Book to Essay?

As of now, I think my topic for this repurposing project is a originally a book I co-authored in high school on this history of Hickory Hills, my local city-owned ski area, titled Light the Night. The book is over 100 pages and tells the personal stories of over eighty individuals who learned to ski and spent their childhoods at Hickory. Light the Night has a community focus and many overarching themes and eventually raised over $30,000 for the hill through book profits and community donations. The project sparked my interest in storytelling and service learning.

The audience for the book when it was published was community members and skiers nationwide who have experienced the unique spirit of Hickory. I plan to repurpose the book into a presentation on the writing process and the ultimate result that I can use to share my own story with young students in my hometown area. I hope to use this presentation to educate students on the steps I took when writing the book and the personal reward I have gotten from the project and how it has helped me as a student and writer.

I hope to repurpose the book into some kind of educational essay about my experience through the difficult research and writing process and how I went through the process of interviewing, determining themes and telling others’ stories. Additionally, I want to address the process of establishing a non-profit organization and the community involvement in the book project. This experience really shaped me as a person and writer and I want to share the process with others interested in pursuing something similar. Eventually, I plan to remediate this project into a presentation on my experience writing Light the Night and how it prepared me for my future, encouraging young people to get involved in something they are passionate about and take risks in their work.

I still have to explore the possibilities of the educational medium further. I am interested in education in general and I think writing an educational piece will be a great experience given my combined interest in writing and education and my passion for the book project. I will be challenging myself and I think the piece I write could work into a form of curriculum for high school students on the service learning experience.

I am still working on the outline and ideas for my repurposing project (very flexible) and I am open to any comments and feedback!

What is authority?

As a college student, I found Penrose and Geisler’s Writing Without Authority very applicable to my own growth and development as a writer. In this piece, the authors contrast writing on the topic of paternity by Roger, a well-versed academic, and Janet, a college freshman (who I can easily relate to). Both Roger and Janet were to write a piece in the genre of philosophical ethics, their resources being several scholarly articles and their paper objective the same: to write a paper “for an educated general audience ‘discussing the current state of thinking on paternalism'” (Penrose and Geisler 507). The authors point to many differences between how the subjects interpreted the task, beginning with the way they approached their source. In my writing, I naturally strive to be like Roger, who “seems to operate with an awareness that texts and knowledge claims are authored and negotiable,” and be aware of the complexities in texts. However, I believe I often fall under the Janet category: I often think the research and scholarly pieces I read to be true and the authors’ claims to be “definitive” (Penrose and Geisler 507).

I think the Roger and Janet approach to reading and understanding authors’ claims can be evaluated and considered in many different genres beyond academic research. I often think a combination of the two different approaches is necessary as a reader and writer. I have a keen interest in memoir, and after taking Ralph Williams’ highly recommended Memoir and Social Crisis class, I began considering how memoirists choose to represent their memories for their readers through this unique genre. In his memoir about his experiences fighting in the Vietnam War, Tim O’Brien wrote, “I want you to feel what I felt. I want you to know why story-truth is truer sometimes than happening-truth.” So is story-truth something we can rightfully challenge? It is interesting to take the Roger-approach to the “facts” or “claims” read in memoirs, challenging the author’s choice of language instead of their memories themselves. However, the Janet approach is often how one reads memoir: we weren’t there and we didn’t experience this, so who are we to judge what happened and why? Are these claims then not true? I often think about how I would write my own memoir and how I would choose to represent my memories.

Another interesting and relevant way to evaluate the Janet and Roger approaches to reading and writing is through viewing them not as two separate ideologies, but on a continuum. Often, when I write drafts, my natural tendency is still to use the Janet approach; my analysis is surface level as I just begin to engage with the texts. However, as I revise and continue to draft, I strive to draw deeper connections and challenge the points the authors make, as Roger did. I hope to eventually be at a point where I can naturally take the Roger approach.  One part of this piece that particularly resonated with me was: “…there is room for many voices. She [Janet] needs to understand the development of knowledge as a communal and continual process” (Penrose and Geisler 517). As I do more research and writing, I am continuously improving my approach towards other authors’ arguments and my analytical abilities as I evaluate them and formulate my own. I am moving from the traditional parenthetical citation of someone else’s  point that is so widely taught in high school English classes to utilizing authors’ claims to move my own argument forward and challenging those I disagree with. I strive to develop my own knowledge communally through synthesizing literature, my experiences and stories and other opinions.

