Not Knowing What’s Next

The experiments are odd projects. They are utterly open-ended and can feel, at first, like you’re being thrown into a void. But when you hit your stride, find your perfect genre or angle or sample, you finally see where it could go. Although I’ll tell you a secret, I often have no idea what I’m doing until I get to the end.

Working on my first experiment felt like a break from doing homework. I chose to do a video vignette with hand-drawn animation based on a song from my notebook. I was learning a new genre, new software, and being visually creative – which is something I don’t do often enough. I was 80% out of my comfort zone, but I was forming a new one.

My second experiment wasn’t quite the same satisfaction but was still a great outlet for exploration in creative writing, a genre I am even less familiar with. I wrote a short story expanding on the lyrics of one of the songs in my book. In the beginning, I thought having a strong outline of the story from my song would make writing easier. In the end, however, I found the outline restricted my freedom. I was able to add a lot of detail to characters and settings, but the direction was already laid out for me, and I didn’t want to majorly change the plot. Although I would say the experiment was a success, I think I will try creative writing in a more open context next time.

I’m excited to see where the third experiment will take me. I want to keep the creative energy of the first project, but incorporate more writing like the second. I’m thinking about a pamphlet on how journaling/songwriting can be used as a coping mechanism for teens. Or maybe a website or even a bookmark with information on it. This use of journaling is largely why I wrote so many songs throughout high school. They helped me sort through emotions and situations that I didn’t want to talk to anyone about. Instead, I could vent or create characters and stories that said what I could not. I think sharing this as an option for people who are going through a rough time could help them, as it helped me.

Topics in Writing Podcast: Linda Adler-Kassner

I was busy Tuesday night with another mandatory presenter as part of my BA 200 class. From the class discussion it appeared everyone enjoyed Heather Ann Thompson. I alternatively listened to an episode of the “Topics in Writing Podcast,” choosing Linda Adler-Kassner, a Dean and Professor of Writing at the University of California – Santa Barbara. The discussion revolved mostly around students’ experience in writing classes and the challenging, educational process which is learning to write. Here’s some takeaways:

  • Good writing isn’t one thing.

Adler-Kassner spoke towards the idea that students often search for a definition of what good writing is, when, in reality, that definition is malleable, shifting across cultures. Different ideologies, expectations, and audiences all influence how a piece of writing is received and analyzed. This gets back to a major part of this course which has been our discussion regarding the importance of understanding audience. A piece of writing can be incredible in the writer’s eyes but if the audience doesn’t connect with the writing in the same way, it will be negatively-received.

  • learning writing is about building a framework that is transferrable across topics, courses, and situations.

The process of learning how to write was also discussed heavily. The skills a student learns in a writing class should be applicable to the other subject matters they decide to take. In this way, learning how to write is more about building a framework, and understanding of the skills and structures employed in strong writing and applying them across different academic situations.  In this light, more connections need to be made across disciplines both between instructors and in content to solidify student’s understanding of what is expected of them.

  • Writing is a subject not an activity.

Students often see writing as an activity, something they do in the process of learning other subjects. Writing students, however, understand that writing is a skill that can be learned just like any other subject they are studying. Successful learning in writing is measured through the application of skills learned continually through writing. In other words doing it. Another part of learning writing is realizing progress—understanding growth in writing—because it helps build a better understanding of good writing.

  • Reflection is crucial. in understanding your learning and writing, accepting struggle, the more you know the harder it becomes

Reflection is a crucial part in understanding your relationship with writing. A common misconception students have is this belief that you can grow as a writer to the point where it is no longer challenging. Linda Adler-Kassner dispels that notion explaining how it actually gets more difficult as you become an expert. The more you know, the more techniques, skills, and knowledge you can employ, the more complex the process becomes. This is important to recognize because it will change students’ understanding of the craft as a whole.

