to be this way when writing personal narratives, and I think my tone fit right along with that.

Finally, for my third experiment, I created a blog with the intention that its “users/readers” could use it as a platform to read about others experiences with translating emotions typically classified as private into a public sphere and, in turn, would share their own experiences. With that idea of sharing and openness in mind, I tried to make the Wix website I created very calming and welcoming. I included darker colors (greys and blues) with images to intersperse the long blocks of texts. The tone of this experiment is welcoming, sentimental – maybe even to the point of it being too much.

Looking for a common thread in this, ultimately, my experiments boil down to being honest with the reader. This may establish trust, though the writer would need a different strategy to establish authority. When writing about emotions, as I previously mentioned, you cannot really help but be honest because readers could tell if you are not – every reader is a human and has emotions; it is easy to spot disingenuity.

Tracking An Author: Francine Prose

In my continuous endeavour to watch the development of authors, this time, I looked at Francine Prose’s response to issues circulating a book called “American Heart” by Laura Moriarty. This book, as Prose puts it, “imagines a future in which Muslims are being herded into internment camps, a fact of minor importance to the novel’s white heroine, Sarah Mary, until she befriends an endangered Iranian Muslim, a professor named Sadaf.” Reviewers accused this book of perpetuating this idea of the need of white “saviorism” and other unfavorable tropes. In Prose’s response, called “The Problem with the ‘Problematic'” in the New York Review of Books, she writes that it is “undeniable that the literary voices of marginalized communities have been underrepresented in the publishing world, but the lessons of history warn us about the dangers of censorship. Unless they are written about by members of a marginalized group, the harsh realities experienced by members of that group are dismissed as stereotypical, discouraging writers from every group from describing the world as it is, rather than the world we would like” (As a disclaimer, I do not necessarily agree with this, I am simply relaying a brief summary of her article).

Putting aside the content to look more holistically at Prose as a writer, it is easy to see why she is such a reputable author. She knows what she is talking about. There are numerous hyperlinks to her sources in this one review and she interprets/construes them to her argument intelligently. As has been evidenced in my past readings of her work, she proves her mettle in being a persuasive and skilled writer. Furthermore, to be included significantly in a discussion about the worth of literature at this level proves her familiarity of the publishing industry and, subsequently, her experience.

Following a venue: Daily Shouts from The New Yorker

This week I stumbled upon the Daily Shouts section in The New Yorker, and it was interesting to read through a couple of short photo essays that concisely explained situations through humorous images and short phrases. I really liked seeing a different form of medium of representing information (here, using images) that serve the theme of the piece. For example, Trevor Spaulding effectively explains “The Trendiest Parenting Fears of 2017” using the simplest colored illustrations that gear towards parents of today. As a young adult, I completely agree with those “fears” since they speak the changing technological, political, and cultural lifestyles of today. (https://www.newyorker.com/humor/daily-shouts/the-trendiest-parenting-fears-of-2017). Another similar essay is the one by Miss Lasko-Gross where she tells us “Things to Secretly Love About NYC.” Having been to NYC only three times, I could see a couple specific “things” that culturally remain special about NYC. (https://www.newyorker.com/humor/daily-shouts/things-to-secretly-love-about-nyc ) Looking at the two pieces, I would say that the authors do not have much authority over their works but because they speak of trends and places, I do find them trustworthy.

Overall, I loved the modes in which these two pieces have been presented, since sometimes pictures speak more than long passages do. Caricatures and funny drawings are also eye-catching to the readers’ that gathered my attention to those above.

Becoming a lyricist!

lyr·i·cist

ˈlirəsəst/

noun

to be on top of the rap game, providing unequalled wordplay and ill skills

 

In the hip-hop world they say that the best rappers aren’t just rappers, they’re lyricists. They spit their rhymes to tell a story that flows. They use metaphors and similes to play with their words. They demand your attention with lyrics that not only entertain, but tell a story that is so compelling it feels like you’re experiencing it in real time.

 

Tupac’s Brenda’s Got a Baby tells the story of a 12-year-old girl in the hood whose pregnancy forces her into prostitution and the drug game.

 

Eminem’s Stan tells the story of an obsessive fan who kills himself and his girlfriend after not receiving a reply from his favorite rapper Eminem.

 

Ludacris’s Runaway Love tells the story of multiple young girls who are the victims of rape, domestic violence, drugs, and other horrifying realities that attack Black communities.

 

All of these tell stories that do a lot more than just rhyme to a beat.

 

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If you want to be a lyricist the first thing that you need to know is that it isn’t about rhyme scheme or beats. It’s about imagery, metaphors, essentiality, and intentionality. Nothing a lyricist does is unintentional.

