Reflecting on Project Pitches

When we were tasked with coming up with four pitch ideas for the project last week, I was immediately overwhelmed. Since the Minor in Writing showcase last fall, I had been thinking about what I could do for my Capstone project but never came up with anything I was actually excited about. I remained uninspired even after checking out many of the past Capstone projects over the weekend. As I sat staring at my blank Google Doc on Monday night, I feared that my Capstone experience might resemble my Gateway experience, during which I struggled to come up with a good idea until the very last second.

Me on Monday night

Luckily, some ideas came to me at the Ugli on Tuesday morning. Here they are:

Pitch #1: My first idea was inspired by one of my favorite classes last semester, Sustainability and Health. One of our assignments for the class was to adopt four conservation behaviors for two weeks and write a report about our experiences. This assignment invoked some cognitive dissonance and caused me to think even harder about many of my behaviors.

I was thinking of taking this experiment to the next level for my Capstone project, adopting several conservation behaviors for the remainder of the semester and documenting my experiences through regular blog or journal entries, short videos, and/or a social media account. The final product would be a website that discusses my journey through words, photos, and potentially videos. It could be a resource for people who are trying to behave more sustainably themselves.

Pitch #2: This idea is pretty similar to my first. It would involve challenging others to adopt some conservation behaviors for a shorter period of time and interviewing them about their experiences. This could take the form of a series of interviews or podcast episodes.

Pitch #3: I have been thinking about my two remaining grandparents recently and how I know very little about their lives before I was born. I also know almost nothing about my family history and origins. I have been wanting to interview my grandparents while they are still sharp and I was thinking this could be a cool idea for my project.

This project might entail interviewing my grandparents, conducting research about my family origins, and creating an interactive website to document it all. I am interested in potentially creating short videos featuring remarkable family stories or maybe even a documentary. I was also thinking I could have a section of the website that provides guidance to other people looking to learn more about their own families.

Pitch #4: My last idea was trying to learn how to code this semester using online platforms and documenting my experience by writing a series of blog posts or journal entries. I have been wanting to learn how to code for a few semesters but have not been able to fit a class into my schedule. So, I was thinking this would be a way to hold myself accountable and also do so more personal writing, which I have not done much of in college. The final product could also be helpful for someone who also wants to independently learn this skill.

After discussing these ideas with Bailey and Kayla, I think I could reasonably see myself picking any of them. I am especially interested in my first and third ideas. Most of all, I feel super relieved to have a bunch of ideas that I am excited about only a week into the semester!!

Me on Tuesday night

A Reflection of Day 1: Project Pitches

My last words for the MIW gateway course. Something that never happened lol.

I always find it fascinating how fast time flies. I was in the gateway course what feels like an incomprehensible amount of time ago but really was only two years ago (I think?). Thus, I find that these reflections document our change and growth over the course of the years… our life both in and outside of writing. An archive of our experiences, so to speak. But Before I begin this reflection, I wanted to mention the first thing that I immediately noticed upon revisiting this blog: my last post from the gateway course. I intended to continue this capstone course with writing my novel/novella that I started in the gateway course, though none of the pitches I made today even considered this at all. Again, it just fascinates me how much I’ve changed in both my writing interests and style. Anyway, regarding the pitches…

Overall, my peers commented that they enjoyed my ideas and the diversity in my pitches both in topic and medium. My peers suggested that I encourage challenging myself more however, as most of my mediums were in theatrical playwriting of which I am already fairly comfortable/familiar writing.

The Waitress, The musical which inspired me to want to write a musical too.

My first pitch proposed the idea of a “silent musical” (minimal dialogue, except possibly during the occasional songs which would have lyrics). I am not sure if this is a relatively unexplored genre of theatre/plays, so I thought this would be fascinating to dive into. I was hoping to explore the ideas of love/romance and how gender & hypermasculinity influence people’s relationships. A big part of this is that I wanted to explore not only this unfamiliar/challenging idea of a silent musical (composing music to tell a story and minimising dialogue) but also writing something like an ensemble cast for both characters to allow equal stage time.

An example of a popular notation software, Sibelius, that I would use to compose the music to complement my writing.

I received fairly positive feedback for this idea. My peers wanted me to challenge myself if I were to continue writing plays, as I have mostly written plays in my creative writing background. However, they were receptive toward the idea of challenging myself with composing music/lyrics as well as silent storytelling. My peers could see that I was passionate about exploring both of my hobbies in music and writing, combining them into an interesting medium of storytelling through the silent musical.

A performance of Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller (a UM alum!)… Miller’s methodology of storytelling is my inspiration and model for playwriting.

My second idea was to write a traditional full-length play for the theatre. The topic of the writing would entail exploring mental health and mental differences (often referred to as “mentally challenged”) and how people’s different perceptions of the world because of this can influence their meanings and evaluations of life. My curiosity in this lies in my weaker background on the topic, so I wanted to simultaneously write and research & learn about mental health.

