Illustrations and goodbyes?

As I was writing this post, I realized it may be one the last posts I make on the minor in writing (if not THE last post).  I can’t help but be sad and relieved.  I often feel like I am writing into a void when I write here, which may or may not be the case.  Writing these posts has been frustrating at times, although the mini-assignments Shelley has had us posting about have helped me tremendously with my project and my eportfolio.  It seems like just a week or so ago, I was still doing draft and development mini assignments, but now I am working on revising and refining.  (Where has this entire semester gone?!)  So here it is, my final mini-assignment…

5.    Integrating Visual Illustrations

Visual illustrations can be inviting, distracting, confusing, or illuminating, depending on how they are used. The key principle is to employ them self-consciously and with a clear sense of purpose. Read through your work and identify places where you are either already using an illustration, have the impulse to use an illustration, or where you’d like to challenge yourself to use an illustration. For each, ask yourself: “Why do I need [this/an] image? How [does it/could it] aid the reader’s understanding? [Does it/would it] supplement rather than duplicate what is already in the text?” Write a brief reflection in which you discuss what images you’ve decided to use (or not) and why.

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For my eportfolio, I wanted to keep the style very plain and simple.  Because of that, I didn’t want to add very many pictures.  My “Home” page is also serving as my “About Me” page, so I wanted to include a picture of myself (one of the few pictures that I would actually inclued).  I analyzed this photo in an earlier mini-assignment, which is how I convinced myself it was a good picture that summarized me (the block M and being outdoors).  Upon further inspection, I realized that the picture also fits well with my eportfolio theme.  I want to emphasize that my writing makes me feel “free” and that throughout my time in the minor, I have found more freedom in what I write.  This picture of me standing, looking at the ocean as the wind blows symbolizes that freedom.  I think I have done a good job at making the “freedom” theme explicit in the paragraph on the home page of the eportfolio, so this image should click with the reader as well.  Even if they don’t understand the image at first glance (I mean, they can’t even see my face and its my “about me” photo…), I hope that it is something that clicks after they have read the paragraph and/or my evolution essay.  This image is a perfect reflection of how I feel when I write, and I hope the reader picks up on that when they go through my portfolio.

Who Am I Writing To?

I have come to a crossroads with my evolution essay.  I want to talk about how I feel like I have more freedom with my writing than I have ever before, yet I still wrote my entire essay in a traditional essay format.  After talking to Shelley, we brainstormed a few ideas for some structural edits I could make to my essay, but she suggested I try this exercise to further develop some ideas to make my essay even better.  I am supposed to write down the names of four real people and do the following:

Read your work aloud and try to imagine each person’s response. How welcome into your work is each person? How much would they understand? To what extent would they buy in to your work? You may or may not want to write in a way that each of them could understand, but it should help you make some decisions about what is working in the current draft and what needs work. Once you’ve done this, write a paragraph or two discussing the most important insights you gained from this exercise and a plan for what you’ll need to revise (and how) in the next draft.

Screen Shot 2016-04-06 at 6.34.59 PM<- Thanks brainyquote.com

Here goes nothing!

Mini Assignment: Who are you writing to?

A top expert in your field (someone whom you would really like to impress)

Fritz Swanson.  He was my English 325 professor and gave me the most honest feedback of any professor I have had in college.  He knew what I wanted to convey in my essays, even if I was unsure of it as I was writing.

His reaction:  This is a good start, but think about how your message and structure connect.  If you are arguing that you have become more creative with your writing and no longer feel constrained by the traditional essay format, why is it that you use it here?  The argument is clear in the words, but not in the structure.  Think of how you could mess this piece up so its not exactly what the reader expects.

A close peer in the minor in writing (someone who would give you a fair and honest critique of your work)

Melody, currently in my capstone course, was also in my gateway, and is conveniently my roommate 🙂

Her reaction: Dude (yes, I’m pretty sure she would start with this exactly), I like it, but I thought you wanted a more creative theme to tie it all together.  What happened to that?  Go with your gut!

A peer from outside the minor in writing

Rachael, another roommate of mine who is conveniently a writing tutor at Sweetland.

