Kickstarting my Project

I cannot believe I am actually here, turning in and completing my final project of undergrad. It’s been a long road, and yet I still feel as if these four years have flown by! But anyway, my project was a podcast with my best friend, also named Kayla, called K squared: Kickstart Kinship.

That’s her and I with one of her adorable dogs.

Doing this podcast was probably one of the funnest adventures I’ve embarked on and I also learned a lot about computers and audio editing. I also learned a lot about my best friend and myself and I think this was the perfect way to end my college career. I could probably go on about my project, but rather than do that I’ll just let it speak for itself: https://kaylsmit.wixsite.com/kpodcast !

Advice to Future Capstoners

So, to say this isn’t how I pictured my last semester of college going would be an understatement. When it stated, everything seemed normal and then slowly I started to hear more and more about the coronavirus and by the time spring break rolled around, I knew it would come here to Michigan too. And not a week back from spring break, we were already being told to pack our bags. To go home, by any means necessary. It was weird to be away from campus and still taking classes, especially the Capstone. For classes like this, where participation is key, I wasn’t sure how it was going to work. What if people were in different time zones? What if their internet sucked at home? What if, what if, what if? That’s all these days seem to be about. But, miraculously, everything worked out pretty well. It was a bit weird at first, seeing a bunch of boxes with what seemed like headshots of everyone. It’s harder to read body language and keep everyone in focus. I think, though, that despite not being in person, this class had one of the easiest transitions to a virtual world for me. Though we weren’t in person, it was still easy to communicate and share ideas. I think the hardest part was staying on track when being surrounded by family and, in my case, my boyfriend. But T managed to keep us all on track and enthused about our projects, which in light of everything that was happening, was no small task. So, despite being a very different ending from what I expected, I still think I would count this semester as a success.

Some general advice for this course, is to change! Change your project halfway through the semester if you’re just not passionate about it. Sure, you’ll have to make up the time, but even so I think you’ll find it much easier to start a project from scratch than trying to force yourself to finish a project that’s already half done. And, honestly, your project will probably turn out way better because readers can tell when a writer is and is not passionate about their work. I would also say, that no matter what your semester looks like, whether it’s in person or not, to not stretch yourself  too thin or try to do too much. Your first priority should always be your own sanity. And, yes, I may be biased because I’m a psychology major, but even so mental health affects everything. It affects your sleep, affects your physical health, affects your relationships, affects your work. So, trust me, know your limits. And finally, ask for help. If you need to crowd-source an idea or need help troubleshooting technological problems, then don’t be shy. Everyone in your class is in the same position you are, and trust me they’re interested in what you’re doing, just like you’re interested in what they’re doing.

Okay, I lied about that last bit being my last piece of advice. But here it is and trust me it may seem silly and maybe even a bit obvious but it’s probably the most important. HAVE FUN!!!

I hope you get everything you dreamt of out of the minor and that you find yourself writing more and more, and about a broader range of topics. Good luck and happy writing!

Kayla

New Directions

So it’s a little more than halfway through the semester and especially with the past weeks events and the cancellation of in-person class sessions, I am unsure of how to proceed with my project. Originally or I guess most recently, I have been planning on doing a podcast, however I think in light of the seriousness of the situations, instead I am going to do a written piece.

So to catch everyone up to speed, I was originally going to do a podcast with my best friend talking about mental health and other important topics, while also telling the story of our friendship. Following the closure of campus though, I think I will be going home. As such, I think I am going to do a long-form memoir/vignette type story. Through this story I plan on highlighting difficult times in my life through journal/diary entries or random snippets I have written and then putting those into context with how my friendships and support systems have gotten me through.

I have given this a lot of thought, and I think this will allow me to stay true to my true purpose (which was to talk about the importance of friendship in mental and physical health) and to stay safe and also not spread any illness.

Capstone Class 1: Where do we go from here???

Me, colorized, following day 1

Overwhelmed is a complete understatement if I’m being quite honest. So much is happening right now, from classes starting again, to it being my final year and all the stress that comes with that, i.e. what the hell am I going to do after May 2??? But, we’re not going to talk about all that right now. Well, I guess you’re not talking (I mean you could totally comment and maybe help me figure out what I should do for this project), but anyway I’m going to be talking about my pitches. And cursing myself for being actually really interested in all of them. Since one thing that was apparent from the pitches is that I really wanted to include a photos (and a lot of them) somehow, I’m going to be putting a lot of photos in this blog post, so bear with me.

And without further ado: pitch #1.

So you’re probably wondering: what’s up with the goggles and random awkward teenage girls (I’m the one in the upper right hand corner by the way)? Well, this is my visual representation of a totally nerdy project. And while I don’t actually need to wear scientific goggles for this one, it definitely requires a lot more work than my high school chemistry class did. You probably guessed it by now, but my first pitch idea involves writing a meta-analytic research article.