The feedback I received about this was that although the topic was interesting, the medium was not exploring a new form of writing for myself. Because of my background in playwriting, this would not challenge me in my writing abilities so much as the other pitches. Nonetheless, because the topic is still valid, I might wish to explore applying this topic in other less familiar mediums to still utilise the main story components whilst also exploring another form of writing.

An example of how a product white paper looks like… which also happens to describe how it should look like itself.

The third idea I proposed was the idea of writing several product papers for a B2B security solutions/tech software startup for which I head sales/customer experience. I thought this would be a very creative writing experience, since the product paper is inevitably highly multi-modal and explores the usage of space & structure in formatting the paper’s design. Because I would also have to cater it to my audience’s needs (the customer), I would also be able to explore writing several product papers to produce multiple different yet similar kinds of work that I have not done before.

The feedback I received was mixed about this one. Agreeing with my peers’ sentiments, I also found it to be far too professional for my tastes of creative writing — it felt more like a job/task as opposed to exploring creative writing. Although this would be a highly challenging and multi-modal piece, I do not think it is what I seek to learn from the class’s goals & learning environment.

The fourth and final idea I had was to explore screenwriting. I proposed rewriting one of my plays as a film and seeing how that goes. This pitch arises from my interest in entering the film/media entertainment industry and how I want to see how my previous experience in playwriting will effectively transfer over to screenwriting. Because I have no experience in this, I thought this would be a nice incentive/initiative to begin.

My peers found this to be the best pitch despite the fact that I would be rewriting a play (and thus not ideating new content necessarily). Because I have never explored screenwriting before, yet it is still within some scope of comfortableness due to the similarity of playwriting to screenwriting, this connects well to introducing the screenplay genre to myself.

All in all, the pitching experience was highly beneficial. Not only did I receive feedback for each pitch, but I learned what made each pitch strong and weak in terms of exploring my writing learning experience. Overall, to align with challenging and thus learning as much as I can through this course, I think I will follow through with the fourth idea of screenwriting. I also explored this further by possibly taking a screenwriting course simultaneously (intro to screenwriting), though I think I find myself more effectively learning through rigorously challenging myself in this environment.

I took a pretty dissected and objective analysis of my peers to help myself parse through the pitching session so this might not have been the most fun read. But, anyway… because of the interesting topic of mental health I also discussed earlier, which I know very little about, I might combine both this unfamiliarity with the topic of mental health and unfamiliarity with screenwriting to create a feature film about mental health and the mind.

I have some ideas boiling & ready to explore, so I’m looking forward to the semester!!

Cheers,

Alex

IT’S DONE! But is it ever really done?

Gosh, this title encapsulates so many parts of my life right now. This has been quite a strange senior year for so many reasons. For starters, I did not expect to be embarking on a capstone project that I would turn into a published novel. I mean sure I wanted to create something I was proud of, but I did not expect to uncover something so meaningful to me that I wanted to share it with the whole world (beyond my website of course). The showcase is tomorrow and I can’t help but keep adding to and editing my website. I am experiencing a serious sense of “this can’t really be done… can it?”

This is the theme of senior year. We are graduating and moving on to bigger and (hopefully) better things. I will be living on my own in Manhattan and taking on THE big city. Okay, that’s dramatic I have lived on Long Island my whole life and I lived in Manhattan with my best friend last summer so this isn’t some new uncharted territory that I have never explored, but STILL. ALL BY MYSELF! Now that, is new.

College has been a learning experience. For many more reasons than just that we learn in our the classroom. I have learned a lot about myself and the people I choose to surround myself with (and not surround myself with). I also have learned to explore different things than I already know I like.

This capstone project has allowed me to explore myself intimately and reflect deeply. I am very grateful for all that this university has brought me over my 4 years here, especially the MiW.

A very special thank you to Ray for supporting and encouraging me through my gateway and my capstone and allowing me to truly grow in ways I never would have imagined, both as a writer and as a person.

Let the Darkness Fear // Challenge Blog #4

Hello All!
I’ve been struggling with motivation this semester. With graduation and my wedding coming up, getting the things that I need to get done has been pretty hard. 


But this project, this project I’m doing has been on my heart for a while. And I was reminded this past weekend of why I am doing this specific project.

You see, this past weekend was Jr High Tool Time. Tool Time is a weekend retreat for youth. We coordinate speakers, worship teams,  small discussion groups, a community service event, games, and so much more. Many people I know have been extremely impacted by this weekend. I have been too. I’ve worked it for the past four years and I love it. Our theme for this year was “Be Still” based on Psalm 46’s, “Be still and know that I am God.”


