Pics on Pics on Pics

baby me
Potential image for the “The Beginning” landing page of my portfolio.

Because I want to feel of my EPortfolio to reflect the kind of collage-y feel and “maker” vibe of my final project and evolution in general, I am incorporating a lot of pictures in my design. Still, these can mostly only be found on the home, within my Capstone project itself, and on the landing pages for each section (beginning, middle, and end). I’m still brainstorming whether I should include images in other areas of the portfolio, such as the pages with essays.

Still, since the theme of my portfolio utilizes a fairly busy and cluttered background image to set the “zine” theme, I’m not sure whether incorporating other images on the pages with writing artifacts will make the feel of the page too cluttered. I also want to keep the focus on the writing itself, rather than images that I never initially intended to pair alongside the writing. So, I don’t plan on incorporating images onto the pages with my artifacts. I feel that the overall background image of the crumpled paper and the bright yellow color provide enough stimulation for the audience, and though I want the pages to feel post-modern, I don’t want visitors to feel overwhelmed.

Looking back now, however, I don’t want my portfolio to be devoid of images, save for the sticky notes and paper on the homepage. Maybe I’ll look to incorporate images on the lading pages of “The Beginning,” “The Middle,” and “The End,” possibly images of things that connect together and reflect growth in stages of three. It may be cool to see if I can find images of myself that relate to writing, from when I was very young, a teenager, and now. This way, readers will get to see who I am and possibly feel more connected to me as the writer, seeing me as an actual person rather than a random mysterious voice. One potential image is this one of me as a little kid, which could be on the landing page for “the beginning.”

Wait, Who Am I Actually Writing To?

I loved the Revising and Refining exercise, because I’ve been bouncing back and forth between who I want to speak to through my piece. Evaluating some key players (and those not so key) really helped me narrow down who I want to impress, and who I can stop focusing my attention on so much. The people I chose to evaluate include:

 

A top expert in your field:

  • Michael J. Weller
    A Michael J. Weller zine cover.
    A Michael J. Weller zine cover.

    is a British zine artist and writer. He got in on the zine movement when it was first starting to take root back in the 1970s, responding to British counterculture movements, especially within the punk genre. He even designed a postmodernist album insert for David Bowie, which is very cool and zine-like.

  • How he might respond: To be honest, Michael would probably think my zine is pretty amateur, but then he might ask: aren’t zines supposed to be amateur? Because he was so involved in the height of punk counterculture, Michael would probably think the topic of my zine (college) is too mainstream. Still, that’s okay. By taking a mainstream topic like college and placing it in the zine format, I’m hoping to question some social norms and put readers in a resistive mood when reading, in hopes that they will look at the institution from a new, possibly skeptical, light. Nevertheless, though he’ll never see it, impressing Michael J. Weller would be amazing.

 

A close peer in the minor in writing:

  • My blog group knows my project pretty well at this point, so I feel like they would be able to give me fair and honest critiques of my work. I’ve gone over my ideas with them step-by-step throughout this process, so they know where I started, how I’ve shifted my thinking, and where I want to go.
  • How they might respond: Since I’ve been talking to them so much about my project, they probably won’t be too surprised by the final draft. However, since we’re all seniors at U of M, I hope they can see the humor and relate to it as well. If not, I may need to broaden my stories or switch up some topic interpretations.

 

A peer from outside the minor in writing:

  • My friend Sarah is someone I’ve known since freshman year, so she may be able to relate to some of the topics and stories I’m writing about in the zine. We also have a similar sense of humor, so I feel like her opinions would be very useful when determining what’s actually funny and what should be cut.
  • How she might respond: I really hope that Sarah would think a lot of this is very funny. I usually talk to her about topics like this all the time and she really understands my voice both as a writer and as a person. In this piece, my voice really overlaps between writer and conversational-human-being, which I think both contributes to the humor and will help readers like Sarah really see the humor.

