i have always wanted to say #pikachu in a blog post title

I am certain that when Ray (R) introduced the ***project*** in class last week, he spoke in tongues. He spoke for a long time. He spoke of a crown and a jewel. Then, class ended, and I had been mindblown by R’s majestic ideas, and I had admired his vocabulary, and I had noted his engagement with the audience, and I had come to understand one thing: I still had no idea what the project was supposed to be.

And by that I mean I still don’t. But, I read the***project***  section of the syllabus several times today, and now I understand a little bit better. So here is what I think:

I want to create a collection of essays, and I want the collection to explore this question: What did I learn in undergrad? I want to do this because I’m about to graduate (approximate cost $100,000), and I can’t stop thinking about this question, and so trying to devote a semester to answering a different question would feel like a filthy lie. I also want to do this because I’m forgetful, and so having a collection of essays addressing some lessons I’ve learned might help me to not forget those lessons. I also want to do this because I’m seriously intrigued by what college teaches you…i.e., Does it teach you about academia? Does it teach you about how to maneuver your way to an A in a class? Does it teach you that failing is inevitable? Does it teach you to figure stuff out like how the buses work and where to go to replace your M Card? Does it teach you social skills? Does it teach you that you can’t be a substance abuser forever because it gets boring after a while?

Disclaimer: I don’t want to make this a Lifetime movie and tell you how college has taught me so much, and LOOK AT ME I’VE COME SO FAR!!! I am imagining several creative nonfiction pieces (varying in length and topic) about some experiences I’ve had in undergrad that I thought were cool and that altered my identity, path, etc. And maybe the individual pieces could together tell the greater story of what I learned here. More to come.

The e-Portfolio. Is Done.

It’s been a long time coming, but the time has finally come.

I focused a lot on my writing for the portfolio. I went back and changed just about every essay twenty times through, so that was rather time consuming, but I like to think I’ve made improvements with each edit. I learned a lot from building the site, and I’m feeling surprisingly tech savvy after completing it. I spent some time at the Knowledge Navigation Center in Hatcher (over by the Ref Room), which I had no idea even existed prior to this project. The people there were super helpful though – I had a million questions about WordPress, and they had a million answers!

I can guarantee that the portfolio and I have only begun our journey together. I’m almost certain I’ll be spending quite a bit of time with it over break. In fact, I really don’t even see myself making it through the rest of finals (I don’t finish until the 20th) without playing with it a little more. I’d like to add more short pieces to to my Archive section to make the site more reader-friendly. I know I’m always happy to read a lots of short pieces as opposed to only a few long ones, so I’d like to just add some 500-word-ish essays to it as they come.

For tonight, though, the portfolio and I must part. Check out the site here, and feel free to check back later on as it evolves!

My Lover’s Ghost

I was eighteen when Italian swept me off my feet. I was a first-semester college freshman, wide-eyed and impressionable.

Italian found me, I like to say. It happened at freshman orientation where I sat inattentively in a circle with people called “peer advisors” and selected my fall classes. I only considered Italian because of Dane – the blue eyed, tan skinned enchanter of my orientation group – the one who happened to sit at my right and tell me, “You should take Italian. My mom speaks it, and maybe I can help you.” Dane was a god, the lover I sought whose words were the Gospel to me, and I needed no further convincing. Italian found me then.

I soon forgot Dane when a four-day-a-week Italian 101 course followed, one whose liveliness blindsided me, consumed me unexpectedly with its charm and its gift giving.

The class was everything to me. I don’t know; there was something magical about it. An Italian man called Gugu operated some thirty of us in 1460 Mason Hall, shouting in foreign tongues in his orange pants and leather shoes and demanding responses. Our assignments were playful. Often, they required our performance of these embarrassingly unsophisticated mock conversations at the front of the class. Other times they were these group discussions prompted by “talk about your favorite season” or “tell us about your friends,” all of which rendered hilariously pathetic attempts at the Italian accent. There was laughter often, infectious spirit, and such magic in that.

