I suppose it’s time to #Pivot.

So, I guess the G-word is actually happening soon. I can’t imagine a summer without school at the other end; a morning commute that doesn’t involve walking through the Diag and being handed flyers for acapella concerts; a nine-to-five job that doesn’t involve analyzing literature. But – it’s coming.

And, despite my hesitance, I know that it is time to go.

My education at the University of Michigan has been challenging and exciting; I have had a truly liberal arts schooling. I know more about contemporary politics from Political Science 300, more about women’s studies from my Human Sexuality course, more about literature from all of my various English courses as an English major – and more about writing from all of those things put together and then some.

The Minor in Writing has helped me think reflectively on how all of those liberal arts pieces fit together – adding up into the summation of my education here. Everything I have ever studied required some form of writing – and the minor has given me a reason to curate that, make sense of it, and even draw some conclusions about my writing, why I write, and how I write.

When I first began the minor, I really didn’t know what it would be about. Writing, sure, but what about it? The gateway course was a ton of fun; I loved re-purposing and re-imagining a dry, matter-of-fact academic essay into a funny New Yorker Piece then a video. I learned to expand my concept of writing to beyond the straight text of an academic piece. Writing involves hyperlinks. Involves images. Involves videos. Involves charts. Involves presentations and print and web and mobile. People complain that they stop writing after they take their last English course – but I disagree. We are constantly writing (hello, email? Twitter?!) and thinking creatively…it just isn’t in the form we are used to. And that’s okay.

I also learned about the importance of concision. Less is more. Especially when writing for an online space, I learned how to accommodate for Internet readers. Short paragraphs, headlines, and media all help make a piece of writing more effective in a digital space – but also have high-impact but short sentences and phrases (rather than long ones) are key.

In English 325 and 425, I found out why I really love to write. Personal essay writing is so fun because the writer has such stake in the product. The story is yours to tell – so you want it to be told in the best way possible. It was during these two workshop-style classes that I really came to understand the importance of revision and of sharing my work with other readers.

Writing doesn’t happen in a vacuum.

Instead, it is a shared experience (both the writing and the sharing of the final product). People interpret things in different ways, and it is exciting to know that something I write can leave my brain and enter someone else’s and come to mean something different and unique to that reader based on the experiences they bring to their reading.

Even at a sentence level, people read things differently. In my essay titled “A Day at the Fair,” people in my workshop read the first line: “I am an imposter in a blazer from eighth grade” to mean I am an imposter from eighth grade in a blazer (rather than how I meant it – that I felt like an imposter at the career fair because I was wearing an old blazer from eighth grade that I have had for years). I never would have realized this other reading had it not been for workshop and for sharing this piece with so many other fresh pairs of eyes before revising.

I have also learned a ton from helping others with their revision. As an objective reader, I am able to catch grammar mistakes and logical errors that I would not have been able to see in my own work because I am too close to it. I am also able to pick up on style moves and writing techniques that others are trying out. Not to mention, I have been able to read some really moving personal essays that have allowed me to walk around in someone else’s skin, and shown me a little more about the human condition.

I love writing – I love stringing words together, making meaning from meaningless characters on a computer screen, and sharing with others. And for all of the collaborative efforts encouraged by the Minor in Writing, I am thankful. I have so enjoyed the minor in writing, and have learned a ton more about writing in general and writing in a digital space.

So what happens next?

For now, I am looking to take a break from the world of academia and get a job in the “Real World.” I would like to write professionally for a marketing agency and work specifically with the web. Whether it be a brand’s message for their new app or a company website, if there is a message to be said, I want to be the one to write it. To get creative. To be concise. To have an impact.

But that’s just for now.

For the future? Who knows. I would love to become a professor some day. To have an essay or two published in The New Yorker. Maybe even to write a novel. But one thing is for sure: I feel most fulfilled when I am writing and sharing my work with others. (AKA why I spent so much time on my portfolio – I love having an easy place to send people who want to read my work!)

Conclusions? There aren’t many. So much is left to the ambiguous unknown of my future. But I am excited about it – and thankful for my time as an undergraduate. I have loved every second.

Thanks to everyone (professors and peers and friends) who has helped me with my writing through this minor – I appreciate it more than you know.

Amy

#topten books (for right now)

In order of how they jumped into my brain:

1. A Visit From the Goon Squad – Jennifer Egan
2. Room – Emma Donoghue
3. Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk – Ben Fountain
4. A Thousand Splendid Suns – Khaled Hosseini
5. The Namesake – Jhumpra Lahiri
6. Saving The Appearances – Steven Barfield (for you, Ray)
7. White Noise – Don Delillo
8. Beloved – Toni Morrison
9. Invisible Man – Ralph Ellison
10. Birds of America – Lorie Moore (short story collection)

Who am I and how does that relate to my capstone? #rayray

Who am I?

