Ad Hoc Annotation

The most recent thing I had read was an actual source I’m thinking of using for my Writer’s Evolution.  Is this cheating?

I wrote a blog post 3 years ago.  Someone commented on it with a question, and I think my comment in response was (looking back) pretty stupid, so that’s why I want to include it. But here is my ad hoc from yesterday anyways:

Annotating my own blog comment about phenomenology.

  • This comment is in direct relation to the question posed by one of my classmates. I didn’t look at the question he asked – I just remember this comment as being particularly hard to get through.  The intent of the posted comment, therefore, was simply to answer his question, and to further the ideas in the original blog post, which was something about phenomenological theory as it relates to book history & the purposes of studying book history.
  • My comment, however, does a rather poor job of answering the question. I can tell without even looking at the question because my own words are over-complex and hinder the understanding of the actual ideas.  There is one point where I wrote the same idea in two differently worded sentences, both overly complex – instead of going for simple language to convey my ideas in a way that was easily digestible, I went for complex language, hard to disentangle and very hard to digest.  It’s also annoying to read.
  • I could use this as a demonstration of my writing process when I’m self-editing while I write – the sensation of censoring my words even before I put the words on a page. It could be used as a good demonstration of my writing process, in which my own fears/anxieties inhibit my ability to write anything coherent at all.  It is also a good example of being afraid of others’ perceptions of me (effect of a public forum for writing), and feeling intimidated by the older students in my class to such an extent that I had to use over-inflated language.  It is useful in that, in a form that others would argue is very low-stakes (blog comments are not exactly known for their literary astuteness), I was still unable to let myself relax.  I could also use this to inform the fact that, at the time of my writing this, I thought I was being really smart; now I have come to a better understanding of myself as a writer enough to know my mistakes, but still unable to fix them.  Perhaps I could bolster this idea with evidence further in my paper – and later, chronologically – about how identifying my unhealthy habits is not enough to fix them.


Trying to think beyond categories

Going to Literati and looking through the essays/memoirs/nonfiction section was an interesting experiment in getting more used to thinking beyond the genres/categories/labels that I’ve grown up learning about.  It was even worth the weird looks I got as I knelt in front of the bookshelf with an index card and a pen, writing down what I saw.  The technique I used was to look at the staff recommendation cards, check out the description at the back of the book, look through the book reviews quoted on the book’s cover, and to quickly scan the pages myself.  I was looking for labels.  Here is what I found:

Essays/collections of essays.

Case studies.  I found one book called The Empathy Exams by Leslie Jamison.  The author used medical case studies within her prose.  She also used transcripts from tape recordings.  Interesting elements outside what one would normally think of as the essay genre.

Imaginings.  Not really sure what this means, but saw one book described as a series of imaginings.

A history.  For example, On Immunity by Eula Biss was described as a history of immunization.  On the back of the book, the LA Times was quoted as saying that it “occupies a space between research and reflection.”  So I guess reflections makes up another label.  The NY Times said it draws on science, mythology and literature.

MemoirLiterary biography.


DiariesThe Folded Clock by Heidi Julavits was described on the back cover as a series of confessions.

Portrait of a…



Quite the list I compiled after only a half hour of skimming through books.  My next challenge is to figure out how to break and fuse together labels like these to make a more interesting capstone project…

Capstone Brainstorm

It’s a picturesque afternoon in southeast Michigan; dad is mowing the lawn while mom grills burgers for a late lunch.  The dog is hunting flies by the screen door to the deck.  And here I sit on my father’s laptop, staring begrudgingly at what can only be described as a quintessential blank page: the blank page to this blog post, sure, but also — and more terrifyingly — the blank page that is my capstone project for the Minor in Writing.

My first inclination for what my capstone project will be is based on form.  When thinking about the kind of writing I love – and the kind that I would love to be able to create – I think of essayists like David Sedaris and Rebecca Solnit, whose book The Faraway Nearby recently left me on the floor of my bedroom staring at the ceiling, the way great books often do. Thus, I am considering making an attempt at writing a series of essays which skirt the line between memoir and nonfiction while incorporating plenty of research- that’s the kind of thing that makes nerds like me excited.

When it comes to content, however, I’m at more of a loss.  My technique for considering what to write about is to reflect upon the endless number of things I know very little/nothing about but that seem to show up in my life, throwing me for a loop on a regular basis.  Lately I am curious about themes like introversion and friendship, particularly where the two intersect.  I am also endlessly fascinated by mental illnesses like depression and anxiety, about what happens when you ask for help but don’t receive it, or when the help you receive does not help at all.

Then again, on the more concrete level, I love to make things with my hands.  I would love to learn more about bookmaking – the old fashioned type that you see at art shows.  I enjoy making my own journals out of scrap leather and parchment paper.  And I enjoy writing in those journals afterward – my own little creation from form to content and everything in between.

