Creative and Academic Pop Culture

Hi fellow writers! I am AnnMarie Kuzel, a Junior from Chicago with a life long passion for writing. Like most writers, I have immersed myself in a variety of writing communities during my life in an attempt to find my place within the massive writing world. These communities have included (at one point or another) creative writing classes, argumentation classes, pop-culture blogs, a trade publication, and writing camps. While I am no longer an active member in most of these writing communities, I gained great knowledge from each of them about how to vary and utilize different voices, styles, formats, and audiences. Today, I am a member of two very different writing communities; the first is a student-run record label which has appointed me as their web editor who writes and edits articles, and the other is a Communications Studies major which requires me to write numerous research articles regarding a variety of topics.

As the web editor for Empty Mug Records, I am responsible for writing articles about recent pop-culture news and contributions, usually regarding music. I have written articles about Kid Cudi checking into rehab, Kanye West releasing new songs, and The Weeknd’s new album. While I am provided a lot of creative liberty when choosing the topic I want to write about, I still utilize many of the skills that I have learned from previous writing classes and experiences. My formatting and voice change with each article, but I am constantly aware of who my audience is and how I have to manipulate my thoughts to appeal to their interests. Though these pieces do require research and incorporate factual support, they are largely opinion based. At times, I can get carried away in the analysis of new albums or songs, because I am so used to doing in-depth analyses for my academic and professional writing, and this is when I have to remember who my audience is and how to appeal to them in the best way possible.

I am also a part of the Communications Studies writing community, which is much more research based, reliant on textual support and analysis, and rarely (if ever) makes room for opinion. The essays that are writing for many of the Communications classes at the University of Michigan are research oriented. I am provided creative liberty when it comes to picking a topic (sometimes) and then have to abide by the rubrics that go along with each essay and research paper assignment. These rubrics require the essay/paper to have a certain format, including an introduction, textual analysis, audience analysis, methods, findings, and conclusion section. Within each of these sections are more specific guidelines which usually require a certain amount of sources to be utilized, among other things. Here, there is no room for opinion or creative liberty. Though the topics are often related to pop-culture, the type of writing I have to do is very different than the type of writing I do for Empty Mug Records, and it is for a very different audience (academia). It can be difficult at times to write about such similar topics and have to deliver the information vastly different ways. However, it is refreshing to be able to have an outlet that lets me utilize my academic writing and another outlet that allows me express myself more creatively.

During this Capstone course, I look forward to being able to utilize both my academic writing skills and creative writing skills in a way that works in harmony and creates a unique piece of work.

It’s Been a Minute

Hi Capstone peeps! My name is Meghan Brown and I’m very excited for this class and to get to know you all as we finish this wonderful minor. It has definitely been a minute since I wrote my last blog post during the gateway course in Fall 2014, but I will give it my best shot.

Since then, I have been a part of several different writing communities–most being academic. From a ULWR primate social behavior course to a Sweetland course in new media writing, I have definitely had a wide variety of writing opportunities. However, the two most notable communities that I struggled with were more on the fringe of academia: research and medical school applications.

As a research assistant in the Department of Psychology, I had to produce a formal research paper and poster presentation for a symposium. While many students dislike the lack of flexibility that comes with academic writing, I have always found the structure and consistency to be somewhat reassuring. I was more than familiar with the MLA format and felt comfortable with the stereotypical essay format. However, I quickly learned that academic research papers are completely different from a proper English essay. I had a whole new world of conventions, formatting and organization to get used to. As a creature of habit, I found the APA format confusing and even quite annoying at times. But with the help of my research mentor, I was eventually able to produce a paper and poster that I was very proud of.

On a completely different note, this past summer I applied to several medical schools–which meant essays, essays and more essays.


This was definitely one of the most stressful and eye-opening experiences of my writing career. I like to consider myself a pretty modest person, so having to write numerous essays bragging about my skills, experiences and personality was a huge challenge for me. I struggled with finding a middle ground that portrayed me as confident, while still keeping that hint of humility. To be quite honest, I find the whole application process to be pretty stupid. Similarly to how Erin felt like she was writing to simply please her professors, I felt like I was trying to create an image of myself that admissions directors would approve of. Certain essay topics were uninteresting to me and I had a difficult time selling myself when I wasn’t passionate about the prompt. Regardless, I made it through and am blessed to have been accepted to multiple schools. I am excited to see where my future in medicine brings me and what new writing communities I might be introduced to while on this path.





Back 2 Bloggin’

Hey, Capstone People! My name is Caroline Rafferty, and I couldn’t be more excited about writing posts on the Sweetland Blog again. After looking back at my last post from the Gateway (in December of 2015…yikes) I felt inspired to dust off the cobwebs and get to writing! However, after sitting at my laptop for 20 minutes without writing a single word, I realized that getting back into the swing of things was easier said than done.

When I first heard about Mini Assignment 1, I had no idea what Julie meant by the term “writing communities” and feared that perhaps I had never been part of one. It wasn’t until I started reading Hunter & Ketter’s case study that I discovered that I have been part of different writing communities pretty much since I learned how to form coherent thoughts and put pen to paper.

Most obviously, I do a lot of academic writing and shared Erin Peterson’s sentiment of academic writing as “constraining and formulaic,” excluding the Minor in Writing’s classes, of course. I’ve always fought against the idea that essays must have an introduction, three body paragraphs, and a conclusion. I felt that this strict structure left little room for creative license and showcasing a writer’s voice–two aspects I believe distinguish great writers from good writers. While I recognize that much of the purpose around academic writing, such as research papers and theses, are to communicate an idea and argue its importance to a field of study, it makes me wonder: why must there be such a distinct (perceived?) difference between academic writing and creative writing?

