Challenge Journal 4: The audio

The end of Capstone felt like Gateway all over again.

For my Gateway, I produced an audio component that was meant to be in a podcast format (Here’s the link: http://kmsanto.wixsite.com/writer). And for Capstone, I incorporated an audio portion again. The interviews were originally supposed to become part of my writing, but after actually doing them, I thought they would work better as a complementary piece to my writing.

Anyway, for the most part, I thought the Gateway audio turned out well, other than the fact that the interview was conducted over the phone and made the audio fuzzy. Luckily, I managed to avoid that issue this time around by meeting people in person for the interviews.

But once again, I had to navigate through Garageband. Even though I’d used it a couple years ago for Gateway, editing the audio was still challenging. Specifically, the audio is so detailed that I’d often cut portions of “ums” or moments of silence, and still find that there was a significant portion of it left to be edited. Usually it involved a trial and error process, where I’d edit a small section three or four times until I thought it was good enough to put on the site.

On top of that, I couldn’t figure out a way to edit my own voice out of the audio. I didn’t run into the issue with Gateway, because the audio primarily featured my brother telling his own story, and I only needed to ask a specific list of 10 questions. Once I had the audio recorded, it was really easy to edit out my own questions and then talk over the audio when necessary.

This time around, however, I had far more conversational interviews. As a result, my own small reactions to the interviewees answers can often be heard in the background, but if I were to cut them out, I’d also be cutting parts of their answers.

Ultimately, it was an issue I couldn’t seem to find a solution for, but I’m happier with this audio component just because the audio is a lot clearer.

Challenge Journal 3: Are mysteries supposed to have an ending?

I’m nearing the conclusion here, but this is what you need to know so far.

I used to want to go into journalism, but over the course of four years, I’ve changed my mind about that. For the Capstone project, Ray inspired me to adopt a mosaic style of writing, so that’s exactly what I’ve been doing — writing short narratives about a collection of experiences since I came to Ann Arbor that are meant to give the audience a fragment of an idea of how I viewed journalism at that time.

That style of writing, stretched out over the course of a semester, has been challenging for me. After working at the Daily, I’ve gotten used to turning my writing around pretty quickly. For example, if there’s an event to cover at 3 p.m. on a Friday, it’s due that night. But having an entire semester to work on this has constantly made me wonder if I’m missing opportunities to write more, if I’m writing enough, etc.

But the bigger challenge is that Ray suggested I weave this narrative like a mystery novel, in which the reader never knows for certain that I’ve decided to pursue a career outside of journalism.

Now I’m at the end, and I’m unsure what to do.

I could explicitly give the reader a story about how I’m not going into journalism, and they’ll leave a project with an answer. But if the whole point has been to paint this thing as a mystery, then is that the right approach? And would they be pissed if they got to the end with no real idea of what I chose?

Or I could offer the truth, without explicitly saying journalism isn’t for me. In other words, “I’m going home, making cash, traveling, and have no idea what the plan is for September.” In my mind, that aligns a little better with the theme of the project, but still offers a satisfying conclusion.

And finally, I could leave it ambiguous as hell. That’d make things just about as mysterious as possible. But I don’t know if that fulfills the purpose of this project, because I want an audience to understand how I got to this point, and at least give them a glimpse of where I’m going.

As I try to make a final decision, I’ve thought a lot about articles I’ve written for the Daily — especially longform pieces I’ve done. I think it’s the most comparable to my project, because although those stories are about someone else and not my personal experiences, they are split into various sections from different points in time.

One ends like this:

So we’re back to that word. Crazy, the term most commonly used to describe Chase Winovich.

It’s hard not to almost laugh at it.

Because when you ask him what his teammates mean when they say “Chase is Chase,” even he can’t tell you.

When you ask him why he dressed as himself for Halloween, he’ll say his mom told him the worst thing you can be in life is someone else.

And when you ask him about his current role, he’ll tell you a Bible story about shekels that his friend Macy shared with him at Perry’s Burgers in Ohio.

Above all, though, ask Chase Winovich if it’s flattering that his teammates say he has a screw loose. He’ll refer you again to McGregor, saying you need to be at least slightly crazy toward your craft. Then he’ll give you another quote, one that seems to cut to the core of his being.

“The people that are crazy enough to believe they can change the world are the ones that usually do it,” Winovich says.

Maybe not the world. His world though? Yeah, he’s already done that.

Another like this:

There were moments when Walton wondered how the team could be so hampered by injury, how it could be so unlucky. It had never crossed his mind that the injuries would pile up.

