A rocky start, but hoping for smooth sailing ahead.

Much like the beginning of my Project 2, the beginning of my Project 3 was neither easy nor timely. It took me a very long time to decide what to do. However, after nearly a week of brainstorming I’ve finally outlined my plans for the project, and have even begun to work on the substantive portion of the work.

Since I could not decide what to create for Project 3, I began by reviewing my Project 2. This project was concerned with the concept of American-ness and whether it is possible to truly become an American. I explored the topic through the use of my Grandfather as an example of an American who is still very much out of place in the US, despite having become a citizen decades ago.

During workshop for Project 2, some classmates made an interesting comment about my article – that while my grandfather is clearly different from native-born American grandparents, there are many other grandparents who don’t fit the mold of the “typical” American grandparent. This observation ultimately informed my Project 3 topic.

For Project 3, I plan to create a video documentary that explores the experiences of others who have these atypical immigrant grandparents or parents. The aim of the documentary will be to uncover whether others who share my “family dynamic” share experiences similar to those I’ve had with my grandfather. In order to create this documentary, I will conduct recorded interviews with those who fit the criteria and ask them about their relationships with these grandparents/parents, as well as their memories and feelings about the atypical things their parents or grandparents do.

I chose this medium because I feel that it would be a nice complement to my long-winded and somewhat dense article; the video medium is more passive and easygoing, while still maintaining depth of messaging and high information density. As such, I hope to retain the same audience – socially and politically active readers of a forward magazine, such as the New Yorker. I chose to remain focused on the same audience because I see Project 3 as a type of “digital supplement” to my Project 2.

At this point in the project, I have outlined my plan for the final project and arranged for interviews with documentary participants. In addition, I have begun to draft the interview questions I will ask the documentary participants. These questions address biographical, experience, and perception questions about the experience of growing up in a “multi-cultural” household.

Next I plan to record the interviews, after which I will tackle the challenge of learning to use iMovie to assemble the documentary. I expect that this will be somewhat difficult to produce – gathering the interviews will be very time intensive. Furthermore, I am not well acquainted with iMovie and will probably have difficulty with it. Nevertheless, I think this will be rewarding and educational.

I am very excited about creating my Project 3. While I’ve had a rocky start, I hope it will be smooth sailing from here.

 

How I felt while navigating Project 3

 

The Making of the E-Portfolio: Choosing A Starting Block

This week in the Gateway to the Minor in Writing, we began discussing the creation of our E-Portfolios. The first step of this process, as in any process, is to choose a place to begin; in this case, I am tasked with selecting a platform on which to build my E-Portfolio. I began by thinking about my goals for this project, which ultimately helped me to decide.

My goal for the E-Portfolio is, first and foremost, to present myself as a distinct writer and to show how my writing is reflective of my personality and style. In my opinion, my style is simple and straightforward, but always with an unexpected twist or a pop of something interesting and engaging. I find that this style is carried through in all areas of expression – in writing, in speech, in fashion, etc. Further, my “strategy” in expressing myself is to present that twist or pop against the more simple components so that whatever I am trying to emphasize really takes center stage; a cool pattern or standout accessory gets lost among other busy components, but shines against a solid background. In the case of my E-Portfolio, I envision a simple, straightforward, and easy to navigate site on which my writing stands out as distinct and special.

My second goal is for the E-Portfolio to be engaging for a wide and varied audience. I am hopeful that it will be appreciated and understood by my peers, my family and friends, my professors, future employers, and strangers on the internet alike. As such, I want my style to carry through the entire portfolio in a way that draws in the audience, but isn’t so complicated that it distracts or, even worse, loses the audience. I think that this is especially important in the online forum since it’s so easy to just “x” out the page you’re looking at if it isn’t drawing you in. In addition, there are an endless number of things to see and read on the internet, so if a page doesn’t engage its readers, it will likely be passed over quickly.

Finally, I hope to employ media elements that complement and emphasize my writing, without taking away from it. For example, the home page will include an image that is representative of my writing and of myself as a writer, though I haven’t decided what I want that image to be. Additionally, the “about me” page will include a photo of me that will help the reader to learn more about me personally; the “Why I Write” and Project 2 pages will include images relating to those projects; and the Project 3 page will include my documentary along with some kind of “preview” image. I have decided not to include sound in my E-Portfolio, as I feel that it will distract from in-depth reading of my projects.