Introduction to Genre 3- Interview Based Article

I believe the topic behind my two experiment cycles this far has been trying to understand myself in different spaces and what my identity exactly is as a junior at U of M. For my first two experiences I used genres that required me dissecting my personal experiences through writing. However, for my third experiment I am going in with the goal of writing about the identity discovery experience of a different college student.

I decided the third genre I want to practice is an interview based article. I think I will gain a lot of perspective through understanding the challenges with identity someone else in a very different space is having throughout college. I feel this will give me perspective on my own identity challenges and struggles.

https://www.thebalancesmb.com/how-to-write-a-profile-or-interview-based-article-1360733

From the article I pasted above I learned that it is very important that interview based articles have a main focus and go beyond just surface information. One of the biggest tips it gives for conducting the interview is that you don’t just write the answers down physically but also utilize a voice recording, so you can utilize every detail when you go back to analyze the interview. It then recommends that after you review your transcript you narrow in on what the focus is of you article and pick the relevant details/information from there.

I think when considering my interview I want someone not involved in similar social organizations on campus. Additionally, I want them to have different challenges in regard to their ethnicity, skin color, sexuality, etc. I am hoping through my interview to discover some identity challenges that I take for granted and never have to think about.

Right now I am not sure who to go about finding this person to interview. There are definitely different pros/cons of knowing who I interview.

 

 

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Gotcha.

But now that you’re here, I guess you have no choice but to read about my struggles so far in writing my novella for capstone. Darn!

My first struggle is that the middle of my manuscript has no plot. That’s because I had such a clear idea of what I wanted in the beginning and end of the novella. And now, I’m stuck in the middle.

Literally.

I’m too ashamed to workshop what I have so far, mainly because I think it’s so cheesy that it’s not yet worthy of your minor-in-writing eyes. I know we’ve all felt that, so feel free to mentally snap in commiseration.

Image result for snap gif poetry applause

What I realized would be helpful is if I wrote out a summary of my novella so far. That way, everyone in class will at least know what’s happening each time I bring in my 35-page draft, and I will no longer be forced into an awkward state of dishing out vague, unhelpful descriptions.

Zach got me thinking more about what kind of character I want Death to be, which is awesome, because I’m not sure yet myself. Also, Sydney got me thinking about what illustration I’ll have on the cover, which is also awesome, because I’m also not sure yet. Note to self: think about these things later.

I’m going to be honest; I’m struggling to make this blog post longer. I think it’s because I always hated blogging, so I’m trying to get better at it. So I’m going to tell you about my Halloween costume.

I’m going to be Princess Jasmine, because the live-action for Aladdin is coming out this summer (which, if you haven’t seen the trailer, what are you doing still reading this?!
Go watch it-bye: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9g5knnlF7Zo).

My boyfriend is going to be Aladdin, but we’re struggling to find him a stuffed animal monkey to borrow for his costume. Every Aladdin needs an Abu, so if you have an Abu you would like to donate to me for a day, I promise I’ll take good care of it (seriously, my email is fshaidar@umich.edu, help a girl out):

Image result for funny abu aladdin

So many things to think about, so much more to write. Even though the draft was due yesterday.

Good luck everyone!

I’m emotional, okay?

People always piss me off when they say that writing is “easy” or that its a cop out. Tell that to J.K. Rowling my dude. Or better yet, stop texting. That’s writing, moron.

Okay sorry, I’m heated. But emotion always fuels some of my best work so I’m rolling with it.

I, along with many others, have found solace in countless aspects of my life simply because of my ability to express myself through writing. I write to blow off steam when yelling into my pillow isn’t enough. You may write to get an A, but I write to calm myself. Your neighbor may write to apply to law school; your sister writes to get likes on her Instagram picture. Your professor writes to express why your paper that you procrastinated on until the night before sucks. We all write, whether you like it or not.

Here is my manifesto, announcement, what have you, about writing. I used some fun visuals in the manifesto because I thought it looked pretty. Like, subscribe, comment below, lol.