I think it would be really cool to try and sort of meld the two types of writing I’ve been focusing on lately: fictional novel and psychology thesis. I’ve been on-and-off writing a novel about romance and of course heartbreak. And I’m also writing a thesis on PTSD for my senior year. So, my first pitch seemed obvious to me: write a research/review article examining the role of different areas of the brain in love and social pain. Some feedback I got from this was to try and make it more interactive or personal, and one way we thought about this was to somehow incorporate interviews from people that are in love and people that are experiencing heartbreak. This new addition to this piece definitely makes my life harder because it only makes choosing just one pitch so hard.

But, the show must go on, as they say, and because I don’t want to bore you all to death I’m just gonna combine pitches #2 and #3 into one since they are so similar anyway. (And honestly if I were to pick either of them, I’d probably just do both and you’ll see what I mean in a second).

So, here’s pitch #2.99999999999

So, if you couldn’t already tell, this pitch is all about ME (Travis kinda stole my limelight in the last pic, but that was the most recent pic of myself so oh well)! Now before this gets way too narcissistic and boring, I just want to assure you that it’s not. Phew. Now that that’s out of the way, we can talk shop, as it were.

For these ideas, I really want to go back all the way, to day 1, Aug. 15 1998 and pick out pictures that kind of highlight my biggest moments, both good and bad, and then hopefully find writings from those time periods to show how I was really feeling. Then editing these images to kind of express those moods through size, shape, coloring, orientation, etc. and writing about how I feel about them now. This was basically pitch 2. Pitch 3 was to post a picture to Instagram everyday and write a short bit of writing to go along with that to document my final semester here at Michigan.

My goal in combining these two is to kind of create a more holistic final product, showcasing my own growth as a person and writer. Additionally I would like to write a reflective piece at the end to examine and talk about how documenting everything may have changed the way I experienced them. To make this even more of a multi-media project, as kind of a small addition, I think it would also be cool to find songs from each time period that help express how I was feeling at that time and include those on the site!

As, I’m writing this I’m thinking maybe this is a bit too self-centered, even though I promised it wouldn’t be. So maybe another idea could be to have a friend do this (posting everyday) with me and then I could interview her about her experience with it and compare it to my own, or something to that effect.

Phew, almost done! And pitch #4, let me just warn you is a total oddball.

No, this is not another pitch to write about myself. However, I thought the face-paint I have on in this picture symbolizes what I had in mind for this final pitch: a sci-fi/fantasy novel. Like I said, this idea is totally different, totally out of my comfort zone, and also really interesting, maybe because it’s so different. This idea really did just come out of nowhere, but I thought it might be cool to write about an alternate reality where college is kind of seen as a waste of time and money and the protagonist is a biology/pre-med major. I think this idea intrigues me because I think this character might echo how I felt being a first generation college student and constantly feeling like I wasn’t good enough.

Anyway, that was a lot of writing. And I’m still not sure if I’m any closer to narrowing it down to just one idea, but hopefully tomorrow’s class will help.

Stay Tuned!

Introduction to Satire

I’m so totally excited for exams! I mean really! Exams are what I, as a student, live for. They tear down my GPA and just give me such a confidence boost!

That, my friends, was sarcasm, or as a literary genre, satire.

I love sarcasm and being ridiculous in that sense, so it only makes sense that I would do a satirical piece for my third and final experiment in re-imagining my origin piece critiquing the Stanford Prison Experiment.

I’m surprisingly really excited for this experiment. I say surprisingly because until about 5 minutes ago, I had no idea what genre I was even going to do, whereas the others I knew almost from the beginning of the semester. So I did what any good college student does; I googled. I was sifting through all the different literary genres out there when I saw it — the satire!

A satire is a piece that uses hyperbole and irony to make fun of a topic of controversy or critique. I interpret this to mean sarcasm and overly-exaggerating certain key aspects of the Stanford Prison Experiment. Satire pieces generally twist the truth and exaggerate, so that they almost write the opposite of what they mean, but in a humorous obvious way that readers can enjoy.

I think for this experiment I plan on writing an essay focusing on the thought process or experimental design. Basically I want to examine what was going through Zimbardo’s and his research assistants minds when initially setting up the experiment and then as they were actually conducting it. I think this could be a really funny and creative way to criticize the flaws of the design.

I am excited for this piece because it is so radically different from the previous experiments, in that this is more fun and less serious. I also feel that this is one of the only classes that I’ve taken where I could do something along these lines and that is another reason I am excited to do this experiment.

I’m a little nervous on finding the balance between stupidly obvious sarcasm and setting a tone that could almost be serious but isn’t. I want this to have meaning and not just be a joke, so I think finding that balance will be one of my key struggles in writing this sample.

Introduction to Journalism

Here are the facts. This is why they’re important. Details to come later.

Journalistic styles of writing emphasis leading with what happened and the relevance. This is in opposition to many other styles of writing, where we are taught to introduce the topic, then give support for our examples and then wrap it all up and describe why it is important/relevant to the world. Journalists must do the exact opposite, especially in today’s age, because people want instant gratification. If they are reading the news, there is a smaller chance that they will actually take the time to read the entire article, rather than just the first few sentences before getting bored. However, if the author has done their job right the lead should hook the reader in, almost forcing the reader to learn more about the event/story through the details and interviews from real people.