On the whole, my hope is that my project will be as unique as I am; I don’t want it to be lost in the crowd of E-Portfolios or to conform to others’ standards of what is appropriate. As such, I’ve decided to build my E-Portfolio on the Wix platform. I chose this platform specifically because I think it will be most conducive to my goal of uniqueness, while still allowing me to build a simple yet exciting site. The Wix platform seems to allow you to customize your site extensively and easily. Its wide variety of templates will allow me to create something unique without “re-inventing the wheel”, while still retaining the option to change anything that isn’t in line with my goals. Further, I’ve found that other Wix sites are extremely easy to navigate, which is very important in furthering the goal of not losing my audience.

I am very excited to begin this process and I hope that I will effectively accomplish all of the goals I’ve set out for myself in the creation of this E-Portfolio.

My trip to the future… or maybe just North Campus

Images printed into 3D figures, hologram rooms that you can walk inside of, recording studios that can detect the sound of blood running through a person’s veins – it seems like the stuff of movies, and ones set far into the future at that, but these things truly exist. What’s more, these things exist only a short Blue Bus ride away.

This past week, our Minor in Writing class took a “field trip” to the Duderstadt Center on North Campus in preparation for Project 3. We were taken to see all the spaces available for student use, and these facilities are truly spectacular. I was extremely surprised to find that I, as a student at the University of Michigan, have access to some of newest and most innovative technologies out there, and at no cost to me except the cost of materials. On any given day, I have the ability to print in 3D, record myself in a high-tech sound booth, edit video using the most updated software, film a movie on a fully-functional sound stage, and much more.

Walking through these facilities, I was in awe – I had imagined the projects being completed there in abstract terms, but I had never imagined that we had already reached a time where these technologies were sitting in a room at my school. The level of innovation being actively pursued on our campus was stunning.

And then I realized that these things have been sitting in a library on North Campus, just waiting to be used by students. I felt as if I had wasted the past two years on campus by not using these amazing resources available to me, as if I had neglected to take full advantage of my time here. But it seemed that nobody else in the class had known these things existed either. Why didn’t anyone tell us? The University (and, apparently, people who go to North Campus) had kept a big secret, and I didn’t like being left out of the loop. One of my classmates noted that if everyone knew about it, the film students would probably be very angry about the crowds of LSA students taking up the sound stage. I guess he’s right, but I’ll still be going back and bringing my friends. Sorry, film students.

So here is my advertisement: go to north campus sometime. Ask to see the 3D printer. A dare for those who go: scream at the top of your lungs in the sound-proof booth. I’m curious to know if its actually sound proof.

My Good Parents, Who Use Grammar Well.

In my family, I am notorious for correcting grammar. I try not to do it to people I don’t know well for fear of seeming rude or pretentious, but at home the corrections come out unfiltered. Couple this with my two foreign parents for whom English is a second language, and a lot of grammar-correcting is bound to take place.

However, I’ve become one hundred percent confident that nobody in my family will ever make the mistake of using “good” in the place of “well” or vice versa. I’ve drilled the difference in so many times that I’ve even heard my parents correct others on this matter (which made me very proud, by the way).

Here is the crash course in good versus well:

               When someone asks “How are you?” the correct response is “I’m good.”

               When someone asks “How are you doing?” the correct response is “I’m doing well.”

               Trying to describe how someone did something? – “They wrote the blog well.”

               Trying to describe the quality of what was done? – “The blog was good.”

               In general, “good” describes a noun while “well” describes a verb.

Of course there are a million other ways to apply the two words, but hopefully these couple of tips will save you from making a mistake today.

The Writer’s Goal: Practice What You Preach

While editing or workshopping the writing of my peers and classmates, I find myself invariably leaving the same comment: “Your piece is well-written, but could benefit from some streamlining of language.” Right about now, you might be asking what this means. Well, this sentence is my own personal way of saying, “why say this in twelve words, when it can be said in seven?” or “why use a word with nine characters, five syllables, and a hyphen in the middle, when a four-letter word could suffice?”