 

A Semester in Review

Being accepted into the Minor in Writing program was so exciting, but I honestly had no idea what to expect. I remember coming to class the first day worrying about how intense the program, and my instructor, would be. I can honestly say this class (and the minor) surpassed my expectations, and has only assured me that this is the right direction for me. While I’ve probably done more revisions in the past 3 months than I have in my entire life, I’ve loved every second of it, and truly believe that I am progressing as a writer. One thing Ray said to us that has really stuck with me is that every year we grow. Senior year we wrote English essays that we thought were incredible, only to turn around freshman year of college and think “dear god, how did I ever put my name on that?” Then freshman year we wrote even more essays and thought we had nearly perfected our writing capabilities, only to realize sophomore year that we hated what we produced the year before. The cycle goes on. This really stood out to me because, while I’ve never recognized it, the pattern is true, and it was comforting to know that everyone, even people writing dissertations and working towards their doctorates, feel the same way. This realization has encouraged me to use every year as a stepping stone; although I will never think my work is perfect, it will always be better than whatever I wrote the year before, and that’s a really exciting and encouraging fact to recognize. In this way, I could probably spend years working on my site and never be truly satisfied, but what I’ve produced this year is definitely way better than what I’ve produced in years prior, and I can see how much I’ve grown as a writer. I’m excited to see what my future in this program (and beyond) will look like.

Project Update: Content

This project has been incredibly fun, but incredibly challenging for me. The number of times I’ve written, re-written, and re-written AGAIN is almost ridiculous. It’s not that I think my original work was bad, but I keep thinking of new ways to present my ideas, and mastering my intended tone has been difficult. My original pieces felt too forced in terms of comedic content, and my revisions felt too sterile. It’s taken a lot of time, but I think I’m finally achieving the tone I was looking for. The only way I’ve been able to achieve this is to think of my blog as a conversation between friends (almost as if I’m texting one of my friends about how I’m feeling). Obviously, this isn’t exactly how the piece comes off because I had to “dress it up” a bit (make it slightly more formal to appear credible), but it’s really helped my find MY voice. As I’ve said in my previous experiment reflections, personal writing, especially personal writing with satirical elements, is really challenging for me because I’ve dedicated years to writing and perfecting formal papers, but I’m really proud of how far I’ve come. I don’t think I’ll ever consider the work I produce (both on this site and otherwise) perfect, but I am really happy with how things have turned out.

Dear Prospective Minor in Writing Applicants,

I was hesitant to apply to the Minor in Writing because, well, I didn’t really know what it was. It was introduced to me with an email forwarded from an older friend without any real explanation. As I searched the Sweetland Center’s website I understood the structure of the program, but I still had unanswered questions. How much freedom do I have to write what I want? Am I just going to be studying grammar and punctuation all day? What will the classes be like?

I wished I could have seen students’ work, their progression, their struggles. I wished that there was a glimpse into the program other than the descriptions of courses and historical syllabi.

Over the course my time in the Minor in Writing Gateway, I’ve developed an understanding for all of these questions. And so, I wanted to share my experiences to show you, the prospective applicants, my struggles and progression, my missteps and successes.

An accumulation of my experimentation can be found here, in my Gateway ePortfolio.

You’ll see a discovery of my writing process, how I learned to think again. You’ll see the progression of my voice and how I learned to highlight it throughout various genres. You’ll see how I developed a strong sense of different audiences, and how they might react to assorted techniques.

And hopefully, you’ll see how I plan on continuing to experiment and question my ideas from now, until my final Capstone course, and beyond.

Happy reading, prospective students. Send in that application; you won’t regret it.

Best,

Ashley

The Happy Medium Between Science and Personality

For my past experimentation, I took a more scientific approach on a personal experience. While, the insight gained from this process was extremely useful, something was missing when the information was presented in a purely scientific format. The voice and personal experience that was cultivated through the series of diary entires was lost. So, for this next experiment, I plan on combining the personal experience of the diary entries and scientific basis of the literary review paper into a comic. I think this will be a great platform, because in cartoons and comics, authors convey current events, controversies, or historical events in a comedic or personal manner, which amplifies a reader’s reaction to the piece.

