Introduction to Interviews

Interviews, while seemingly self explanatory, are difficult to define as a genre. In Michele Koven’s “Interviewing: Practice, Ideology, Genre, and Intertextuality,” he defines interviewing as “a cluster of communicative practices used to produce and circulate various types of authoritative and consequential knowledge about groups and individuals.” His paper explores the what constitutes an interview and how to define it — a method, an object of analysis, a speech event, a reflection of mental contents, a reflection of authentic selves. Societal interview norms are full of variance, making interviews a more convoluted genre than simply asking and answering questions.

Paata Natsvlishvili’s paper entitled “The Genesis of Interview as a Genre” is slightly less abstract, outlining the pieces of a journalistic interview. She asserts that interviews reflect reality, are presented in the form of questions and answers, in which the interviewee is a source of information while the interviewer is the disseminator of this information. She includes that the “interview-as-genre must pertain to something topical and interesting for general audience… it implies readership, listenership or viewership.”

Sharlene Nagy Hesse-Biber explains “The Practice of Feminist In-Depth Interviewing” in a piece that includes what she defines as an “unstructured interview” with a fitness trainer. The interview opens with a description of the interviewee and the interviewer’s relationship to her, then takes on a traditional question-answer format. She then explains that the best method of interviewing comes a minimum of control over the interview wherein the interviewer allows the interviewee to explore topics they want to talk about but the interviewer keeps the overall topic in mind. Unstructured interviewing is based in open-ended questions, allowing the interviewee more freedom in their responses. She also includes different methods of “probing” to encourage the interviewee to reveal more.

I think unstructured interviewing will be the perfect final experiment for my project. After exploring researching the “high maintenance” stereotype and unpacking my own experiences, I think collecting the stories of other women (and potentially men) will give me more insight into this issue. Unstructured interviewing seems to be the best course of action because I want to give my interviewees as much freedom as possible to tell their stories and focus on what they deem important. Most of my experience with interviewing is from a strictly journalistic standpoint, so I’m excited to take a more personalized approach to this genre.

Introduction to Genre: Memoir

“A memoir is a collection of memories that an individual writes about moments or events, both public or private, that took place in the subject’s/person’s life.” I struggled to find an additional genre that allowed me to truly summarize my college living experience. I think that a memoir is a great way of encapsulating my living experiences, especially because I adore my current roommate. It’s the happy resolution that a memoir should have. It is a subgenre of autobiography that does not require one’s entire life story. I’m interested in it because I think the genre encompasses that reminiscent connotation that I am currently feeling. Perhaps this is a product of the changing leaves, my new status as an upperclassman, or my graduate school search. Regardless, a memoir seems like a fitting way to end the semester.

Personally, I always thought memoir had a sad connotation. After looking into the genre, it seems more about an uplifting story. I prefer this happier narrative and I think I can do it. Most of the ones I’m familiar with, such as I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, are coming-of-age stories that almost have an expectation of being something the reader needs to be sympathetic. This is one of the most famous memoirs because it tackles trauma and racism, subject matters far more severe than the story I’m telling. In my genre research, I attempted to find reader expectations as opposed to my typical search for writer expectations. In this, I found:

A sympathetic main character

Vividly depicted scenes

Emotional tension

Increasing sense of drama/conflict:

A satisfying ending

My story provides all of these. I think I can add emotion to a lot of the scenes, especially when provided the lack of patience I was experiencing during much of this because I was in such a toxic relationship that I allowed to characterize my living experience for the better part of this.

There is also an expectation for a memoir to have a deeper meaning. I think I can give life to this premise through the coming-of-age aspect of it. The personal growth I experienced because of this, especially with regard to overcoming social anxiety, depression, and abuse during this time will allow me to cultivate this. I would love to explore this route because it is less comical and forces me to reflect on the situation from a different perspective. I’d like to focus more on the positive for a change. It’d be nice in the midst of exams.

Intro to the Photo Essay

Going into this third experiment I was pretty lost as to what I wanted my next genre to be. The previous two came to me pretty easily, but I was really struggling with picking a third because I felt like I had already hit a lot of the ideas I had come into the project with. So in order to gain a fresh perspective I ventured back to the very beginning and tried to figure out what made me passionate about pursuing this topic in the first place, and I realized it was the examples I had seen in my own life of human control of nature that had sparked my interest and passion. So, I figured, if I want to try and get other people to care about this topic like I do, what better method is there than to show them the same things that made me care in the first place?

