This Is It

No, not that Michael Jackson rockumentary from 2009, silly. This is my final blog post on the Minor in Writing Blog. And I think short and sweet is the name of the game for this one.

The Minor in Writing has been good to me, and I say lots of nice things about it in my Capstone portfolio, which I’ll link to at the end of this post. (Patience, friend. Patience.) Presently, that Dr. Dre song “The Next Episode” (featuring Snoop Dogg) is playing on my iTunes, and I think that’s pretty neat. That is all I have to say about that; we don’t have time for clichés.

I think my portfolio — as well as this post — is decently effective in showcasing my personality, and that’s all we can really hope our writing will accomplish, am I right? Maybe. It’s kind of doubtful. But that is besides the point.

I love playing with language — ask anyone who texts me on the regular — and that message is written all over my portfolio (not literally). It was both time-consuming and rather rewarding to put together this final portfolio and, even more so, my Capstone project. And seriously, we’re just wasting time here right now.

Get off this blog and check this out, pal: http://loganhansen87.wix.com/the-words-said

The only promise I make is that you will enjoy yourself, and the picture of Nic Cage as the Mona Lisa below.

This is Nic Cage as the Mona Lisa. I hope you enjoy it.
Rage in the Cage.

 

 

And Now: A Word on Procrastination

Bane Procrastination

Don’t do it, kids. It’s like drugs. You’ll try it once, and things will still turn out okay. You’ll feel that high — or rather, that deadline coming crashing down upon you and the anxiety and urgency it creates — and you’ll let out a loud sigh of relief when you submit the assignment with seven minutes to spare.

But it won’t stop there. No, procrastination is like drugs because it’s a slippery slope. You’ll get away with procrastinating on a short reflection paper here and a three-page plot analysis there, but then you’ll get a big head and think you can wait until the last minute to start working on your end-of-semester project. And it will not go well. You’ll be up all night, drinking Monster or thirty cups of coffee or taking Five Hour Energy (or possibly Six Hour Power).

The blank page will mock you. You’ll hang your head in frustration. Your tears will wash over your laptop, causing it to malfunction or blow a circuit or explode or something — whatever laptops do when they get wet. And you’ll wish you hadn’t been ridiculous, that you’d started your not-so-little project at a reasonable juncture. No one will have pity on you, because this is all your fault.

Believe me, I speak from experience. There’s a reason this blog post is going up at 3:45 AM on the last Monday of the semester. Don’t for one second think I haven’t been glancing at the study guide on the coffee table in front of me either. That exam is in less than eight hours and I haven’t studied a thing.

God help me.

At Your Desk, in the Coffee Shop…Where Should You Write?

Hello friends. I am a big proponent of switching things up—

Hold up. Wait a minute. You’ve definitely said you don’t like change in the past. You said it was scary.

Well, all right. Okay. You got me. I like switching things up in some instances. And one of them, thank you very much, is when it comes to having different places to study and/or write. (So just slow your roll there for a second.)

Fine.

In the past four school years, and in accordance with my divine wisdom of—

Okay, sorry. I cannot just stand by silently while you say stupid sh*t like that. Let’s be real, bruh.

Ahem. Okay. I’ll just say, in the last four years, I have studied in a variety of places — from the UgLi to the Dude to Shapiro; from Starbucks to Starbucks…to Starbucks? (yes, that’s right); from Potbelly to Sweetwaters to Espresso Royale; I’ve been around, kid. Sometimes you need a change of scenery to get the juices flowing.

My project for the Capstone course has very much been about how writing is made. Over the last two months I’ve compiled a novella weighing a little more than 20,000 words—

Oooh, big shot. Brag some more.

That is not bragging, buddy. It’s simply stating a fact. Haven’t you seen that Word Document? It’s Donald-Trump-YUGE!

YUGE
Self-explanatory. (Not an endorsement of Donald Trump; we’ll leave those to Sarah Palin and Chris Christie.)

Anyway, as I was saying: the guidelines I set up for writing the novella dictated that I go about the writing process in various ways. Sometimes I had to stand while writing, other times lay down. At one point, I holed up in the laundry room, locking myself away until a word goal for the day/night was met. And the latter part of the novella I’ve been writing on yellow legal pads, a la Maya Angelou style. (The whole thing is about emulating famous writers).

But that’s not what the story’s about.

Quite right. It’s about King Krush and his battle with not one, but two (!) villains who threaten him and his kingdom. And I’ve written it in a variety of locales, such as the Starbucks cafe in Barnes & Noble, where I find myself currently penning this.

You’re actually typing. I see you, liar.

Christ. They knew what I meant. Let me just answer the damn question before this guy drives us all mad. Where should you write? I’d advise trying a cornucopia of places—

Okay, wow. You didn’t pull out the Dictionary.com app for that one or anything…

*Sigh* Okay. Just remember to switch it up, folks. If you have a favorite spot but it’s becoming a little rusty, don’t be afraid to change it up. You never know where you’ll find inspiration.