“Like I said, (it) just gives you a different type of perspective on life,” Walton said. “Just makes you appreciate and try and get the most out of every day. That’s pretty much where I’m at right now.

“I just try to attack each and every opportunity I’m given, and at the end of the day, I think the chips will fall where the may, and at the end of the day, I’m going to be where I need to be.”

Now, Walton has a team equipped to make another run in the postseason. He, Irvin and a host of others make up a group without one true star, but with all the necessary ability to succeed.

Maybe more importantly, Walton has one last season to stamp his legacy on this program. And a large part of that will reveal itself in the standard he sets for younger players. One of those players is a freshman point guard named Xavier Simpson. He starred in high school, and now, he’ll be asked to step in and make an immediate impact on the Wolverines.

Perhaps that sounds familiar.

I feel like both give some closure, and I’m wondering if I can pull off the “Ask him” format except flip it onto myself. But would that be as effective as it is when you’re writing about someone else?

I’m open to any answers, and any suggestions.

Challenge Journal 2: Aren’t introductions supposed to be easy?

This probably sounds like an odd problem to have, but I can’t figure out how to introduce a section of my Capstone project.

At the beginning of this whole thing, I told myself that I would interview my peers and professional journalists, and then turn them into narrative. But as the project moved along, I realized they would be out of place within my own personal narratives. So I called an audible and decided that I could use that audio in a different section, where these people’s words would correspond with the subject of a respective piece of writing I’d done.

That whole process is going well, except for the fact that it feels like my project is split into two different parts. In my opinion, the solution is an introduction at the beginning of the audio portion, meant to orient the reader with how it fits into this entire process. Obviously, this isn’t the first time I’ve done this. I wrote this on my Gateway site:

As a sophomore at Michigan, I started my path toward receiving a Minor in Writing. My first step was to take the writing Gateway course. Below are the three projects I produced in that class. 

Project I details why I write, and it was inspired by a hockey article I wrote for my college newspaper — The Michigan Daily. For Project II, I was tasked with repurposing my old Common App essay. The original essay was about watching my brother James go through chemotherapy, and I transformed it into a personal story that could appear in The New Yorker. After recording a 37-minute conversation with James for Project II, I decided to remediate that audio into a 16-minute podcast for Project III. Below, you can find components of each project.

However, here’s my issue:

  1. The excerpt above reads as if it’s detached from the project. It doesn’t fit the tone of the writing I did for Gateway, but it does accomplish the goal of telling my audience what they’re getting into.
  2. My Capstone is similar to my Gateway. I feel like my voice is currently consistent throughout the entire site, and all of my writing is based in personal experiences.

So, I’m weighing options. I could take the detached approach, admit how the audio portion came to be, and the reader would have no doubts about how it fits into the project. But is it worth having a section in which my tone contradicts the rest of the site?

I know it seems like a trivial detail, but I’ve an entire semester into this. Might as well get it right, right?

What’s the worst that could happen?

Well, let me tell you.

Ray asked us in class last week to brainstorm what the most significant implication of our project could be. So far, I’ve come up with a few.

The first is that I could paint an unflattering picture of professionals in the journalism field and some of my closest friends. Part of my project features interviews with journalists and peers of mine from the Daily. The interviews themselves are great, as each person has provided honest answers about moments in which they’ve entirely doubted working in/going into journalism. But currently, I’m struggling to figure out how to best transfer those to my site.

I worry about the worst case scenario. For example, one of my friends explained that he doesn’t see himself working in journalism for more than five years. If, God forbid, an employer found that statement, I don’t think it’d reflect very well on my friend. I know how unlikely that sounds, but it’s something weighing on my mind anyway. The obvious answer would seem to be anonymity, but I worry that may make the project seem less genuine or legitimate.

The second concern is probably more realistic. All of my writing is immensely personal. So far, I feel that I’ve done a good job of not holding back in my writing. But I don’t want the project to be void of my genuine feelings, and I don’t want a reader to misconstrue my writing as having a simple message like “I hate journalism” or “Journalism isn’t a viable profession.”

Right now, I think the content I’ve generated on the front-end of the project makes it clear that isn’t the case. But others may think otherwise.

So ultimately, what’s the worst that could happen? I’d say these two concerns sum it up pretty well.

Challenge Journal 1: Procrastination and other things

As you can probably guess by the timing of this post, I have a procrastination problem. Unfortunately, I had to go home for a family emergency this weekend. So I allotted a half hour to write this post after I landed at 9 p.m. tonight. Then I got stuck in standstill traffic on the highway for an hour and a half. Anyway, sorry that this is late.

