This is Probably the Last Blog Post I Will Ever Write…

This is probably the last blog post I will ever write. It’s a bittersweet feeling. Sweet in the sense that these posts are surprisingly fun and will make for a random happy memory somewhere down the road; bitter in the sense that the real world is finally taking its hold of me and no longer will I have the opportunity to write blog posts and have it count as work.

The Minor in Writing has meant a lot to me over the past few years. Not only have I grown immensely as a writer, but I have also made lasting friendships and have worked with some really great instructors. I’m not sure where I would be if I hadn’t pursued a Minor in Writing, but I’m glad that I did.

At the bottom of this screen, you will see an image of my ePortfolio home screen. By clicking on the image, you will be taken to my ePort.

First, please read over this description of my ePortfolio. It will help get you acquainted with the main ideas:

While pondering my writing evolution early in the semester, I realized that I tend to use writing as a way of understanding myself and the people around me. Because I’m a pre-med student, I am aware that I’ve used science to understand people throughout my lifetime. But until writing my evolutionary essay, I hadn’t realized that I used writing for the same exact purpose. Interestingly, this is nonetheless evident in my writing. All of my work included in my portfolio, including my capstone project, seeks to understand myself and the people around me. When designing my ePortfolio, I wanted to make this a subtle motif. Therefore, I have created a transparent background featuring images from throughout my lifetime. Each image correlates to an essay that I have written at some point in time (though not all are provided in my ePortfolio), reminding you that my writing is about myself and others. Furthermore, the boxed-in reflections on each page, be it a major category or specific essay (minus the “Writing Evolution” tab), emphasize this idea. It is my hope that this message is clear to an audience of friends, family, and faculty/students of the Minor in Writing program (this is why I do not have my portfolio segmented according to minor-specific sections—it is not limited to a Minor in Writing audience).

My capstone project is an article “published” in The Atlantic. In congruence with my other work, this essay also seeks to understand myself and others. At the beginning of the year, Shelley suggested we write about a topic that we could not stop thinking about. For me, that topic was rock climbing. Feeling that an essay solely about rock climbing would limit my audience, I decided to instead write about outdoor adventure in general. This article seeks to understand why some people (including myself) crave dangerous situations of outdoor adventure. Does this not defy logic? Why would anyone purposefully put themselves in a situation of danger? Feeling that my voice alone would not provide a comprehensive answer, I decided to incorporate scientific beliefs on the subject matter in addition to my own narrative. Therefore, this essay is an analytical/argumentative personal narrative (it doesn’t really fit into one single genre so I had to make my own). As I see it, my personal voice is just as important as the scientific voice in this article because I use my voice to remind the reader that there are unique, personal reasons why one would seek out adventurous activities; science alone cannot answer everything. This idea reflects the overall purpose of my writing.

Cameron Fattahi ePortfolio


To my Minor in Writing friends and faculty: It’s been real. Keep writing.

-Cam

To Whom It May Concern: Evolutionary Essay Audience

Over the course of the Minor in Writing, I think I’ve gotten pretty good at knowing what needs to be done to draft right when I write it. When I wrote my first evolution essay draft, I knew that I needed to clarify my terminology, incorporate the introduction into the conclusion, and create a better connection between a few of the paragraphs at the end.

Just recently, I did a mini-assignment that was intended to help me decide if my draft had been suitable for four specific audience members of my choosing. One audience member is someone in my field who I look up to, another is a close peer in the minor, the third is a friend not in the minor, and the fourth is someone not in the minor or in my field of study. The mini-assignment would help me decide how to revise my draft to meet my audience members expectations.

Well, an evolution essay is primarily aimed at a writing audience (at least mine is). Though my “field” is neuroscience/pre-medical studies, my intended field in this essay is those who write and read. Why? Because I want this essay to be interesting! I want it to stand alone as a cool piece of writing.

