Thanks for a Great Semester!

If you asked me four months ago, I never thought I’d create my own website or any form of new media writing in a million years, but here I am one website, a blog, and a book later, completing the Gateway course for the Minor in Writing. I’ve really enjoyed learning how to utilize the web in a way that can improve my writing and extend it to a wide-reaching audience. I also am thankful for getting the opportunity to get to know each of my classmates through their blogs, projects, and in class. It’s remarkable how unique all of our work is and everyone in this class is a true individual. Writing 200 really allowed us to be ourselves and express ourselves creatively through our writing.

I am really proud of the book I created because it turned a dark, often gruesome subject into a bright and colorful piece with a positive educational message. I plan to use what I’ve learned about new media writing and InDesign and continue to improve my book. I know I complain a lot about female genital cutting, but I really want to make a difference for the women in Africa affected by this procedure, whether I do it through writing or humanitarian activism (or both).

If you have a few minutes, please check out my portfolio: http://kscharf.wordpress.com/. For some reason I can never figure out how to hyperlink on this particular blog, but I did it at least 20 times in my portfolio I swear! I’m really proud of how my portfolio turned out. I decided to tell the story of my development through writing and how it parallels my maturity throughout college in a subtle way that answers the ever-evolving question: Why I Write. I provided many examples of my writing from this class, a couple English classes I’ve taken in the past, my outside research, a science course, and women’s health. I chose not to include more than 10 pictures because I liked the simplistic layout. I also chose not to incorporate media such as music for a similar reason. I wanted my portfolio to be about why I write and my writing process. I worked really hard to tell the story of my writing in an organized website. I inserted the comment function because I think feedback is really important and I would be honored if you guys left me comments!

Thanks again for a wonderful semester and good luck in all of your future endeavors!

Will I ever escape Female Genital Cutting?

For my CICS 301 class (Human Security) we had to email our GSI possible questions for the final blue book exam. One of the topics we studied was FGC and of course when we studied it, I sent the professor a list of 3 really interesting articles to read about the topic. Naturally, my question that I submitted for the blue book exam was about FGC. I mean how perfect would it be if I could write an essay on a final about something I’ve already done 4 papers, 1 grant proposal, and a re-mediation project about? I didn’t really think that out of 300 students and dozens of human security topics, my question about FGC would be chosen, but it was! Not only was my question chosen, but the professor suggested people read the articles I posted about the topic. I’m really hoping it ends up being one of the essay questions…

I feel as if it’s gotten to the point where I’m a walking encyclopedia of information about FGC. This has proven to be difficult for my re-mediation project because I described several things and didn’t cite them because it’s just something I know off the top of my head. The hard part of the re-mediation (besides using inDesign) is going back and figuring out what needs to be cited better.

I’m excited to present my re-mediation project in class tomorrow. I decided not to bind my book for several reasons. 1. I decided it’s going to be a prototype sent to the World Health Organization that would eventually be translated and produced. 2. I don’t really want to pay to print it in color or get it bound. 3. I only leave the library to sleep for 4 hours, go to class, or go to my research, so there’s no chance I’m leaving to walk all the way to Kinkos!

Good luck with finals everyone and see you all tomorrow!

I GOT MY COMPUTER BACK!!

Not having a computer for a whole week right before finals was a traumatic experience. Sorry I haven’t blogged in a while; I’m going to spend this blogpost talking about my in-class essay.

I focused my essay around the difference between print writing and new media in terms of audience. New media writing is unique because it constantly forces the creator (I refer to the author as a creator because there’s more than just writing involved with new media) to consider the potential audience when making decisions about layout, design, and content. For me, print writing is a much more personal and selfish process between myself and the blank Microsoft Word template in front of me. I rarely think about audience in the initial stages of print writing and often, I don’t consider the audience unless prompted by a teacher to describe the intended audience.

Furthermore, I have noticed that in my blog entries and re-mediation project, I often directly address the audience, which is something I would never do in print writing. New media writing gives the creator an opportunity to directly connect with their audience and actually engage in conversations through comment boxes (when available).

