Advice to Fall 2020 Capstone

By the time you’re reading this, so much will have changed. Will you be online? Will you be in-person? I can’t say. Either way, you were probably looking forward to your Writing Capstone being just like you Gateway – a tight-knit group of writers that meet twice a week to discuss their writing and make cool things – and I’m here to tell you that that is still possible, no matter if you’re online or not.

Before the criticisms start bubbling up in your brain, let me inform you that I do, in fact, have some basis for this claim. Unlike every other semester of Capstones, I was part of the Winter 2020 Capstone in which we spent the first half of the semester in-person and the second half online. I had the advantage of getting to know my classmates in-person before we were asked to move online, but I actually found our online interactions even more enjoyable and productive than our in-person ones. This may be due to the fact that it was the second half of the semester and not the first, as opposed to being an in-person vs. online thing, but I felt that being online and able to see everyone created a sense of community in a way that an airy, spaced-out classroom didn’t.

It is true that you will have to work harder at this than I did. You, potentially, could be meeting your classmates online for the first time and never seeing them in-person after that, but I have faith in you. Hopefully, by this point, you’re accustomed to using Zoom or BlueJeans or whatever program is being used (unless you’re in-person, then yay for in-person!), and, if your class is anything like mine was, you’ll adjust well.

My advice, then, boils down to this:

  1. Treat this like you would any other crazy adventure: roll with the unexpected, laugh when you can, and give other people (and yourself) a lot of grace and understanding if things start working out in ways that aren’t ideal.
  2. Communicate well and often. Gmail is your friend. (Well, maybe not your friend, but you get the idea.)
  3. Don’t be afraid to share your writing! The notebook reading series was one of my favorite parts of the class. The sooner everybody gets sharing, the sooner you start to get a feel for everyone’s voice as a writer. And the sooner that happens, the sooner online class will feel enjoyable.
  4. Give T (or whoever your professor is) a lot of your patience and kindness, but also make sure you reach out if you need anything at all. She’s super helpful and, honestly, one of the sweetest humans alive. You’re in good hands!
  5. Take your Capstone project one step at a time. Especially if you’re having to work from home, deadlines might seem more lax than they really are. Don’t get behind, but don’t stress out. A good (but flexible) schedule is better than winging it.

Hopefully this helps! And hopefully you won’t need to worry about the online bit, but who knows? Either way, have fun with it! This class can be a blast as long as you keep up with the work.

Enjoy yourself, and happy writing/creating! 🙂

Here it is! Introducing: The P Word

The time has finally come! What I’ve been waiting for all semester. This project was HARD and doing it amidst a pandemic made it that much trickier. However, I’m so happy with the work I’ve done and published into the word.

I’m still grappling with my privilege and how to not feel guilt or anxiety surrounding my experiences. This project was a giant step in the right direction for me to really unravel these thoughts and feelings and put them into words. I learned so much about myself and my identity when writing these and I hope after reading you learn more about yourself as well. It’s easy to get sucked into your own world but when you start to look at different angles and perspectives, your world gets a whole lot bigger.

The meaning of my work began changing as the environment around me did. I’m now home in Chicago, living at home with my family. The world is shifting before my eyes. I was able to put my privilege into context today. To apply it to the pandemic and the consequences around it. That was something super eye opening as well.

I can’t thank my writing community enough for sticking with me and helping me as I wrote these uncomfortable essays. It definitely wasn’t easy but I’m so proud of how it turned out. Enjoy!

https://kalts8.wixsite.com/mysite-1

on capstone & coronavirus

I’m coming to you on the eve of our virtual class showcase and eve-eve of my last day of undergrad to share my some of my personal experiences and advice for tackling the Minor in Writing Capstone!

When the semester began, I was anxious about getting through this course. I worried I wouldn’t find a project that interested and excited me. I stressed myself out thinking about the amount of work this project would require.

However, now that I am almost past the finish line, I am happy to report that this experience was nowhere near as stressful as I feared it would be, and I am emerging with a project I’m excited about sharing! I also genuinely enjoyed class, especially after Michigan went remote. Having live class gave my Tuesdays and Thursdays at least a little bit of structure and provided a welcomed opportunity for social interaction. I had fun!

Here are a few pieces of advice to make the most of your semester. Hopefully you’ll be back in the classroom by this point, but if not, do not fear!