Her reaction: I like it!  It is clear what you are trying to get across.  Be careful with repetition of words and sentence structure, though.

Someone who isn’t an expert in writing or in your field

Danielle, my final roommate (see a trend here?).

Her reaction: You might want to add specific examples, rather than just summarizing things.  This would help with your argument.

 

That was kind of fun, actually!  It was good that I picked four people who would look at my project very differently.  I am bummed I didn’t stick with my original theme for my essay (I was going to use a jail cell as a metaphor), but I think its for the best.  The most important thing I need to change about my essay is its structure so it can match the argument of my essay.  I think instead of going in chronological order (something evolution implies), I will use flashbacks to go back in time between discussions of my most recent writing.  This will allow me to compare and contrast certain types of writing, for example comparing my first science writing piece to my most recent one.

Discovering Complications

As a mini assignment for Shelley’s class, we were asked to choose drafting development mini assignment and write a blog post about it.  Considering I have experienced nothing but complications with my project, I thought the discovering complications assignment was quite fitting.  Write a few paragraphs about the funny side, the absurd side, the dark side, or the maddening side of your project.

My idea for the capstone labyrinth-1013625_960_720project was to create a website for the general public to use to help them navigate scientific articles.  I wanted to include a words to know section, an explanation of the scientific process, and most importantly interviews with scientists giving advice to people reading their papers.  I started my interviews and heard a lot of positive feedback from those I was interviewing.  Most everyone I talked to agreed that something like this is needed today.

I had a few basic questions such as What are you studying?  Who do you communicate your work to?  Any advice you want to give to non-scientists looking to read scientific articles? I couldn’t get some of the people I interviewed to stop talking with these questions.  A dialogue formed and we explored topics I hadn’t even considered before, such as the cost of open-access publishing.  On the other hand, some scientists I spoke to barely gave me answers to what I asked.  One word responses made it difficult to continue a conversation.  (Not much to talk about when I ask if they have advice and their response is no…)

I was stuck.  I couldn’t present these interviews in a Q&A style format now because the length of the answers would vary significantly (I prefer everything to be unified in length, size, and color).  Additionally, as a senior about to graduate, I found myself asking the scientists questions about their careers and interests once we entered an open dialogue.  I am about to start my first job, so naturally I am curious about the path people took to get where they are today.  These conversations were probably the most intriguing to me, which got me thinking… what if this website was geared towards aspiring scientists rather than the general public?  What if gave insight to incoming freshman on what health-related careers are out there (health-related because I spoke to Doctors, Physicians, Clinicians, and scientists studying health and cancer).

Those I spoke to who were a little less talkative still spoke plenty about what they study, meaning I wouldn’t have to worry as much about the length of their interviews.  And as my blog group suggested in class, I could just take a few quotes from my interviews rather than typing it all up.  I decided all of this before my final interview, so when  I was speaking to the scientist, I discussed the development of my project.  He was very supportive of my choice.  Although he still thinks there is a need for my initial idea, he agreed that there was a need for my second one as well.  And considering the time frame for our capstone, he thought it would be more realistic as well.

So here I am two weeks before this project is due with a completely new outlook on the entire thing.  I can feel a panic attack coming along, but this is where my interviews took me.  I know as a freshman I would have wanted a resource such as this.  Now if only the Pre-Health advising people would email me back about what they think would be useful in a site such as this…. complications.  I guess they’re inevitable.

 

Image Close-Read

In class on Wednesday, we spent time looking at pictures and analyzing them in terms of our eportfolio.  Is this a picture we would use? What is the picture’s composition? How would this picture fit in with the rest of our eport?  I found this assignment very difficult to do.  I want to be able to show it to employers in the future, which makes me question what kinds of pictures would be necessary/appropriate to use.  I don’t want to be boring, but I don’t want to be unprofessional with the pictures I choose to include.  Another issue is that a lot of the pictures I take are of nature/scenery.  I’m not sure how to include them without making my entire portfolio nature themed.  This assignment got me thinking a lot harder about my project, and I think I will try to close-read some more images to further develop my ideas for this project.