With my current draft, three of the four (unnamed) audience members would be pleased. The only one how would be unpleased is the person in my “field” who I look up to. I have chosen this member to be English professor John Rubadeau. I love the guy. I think he’d find this draft boring, quite honestly. Aside from the introduction, my language is quite bland. He likes flowery, well-adorned language. John also loves humor. Again, my essay is lacking. There’s some there, but there could easily be more. Oh, and he’s also a huge fan of the Greek rhetorical circle (creating a cyclical connection of ideas throughout the essay). I know he’d be bummed that my draft doesn’t return to the ideas from the introduction—at least not explicitly.

Although I knew a few things I had to do in order to make my next draft better, this exercise helped me to realize that there are changes I should make that I was not originally considering. It also helped me to realize that my fictional audience would approve my use of “bullshit” in the essay; I wasn’t sure if I should keep it. It’s always fun when people don’t mind profanity.

An irrelevant photograph of my dog Lennon and a snowman. Cheers.
Here’s an irrelevant photograph of my dog, Lennon, licking a snowman. Cheers.

The Power of Short Words: A Mini Assignment

Hey guys. I’m going to try out a mini assignment that Shelley has posted to our Canvas page. It’s all about learning to utilize the power of short words—those that are only a single syllable (I’m not doing a great job it thus far). The assignment is to write a 200 word description of a place that I am familiar with using only monosyllabic (lol, the irony) words. I’m allowed to use three multisyllabic words which I will number using parentheses. Let’s see how it goes.

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Room one-one-nine is small. It is green with a blue floor. The trim on the door is brown. The door is not to close—such is the way of the psych ward. The top of the door has been cut so as to strip any edge from which a noose could hang—such is the way of the psych ward. Art sits on one wall, and the rest are blank. Light comes through a large window (1) off to the side. A bed is set on the far wall. White sheets lie on the bed; Maia lies on top of the white sheets on the bed in the small, green room with the blue floor in the psych ward.

She has cut her body. They are small cuts, like those from paper (2). But they are still cuts. They still bleed. She needs help.

She is here for the week. She will go on to Denver soon, where she will stay for one month. I go to see her twice while she is here. Each time she is bored—not by me but by life in the psych ward. Each time we read and play cards. There is no more for us to do. We talk. Joey came a few days back. She says he has been well. Joey is a good guy. Maia loves him.

I love Maia. I want her to be well. I want her to love herself (3).

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Wow—that was much harder than I would have expected. I think I cheated. “Maia” and “Joey” are actually both two syllables. So is “Denver.” At least I kept the descriptive words to single syllables (other than “herself”). The rest were nouns. This is the website I used to ensure that each word was monosyllabic.

Try this! It’s tough!

Reflecting on My Writing

In class last Thursday, Shelley sequentially proposed three questions to us and asked that we write about each for seven minutes. The questions were intended to get us to reflect on our writing processes and style as stimulation for our Evolution Essays. Personally, I found the questions very intimidating and tough to answer. Nonetheless, I pressed onward and delved into the depths of my own writing-soul (though, in reality, it was a very mundane experience). Here it is:

1). What characterizes my writing at its best?

During the actual free writing experience, I wrote about something different and I hated it. Thus, I will just redo the experience here:

Between my sophomore and junior years of college, I read a few books. One of those was The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway. It was a great book and one that would come to change the way I write. Specifically, it encouraged me to write in the simplest way possible. Anthony Burgess, author of A Clockwork Orange, wrote of Hemingway’s novel that, “Every word tells and there is not a word too many.” Inspired the power of Hemingway’s simplicity in this novel, I made Burgess’s review a mantra for my own writing: to have every word be essential to the piece and to not have a word too many.

My writing, at its best, is characterized by this simplicity. It is sharp and powerful without being overbearing or boring. It is a skill I have not been able demonstrate often, and it is one that I will never master; yet it is one that occasionally pops up in my writing, and it is a skill that I will always strive for.

2). What do you want your project to reveal about you as a writer?