Soon, in Italian, I met my people. I met Paul, my first-ever oral exam partner with whom I’ve since spent innumerable hours of football Saturdays. I met Kara and Andreina, the two classmates with whom I continued the Italian voyage that became a passion over four semesters; with whom I spent Sunday nights buried in verb tenses and vocabulary; with whom I later took on six weeks in Italy, the six most magical weeks of my so-far existence.

And Italy was a dream. Purely fantastic. I know no better way to describe it. It was approaching fluency practicing the language with locals at the bar. It was hitchhiking home from the clubs and ending up trapped in the abode of cocaine dealers. It was the stone streets and the history and the willingness to be lost in both.

I recall all of this in retrospect – a notion that, overthought, sometimes defeats me. I now can recall Italian only in the past tense, in the form of its ghost, and thus I choose to recall it seldom. Italian left me like it found me. Like all love affairs that begin in high speed, Italian and mine ended in a sudden death.

But I prefer not to think about the reasons we may have parted or that there was even a severance at all. I like to think we neither approached nor abandoned one another. I like to think that all of it was coincidence, a series of spontaneous interactions that linked us for a time – brief but magical – before some forces provoked our inevitable diffusion.

That was Italian, brief but magical. It was Mason Hall and the orange pants. It was playfulness and effortless immersion. It was the luck of the draw, and I won the jackpot.

So to Italian, to our spontaneous affair and to the gifts it gave me, I will remain forever grateful. It’s better this way; it preserves the magic.

 

 

Blogging Style

My blogging style started out essay-like, and this made the first few posts difficult to write for me. In English 125, I had a lecturer who emphasized “building” arguments throughout essays, and “building” in English 125 required pacing the argument over the course of 10 pages. So when I began attempting to blog like an essayist, I struggled to pace my arguments because the length of the posts was so much shorter than the ten-page writing assignments with which I was familiar. What I hadn’t yet mastered was how to pace my arguments for assignments this short (i.e. speed them up), and this resulted in my arguments developing late in my first few posts.

I’ve tried to focus on evolving my blogging style this semester to more to-the-point writing. I think, with blogging, the shorter medium requires that arguments be made within the first few lines or so. To me, a good post communicates clearly and quickly, so that readers receive lots of information in little time.

I’d like to work on using what I’ve learned with blog writing and pairing it with my initial goal to blog like an essayist as I complete my e-Portfolio. Within the portfolio, I’d like to include short “blog” pieces (maybe even some revised versions of my Minor blog posts), so that I can continue working on this practice of pacing with my writing- I’ll think of them like miniature essays. I do think it’s possible to “build” and to blog like an essayist, but in order to do that, you have to pace effectively—blog posts are a sprint and not a marathon.

Writing On My Mind Part IV

The writing I have on my mind today is, in the spirit of finals, Blue Book exam writing. I cannot stand Blue Book exams. I think they’re so destructive for several reasons. First of all, every time I take a Blue Book exam, I leave feeling like I have carpal tunnel. Second, I always run out of time.

Thinking of ways to address this issue, though, I have to give credit to two sources: (1.) Joe’s post, the one on which I just commented; and (2.) my Econ 466 professor, the one who issues all my Blue Book exams this semester. Both of these sources offered similar advice for effective (and timely) essay writing. Plan. Planning out what to write before you write it on a Blue Book exam saves so much eraser, time, stress, deducted essay points, the list goes on. It’s advice I learned when I was probably in second grade, but I resist it often because I think of it as pure poison to my creative juices.

What I need to remember for Blue Book exam writing is this: not every essay is a creative piece. Some essays are meant for answering specific questions and answering those questions only, and that means they must stick to a strict structure. Some essays aren’t about process; they’re about product, and that’s just the way it goes. Planning ensures the product.

It nearly kills me every time I take a Blue Book exam because there is no space for the revolutionary final prosaic moment and no time for the fifteen-minute contemplation of the golden opening sentence. But that’s the Blue Book essay, and that’s a lot of things: either you answer the question the way in which you’re expected, or you fail.

And so the numbing begins to the carpal tunnel, to the essays without shimmering rhetoric, and to the answers woven solely with the purpose of pleasing their inquirer. Product over process, I’m learning.