 

Someone who isn’t an expert in writing or in your field:

  • This sounds cheesy, but my mom isn’t an expert in writing or zines, but I still think I’d want people like her to get something out of this work. She went to college so she probably has some memories that would relate to my writing in the zine, but since the genre would be completely new to her, her perspective would be valuable in determining whether the zine design or extraneous features add or take away from the written content.
  • How she might respond: Looking at the writing alone, I think my mother would find a decent amount of humor from this zine. She would relate to the group project parts (since I’ve complained about them to her multiple times), as well as other timeless topics like dorm rooms. Still, there are some things she wouldn’t get, such as Michigan-specific themes. I’m totally fine with this though; the zine genre was created to serve underground communities and tend to be incredibly localized, so I am targeting the piece toward current University of Michigan students, incoming students, faculty, and somewhat-recent alumni. She also might not really get the zine genre as a whole, but my mom’s not really an “edgy or underground” type of person, so I don’t really think she would be familiar with them to start with. Still, she’d likely get something out of the design elements and postmodern, scratchy expression in correlation with the theme itself.

 

This exercise really made me realize that my audience does NOT have to be all-inclusive. I’m seeing how, especially as part of the highly-localized zine genre, exclusivity could actually enhance the piece. It’s providing me a lot of freedom to think that not everyone has to get it; when I was writing my rough draft, I felt the need to over-explain some things and broaden my thoughts so that everyone who ever went to college (or even heard of college) at any time in their life would totally and completely get all of the jokes. Now, I see that that’s not necessary. I’ll probably respond to this more detailed target audience by going through and localizing the piece by tweaking the design and through design elements. I’ll include pictures specific to the University of Michigan to make my specific audience clear.

 

Draft Development: Do we ever really know what we’re doing?

For my draft development excercise, I chose Option 4, which was to pick a sentence from our first project draft and expand on it in 500 words. I wasn’t sure where this would take me, but I think I ended up with a pretty solid rough draft of a project conclusion:

 

“Essentially, college is a time when expectations are disrupted, questions are posed, and nobody really knows what they’re doing.”

 For four years I’ve lived in a bubble of a college town, where I have the luxury of being surrounded by people similar to me, people different from me, and wifi pretty much everywhere I go. I’ve had the freedom to complain about things like professors and group projects, when I never really had any real problems of my own. After graduating, I’ll have to fend for myself, as my professors become bosses and group projects become everyday work. I’m shuttering at the thought.

 

A few weeks before graduation, one of the most common phrases you’ll hear around campus is “Oh my god, I am not ready for the real world.” These words have escaped my own mouth on multiple occasions, as I contemplate very “adult” decisions such as, “where can I get a job?,” “what’s a 401k?” and “what even constitutes ‘business casual’?” I’m not ready.

 

But maybe we’re never ready. At every transition point in our lives, from high school to college, from college to “adulthood,” and from wearing leggings and sweatshirts every day to having to buy actual clothes, we would rarely face these without at least an ounce of hesitation. Four years ago, possibly to this day, I was probably sitting on my bed sifting through the massive college course guide, thinking about how scary the classes looked and how I’d rather just stay at home and eat my mom’s tuna casserole forever. Still, I drove into Ann Arbor that fall and learned it as I went. When it comes to life’s turning points, maybe we all just need to relax, and start before we’re ready.

 

Earlier, I talked about how college is a time when nobody really knows what they’re doing. But, looking to the future, if there ever a point in our lives when we actually know what we’re doing? Sure, we can strap on a tie or a pair of matte black heels and call ourselves “professionals,” but maybe the answer isn’t as simple as that. I have no idea where I’ll be in ten years, but know that, regardless, I’ll probably still be a little confused, questioning if I made the right decisions, and making Ramen out of my microwave at least a couple of times a month. Safety and comfort are great, but too often these overlap with the mundane. If there comes a point in my life when I get trapped in a pit of repetition and same-ness, I hope I have the courage to start before I’m ready and try something new. Because we shouldn’t always know what we’re doing.