  1. I am the kind of person who, after reading a book, will start to think like the 3rd person narrator of my own life and of the things happening around me.
  2. I too-often find myself thinking about what should I do later rather than what am I doing now.
  3. I am someone who will cry if someone else is upset.
  4. (In that same vein) I am sensitive, oftentimes to a fault.
  5. I am someone who is always looking for something to look forward to.
  6. I am a lay-on-the-beach vacation person, though sometimes I am an adventure vacation person or a city vacation person. Basically, I love vacations.
  7. I am a competitive person, but most people wouldn’t know that.

What resources am I using for my project?

(note to readers: I am doing my project as an integrated approach to the Holocaust through the lens of my grandparents’ stories (who are survivors) and how the media/pop culture has portrayed it since the 1950s…)

  1. Comic representations of Hitler from US and Britain during/post WWII
  2. The Stranger (Orson Wells, 1946)
  3. The Diary of Anne Frank
  4. “Eli The Fanatic” (1959)
  5. “The Jewbird” (Malamud, 1963)
  6. Marathon Men (1976)
  7. Saul Bellow’s work (1972)
  8. Sophie’s Choice
  9. Philip Roth (Ghost Writer, 1979)
  10. Night (1982)
  11. Schindler’s List (1990s…)
  12. Inglourious Basterds (2009)
  13. Defiance (2009)
  14. My grandparents’ own stories (as recorded by the Video History Archive at USC)

 

…help me make sense of this?

Amy

In case ya missed it: 5 take aways from Maria Cotera’s talk #rayray

Hey all! For anyone who didn’t capitalize on the 100 point opportunity this Thursday at Literati (shame on you…JK. Kinda.), here are a few of her take aways about writing that I found potentially helpful:

1. Form affects tone. When you are writing for a blog, you adapt your “bloggy” voice. When you are writing academic research, cue the distance passive (i.e. “The following dissertation will argue that X…”). Secret  is: no one likes the latter of those two. It feels distant and, frankly, boring. (HINT: our evolution essays should probably avoid that academicky passive voice.)

2. Boring to write, then boring to read. This plays into point 1 a bit.

3. Don’t “invisiblize” yourself as the writer. (This also plays into point 1 about the passive voice. Why should I care about what your “dissertation” is arguing? I’d rather see YOU and your passion about the topic. Read: it’s OK to use “I”.)

4. Start with a structure you know (i.e. classic essay structure)…it’s a safe jumping off point. Then, once you have the structure a little, nuance it. (Could help when drafting this weekend…).

5. There is strength in taking risky challenges and making them the focus of your work. Ask questions. Provoke. Push a little.

…That’s it! See you in class.

Amy

My Gateway Eportfolio!

Hi everyone!

I had a lot of fun working on my eportfolio this semester…and now it is DONE (at least, for now…); Click here to check it out! Although learning the ins and outs of WordPress was a bit of a pain, I am glad to have been able to use this software in the Gateway course. I know this is still a draft for my eventual website, but I am excited to use this site as a launching point for the capstone eportfolio. Hope everyone has a fabulous break and good luck with the rest of your finals!

Amy

How I Write

So for this How I Write post, I am going to talk about a lecture given by Kurt Vonnegut, one of my favorite authors. In this video, Vonnegut has a chalkboard and draws the graph of stories. This visual representation of how he writes a story and how we digest a story is not only very funny, but also shows how we can use diagrams and shapes and drawings and graphs as a means of understanding a written story or piece. I have never been one to draw for a prewrite, but there is something nice about mapping out writing and having a visual to refer to when all you can think about is the lack of words on a screen.

It is also interesting how Vonnegut is trying to use this visual representation of written stories so that computers can digest them; this video is from at least a decade ago, and Vonnegut already can see the importance of the digital world and the world of words to be able to mesh. Stories need to adapt, and can be told in more ways than just with words (i.e. charts, pictures, etc.).

I love Kurt Vonnegut on writing, and I will leave off with another famous (in the world of English nerds) bit of advice from the writer about writing short stories:

On How to Write a Short Story

Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving!

Do you dare?

Would you dare to be creative in an academic research paper? Take a risk and use “I”? Put your life on the line and add an anecdote or two!?! (Ok, so maybe the stakes don’t need to be that high). But seriously, it is one thing to talk about stylish writing, but a whole other to put it into practice. I know I am definitely hesitant to break with academic norms for a class with a professor who seems old-school…but is the risk worth taking? Ever since our conversation about stylish writing began I have wondered about this idea: stylishness is definitely admirable and easy to nod along and agree with in theory, but a challenge to execute without raising a few academic eye brows in practice. I am curious to see if anyone has taken a risk since our discussion began, or if anyone thinks they may in the future…I know I am planning to shift a little out of the box!

 

A NY Times Blog by Helen Sword, of “Stylish Academic Writing” Fame…

Just found this piece on the nytimes blog by Helen Sword: Mutant Verbs

In the post, Sword talks about the strange phenomenon of mutating nouns into verbs (i.e. Google something, Facebook something, brown the meat, parrot the professor, etc.)

It’s a pretty interesting piece, check it out if you have some time!

Can anyone think of other good examples of “verbifying”?