Experience at Sweetland

This week I had to write a 4-5 page paper for English 360, The Rise of the Novel. The paper posed a particularly difficult challenge for me because we were not given a prompt or any information besides the page requirement from our teacher.

I was to write on the novel Tom Jones, one of the first novels every written–not exactly my favorite genre. And without a specific path to go on, I was at a loss for where to start. So I decided to watch the movie, classic college student reaction. At first, it was just to go over the plot of the book. But then I realized, why not write a paper about the novel and the movie?

Working with the many different forms of writing and media through out Writing 220 class has given me a new perspective on the way and things that you can write about. I no longer feel boxed in to a simple 5 paragraph essay analyzing symbolism.

Furthermore, I took my mixed up, shitty rough draft into the Sweetland Center for Writing to be reviewed, as I felt my ideas were all of the place and I knew I could do better. I had the most amazing experience.

Now, I’m not just saying this because I’m in the minor. I used to say that after every experience I had freshman and sophomore year as well. I always feel like the instructors help me to reach the argument and style that was already in my brain, but just not quite there yet. My appointment really inspired me to continue working on my writing and change up my style.

Taking a risk with my writing

As an English major, having to write a lot of essays kind of comes with the territory. Nothing beats that feeling of figuring out an essay topic that you just know is going to be good- but how about those that make you feel kind of nervous and uncomfortable? For one of my classes, the assignment was to read a book then come up with a question about the novel then attempt to answer it in a paper. Coming up with a question that was both challenging and engaging was difficult in itself–and made answering it even harder. My question had no concrete answer, so I felt like I was taking a shot in the dark. In desperation, I wrote and re-wrote various answers until my brain turned to scrambled eggs…then I emailed my professor. All I can say is, it is SO AMAZING to get some reassurance that your writing risk is a good one. She recognized the challenge that I set for myself and appreciated that I was working hard to figure it out…which really validated my choice to choose a risky topic in the first place. In the end, I still have no clue if my paper is “right”…but that extra encouragement to take the risk really reminded me the point of writing. Don’t just take the easy way out and write about something obvious…rather, use writing as a means of figuring out something really difficult (maybe you will even learn something…).

The Best Way to Start a Monday is with a Victory

This post probably won’t be all that substantial, but I’ve got to get it out somewhere. Also, it’s really only tangentially related to writing, but bear with me.

For the past few weeks, I’ve been gathering my application materials for the English Honors program. The main pull of applying for honors to me was how it enables me to write a senior thesis next year, under the watch of a faculty member of my choosing. I’d long given up on the idea of being an honors student, as I was under the impression that one has to be a student in the Honors college in order to participate in English honors. Late last semester I found out that my understanding of the matter was (thankfully) wrong.

However, admissions to honors isn’t easy, and it’s pretty strongly discouraged to apply this late in the game (I, like I imagine many of the rest of the writing minors, am a second semester junior). In addition to applying late, I have accomplished exactly none of the required coursework. I figured the best way to show the English Honors department that I’m capable and worthy of admission was to show that a) I could handle the course work, b) that I had a thesis topic in mind, and c) that I had an adviser all lined up and ready to help me through the year long process. I registered for two honors seminars (one of which also counted as my theory course, yet another component of the honors program) and talked to the only professor who seemed capable of helping me through my topic. I’m not sure if I should name names or not, but trust me, she’s awesome. I set up a meeting with her, told her my plan and waited for her response. With a resounding “absolutely,” she agreed to be my thesis adviser, and I had a solid plan of attack for my application. Everything seemed to be going swimmingly until I hit a major snag.

See, the professor I want to work with, though wonderful, isn’t technically a professor at the university; she’s a lecturer. It hadn’t occurred to me this may end up being problematic, but since I’d asked this professor to work with me at the end of December, things had been a little touch and go between us and the administration. Even after meeting with the director of the Honors English program, I didn’t have a solid answer on whether or not I could actually work with who I wanted to work. “I’d like to say yes, but the issue is above me,” I was told. The only thing to do was sit around and wait.

Well, fast forward to today. I was finish up an interview about the writing minor in Sweetland. On my way out, I managed to run into this professor of mine. She was with a student, but stopped mid conversation in the hallway to flag me down. “Hey,” she said. “I heard from Jennifer. I can be your adviser.” I actually let out an audible “YESSS” in the middle of the center, which in retrospect was probably pretty inappropriate, so sorry to anyone who was trying to conduct a tutorial. I just couldn’t hold it in. Ever since the idea to apply to English honors seeped into my brain, all I can think about is how excited I am to write this thesis. I’ve read books on my topic, I’m doing a ton of non-required reading, I’ve gone to talks related to my topic in order to get ideas for sources–what I’m trying to say is that I’m a huge dork and I’m so glad I’m this much closer to getting to write this crazy thing that’s spiraling further and further out of control in my head on a daily basis.

I still have yet to be officially admitted to the program, but now that I know that all my proverbial ducks are in a row, I think I’ll just have it that much easier. Now all that’s left to do is write my statement of purpose.

Gaaah! I’m so excited!


Starting Something New

I’ve decided: English grammar. Yes, that’s right. From this point forth, all of my blogs will be centered on English grammar.

I came to this decision for two reasons. One, I am obsessed with learning about our language’s grammar, as you all well know. Two, I think this could be something beneficial for my portfolio and writing in general. My writing is not perfect by any means. I want to evaluate my own sentence structure and how I can apply or reinforce the formal rules governing English to it.

But that’s not all the whole story. Like my everyday personality, my blogs will showcase some contradictions. Do not be shocked to see a blog with sentence fragments that delineates the need for a comma when joining two independent clauses in a sentence.

I hope that my blogs will teach you all something new too, but don’t be shy to start a healthy debate on the topic.

Alright, let’s see how this goes.