 

Life is unpredictable.

 

That’s what I learned in college.

Who’s Actually Reading This?

After looking more closely at my audiences, I definitely have a clearer idea of how I want to format this portfolio.

1. Audiences that might look at my portfolio:

Everyone looking at my portfolio.
Everyone looking at my portfolio.
  1. Writing minor graders
  2. Other writing minor students

I’m planning to focus on just these two audiences for the EPortfolio itself. I don’t want to confuse anyone outside and I also want my projects to be as clear as possible for those involved in the minor. When it comes to the separate linked page for my Capstone Project itself, however, I’ll present the piece so it can stand on its own and broaden the audience to:

  1. Current college students
  2. Prospective college students
  3. People of the Ann Arbor community
  4. Basically anyone who went to college

2-4. What certain audiences might look at my portfolio and what they want:

  1. Writing Minor graders: These people want to make sure all of the content is there and that the general feel of the portfolio aligns with the requirements laid out on the rubric. To please this audience, I will strive to make my portfolio very clear, yet engaging. This will include distinct tabs for each section of work, clear explanations of the pieces I’m choosing to include, and strong visual and thematic unity. This audience would not be happy to see a giant mess, where each link is separated from one another and unclear.
  2. Other minor in writing students: I want other writers to be able to look at and evaluate my writing. This will involve a lot of what I listed before but, possibly moreover, this will require a lot of strong visuals and a steady theme throughout. Because people looking at my project who aren’t graders will be doing this in their own free time, I will need to retain their interest and make the portfolio engaging. This audience would not want to dig for my projects, through a ton of different tabs, links, downloads, etc. So, I will try to make it as straightforward as possible.

5.What impression would I like the audience to have

1.Minor in writing graders: I want them to see me as someone who worked hard on her project, spent a lot of time on it, and was passionate about the topic.

2.Minor in writing students: I want them to see me as someone who really understood her topic, and had a common theme that stood out in every area of the project.

 

6.Who are the most important audience members?

I don’t have a ton of different audience members, but I think the MIW graders are most important (my primary audience), and that students come second. Still, both are important.

Answering Questions & Asking New Ones

In preparation for our evolution essay projects, out class brainstormed how we write, what type of writers we are, and what we hope to accomplish with our projects. I finally started seriously thinking about my essay, and looking at myself as a writer. We’ve all written the “Why I Write” paper in the gateway course last year, but now we have the chance to evaluate how our reasons for writing and unique writing styles can be really malleable, and we can track how they change over time.

What characterizes your writing at its best?

chameleon2
I tend to be a chameleon when I write, since I adapt my voice and tone for whatever class, genre or organization I’m writing for.

One thing that repeatedly characterizes my writing is the ability to develop a specific voice or tone. Whether it’s a formal research paper or a relaxed blog post, I think I can adapt to different tones depending on the genre. Not unlike a chameleon. Though I’m not really sure what I’m doing with my life, I’m really considering public relations because I love to adopt different voices in my writing, and think I would enjoy transitioning from client to client and producing promotional materials according to a specific tone. Last summer, I worked in a political public relations internship, where I wrote blog posts and press releases according to a very definite voice; my supervisors reminded me to sound “inventive,” “positive,” and “innovative” in my writing. Over the course of the experience, I found that I could switch pretty fluidly between voices concerning serious or fun topics. Looking back now, this sounds a little bit sell-out. If I’m always impersonating a certain tone, who am I as a writer?

How does/will your project reveal something about you as a writer?

In my evolution essay, I hope to get pretty personal explaining my perspective toward writing on a broader level. Yeah, over the last four years I learned how to properly use semi-colons in a list, that every essay needn’t be exactly five paragraphs, and that you need a running head on a paper in APA format, though I am completely unsure as to why. But, more important than specific details, my perspective toward writing shifted. I hope to reveal the fluctuation of my confidence in writing throughout my undergrad experience, specifically how I came in freshman year very confident and narrow-minded regarding what constitutes a “writer.” Then I hope to reveal how I quickly lost confidence in my own writing as I constantly compared myself to students who were “better” than me, which even led me to shift career paths for a while. Ultimately, through working as a writing tutor at the writing center, I was able to realize that there are no “good writers” and “bad writers,” but that a writer is simply anyone who writes.