So before doing my research I was pretty convinced I had the idea of a photo essay down. You get some pictures (photo), and then you put some words with it (essay) and boom you’re done. In many ways my original thought is not wrong, but even just scratching the surface of the topic showed me that there was a lot more I had to consider and how much thought and care really goes into a project like this. 

The basic conventions of a photo essay are as follows

1. Focuses on a specific narrative or theme

2. Has a collection of photographs

3. Captions of varying length (from a few words to full paragraphs)

4. Evokes some sort of emotion in the reader

Now it is that 4thconvention that is going to be a tricky one. I can take pictures and I can write words, but getting people to care about human control over the environment? That’s going to take some creativity and practice. I am really excited to play around with this genre and see what I can create with it and hopefully how I can relate it to the emotions I have been exploring with my previous experiments. 

When doing this research, I decided to look at some photo essay examples, and found one from The Guardian looking at the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan. It was an interesting array of photographs that outlined not only the sport, but also the cultural interaction and community development that comes with an international sports competition like this. The author used quotes from coaches and players and connected them with groups of photos in a way that made me feel connected to a story I have no outside ties to. This piece gave me a better understanding of how the captions and photos can be used together to generate emotion in the reader. 

An example from The Guardian Photo Essay “Rugby World Cup 2019: the story of the tournament in pictures and quotes”

Introducing Children’s Books

Goodnight Moon! Oh the Places You’ll Go! Good Night Gorilla! Moo, Baa, La La La! Where the Wild things Are!

All of these books played a very important part in my childhood, entertaining me, teaching me, and helping me dream of a big future. Children’s books really are the foundation for my love of reading and writing, but how does one go about making an impactful and entertaining children’s book?! Let’s see!

From Moo, Baa, La La La!… I most definitely screamed moooooo every time I read this as a kid.

The two most important aspect of any children’s book is to include lots of imagination and to have a specific message or theme. The goal of the story should be to create wild and fantastic worlds that expand kid’s minds, but also to make sure that aspects of children’s natural environments are included. With more imaginative stories (like people who can fly, fairies, monsters, talking animals, etc), kids are encouraged to dream big and create their own stories. That being said, children’s books almost always center the protagonist around a kid character so that the kids reading the books are more likely to see themselves in their shoes.

Once they are able to relate to the character or find them entertaining in some way, they also are more likely to learn from the message of the book. Since kids are learning lots of new things every day, books are a great way to teach them morals like ‘good guy’ vs ‘bad guy’ so that they can (hopefully) emulate the good behaviors. Similarly, children’s books purposely almost always end the story with a positive ending. The idea is that if all their stories end with a “happily ever after,” they will be excited about their future. After all, we don’t want little kids to realize that the prince won’t always carry you off into the sunset and that you probably won’t end up surrounded by a pile of gold. Sorry, but that’s life. But kids don’t have to know that, at least not in these kinds of books.

Children’s books also have LOTS of illustrations! Kids love lots of pictures, bright colors, they catch their attention, and it makes it easier for them to understand. Typically, the illustrations take up most of the page because the importance is on the images, and the words are smaller. That being said, it’s a good idea not to include lots of contemplation and abstract ideas since kids have a harder time understanding those kinds of topics- so one has to try to keep it as simple as possible.

I am excited to try and take a new spin on my topic of plastics for this experiment by trying to reach the people who need to know about it the most: kids. From the books that kids read growing up, they learn what different noises animals make, are transported to the new worlds of Dr. Seuss, and reminds us to say goodnight and be grateful for everything they have. So, why shouldn’t kids learn about how plastics are bad through a fun story in an imaginary world?!

Introduction to the genre of Children’s Books.