These are ideas I am tossing around in my head for the time being. Being both excited and terrified for the project ahead of me, I’m sure I will continue to lay in bed at night thinking about these things.  Stay tuned:)

The coolest (and most challenging) classwork you’ll ever do

Hello future Minor in Writing students!

I remember reading the advice of students who came before me wondering what the hell they could possibly say that could make my experience in the Minor better. Theoretically you’ve all been accepted by Sweetland and have already enrolled in Writing 220, so really you’re going to have to do this no matter what. If you’re thinking what I was thinking when I was in your shoes, I understand. But stop.

Allow me to impart my wisdom.

Earlier this semester I wrote a blog post about how terrified I was to be writing a fiction short story in this class.

I had never written fiction before, and in fact was incredibly self-conscious about my ability to do anything that wasn’t an academic/research paper. This was going to be read by a bunch of people and then GRADED. How was my shoddy self-esteem going to handle it?

Scared face cat.
It clearly wasn’t. [Wolfgang Lonien/Flickr]
But I did it anyways, and it was the best decision I made this year. That’s why my advice to you is this: do what makes you scared. Especially if you want to be a better writer because of it. It’s way easier said than done, I know, but once you try that one thing you’ve never done, you’ll feel at least 9 times more confident in yourself.

And honestly, being afraid of writing something makes you try even harder than you might if you were overly-comfortable with what you were doing.

It’s a win-win.

Best of luck.


I will never go into animation

While I was working on the final scenes of my remediation project (a stop-motion animation) at my computer at about 6 a.m. last Wednesday morning, where I had been since about 11 p.m. the night before, I began to hate just about everything. I was quickly losing patience in compiling tiny images which would be shown for 0.1 seconds before disappearing, and I was tired past the point of being tired.

Dog with wide eyes, to say the least.
I might have looked like this.
[Image from Flickr user MTSOfan]
The worst part is that I’m not in love with the final product. I mean, it’s fine and resembles what I had envisioned it would look like, but when I finally hit that submit button Wednesday night, I didn’t feel accomplished. Relieved, sure, and very glad to be embarking on a much-deserved 4-day weekend, but not accomplished.

I guess stop-motion animations just don’t do it for me.

When I submit an essay that I’ve spent weeks obsessing over, I feel like I’m sending my baby on its way, off to do better things. When I submitted my animation — well, it was more of a “good riddance” type of situation.

It’s not that I was all half-assed in throwing a bunch of pictures together just to finish; believe me, I don’t pull all-nighters for stuff I don’t care about. I really cared about my project. I just didn’t enjoy making it very much.

I think this might be a good indication that I should stick to writing. You guys can argue all you want about how pictures and videos and all that jazz counts as writing – I’ll never agree.

There’s just something about actually writing.


Here is a link to my final project if you are interested:

Not a novel idea, but a necessary reminder

So I just got home after attending the Writer to Writer event at Literati Bookstore where author Laura Kasischke was interviewed. It did not feel like a whole hour. I’m going to try to summarize some stuff I heard.

It seemed like a lot of what she had to say connected to one main idea, which is somewhat difficult to articulate in spite of how simple it might seem: in order to be successful as a writer (however it is that you define success), you have to write. You have to force yourself to spend a little time each day writing – no excuses.

This is something I’ve heard before, multiple times.

She spoke briefly about writers’ block, something I’m sure none of us are strangers to, and what she does to overcome it — she writes, even if it feels like she’s drowning (I’m paraphrasing a lot here).

She  mentioned how necessary it is to find a topic that you’re “obsessed with,” so that you can find the joy in writing about it. Perhaps more importantly, she spoke about how it is imperative that we not expect everyone else to be obsessed with those same topics.

Writers need to write, in spite of our hectic, unpredictable daily lives. Because, let’s face it – life and writing are not mutually exclusive. Laura made a remark about how she broke her ankle and got a poem out of it – not that she suggests we go break our ankles to become better writers, but she figured it was going to happen anyways so the least she could do was get a poem from it.

The idea that aspiring writers need to allot time every day to write is not a novel idea, but it’s something that requires constant reminding. It’s much easier said than done, I think.

I’ve only highlighted some of the key points that stuck out to me about Laura’s interview, but we were told that the recording would be turned into a podcast, so if you weren’t able to come tonight and are interested in what she said, I recommend looking it up.

Not all digital rhetoric is online

Maybe it’s too soon to tell, but I haven’t yet begun to feel the sense of “community, collaboration, and empowerment” that Elizabeth Clark mentioned.

This is probably because the work we’re doing digitally hasn’t taken place online. Not yet, at least.

The essays we’ve written or the videos we’ve made have thus far only existed as private entities – not online collaborative entities. Maybe once they become part of our online eportfolio this will change.

It just feels an awful lot like working in a non-digital space at the moment.

