Call to Action: Introducing Not Your Mom’s Travel Guide

This semester has been anything other than a clear, linear path. It was manic and fragmented and interrupted. But that is what our world is now: interrupted. In times of incredible catastrophes or depressions or pandemics, one thing is certain amidst all the uncertainty— change is inevitable.

Our world is more connected than ever with every country just a flight away. But, that ease of travel was the catalyst for this pandemic, and it is bound to be rethought.

These days I’ve been trying to look for the silver linings in things. I’ve been able to spend more time with my family. I managed to escape a Michigan winter and found solace in the South Carolina heat. I’ve been thinking about the silver linings that exist outside of my personal life and the small bubble I live in, too.

This is the perfect opportunity to examine not only how to make travel safer but to also consider sustainability in our travel. How do we travel consciously? I’ve found comfort in the idea that all this destruction could allow us to reimagine the travel industry, to think about the intersection of cultural, economic, and environmental impacts.

It makes me think of my project in a new light. Not Your Mom’s Travel Guide is not just a podcast that explores my own traveler’s guilt. It is not just a series of conversations discussing the past. It’s a call to action. How can we address the negative impacts of travel? How can we learn from our mistakes and use our guilt as a force for change?

Explore. Reflect. This is the sign you’ve been looking for. This is Not Your Mom’s Travel Guide.

Introduction to Poetry

My Genre X…

In my first experiment I will be writing a series of poems. How many exactly? I don’t know. But, I do know I’m interested in experimenting with poetry because I think it will totally transform my origin piece. Since my origin piece was a 6-8 page personal narrative, I was able to write many scenes about my relationship with my brother and the paper was much less condensed. With poetry, I will be forced to pick small, specific moments to focus on. Maybe as small as important dialogue and conversations.  

I’m also considering either writing these poems partially or completely from his perspective, or at least what my interpretation of his perspective is. I think a series of poems is especially fitting for my topic because part of what makes me want to write about my relationship with my brother is because it is pretty distant, and marked by few words and interactions. I don’t need pages and pages to write this story well, I can write in a series of sentences and stanzas. 

My relationship with my brother is dynamic and has changed a lot over the years. I’d like to integrate its dynamic nature into my piece by writing each poem in a different year or stage of our relationship. 

After doing some research on poetry, I’ve found that different sources actually have some similar takes on how to write this genre. According to this lovely little writing blog, it can all be broken down into 10 simple steps:

1. Know Your Goal

2. Avoid Clichés

3. Avoid Sentimentality

4. Use Images

5. Use Metaphor and Simile

6. Use Concrete Words Instead of Abstract Words

7. Communicate Theme

8. Subvert the Ordinary

9. Rhyme with Extreme Caution

10. Revise, Revise, Revise

For some reason, this brief ten step list made me more confused and lost where to start than before. It almost seems too easy. 

Unfortunately, on my next google search I came across another list, also 10 steps and also seemingly too simple:

  1. Understand the benefits of writing poetry
  2. Decide which type of poetry to write
  3. Have proper poem structure
  4. Include sharp imagery
  5. Focus on sound in poetry
  6. Define the poem’s meaning
  7. Have a goal
  8. Avoid clichés in your poems
  9. Opt for minimalistic poems
  10. Refine your poem to perfection

So far, the only thing I’m sure of is to definitely not use cliches. 

My next move was to look at samples of poetry, hoping it’d properly show me the ropes of the genre. After googling the “best poems of 2019” I came across a very diverse grouping of poems on the New Yorker:

Lately, remembering anything involves an ability

to forget something else. Watching the news,

I writhe and moan; my mind is not itself.

Lying next to a begonia from which black ants come and go,

I drink a vodka. Night falls. This seems a balm

for wounds that are not visible in the gaudy daylight.

Sometimes a friend cooks dinner; our lives commingle.

In loneliness, I fear me, but in society I’m like a soldier

kneeling on soft mats. Everything seems possible,

as when I hear birds that awaken at 4 a.m. or see

a veil upon a face. Beware, the heart is lean red meat.

The mind feeds on this. I carry on my shoulder

a bow and arrow for protection. I believe whatever

I do next will surpass what I have done.

In this poem by Henry Cole, which according to the NY Times is one of 2019’s best poems, I noticed a very unique writing style. The way he breaks his lines, even interrupting sentences midway really intrigued me. I love the emphasis this places on every last word of a line. Each word seems amazingly intentional. I think this is what makes poetry stand out from other genres. There is no room for filler or jargon, only the “real”. 