Traditional comics have relatively the same overarching characteristics of creating an argument or claim, usually through humor. They are usually published in online or print magazines and newspapers, and therefore lend themselves to an intended audience of people who are interested in the subject, so scientists, professors, and students for scientific comics. However, I think comics are so powerful because their audience invoked is so large. Anyone who reads the magazine or newspaper where the comic is located is exposed to it, whether they are originally interested in it or not. In fact, some people skip straight to the comic section in the Sunday news.

Here are some traditional comics that caught my eye:

After researching some examples for formatting a comic, I found that there are a few variations in the genre:

  • Color vs. black and white
  • Multi-strip vs. single strip
  • Comment blurb vs. words throughout

This helped me narrow down what I want to do for my piece. Looking at different examples, I find the color comics more eye-catching and will use that technique in my own piece. I believe that my message will be better suited for a single strip, rather than multi, comic. Also, having words throughout my comic will flow better than containing them to blurbs.

While many comics use humor to further their claims, I feel like this might be inappropriate to talk about such an impactful disorder like depression. Therefore, for my experiment I am choosing to go against this norm of the comic genre, and instead attempt to draw deeper and more emotional reaction from the readers, while still keeping the same formatting structure.

I think what I hope to emulate is more along the lines of a project that my friend, Kathryn Rossi, a student at FIT, created for her math class which she shared via her Instagram @kathryn_rossi:

 

Research Papers

I have always hated research papers. Always. Throughout high school I bullshitted my way through every research paper I wrote, rarely ever concluding anything worthwhile or unique. Once I even wrote a 15 page research paper in one day and got an A. That’s either an insane skill or my teacher was just oblivious to how little effort I actually put into the assignment. Either way, research papers were, and still are, the enemy.

But you know what they say: keep your enemies close. So, I guess that means I’ll take a stab at a research paper for this experiment (Ha, get it? Stab the enemy?).

But, in all seriousness, for every high school research paper I wrote, I was missing a crucial component: research. Research for a topic, no matter how simple it is, cannot all be collected and analyzed in a day’s time. When I did this, I undoubtedly compiled a couple of worthwhile sources, but definitely did not find multiple perspectives in order to deduce anything significant. So, after my K-12 education plus my short time at college, I have decided that research is indeed important for a research paper. Who would’ve thought?

Research papers usually have a few more consistencies, regardless of topic, such as:

  • An abstract, or a summary of research project
  • An introduction, with a clear purpose
    • Including a thesis statement, usually at the end of the introduction
  • Body paragraphs, with a strong argument, a stronger argument, and a strongest argument, accompanied by in-text citations
    • Including a review of the literature and how it supports the claims
  • A conclusion and/or discussion, with a summary of the arguments and how they connect to deduce a significant claim
  • A call for further research, when there is a need to delve into a topic further
  • A bibliography, to cite the sources used

Looking at aspects other than formatting, research papers often have a professional, formal tone in order to appeal to the norms of academic works. Often, they work off of already existing research and are a stepping stone for research in the future.

The following examples, while differing in topics, all include the components of a research paper stated above, and I plan on using these as templates for my own work:

  1. https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/560/18/
  2. https://kucampus.kaplan.edu/DocumentStore/Docs11/pdf/WC/Sample_APA_Paper.pdf
  3. https://depts.washington.edu/owrc/Handouts/Hacker-Sample%20APA%20Formatted%20Paper.pdf

My research paper for experiment two will focus on the effects of heartbreak on mental and physical health. Many people think of a break up as something that you just have to get over, but, coupled with depression and other health effects, it isn’t as easy as it seems. I hope to call attention to this  phenomenon as a stressor for health, rather than a simple hiccup in one’s personal life. I hope to build on my diary entries from experiment one which tried to highlight this, but lacked the research to back-up my claims in any significant manner.

And, yes. I promise to put more effort into this research paper than the ones I wrote in high school.