For my final genre experiment, I have decided to explore the genre of Children’s Books. As I reflect back on my childhood, bedtime books were my favorite part of the day. Every night my parents would read me my three favorite books and I would fall right asleep. These books consisted of “Franny B. Kranny, There’s a Bird in Your Hair,” “We’re Going on a Bear Hunt,” and “Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse.” Not only were these stories a huge part of my childhood experience, but my brother and sister both loved the same three books—we still talk about them at family dinners and parties! The reason I have decided to explore the genre of children’s books is because I feel as if my knowledge of the children’s book culture is unfinished! I started my research in high school when I started to create my own book about being Gluten-Free, but it never took off due to the college application process and my involvement in clubs and organizations throughout my high school years! I never really took the time to learn about the background of the this genre and the different aspects of what goes into creating a children’s book. Through this project, I would love to share some of the work I created as a high school student, and expand on it now as a junior in college…four years later. 

            Children’s Books have many different genres within them. As I learned through this source, all of these different genres can compliment a children’s book in their own unique way. Starting with classic picture books, picture story books, and traditional literature—including folktales, fairy tales, fables, legends, myths. Next is historical fiction, modern fantasy, realistic fiction, non-fiction, informational books, biography, poetry and drama! Something that encouraged me to choose the children book genre is that before this experiment, my previous experiment was about the fairytale genre. I realized at the end of this experiment that the idea of a children’s story excited me, but because my origin piece is about a very serious, life-changing moment in my life—I wanted to be more real when discussing my experience, without incorporating a fairy or a villain in my story. Although a children’s story still has a young voice—real information can be portrayed, as I will not be talking in the fairytale language. The genre within the overall genre of children’s books that I hope to explore is Picture Books, which are Children’s books that provide a “visual experience.” I hope to include digital images and illustrations in making my children’s book an online book, as technology is so important today.

          Lastly, as I approach diving into this genre—I wanted to know some facts on what makes a good children’s book. The Write Practice, which is written by a bestselling children’s book author explains what exactly distinguishes a mediocre children’s book and a great children’s book. The following three things really intrigued me and inspired me to start my writing this book. These include— strong characters who evoke strong emotion, a story that teaches, and mind-expanding illustrations, vocabulary or concepts! I am excited to begin my children’s book journey that I never got to finish, and for all of you to experience my gluten-free journey with me! 🙂

http://www.breitlinks.com/my_libmedia/children%27s_genres.htm

Introduction to a Children’s Book

When I think back to my childhood, I immediately recall the abundant amount of children’s books that I read. Whether it was alone in my bedroom, before bed time with my mom and dad or in my classrooms with my classmates, I was a sucker for books. Children’s literature consists of works such as stories, books, and poems that are produced solely for the enjoyment of young children. The stories told in children’s books are expected to teach their young readers something, whether it be something simple such as a letter of the alphabet or a color of the rainbow or something more complex such as lessons about treating people nicely or the importance of having good manners. Additionally, children’s books often evoke a sense of emotion on their readers. Children should be able to connect with the stories that they read on an emotional level which should in turn encourage them to read it over and over again.

Pictures play a large role in children’s books. The pictures in a children’s book should be able to tell a story just as well as the actual words of the story can. Children are very easily attracted towards pictures and enjoy analyzing all of the details that a picture consists of. As a result, a children’s book that contains several detailed images will usually attract a child’s attention.

I don’t think it was possible for me to pick only one favorite children’s book as a kid. I had many favorites. But one book that I continue to think back to and clearly remember my past appreciation for is Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown. My parents used to read me this book every night before I went to sleep when I was a young girl. And you may think that I got bored of hearing the same story over and over again every night but that was not the case. I would cry when my parents would tell me that story time was over and that it was time to go to sleep because I just wanted them to keep on reading Goodnight Moon over and over again. I was drawn towards both the pictures and the words. It was the perfect bedtime story.

Many children have special objects that they sleep with nightly, whether that object is a blanket, a stuffed animal, a pillow or so on. I think if I wrote a children’s book that told a story about a little girl and her blanket it would reach a very broad audience. This story will be based off of my own childhood experiences with my blanket. I hope that this story will show children who may feel embarrassed about having something that they cannot sleep without that this is normal and totally acceptable to have. I also hope that children can engage with both the pictures that I include and the story that I share in this book. I am excited to give this experiment a go!

Intro to Open Letters

For those of you who aren’t familiar, my origin piece(s) are text messages between my friends from home and I about my roommates over the past few years. For the most part, they’re complaints and stories about my eventful living situations. My first genre was satire, which did not pan out, so I’d figure I’d try to stick to something a little more achievable. For this next piece I want to attempt to write an open letter.

