final thoughts on the course

Following this experience, I would like to continue to push my limits in my writing abilities, whether that be for myself personally or professionally. I tend to be someone who backs away from tasks I feel I am not good at. I like to be the best I can be at everything I do, constantly striving for my personal best. Sometimes, though, this puts me at risk of not pursuing feats I don’t feel I can master. Writing was definitely one of those feats when I first arrived at the University of Michigan, however, after three years here and my acceptance and now completion of one semester in the Sweetland Writing Program, I have found myself taking on a feat I did not originally believe I could master. This has been a learning and growing experience for me both personally and educationally and I am grateful I took the leap. I look forward to further involvement and growth within the Sweetland program and am grateful for the opportunity to challenge myself and improve my writing.

Choosing my work for this semester-long journey

The original piece I chose to rework was very academic. I enjoyed writing the piece, but felt I had to hold back the personal, emotional feelings in order to remain “academic”. When asked to choose a work to revisit, this was the first I thought of. I was excited about the chance to add the emotions to it, however, actually adding those emotions was a lot harder than intended. It proposed many  challenges: First, recognizing my emotions; Second, making sense of those emotions; Third, putting those emotions into words; Fourth, making sure said words expressed on paper the same emotions I originally recognized.


My first experiment engaged in a solemn tone, though that was not my intention. The content and storyline itself is somewhat saddening and unsettling.

My second experiment engaged in an opinionated tone. The content represents clear distaste.

My third experiment engaged in a solemn tone at first, but then finishes in a more optimistic tone. I did not mean for this to start off so solemn, but again my content is a bit of an unsettling topic.

Cheryl Strayed: Beautiful Little Things

Following Cat Marnell eventually led me to find this wonderful book “Beautiful Little Things” by Cheryl Strayed. The book is filled with open letters to Sugar, an advice columnist. Sugar then responds giving anecdotes and advice. Sugar, aka Cheryl Strayed, is extremely engaging. I found myself highlighting lines, something I have never done before in a book. I cannot seem to put it down. Incredible book and definitely recommend. I plan on looking further into Cheryl come future reads.

Trust or Distrust?

trustworthy, but not authoritative:

I believe the content of this article due to my own research I have done on foods, however, I don’t feel the author of the article has very much authority on this topic.

respect authority, but do not trust:

When this article was released, I respected the authority of the doctors, however, I did not trust their claims.

Other Authors on Cat Marnell

Rachel Tashjian of Vanity Fair interviewed Cat Marnell. She recognizes her free-spirited demeanor and seems to admire it in some ways. She also seems a bit skeptical about her overall, though she never explicitly says that. I happen to think Cat is hilarious and Rachel does recognize this, but she seems to discredit her writing in an under-toned way. This is the last line of the article:

“But what are you gonna do?” she said, discussing her haters. “Wear a unicorn wig and send God the bill—right?”

I find this to be the perfect description of Cat. As I have followed her as a writer and read numerous pieces she has written, I have found she is pretty good at deterring from the “haters”. I admire her in that way, as it is sometimes hard to not let other people’s opinions get to you!

Following Cat Marnell

I read Cat’s piece “I’D REALLY LIKE TO KNOW: Do You Prefer Vanilla?”. Clicking on the article and seeing a photo of a lotion I figured it was a product review. I hate product reviews, mainly because they are boring, but also because it’s either someone who absolutely LOVES the product too much to not be working for them or someone who absolutely HATES it and probably hates most things in the world because they are so dang negative. Anyways, I kept reading to see which Cat was going to be. She was honestly neither. It didn’t seem to be a conventional product review at all. The “vanilla” she referred to not only was referencing the lotion, but also the scent altogether and the characteristic. She exclaims how she wishes she was vanilla rather than just smelled like it. I laughed thinking about whether people would consider my personality “vanilla”. Now that i’m writing that, I would hope not. I’d like to believe I am a little different, but who really knows. Anyways, Cat’s writing is super unconventional and I love it. I can’t wait to finish her book “How to Murder Life” and hopefully by the end of it I know how to murder life as carefree as she does.

Following an Author: Cat Marnell

My first introduction to Cat Marnell was her novel “How to Murder Your Life”. Reading this novel not only made me love the raw, unorthodox style of the novel itself, but also opened my eyes to the high-stress environment of the fashion industry I had planned on joining. This made me do a complete re-working of my career plans. Did I want to be working under people that would promote the tensions that clearly were “normalized”?

Following Cat’s writing before the release of her novel was interesting to say the least. It was clear she was exposed in a way that she wanted to connect with her readers, even prior to telling her readers about her personal story. The completely honest, “unedited” feel her writing embodies has inspired me to pursue writing that I was always scared of fully committing to. Honest writing.

Small Staid/Tolentino Discussion


I read her piece called “The Personal-Essay Boom is Over” online in The New Yorker. I found the piece lighthearted and engaging. The piece was most likely ideally for an audience familiar with the personal-essay genre, having read and engaged with the genre previously. Beyond that, I think it could be considered for both people who like the genre and who dislike the genre, since it doesn’t necessarily make claims for or against the genre exclusively. I think I am probably a part of the audience since I have read, engaged with and written personal-essays, though naturally mine have not been professionally published. I enjoyed the piece and would like to further engage with her writing since I find it to be both raw and honest.


Small Staid:

I read her piece called “Pentimenti” online in The Narrative. I found it both hard to follow and above my level of comprehension. Since I am not well-versed in various genres of literacy, I did not find myself a part of the ideal audience. I think her ideal audience would be someone well-versed and highly literate. They would need to be able to understand and be able to engage with her various references in order to fully appreciate her work. I think her work is of high quality, however, I do not find myself itching to further explore her writing.

Introduction to the Minor in Writing

My name is Serena Pergola and I am a junior studying Communications with the Sweetland minor in writing. I plan to focus on marketing and advertising, preferably in the fashion industry. I enjoy sports, traveling and spending time with my family. I hope to further enhance my communication skills and obtain the ability to better express myself through this minor. My favorite form of writing is personal narratives because it helps you to explore yourself and challenges you to go beyond the surface of a situation you have experienced. I think it helps me to get to better know and represent myself.