As I thought about the essay prompt, I came to the realization that while I do write to understand and express my emotions (this is what I wrote in my “Why I Write” essay), I also write for political purpose. I write to persuade people and to encourage change. For instance, my entire re-mediation project is geared around convincing African mothers to stop circumcising their daughters.

Initially I thought I hated new media writing, but I’ve come to realize that this genre of writing has led me to analyze my audience, which is an important skill signifying my development this semester. I guess you could say I have a “love/hate relationship” with new media writing!

New Media Writing

Overworked

Thanksgiving break was much needed, but now that it’s over, I’m starting to realize how terrible the month of December is going to be. I feel like there’s an anxiety time bomb inside me that will blow up if I get one more assignment! I hate this time of year because teachers seem to cram everything into the last couple weeks of the semester. I’m also overwhelmed because I just wrote a 7 page grant proposal for one of my classes, only to find out that the instructions in the syllabus are nothing like the instructions on the CTools assignment submission site. Is it so much to ask for a teacher who gives clear, easy to follow instructions?

Today is my 20th birthday, which is sort of overwhelming because this is the decade of my life where I’ll hopefully have a career, have to pay for myself, get married, and maybe even have children. The only issue is that I still don’t know exactly what I want to do with my life! Part of the problem with a college as competitive as Michigan is the constant pressure to succeed in classes and life. Maybe if there was a little less pressure my month of December would be less anxiety-filled and more enjoyable!

ePortfolio Proposal…

Lately, I’ve been thinking about what I hope to get out of the Writing Minor and the writing classes I take over the next couple semesters. Knowing how to write persuasively, efficiently, and coherently is extremely important in today’s society. Any future career-oriented ambitions I have involving writing will be about the substance and quality of my work, not the design. Therefore, I want to gear my focus towards the substance of my portfolio as opposed to the layout. I’m going to use a simple layout on WordPress and I’ll include pictures, but I won’t be including audio or video elements.

The theme of my ePortfolio will be showing the parallels of my development through college and adulthood with my development through writing. Therefore, the pieces I select will be placed in chronological order to show my improvement as del as development from writing strict academic essays on literature to writing for a political and emotional purpose. Looking back at my past writing, my current writing is much more personal and mature. I believe writing reflects one’s development through life, so I am curious to analyze this development in my own pieces. I’ll include self-reflective text interspersed with pieces I’ve already turned in to show my perspective on the piece’s place in my development through college.

As I said before, writing is going to be my main focus. I am not going into a field that requires expertise on designing websites or creatively laying out writing. Any writing I do in the future will have be persuasive, well-written, and will probably present research findings in an academic manner. I see the importance of being up to date with technology and understanding how to create a website or a blog. However, I don’t want to spend too much time on the technological aspect of my portfolio, which is why I am choosing to use wordpress.

I’m not entirely sure yet who the intended audience is for my portfolio. I think it would include future employers, friends, family, other students, and teachers. Most importantly, I want this portfolio to reflect my personality and I want to use this opportunity to make sense of my own writing style. I will describe my writing process as it has changed since I started college to show the reader the development I have made over the last couple years.

COTH

Yesterday afternoon I went to the Conference on the Holocaust Luncheon. I’ve attended this luncheon every year that I have been a student and each time it is a completely different experience. For those of you who haven’t been to the luncheon, it is open to all students (Jewish and non-Jewish) and pairs six students with one or two Holocaust survivors. The students have the opportunity to ask the survivors any questions and the survivors tell their stories.

This year I was at a table with two survivors, the grandparents of my close friend from high school. Although I have met his grandparents numerous times at high school events, graduations, Shabbat dinners, and holidays, I have never heard their stories. In the 14 years that I have known their grandson, we have never once discussed the story of his grandparents’ survival.