This question brings me to another writing community I belong to that I feel lets my creative juices flow a bit more freely–and even pays me! For close to two years, I’ve managed the blog of a startup company in Chicago. In addition to writing blog posts, I have the privilege of reading my coworker’s posts and offering some suggestions for how to take their writing to the next level. I remember one of my high school English teacher’s telling me how important the peer editing process is for making oneself a better writer, and this has definitely held true in my professional writing community. Though I still rely on my boss’s input for the pieces I write, he gives me a lot of creative license to write what I want in any form or style I choose. This freedom has made me view my professional writing community in a much more positive light than my academic writing community, which I will say is a bit upsetting. I wish that more academic institutions recognized the importance of creativity in a writer’s process. I’m sure if I had the ability to write what I want in any way I want that my view of academia would transform from one of disappointment to one of inspiration.

While I initially struggled to recognize the writing communities I am part of, I found that reading about Erin Peterson’s communities and the boundaries existing between the two of them helped me distinguish my writing communities. However, I still have lingering questions about why the case study only discusses being part of two communities. Personally, I think that every individual is involved in at least two, but I’m sure many people are involved with many more than that. I would be interested to see if any of you had the same question, and I look forward to reading about everyone else’s writing communities.

Mini Assignment 1

Hello, Capstone Folk!

My name is Dan and as introduction I would like to share an embarrassing anecdote that kind of captures my disposition and attitude going through life.  One day last semester, whilst biking home from class, I was riding while listening to some music and singing along.  When the song “My neck, my back” by Khia came on my playlist I didn’t think anything of it.  I started grooving and listening along to the music. There weren’t many people on the streets or sidewalk to I started singing along with a little more ambition.  Finally, when the chorus came around I was singing at full volume: “My neck, my back…like my pu**y aaaaaand my crack!”  To my horror I looked to my left and saw that in the cemetery next to me was a family burying there dead…and they had been interrupted by my foul song.  I responded baby biking ten-speed until I got home.  I took the song off of my playlist.

Two different writing communities that I have participated in are the journalistic and the personal writing communities.  The main difference between the two being that the journalistic requires that the “I” be taken out of the writing and the personal demands the complete opposite.  I feel more comfortable in the personal sphere since I am a more creative thinker and the Journalistic sector takes a bit of the freedom out of the writing.  However, that isn’t to say that these two styles do not inform each other.  The personal requires a structure and driving question in order for the narrative to have purpose, and the journalistic needs to have a similar interest to the reader in order for it not sound too dry.

This also manifests in the writing style itself.  The Journalistic style can still use scenic writing, in fact scenic writing in the third person can be what paces the style.  The personal can use a more passive and removed style for a desired affect in the writing.  When used effectively, both prove to be quite nuanced and effective.

Journalism and the Personal strive for the same thing, honest writing that provides a unique analysis and insight into a subject the reader might not have known previously about.  While I feel competent at Journalism, it is not a style that I find to be necessarily driven to.  That being said, when in the profession sphere I believe this education will be important to me since it means I can remove myself from the writing I do and the subjects I discuss.

Two Communities of Practice: From the Classroom to an Ad Agency

Hello fellow Capstone students! I’m excited to dive into my final undergraduate semester by revisiting the Minor in Writing Blog. My name is Joseph Kiessling, I’m majoring in business administration, and I will be attending law school in the fall. After reading Hunter & Ketter’s article “Creating a Writer’s Identity,” I noted how I have participated in two drastically different communities of practice since I took the Gateway course. While I had previously focused only on the “big picture” of an essay, my work at an ad agency helped me build awareness of the details that make up larger works.

The summer after my sophomore year, I was fortunate enough to work at Enlighten, an ad agency specializing in digital media. As an intern, I created paid search and social media campaigns for clients. One of my favorite responsibilities at Enlighten was writing ad copy for the campaigns. As you have almost certainly seen, paid search advertisements are made up of short phrases aiming to convince searchers to “click-through” to the actual site:

I worked for the Hunter Douglas account during my time at Enlighten. Believe it or not, it can be difficult to think of creative phrases for selling honeycomb window shades. But that was part of the challenge: I had to come up with ad copy that (a) was under 35 characters per line and (b) generated high click-through rates. Every character had to count. This was completely different from what I had experienced in my first two years of college. Professors gave minimum lengths for papers, and these were conveyed by using pages instead of characters as the unit of measure. Whenever I sat down to write ad copy, I saw it as creating a line in a crossword puzzle: what’s 35 characters (or shorter) and convinces you to visit Hunter Douglas’ site?

Oddly enough, refining my ad copy writing skills ended up informing my academic writing. After writing and rewriting these small phrases, I realized that this was a level of editing I had never practiced before. I had moved paragraphs around and rewrote sentences in my academic essays, but I had never revised on a truly micro level. I had discovered another dimension of my writing – if I was condensing and revising Hunter Douglas copy to make it more persuasive, why couldn’t I do the same for my argumentative essays? Instead of plowing through verbs and adjectives as they come to mind, I now make sure to revisit my essays phrase by phrase. Even though these papers are much longer than the ads I wrote for window shades, I still try to apply the same mentality. Instead of writing a single line in a crossword puzzle, though, I’m creating the whole game.