A dog?!?!?

I once asked my friend what kind of animal I was.

Whenever there are icebreakers that ask the question, “what’s your spirit animal?” I never have an answer. I love cats, but I am most definitely not a cat. I love birds, but I don’t personify a bird either.
So I thought I’d look for some insight from a close friend, someone who knew me really well. He was an aardvark. How I came up with that, I have no idea, but with some people it’s just abundantly clear what animal they are, and he was definitely an aardvark.
He looked at me, and very quickly came back with, “You’re a dog!”
I don’t know if you know this, and clearly he didn’t know this, but you can’t go calling girls dogs. Even meant as a compliment, it’s not taken as one.
I looked at him like, “are you serious?” And he kind of realized what he said. But instead of dropping it, apologizing and then picking the most gorgeous kind of animal he could, he stuck by his statement!
“Well you are like a dog!! You’re friendly, and people like to be around you, and you’re bubbly! Dogs are the best. Everyone likes dogs!”
“But if I’m a dog, that means I’m ugly. You know that don’t you?”
“Yes, but I don’t mean it like that! You don’t look like a dog, you just have the personality of a dog! Like, you know…you’re loyal!”
Wow. Loyal huh?

The aardvark and his dog.

 6465465f71097c1d_w-1

Other People’s Worlds

I have to admit that I’ve already looked through most of these portfolios. Curiosity got the best of me, and I wanted to have as much inspiration as possible before I began to create my own.

The ones that attracted me the most had clean lines, were easy to navigate, and had cool fonts. I have a thing for cool fonts.

So two that I want to point out here are Caroline Rafferty’s and Emily Kuchman’s. They both had visually pleasing home pages that made me want to stay awhile and search around.

Right away, they made it clear what the purpose of the site was, and they included an “about me,” which I found to be a helpful addition to their portfolio as a whole.

I think it’s important to explain who you are and what you’re about before people read your work.

Screen Shot 2016-03-21 at 3.20.42 PM
Screen Shot 2016-03-21 at 3.22.05 PMScreen Shot 2016-03-21 at 3.24.55 PM

Additionally, Caroline had a menu bar that was easy to read and easy to navigate. Even if I weren’t in the Minor, I would be able to understand what kind of writing is on each page, and what kind of project was being completed.

I think that the success of these portfolios had to do mostly with their professional nature; they look like real websites. For me, I am going to keep this in mind as I choose fonts, themes, and pictures, and I think I’ll want to stay away from making my site bloggish. I want mine to be a little more serious, and while it can still be personal, I want it to be professional.

Postmodern Tweeter

As I walked into my Project III pitch meeting, I was pretty sure that I was going to write short stories in the postmodern genre. I hadn’t thought about anything else. But T voiced concerns about how much time I would put into that project, and given that I have other classes, it didn’t seem feasible to create a finished product.

Then the other member–shout outs to Kevin–in my group meeting suggested that instead of short stories, I write postmodern tweets.

So my Project III will be to create a Twitter page for a postmodern author. I will take observations and thoughts and transcribe them so that they fit into the postmodern genre, and then I will tweet them. I have yet to decide if I want to create a completely fictional author (with name and background story) or if I simply want to tweet “thoughts from a (general/theoretical) postmodern author.” I’m leaning towards the former, because postmodernism relies on the author creating a fictional author to write their fiction.

My first step will be to create an author that I want to write from the perspective of. Then, I’ll need to do research on Twitter, because I know that there are authors out there who have created Twitters for characters and written stories with 140 characters at a time at their disposal. I’ll want to see how they use the platform.

Then, I’ll need to start drafting tweets, because I think the first few will be difficult for me to create. I’ll need to get the ball rolling as soon as possible.

Not yet a terrible draft

I have a clear focus and goal for my project. I know what I want to do, I’m just having a really hard time doing it. I’ve read several reviews, and I’ve gotten inspired, but every time I sit down to write something of my own, I don’t know where to start.