This advice is heard often as a writer, from teachers, from articles on writing, in famous quotes from writers who are famous themselves… and if I’ve workshopped any of your writing, you’ve probably heard it from me. Nevertheless, I often find myself using these lengthy words and complex sentence structures that I advise my peers to avoid.

My new goal in writing: to practice what I preach. So if any of you catches me writing something endlessly long and convoluted, please remind me to streamline.

Proposal 2.0

In reviewing what I’ve developed for Project 2, it seems that my thoughts have, in typical fashion, carried me away from my original idea. As such, I’ve decided to refocus my ideas and develop this “Proposal 2.0.”

I originally planned to write a series of “snapshot” profiles on immigration with the goal of contrasting the beliefs and practices of immigrants to the United States. My vision was originally to see how our differences define us in this nation and how immigration plays into what I’ve termed “cultural drift”.

However, after taking my Professor T’s suggestion to limit to just one personal profile, I felt that this no longer fit. Specifically, I’ve decided to profile my maternal grandfather, who emigrated from Romania to Israel, and then from Israel to the United States. In the process of changing my focus, I realized that I am far more interested in similarities (or lack thereof) than in differences among Americans. Specifically, my writing has caused my project to evolve towards the questions of ‘What is American-ness?’ and ‘Is assimilation a myth?’

My “new and improved” Project 2 is still going to be a mid-length profile on my grandfather focusing on his experience as an immigrant. However, rather than focus on differences in political and social attitudes, the focus is now more centered on the concept of American-ness and becoming an American.

For this newly oriented piece, I’ve come up with two sets of goals. The first set is research goals, which are the main areas in which I hope to “stretch” my writing expertise through research. These goals are as follows:

  • What is a “profile”?
  • What does writing about immigration typically look for/include?
  • What is entelechy?
  • Historical background research.

The second set is thematic goals, which encompass the main ideas I hope to include in the profile. These goals are as follows:

  • What is “American-ness”? Is assimilation a myth?
  • How are Americans similar and different? Discuss “cultural drift”
  • Balance of “personal” and “systematic” in immigration/assimilation
  • Does entelechy apply to culture?

By focusing on these specific goals, I hope to create a profile that is both in line with “profile” genre conventions, as well as powerful in content.

My target audience will remain the same: readers of a high-profile, notably cultural, and often controversial magazine, much like The New Yorker. It will follow the genre conventions of a “profile,” much like this one or this one. These profiles both tell the stories of individuals in the context of a specific accomplishment/occupation/characteristic, while keeping a tone that is both investigative and personal; they really tell you who the profiled individual is and how they are, beyond what a biography of the individual would provide.

In thinking about this new idea, I realized that this is an theme that I am strongly connected to and that features in various ways in multiple pieces of writing I’ve done in the past; this topic is rather central to the paper on generational entelechy I settled on for this repurposing project, but it is also strongly related to another piece I considered stretching for this project (the one discussed third in my blog post).

Clearly this has been a lengthy process for me, but I think I’ve finally figured out exactly what kind of a statement I want to make with this project. I strongly believe that the changes I’ve made to my Project 2 will make it more rewarding and impactful both to write and to read.

 

A Complicated Character

Writing is selfish. In writing an author says. “this blank space is mine to fill up. Mine to dirty.” In writing an author says, “here, let me post up my thoughts for anyone to see. My thoughts are important, my ideas need to be set free.” Writing is needy. it is for the hungry people looking to be filled up. Yet writing is for the generous. For those who seek to share, to contribute, to collaborate, to give. Writing is ambitious, for those who are reaching for something far out in the distance. Writing is content, for those who want nothing to do with the world beyond their walls. Writing is filled with anger and hate, with joy and love, with pride and with shame. Writing is complex.

Writing is not simple

 

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Who knew research could be done without a database?

As part of my early research for Project 2, I read an article published in the New York Times entitled, “My Life as and Undocumented Immigrant.” This is a personal essay by Jose Antonio Vargas, an accomplished journalist who happens to be an undocumented immigrant. He tells the story of coming to America as a child, growing up as an American and keeping his citizenry a secret, and ultimately going to college and becoming very successful – all the while living in fear that he will be found out.