However, I do agree with Clark that these three things CAN become benefits if one utilizes online spaces to their highest potential. These blog posts are good examples: there’s definitely a community present, both within our individual cohorts and with Sweetland as a whole. There’s also a sense of collaboration where comments are concerned. And yes, it is empowering to know that other people are reading our posts.

Therefore, I would alter Clark’s position in a way that distinguishes between digital rhetoric and online digital rhetoric. Working online has the ability to foster community, collaboration, and empowerment like Clark says, but not all digital rhetoric takes place online.

Planning isn’t my strong suit

If you want to see the hackiest storyboard ever, I’m your gal.

For my remediation project, my original intent was to take my short story (a criticism of social media) and create an infographic (or a series of infographics). I was going to make my own survey and everything – in fact, I spent a good hour coming up with a rough draft:

Screenshot of my survey.
Creatively entitled “Survey”

This was all before I realized that I hated my idea. Not that it was a bad idea, but I think it wasn’t the best for my exigence.

I started messing around with Windows Movie Maker, and I made a tiny 3 second clip that took forever to make because stop-motion animations tend to do that. Not that I’m at all familiar with making animations, but I saw the idea took shape in my mind more quickly than I could tell myself that it was a risky move that would probably take a huge time commitment in order to fulfill.

I spent the rest of the night making probably the worst storyboard you’ll ever see:

Screenshot of my storyboard. It consists of a few digital images and mostly blank boxes.
You can probably tell where I started to give up on making it visual. (Sorry you can’t read any of it. Trust me, even if you could it wouldn’t make sense.)

I learned a few things from this very wishy-washy evening of storyboarding (looks like “storyboarding” isn’t a word. It should be).

First, I hate making storyboards. Having to plan the fate of my project gives me anxiety. I know it’s supposed to get the creative juices flowing, but it has the opposite effect for me. Only when I jumped into my project (making the survey) did I realize that I didn’t like the idea. And only when I began my animation did I realize that I had an abundance of ideas for the finished project.

Second, I learned that my first idea is very seldom my best idea. I don’t need much explanation for this I don’t think.

Lastly, I discovered the difficulty of trying to make my exigence fit with a medium that just didn’t accommodate it very nicely. It would probably have been a better approach if I had embraced my exigence and chose a medium to fit it rather than picking a medium and trying to alter my exigence accordingly. This was probably pretty obvious to everyone else. Oh well.

I guess planning just isn’t my strong suit.

Digital Rhetoric for Nonprofits

Nonprofit organizations are often a great source of digital rhetoric examples.

This video by The Girl Effect is one of the best examples of nonprofit digital rhetoric that I’ve found:

The video works because it takes the viewer on a journey, which seems to escalate in accordance with the music. It includes words rather than narration so that viewers are engaged and feel obligated to participate in reading the video.

A video such as this needs to be compelling in order to be successful — the exigence is quite clear; the organization is looking for people to support their movement, to donate if possible or even just to spread the word. Successful digital rhetoric for a nonprofit must be engaging, it must speak to the mission of the org itself, and it should probably be something that other people will want to share on social media platforms, so that as wide an audience as possible can be reached.

The way nonprofits communicate and market themselves has drastically shifted since the rise of social media; organizations today are inclined to create an online presence, and, in effect, to go where they can reach volunteers, donors, and members most effectively.

Digital rhetoric has huge implications for nonprofits. The Girl Effect has taken advantage of the opportunity and created an engaging video that has reached almost 2 million views, which translates to 2 million potential volunteers, donors, or advocates.

Digital rhetoric is no joke.


Doing what makes me scared

By far the greatest challenge I’m having/going to have with my repurposing project is working with a genre that I’m not familiar with. Reading short stories and writing them are very different things; I love reading them, but now I’ve challenged myself to writing one and it’s a whole new ball game.

Does anyone have some advice for a short story amateur?

My original idea was interesting to me: I was going to take a small idea from an essay I wrote last year about what my collection of books means about me and turn it into a short story. But after thinking it over some more and talking about it with my group members, I realized I may be starting with too abstract a concept.

So now I’m switching gears!

I’m going to keep the idea of the short story because frankly it scares me and I want to learn how to write creatively. The original source will now be an argument I wrote for the pros of digital communication – how we’re all relying much more heavily on text messaging and social media to communicate and how this might not be a terrible thing. I wrote about how text messaging is merely a supplement to verbal communication, not a replacement, and that we’re all more than capable of talking to each other like the good old days.

Right now the idea is that my short story will be a Brave New World-esque situation and a theme regarding how we’re allowing technological communication play too big a role.

Cell phone screen reading "74 new text messages have arrived."
Sometimes way too big a role. [Image from Flikr user Noel Hidalgo]

While I realize this is still a bit of an abstract idea, I feel like it’s more readily transferable into a short story, which makes me feel better about it.

Time to buckle down and get creative. Wish me luck.