I first became familiar with the genre when I had to write one for my 125 final. I wrote this one to Donald Trump’s tie and genuinely enjoyed doing so. I’ve read many, namely from newspapers that my parents have forced me to read and from McSweeney’s.

I’ve always found these works enjoyable. My dad made me read a few political ones over the year, typically regarding acts of war and legislation, so I’ve always been intrigued by them, such as this one to former President George H.W. Bush:

My favorite one so far is this one: https://www.mcsweeneys.net/articles/an-open-letter-to-white-people-in-need-of-a-token-brown-person . It’s an open letter about being the token minority and it resonated with me because for most of my childhood, I was one of the few people of color in my classes. I grew up in one of the few conservative areas in California and the experience was not one unfamiliar to me. All my neighbors were white and I didn’t make my first ‘minority’ friend until I was in the eighth grade. I like the emotional nature of this piece and I like its message.

Typically open letters are written to change something or bring attention to it (https://www.mindmybusinessnyc.com/how-to-write-the-open-letter/). Personally, I would just like to bring attention to some of the more humorous, unconventional aspects of my living experiences since 2017. Similarly, the person writing the letter must establish ethos within their piece, or else it loses its credibility and becomes less enjoyable. They’re supposed to be more concise and offer some type of solution or plea in response to what they are trying to draw attention to.

Another source, (https://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/08/13/open-letter/) noted that these are supposed to be intimate, emotional appeals because of their public nature. When done correctly, this same articles states, they aren’t “simply for the person to whom it’s addressed.” It also notes that these are usually done in these particular fashions:

  • A humor or satirical piece addressed to a celebrity or person in the news.
  • A piece of constructive criticism (or praise) to a politician, either international or local.
  • A letter to a thing — one of your fears, a habit you’d like to break, etc.
  • A note to yourself at a specific age/year in the future.

My hope is that my piece would/should fall into the last bullet point.

Intro to Reported Essays

My favorite thing about reading and writing is the moment of near-euphoria when you realize someone has done the same things, felt the same feelings, or thought the same thoughts as you. After feeling isolated in a long term relationship during which I rarely honestly shared with anyone what was going on in my life, nothing compared to the validation I felt after hearing the stories of women who have had similar experiences to my own. When I read The Crane Wife, an essay about trying to act “low maintenance” to the point of misery,  I was moved to read such a beautiful articulation of so many of the complicated experiences I shared.  Similarly, when my roommate ended her long distance relationship last year and opened up to me about the difficulties of her relationship and the relief she felt upon ending it, I felt even less alone. 

I want to further explore the idea of women who engage in unhealthy dynamics in relationships and explore the way traditional gender roles influence these patterns. The genre in which I want to tackle these issues is a reported essay — a genre somewhere between a journalism article and a personal essay. Aria actually recommended that I consider a reported essay last week when I explained I was torn between writing a personal essay and conducting a series of interviews. Because of my interest in journalism and my curiosity about how many others share similar experiences to mine, the idea of interviewing others and collecting their stories greatly appealed to me. However, I still wanted to do some actual writing. The reported essay genre allows me to do both. 

The reported essay, while not a clearly defined genre, is generally understood to be a mix of first person narrative and reporting. According to author Diana Burrell, reported essays are structured like magazine articles, but include traditional essay elements such as personal anecdotes. Burrell gives an example of one of her own reported essays entitled “Is One Child Enough?”. The article opens with a reflection on her own decision to have only one child, but the remainder is more structured as she analyzes the different pros and cons of such a decision and how to come to terms with it. The piece successfully combines research, interviews, and personal experiences to provide a well rounded answer to the question its title poses. 

Michelle Nijhuis states that all reported essays must start with a question. Comparing essay-writing to a traditional protagonist/antagonist story arc, she explains that the antagonist is an existing story or assumption — by the end of the essay, a new story or new perspective should triumph as the protagonist. I’m excited to explore the different questions I have about the fear of asking too much in relationships and its detrimental consequences to the self. I’m especially looking forward to this genre because it is not strictly defined, unlike my previous choice of satire, and will allow me more creative freedom to explore my subject. 