  • Make sure your project is something you’re excited to work on. One of my initial ideas was closely related to my major and would have been a cool project to add to my professional portfolio, but I don’t think I would have enjoyed working on this project nearly as much if I’d picked that idea. Don’t be afraid to do something you’re selfishly interested in. Don’t try to force a project that you’re not truly excited about finishing.
  • Engage T and your classmates often! For me, the community is what has made the Minor in Writing so fun and unique. Foster this sense of community by communicating frankly with your class about your ideas and providing thoughtful feedback on your peers’ ideas.
  • If you are relying on other people for content, get it as soon as you can. My project involved recording interviews, and once I got them done, I felt under control and had plenty of time left in the semester for editing and other aspects of the project. People can be flaky and everyone gets busier as the semester progresses, so plan for this and get the content you need early!
  • Take into account the type of worker you are when making your production plan. If you know yourself and know that you aren’t going to work on your project every few days or even every week, don’t designate a bunch of work for every single week in the production plan.
  • Don’t stress out and do your best to have fun! The stakes are relatively low and this project presents an opportunity to experiment and do something you’d never get the chance to do in another class. Seize it!

Whether you’re in the classroom or at home, everything will work out and you will finish your project and you will graduate. Keep this in mind and have fun!

Going Remote (capstone)

For those who might be taking Writing 420 remotely (in no particular order):

  • don’t be afraid to use office hours with T! especially to get more one-on-one face time going remotely
  • be open and honest about where you are in the project, and if you feel like you need to say something or are worried about your progress, speak up earlier than later; you’ve only to gain!
  • keeping to a schedule is hard being remote; make plans and actually follow them. if you end up breaking the schedule, make new plans and follow those. if you end up breaking that, maybe you should talk to T, lol. don’t fall behind the best you can.
  • creativity & passion > grades
  • engage in class as much as you can; those 3 hours every week are only awesome if you’re an active player in them
  • likewise, make time to read people’s projects / works ahead of time and be ready to provide feedback; think about the level of respect & time commitment you expect others to have for your project
  • eat food, drink non-alcoholic beverages, have a dog on your lap; as long as you can focus and feel happy in-class, that’s positively infectious to everyone’s mood
  • where-ever you are, show your work / project to peers / friends / family as much as you can during times like this. get some feedback and have some fun with it
  • respect that mentors / consultants may not want to help you given the difficulty of remote interactions, but do not give up on the project itself
  • similarly, be ready for setbacks due to remoteness. if you have a project that might be hard to do because of remoteness, don’t abandon it (maybe now’s not the best time; maybe after class), but just be ready.

Can’t think of much more. Hope this helps.

Alex

On Screenwriting (Capstone project)

Hello

https://alexpan71.wixsite.com/onscreenwriting
Password (all lowercase): miw

This has been quite the journey, both within this community and throughout my four years (and one more remaining) in undergrad.

I think my piece, site, and content speak for itself (as the image above shows), and I am not one to spoil. So, I have nothing else to say except…

Thank you. To anyone and everyone else, but amongst them all the Minor-in-Writing community for reintroducing me to writing as a passion, a life-long process, a medium of expression, an art, a craft… everything, truly!

And thank you, T and everyone in our Winter 2020 Capstone cohort, for quite the wonderful semester even despite the remote odds!

so thank you — thank you very much! 🙂

Alex

and also made this last night. might as well self promote lol

Making Progress!

I started to really dig into my project over spring break last week. ICYMI, I am doing an oral history project, interviewing my two grandmothers about their lives up to this point.

Prior to spring break, I met with Ryan Wilcox of the Duderstadt Center and Yun Zhou, a Sociology professor who studies family and gender. Ryan and I met in the Dude and talked about the logistics of recording and editing, and he kindly hooked me up with some recording equipment that I was able to take home over break. Professor Zhou and I discussed oral history resources and interviewing, and she gave me some great ideas about how to uncover themes related to gender without trying to force it during an interview. She also recommended that I check out the author and oral historian Svetlana Alexievich, so I checked out one of her books from the library and just started reading it. 

Over two days during spring break, I worked with my Nana, who lives near me in Rhode Island. We went over my ideas for the project together and discussed the five single-spaced pages of questions I had prepared for our interviews. Instead of me asking her questions, we decided that she would gather her thoughts and speak to a series of questions in one longer answer, recording short narratives focused on different time periods or aspects of her life. This worked well! 

In addition to recording, my Nana shared with me some writing she had done in a memoir class about ten years ago. I convinced her to let me record her reading some of her writing for my project, which was great! She also shared notebooks full of journal entries and tens of thousands of family photographs, dating back to her and my late Grandad’s childhoods. It was really special to go through old photo albums and documents together. We have a pretty close relationship but working on the project really prompted her to open up to me in a way that she never had before. I think we both really enjoyed this time together!

I am feeling pretty good about my progress thus far. This week, I will get to work on editing and developing a framework for the website in preparation for my workshop next week. I have a ton of photographs and writing that I need to sort through, too. I’m excited to see things starting to come to life and look forward to hearing your feedback soon!

The temptation of proposing a solution

As a recap, I’m writing about the link between climate change and Judeochristian religions. Specifically, I want to figure out if any human-centric school of thought can truly align with an environmental mindset.