During one of the songs for the weekend, we linked arms and jumped up and down for the last couple of choruses. We sang to “let the darkness fear.” This song is so upbeat and joyful that I almost started crying every time we sang it. “Let the darkness fear.”


In my faith, we believe that the devil wants to destroy us. Mentally, physically, emotionally, socially, but most of all… spiritually. This line, as we jump up and down and sing at the top of our lungs is us praising God because our Savior has defeated sin, death, and the devil. The darkness fears. 


This project that I’m doing. It’s taking the things that have aimed to destroy us and bringing it to the light. Not only is it bringing the dark to light, it’s showing the power of God. You can hear it in how my participants talk about Jesus. Their sorrow, their shame, their darkness… it turns to JOY, it turns to praise. Let the darkness fear.


It’s powerful to know that this project is coming into existence. Everything I do is an act of worship, and I hope this brings praise to Christ. I hope that this joy that I am feeling towards working on this project continues. 
How do you keep up motivation when exciting things are happening and things are coming to an end? I need to know! With job applications, wedding invites in the mail, and a summer of fun coming up, I’m nervous my motivation will slip again. 


Do you have any songs to listen to? Any articles to read? Any tips?


-Adele Gendron (though it’s 129 days before I change this name!)

An attempt at objectivity PART II: Reviewing (another) one of my favorite books

I am a history major studying to become a librarian. I know how to find reliable sources and I take the study of history very seriously because I believe that knowing our history is the only way we can move forward in life, as an individual, a society, a culture, and a political system. Movies and TV shows have sensationalized parts of history and, sometimes (most times), portray people of the past of groups from history woefully incorrectly (do not watch “300” with Gerard Butler with me – I will tear that thing apart).

So, it is refreshing to me to find things that try to correct the damage movies like “300” cause. One of my favorite movies growing up was the Disney animated version of “Peter Pan.” However, as I have learned, pirates weren’t really like Captain Hook and Smee. One of my favorite history books is called “Under the Black Flag: The Romance and the Reality of Life Among the Pirates” by David Cordingly. Cordingly goes chronologically through one geographic region at a time, touching on the most famous pirates in historical memory and completely tearing down our modern concept of them.

Wow, my completely objective review of this book is that Cordingly is a great historian and engaging writer. Check out this book if you’re interested in pirates!

An attempt at objectivity: Reviewing one of my favorite books

I am studying to be a librarian, so it should come as no surprise that I have a personal catalog of all the books I own (in a program called Airtable, which I love, let me know if you need help with Airtable – I got you). So, when I decided to write this post, I immediately opened up my catalog to figure out which of my favorite books I was going to review. Under the “fiction” filter, I saw a top-three book with the title that I always mix up: “Your Fathers, Where Are They? And the Prophets, Do They Live Forever?” by Dave Eggers. You probably know Dave Eggers best for “The Circle,” a dystopian novel that was turned into a movie with Emma Watson and Tom Hanks in 2017. He is a fairly well-known author who has churned out more pages of published content than I have probably read in the past few years.

“Your Fathers, Where Are They? And the Prophets, Do They Live Forever?” calls out American capitalism and individualism in a purposefully, thinly-veiled attempt at more literature than essay. The novel is entirely dialogue, forcing readers to consider words only, instead of setting, prose, etc. Truthfully, it is a grown-up’s version of “Catcher in the Rye.” I first read this book when I was sixteen, right when it came out. With that age being the peak of my uninformed, anti-establishment, “f*ck the American imperialist system” feelings, it spoke to my anger in a way that other books hadn’t before. Perhaps this book is too on the nose, perhaps it should have been a blunt, in-your-face essay, but I read it exactly when I needed to and I think that is why it stays with me.

Challenge Journal #4: Starting a project over and over again

Sitting in my French history class last week, the professor opened his PowerPoint up to a white slide with black, Arial text that simply read “May 1968.” In short, we learned about the uprising by student protesters at the Sorbonne campus in Paris, who were protesting what they saw as the systematic oppression of education by the government – funneling workers into factories instead of encouraging open intellectual discussion. These protests led to strikes across the country, leading non-unionized factory workers to get involved. Riots broke out and led to fights between students armed with rocks and France’s militarized police force with tear gas and clubs. The near-war still sits heavy in national memory and it all started from students’ ideological disagreements with the government.

All this to say, I was inspired. As I sat in class, the rest of my “notes” from that lecture were details that I wanted to include in a story: the origins of the conflict, the theme of ideological disagreement against capitalism, the underdog v. government power – I went on like this for almost a half an hour.

Then, class ended. I packed up everything like normal, still so excited to sit down and write the first scene in my head. So when I sat down in my apartment, leaving my backpack on the floor, I was confused when I couldn’t seem to get myself to write anything. I had details in my head, the entire theme and message of the story planned out in my head – why wasn’t I putting it down?