 

 

Revision

For me, revision is a short process relative to the other components through which I toil in any essay. I’m not sure if that’s a good or bad thing, but it speaks to the method in which I’ve learned this semester I write most papers. That is this: I can’t just type ideas out when I have a paper due and meet the assignment’s page requirement on the first draft. I’ve never been able to do that. It takes me so much time to write my first paragraph and all paragraphs for that matter, which is really frustrating, but the thoroughly contemplated prose does make my traditional “revision” process shorter. In ways, then, revision feels kind of like a treat because it means that I’ve finally completed (almost) an essay, which for me, is an impressive feat since essays almost always ruin me. I guess maybe I don’t revise traditionally, but I’m revising in my own way all throughout the writing process.

 

Remediation Project Storyboard Transformed

Storyboard

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Despite its blandness, my Remediation Project storyboard ended up becoming a helpful tool in completion of my New Yorker magazine cover final Remediation Project. I began my storyboard as a skeptic of my project’s potential. Although I had several ideas for the top floor and a few for the basement scene, I was really worried that my final product would inevitably turn out looking cluttered if I included everything. This translated itself visibly in my storyboard, pictured above. It has elements that I liked and that I ended up incorporating into my final product, but I knew it didn’t have every piece it needed in order to make the same argument as my Repurposing piece. The storyboard ended up becoming really helpful after I received feedback for the piece’s first draft. Prior to turning in the draft, I drew out as much of the piece as I could, leaving out the basement scene until I had time to think it over and discuss it. The feedback I received really helped me decide on a way that I could incorporate every element I needed into the basement scene – Naomi mentioned using inspiration from a few Diego Rivera pieces, which I did. I think without the storyboard, I would have jumped into composing the basement scene in my final project too soon, without thinking through it thoroughly. Seeing the way that it looked in a storyboard form first really enhanced my ability to receive feedback and also to find places where I could tweak my original ideas.

#techchallenge 2

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I spent the morning trying to creatively incorporate my Repurposing paper onto the portfolio, and this led me to the exploration of a few ideas.

First of all, I tried just embedding the PDF on my WordPress site. I looked up several Youtube tutorials to do it. One misled me and made me think I could make my PDF itself show up on my WordPress page nicely. This was frustrating because after playing around with my portfolio for an hour and half trying to make it work, I was still failing to get the same results as the video showed. So I searched for other tutorials and found a counterargument. In combination with Aaron’s comment on Katie Koziara’s post explaining how it isn’t possible to make the PDF show up in its original form on the actual WordPress site, this video explained to me that WordPress can only embed PDFs using a hyperlink to the PDF itself. So one idea I have for adding my Repurposing piece to the portfolio is to just write my introduction to and explanation of the project on its designated page and then including the link at the bottom.

Second, I considered displaying my Repurposing piece in a booklet like Alyssa Lopez did since my essay is supposed to be a magazine article. In addition, my Remediation is the magazine’s cover, so I thought it would be cool to have a display of the entire magazine- that is, my Repurposing and Remediation combined- on my WordPress site. I explored FlipSnack like Alyssa mentioned, made an account, and played around with trying to embed it on my site using one of her commenter’s advice. From what I found, though, it isn’t free to embed the code- you have to pay a Premium fee for that service. So I looked up making booklets on a different site and found Flipgorilla. The booklet I made on that site is pictured above, but still, I couldn’t find a way to embed it. I’m continuing to play around with this and try to make it work, but if anyone has suggestions on embedding the booklets for free, please share!

The ePortfolio II

A Brief Summary of What the Portfolio Will Privilege:

I imagine my portfolio centered around the idea of a character (my pen name, Calypso) and the lenses through which she looks at things. “Calypso’s Bifocals,” it’s called. I’ve chosen this for two reasons. (1.) I needed a theme, and that meant finding a common denominator between my essays. And the common denominator is this: In my writing, I almost always hint at or describe things using the details, people, experiences, etc. that I’ve encountered in my day-to-day. It’s kind of like no matter what notion I’m writing about, my interpretations of things are always connected to the physical. I think I have to make sense of things that way. Anyway, that’s where my “lens” comes in: I tell stories (the essays in my portfolio) which are all compilations of the details that my bifocals pick up. (2.) I needed to make the portfolio a little less of a diary. Like I said, my essays usually reference real things happening in my life, and if everything’s spelled out exactly (i.e. theming my portfolio KAITLYN BYRNE’S INTERPRETATIONS OF ALL THINGS), it could be really uncomfortable when people I know Google me and find it. I feel like the character “Calypso” remains at least a little mysterious. This way, there’s room for me to be provocative in my writing since my reader hopefully remains unsure about what/who exactly I might be referencing, not to mention exactly who “I” is.