 

Actual photo of me wondering who I really am as a writer whilst completing this freewriting exercise.
Actual photo of me wondering who I really am as a writer whilst completing this freewriting exercise.

 

What do you still not know about yourself as a writer?

 

Bouncing back to the question I posed at the end of Part 1 above, I still don’t know really who I am as a writer, separate from the various voices I present to fit a certain genre or assignment. Though I used to take more time to write in a journal and for fun in high school, I think I may have lost some of my personal voice over the past four years. It’s kind of sad, but a lot of times I feel like my writing for formal assignments must impersonate the voice of some stuffy scholar, who’s probably sitting in a well-furnished library with really high ceilings and wearing a burgundy robe smoking a pipe seamlessly whittled out of rare cedar wood. I hope to explore what my personal voice is, not the voice of someone I’m trying to be. This is why I think my capstone project choice is a perfect fit for me; for once, I will not be writing academically, journalistically, or to persuade a specific target audience. I’ll me writing personally, which will hopefully help me meet myself as a writer.

New Perspectives and Next Steps

resized_winter-is-coming-meme-generator-brace-yourselves-the-writing-is-coming-ffcf85
I don’t even watch Game of Thrones but related to this on a personal level.

Overall, the most helpful part of workshop might have been just getting my questions out there. When I’m in the brianstorming process, I tend to over-think my ideas or instantly shut them down. With this project, I’m trying really hard to accept some ideas that I might think nobody would ever be interested in, hoping to must myself the extra mile and make something ordinary interesting to read. I was able to ask my peers if they had any ideas relating to college that they thought I should cover,  which turned out to be very helpful. It was also reassuring just to have the project in general reaffirmed, since I’ve been bouncing back and forth with it so much lately.

When I came into workshop, I kind of assumed everyone would hate the idea and that I would end up taking it in a different direction. Now, I am much more confident. I think sometimes writers don’t give themselves enough credit, especially when it comes to brainstorming. After getting some suggestions on what works well and what could be shifted, I am eager to get started actually writing and designing.

Actual photo of me attempting to tackle the next steps of this project.
Actual photo of me attempting to tackle the next steps of this project.

To get to my complete rough draft, I now need to get some more outside perspective. I need to speak with peers to get a broader range of ideas when it comes to college experiences, and I also need to reach out to a mentor to add a bit of expertise to the mix. Over break, I’m going to try to read as much humor memoirs and zines that I can in order to become more familiar with these mediums and their respective tones. I also need to figure out how I’m going to house my project in a digital format, which shouldn’t be too difficult (I hope).

While all of this is going on, a big step is just to sit down and write. I often get so caught up in whether my writing is going to be “good enoguh” that I never start. A huge step will be accepting that not everything I write is going to be perfect at first, and that it will probably never be perfect even after revisions; the point is that I just get something down on paper, however rough it may be. Talking with my blog group helped me narrow down exactly what steps I need to take next, which helped set a concrete foundation of what I need to do over break and beyond.

“To Write a Great Essay” Discussion Questions

This week’s article is “To Write a Great Essay, Think and Care Deeply” by Jow Fassley, published in The Atlantic. It’s kind of a book review, but don’t worry about getting too caught up on just Lucas Mann’s piece itself – a lot of the lessons about nonfiction writing from the piece can be relevant to our own projects as well.

