ePortfolio Plans

As far as presenting myself to the world as a writer, I want to welcoming.  The last thing I want to look like is pretentious, which is always personally a very off-putting experience for me.  I’ll probably feature a resume or a CV type document, but I definitely won’t be featuring it on the first page. It’ll probably just show up as a link for viewing on my “About Me” page.

I want the design of my portfolio to reflect my personality a lot. When people come to the site, I want them to leave with not an understanding of who I am, but definitely an accurate impression. That’s why I liked the Mark McGall site I posted to the blog earlier so much; it oozes personality, and because of that, it’s memorable. I want people to come to my site and think, “Hey, there’s a creative, interesting guy that knows what the hell he’s doing and has some killing writing to boot.”

Ideally, I would like to use this portfolio for applying to MFA programs next year, and possibly internships and other programs for the summer, which is why I think it’s going to be some important for me to display a memorable persona. I want applicant review committees to see my site, and remember it, and revisit it to check out my writing, and ultimately accept me to their programs.

I’m not really sure I’ll be using too many Web 2.0 features on my portfolio site. I get how they could be useful or interesting, and could add a different dimension to my site, but I really do want to keep the site focused on a) my writing and b) my personality and voice as a writing.  I might make use of some videos, maybe like a greeting/welcome to my site type thing on the home page, but that’s probably as far as I’ll be venturing into the world of interactivity.

Though focused primarily on my writing, I think I would be remiss to leave out images in my site. I’m really into visual literacy lately, and using images that either characterize or compliment my writing, as well as the persona I establish in this portfolio, will help add a nice rhetorical dimension to the site. I would also love to include any multimodal pieces I end up doing on the portfolio, but as it stands, I can’t really think of a single one that makes sense to display on my site.

I’m a little nervous for this task. Getting it just right could be a tricky endeavor.  But I’m also excited to just get going on it. I want to see my finished product. Somehow, the idea of having all my writing up online on a website that everyone with an Internet connection can see seems to legitimize my writing.  It makes it real, and I love that.

Keep An Open-Mind

I thought Rodger’s presented an really effective argument in favor of a truly reflective approach to learning, which is easily applied to how we approach writing in this minor.  Of particular interest to me was how she described the states of mind of the reflective process, and specifically what she said about open mindedness. While on the surface, open-mindedness is exactly what one think it would be, when applied to reflection, it’s much more about being open to the idea of challenging yourself than being open to the various ideas and opinions of others, which is kind of awesome. In my personal experience, my most rewarding learning experiences have been when I’ve argued at length with myself about an issue.  When this happens, I find I typically don’t arrive at a great answer to whatever question I have on my mind, but I also feel like I have a better understanding of the topic as a whole.  I guess that’s kind of how I feel about education in general: the more I learn, the less I know.

What Rodgers had to say about experience and interaction with environment was also interesting to me.  In the learning process, information can’t merely be absorbed passively if one is to gain a truly meaningful understanding of what it is he or she is trying to learn. To really learn something, one has to reflect on it, and to do that, one has to experience what’s being taught by interacting with what Dewey would call an “environment” and it as “whatever conditions interact with personal needs, desires, purposes, and capacities to create the experience which is had.” The environment can be intensely reflective self-questioning, academic discourse in a classroom, etc.; it’s anything that fosters the reflective process.

Rodgers’ most interesting point about Dewey’s writings though came from a hypothetical example of what happens when these reflective processes start happening at rapid-fire speeds.  She makes an example of a teacher who, in the midst of teaching, finds her class bored and completely disengaged from what she’s teaching. A novice at the reflective process, Rodgers posits, is likely to to ask, “What did I teach today?” and perhaps further probe “Why was my class disengaged?” But, an teacher experienced in the reflective practice would look at her class and ask, “What was learned today?” The two questions are obviously completely different, and thus require different answers, but the latter requires a much more keen observation of the situation at hand.  Whereas the first teacher’s response is mostly a reaction (why am I boring?), the latter is a careful analysis (what effect am I having?) It’s a great example of why it’s so important to move beyond initial reactions and really probe ourselves for why we think the way we do.

The Best Bad Ideas Come Late at Night

So, I’m an insane person. It’s currently 5:07 AM on the Saturday of Halloweekend.  I did not go out. I stayed in and watched Mean Girls with my roommate, drank coffee, and baked a few loaves of pumpkin bread.  Clearly, I have a phenomenal social life. And it’s only going to get better once November 1st comes around.  Why, you ask?