Another important facet of journalism is figuring out how you, as the author, are going to portray the news. Yes, you are reporting on an actual event and thus must stay factual, but how are you presenting the facts, and what’s the point of presenting them at all? This allows the reader to take away more than just what happened, but also the authors belief in the importance in relevance to health or social issues etc.. It is more than just cut and dry tell the reader what happened, it is about making the information and story relatable and generalizable.

As far as formatting goes, journalists must also learn the balance of including detail while being brief at the same time. This is important in terms of today’s tendency of people to get bored and distracted easily, as well as the way newspapers used to be put together. Journalists were given a space and had to adapt the length of their story to fit within that space on a page, editing and cutting it down to the most important aspects so that their entire story wouldn’t be cut.

I am intrigued by journalism because it represent finding the balance between so many aspects of writing, including detailedness and brevity, and facts and opinions. I want to do this as my second experiment because I think it will help me to look at the Stanford Prison Experiment in a new way and will force me to think about how journalists reacted to this experiment, and perhaps more importantly, how they wanted other people to react. I am not sure yet what avenue I want to go down for this journalistic piece. One idea I have is reporting on it as an avenue of expanding knowledge of psychological practices and belief. Another idea I had was portraying it in a positive light, as not many have done, showing that it does have merit for this specific population and maybe look at what might happen if repeated. I think a lot of how I choose to portray it is also dependent on whether I want to write it as a period piece set in the time that the experiment actually happened, or if I want to do a review in present-day which analyzes the experiment in the context of current issues, either in psychology or in society as a whole.

No matter the avenue I choose, I think this will allow me to view the experiment in a new light and hopefully will allow me to share that light with readers.

Introduction to the Short Story

A short story.

It’s just a novel cut short right? Less developed themes and characters? Just take a novel, cut out the slow bits, speed up everything and BAM; the perfect short story.

Well, not exactly.

When writing a short story, the author has to be precise and concise in word choice and development, both of characters and themes. Because of this, short story authors often choose to leave out background details, instead beginning in the middle of all the action and developing an understanding of the characters through the plot itself. The author shows us who the characters are by leading them down different paths, giving them characteristics through the choices they make.

The author must also make concessions on the complexity of the plot. Instead of inundating the story with multiple, intersecting plot lines, both big and small, they must focus on one plot and develop that in the limited amount of pages they have. The plot in short stories, also tends to deal with more internal problems of the protagonist, as opposed to external conflicts.

When researching different genres, the short story stood out to me. For a short story every word counts, they can’t spend two chapters developing a character; instead they have to illustrate who the character is throughout the story and in small actions which add up.

This appeals to me because it seems similar to an essay, but with the arguments and ideas hidden in fictional characters and story-lines. This idea directly translates to what I want to do with my first experiment.  When I was looking through my old papers, I found one I had written for my intro to psychology course on the Stanford Prison experiment. The goal of this essay was to critically analyze the faults, both ethical and moral, in the design of this experiment using knowledge from the textbook and lectures.

This immediately gave me an idea to write about the experiment through the eyes of a participant, an idea that was later improved upon by one of my classmates. They suggested I write from the perspective of both a prisoner and a guard. From their perspective, I plan to show the doubts and fears real participants must surely have experienced during the run of the experiment.

Through this experiment, I think I will gain a new perspective on how to formulate arguments and make the best use of what space I am allotted.

Hello, Sweetland, my new friend, I’ve come to talk to you for the first time

Hi, I’m Kayla and the title is my attempt to be funny and original. It’s my version of the opening lyrics to “The Sound of Silence” by Simon & Garfunkel, as opposed to the over-memed Adele song. If you’re not familiar with it, I’ve included a link here to the YouTube video, feel free to listen, or not. Either way I promise I won’t be offended.

Alright now onto me, because that’s what this is all supposed to be about. I’m currently a junior here at the University of Michigan. I’m majoring in Biopsychology Cognition and Neuroscience (basically Psychology, it just sounds more pretentious) and doing a minor in writing (that probably wasn’t necessary, I’m just excited about it so I thought I’d mention it here).  Here are some of the most important things to note about me:

  1. I love food, like a lot.

Casually eating tapas in Spain.

Buffalo Wild Wings had a killer deal too good to pass up.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. I have a passion for pillows.

I think I have 11, and yes that is my dog in the picture, which brings me to my third important fact (these are in no particular order).

3. I am slightly obsessed with my dog. Okay, not slightly, I am totally and completely obsessed with my dog (in fact I’m using her as a desk as I write this).

Unfortunately, as you can probably tell, the feeling isn’t exactly mutual.

4. My friends are great, a little wacky at times, but great nonetheless.

My Mighty Michigan Mates!

My best friend Kayla! Yes we share the same name. Yes that is why we’re best friends.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5. Finally, at least for this post, my family. I honestly don’t know where I’d be without them!

My crazy cousins, please excuse the blurriness of the picture. (Not pictured: Mom and Dad, Grandparents, Aunts and Uncles, I love you guys just didn’t want too many pics and not enough words)

Anyway, that’s me. As you can probably tell I’m a little bit crazy, but it’s okay, I’ve accepted it. That’s all for now! Hope you learned more about me and I look forward to learning about my fellow writing minors!