To remind you all, I’m writing a review of sorts on the novel If on a winter’s night a traveler, by Italo Calvino. At first, I wanted it to be a commentary on postmodernism (the style in which the book is written), but after reading many academic sources, trying to understand this concept, I realized that I did not want to tackle something so theoretical and big. So I’ve moved away from postmodernism and related theories, and I’m focusing more on the book itself.

I want to convince you to read it.

After reading some reviews, by the likes of David Mitchell and Salman Rushdie, to name a few, I’ve become more inclined to write about my own reading experience. I want to use myself as a lens through which you all can see this book. I also want to include the commentary of different reviewers or authors, as that is something that I’ve seen done repeatedly in this genre. As I was reading these pieces, I agreed and disagreed with certain points, and I want to clarify or expand on some of the claims that other reviewers have made.

I have a lot of goals, but I can’t exactly put my finger on a final vision. I think I need to write down a terrible, terrible draft, and then go from there. I’m getting caught up in writing paragraphs that “don’t sound good,” but I need to focus on getting the content smoothed out before I worry about its presentation.

This is harder than I thought.

 

Postmodernism: I’m just as confused as you

I’m planning to do my remediation project about the book “if on a winter’s night a traveller,” by Italo Calvino. I want to write a review, and explain to everyone why this kind of novel, and this kind of writing in general, is important, meaningful, interesting, and worth your time. I’ve read several pieces of writing in this same style before, but the problem was that I didn’t know how to categorize it. I love this kind of writing, but what kind of writing is it?

After a little investigation, I discovered that this novel is postmodern. Postmodernism is the school of thought that developed after (you guessed it) modernism. It stresses the importance of the act of writing, and it refutes the idea that there is a relationship between words and the objects that they describe, among other seemingly obscure ideas. So what does that mean? I don’t know. I’m researching to try and find that out.

So far, the best sources  have been in literary/scholarly journals. They’re difficult and dense, but that is hard to avoid when talking about such an abstract and confusing idea.

My goal right now is to get a good handle on what exactly postmodernism is, before I start researching Calvino and his specific book.

I found one article in particular, “Postmodern Theory” by Johnstone, in the journal Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism, to be most appropriate for my project, because it took postmodernism and explained how it applied to literature, thematic concern by thematic concern.

It touched on recurring images, ideas, and structures in postmodern work, and as I read, I could see how exactly these concerns had been employed by Calvino in his novel. My next step will be to go back through the book and find these examples of postmodernism.

Additionally, I want to further research some of the abstract ideas mentioned in Johnstone’s article, such as “metafiction,” “authorial intrusion,” and the idea that writing does not represent consciousness.

Hopefully, I’ll be able to see how Calvino was influenced by postmodernism, and I’ll be able to define it more completely.

 

The Art of Fiction: Discovering Truths

My only exposure to Italo Calvino’s writing is the first two chapters of his “If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler.” We read it in the same English class that we read “The Library of Babel” in, and I was instantly hooked on these fantastic, well-structured stories.

“I start with a small, single image and then I enlarge it,” Italo Calvino explains.

He uses a certain idea to revolve his stories around, and the result is a fantasy world that is both captivating and confusing.

~

I was drawn to this post, and not Jorge Luis Borge’s (the writer of the Library of Babel), because it was broken up into three parts: a memoir written by a literary critic who knew him, his thoughts before an interview (like an excerpt of his journal), and a transcribed interview. Not being too familiar with the author, it was nice to have a biography, a piece of his writing, and the question and answer session.

As I read, I wrote down ideas and phrases that struck me. In his thoughts before an interview, he talks about how he feels obligated to prepare for interviews, because he wants to answer questions in a different way each time. He thinks that his answers should evolve so that they reflect the context that he is currently situated in.

“This could be the basis for a book,” he concludes. You take a set of questions and make each chapter of the book contain the answers given at different times. So then the changes would be the “story that the protagonist lives.”

This post provided me with a look inside of his mind; I got to see how he was inspired. I also find it fascinating that the architecture of his stories is more often than not his main purpose. I’ve never written like that, but it’s something that I want to try. I like the idea of writing something with a certain structure in mind, working through ideas as I go. Calvino describes this as “discovering truths.”