  1. Every rap starts with a story; it’s the most important part. The song is just the medium for expressing the story, but the most important part of the song is that the reader feels as if they are there and connected to the narrative thus, some of the most common conventions of raps (rhyme schemes, choruses, hooks, etc.) may be broken in order to prioritize the story.
  2. After the story comes the style. What makes rappers unique is that everyone’s style is different. Every piece of the song must be carefully constructed to drive home the purpose of the story, but that doesn’t mean that it has to be chronological or even grammatically correct.  Some artists choose to preview the end of the story to capture the listens’ attention while others tend to build up their reader’s anticipation. This is your chance to be YOU. Take risks. Be adventurous. Allow your creativity to shine.
  3.  After the story comes the chorus. The key is to make it short and sweet, so that it doesn’t take away from the narrative. Even still the chorus must be catchy enough to grasp the listener (yes, it’s as difficult as it sounds).

If you need more help becoming a lyricist check out what listener’s of rap say about what it takes.

As unartistic as I am, I plan to make a rap using these three easy steps. The easy part is that I already have my memoir from experiment 1, which I will convert to a rap in order to attract the same audience and hopefully broaden it. Educational research shows rap music as an effective way to reinforce learning therefore, I hope that my rap song will serve as way to reiterate the lessons taught in my memoir and in the end, encourage youth who’ve endured a lot to look past their struggles. I hope that with my story being in the form of a song it will broaden my audience and in turn, attract students who do not enjoy reading.

Looking Out For Yourself

During my sophomore year at Ross, we were forced to go to 10 guest speakers during the first semester. It was a hassle to say the least, and some of the speeches were even quite dry. However, somewhere in the middle was a man named Marcus Collins. He was able to captivate an audience like I have never seen before. His story was incredible and his physical delivery was impeccable. To this day, whenever I give a speech I try to speak with the confidence and energy that he portrayed. Following in this inspiration, I have decided that the genre that I will be working with for experiment three is speeches; specifically speeches that are framed as Ted Talks, the way Marcus’ was.

Pictured Above: Marcus Collins.

After evaluating multiple speeches, one of which being Marcus’, I have come to decide that this way of giving speeches is by far the most effective to hit the audience I am trying to hit (high school and college age students). There were very large discrepancies between the “Ted Talk” speech and the commencement speeches that I evaluated. The former being infinitely more lively as the speaker worked his way across the stage, towards and back from the audience, and utilized emotion to have so much more of an effect than the commencement speakers. I feel that this is a direct result of the setting in which the speeches occurred as Denzel Washington and J.K. Rowling (two of the commencement speakers) are nothing short of spectacular people, they just seemingly had to tame themselves in the situation.

 

I hope that the following “How To Give an Engaging Speech” guide will benefit you and lead you in a way that helps you to captivate audiences.

  1. Find Your Passion
  • What do you want to talk about? This is not a guide to give a classroom speech, for this guide to be effective, you need to have a passion for what you are discussing.
  1. Know Your Passion Inside, Outside, and In Between
  • In order to have flow and to be able to use the next step, it is critical to know your topic inside and out. Knowing as much as possible about your topic allows you to just get up there and talk. I know that sounds easier than it is, but if you think about your favorite thing in the world (say… football) you can get up there and just talk football. That’s because you know football, you know teams, you know players, you know stadiums, you know the rules, you know everything.
  1. Create a Minimalist Script
  • Most people assume that to give a good speech, you need a thorough script. However, I disagree, I believe that taking a minimalist mindset when preparing a script for a speech is a much more beneficial strategy. Writing out just the main ideas that you want to cover will afford you the ability to be yourself and show your true self when speaking. It also creates better flow as you aren’t struggling to remember all of a potentially hour long speech.
  1. Practice!
  • How do you practice a speech that doesn’t have a script? You just talk, the same way you’ll just talk when you’re on stage. You know the main points, you know the order of those main points, and you know as much as there is to know about your topic. So…. Just go talk about it! To your friends, your family, anyone who will listen.

 

 

Now, I know there is more to giving a good speech than that but that’s the beauty of this kind of speech…. It’s your speech and it’s your passion. In this subsection of speeches, there is no right way, your way is the right way because this “Ted Talk” is yours and if you are lively and engaging and you know your topic, it will be successful.

 

 

With my “Ted Talk” speech, I hope to reach an audience of high school and college aged students. For them I hope to pose and begin to answer the question, “What does it mean to look out for yourself?” Within this question I will be exploring the selfish/selflessness involved in the situation (specifically, considering when it is time to let some of your friends go that may be holding you back from your true potential – similar to Gordie Lachance in “The Body”). This is a great genre to enter this conversation as a lively discussion is one of, if not the best, way to engage and communicate to high school and college students. It far surpasses a long article or an essay, and a blog post just won’t do it justice. This conversation is one that needs to be had face to face and with the spoken word.