Ruth, his grandma, was only four and a half years old when World War II started. She grew up in Poland with her older sister, mother, and father and had a large extended family, most of whom perished in the Holocaust. Her older sister was placed in the home of a non-Jewish Polish royal family. Ruth refused to be separated from her parents and was taken with them to a working camp. From the age of four and a half to nine years old, she survived three of the most brutal and abusive work camps, measles, typhus, TB, and pneumonia. On top of the starvation, torture, and constant exposure to death, she was used in Dr. Mengele’s experiments. For those of you who haven’t heard of Joseph Mengele, he was a heartless German doctor who performed experiments on humans, specifically twins and children. He was called the Angle of Death because when transports arrived to the camps, he decided who would be put to work and who would be gassed. Crossing paths with him led to a torture that was worse then death itself. Ruth still shakes and cries when she talks about her time in the Auschwitz-Birkenau children’s block that was used
for Mengele’s experiments. Even to this day, she is unable and unwilling to communicate what happened at his hospital because it was so traumatic.

After almost five years of being separated, Ruth saw her father one last time through the barbed-wire fence at Auschwitz in January of 1945. Her father told her that the war was coming to an end and if she couldn’t get out of the camp on the last transport happening that day, she would be executed. Ruth’s father managed to get out, but she couldn’t because all the children and sick were left behind to be executed the next day; the Germans were trying to destroy any evidence of what had occurred at Auschwitz. Unfortunately, Ruth’s father died on the Last March, where Nazis made the starved, weak, and sick Jews march for days without food or water. Many people on the marches didn’t have shoes or coats as they walked hundreds of miles through the snow. Ruth miraculously escaped execution at the camp because the Russians advanced faster than the Germans had anticipated and the Nazis fled without killing the Jews that remained.

Ruth was sent to an orphanage in Poland and with much difficulty, her mother who had survived the war, was able to find her. Ruth’s mother also located Ruth’s sister who had lived a life of luxury and could not identify with the poverty or hardship that the Jews in Europe faced after the Holocaust. Eventually the three emigrated to Canada because they had relatives there and Europe was still too dangerous and too uncomfortable for Jews. Ruth met Mark, her husband, at a dance in Toronto and they’ve been happily married for many years. Mark, also a survivor, let Ruth talk for a majority of the luncheon and held her as she cried about the past.

After hearing this story, I was really upset to think about the injustices and crimes against humanity that occurred during the Holocaust. How can anyone treat human beings with such cruelty and why is there still so much hatred and bigotry in the world? I have heard dozens of survivors speak about their stories and have written several papers on their stories, but each time I am shocked to hear about the brutality and hardship these people faced. The saddest part is that many of these survivors are approaching their deaths and soon they will not be able to tell their stories. That is why it is so important to hear their stories and spread them to as many people as possible. It is our generation’s job to make sure that this never happens again.

Storyboard

I know this blog is a little late considering we turned in our storyboards last week, but here goes nothing. My re-mediation project is to create a short educative book for African mothers urging them to stop circumcising their daughters.

For my storyboard, I created a powerpoint presentation as well as the layout for the booklet I am creating. It was really cool and helpful to create a layout to use for all the sections of the book and it helped me plan out what I want to talk about. Using Adobe InDesign has not be the easiest thing; there is definitely a learning curve and I started at the very bottom.

For the layout of the book, I am leaving a lot of white space, colorful pictures, and colorful text. Each section is a different color and the first page of each section has the same map of Africa in the background, which makes the layout consistent. In terms of the content, the language barrier will not be an issue because the book will be translated into different African languages. Also, the book will be printed in color and bound.

This is going to be the cover page of my book!

This is the table of contents and an outline of the book’s objectives for the World Health Organization.

This is an example of what a section will look like. This is the Introduction section and I plan on changing the picture, but this gives you a sense of what the layout is going to be like. What are your thoughts?!