Typically, I do my best work when I’m under a deadline. I think it’s a habit I’ve developed from working at the Daily for so long. In the case of this project, I think that’s a blessing and a curse. I’ll have self-imposed deadlines, but it’s a little different given that it’s not one singular piece of work that I can produce easily before it’s due. Regardless, I think it’s an obstacle I envision working itself out pretty easily once I get into the flow of things.

But going back to the Daily, I think another obstacle I’m facing is changing my voice as a writer. I’ve written longform stuff before, (like this: https://www.michigandaily.com/section/football/chase-winovich-crazy-different-screws-loose-michigan-football) but the tone of writing a sports feature is so much different than the first-person work I’m trying to produce for the Capstone. I’ve been able to produce first-person narratives before in English classes and in the Gateway, but it always feels twice as exhausting to write and edit. I guess that goes back to Ray’s point, that we’ll be throwing away a lot of the stuff that we right.

But on a more optimistic note: I will say that writing in first-person always seems to be the most-rewarding work I do, probably because it does take so much time to get right. So while it will probably be tough to nail down, it’s a pretty exciting challenge to be undertaking after not doing it for a long time.

The World Wide Web of Writing

Well, now it’s already the end of the semester and my EPortfolio is complete. You can check it out here: http://kmsanto.wix.com/writer

This is kind of weird. It feels like yesterday I was posting on this blog telling you I’m from Long Island and that New York bagels are the best. Sorry for being a bagel snob, I was trying to be funny. But if I offended you and your bagel preferences, let me hear it.

I’ve never enjoyed a class as much as this one, and I’m really proud of the work I’ve done. I tried to break away from sports writing this semester, and feel like I learned a lot about myself as a writer in the process.

I wanted to show on my EPortfolio that sports writing is my passion, but I’ve grown to enjoy experimenting with other genres and styles. Unfortunately, the only decent picture I’ve taken on my IPhone is a hockey stadium, so I might’ve messed up that message right on my homepage.

If you have the time, I’d love for you to take a look. And if you have even more time, I’d appreciate any comments about things you liked or disliked. I tried to make this thing perfect, but I know that I probably didn’t do that.

Hope you enjoy it! And have a good summer!

Be like Jim Harbaugh, kinda

I’ve been looking at Jim Harbaugh GIFs for half an hour because I can’t think of what advice I should give you. Then I stumbled upon some memes, which led to some notable Harbaugh quotes. And in my procrastination, I found something that actually applies here — attack this course with an enthusiasm unknown to mankind. Before we get to it, here’s a good one I found:

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Seriously, though. This is the first class I’ve taken at Michigan where I’ve been genuinely excited to go to class everyday.

There are going to be moments when you want to pull your hair out trying to find the right way to craft your projects. It’s frustrating. But push through it, embrace that. Don’t take the easy way out, and push yourself out of your comfort zone.

After all, for me, leaving the comfort zone led to my best work.

I came into this class thinking I’d incorporate things I’ve learned as a sportswriter at The Michigan Daily into every project. And for a little while, I tried to do just that. But I was pushing the envelope, because I was scared of doing something different.

Finally, though, T (my Gateway professor, and if you have her stop reading because then I promise everything will be ok) convinced me to write a personal story about watching my brother going through chemotherapy (and he’s ok now, so don’t get sad reading this). I was originally planning on writing a mock sports column instead of the personal story. That would have been really easy, but the personal story turned out to be a really hard process to put together. Yet when I went to see T today, it took me awhile to even remember a sports column was my original idea. So I think that’s proof that choosing the harder route helped me grow much more as a person and as a writer. So again, push the limits of your comfort zone.

And finally, just a few points:

  1. Sign up for a class workshop. There’s nothing that will help you improve your writing more.
  2. When you have to edit your classmates’ work, put effort into it. That’s only fair to them, and you’ll find things in their work you never thought of that you could incorporate in your own writing.
  3. Use the Most Dangerous Writing App.
  4. The old cliche: have fun.

Oh, and here’s another:

i

Screw Garage Band

My Project III is in pretty solid shape — much better than Project II was at this point.

The class workshop last Thursday was really helpful and helped me get rid of some doubts I had about the project. I originally thought it was too long and that my attempt at using music in the podcast totally backfired, but others thought differently, which was cool to hear.

But I absolutely despise Garage Band. I’m pretty terrible with technology, so I’m sure plenty of people wouldn’t be having the same issues as me. Basically I can’t figure out a single way to remove background noise from my recording — which I really need to give the audio some clarity. Also, it seems like the app is limiting how long I can record for, which doesn’t seem to make sense and is getting really frustrating. Finally, cutting the separate audio clips at the precise moment I need to seems to be impossible.