Here was my image close-read:

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I keep going back and forth between what audiences I would like to have for my capstone portfolio. I want it to be less about me, and more about my writing and how my writing makes me feel. I have some great pictures of nature and scenery that I think I would like to use throughout my eportfolio. When I write, I feel free, which is a similar feeling I get from pictures about nature (and actually being in nature). This photo above is one I would like to use for my about me. As I said earlier, I want my eport to be less personal and more of a representation of my work, so I would like this picture to be one of the only ones with me actually in it. This picture is made up of three important elements: me, my school, and nature (my freedom from school). This is very important because each element is something I would like to emphasize in my portfolio. This is all natural light from the sunset. Also, I’m short enough you can see the horizon! It looks like me looking out into my future, my freedom. If I make this theme very prevalent throughout my portfolio, it may be easy to understand. Ultimately, I would like to use this as my “about me” photo if I were to stick with this nature/freedom theme.

Evolution Reflection

On Monday in class, the assignment was to take 21 minutes answering 3 questions, allowing 7 minutes per question.  I wasn’t in class, so I did this assignment while I was at work- with a LOT of distractions.  Needless to say, the 7 minute rule may have been a broken, and I think I could have benefitted a bit more if I had been present for a class discussion at the end.  Regardless, I enjoyed thinking about the questions as I thought they were interesting concepts I don’t usually pay much attention to.

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Q1: What characterizes your writing at its best?

When I work really hard on my writing, my personality shows.  I am good at description, creativity, and humor.  I also usually write with more varying sentence structure when I concentrate on writing a great piece.  I am very good at engaging the reader and writing in a conversational tone.  I usually write informally, which may be appropriate for some circumstances, but sometimes is not.  My best writing is at an appropriate level of formality for what is being discussed.  I would argue though that my top-notch pieces are ones that are supposed to be informal, as I am most creative and unique with what I say in those instances.  My writing is also at its best when I am very passionate about the subject.  That being said, my best writing is personable, relatable, and “real.”  

 

Q2: How does/will your capstone project reveal something about you as a writer?

What originally drew me to writing was that it was a way for me to both express and figure out my opinions.  Writing requires a lot of thought, which can help when trying to uncover the truth- whether it be the truth about your feelings or the truth about the world.  I think my project will project my desire to find the truth, as the idea is that it will give the general public the tools to help them uncover the truth on their own.

 

Q3:What do you still not know about yourself as a writer?

I know I just wrote about what characterizes my writing at its best, but I still don’t know what makes my writing “good” or “bad” to other people.  I have put my heart and soul into some of my pieces of writing and have had it ripped to shreds.  Other times, I have half-assed plenty of writing assignments and have received praise for them.  I know this has to do with my ability (or lack thereof sometimes) to make my writing understandable to other people.  I write the way I think, and sometimes that makes more sense to people than other times.  This is something I need to discover as a writer so I can become a stronger writer with all of my writing.

 

By the time I answered the third question, I wondered if I knew as much about myself as a writer as I thought I did.  Most of this contemplation came after the 7 minutes were up for the question.  I’m not sure I even know why I enjoy writing so much.  Thinking about it seemed enlightening and made me appreciate my writing so much more.  I hope to make this enthusiasm and passion apparent in my final project.  These questions also helped stimulate more thought on how I have developed as a writer and where I still have flaws.

 

The Year in Fungi- Class Discussion

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I don’t find fungi all that interesting. When I was a kid, I enjoyed killing mushrooms by pouring dish soap on top of them, and now as an “adult,” I enjoy eating sautéed mushrooms; other than that, the organism does not really peak my interest. That was until I read Nicola Twilley’s article The Year in Fungi. The title itself caught my attention, and the article’s tone had me laughing the entire time. Twilley was able to take something as boring as fungi and write about it in a way that was so interesting and relatable. I was laughing not only at her puns (I’m a sucker for puns), but also at her serious tone around the subject. She was able to write about something so boring to most, and make it relevant and fascinating.

Screen Shot 2016-03-06 at 12.13.12 PM *My favorite pun- clearly it’s really easy to make me laugh

I have to admit; I didn’t understand the entire article. There were terms used regarding fungi that I am not familiar with, yet I feel I still got the gist of the article. This is exactly how science writing is supposed to be. The reader doesn’t need to understand all of the terminology, but should feel like they have learned something after reading the article.