Now, please excuse me as I strangle this little punk..

Voices in Head
Relevant.

Writer 2 Writer: Ditties from Robin Queen’s Discussion at Literati (03/22/16)

Robin Queen delights the audience with tales of writing, sheep dogs, and rural Arkansas.
Robin Queen delights the audience with tales of writing, sheep dogs, and rural Arkansas.

You know how you come across someone’s face often enough that that person becomes familiar to you? Like you’re liable to say, “Hey, I know him/her from somewhere,” the next time you see them?

That is exactly what didn’t happen when I first walked up to the second floor of Literati on East Washington and saw Robin Queen for the first time, live and in-person. True, I had been seeing her face plastered on numerous emails advertising the discussion she was going to be a part of in late March, but she actually looked familiar to me because she reminds me of a boss I once had at a fast food restaurant I spent three months at (which, believe me, is more than long enough to be working at a fast food restaurant).

Odd little anecdote (appropriate terminology?) aside, Robin had lots of shiny nuggets of wisdom to share about the writing process. As I sat in the back of the room munching on my side salad from Pieology, she discussed her general approach to writing and revealed some early drafting of her latest book Vox Popular: The Surprising Life of Language in the Media.

Robin said she enjoys writing because it is like a conversation. When I heard her say this, I thought immediately back to what Stephen King says in On Writing, that writing is like a telepathic meeting of the minds. Robin also mentioned how that conversation can be difficult, especially when you’re trying to explain scientific concepts to non-academics. There is a danger, she says, in shutting these readers out if the language is too inaccessible (or, this is the gist of what she said, anyway).

To approach the writing of Vox Popular then, which is addressed to lay people, Robin pictured certain people that she knew when producing the book, knowing if those certain individuals were to come across a word like “ostensibly”, they would be apt to put the book down and say, “I’ll have no more of this, thank you.” Directing writing at a certain person (or persons) is something I may want to try; interesting concept anyway.

I identified with the struggles Robin mentioned, how actually getting into the mode of writing is not necessarily easy. She said sometimes it takes a considerable amount of “your brain puking words onto the page” before you get anything useful. When she called the blank page a daunting thing to approach — likely to make you pull up the Facebook app on your phone instead of tackling it — I thought, “Amen to that, sister.”

The fact that Robin is a linguist made her discussion all that much more interesting. I like to play with language and have a grand ole time, and so her field, which, as she described, seeks to study what it is we know when we know a language, actually sounds like something I would have enjoyed studying whilst an undergraduate at this proud institution of higher learning. (That was not sarcastic, believe it or not; maybe a little pompous though.)

The last ditty I’d like to mention is that I enjoyed the description of the way she teaches writing: she said she has somewhat gotten away from assigning students academic pieces and has focused more recently on reflective writing. Reflective writing seems to be, honestly, where my best kind of writing comes through, and so I could appreciate this approach.

Robin may or may not have convinced me to buy a copy of her book. Just as with the Great Tootsie Pop Conundrum, the world may never know.

Field Notes, Brief Poems, and Endorsements of F. Scott Fitzgerald & Abraham Lincoln…or, What My Capstone Project Says About Me

At the beginning of last year, I bought a packet of Field Notes with the intention of keeping track of my random thoughts in a physical form rather than just in the Notes application on my laptop. I am one of those people who is struck by inspiration at all kinds of times and then must immediately jot down thoughts lest I forget the “brilliant” idea. Of course, most of these are disconnected scribbles. Here is a sample:

Field Notes. They're grrrreat!
Field Notes. They’re grrrreat!

05/21/15: “In my dreams I see you still, we walk on sandy shores. I hold your hand, you kiss my lips; everything is like before.”

07/06/15: Possible biography: Captain John Langland (1862-1942), the first and only keeper of the light at Portage Lake from 1891-1917

12/24/15: “…it was as if for the remainder of his life he was condemned to carry with him the egos of certain people, early met and early loved, and to be only as complete as they were complete themselves.” — thoughts of Dick Diver in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Tender is the Night (p. 245)

Look, it's Scott.
Look, it’s Scott.

It’s truly a smorgasbord of all kinds of ditties, though a good deal of the scribblings do relate to my penchant for writing creative fiction (though I now realize that none of the above examples portray this, silly me; unless you count the poem). ANY WHO…I knew from the outset that I wanted my Capstone Project to be a creative fiction piece, and boy, what a whopper I have cooked up for myself.

The goal is to write 20,000 words in roughly eight weeks, and the countdown has already begun. While the outlandish-ish word goal is not necessarily indicative of who I am (I am admittedly a lazy person), the creative fiction aspect is 100 percent me. The project will be, finally, the realization of a story I have wanted to write for years that has taken on differing forms in the past, all of which have generally not lived up to what I expected of them.