I hope that my project reveals much about me as a writer. Specifically, I want my project to reveal my empathy. I want the reader to get a sense of my love for people and for understanding people. I want my reader to be inspired by my writing (or, rather, what I have written) and to desire to understand people for themselves. I want the reader to see my passion for nature and for understanding how nature influences the way people function. How do people function? I prefer that people learn more about themselves through my writing than that they learn something about me through my writing. While they will inherently learn about me through my writing, it is more important for me that the reader learn about themselves. More on the topic of what I want the reader to learn about my writing, I hope that they notice my passion for the sound of words and my love of writing.

3) What do you still not know about yourself as a writer?

Lots of shit. Most notably, will I continue to write after graduation, as I hope to do? Will I write when I am a doctor or a resident? Will I still possess the ability to reveal the nature of people through my writing?

I am truly concerned that I may never write again after graduation, which would be a huge misfortune. I am not a good writer (I’m not sure if any writer feels as though they are a good writer), but I hope to continue writing because I have learned how essential it is for me to understand people and the world. My writing is often very meticulous. Piecing it together teaches me a lot. I dont know. I’m not sure where I am going with this. But back to the main question, I dont know if I am a devoted writer. Is anyone? Also, I’m not sure if what I write means anything to anyone but myself. On that note, it doesnt really matter to me. I know that about myself as a writer: my writing, thus far, has been for me (or at least the writing that I am most proud of has been for me). Is it worth my time to make writing for anyone else? Do I even need to in order to be a writer? If I do continue writing in the future, these questions will gain prevalence.

(To avoid any unwarranted criticism, the last two of these questions, as they are written here, are exactly as I typed them during the initial free write. Please excuse my careless mistakes 🙂 )

Sketch Draft and Intro Workshop Review

  1. The most helpful component of the blog group workshop was to see if what I thought I was doing with my writing was actually what my writing was doing. Since my genre is immersive journalism and I have only written very little in this genre previously, it was especially helpful for me to see that my attempt at mimicking the immersive journalism genre was effective. Also, though my draft was rather primitive, the workshop was helpful for me to see if my group members could follow the path I intended to take with my writing. Did I effectively convey what I wanted to focus on without overstating it or understanding it?
  2. After the workshop, I am feeling much better about the workshop. Although I thought my draft was pretty bad, my blog group members were very supportive of what I had written and were encouraging about moving forward. This can only mean positive things to come!
  3. Research will continue to take a number of forms for my project. Specially, research will be utilized in three ways. First, I am going on a rock climbing trip to interview some friends in March. This event will make up a large part of the body of the finished project. Second, I need to continue to hash out scientific content. I have a lot done already, but this will continue up until the project is due. Third, I need more genre inspiration. I need to learn how to incorporate multiple personas and events into a single cohesive piece of writing. Reading similar immersive journalism pieces will help. Right now I need to also finish the following books (that is what spring break is for!): Into the Wild, Alone on the Wall, and Backpacking with the Saints.
  4. In order to reach a complete working draft, I will need to meet the research goals above. I also need to write the stories of my experiences. This is something I can do ahead of time and will modify them and fit them to the theme later. Obviously I cant do that with the climbing trip yet though. In addition to research and writing, I will need to learn how to better use the software that I am relying on to mimic The New Yorker. Specifically, I need to learn how to change and add photos
This is where the climbing trip will occur! I hope to take many cool pictures  here myself.
This is where the climbing trip will occur! I hope to take many cool pictures here myself.

If Only I Were David Sedaris

If only I were David Sedaris. Every book, every article he writes impresses me so. Journey Into the Night is no exception. Published in the New Yorker back in 2007, this essay is riveting. It begins by discussing the annoyances of long-distance flights (in Sedaris’ case, specifically from New York to Paris) and the almost-embarrassingly superior treatment that Business Elite flyers receive. Sedaris then tells the story of a Polish flyer who was moved next to him, in his Business Elite seat, because the man had been crying over the loss of his recently deceased mother and disrupting flyers in the front of the plane. Hilariously, he paints the man as over-reacting and childish—disrupting his $8,000 flight experience and preventing him from watching a low-grade movie that other Business Elites laugh at up front. But in the end, we find both Sedaris and the Polish man crying side-by-side after Sedaris reminisced on teenage memories of his incessantly farting grandmother and the blood-bearing beatings his father would impose in response to his laughter.

