Dear Prospective Minor in Writing Applicants,

I was hesitant to apply to the Minor in Writing because, well, I didn’t really know what it was. It was introduced to me with an email forwarded from an older friend without any real explanation. As I searched the Sweetland Center’s website I understood the structure of the program, but I still had unanswered questions. How much freedom do I have to write what I want? Am I just going to be studying grammar and punctuation all day? What will the classes be like?

I wished I could have seen students’ work, their progression, their struggles. I wished that there was a glimpse into the program other than the descriptions of courses and historical syllabi.

Over the course my time in the Minor in Writing Gateway, I’ve developed an understanding for all of these questions. And so, I wanted to share my experiences to show you, the prospective applicants, my struggles and progression, my missteps and successes.

An accumulation of my experimentation can be found here, in my Gateway ePortfolio.

You’ll see a discovery of my writing process, how I learned to think again. You’ll see the progression of my voice and how I learned to highlight it throughout various genres. You’ll see how I developed a strong sense of different audiences, and how they might react to assorted techniques.

And hopefully, you’ll see how I plan on continuing to experiment and question my ideas from now, until my final Capstone course, and beyond.

Happy reading, prospective students. Send in that application; you won’t regret it.

Best,

Ashley

The Happy Medium Between Science and Personality

For my past experimentation, I took a more scientific approach on a personal experience. While, the insight gained from this process was extremely useful, something was missing when the information was presented in a purely scientific format. The voice and personal experience that was cultivated through the series of diary entires was lost. So, for this next experiment, I plan on combining the personal experience of the diary entries and scientific basis of the literary review paper into a comic. I think this will be a great platform, because in cartoons and comics, authors convey current events, controversies, or historical events in a comedic or personal manner, which amplifies a reader’s reaction to the piece.

Traditional comics have relatively the same overarching characteristics of creating an argument or claim, usually through humor. They are usually published in online or print magazines and newspapers, and therefore lend themselves to an intended audience of people who are interested in the subject, so scientists, professors, and students for scientific comics. However, I think comics are so powerful because their audience invoked is so large. Anyone who reads the magazine or newspaper where the comic is located is exposed to it, whether they are originally interested in it or not. In fact, some people skip straight to the comic section in the Sunday news.

Here are some traditional comics that caught my eye:

After researching some examples for formatting a comic, I found that there are a few variations in the genre:

  • Color vs. black and white
  • Multi-strip vs. single strip
  • Comment blurb vs. words throughout

This helped me narrow down what I want to do for my piece. Looking at different examples, I find the color comics more eye-catching and will use that technique in my own piece. I believe that my message will be better suited for a single strip, rather than multi, comic. Also, having words throughout my comic will flow better than containing them to blurbs.

While many comics use humor to further their claims, I feel like this might be inappropriate to talk about such an impactful disorder like depression. Therefore, for my experiment I am choosing to go against this norm of the comic genre, and instead attempt to draw deeper and more emotional reaction from the readers, while still keeping the same formatting structure.

I think what I hope to emulate is more along the lines of a project that my friend, Kathryn Rossi, a student at FIT, created for her math class which she shared via her Instagram @kathryn_rossi:

 

Research Papers

I have always hated research papers. Always. Throughout high school I bullshitted my way through every research paper I wrote, rarely ever concluding anything worthwhile or unique. Once I even wrote a 15 page research paper in one day and got an A. That’s either an insane skill or my teacher was just oblivious to how little effort I actually put into the assignment. Either way, research papers were, and still are, the enemy.

But you know what they say: keep your enemies close. So, I guess that means I’ll take a stab at a research paper for this experiment (Ha, get it? Stab the enemy?).

But, in all seriousness, for every high school research paper I wrote, I was missing a crucial component: research. Research for a topic, no matter how simple it is, cannot all be collected and analyzed in a day’s time. When I did this, I undoubtedly compiled a couple of worthwhile sources, but definitely did not find multiple perspectives in order to deduce anything significant. So, after my K-12 education plus my short time at college, I have decided that research is indeed important for a research paper. Who would’ve thought?