Although the science writing aspect isn’t relatable to everyone’s capstone projects, I do think this article has some qualities that are important for everyone. We each are doing a project that is interesting to us, but may seem boring to others. What makes excellent writing is the ability to make a boring subject interesting to the reader. I think this article does an excellent job with that. This is something we should all be challenging ourselves to do with our own projects.

Monday’s Workshop

I have had a pretty solid idea of what I would like to accomplish for my capstone project for a while now.  I am making a website, which I hope can be used as a resource for non-scientists who want to learn more about science, specifically medicine.  I was confident going in to this workshop, because even though I hadn’t done any of my interviews yet, I had designed my website exactly the way I imagined it.  But what I had in mind maybe wasn’t as clear to anyone else.

My group has given me some great ideas with every workshop, this one included.  They asked questions about my website that I hadn’t even considered.  To me, what seemed to be laid out right on the screen, was maybe not as easy to interpret to anyone else.  They gave me advice on what to change within some of the subheadings of my page, and let me know what more they would want from a site such as this.  Additionally, Cameron gave me a great resource to look at: http://www.natechertack.com/medicine/  I forgot the whole story behind the website, but this page in particular gives definitions to a lot of medical terminology, which is similar to something I would like to include in my website.

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Website url: http://kvbayne.wix.com/sciencecommunication

I am feeling a little conflicted at this point of my project.  I have a lot of ideas of what I would like it to be, but have realized I am going to have to part ways with some of my ideas.  What I need to do is sit down and solidify a game plan for the rest of my project, so I can shape my project around what I find.  Specifically, I need to conduct my first few interviews to decide what their exact purpose will be in my final project.  I feel better about my progress with my project after the workshop, but I still know I have a long way to go.

After I actually speak to the scientists I am going to interview, I need to work on the theme throughout the website.  Not in a design way, but I need to adjust my tone and style of writing to fit the audience I am trying to target.  The first thing I need to do that is adjust the title of my website.  Currently, it is called Science Communication; however, I don’t think it explains what I really want the website to be used for.  I will be working on this until I set up interviews with people.  My website doesn’t seem like much now, but I think once I finish up my interviews, everything will start falling into place!  (Fingers crossed this is the case!)

 

Capstone Project Pitch

I had a pretty solid plan for my project when I came into class on Monday.  I am in the midst of writing a piece about science and social media for Misci, one of the science writing blogs I am a part of.  I don’t have enough time to do as much as I would like to for this article (it is due this Friday– yikes!), so I thought it would be good to elaborate on the article as my capstone project.  This would include interviewing scientists and organizations around campus about their opinion on science and social media.

So my topic was covered, the only question I really had was who my audience should be.  I thought it could either be an informative piece for scientists against social media or for the general public, warning them of the issues with communicating science through social media.  Exhibit one is this tweet by Lawrence M. Krauss, a famous Physicist:

I’m not very into Physics, so I am not sure exactly what a gravitational wave is or what would result from its discovery.  I do, however, know enough about the way research is done in science to know that this tweet sparks a red flag.

  1. “has been confirmed by independent sources.” AKA not his information to give out.  Should scientists really be sharing someone else’s findings before they do?
  2. may have been discovered.” AKA the research has not been peer reviewed OR published yet.  The scientific process takes a while and for a good reason.  I am not suggesting the lab behind this possible discovery messed up any of their experiments, but until they’re peer reviewed, it is a real concern.

I brought this up in class, and after talking about my concerns with audience, everyone seemed to be on the same page.  They want to know what to trust and not to trust when it comes to science being shared on social media.  I never really thought about it, but it is true; it is quite difficult to tell who is a credible source and to know what red flags to look out for.  Thanks to my peers, I now know who my audience will be.

Knowing my audience now will also help me when deciding where to make my article.  Right now I have a vision of an “emagazine” where I could put the live twitter feeds of the person I am interviewing right next to the article.  I will have to come up with more components of the magazine if I go this route, but as of now it seems like a pretty solid plan.  Thank you to everyone who helped me think through this idea.  I can’t wait to see what comes of it.