What I’m Most Excited About:

Writing. I want to make the portfolio’s prose gorgeous. I also want to finish remediating, so I can dedicate lots of time to it.

What I’m Still Struggling to Figure Out:

I think my Home page reads narcissistic, and I worry a lot about that with my portfolio idea. I fear I’m Hannah from “Girls,” writing personal essays and called way too self centered by Adam. So I need to be strategic about how I frame my Home page. If I’m going to have a blog, I don’t want my reader’s impression to be that I think I am so special and everyone’s so excited to read my life story. There has to be something engaging, something more than just a “THIS IS ME!” feel. It all begins with the prose and this idea of a character being exposed, so to avoid narcissism, I must blend these two strategies.

Life in Crimson

I wonder if this is as close as I’ll ever get to Ivy League.

It’s Wednesday, and the sun warms campus with a blanket. In several ways, here, it’s warm: in temperature, it’s near 60 Fahrenheit; in color, it’s an eruption of autumn’s hues piercing this town’s miniature skyline; in metaphysics, it’s my brain convincing me that I’m a grad student and that my walk to Rackham is a series of those yellow, antique flip book photographs.

Fast forward one week and four days, past Halloween’s shitshow, a week of midterms, and this weekend’s tragic football loss to Nebraska, and I sit studying far away from campus on Ann Arbor-Saline, reminiscing on all thoughts that led to the beginnings of this post. It has sat as a draft on the Sweetland blog site for twelve days now, yet I return to it with equal unrest and inability to articulate just what I want to say about it. But I attempt.

I dream of Harvard. I’ve dreamt of Harvard for just under a month now, ever since my friends and I roadtripped there in search of Ivy League husbands. Never has Ivy League existed as a physical being to me, as anything remotely within my reach, but it has existed nonetheless. I know Harvard only as an idea, as this faraway fantasy, this almost mystical land with magical properties and inhabitants whose eliteness exceeds my small-town-Midwestern capacity.

But then I consider Michigan and, more, the University of Michigan as the residence of my undergraduate career and how it has tastefully, academically elite qualities according to some who rank it. I didn’t know I would come here, and I didn’t know I was anything with which good schools and inevitably elite people wanted an association, but somehow I’m here and swimming in a pool with all of the above.

It’s a strange feeling to tell your newfound Ivy League husbands- graduate students at Harvard- where you attend undergrad and to have them respond with a level of respect for what you’re doing. “U of M? I have a few friends here who did Michigan undergrad,” they say, and I have to pretend like that’s not the most out-of-body exchange I’ve had in a decade. People with whom I attend undergrad will go to Harvard grad. I could go to Harvard grad.

I recall my visit a few weeks back to Harvard’s campus: I am dressed in scarves and last night’s makeup; I am walking in clicky shoes on Cambridge’s stone streets caffeinating myself; I am being given a tour of Harvard Square by a few of the institution’s rugby players. And I am falling hard and fast in love with a place that has a gorgeousness that I can only describe by its hues, its piercingly warming vibes that on those three to four perfect Midwestern, 60-degree days of autumn, the University of Michigan mimics for me.

So for the past few weeks, my goals have taken slight turns, and my projected 5-year-plan has transformed from “make it out of Michigan undergrad alive” to “neurotically apply and interview for some of the most elite internships in Corporate America, make plans to get an 800 on the GMAT, and start a charity or two along the way.” I’m addicted to the idea of Harvard, the shimmering image of me walking on its stone streets in the clicky shoes, carrying heavy emerald-colored books. “Life in Crimson,” I call it. I’m in love- perhaps hopelessly- with the books, the elite, the challenge, and the hues. I’m in love with Harvard.