One of the first pieces I read on this topic is called “Environmental Theology – A Judeo-Christian Defense.” Written by scholar P.J Hill, this piece, like many others I’ve read, takes a strong stance and is solution-oriented. Hill argues that the anthropocentric (human-centric) nature of Judeochristian theology is in fact useful for tackling climate change. His main point is that climate change is a human problem, and thus demands a human solution; we need uniquely human voices to advocate for uniquely human policies that operate within our societal structures.

I appreciate Hill’s focus on practicality – i.e, if we want to make actual progress, here’s what we need to do – but it’s made me wonder how solution-oriented I want my piece to be. My original plan was to focus more on the fundamentals (what about the Old Testament/Torah is anthropocentric, and philosophically, what that means for environmental action). However, I’m realizing much of what informs religious people’s actions is not the text itself, but the personal biases and political beliefs that influence their textual interpretations. I’m not sure operating exclusively on a fundamental level will be useful; I need to think about how these mindsets can translate into climate action, and how religious people can “reconcile” their faith with their views on climate change. There’s something inherently solution-oriented about my project.

So, how far into the solution do I want to go? I’m not approaching this on the defensive, like Hill does; I’m more of an observer. But I do need to keep parts of my project very tangible and action-based because that’s the nature of the issue. I’m feeling very conflicted about how to approach this. My plan is to begin by comparing and contrasting different “calls to action” – like Hill’s. Perhaps by critiquing a few ideas, I’ll be able to ask of myself and readers, where do we go from here?

First Post! Reflective Draft

Last year in my Intro Class for the Sweetland Minor, I put together a zine based around the non-human, non-organic female characters featured in the 1960’s version of the Twilight Zone television show. The project grew out of an essay I had written in my Sexual Objects class examining a documentary about Real Doll Sex Dolls called “Guys and Dolls”. In the essay, I argued that the true appeal of these dolls were not just the customizable aesthetic features, but the ability for their (mostly male) owners to impress a kind of imagined autonomy on these dolls; that their ideal woman was the kind who could not have a life beyond the one their owners/partners created for them. I was interested in this idea of imagined autonomy being expanded from the idea of sex dolls to the idea of the robot/doll/mannequin/other non-human women that populated the original 1960’s run of The Twilight Zone: I wanted to pay tribute to these characters whose characters often hinged on the question of how real their own perceptions of their autonomy/humanity were. I also wanted to explore their characters and the implications of their lack of physical humanity in the worlds they inhabited beyond the confines of the (and I don’t think I’m being controversial here) sexist 1960’s television landscape. It was a good way for me to indulge in my love of white-knighting underrated/underwritten female characters, and it gave me a new way to think about the iconic characters and stories from a television show that I absolutely adored growing up.

For my project in my Capstone class, I want to return to the idea of the robot woman and how she exists in different capacities in other sci-fi stories/genres. I’m still figuring out how I want to engage with this subject in a different way, but I definitely know that the work I’ve done previously in exploring these character archetypes will lead the way in understanding how to unpack this subject in Capstone.

Initial Pitch Reflection

On Monday, I pitched four three ideas for my capstone project. The least interesting, in my opinion, was the idea of creating an interactive educational website to help those trying to learn how to code for the first time.

The other two, which I feel far more excited about after our in-class discussions, involve creating a design language (like this). The key distinction between these “other two” was really how they would be applied.

I first thought of applying a new design language to a specific brand. For example, a single brand’s color palette, logo, key marketing messages, and digital products (like their app, website, or even something like ATM screens for a bank).

However, the other approach is beginning to seem more attractive. Instead of just sticking with one brand, why not design a more universal design language and then apply it with various examples? Sure, that’s more ambitious, but I really like the idea. My peers also expressed some favorability thanks to the greater universality compared to the first pitch.

Feedback from my peers was helpful in other ways, too, but the most exciting part for me was to hear what others were thinking.

For now, though, there’s one major question on my mind…

Trying to figure this out

Hearing everyone’s pitches the other day was exciting. And nerve racking. And stressful. It’s really hard not to compare my ideas to others, especially when they’re impressive and scholarly and academic. I’m just sitting there like:

because I want to write stories!!! Well, kind of. I want to read my stories and essays out loud, record them, and make it like a podcast series. But the idea of just using my own work and recording myself seemed a little self-centered and weird, so I plan to open it up to friends, and even the public, who want their work to be spoken into existence, too. It’s going to be interesting. I don’t know how many people want to share their writing with me, let alone have it be part of a project. What if no one wants to participate?? I’m worried, but I think it’s all going to be okay. These things have a habit of resolving themselves in due time. I know I’m surrounded by closeted writers who just need a little convincing, because I used to be one of them.

Also this proposal seems scary. It’s really looming in the back of my mind. But we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.