As this week has passed, I still haven’t written anything, but I found the reason why: I was afraid that it was already written. This is a silly excuse because A, I had no intention of putting this story into the world anyway and B, I had my own vision and idea. However, I still found myself searching through library catalogs, trying to prove to myself that this idea wasn’t original, wasn’t mine, wasn’t important enough to write.

I’m still pushing against that fear today. I want to write this because I think I will enjoy it, it will be fun, and I’ll be able to do historical research, which I really enjoy doing. Do you ever get stuck writing something because you feel like its not an original idea?

Challenge Journal #3: PROCRASTINATION in my last weeks of undergraduate study

As college students, we are all well aware of the dreadful, ever-in-limbo balance of productivity and procrastination. Especially during my senior year, especially after I got a job lined up, I have been hit with a wave of apathy regarding university. I’m tired, I’m burned out from all of this, I will be working at the Library of Congress in a few weeks (flex), and you want me to a four pm class on a Wednesday. The really issue comes down to homework. Finishing those essays and turning in that busy work. When I get home for the night, I have a terrible habit of giving myself a huge to-do list in order to get things done without thinking about the fact that I would like to sleep and eat and hang out with friends.

I have three final essays due in the middle of April, the capstone project being one of them.  The second is a literary review and the last is a research paper. This weekend, I gave myself the task of just outlining those essays, and I have not.

Instead, I researched how I can get over this procrastination hump – just for the next few weeks.

Most people agree that we procrastinate because we’re “immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead.” So, the way to beat it is by giving yourself smaller tasks that add up until you’ve completed the project.  Try to deceive yourself into doing something. Maybe even ask yourself “What’s the next action I’d take on this if I were going to do it, even though I’m not?”

What do you do to beat procrastination?

Challenge Journal #2: Branching out for a grade

Last year in the fall semester, I took a history course on Africa before 1850. The professor was great: he took the material seriously, had class outside, and did not rigidly adhere to the syllabus if there was material his students were more interested in. When finals time rolled about, he assigned us a research paper, the prompt being something along the lines of “write about what you found most interesting this semester,” however, there was a caveat: don’t write an essay.

Most of the students in the course were rather confused. No essay? How are we supposed to do research if we can’t put it into an essay format? The professor wanted us to do research and present our findings in any way other than an essay format. Now, as a person who studies best reading Times New Roman words out of a textbook and who writes to-do list in paragraph form, you could say I was a bit hesitant.

After consulting with other students, I finally decided to create a director’s script for a documentary on my topic: the oldest university in Timbuktu. As I drafted, I let myself go completely; I included pictures, handwritten notes that were written “on set,” maps of filming locations, etc.

I got a B.

Not one to really roll over with that, I emailed the professor for an explanation. Very politely, he said that, while I had the creativity nailed down, my content was lacking – there was not enough correlation between what I was doing and what was taught in class. Begrudgingly, I accepted the feedback and reviewed my work. The professor was right, though I am still reluctant to admit that. I think the reason I got so excited by the “creative” aspect of the assignment was because I had not done any kind of project like that since high school – it was fun to just let ideas come to me and incorporate them. On the other hand though, my excitement prevented me from delving far enough into the material to produce quality research.

Let me know if you have experienced something similar!

Challenge Journal 2: I am going to try coffee

I guess I just never really cared to try it after all of these years. I made it through college without a morning cup of joe (only a non-coffee drinker would say that, right?), I won’t let a 9-to-5 change that.

I know trying it for the first time should not be a momentous occasion, but that’s exactly what it is for me. I have friends and family that predicate their entire existence off of coffee. Not having coffee goes against every cultural tenet that places coffee-drinking a rung below death and taxes. Faced with that notion, I knew trying coffee was invariably going to happen at some point in my life out of pure curiosity.

And now is that time.

Writing my project proposal is one of the most difficult writing assignments I have had in my college career. It is right there, sandwiched between 10- and 15-page essays. For the first time as a writing student, through the organized chaos and preparation that I typically approach every writing assignment with, I had no ideas of what to do. Through excruciating focus and chats with classmates and teachers, an idea met paper. But without a ritualistic upheaval, I know I will be stuck in writing purgatory for my capstone. Insert my first ever cup of hot java (I know I’m not doing this right).

What if I love it? God willing, I love that one cup of coffee and only that cup. Now, it is a risk (gastroenterologically, at least) that I am willing to take. To represent a breakthrough in my writing ritual. To maybe, in that very instance, give a caffeine boost as I write my next assignment. To transition into a writing style that dives in head first.

I have never encountered such a severe writer’s block for classwork. For better or worse, I am taking action that hopefully inspires a revitalized mindset.

Now I just need to figure out which coffee shop to go to.