Laughter

I just thought I would share some uplifting moments I’ve had with this class even in the last days of stressing about getting the full 2,000 points. First, all of our last minute, somewhat desperate emails have been pretty awesome! I love reading all the creative ways we are getting points and the creative ways we are asking for them… I really enjoy all the advice people are giving and the support we are giving each other.

In the midst of coming up with all the ways I can get points, I can get pretty frustrated. It seems like I should be done with school already or at least that the end should be near, but as I look at the list it just gets overwhelming and feels like the end is way too far away. I had all these things I wanted to do in Ann Arbor before I left that now seem like they are getting cut short because I still have work left. What I’ve realized, though, is that I kind of enjoy that some of the final moments of undergrad are going to be doing the same things that I’ve done for four years – cramming in assignments at the last minute, spending hours and hours and coffee shops, and sitting with friends to keep company while doing work together. I’m trying to savor the moment and ignore the small amount of misery!

Finally, every once in a while, I look up from my computer and laugh. At least three times now, I’ve realized in the middle of writing that I am reflecting on reflecting.. sometimes reflecting on reflecting on reflecting. I just have to laugh. I don’t even realize how silly it kind of is when I do it, but then I announce it to my study partner and I can let go of the frustration and laugh at it all.

I hope you all are getting these small moments of joy when finishing up this semester! Good luck!

Some background

I was meeting with an old professor earlier to talk about my project because he is really involved with community organizing stuff in Detroit, and he suggested I read this article called “Detroit Arcadia” by Rebecca Solnit. At first I didn’t see how it related much because it is so Detroit-focused, but after reading it in entirety, I realized that her conclusions about Detroit are really closely related to the information I want to get out of my project. It’s a pretty good read, and even though it’s focused on Detroit, it gives a good perspective on grassroots efforts in a place like Detroit, and the benefits they could bring compared to other projects that have been attempted there. I especially like this quote:  “The free-range chickens and Priuses are great, but they alone aren’t adequate tools for creating a truly different society and ecology. The future, at least the sustainable one, the one in which we will survive, isn’t going to be invented by people who are happily surrendering selective bits and pieces of environmentally unsound privilege. It’s going to be made by those who had all that taken away from them or never had it in the first place.”

Here is the link to that article: http://harpers.org/archive/2007/07/detroit-arcadia/6/

Another thing that might be helpful for understanding my topic is this article about social enterprise. It’s actually pretty basic and not super interesting, but is a good outline of what social enterprise is and where it is going. It also provides a more research-based, practical look at how social entrepreneurship can work.

There is that link: http://community-wealth.org/content/social-enterprise-portrait-field-0

Lastly, I am including an excerpt from Grace Lee Boggs book, The Next American Revolution. Again, this is a Detroit focused article, but it is an example of how people are thinking about local, community-based initiatives as a way to work towards building stronger communities.

If you really wanted, you could read her whole book, but for the sake of this class here is a little sample: http://www.thenation.com/article/160346/detroit-place-and-space-begin-anew

 

I look forward to reading about everyone else’s topics!

 

Recommendations, Please!

For an update on what topic I am writing about, here is the general idea: I want to look at ways that food can play a role in social change efforts. I want to write different sections about ways that this can be done such as through urban farms, local business development, and alternative education programs. Most of what I read about for this topic either comes from my searches on JSTOR/ArticlesPlus/Proquest/etc. or from websites of organizations or businesses that I am studying or more popular information on the food movement.  So that means I’m really missing a lot of good stuff! Another thing that I have some information on is the idea of social entrepreneurship, which I have been able to get from a website called community-wealth.org

I know there is a lot on this topic, so I would like to have some reading that is different from what we are being exposed to a lot more now. I think the New York Book Review version of my project would be something like this http://visual.ly/bring-food-education-back – a basic overview of all the problems there are with the food industry and how much it is hurting Americans. We’ve all probably seen Food, inc. or read about Michelle Obama’s organic garden or heard something along these lines. I want the New York Review of Books version of my project to come from the depth of my research. With that being said, I’m looking for any recommendations for things outside the box that will help me surpass the  NY Book Review level. Maybe it means looking at the history of how food has been used in societies; maybe it is some really great lecture on sustainability…. I don’t know! Recommendations, please!

Project Ideas and Finding Connections

Coming up with a final project for our capstone seems like a big decision, but here are the three ideas I’ve come up with so far. None of them are fully developed and are just beginnings of ideas, but maybe thinking how they all connect will me develop them more.