The interviewer also asked interesting questions, and it felt more like a dialogue than some of the other interviews I read. It seemed as if he were changing his questions to follow up and move the conversation along, which felt more natural than sticking to a prescribed list of generic questions.

He asks, “Are novelists liars?” and Calvino says that he writes fiction because “lies are as interesting, eloquent, and revealing as any claimed truth.” The first two chapters of “If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler” are terribly confusing, because you can’t decipher reality from the book that the protagonist is reading. I liked being confused, and I liked that his writing was almost whimsical, but I’m not sure what he was trying to reveal. I went to the library and requested the book, so maybe once I finish it I’ll have an aha-moment about the meaning behind the story. But I also don’t think that revealing something is necessary in writing. I feel like it’s enough to write something that provokes thought and imagination in readers.

Why I Need Advice

I have definitely been feeling a little intimidated by everyone’s writing experience and skills. But Sonalee Joshi assured me that, “NO ONE ELSE KNOWS WHAT THEY’RE DOING EITHER.” So now I feel better.

It’s nice to know that other people in my shoes were feeling apprehensive and like they had no idea how they ended up here in the first place. I like knowing that other people had my same worries at some point.

The main reason I applied to the minor was so I could take a writing class surrounded by people who actually cared about the material. In Sonalee’s post, “So You’re Doing the Minor in Writing…” she mentions this aspect of the program.

Obviously everyone has goals to improve their own writing and create amazing personal projects. But I think that a lot of us, myself included, were drawn to this program so that we could learn from talented writers and be part of engaging discussions. She says that maybe this “sounds silly,” but I didn’t think so; I related to this part of her post a lot.

In Caroline Rafferty’s post, “When I Was Your Age…” she talks about overthinking things, a habit that I haven’t seemed to have gotten rid of. She numbered her pieces of advice, which made her thoughts more organized and easy to read. It also gave her post a casual tone that made it feel as if she were just talking to me and not lecturing. She reminded me to go with my gut and trust my instincts, instead of being inside of my head too much.

Both of these posts reiterated goals that I have for myself: soak up the culture and atmosphere of a class filled with writers and leave my head once in a while. I want to focus on my improvement as a writer and not get too stressed over little things that my peers and teacher can help me improve. In short, I want to get as much as I can out of this class and not be embarrassed to share terrible writing. I want to pay attention to the process more than anything.

 

Times New Roman and Me

kJHr_-P4

I’m Emily, from Boston. I have a twin brother who looks nothing like me, we don’t have Boston accents, and I’ve lived in the same house my entire life. The only time I’ve been uprooted, pre-college, was when in kindergarten I moved from the room I shared with Sam into my own pink room.

My dad has always been a writer, although I didn’t realize it until I was older. He has written several screenplays and at least one book that I know about. [I once rifled through his closet and found his writing. I remember thinking that he used a lot of swear-words.]

He always told me to keep a journal. But aside from the one time I went to sleep-away camp and the one time I left the country, I have never kept a successful journal. Meaning that I never write in it.

I wish I had nice handwriting that filled pages, but I write in a clumsier version of Times New Roman. There’s nothing romantic about that, especially when I end up with a bunch of scribbles and perfectly blacked out words, phrases, or passages. So when I write, I type.

I’m concerned that my journal would be too neat to be interesting or substantive. I’m maybe too neurotic to have engaging thought patterns.

But that same neuroticism has allowed me to major in Economics and minor in Math. While I’m not passionate about either, I like solving problems.

Writing presents me with a different challenge.

 I generally think about writing as exploration or observation. I write something down, then I realize how it could be said better or more clearly or succinctly, then I rewrite it, edit it, until I’ve explored all options and picked the phrases that I like the best. This is more difficult for me than the rote repetition of a math problem.

I’d like to get to better know and understand my own voice, so that I can better explain myself, share my opinions, and grapple with complexities. Maybe I’ll do this within our papers and projects, or maybe I’ll finally figure out how to write in a journal.