DONE (sort-of).

Even though I still have one last final tomorrow (and feel as if I should be spending every waking moment studying for it) I can say that the fact that my e-portfolio finally looks presentable definitely gets me closer to that happy, summertime mode of relaxation. It’s been a fun semester of drafting, discussion, and revision, but let’s face it, I think we’re all ready to take a well-deserved break. After countless revisions and frustrated poundings of the keyboard, my e-portfolio is finally up and running at: http://smithjulia322.wix.com/julia-eportfolio. There are probably a million things I wish I could change, but, given the chance, the list would just keep growing and growing and growing. If I had to sum up the semester in one sentence it would be: There’s always room for revision. But for now, I’m taking a break.

Designing My E-Portfolio

At first, I had no idea how I was going to design my e-portfolio, and the fact that it seemed weeks away chased this worry from my mind. When we were presented with the prompt, however, the old worry surfaced. Looking at sample e-portfolios in class made me realize that the whole appeal of the e-portfolio hinges on your layout and design. You want it to be cool and unique, but you also don’t want the layout to be overdone and flashy, and thus take away from your overall work. There are so many components to the e-portfolio, and, as the New Critics would say, they need to be tied together in a sort of organic unity. With this on my mind, I went off to work at the UGLI. We recently got compact shelving, which allows for more storage room because the shelves can be fitted really close together. When you want a certain book, you simply press a button to move the shelves apart. The following video is what seems to be a hastily put together tutorial, but I think you get the idea.

Fascinated by the shelves for some inexplicable reason, I suddenly wondered if they held the key to organizing my e-portfolio. What if I organized it in the style of a library, where materials are grouped by subject in a catalog and neatly arranged on a shelf? You would be able to pull things off the virtual shelf, or put things back. I’m not exactly sure what form this takes, but I hope to take the idea and run with it.

Everybody Loves Research

I doubt that the statement that headlines this post has ever been said by anyone anywhere. Particularly not by a college student in the midst of the mid-semester frenzy. I started writing my repurposing project and realized that I was nowhere near solid on any aspect of my project. What’s my genre exactly? Well, I was going to go for the basic long form essay, but the intro alone spans approximately 3 pages. I’ll have to cut a lot of that out, of course. Should I do a series of short journalistic opinion articles instead? It came time to start writing about my five controversial books, and I started, naturally, with the background of most book-related topics and (arguably) a series that has, over a decade, gained a following worthy of the term phenomenon. Can you guess? Here’s a few hints:

I started to write about Harry Potter. I soon realized, however, that if I was ever going to finish this project, I really needed to narrow down my focus. That’s hard to do when you’ve grown up among the billions of other fans and personally know people who have banned their kids from ever saying the name “Harry Potter.” I decided to attempt to understand the other side beyond my personal knowledge of the subject. My search began with the American Library Association. Eventually, I was lead to an old, and well-written article by such a parent that outlines the allegations against Harry Potter and then attempts to understand and advocate for strong parenting, rather than an outright ban on material that they don’t want their kids reading. After reading the whole article, I found myself panicking a little: How can I ever incorporate all of this information into one paragraph? And what, I ask you, is the true definition of:

Giving Purpose to Re-Purposing

My approach to this project was radically lazy; I usually throw ideas around in my head for a couple of days after a project is first assigned. For this one, I had nothing. I found myself sitting in front of my computer, going through old folders of high school writing the night before I had to have several promising options prone to discussion. It was in this fashion that I came across three random lines of an apocalyptic nature (not a genre or subject I write or read about) vaguely kept under the digital title “Conclusion.” Conclusion to what? It was another half hour of leisurely searching that unearthed a ninth grade essay (quite horribly written) with the odd sentences tacked on at the end. It was a forced spin-off of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 in which students were encouraged to pretend that they were in the book world and, under quite thrilling strakes, were allowed to save only five books. What would you save and why? I hate the books I chose, and I hate the writing. I hate everything except the last three sentences. So what five books would I save now? That’s too difficult. I’m looking for a different premise. Here’s what some of my classmates came up with: fiction (my own dystopian society), a live Twitter feed from my dystopian world, a propaganda poster (real or imaginary), a video or news report from my fictional world, research on banned books, a narrative letter to personal acquaintances (firm believers in censorship). I had no idea where to start, so I half-heartedly looked up banned books (if it was published, it’s been banned) and laughed when I read that Farenheit 451 was itself excessively banned. What a fateful corollary. The irony (unintentional, of course) intrigues me. Where does one draw the line between protection and knowledge? I, of course, have my own opinion and, after careful contemplation, have decided to turn my standard summary and creativity beaten essay into a persuasive exploration of my own opinion in search of this transitory line. I will pick the five most provocative (in what I judge to be American societal sense of the term) novels I have ever read and expand on why I think that each and every one is worth saving.