Question: ULWR Classes

Hi everyone! I am looking for some great ULWR classes to add to my schedule for next semester and the spring (and just for the future in general!). I thought reaching out to my fellow Minor in Writing classmates would be a great place to start. I was wondering if any of you have taken an excellent ULWR class-  based on the professor, topic or type of work required. Why did you like it so much? Would you recommend it? Thanks!

“Detroiters Speak”

I am a strong proponent in going to talks to learn about things. Hearing intelligent individuals speak eloquently about topics they are passionate about inspires me to not only become a better speaker, but also a better writer. Great speakers have a way with words; they can move people, evoke emotion and galvanize change.

As I write this (note: posting this several days later), I am sitting in the Ugli alone on a Thursday night (which is rare…I always surround myself with people because I’m scared of being alone). However, it is after hearing something great that I can sit in a library and think. By myself. And it is also when my most productive hours and greatest thoughts come about.

I joined the minicourse Detroiters Speak at the last minute because I wanted to get away from Ann Arbor a little bit and get a perspective on what is going on in a great city that I want to learn more about just a few short miles away. I signed up last night late and 16 hours later I was headed to the UM Detroit Center on a charter bus where I would get free dinner, listen to three Detroiters talk about their neighborhoods for an hour and get my much-needed weekly dose of real life perspective.

One thing that resonated me from the talk was the focus on the power of language. The speaker, a successful urban planner and community activist, explained how Detroit neighbors will either choose to join in the dialogue about neighborhood revitalization or reject the proposals based on how they are included and the language used around the issue. This made me think of the importance of sensitivity in language and how it contributes to building relationships. I strive to be continuously sensitive with language in my own writing and after this week, I am going to be even more aware of language choice and how it impacts people and causes.

I’m “trying to think”

I really enjoyed Didion’s essay. I connected with her story; as a college student with a love for writing, I could relate. However, I think there are some aspects of her essay on which we can agree to disagree.

I loved the part of the essay where Didion describes traveling during college to discuss Milton’s Paradise Lost and what she learned, not from the book, but from living in the moment: the buses, trains, travel, what she did and saw, when ironically in pursuit of this higher literary knowledge one can theoretically only get from reading. This resonated with me because my ideal learning style is learning by doing. I do not remember the specific words I read for my Memoir and Social Crisis class with Ralph Williams, but I remember his words, I remember the classroom, him shaking my hand every morning and complimenting my headband or scarf, listening to my peers cry because his mere words on the topic were so compelling and moving. It was the unique experience of the class that stuck with me, not as much the texts I read.

When I think about images that, as Didion puts it, “shimmer,” I think of writing about the things I am passionate about and how telling a story about those interests seems so much easier than anything else. This ranges from telling the story of my local city owned ski area to save it to writing essays for my education classes to writing letters to my best friends. However, I hope to get to the point where, like Didion, I can put down words when I think of images that sparkle. “The arrangement of the words matters, and the arrangement you want can be found in the picture in your mind” (Didion 270). I want to become a better writer so the arrangement of the words I want on paper, or the words that make up the image that shimmers in my head, are the ones that come to mind. But even as I write this, I am continuously backspacing and rearranging my words because they do not come out as I picture them. I hope to get to the point of expression, through practice, where I can say what I want and revise to the point where I feel the words really showcase that image.

While there was a lot I took from Didion’s piece that I was able to apply to my writing and way of thinking, her argument about thinking and reflection on her college experience “trying to think” confused me. She writes, “…when I was an undergraduate…I tried…to buy a temporary visa into the world of ideas, to forget for myself a mind that could deal with the abstract” (Didion 270). How do I know if I am failing at trying to think? In some ways I think that trying to think is actually thinking itself and is a process in which one cannot fail, or even succeed.  I’ve taken classes at Michigan that have been so difficult for me that I spent every day “trying to think” about the material and ideas, but I would never consider it failing. Through the process of this endless effort to grasp concepts, I learned about myself. I learned about my strengths, my weaknesses, my learning style and what inspires me and bores me. Maybe that thinking led me in a different direction than actually understanding the motives of characters in Greek classics or knowing how to analyze a financial statement at first glance, but these struggles are what actually allow me experiences like Didion had on the bus to learn Milton.