Introduction to Satire

When I first think of satire, my mind automatically rushes towards The Onion newspaper. I think of their snarky articles that, if I didn’t know were fake, would make me concerned for our society. And that’s the whole point- satire is supposed to make you question how much of it is real and how much is made up. For example, my friend told me today that she once was fooled by an article (that she didn’t realize was from The Onion) about how SeaWorld was starting to take elephants and put them in pools until they couldn’t swim anymore. A cruel, cruel thing to trick my animal-loving friend into reading, but it just goes to show how insane some satire topics can be and the big reactions they can create. And even under the layer of darker humor, they still make a point about a relevant situation, like the negative treatment of animals at SeaWorld. During my research I came across some pretty amazing titles of other Onion articles such as “27-Year-Old Lies About Every Aspect of His Life to Keep Parents from Worrying” and “Jesus Christ Sues Catholic Church for Unlicensed Use of His Image” which I found entertaining, and good examples of the humor involved in satire. 

Although The Onion is a well-known example of satire, my research showed me a little bit more of what actually makes it satire, and how the genre expands beyond newspaper articles. 

When it comes down to it, the whole point of satire is to ridicule or criticize something through irony, caricature, parody, or derision. Even though these can seem mean or rude, another important aspect of satire is that the end product is supposed to be funny. Even if it makes you laugh because it’s so obscene or cruel, if it’s not funny, then it’s not really satire. 

The more I researched satire, the more I realized that it is everywhere. And when I say everywhere, I mean everywhere. Satire lives in the lives of our favorite movie characters, on TV in shows like the Colbert Report or SNL, resides in novels and short stories, and also is present during political debates, just to name a few examples. The Colbert Report (here is an example) is actually a great instance of how Stephen Colbert creates vexations that then attract a bigger, more passionate audience than if he had not included satire within his show. And that’s the thing about satire, it’s supposed to be so brutally honest that it can hurt to take in, but at the same time it’s honest and presented in an entertaining way so that people don’t become too offended. 

Usually, this mockery is supposed to lead to some sort of social reform by calling people to action, or simply just to expose a particular topic. Satire was created thousands of years ago, and even back then it was supposed to attack a specific trait or aspect of a person or place. Tim Keck, the co-founder of The Onion, said that satire “is the thing that everyone is thinking about, but that you would never see in an article” or whatever form it is presented in. This can especially be seen in caricatures, as they try to call people to action while highlighting all the issues going on in society- especially regarding politics.

An example from the 2016 presidential election…

So, as I see it, when starting to write a satire, only a few things are needed before beginning:

  1. A relevant/current topic
  2. Mockery masked by humor
  3. Understanding that even if your joking, someone might still be offended (hopefully no one gets offended though)

Hopefully I can include these (and many other aspects) in my own piece and work to make it both humorous but also honest. Of all the aspects of this genre, I feel that the idea that one can make fun of a subject while also calling for attention and changes to be made to that topic is something very creative and exciting that I am eager to explore. I guess we will have to see how sassy and honest my experiment becomes…

How to: write a how to!

  1. Know your topic: It’s important to do research and have intimate knowledge of a topic if you’re writing a how-to guide. My guide idea, “How to Survive Having Been on a Game Show” certainly fits that, as I’ve lived that myself and know others who have been as well.
  2. Know your audience: So, yeah, a lot of how-to guides are clickbait. The “how to write a how-to guide” articles I read were mostly about how to write stuff that got the most clicks. That’s not what I want. I want to further explore the idea of having been on a game show by using my experiences and others’ — and maybe a dash of humor — to answer the question: “You’ve been on a game show. Now what?”
  3. Use list format: I read through a couple samples of “how to get on a game show” articles, some more clickbaity than others, because those originals are my inspiration — there’s a ton of “how to get on a game show” out there but nothing about what to do after you’ve aired and you have to deal with weird questions and “did you win?” constantly. For me, that was the harder part. But this article, while the best one I found, wasn’t written in list format and it bothered me. Listicles on the internet can be kinda annoying sometimes, but in this case, they make the how-to easier to read, so you can see each step set out for you before going into the specifics.
  4. Make it interesting: My main goal here is to see how I can explore a fairly unique experience using a more informational format. So, while my origin piece was an essay, I want to take some of the same themes from that but present them as more of a guide for others that have a similar experience rather than a personal narrative.