Research papers usually have a few more consistencies, regardless of topic, such as:

  • An abstract, or a summary of research project
  • An introduction, with a clear purpose
    • Including a thesis statement, usually at the end of the introduction
  • Body paragraphs, with a strong argument, a stronger argument, and a strongest argument, accompanied by in-text citations
    • Including a review of the literature and how it supports the claims
  • A conclusion and/or discussion, with a summary of the arguments and how they connect to deduce a significant claim
  • A call for further research, when there is a need to delve into a topic further
  • A bibliography, to cite the sources used

Looking at aspects other than formatting, research papers often have a professional, formal tone in order to appeal to the norms of academic works. Often, they work off of already existing research and are a stepping stone for research in the future.

The following examples, while differing in topics, all include the components of a research paper stated above, and I plan on using these as templates for my own work:

  1. https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/560/18/
  2. https://kucampus.kaplan.edu/DocumentStore/Docs11/pdf/WC/Sample_APA_Paper.pdf
  3. https://depts.washington.edu/owrc/Handouts/Hacker-Sample%20APA%20Formatted%20Paper.pdf

My research paper for experiment two will focus on the effects of heartbreak on mental and physical health. Many people think of a break up as something that you just have to get over, but, coupled with depression and other health effects, it isn’t as easy as it seems. I hope to call attention to this  phenomenon as a stressor for health, rather than a simple hiccup in one’s personal life. I hope to build on my diary entries from experiment one which tried to highlight this, but lacked the research to back-up my claims in any significant manner.

And, yes. I promise to put more effort into this research paper than the ones I wrote in high school.

Can’t Even Focus on TV

It’s no secret that the world thinks that valuable literacy is dying. “The written word has lost its value!” They say. “All anyone looks at is pictures.”

“If you can’t get your message across quickly, you’ve lost them.”

The world is convinced literacy is dying and that its taking the human race down with it. While I won’t and can’t deny that the written word seems to have lost some value amongst the younger generations, I can’t help but feel that some of this a bit of an exaggeration. While I’m well aware that you would need a construction crane to pry my 14 year old sister’s head up from her cell phone, I’m also cognoscente of the fact that my 17 year old sister reads at least 7 books over the summer. So, perhaps this “message mania” is generational, but here I have two individuals right in front of me who both defy and confirm what everyone’s freaking out over. I really don’t think the value of the written word has died, but I think as society progresses, what individuals value certainly shifts with the world as well. After all, it’s only natural and healthy to adapt.

I’ll admit, I’m not the most avid reader. I don’t hate books and I don’t have zero clue what’s going on in the news, but I’m definitely not curling up in my bed with a copy of the latest New York Times Best Seller, and I wouldn’t call on me to tell you the latest Clinton news. I mean, you can, but it’ll be awkward for the both of us because I truly don’t really know anything that’s happening. There’s hope for me, though. Or maybe there’s not. It depends which way you look at it. I do find I would rather sit on my bed getting lost in the blogosphere and taking BuzzFeed quizzes than focus on a television show. Is this a good sign? For me, finding out which “cat dressed as sushi” I am and reading fun and witty opinions on relevant topics is much more entertaining than an hour long episode of Grey’s Anatomy- and that’s not just because the show has been on 14 seasons, and sooooo needs to end. I’ve found it extremely difficult to start or get into new television shows because as soon as I put it on the TV or stream it on my Netflix, I find myself wandering off into the internet’s depths of what I’d like to consider  my version of “living literacy.”

putting on my bloggerpants

I think what scared me the most about blogging at the beginning of the semester was the freedom. Even though every week we’re given guidelines and suggestions, when it comes time to sit down on my WordPress dashboard I usually end up doing the whole “write a word, no that sounds dumb, write a sentence, ehhh” dance. I tend to want to jump around and address all different topics related to the prompt, or change my mind all over the place, and I’ve found it’s a lot easier to control these tendencies over longer, more academic pieces than for these blogs. So this class has definitely taught me the importance of being succinct yet comprehensive over just a few paragraphs. (Though I’m not sure my rambling tendencies will ever go away)