My first idea is about food/cooking and social change. I want to look at ways that people use food to build community or to teach and engage people. Maybe this will be in a form of collecting stories and finding research and examples of how this can be done and how it is effective. I want it to be both personal and something that I can learn from. I thought about incorporating these ideas into a mini-magazine/booklet that looks similar to a recipe book and has a lot of graphic design, but also includes writing.
Another idea is exploring the ways that people take care of each other. This is kind of broad right now. I think I want to put together different stories, thoughts, examples all of ways people take care of one another or attempt to take care of other or think about taking care of others. I have a few specific examples I am thinking of, and once I start to work those out, I think I will have a more clear overall idea.
Last, I thought about looking at the essay questions that I answered on my application to get into U of M and re-answering the same question to see how it compares to my original answer. I think this could be interesting because I’m sure the questions revolved around topics that U of M wanted us to get out of our college experience, and it would be a unique way to evaluate that.
I think in all three of these ideas I express the desire to do some sort of layering of experiences and stories and research to develop a point. Also, in my first two ideas I see that I am wanting to think about human relationships and the impact they have on societal change.
I would love some input from other capstone classmates about how these ideas connect or anything else that might help me develop my ideas more!

The End

It is finally finished! My brain is so fried that I’m not even sure what to say in this blog post right now. Oddly enough, although I’m happy to be done, I’m actually kind of excited to work on the portfolio more during our capstone. I like what I have so far, but I’m looking forward to improving it! If we’ve learned anything this semester, it’s that everything is a draft and can be improved.

Well, here is the link. Enjoy!

My Recent Past Reflections

Because I tend to remember only things in my short-term memory, and because I’m still right in the heat of the

I’m like Dori, except all I can remember is short term right now!

semester, my reflection on writing this semester is going to be somewhat near-sighted. It seems like all I can think about right now is what I’m in the process of doing and what I have been focusing on for the last week. However, I think even this past week or so encompasses similar writing practices from all semester.

One thing I have noticed most recently is the amount of emails I send. Sometimes they seem easy to write, but when you have been writing a research paper all day I notice how much work putting the right words even into an email. This week I have two group projects going on and a lot of emails back and forth between group members. I never noticed how important it is to write well for emails so that I can communicate correctly to the group. Maybe the writing minor has just made me more aware of writing, but I emails will be the death of me this semester I think!

Another new thing I have encountered this semester is blogging (like I’m doing right now!). I never considered myself someone who would ever blog, but here I am at 10 a.m. finishing up a blog post for this course and planning to working on a blog post for another class after this. I’m surprised I haven’t accidentally posted the wrong blog on different sites. You guys wouldn’t mind if I talked about current social movement topics right? Anyways, the more blogging I do, the more I secretly consider starting my own blog. This summer I am taking a cake decorating class, so it might be the perfect opportunity to start a baking themed blog!

Last are those essays – all those essays! Essays… essays… essays… You think I would be used to them by now, which I am starting to think that I am. I feel more confident with them, and I am starting to get a routine. It’s kind  of like working out at this point. I have this feeling right before I start that I don’t want to do it. I start to dread it before I begin, but once I am started I just keep pumping until its time for a break. Next, the endorphins start flowing and I realize I actually kind of like it. I like how accomplished I feel. And when its all over, I know that I am getting in to better shape, and it becomes rewarding. This is the same with writing. Now that I’m at the end of the semester, I am seeing results from “getting in to better shape” by getting some awesome grades back finally!

At the end of this semester, I am about ready to throw my computer away. I’m so sick of staring at computer screens!

I’m considering it…

The Book-Movie Transformation and the Intense Fans

My roommate always latches on to fads. Latches on probably isn’t the phase for it – it’s more like a death grip. She LOVES Twilight, Harry Potter, Vampire Diaries, Once Upon a Time, and just about any other popular young-adult book series, TV show, or movie. She is the girl that has a t-shirt for every opening night of each Twilight movie; she dresses up for Harry Potter. Most recently she has caught on to the Hunger Games. She supposedly bought the first ticket in the Rave IMax theatre when they first went on sale.

This is not my roommate... but I wouldn't be surprised.

Normally my roommate tries to drag me into her obsessions, and I try everything to resist (I’ve still held out on watching the latest Twilight movie!). However, I wasn’t too opposed to Hunger Games, so I agreed to go with her Friday night – yes, after she watched it the night before in the IMax theatre on opening night. We went with a group of friends, and my roommate was the only one that had actually read the books.

Two of my friends and I are all sociology majors, and after the movie we started joking about all the sociological messages that could be taken from the film. However, my roommate was quick to defend many of our observations, claiming that the book would have described things a lot better. I didn’t really see a problem with anything from the movie, but she was adamant about explaining that a lot of things from the book were not explained well enough in the movie.

I thought this brought up a really interesting point about writing mediums. As someone who had not read the Hunger Games books, I was not judging the movie based on what was left out. I looked at the movie in and of itself, thinking about the plot, characters, and scenes based on what I saw in the theatre. However, as happens with many books turned into movies, people are unable or unwilling to do this. The transformation from one form of writing to the next is what people judge.