After reading a few poems I began to realize poetry offers a whole lot of freedom and very few “rules.” Since I’m one to like a lot of instruction and direction with my writing, it will definitely be a challenge to experiment with this genre, but I’m excited for it. 

My Hopes and Dreams (for the MiW)

            Whenever anyone asked me “What’s your major?” or “What are you studying?” I said “I haven’t quite decided yet” with a drawn out “Maaaayyybe English?”. I entered UMich undeclared, but really I already knew I wanted to study English. For my whole life my parents taught me to love reading. So it wasn’t surprising that at the end of my sophomore year I declared as an English major. Now the question is “What do you want to do after college?” and ideally, I would read for a living. To be a good reader, however, I believe I should be a good writer. 

            Despite being an English major, I feel I haven’t practiced my writing skills very much. I mostly write with the same style for the same type of assignments; I analyze texts and create some form of argument. It wasn’t until English 325 that I moved away from that formula and realized that I can be a little creative. I decided to apply for a Minor in Writing to help expand my writing skills, experiment with new forms, and develop that little ball of creativity. I believe my origin piece will allow me to do this.

            Ah, my origin piece. Written just last year for that 325 class, I discussed how our doomsday movies reflect our fears; how we need to change the narrative of those movies. I use personal anecdotes (such as watching those movies), research (the context in which the movies are released), and of course movies (World War Z, Wall-E) to create my argument. With these elements, I will have many ways to alter and experiment with my origin piece. I’m not sure what to do yet, but I’m looking forward to discovering those possibilities. 

Intro & Origin Piece

Hi everyone, I’m Alex. I’m a junior majoring in Cellular and Molecular Biology with other interests in bioethics, gaming, and music. Writing has always been one of my strong suits, and I’ve realized over the years that – regardless of what I’m writing – I can write for hours on end without growing remotely tired or bored. I’m planning on pursuing a writing career, with specific interests in Science Writing and Technical Writing. I hope the Minor in Writing program will help me explore different avenues of writing and determine what I’m best suited for.

I wrote my origin piece, “The Creation of Ryan Kitt,” for my creative nonfiction class last spring (ENG 325 with Professor Nichols). It’s a personal narrative detailing my experiences creating a ridiculously complex Dungeons and Dragons character. The piece is a little unusual in that it tries to explain the very technical process behind creating this character while also trying to be funny and entertaining.

There are two main reasons I chose this as my origin piece: 1) It covers or at least touches on a lot of different topics. It explains all the technical nuances of creating a character in general terms, it details all the decisions that went into this particular character, and it covers some of the in-universe events and backstory surrounding this character. This gave me a lot of potential ideas to tackle in my experiments without stretching too far from the origin piece. 2) I tried to accomplish two goals at once with this piece, and there were times where I felt like it would’ve worked much better as two separate pieces. First, I was trying to teach people who’d never played this game before how it worked and how to create a character. Second, I was trying to provide a humorous narrative about this absurdly complex character I’d created. Sometimes the two goals conflicted – I’d try to explain a rule really well but it’d make the passage feel really dry, or I’d try to make a joke but it’d make the rules more confusing. I’d like to at least tackle one of those goals on its own as an experiment this semester.

There were a few things I really enjoyed about this piece. The research was very easy – everything’s available on a couple websites and I had most of it memorized anyway. Additionally, I love taking complex concepts and trying to make them simple and understandable. I likewise love when I get the chance to throw some humor into a piece. The genre was probably the odd part for me. All my technical explanations felt a little off from a typical personal narrative and it made certain parts quite awkward to write. I remember rewriting a few passages over and over because they’d either be overly detailed and dry or oversimplified and confusing. However, I was glad I was able to do something a bit more unusual with the genre – I’d already written several traditional personal narratives before and wanted to mix things up a bit.

How I Came Across the Writing Process

I was in an ankle-length skirt, a bonnet, and a petticoat fastened tight around my waist when I realized the passion I had for writing. I was a fourth grader pretending to have just have set sail on the Mayflower in search for a new life in America, when I realized the ease that came through expressing myself with paper and pen. It was Colonial Day at my elementary school and we were celebrating the discovery of America by dressing up, eating, and participating in activities that paralleled the pilgrims of 1492. Leading up to this day, we as fourth graders were tasked with keeping a journal that narrated our imagined travels on the Mayflower. The creation of this journal lies at the forefront of my memories involving my discovery of the writing process. But more specifically, it was the moment my fourth grade teacher called home to tell my mom I needed to continue to write when I knew this was something I wanted to pursue for the rest of my academic career.