I’d also never really written in the kind of conversational tone I associate with blogging before this class, and especially early in the semester found myself self-conscious writing directly to my classmates (in retrospect, none of you are scary at all). I’ve grown a lot more comfortable blogging, and I think I’ve started to get the hang of the balance between super formality and super personal. I still haven’t gotten the hang of blogging with images (my instinct right now is to post a picture of pants to elude to the title of this post. I have since talked myself out of that idea), so that’s something to work on.

I’ve noticed that throughout the semester as a class we’ve collectively become more comfortable with blogging and each other’s styles, and I know that’s definitely helped me benefit from the blog beyond our required posts and comments. thanks guys!

 

Humans of New York

I really don’t follow one particular blog — or any blog for that matter — so when I sat down to write this post I felt a bit lost. Soo should I google “cool blogs”… or…? I decided against that one. Anything appearing under a “cool blog” search is probably not a cool blog. I racked my brain for a couple more minutes and finally remembered a link I’d seen on Facebook a while back: Humans of New York

From my non-blog-following-perspective, Humans of New York is everything an awesome blog should be. It started in 2010 when University of Georgia graduate Brandon Stanton began photographing people on the streets of New York in the hopes of creating a photographic census. But as he explains in the “About” section, “somewhere along the way, HONY began to take on a much different character.” Now, his blog consists not just of photos, but of quotes and stories to give a glimpse into the lives of each human.

Humans of New York is simple, inspiring, sad, beautiful, funny, and often quite surprising. It compiles the lives of children, teenagers, men, and women at all different stages of life. There are businessmen, immigrants, artists, students, friends, and couples to name a few. It makes you realize that nobody is average, normal, or unimportant. It makes you think, smile, laugh, appreciate, and learn from surprising sources. It leaves you with a sense of community and connectivity to people you have never met and most likely will never meet. It is an awesome blog.

Plus, Brandon looks like a pretty fun guy.

 

Why I Follow Blogs

tumblr_m58aekvYKW1rse6mzo1_1280Blogging for me is a purely personal thing. A online diary that a few anonymous other bloggers that I will never meet get to read. But, that is one version of blogging. So here is the first blog I ever found, one that inspired me to continue blogging and be a writer.

I Read Into Things, written by Gloria Szabo is blog filled to the brim of Gloria’s writing. She began blogging as a form of expression, getting out all of the wonderful tidbits of emotion that she formed into fluid word. However, now she has published a book! Most of her blog recently consists of quotes and pages of her new book.

This is one of my favorite blogs because it is incredibly raw. I read this blog as a 14 year old high schooler and thought, okay I’m not alone, I’m not crazy. She opens up in an insane way and often is attacked for it or her opinions. But she at least inspired one girl (and she knows it because I emailed her.)

My most recently loved blog is the nocturnals. This blog is largely less focused on writing. It is filled with images and quotes, a majority of which I reblog. This photos or quotes (often from well-known writers) sometimes say more about the blogger than a personally written piece could.

That is something I have learned from blogging, mostly from this blog in particular. Sometimes things can’t be said any better than they’ve already been said. Or a picture describes an emotion, an inspiration, more than words ever could. Often famous writers have said what I have always struggled to understand. By reblogging these posts, I give a little nod to that person on the other side of the screen and say, “I understand.”

 

Blogs and Bloggers I Like

As I brainstormed my go-to blog to share with everyone, I was a bit disappointed to realize that I don’t really follow any one blog religiously. I guess I glean most of my news-y information from prominent sources like the New York Times and NPR, and most other info – entertainment, opinion pieces, etc. from various articles I see linked to or that people send me. This being the case, I decided to mention two writers that come to mind, each with blogs I always enjoy reading.