I strongly believe that this piece, and others like it, will heavily influence my work through their focus on perspective. I found this piece to be very powerful in that it gives us a personal story of what it means to be a foreigner in this country. Adding a face to the narrative really makes it personally touching (I’ve included a picture of Vargas in this post). Furthermore, the goals of this piece seem to be in line with my own – shedding light on immigration in the context of culture by exposing the people who are really affected.

One way that this differs from my goals is that it focuses on illegal immigration, whereas I am leaning towards a focus of lawful entry into this country. While I empathize with the motives of some illegal immigrants, I’m not sure that I’m in a position to comment on their integrity or their right to be in this country.

 

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Jose Antonio Vargas. This is the photo that appeared with his personal essay.

SOS: terribly lost in my own ideas

The goal of the second project is to re-purpose an argument and stretch my writing abilities by finding inspiration for a new piece in one that I’ve already completed. While at first glance the selection of a topic seems like it would be the easiest part, I suddenly found myself lost and overwhelmed when sifting through the large body of work I’ve produced in my years as a student. Clicking through my archived documents, I found everything from a ninth grade essay on “To Kill A Mockingbird” to a college paper arguing against the validity of generational entelechy in the context of immigration. I began to narrow down my options and eliminated some, but in the end I approached the printer and realized that I had thoroughly abused the print button, since there were about seventy pages of my writing sitting in the tray.

I decided to begin by reading everything. Seventy pages later, however, the only conclusion I had come to was that I really like a lot of things I’ve written already. At this point I asked for some help. “How do I decide?” I asked my professor, T. “Maybe you could tell me about the strangest, or most odd essay you printed out in the pile?  Which one was the most difficult to reckon with?  What left you with more questions? she replied. At this point I decided I needed to be a little more selective and read everything again, this time keeping T’s questions in mind. I ultimately set aside four pieces that I am interested in pursuing further. In my opinion, these four were the ones that most left me wanting more.

The first is the piece I mentioned above about generational entelechy. This piece was written for a political psychology class and involved me interviewing my grandparents to determine how generation shapes political attitude. I was most intrigued here by my ultimate conclusion that while generation plays an important role in attitude formation, it is superimposed by culture and experience, which means that those with different origins may form drastically different political attitudes from others of their generation. This is very interesting to me in that I want to know more about the effects of culture and national origin on our beliefs. Are Americans drastically different from the Chinese or South Africans or Costa Ricans? In project two, I would develop the aspect of this piece that focuses on these questions.

The second is a speech I wrote for a class entitled “Great Speeches: Ancient and Modern.” The goal of the class was to study the great speeches of the past, and then take the elements that made those speeches great and incorporate them into our own speeches, which we presented to the class. My speech centers on the role of the media in perpetuating poor self image and eating disorders. In this speech, I use an interesting combination of empirical evidence, individual observation, and personal narrative to tell the story of the media intervening in our lives. I was most intrigued by my idea that the media has the ability to change how and what we feel, even without our knowledge or consent. In project two, this element would drive my creative process and I would look to expand into other media effects.

The third piece was written for a class entitled “22 Ways to Think About Race.” Specifically, this essay was an independent study project that I completed outside of class in order to convert the class to honors. In the piece, I analyze three novels about outsiders in American culture and conclude that you can never escape your past or your roots. I think that it would be very interesting to explore this concept further and investigate whether or not it holds true for those outside of fiction.

The final piece I set aside is a personal essay I wrote for a creative writing class. The piece investigates the love lives of myself and six friends with the goal of examining why everything has to be so complicated. In the end, I conclude that nothing is truly complicated, but that everything is subject to complication. In other words, when things get hard, its because we made them that way. In project two, I would be interested in exploring this idea further and determining whether this holds true in other situations.

Choosing a piece to stretch further in this project has been extremely daunting! In the coming days, I hope to think more about these ideas and find one that will guide me in creating a strong project.

The Author’s Bio: A Snapshot of the Person on the Dust Jacket

Maya Kalman best describes herself as “clumsy” and “loud.” She is a staff reporter for the Michigan Daily at The University of Michigan, where she is currently pursuing degrees in political science and writing. Her favorite season is fall. She has a passion for fashion. She is a self-diagnosed insomniac. She is a perpetual New Yorker, despite the fact that she currently resides in Ann Arbor, MI.

Visiting a country fair
Visiting a country fair