Now, eleven years later, my love of writing has manifested into more of a passion for academic argumentation, as well as personal expression, through the form of written word. Writing is the creative way in which I express my dynamic persona and venturesome aspirations. I applied to the Sweetland Minor in Writing Program because I feel as though this program will allow for immense growth in my craft. In this field of creative expression and collaboration, I will be able to address my strengths and weakness, as well as receive newly informed insight into the writing process.

Before applying to the Writing minor, I took numerous classes about the art of the essay; my first being English 125. In this class, I wrote an open letter to the future resident of my dorm room explaining all the highs and lows accompanying Freshman year. I chose this piece as my origin piece because it provides surface level exposure to a multitude of personal stories that were not fully dissected in my open letter. With this piece, there is plenty opportunity to dive into different genres and use different lenses to convey my overall story in a more thorough manner.

Introduction: Who am I?

My name is Caitlyn. My mom once told me that if I were a boy, she would have named me Christian. I’m not named after anyone in particular, my mom just likes names that end with ‘n’. Hence, my older sister’s name is Allyson. Then there’s my last name, Zawideh, which puts me at the end of every alphabetical list I’ve ever been on. I was always last to take my yearbook photo in school. Alphabetically assigned seats always put me in the back of the room. My locker was always at the very end of the hallway. I don’t mind being at the end of the alphabet so much now. Yearbook photos and locker placement are no longer things I need to worry about.

Once, I asked my dad what our last name means. He told me he couldn’t remember exactly, but it might mean “great” or “great ones,” something like that.

We called his mom to ask, and she replied, “Great, good, some of us are okay.”

Names are always the first thing we think to give in an introduction, and they are important insofar that people know how to address you, but other than that, they say nothing about who you are as a person. When we are asked to give an introduction, we are answering the question “Who am I?” If given enough time, this question can easily become an existential one. Instead of dwelling on the existential, here are some icebreaker-eque fun facts:

  • I’m a Sophomore studying Computer Science
  • I transferred here last semester from Michigan State
  • My favorite movie is Baby Driver 
  • Once, a Buzzfeed quiz told me if I were a character on Friends I would be Rachel.
  • Buzzfeed should know that I’m a Chandler.
  • If I found a genie in a bottle that would grant me three wishes, my first wish would definitely be to write better introductions.

intro: posting on blogs is scary

1. Listen
I’d say I’m a listener over a talker, and a writer over either.

2. gratitude

3. Words are dope

4. Patience is difficult and awesome

5. “Awesome” is probably an unprofessional adjective. So is “dope”. 

6. Speaking of professional, I need help with my LinkedIn so feel free to help me out.

7. Mistakes

I spend a lot of time editing mistakes at the Daily but I make a lot of them

8. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

9. fresh water beaches 

michigan girl through and through

10. Say sorry 

11. Be curious

12. Sweatpants never go out of style. Neither do libraries

13. It’s okay to be an outfit-repeater

14. Learn 
Chess, how to french braid, how to write dialogue, waterskiing


Hi my name is Delaney Walker. Yes, I know I have the same name as an NFL tight end and no you are not the first person to tell me that. If you don’t know who he is well honestly that makes me happy. Anyway his first name isn’t actually Delanie, its Hubert but he goes by Delanie (his middle name) because I guess he doesn’t want to be called Hubert. I get that. Except I used to dread the first day of school or a substitute teacher because no one could ever pronounce my name. In preschool I hated how long it was. I always wanted a short simple name, but not a name a lot of people had. I liked the name Zoe. So I guess I don’t really understand why he would want to be called Delanie, but I guess it’s better than Hubert (sorry if your name is Hubert and you’re reading this). Anyway a lot of people ask me if I’m named after this football player. Since his career started when I was in middle school I am going to have to answer that question with a hard no. I’m not really sure how I got my name. I know I am named after my great grandmother Diane, but I am not sure where my parents came up with the name Delaney. I’ve heard many stories, Delaney was someone my parents once knew or the actress Dana Delaney. Anyway I’m not sure, but there is a Jimmy Buffet song called, “Delaney talks to Statues” and it pretty accurately describes me as a child. The funny thing is he wrote that song about his daughter, who’s full name is Sarah Delaney Buffet, but she also goes by Delaney. I don’t understand all these people using their middle name as their main name which happens to be my first name. It’s ironic because I am a middle child. So I guess it all makes sense. I also like football and singing. I also like ben & jerry’s cookie dough ice cream, but I’m lactose intolerant so it’s a dilemma. That has nothing to do with my name.