Jung’s Take on Reflective Writing

I’m not going to lie, this was one of the most complex academic articles that I have ever read. Twenty pages of repetitive jargon and too many ideas going on at once made it hard to pinpoint Jung’s main overarching argument. The article starts off distinguishing between first-person narrative – writing about your writing process – and reflective writing. Reflective writing is a more sophisticated way to write in depth about your writing process, and requires analyzing and explaining word choices, organization, ideas, sentence structure, etc. In English 124, we had an assignment to describe our writing process, so I wrote about outlining and drafting ideas before I complete the final product. This would be an example of what I believe Jung means by the first-person narrative. In higher level English classes, we are assigned to write reflectively, describing why we chose the style, words, organization, structure, and ideas that we created in our paper. This level of reflective writing is extremely important in a student’s development as a writer; reflective writing creates a cognizant awareness of many unconscious choices the student made while writing their paper.

Personally when I write, I don’t plan out every single word; rather, I start with an outline and the words and sentence structures flow as I type. In the early drafts, I don’t really think about the consequence of the word choice and often I don’t realize the connections I unconsciously make until I read over the draft. This is exactly why reflective writing is so beneficial because it helps the student learn his or her own writing process. Jung critiques several scholars including Yancey and Schon, but they all agree that reflective writing can be very beneficial in education.

Schon says writing is similar to tactic knowledge such as how a baseball player “just knows” how hard to throw the ball. Tactic knowledge is knowing how to do something based on whether it “feels right or wrong.” Such knowledge, Schon and Jung agree, is enforced by ideology and personal experiences. Continuing with the baseball analogy, the baseball player is a guy and learned how to throw a baseball because of cultural ideals that boys should play baseball (this is a summary of what Jung says – I didn’t make up the analogy). Writing truly is tactic knowledge because often we write in a style that seems “right” for our paper and choose words that seem to “flow.”

A major critique Jung presents about reflective writing is that many students don’t take it seriously and just write what they think their audience – an academic teacher – wants to hear. This doesn’t provide the benefits true reflective writing yields and it also falsely reinforces the teacher’s teaching methods. In addition, some students are not as rhetorically persuasive as others and can’t successfully convey through reflective writhing why they made the choices they did in their essay. Teachers often view these students as struggling and not putting effort into the assignments, when this may not be the actual issue. Instead, the issue might be that the student is not good at reflective writing. Jung concludes with a model to change reflective writing so that it better engages both teachers and students.

Making the World a Better Place

I know the title of this blogpost sounds really cheesy, but maybe that is another reason why I write and it definitely is the motivation behind my re-purposing and re-mediation projects. This semester I’m in CICS 301, Human Security, which is a requirement for International Studies Majors. The main purpose of the class is to educate us to be better citizens who will make a difference and stop human rights violations that happen everyday all over the world. It’s probably unrealistic that all 260 of us in the class are going to go on to make huge strides in humanitarian work, but my professor’s constant reminder that it is up to us to stop injustices helped inspire my work in Writing 200.

For the re-purposing assignment, I took a 12 page research paper about female genital cutting (FGC) and Chinese footbinding and repurposed it into a policy memo urging the World Health Organization (WHO) to be more proactive in the movement to eradicate FGC. The challenge of the Policy Memo wasn’t so much learning a new style of writing; rather, it was proposing my own model to eliminate FGC. My ideas for this proposal are inherently biased by my own values, cultural heritage, and knowledge from health classes I have taken, but moreover, they serve the purpose to make a difference in this world and better the lives of innocent young girls.

The re-mediation takes my ideas one step further and put mere words of a policy memo into a form of action. For this assignment, I will be using publishing software to create an educative book to be distributed to African mothers in both urban and remote rural regions of Africa. The technological aspect of this project is going to be a huge struggle for me, so if anyone has any advice or experience with anything of this nature, please let me know! Another challenge of the book will be keeping it neutral; I don’t want to offend any of the mothers I am trying to persuade to stop performing FGC because they themselves are circumcised.

For the storyboard, I am going to pretend I am pitching the idea to the WHO employees whom I addressed in the policy memo. I am going to attempt to convince them why they should distribute my book across Africa and use it to educate women on the dangers of FGC. I am passionate about this topic because I am passionate about women and children’s health as well as human rights and gender equality. So maybe it is cheesy, but I am creating this book in the hopes that it could change the world and make it a better place.