Painting a picture

Every portfolio I’ve looked at seems to paint a picture of the person who created it. I’m pretty excited to get started on my own.

Three people stood out to me while I was going through each blog: Jake, Catherine, and Logan

Here’s Jake’s homepage:

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I work in the sports section with Jake at The Michigan Daily. I really like his homepage because it’s centered around his passion for sportswriting. I want to borrow this idea because I plan including some of the work I’ve done outside the classroom on the portfolio — including articles I’ve written and am proud of. Given that I may use the portfolio as a professional tool to showcase my clips to publications, I think Jake’s homepage is a good template to follow.

Like I said before, it showcases the passion he has for sports journalism, and that’s a passion I share with him, so I want to immediately send that message clearly to someone who stumbles upon my portfolio. It’s a big part of who I am, and I want people to know that.

Then there’s Catherine’s:

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I think it’s really effective how Catherine combined simplicity with a background image that’s aesthetically pleasing. Putting every project from the Gateway course on one page makes the site easy to navigate and clearly lays out where each of her projects is.

I’m unsure if I like that a new pdf opens every time you click one of her project tabs (that’s something I’ll have to think about when I create mine), but I definitely like the idea of condensing all of her Gateway work in one section of her portfolio. I want my portfolio to be straight forward in some cases. I think keeping it simple can outweigh making the site elaborate — especially if it’s easier for a reader to find all of my work.

Finally, there’s Logan’s:

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It’s a really small part of his whole portfolio, but I love the About Me tab. I’d like anyone who reaches my blog to get a quick sense of who I am as a writer and a person. (I might incorporate parts of my introductory blog post here.) I know it’s not the most important part of my portfolio, but I think it’s a nice touch, and a place where I can include contact information if I were to send this in an application to journalism internships.

I really enjoyed checking all of these out, and they all gave me some inspiration for the direction I want to take my portfolio, but these three stuck out to me.

I think combining some ideas they showed me with my own plan could result in something pretty cool. Looking forward to getting to work.

Project III: I actually have an idea of what I’m doing this time around

On to Project III.

After repurposing my Common App essay (about watching my brother battle through cancer — he’s healthy now, don’t worry) into an article published in The New Yorker for Project II, I’ve decided that I’m going to create an audio essay this time around.

Unlike Project II, I’ve settled on this idea from the get go. It stood out to me after some help from T, because I talked to my brother for 40 minutes on the phone before I wrote Project II. I recorded the conversation so that I wouldn’t forget any information while I wrote my New Yorker piece, but now I want to use that audio more directly.

Though I used quotes in Project II, I don’t think the words on paper fully captured the significance and the emotion of our conversation. For that reason, I plan to intertwine short monologues (2-4 sentences) that explain the context of certain moments, but primarily allow the audio to tell the story.

To start off, I’m going to look for some examples on NPR that I may be able to use as a guide for this project. Once I have a base idea of how to construct Project III, I’ll most likely use Garage Band to piece together my voice and parts of our conversation.

I’m not very good with technology though, so we’ll see how that goes.

My Project II Update

The good news is that I’ve finally decided on my topic.

I went back and forth between writing a fake column about domestic violence issues in sports and writing a personal narrative that revised my Common App essay. I’ve finally settled on the latter topic. I think writing the sports column would’ve been “the easy way out” for a lack of a better phrase. I’m much more excited to challenge myself and go outside my comfort zone by writing a personal story about the experience of watching my brother go through chemotherapy (and thankfully come out of it healthy).

I got a bit of a late start to the project since I was so indecisive on settling with a topic. Since then, though, I’ve made a lot of progress. I found the publication I will use for repurposing (The New York Times Magazine’s Lives section). I’ve also compiled a lot of examples to use as references, since this type of writing is pretty foreign to me. I don’t think I’ve written something this personal since the original Common App essay I’m repurposing.

In the coming days I plan on talking to my brother and dad to get their perspectives on how this experience shaped me. From there I’m going to start my first draft, which I think will dig a lot deeper into the impact my brother’s struggle had on me, especially because I’ve encountered a lot more “real life” issues at college than I had in high school (in the original essay, I wrote about some pretty trivial things like my experience on the varsity soccer team).