"Actually, I couldn't care less. Thanks for being so presumptuous, though."

Because in November, as part of NaNoWriMo (or less awesomely, National Novel Writing Month), I will be attempting (keyword) to write my first novel.  This decision seems ill advised, as it would appear I’m behind in all aspects of my life, academic or otherwise right now. The goal of NaNoWriMo is literally to write a rough draft of an entire novel over the thirty days of November.  I kind of signed up expecting myself to crap out around day three or so, and to be honest, that’s still a very possible ending to this story.  I didn’t even have an idea for a novel until about two hours ago. But now that I’ve got one, I’m pumped and won’t allow myself to sleep until I have at least three pages of story and ideas written in (digital) ink.  I’ve got an idea I’m excited about in my mind, and if I’ve learned one thing about writing in the last few months, is that when I’m inspired, I have to write IMMEDIATELY after conceiving an idea.  That’s kind of how this blog post came about.  I was writing and brainstorming for the novel when I thought that this might work for my blog entry this week. And now, here I am, writing a blog post about how I thought to write a blog post about how I thought to write a novel.

I apologize for absolutely everything about this. (Source: http://cdn.nolanfans.com/images/posters/inception/p7xfull.jpg)

Ideally, a NaNoWriMo participant aims to write 175 pages (50,000 words) before the month is over.  I’ve never written any piece of fiction longer than sixteen pages, so I’m a little worried about how this could end up.  Realistically, I don’t see myself meeting the goal set by whoever makes standards for NaNoWriMo, but I figure if I can contribute about three pages a day or so, I’ll end up with a good start that I can keep working on. After all,  I am still a student, who has to do other things like homework and laundry to do. The realist in me says this could be totally detrimental to my school work, which is a valid concern, but the optimist in me likes to think writing regularly like this will actually help me preserve momentum in other projects.  We’ll see which wins out.

Abandon seems like an appropriate word for this. I definitely see myself abandoning sleep, food, social activity, and sanity in the coming 30 days.


Have you ever woken up on a Saturday morning and, after drinking eight cups of coffee, felt totally inspired to accomplish a project that has up until now been kind of awful and oppressive to your sanity (I might be hyperbolizing a bit)?

Totally just did that. And it feels awesome.

Cup of Coffee
Pictured: Sweet, sweet inspiration juice. (Source: http://www.sxc.hu/pic/l/a/an/anya-anya/1214631_55640564.jpg)

I have struggled and wrestled with how to make all the ideas I have for this paper work together to form a coherent, unified piece…and after weeks of failing, I think I’ve finally come up with a solution. For the first time in awhile, I’m excited to write this paper and, I might even venture to say I’m a little bit hopeful about how the whole thing will turn out.  This is so much easier now that I actually know what I’m doing. I’m just hoping this isn’t some sort of fluke, because right now, I feel great.

Josh is happy.

Make no mistake, this paper is still going to be hard to get just right…but the hardest part seems like it’s out of the way.  I’ve always had an idea of where I wanted to take this piece, but now the path to the end product is clear.

In with the New

Looking back at my blog posts, I noticed I sounded way more professional when there was a prompt to write to, but I also found myself liking those writings less. For me, it seems like the blog is more of a way to talk unfiltered about what’s on my mind in regards to this class, the minor, and writing in general.  When I’m just free writing, my personal voice makes itself much more present, and I also find it easier to come up with ideas to write about. Prompts are nice for giving me a jumping off point, but ideas flow far more easily when I’m “writing out loud,” as Andrew Sullivan would call it. I love writing with one point in mind and letting it spiral out in to places I couldn’t have ever seen it traveling in my most vivid imaginations. And, while sometimes the blog does seem a little like busy-work, I have to say, every time I’ve finished writing a blog post I feel a lot better about everything going on with my writing, in this class as well as others. I’ve found blogging is a really nice way to turn on the tap and get the faucet running.