I wish I had written this article because it is hilarious. One thing I suck at as a writer is being funny. Actually, in general, I’m not really a funny person. I tell jokes frequently, but people never really laugh. They just give that warm smirk that seems to say, “At least you tried.” In any case, I think that incorporating humor into my project (and into my life) would be extremely beneficial. As Adam mentioned early on in our course, “You can never take yourself too seriously.” I should try to do differently.

I also admire this piece of writing because it is so unpredictable. There is no linear structure to the essay at all—we, as readers, never know what to expect. In fact, he rarely references anything he said earlier in the essay. He is not trying to make a point; rather, he arrives at a point. I may be able to incorporate this tactic into my project, though it will definitely be more difficult than the last. The only way I would be able to do it is by using the personal narrative aspect of my project creatively. A professor once described an essay of mine as “like an Impressionist painting.” That was an accident though. Perhaps I could do it again. But would it be fitting? Regardless, I suggest to myself that I keep it in mind.

Sixty-Nine Days: Discussion

Sixty-Nine Daysan article published in The New Yorker, details the story of the Chilean miners trapped by the collapsed San José Mine back in 2010. (Published in 2014, it is immediately clear that the author went to immense depth to craft the article.) The article begins pre-collapse by describing the scene, the subjects, and the history. Many of the thirty-three men are introduced in detail. Then, an almost-daily account of the entrapment is given, in which camaraderie, faith, and dreams of death are emphasized. Finally, the author investigates the effects that the rescue and sudden fame had on a few of the miners. The author avoids any serious discussion of politics and jurisdiction, and he focuses, rather, on survival and on the human condition.

The writing is “immersive” in every possible way — often, the scene and characters are described with such detail that you can’t help but think it’s fiction. Writing, like this, showcases the author’s deft ability to incorporate research (mostly interviewing in this case) and the depth to which he went before writing. The subjects are beautifully characterized beyond anything that would be found in a traditional news article, allowing it to surpass the endeavors of that genre. Further, the writing yields bits of dark humor that reveal the desperation of the situation to the audience.

When reading this article, there are a number of things that I encourage you to pay attention to: the characterization of the miners, the fluid inclusion of research, the use of present tense, the bits of dark humor, the detail and imagery with which the story is told, the use of dreams, the way in which death is described, and the presence (absence?) of photographs/videos. Each of these aspects lends accordingly to the genre and the intentions of the piece.

Last week, Britni included another article to read and compare her’s to. Given that mine is already very long (thirty pages), I won’t ask you to do that. Do, however, keep in mind the way in which the writing here differs from the conventions of typical news pieces, though we won’t necessarily address this head-on.

In discussion, we will be focusing on the following questions:

  1. What is the genre? How can you tell?
  2. What is working well here (given the genre)?
  3. What is the purpose?
  4. Could this piece have taken a different medium? Different publication?

For those of us writing in a similar genre as this article, I think it will be extremely valuable. For those of you who are not, I hope you that you are able to take something away from it and find enjoyment in it nonetheless!

Reflecting on the Proposal Pitch

Going into the proposal pitch, I think I felt a bit overconfident. I didn’t feel that my idea was superior or anything, just that it was well-enough developed and thought through for it to suffice as a project pitch. In this regard, I was definitely underprepared. The feedback provided on my pitch helped me realize that my project idea will need to be revised and reworked.

The most helpful advice for me was that I should focus on gauging interest within my intended audience (which at the time was the general public), because my project topic — the therapeutic potential of rock climbing — is not necessarily relatable to all. Using past advice from Shelley, I am now considering changing the focus from rock climbing to adventure in general (though this is not for certain), which would attract a wider group of readers. This would also give me access to a wider research base, which would definitely allow the project to progress more quickly. In focusing on this more general topic, I could still incorporate the personal narrative components about rock climbing that I was hoping to incorporate. As a project medium, I am still considering writing an immersive journalism piece in which I would write from personal experience, interview others, and incorporate scientific research to answer the question: Why is it that wilderness adventure is so therapeutic for many? Also, why is wilderness adventure not for everyone? And maybe as an overarching question, why are so many of us compelled by nature, while others are not at all? I hope that these questions would grab the attention of most people.