I’m not too worried, I’m sure it’s just going to take some patience, but it’s been frustrating to work out.

Overall though, I was really happy with the feedback I received during workshop. If I can ever overcome the fact that I’m technologically challenged, I think I’ll be in pretty good shape.

For the love of God, hold the door

I like to think I’m a pretty level-headed person. I personally wouldn’t say I have a short temper.

But three things drive me absolutely crazy. Let’s call them pet peeves. I’ll just list them for you, so I don’t start angrily rambling too much.

1. Hold the door

I’m not sure when this started standing out to me. But one day, while I was walking to class, someone opened the door in front of me and made absolutely no effort to hold it open. Like c’mon man, two seconds to keep the door open and help the guy out who’s walking behind you? Is that too much to ask?

It just seems like such a simple task that shows some common courtesy. Hold the door open, you might make my day. Maybe someone else’s too.

wheneveriholdadooropenforsomeone_9f39e6_3286465

2. Airplane étiqueté.

When I go home to Long Island for the holidays, I hop on a plane. And obviously, when that plane lands, you have to grab your luggage overhead. But for some reason, people seem to really struggle with the concept of letting the row in front of you go first. I think it’s common sense, but maybe other people don’t.

Either way, it really gets under my skin. Especially when I flew home for Christmas and I watched a middle-aged couple blow by a college girl with crutches trying to get out of her row. What the hell middle-aged couple? Row 1 gets their luggage, exits the plane. Then Row 2 gets their luggage, exits the plane, and so on. That’s how it’s supposed to work.

3. Backseat driving

This past weekend, I was appointed as the driver for a trip to Cincinnati to cover the NCAA Hockey Tournament. No one else wanted to drive, and that was fine. I don’t really mind driving. It was all going well until about two hours in.

“Drive faster. Drive slower. Why aren’t you passing that guy?”

Maybe waking up at 7:45 that morning had something to do with my response.

“Would you like me to pull over so you can drive?”

Besides, Michigan’s game wasn’t until six anyway. The only difference that would have come from driving 80 mph, as opposed to 90 mph, was a speeding ticket. And I definitely didn’t feel like paying that.

back_seat_driver_78905

Anyway, I’m done. I hope that didn’t come across as pessimistic. We all just have those things that grind our gears, ya know?

Beauty and (I’m the Beast?)

I loved animals as a kid. Me and my Uncle Tommy would always watch The Animal Planet after school. He’d come home with this massive lunch from work — a monstrous hero, Snapple, chips, oreos, all that stuff that you can find in a deli. So we’d watch the channel for awhile, and he’d always give me the last quarter of his sandwich. That was a real treat, because all my mom ever gave me for school was peanut butter and jelly. Don’t get me wrong, I love peanut butter and I love jelly, but once and awhile you just want turkey and cheddar with lettuce and tomato you know? Anyway, most of the time we’d watch The Crocodile Hunter. My uncle had this terrible impersonation of Steve Irwin’s Australian accent, but as a six-year-old I thought it was perfect, and hilarious.

So that brings me to the question, what animal would I be?

This is tough, because there are a lot of animals I’d like to be, but don’t really fitdsofusdofud. Maybe I could be a lion, but not really cause I’m powerful or anything like that. They just have a huge mane, and I can grow a decent beard so that kinda correlates right?

94-simba-smiling

Being a polar bear would be pretty cool too. They’re my favorite animal, but I have no idea how I’d be like a polar bear, because I kind of hate the really cold days we get in Michigan when your skin literally starts to hurt from the combination of the wind and temperature.

Maybe I’d be a bear in general? I mean they like to sleep, and so do I. But they’re massive and I’m only 6’0.

cp baloo

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Maybe a gorilla? I’m not totally sure about my animal facts, but I think they live in a huge group, and I grew up as the youngest of six.

Gorilla-Cubs

Definitely not a snake. One, they horrify me. Two, when I think of the word “snake” I think of dishonesty and that’s not me. Plus I’m Catholic, and snakes don’t exactly have a good rep in the story of Adam and Eve.

Wolves are awesome. I remember loving them since my brother James started liking the movie white fang. They’re nowhere close to the biggest animal in the animal kingdom, but they work together to get stuff done. I think I’m a team player, so that kinda applies. But they also work as a team to kill other animals which is kinda messed up and I’m not really an aggressive person.

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So basically I’d be a wolf, lion, bear, gorilla hybrid?

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Oh…well then…