I’ve been a terrible commenter, and a goal I’m setting for myself is to change that. I think I maybe comment once a week, and that’s being generous with myself. I personally appreciate comments on my posts; they’ve helped me out a ridiculous amount  and it’s not fair to not participate and engage with other peoples’ work like they’ve engaged with mine.  To my old group, I’m sorry, and to my new group, I promise to be better, because obviously, the comments are important, maybe even more so than the actual post. In our first blog groups, before we tragically parted, we all noticed that the blog is really conversational: “it feels like having a really interesting conversation with a friend” as one of us put it.  And that’s kind of how I like it.  Writing’s fun.  Talking’s fun. Friends are fun.  So talking about writing with friends is kind of a blast. And it’s helpful. I’ve found the best way to make my writing better is to talk with someone about it, and the blog really lends itself to starting a conversation. I guess I’m hoping this new blog group works in a similar way. I’m sad to see my old group go, but excited to see where the new one takes me, and the rest of us.

Sitting in a Library with Demi Lovato, Wondering Where It All Went Wrong

Here I sit, writing this blog entry from the Grad Library, listening to Demi Lovato’s “Skyscraper” for the umpteenmillionith time. Oh yes, I’m at that level of hopeless.  I think I’m starting to lose my mind…I just paid $3.75 for a bottle of juice. That’s ridiculous. But the bottle says it’s natural, and will help me think better. Lucky for the Naked juice company, I’m a desperate sucker, and it seems to be working.  I predict more over priced juice smoothie beverages to come in the near future.

Naked Juice bottle.
I wish I knew how to quit you. Source: my phone.

Honestly, this paper is bummin’ me out.  I can’t seem to get it right.  When I start, I hate what I’ve written, and I do the worst thing you can do – delete everything on the page. I have little fragments that look like they’re starting to come together, but I’m underwhelmed with my progress, and overburdened by the task at hand (which is totally my fault…writing on zombies? seriously?).  It’s funny, I had the exact same problem with the first iteration of this paper; it was the most difficult writing assignment I had done in college up until now.  I was hoping to know how to navigate my way around it better a second time, but here I am, struggling just as much as I remember. I’m satisfied with my idea, the audience I have in mind, and the sources I’ve got to back up what I want to say. So why can’t I seem to write this damn thing? Why is writing about something interesting always so much harder than it should be?

Fall break is less than a week a way. I’m not a religious person, but hallelujahs are in order. Those two blessed, completely free days are just the thing I’m going to need to get this paper to the level it needs to be, and where I want it to be.  Some extra, uninterrupted time to sit down and write is going to be a vacation. Had I had more time for the paper I’m adapting from for this assignment, I think I’d have felt way better about how it turned out. I feel like I failed this paper the first time I wrote it, even though it got an A.  Somehow, that actually made me feel worse about not having the paper up to my standard.  Here I’d written something I felt completely ashamed of, and somehow managed to get rewarded for it.  And I’m pretty sure this wasn’t a case of the creator being overly critical of his or her own work…the paper was bad. Bad enough to warrant italics and bolding (look at all the emphasis in these last few sentences – I must be tired).

I really don’t want to end up feeling the same way about this paper (though I severely doubt I’d get an A for such a deplorable piece).  I don’t want to feel like I’ve failed myself again, and then have to pick up the remnants of a project that crashed and burned to build something new again. I don’t think I can handle the disappointment in myself again. I know it sounds narcissistic, but I really couldn’t care less right now. I know I don’t want to mess this up again, and the fact that I feel like I am is upsetting me. I hung a poster in my room for just this type of situation this year, and I’ll end on its wisdom, for both the sake of inspiring myself and as a gift to you, fellow writing minor 2011 cohorts. If you spend as disgusting an amount of time on the Interwebz as I do, you’ll propbably recognize the meme as Courage Wolf.

Bite off more than you can chew, then chew it.
Apparently, the quote is from a woman named Ella Williams. I'm disappointed that she was in fact, not a wolf. Source: http://www.memedr.com/images/43-courage-wolf-bite-off-more-than-you-can-chew-then-chew-it.jpg

Happy writing.



Writing is…really difficult…

So, between this week and last, between papers, short writing assignments, and presentations, I’ve had 10 significant pieces of writing to get done. I’m exhausted.

Portrait of me, after this week. (Source: http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_WH4MXHC6VD8/RyicXyUfSeI/AAAAAAAAAcg/NDF-yfwADRk/s320/dawnofthedead.jpg)

I don’t mean to complain though – it’s actually been kind of an awesome adventure, as awful and disgusting as that might sound. It’s been good for me.  You can’t really just cram writing in at the last second – there’s no way to skim through writing like you might a reading. These last two weeks, I’ve had to be on top of everything in order to get all of my homework done, and I’m someone who’s never been organized or very “with it.” In the last ten days, I’ve had to manage my time in a way that I’ve never even come close to before, because writing takes a ton of time to do, and even more to do well.