Once I get home for spring break, I want to compile some photos that I could use to recreate a magazine-type feel to my project.

It’s going to be tough to take on a new form of writing that I’m not used to, but I think the challenge will really help me grow as a writer. I’m looking forward to it.

Researching for Project II

For Project II, I’m reworking a letter that I wrote to the head of advertising at Nike during my senior year of high school. I didn’t actually send the letter, but my assignment was to critique a particular piece of advertising and I happened to stumble upon this Tiger Woods ad:

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The ad was published after the huge Tiger Woods scandal. (If you don’t know about it, in short, he cheated on his wife countless times and the media found out. It blew up and his reputation was basically ruined.)

Now, I plan on writing a newspaper sports column criticizing the way certain organizations or people that could take a stand against athletes’ transgressions instead sweep them under the rug/make light of the violations.

I did some research and plan on using some famous sports columnists’ work as an example/inspiration for my Project II. I also found some generic newspaper templates that I could use to present my repurposed project,

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but am still searching to find a template of a major sports publication like Sports Illustrated or ESPN the Magazine.

Finally, the last piece of research has to do with selecting what events in sports I want to write about and provide a critique of. Obviously I’ll edit my letter about Tiger Woods to include in the column, but I’ve also looked at a lot of other cases (sadly a lot of them revolve around domestic abuse) involving Greg Hardy (NFL), Ray Rice (NFL), Ronda Rousey (UFC), and Hope Solo (USWNT).

So far, so good in the research department, I just need to pick what events to focus on.

David Mitchell: I’ll pass on the books but take his advice

I really don’t think I would enjoy David Mitchell’s novels or short stories. I get the feeling that it would take me ten pages before I put the book down and realized I was completely out of my league.

Though I don’t think I would be a fan of his work, I did find Mitchell intriguing. I had briefly read five interviews before finding Mitchell’s, and nothing stood out to me in those transcripts. But Adam Begley — the interviewer — highlighted something about Mitchell that stood out to me in comparison to the other writers.

Begley began by highlighting the tremendous success that Mitchell has had throughout his career as a writer. Then, and this is the part that drew me in, he delved into his personality:

“Despite the critical adulation, Mitchell remains modest, polite, and friendly. Eager to laugh, he brims with boyish enthusiasm. He dresses like a slacker, in baggy jeans and layered T-shirts, and the clothes add to the youthful aura—as do his close-cropped reddish-blond hair; his long, lanky frame; and his translucent, stick-out ears.”

This was the part that kept me reading. First off, I felt like I could picture Mitchell in front of me. And he didn’t look like a snobby academic in my imagination, he looked more so like one of my older brothers. Then there was the modesty, politeness and friendliness. Granted I’m trusting Begley’s impression, but anyone who can stay down to earth after Time magazine chose him as “the only literary novelist in their 2007 list of the one hundred most influential people in the world” makes a good first impression on me.

The second part that stood out to me was the way Mitchell described writing in the third person. He said that, “each chapter has a single principal observer who wears an imaginary recording digicam, like a coal miner’s hat with a spike tapping his brain, so his thoughts, but only his, can become known to the reader.”

I’ve always struggled to write descriptive pieces — even though I haven’t had to do it often — but I thought Mitchell’s strategy was pretty eye-opening. His metaphor stuck out to me, and I think it will be a good source of inspiration for descriptive writing in the future.

Finally, there’s one part of my writing process that I’ve tried to put into words for a long time, but never seemed able to do. Mitchell helped me out there.

He said, “You start with a blank page, and the first word opens up possibilities for the second word. If your first word is Call, those second two or three could be a doctor or it could be me Ishmael. It could be Call girls on Saturday nights generally cost more than . . . The second sentence opens up a multitude of third sentences, and on we go through that denseness of choices taken and choices not taken, swinging our machetes.”

This part of the interview was something I could really relate to.

There’s plenty more to the Mitchell interview, but these three aspects jumped off the page to me. So while his actual work may not be up my alley, I think it’d be pretty cool to pick his brain.

Well that was all good to know

That was a much-needed confidence booster. So far we haven’t written much, but I’ve taken on a pretty informal tone in the little writing that we have done. And it didn’t feel right. It felt really weird actually. But I thought the writing was good. It’s just that I’ve grown so used to formal writing throughout high school and college. I’ve been conditioned to crank out papers robotically, not adding much of my personality into them, and handing them in with only a grade in mind.