Here are some questions to consider:

  • Can you think of a time that you wrote/read a memoir or piece of personal nonfiction that bored you? What do you think made it boring?
  • What tips for nonfiction writing stood out to you?
  • Looking at the examples from Mann’s piece, what did you notice that he did well to make his personal, everyday story intriguing? (If you don’t think it’s intriguing, why?)
  • Mann says that, when he writes personal essays, he extends beyond asking “What makes you think that you have something interesting to say?” into, “What makes you think you could possibly have something interesting to say about the petty circumstances of your own life and interests?” Freewrite something mundane that you did/saw/talked about/whatever in the past few days and use the tips that we talked about to make it interesting for a broad audience.

essay

A Book I Wish I Had Written: “Goodnight Moon”

moon
The legendary book itself, printed on its iconic cardboard.

A piece that immediately came to mind when considering something I wish I had written was that kid’s book with the subtly-psychedelic red and green cover art, “Goodnight Moon.” I’ve literally seen that book in every elementary school, bookstore, and kid’s bedroom that I’ve been in, and yet (if you read it) it’s ridiculously simple. Anyone could’ve written it. I could’ve written it.

moon
Goodnight Moon tshirt available for $28.

After doing some research, I wish even more that I had written “Goodnight Moon.” The book sold 6,000 copies in 1947, the first year it was published, and saw a resurgence in the 50s, where sales shot to tens of thousands of copies a year. Total sales reached $11 million in 2000. It was ranked number 4 on the list of “Top 100 Picture Books” by the School Library Journal. Today, royalty money accumulates as they’ve expanded the brand to include a product line of shirts, canvas totes, and beanies for ironic hipsters as well. There’s even a Goodnight Moon mobile app, which you can download NOW on iTunes for $4.99.

And along with “Goodnight Moon” came an outburst of positive reception, from scholarly book critics to that sticky kid you hate babysitting. A New York Times reviewer praised the book by saying, “The sound of the words, the ideas they convey and the pictures combine to lull and reassure when bedtime and darkness come.” Really? Really.

Despite the book’s undying success, its author, Margaret Wise Brown, reportedly wrote the whole first draft in 20 minutes, on napkins and the backs of receipts. This will come as no surprise if you actually read the book, which includes a number of deeply poetic phrases such as “Goodnight moon and goodnight you.” Brilliant. The iconic cover art, featuring none other than the interior of a room at nighttime, was actually illustrated by Clement Hurd, so Brown was solely responsible for the book’s 131 words. I could’ve totally done that.

Okay, sure, I know writing a children’s book is probably a lot more difficult than it seems, and that I’m not giving the author enough credit. Which is true. It took her two years to revise the piece, and about a decade for it to actually gain traction and grow in popularity among customers. And sure, it could definitely be a source of inspiration for other writers. In my own project, I can reflect its overall simplicity, and I can strive to reflect its wide audience reach, as it attracts kids, adults, and everyone in-between.

But every time I see this book, I can’t help but wish I had written it. It’s so simple, it’s so retro, it’s so dang profitable. Checks will come in for that book for decades, until it hits that point when it’s so old that it finally loses copyright. If only I had come up with the revolutionary idea to write a children’s book wishing kids goodnight, and dropped the legendary line, “Goodnight stars, goodnight air. Goodnight noises everywhere.”

My Basic Pitch

When drafting my pitch, I was worried that I didn’t have a specific enough plan to share. Coming into class, I honestly thought my idea was horrible and that I would very well trash the whole thing. I wasn’t sure where I would want it published, exactly what mediums would be used or even what underlying theme I would explore specifically. I kind of just threw it all out there (get it…pitching…threw it out there…feel free to laugh). Luckily, this ambiguity served as a platform for some of my fellow writers to help me brainstorm ideas for where to take this venture.

Some inspiration from Queen Amy.
Some inspiration from Queen Amy.

Affirmations in general are always great when it comes to brainstorming artistic projects. I tend to overthink myself a lot, and end up throwing out a lot of good ideas before I give them a fair chance. A humorous memoir-ish reflection on college was definitely one of those ideas that I initially threw out. I thought people wouldn’t want to read about me because my life in college was pretty mundane and, frankly, boring. But then, after thinking about it a little more after pitching, I realized how this “boringness” could supply some of the humor of the piece. Classmates seemed to react positively when I suggested following the structure of “auto-biographies” written by comedians (like Amy Poehler and Mindy Kaling’s books, which were

really popular last year) that aren’t necessarily memoris, but moreso humorous quips on various aspects of their lives. Overall, hearing a positive reaction of any sort to this idea gave me the confidence I needed to decide not to throw it out, like I do with so many of my ideas.