Now that we are in the process of this same type of transformation, I wonder how our audience will judge our works. Will it be based on the original work and how satisfied the audience is with how it was changed? Or will it be seen for something new and unique in its transformation?

My Shameful First Drafts

Last night the engaging speaker made me think about my own writing habits in so many ways. First, I realized I probably shouldn’t be a professional writer unfortunately. I typically fall short of page requirements, and sometimes it feels like I am pulling teeth just trying to get more information onto the page. I like writing, but mostly I like when I am done writing and have a finished product. And never do I come home from parties and write ten pages of a story. However, I can see a few glimpses of what John U Bacon said about why he knows he should be a writer, like thinking of lots of article or story ideas or making observations differently than other people.

Turning in a First Draft?

What hit me the most about the talk was the emphasis put on writing multiple drafts. An instant feeling of guilt fell on me when he talked about students that turn in first drafts as final papers. So many times my arrogant self has concluded that since I work hard on my first draft, I really don’t need a second draft.   I hate looking over my own work; it makes me cringe in a way. Now that I have developed as a writer more, and especially after being in this class, I have realized the importance of a first draft a little more.I think my greatest fear in this was explained by Bacon when he talked about the part of his book about Penn State that he wanted to hold on to. I hate eliminating or recreating parts of writing that I have worked on so hard, even if they might not be what is best for the paper. Until last night I had never really heard anyone else talk about this part of writing before, so it was comforting and useful to know that other writers feel this desire but also that you need to be willing to let go. Even though I am not as cocky about my first writings, last night was a huge motivation to improve in this area even more. The guilt I felt was enough to inspire me to actually work hard on a second or even third draft of a paper. I am truly motivated to actually face my own writing, and be willing to change it completely.

With these things in mind, I have many goals for myself. In the next couple of weeks, I have a paper for every class due. I want to do a first draft for all of them and then try to completely rip it apart for my second draft! My plan is make an entire new document for the new draft so I am not tempted to overlook certain parts of my essay that I am “okay with.”

So my first step for this weekend…. start a terrible first draft!

Mind on Overload

Similar to some of the other blogs I have seen already posted, I feel as though the only writing that is left in me is to complain about how much writing I have been doing. Maybe its the sleepless nights and overload on coffee, but my brain feels like it is about to shut down after being in overdrive for so long.

When I get to this point in the semester, it reminds me of how writing is a production. As I write I feel as though I am exhausting everything that my mind can manage to produce. Even while writing this simple blog post, my mind feels like it is pumping all it has into these words. Every once in a while, though, I feel like I catch that break and everything seems to flow. I don’t worry about what I write or how I write it; all I do is let myself go. Unfortunately, this just doesn’t happen enough when its crunch time and due dates are emerging.

I’m also doing a lot of reading right now to study for exams, write about things, etc. Doing both of these things, reading and writing, in mass quanities makes me think about the reading/writing relationship even more. As I read, I feel like I am trying to absorb all I have into my mind like a sponge, but also as a sponge I have to try and squeeze everything out as I write.

Needless to say, I am more than ready for spring break!

My Friends, the Writers

Because I wasn’t able to attend the How I Write session for this month, I’m supposed to be reporting on an interview I have looked up with my favorite writer. Ironically, on Saturday I went to an open mic where two of my friends performed quite a few their own songs, and I got a chance to hear them talk about their writing. I can say they are my favorite writers because I know them personally, right?

Luc actually talked about the process of writing while he was on stage before he began playing. He mentioned that someone once told him that he wrote fake songs, so the song he performed was a real song about how he feels about writing. It was as though I got to hear is “Why I Write” essay in song form! I have to admit, it was kind of hard to hear all of his lyrics because the open mic setting wasn’t really the greatest for understanding lyrics. What I did hear seemed too profound to be a “fake” song, so I think he accomplished his goal. Later that night, he talked about how he writes from experience, but sometimes he has to use stories he isn’t as connected to anymore so he can write about them and perform them better. He joked saying that he tried writing about something that had just happened to him, and he cried through the whole process. For him, writing is about his emotions and stories.

I have so much I could say about my other friend that played that night, but I’m going to try to stick to keeping it about writing. I lived with Lisa this summer and got to experience her writing process the whole time. She would sit in our stairwell to our apartment or on the balcony and play her guitar and sing for hours (which no one minded because she is AMAZING!!!). She would sing the same lines of songs over and over again, while she was writing until she came up with new lines and new ideas. She loved the process. When she would write a song, it was as though she used her writing to process through her life. I remember her talking about one of the lines to her songs, “I’d rather be a homeless saint than a rich man’s wife.” She was expressing her spiritual journey that she was on, learning that she wanted to live for something more than what she has been chasing for such a long time.

For some inspiration for us as writers and a shameless plug for my friend Lisa, I am attaching a video of one of her performances. She just joined a band called Hush, Love which is featuring most of the songs she writes, too, so look out for her in Ann Arbor!