And even though this is easily the most I’ve ever worked in college, that simple fact kind of makes me think I’m doing the right thing with my life after all. It’s not like I’ve never had heavy work loads before, but for the first time in my life, I actually want to finish all of my assignments. Previously, all work that could be saved until the last minute was done as late as possible.  That’s not the case with me anymore; I actually want to start projects and assignments early, mostly because I actually care whether they’re good or not now.

Websites and You – Everything You Need to Know (probably not everything, but there’s a lot here).

Co-Authored by Katie Brown

What is the range of software options available?
When it comes to website building, there a number of different options that cater to a number of different levels of technical skill and time investment.  Some of the more popular methods and programs include:

Hand Coding (all operating systems), iWeb (Mac), Adobe Dreamweaver (Pay, all operating systems), Weebly (free online), & Wix (a free, online domain).

What is available for users with different levels of expertise?

Hand Coding (html/css) – Though time consuming and kind of difficult to get the hang of, this method offers the most range of freedom of any of the others mentioned here.  This method of creating websites is open to all Macs (through Text Edit/TextWrangler) and PCs (Notepad).

iWeb – Available to Mac users, iWeb makes building websites really simple.  The program has pre-formatted layouts for you to choose from and use as a starting point.  You can add pages, upload images and videos – it’s a really simple way to get a website up fast.  iWeb doesn’t allow for customizing the look of themes very well though, so you lose a lot of creative control with this option.

Adobe Dreamweaver – Dreamweaver is a bit of a hybrid of the last two technologies. You can choose to hand-code your site in dreamweaver or you can select from a pre-made template and edit the code to your liking. However, this still involves a working knowledge of HTML and CSS and may not be the best option if you don’t have the time to learn how to code.

Weebly – A free online resource, Weebly is probably the most friendly of the options thus far.  On the front page of the Weebly website you’ll be prompted to enter your name, email address and password.  After that, you can get started on your site immediately. Making a website with Weebly is a lot like editing a photo with Picnik; there are tons and tons of settings you can play around with. Weebly will also publish your site to the web for free : )

Wix- Another free online website builder. All you need to do is create an account and a variety of tools are at your disposal. It doesn’t take long to learn to navigate and the interface is user-friendly. Option to upgrade to premium membership, but the normal account is usually more than adequate and will allow you to publish your site to the web under the Wix domain. Also great for continuous editing.

Which options are supported by the University?

iWeb, Dreamweaver CS5, and TextWrangler, Fugu, and Fetch  are available on University of Michigan Macs.  Dreamweaver CS5, FileZilla, and Notepad++ are on all University of Michigan PCs.

What support is available online?

The web is full of awesome places to learn how to hand code, but some of the best sites I’ve found are HTML Dog  and W3School.   Both offer great instruction on how to use HTML & CSS to build your websites alongside examples where you can actually manipulate code on your own to see how it affects the layout of the page.

For learning Dreamweaver, Youtube is going to be your best friend. Search “How to use Dreamweaver CS5” and you’ll find a ton of resources to help get you off the ground. Google is always a good starting place as well.

Lynda is another great resource for learning about how to build websites and includes tutorial videos on iWeb, Dreamweaver, and general website design and development.  Some tutorials do require a subscription, however.

What are your favorites (and why), and/or what else should we know?

Josh’s personal favorite is hand coding HTML and CSS into Dreamweaver – it offers a lot of control and freedom in designing simple sites.  It can be a major headache though.

Katie’s favorite is obviously Wix! Takes almost no time to learn and I’ve used it in a variety of classes for a range of different assignments. Great if you are looking for a time-friendly option.

Also, a lot of these resources will help you make a website, but many won’t help you publish it without doing a little extra work.  If hand coding or using Dreamweaver or iWeb, you’ll need to push your site to a server space using an FTP (File Transfer Protocol) program. Fetch and Fugu are available for Mac and supported by the university.  FileZilla is available for PCs and is supported by university computers.

You can buy domain names and space from places like GoDaddy, but each student has his/her own personal space you can upload a site to through the university, which can be accessed through this URL:


http://www.umich.edu/~umweb/how-to/homepage.html will walk you through the steps.

Happy website-making!