Though this idea is solidified in my mind, I still have doubts. Part of me thinks a topic more creative would be a better fit, but at this point it seems unreasonable. I think committing and solidifying my current idea will be best for me.

I’m excited to see what comes of my project. While I expect it to continue evolving and shaping, I am hoping to avoid any drastic changes!

Here’s a fitting article (with a very fitting title) that I will use as part of my topic research! >> Fitting article with very fitting title

To Read or Not to Read: Three Magazines I Found Interesting

For a recent assignment, my Capstone class was instructed to read 10 Magazines Every Writer Should Read and choose three that we found to be of interest. Many caught my attention while others, admittedly, were not of any interest at all. Here are the nominees for three best magazines in a unique list of ten:

 

The New Yorker – Every time I open a New Yorker article, I feel as though I’m in for a treat. This is not a naive reaction resulting from the magazine’s prestige, but rather a belief garnered after just about every article from the publication has impressed me with its thoroughness and obsessive attention to detail. Everything from the articles to the cartoons to the magazine cover is packed with creative, smart (the cartoon jokes are almost always over my head), interesting material.

 

Oxford American – Though upon clicking the link to access the website I wasn’t sure — given the publication’s emphasis on “southern” subject matter — that the magazine would appeal to me, I was quite wrong. I quickly found joy in the fact that a “music” tab is on the home page and, subsequently, that there are many articles written about music. And they’re on weird southern-y topics (like Gram Parsons!) that are rare among the other publications I tend to read. So surprisingly, I’ll be sure to follow this one going forward.

 

Lucky Peach – Admittedly, I hate cooking. Furthermore, I’ve never really read anything about food. What’s nice about this magazine is that none of that matters. The articles on the site seamlessly combine personal narrative with food and science, even. I was happily surprised! From a short browse on the website, I’ve already found a number of articles that I intend to read and enjoy.

Writing Communities — Unique, Yet Strangely Similar

One writing community I consistently – and hopefully continue to — associate with is the scientific writing community. Though I have not published any articles, I have written extensively in this community and find that it many times influences the way I write elsewhere. Interestingly, it seems that writing in this community (at least in scientific journals) is a science itself. There is a guiding structure, a need to be concise and clear, and a need to be truthful — any fiction here will terminate you. Any writing conforming to these three mantras is good writing, and anything diverging is bad writing. Little room is left for creativity. As a scientific writer, I aim to bring a little bit of my personality to my writing. Often, this is inserted into the introduction and conclusion of papers, and is inappropriate elsewhere.

Another writing community I belong to (though this may be a stretch) is the FaceBook-article commenting community. By this, I mean that I often comment on the articles that the New York Times, New Yorker, Atlantic, etc. post to FaceBook. Writing here is fun. You have free reign to say and do as you please because no one knows you (unless your FaceBook profile is not set to “private”). This allows for profanity, arguing, whatever. However, there are methods to establishing yourself as a superior: don’t use profanity, exhibit perfect grammar and spelling, and be very concise and very clear. Often, just making a small point using these three methods will allow for an effective comment. Therefore, creativity is everything!

While I initially chose these two communities because they appear to be (almost hilariously) stark contrasts of one another, I was quite surprised to see the two forms of writing converging as I typed out this blog post. Both forms emphasize clarity, conciseness, and honesty. Effective science writing could (if you keep it short) make for effective FaceBook-article commenting.

But differences between the two communities begin to arise when you consider that this is not a two-way relationship: Effective FaceBook-article commenting would not (in most conditions) make for effective science writing. Perhaps it has to do with the notion of credibility. In science writing, you need to be credible to be effective. In FaceBook-article commenting, anyone can be effective. Let me know what you think.