The first is Ta-Nehisi Coates, a senior editor for the Atlantic. Coates mainly writes about social, cultural, and political issues, and a lot of his work has to do with racial issues facing African-Americans. The first article I read by him was “Keeping it Unreal: $elling the Myth of Bla¢k Male Violen¢e, Long Past Its Expiration Date”, actually first published in the Village Voice, which discusses the effects of Gangsta Rap on black youth and his own personal experiences with the genre growing up in impoverished Baltimore in the 1980s. His article was so compelling that I eventually started reading more articles by him, a lot of which were found on his blog at the Atlantic website. I love his concise style, exact diction, and the fact that he writes on such a diverse range of topics.

The second is Paul Graham, a well-known computer programmer, venture capitalist, and essayist. Had it not been for a few close friends in computer science, I probably never would have looked into Graham’s work, as much of his essays concern technical programming concepts and startup advice. However, after they showed me his blog, I found that many articles geared towards programmers also contained information applying to all disciplines, and many just had valuable life advice for anyone. One essay that stuck with me is called “Good and Bad Procrastination”. I’m a notoriously bad procrastinator who additionally likes to believe I’m always being productive, so the idea of “good procrastination” was attractive to me. By “good procrastination,” Graham essentially means putting off one task for another that, in the long run, is really more important and will further bigger goals. Other essays by Graham have similar out-of-the-box, non-comformist advice, and have been enlightening when I’ve been bogged down creatively or lacked motivation.

Sullivan’s Why I Blog

I found Sullivan’s essay on blogging to be one of the more interesting pieces I have read in my writing classes, because it’s relevant. I have a personal blog and have blogged for multiple companies that I have worked for. While I’ve always seen blogging as an emotion vulnerability in writing, I never saw the connection in how to be a relevant writer in the blogosphere. The comments that Sullivan made about using hyperlinks and references to other blogs in a helpful rather than hurtful way were really inspiring. I want to try to make my blog more well known, with more readers. The intimacy of a blogger with its readers is one that I find very important in communication today.

I thought Sullivan’s comparison of blogging to taking a narcotic to be oddly fitting. But the most resonating line he wrote was, “you have to express yourself now, while your emotions roil, wile your temper flares, while your humor lasts.” In my blog, I write in a fit of emotion, when I am at my peak. I later go back and read it, realizing the dramatics and vulnerability that exist in the piece, but I am happy that I captured such an honest moment.

real blog talk

Before this class I’d only blogged out of a requirement for another class (albeit a class that gave me a pretty substantial amount of freedom in topic choice, thanks to T and her “blurred vision” class for LHSP), but I’ve been reading blogs for a while. I go through cycles of blogs I visit most frequently, but I tend to like ones that don’t take themselves too seriously, since when I want Real News I tend to go to the New York Times or New Yorker or the Atlantic. The following are two blogs I read for entirely unnecessary information.

1. Slaughterhouse 90210 pairs dramatic captions from contemporary and classic novels with screencaps from all sorts of popular tv shows. Being able to identify the screenshots, knowing the characters and their situations, gives the quotes an entirely different feel – sometimes sarcastic, bittersweet, ironic. I love the simplicity of the blog – it demands about 4 seconds of my time per post yet conveys more than many other blogs do with posts that take 20 minutes to read.

If my blurb hasn’t convinced you, here’s a sample post ft. Ron Swanson (sorry if you don’t watch parks and rec to understand the character. No, really, I feel sorry for you):

“People who are harder to love pose a challenge, and the challenge makes them easier to love. You’re driven to love them. People who want their love easy don’t really want love.”
—Rachel Kushner, The Flamethrowers

2. So… no judgment for this one. I love Trader Joe’s. I hate wasting money. And luckily for me someone named Nathan decided to create a blog consisting entirely of reviews of trader joe’s products, appropriately named What’s Good At Trader Joe’s. He’s actually funny though, and takes a picture of the nutritional content, and has a consistent rating scale. Sometimes it’s just nice to have someone try out the questionable frozen dinners and tell you not to splurge on the egg rolls.