One of my favorite suggestions was to broaden the scope of my topic and include interviews with some of my fellow college students to get a wider perspective and reflection on the idea of transition. My experiences are limited, since I’m only one person at one university in one major. But, if I can reach out to different types of people for interviews, content ideas, etc., I think I could attract a wider range of audience members.

Now, the shape of my project seems to have more clarity from affirmations on ideas I had previously made as well as

As the great Shia Labeouf said (many times), "Just do it."
As the great Shia Labeouf said (many times), “Just do it.”

brand new ideas. Walking out of class, my confidence was definitely boosted and I felt like I actually knew which road to take for the project. Now I just have to narrow the scope a bit more, choose a potential publication (which will help in defining the audience), and actually do it.

Some Rad Magazines

For our capstone course, we were prompted to explore some online magazines and pick out our three favorites featured in the article “10 Articles Every Writer Should Read.” This really inspired me to look at some publications I’d never even heard of (and helped me generate a huge bucket list of articles saved for later.) Here were three magazines that stuck out to me:

downloadThe Atlantic. I’d heard of The Atlantic, but never really explored the magazine until now. The tone is very innovative and youtuful, and doesn’t seem to try too hard to be something it’s not; headlines are straightforward and inviting, yet articles include just enough big words to make you feel like you’re learning something. (For example when reading the article on writing a great essay linked below, I had to look up the word “fraught.” What a neat word. The more you know.) The Atlantic exemplifies the type of magazine one would read for their own personal benefit and exploration, rather than trying to look bougie (I’m looking at you, The New Yorker). Also, I stumbled upon a bunch of great photo essays, like this one on modern-day Appalacia.

Original_New_Yorker_cover The New Yorker. Okay, I know I just said a couple of sentences ago that I thought the New Yorker was elitist and bougie. Which I still stand by. But that doesn’t mean it’s not a great magazine! If you’re pretending to absorb an article on new-wave operatic techniques over a cup of eight-dollar coffee whilst shooting a pretentious gaze behind your tortiseshell Warby Parkers, then you may not be reading the New Yorker for the right reasons. But if you’re reading to see offbeat topics through a new perspective, to explore fine-tuned fiction or to see witty cover design art, then the New Yorker’s for you.

54579cbfb8745bb176802741_vf-cover-angelina-jolie-12 Vanity Fair. Historically, I’ve used Vanity Fair solely for collaging and looking at cool ads. (I know, I’m horrible.) But this motivated me to see the magazine in a new light; it seems that Vanity Fair follows a trend of presenting current events topics throuh an intellegent lens, in stark contrast to most magazines I glance at in the checkout line of the grocery store. I also appreciate their approach twoard fashion journalism. Rather than presenting a shallow “hot or not” type of fashion critique that basically only considers what black fringe thing the Kardashians are wearing (nod to People), the writers really delve into the future of the industry, following innovative trends and representing lesser-known designers and artists.

My favorite article that I stumbled upon when looking through these magazines was To Write a Great Essay, Think and Care Deeply (Joe Fassler, The Atlantic). Part book review, part interview, and part motivational life lesson, everyone can learn something from this piece. The message seemed especially relevant to this class, as it explores the question of whether a writer can get too absorbed in their own interests and neglect other topics. Overall, the writer seemed to conclude that, if you’re passionate about something, that drive will shine through in your work and, therefore, writers should write about their interests. Since we all seem to be bouncing between project ideas, this piece really helped me realize that, even if I think my idea may seem shallow or uninteresting to others, my passion for the topic can drive its far-reacing influence.