Hello…It’s Me


Hola Capstone compadres, my name is Logan Hansen and I have a writing addiction. The only issue is that I find it hard to focus and zone in on one project at a time. It seems inspiration comes at me from various places and my enthusiasm for different pieces flares up and fizzles out sporadically. That is why I am excited to be wrapping up the Minor in Writing this semester: I’ll be forced to undertake a lengthy project and stick with it, come hell or high water.

A few ditties about me before we jump into the next part:

—I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling 22

—Despite that first bullet, I am not a fan of Taylor Swift

—I am, however, a fan of Blink-182, and late ’90s to early ’00s rock and alternative

—I played football for the smallest high school to field an eleven-man team in the state of Michigan (from 2008-’11, that is)Rooby and Raggy

—I started writing (poorly written) short stories when I was seven years old, including my own episode of “Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?”

I’ve had the pleasure of participating in a handful of writing communities in the past few years. The two I’d like to mention are my time in Elizabeth Hutton’s English 223: Creative Writing course and my editorial internship with the Manistee News Advocate. Both took place during 2015, separated only by a three-week jaunt over to China for study abroad in May.

I took Lizzie’s Creative Writing class, which focused around poetry and short fiction, during the Winter 2015 semester. Fiction is the kind of writing I enjoy most, so I went into the class with high hopes — and I was not disappointed. The final portfolio project I ended up putting together with the help of Lizzie and my peer revisers is something I am particularly proud of; though the pieces contained therein — two poems and two short stories — are ones I plan to continue reworking and revising.

English 223 was a chance for me to work on character development and other areas of my fiction writing that I did not realize were weaknesses, such as my reliance on vague language and inconsistency in voice. When writing poems and stories, you have to think about all those classic elements — plot, characterization, setting, voice, rising action, climax, falling action, etc. Of course, examining my classmates’ writing was another component of the course that augmented my own learning about the craft.

In an altogether different arena, my time at the Manistee News Advocate saw me writing within the confines of reality. I wrote mainly news articles, but did contribute a handful of opinion columns, as well. With that position, there were interviews to be conducted and transcribed, fact-finding missions, grammar in as proper a form as was possible, and length restrictions (though I did get away with an extra long article when my regular editor was on vacation). Like the Creative Writing class, it was fun, but in a different way. There was certainly more of a professional sense about it, inasmuch as a high degree of accuracy and candidness was required.

If we’re getting down to brass tacks here, one major similarity between these two writing communities was that a certain amount of backstory was necessary for the pieces to make sense. For the poems and short fiction, these backstories were no doubt fabricated, but nonetheless present; for the newspaper, the backstory (or background information) was necessary scaffolding to set up or realize the point of the article.

And if that doesn’t seem deep enough, perhaps another similarity is in order. So here goes: though the two communities had very different audiences (college students and a writing professor for the Creative Writing course; mostly individuals over the age of 50 for the newspaper), I was still able to infuse bits of personality and voice in each. In the former, this voice appeared in various versions through different characters — but if we are to believe that every character a writer creates carries some small piece of him or her (and I do believe that), then my voice was certainly coming through. In the latter, my voice appeared in discreet ways, as well, such as a quirky headline or the infusion of uncommon vocabulary (e.g. an article previewing a festival known as “Arcadia Daze” was titled “Dazed and fun-infused” (so witty, I know)).

Screen Shot 2016-01-09 at 4.56.51 PM

As for a major difference, I have basically mentioned a couple already in talking about similarities (funny how things are entangled like that). One of those was the different audiences I was writing for: a group made up mostly of my contemporaries and the other made up mostly of people of an older generation. With the former, I was allowed to be a little more “out there,” as one might say, whereas with the latter, I could not necessarily get too crazy. Of course, that had to do with the modes of writing, as well. Another large difference was the “narration” of the different kinds of writing. In Lizzie’s class, I had free reign to decide about first-, second-, or third-person; with the newspaper, everything (except my first-person columns) had to be written in a third-person, objective point of view.

Both communities improved my writing abilities, but in different domains. And now I shall cease to continue this blog entry, because you’ve probably given up on reading all of it by now anyway.

Au revoir!