But Kelly and Minna’s posts were like a written nod of approval.

The two posts I chose to comment on were titled, “Hey, over there! Listen to me” and “To the Minor in Writing Youngins”. The writing style Minna and Kelly used really stood out to me as I was reading. I thought they both drew the writer in by making themselves relatable.

Kelly used some humor in her intro paragraph by putting personal side thoughts in parentheses. And Minna referenced something other than writing — art, specifically Van Gogh.

That strategy made them really relatable. I felt like they opened up to me a little bit, and that made me much more willing to accept their advice.

Kelly wrote a five-item list of advice to us, which was a really effective way to present her suggestions. Her fourth point was only three sentences long but really drove home the message to be confident in our writing. That made a lot of sense to me. Like I said, I’ve been seriously doubting my writing in the first few weeks of this course.

Then, Minna’s post sort of expanded on Kelly’s fourth point. The majority of her advice revolved around escaping our comfort zone and to take risks in our writing. Again, like I said before, I’ve been writing with a lot more of a personal and casual tone than I have in the past. I’d say I’ve taken a small step outside of the comfort zone, and was a bit thrown off by it. But Minna reassured me to take one step further instead of pulling back.

Going forward, I’ll use this advice to try at least one project that is completely different from the writing I’ve grown comfortable with. I’ve had instances where I type out sentences, only to delete them because it was different from the way I typically write. So to take Kelly and Minna’s advice, I’m going to try to resist the urge to click that delete key on my computer so often.

Hey it’s Kevin, from Long Island

Long Island, NY: home of the world’s best bagels (in my opinion) and yours truly.

Specifically, I’m from a small town called Rockville Centre which is near the south shore of the island.

I would’ve led with that, but I learned a lesson pretty quickly my freshman year. If you tell someone you’re from Rockville Centre, their reaction will typically be, “Wow Rockefeller Center?! You live by the big Christmas tree in the city?”

Well, I don’t live by the tree, but I imagine that would be pretty cool if I did.

Anyway, I’m the youngest of six by a long shot — my brother James is 27 and he’s the closest to me in age, and my oldest sister Janet is 38.

Growing up in a family like that was unique:

On one hand, I practically had a few extra parents, so I think I was forced to grow up a little fast.

On the other, I was an uncle in sixth grade — now an uncle to four kids.

Because of them, I’ve built way too many LEGO sets in the past year than any college guy should. I think they’re the reason that a part of me is still a little kid.

That’s probably part of the reason I want to be a sports journalist. I’m a Communications Studies major and a Writing minor, but I cover sports for the school paper and that’s my biggest passion.

I mean come on, if I could watch baseball and write about it my whole life that would be a pretty good deal — I’d get to keep the part of me that’s a little kid forever.

Speaking of being a little kid, my teacher yelled at me a lot in fifth grade.

Ms. Palmer really hated that I refused to make outlines before I started writing. For a while, I was stubborn. I would her that I didn’t need an outline to write well. But I was in a strict catholic school where having your tie an eighth of an inch off center got you in trouble. So eventually, I got tired of her screaming at me, and I started to outline every essay I wrote.

I still do.

But not much has changed since fifth grade — I still don’t think outlines help me write well and they usually end up in the trash after I make them.

I essentially just spill words and thoughts onto the page. Once I have nothing else to pour out on to the paper, I pull my hands away from the keyboard and I usually feel like what I typed is absolute gold. I’m wrong 99.9% of the time, though.

That’s when my three-round editing process begins. Once that’s over, and after I click Spellcheck on Microsoft Word, I’m usually left satisfied with my work.

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I’m on the left. Got cheated out of holding the flag.

And just a side note from before: Sports isn’t the only thing I love.

I’m a big fan of The Walking Dead. 

I enjoy reading when I have the time. When I was forced to read The Great Gatsby junior year of high school I was pretty annoyed. Now it’s still my favorite book.

Lastly, I’ll listen to almost any type of music out there, but Bruce Springsteen is probably my favorite artist.

I guess I can thank my older siblings for that.