Now… It’s time to get to work!

 

10 Magazines Every Writer Should Read

In Shelley’s capstone class, we read an article called 10 Magazines Every Writer Should Read.  I went through the site for each magazine and found many of them interesting.  However, I don’t think every writer needs to read each of these magazines because not every one of them would be relevant or interesting to everyone.  For example, I am not a very crafty person so I have very little interest in Make magazine.  Here are three magazines that I find the most interesting/intriguing:

1) Mental Floss:  These articles are short and to the point- which is why I enjoy them so much.  They are all filled with random information, which sparks my creativity and gives me some wacky conversation starters.  I wouldn’t say many of these articles are the most intelligent or extremely well-written; however, they are a great break after a day filled with classes and work.  Also, some of their technology-related posts are very informative without going into too much detail.  You learn just enough to think it is cool, and then you can either move on to the next article or do further research of your own.  My favorite article I found while scrolling through was about tablets for old people that have uber pre-installed.  Why?  Because old people are lonely and don’t drive often.  Super random, kind of funny, but super practical- I’ll definitely be sending that article to my grandma soon.

2) Entrepreneur:  The design of the website is very plain (but still appealing) and easy to navigate.  The titles of the articles jump out at you, so you can’t help but read every single one.  They are also very relevant, for example, 50 Thoughts That Can Motivate You to do Anything (for anyone suffering from senioritis like I am).  I also like that there are a mix of articles with lists and articles that are longer in length.  No matter what article you decide to read, you will learn something that is relevant to you and your career.

3) The New Yorker: Although they have many interesting articles regarding current events and politics, I usually only read their Sciency & Technology articles.  I aspire to be able to write such entertaining articles.  They create narratives about topics ranging from cockroaches, to planets, to real-time tracking the NFL.  Although the articles tend to be longer, they keep your attention with quirky humor and excellent imagery.

Writing Communities

I write for three different blogs on campus, and each of them has their own unique community.  Two of these blogs, in particular, have extremely different communities.  These two blogs are the Wolverine Cuizine and Misci.  The Wolverine Cuizine is a blog about food, while Misci is about Science.  Not only are they about to very different topics, but the writing process behind the articles I publish in each blog is vastly different as well.

Each semester, I produces anywhere from 2-5 articles for the Wolverine Cuizine.  We are often given themes for each article.  For example, the article I have due for next week needs to be about cheese.  Some articles I have better ideas for than other.  Personally, I am not a big fan of cheese, so I still have not come up with any ideas for my next piece (any suggestions would be much appreciated!)  The overall process of producing an article can take me as little as one day to complete.  I often come up with a food I enjoy, write about why I enjoy it, and then submit it.  Within the next day or two, I receive suggestions from the editor, usually about minor sentence structure changes to make the article flow nicer.  I can either accept or reject the editor’s suggestions, then the article is complete!  I send it back, and it gets published within the week.  I enjoy this process because it is low-stress and I get to produce many articles within the semester.  On the other hand, I wouldn’t say I am always extremely proud of these articles.  Knowing how little time and effort I put into them makes it hard to feel accomplished once they are published.

The writing process behind writing for the MiSci blog is much different.  To begin with, I am one of only a few undergrad students that write for the blog.  It was started by a few Ph.D. candidates, so the entire site is directed mainly towards grad students.  This makes it more intimidating to write articles.  Everyone comes up with their own interesting topics, and I had someone come up with a topic for me because I had no idea what to write about.  Additionally, we have to sign up for publication dates, which are three months in advance because they want us to have our articles edited at least three times.  I am in the middle of writing my first blog post for them, and the rough draft for my piece is due next Friday.  Clearly by the time I graduate I will only have one or two articles published through this blog.  However, I think that I will be very proud of the piece by the end.  I am very intimidated by the task I have ahead of me, but I know they want me to put in all of this time and research so I produce something I am very proud of.

Both of these blogs mean a lot to me.  There are pros and cons to writing for each, but what each one lacks is what the other one has to offer.  I am happy that I will have such a diverse background of writing experiences when I graduate.  And I am also happy to be part of both of these great writing communities.