Twenty Ways to Read in a Room

I decided to tailor this particular blog post to my room, (excluding my computer because with the aid of that instrument I felt that the possibilities were endless.) During a quick sweep of my room, here are the first twenty pieces of writing I found: Lists, a quote on a mug, entire seasons of TV shows (comedy, drama), a newsletter, a newspaper, a banner, a poster, two calendars, a magnet from Michigan’s Bicentennial office, course books, journals, essays, fiction, an address on a package, food packaging, notebooks full of facts, letters, a book of poems, instruction manuals to various appliances, tags on the laundry I just folded. At twenty, I had to stop. The list would have gotten too overwhelming. I have picked  the three most unconventional to analyze further.

1. A quote on a mug: My high school history teacher gave us all mugs on the last day of class and mine is sitting on my desk. I would place this in the genre of keepsake or mementos. Its purpose is to capture a memory well enough to be sold. The author picked a catchy, relevant quote to entice an audience who, for whatever reason, wanted to remember his or her history class. The visual, linguistic and spatial modes are employed.

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2. Tags on clothing. Every piece of clothing has a tag telling the owner how to wash it. Sometimes the instructions are quite simple, and sometimes they’re quite complicated. The author has to research the type of clothing and also recognize what type of people (rich old ladies, a poor college student) are most likely to buy the clothing. Based on all of this, the author uses the linguistic mode to come up with the simplest set of instructions possible: Wash Cold.

3. Magnet. Michigan’s two hundred year anniversary is fast approaching, and I was given the magnet in a class I’m taking about the history of the university. It makes use of the spatial, visual, and linguistic modes. Maize, blue and white are the predominant colors, and words that capture the splendor of and promote the university are removable and easily rearranged within the parameter of a surrounding frame. The audience is anyone with ties to the university, anyone considering the university and anyone who wants to know more about the university. It is a promotional tool, not only for the university, but also for the bicentennial office.

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Chasing After Style

I’ve never actually stopped to question why I write, beyond the common observation that I just have to get the words down on paper and out of my head. It’s much more often that I find myself questioning the format in which these words spew onto the page, or even into my head. It wasn’t until I read George Orwell’s “Why I Write” that I realized that the two were quite nearly the same question. Orwell “find[s] that by the time you have perfected any style of writing, you have always outgrown it.” At first I thought that this statement simply could not be true. Many writers are known and idolized for their style. I, as many young writers do, find myself emulating whoever’s work I’ve most recently read. But, as I thought about it more, I came to the conclusion that it doesn’t matter how long you’ve been writing, or how many people read your work; you’re always striving towards perfection and there’s always something you wish you could change. Every piece of writing is experimentation and I don’t think Orwell’s statement has to be a pessimistic view. I’d like to interpret it as this: every time you successfully complete a piece of writing, you’ve reached tremendous strides as a writer. Perfecting the piece makes you better and you have one more piece of experience to define  yourself  as  a writer. Thus, as we continuously chase after style, we are constantly growing above and beyond it.

Stories of the Ordinary

I’ve never stopped to consider what or why I love to read; I just read. I’m addicted to buying books, and this is considered a huge problem when I reflect on the fact that I have no space for all of them. There is simply no where to put another bookshelf. My two key interests are novels and history and I have just now discovered that what ties the two together is the stories of people. History is not just composed of great names and places; at its core is the ordinary citizen. In the same way, society does not revolve around the model citizen, but also around the outsiders and the rule breakers. Stories lie with the daring and the daring are often portrayed as the ordinary. The material that I read warps this fact by illuminating the reasoning of the “outsider,” the repressed and the insignificant citizen who’s ready for a change. Without flaws, the ordinary would not become a story. That’s what I hope to accomplish in my own writing; I want to take the ordinary and twist it into a story. I want to tell the story of people.