Set the bar high.
Set the bar high.

This project says I am now determined to write the novella I’ve had inside me just waiting to break free. And now I’ll stop saying feathery things like that. You’re welcome.

As for other aspects of myself that I want to showcase in my portfolio, a love of literature and history is definitely on the list. This might be evidenced by the inclusion of quotes from famous authors in different places. The ‘About’ page specifically offers a good space for this. Checkout my odes to famous writers on Twitter:

Lewis Carroll Screen Shot 2016-02-10 at 6.43.33 AM Screen Shot 2016-02-10 at 6.45.23 AM Screen Shot 2016-02-10 at 6.46.25 AM

Notice from the insane amount of retweets and favorites that I am damn  popular on Twitter. Also notice that I was taking Ernest’s advice in composing that last sentence (insert “damn” every time you want to write “very” and your editor will strike out the unnecessary word, making everything as it should be).

The last tweet I included there does not have to do with literature directly; Abraham is just The Man. And I’d encourage you to read Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, which inspired the recent Stephen Spielberg film, but I know you are unlikely to do that. And that’s okay. We all have our things.

I'll just leave this here.
I’ll just leave this here.

Hello…It’s Me

Joker-Hello-GIF

Hola Capstone compadres, my name is Logan Hansen and I have a writing addiction. The only issue is that I find it hard to focus and zone in on one project at a time. It seems inspiration comes at me from various places and my enthusiasm for different pieces flares up and fizzles out sporadically. That is why I am excited to be wrapping up the Minor in Writing this semester: I’ll be forced to undertake a lengthy project and stick with it, come hell or high water.

A few ditties about me before we jump into the next part:

—I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling 22

—Despite that first bullet, I am not a fan of Taylor Swift

—I am, however, a fan of Blink-182, and late ’90s to early ’00s rock and alternative

—I played football for the smallest high school to field an eleven-man team in the state of Michigan (from 2008-’11, that is)Rooby and Raggy

—I started writing (poorly written) short stories when I was seven years old, including my own episode of “Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?”

I’ve had the pleasure of participating in a handful of writing communities in the past few years. The two I’d like to mention are my time in Elizabeth Hutton’s English 223: Creative Writing course and my editorial internship with the Manistee News Advocate. Both took place during 2015, separated only by a three-week jaunt over to China for study abroad in May.

I took Lizzie’s Creative Writing class, which focused around poetry and short fiction, during the Winter 2015 semester. Fiction is the kind of writing I enjoy most, so I went into the class with high hopes — and I was not disappointed. The final portfolio project I ended up putting together with the help of Lizzie and my peer revisers is something I am particularly proud of; though the pieces contained therein — two poems and two short stories — are ones I plan to continue reworking and revising.

English 223 was a chance for me to work on character development and other areas of my fiction writing that I did not realize were weaknesses, such as my reliance on vague language and inconsistency in voice. When writing poems and stories, you have to think about all those classic elements — plot, characterization, setting, voice, rising action, climax, falling action, etc. Of course, examining my classmates’ writing was another component of the course that augmented my own learning about the craft.

In an altogether different arena, my time at the Manistee News Advocate saw me writing within the confines of reality. I wrote mainly news articles, but did contribute a handful of opinion columns, as well. With that position, there were interviews to be conducted and transcribed, fact-finding missions, grammar in as proper a form as was possible, and length restrictions (though I did get away with an extra long article when my regular editor was on vacation). Like the Creative Writing class, it was fun, but in a different way. There was certainly more of a professional sense about it, inasmuch as a high degree of accuracy and candidness was required.

If we’re getting down to brass tacks here, one major similarity between these two writing communities was that a certain amount of backstory was necessary for the pieces to make sense. For the poems and short fiction, these backstories were no doubt fabricated, but nonetheless present; for the newspaper, the backstory (or background information) was necessary scaffolding to set up or realize the point of the article.

And if that doesn’t seem deep enough, perhaps another similarity is in order. So here goes: though the two communities had very different audiences (college students and a writing professor for the Creative Writing course; mostly individuals over the age of 50 for the newspaper), I was still able to infuse bits of personality and voice in each. In the former, this voice appeared in various versions through different characters — but if we are to believe that every character a writer creates carries some small piece of him or her (and I do believe that), then my voice was certainly coming through. In the latter, my voice appeared in discreet ways, as well, such as a quirky headline or the infusion of uncommon vocabulary (e.g. an article previewing a festival known as “Arcadia Daze” was titled “Dazed and fun-infused” (so witty, I know)).

Screen Shot 2016-01-09 at 4.56.51 PM

As for a major difference, I have basically mentioned a couple already in talking about similarities (funny how things are entangled like that). One of those was the different audiences I was writing for: a group made up mostly of my contemporaries and the other made up mostly of people of an older generation. With the former, I was allowed to be a little more “out there,” as one might say, whereas with the latter, I could not necessarily get too crazy. Of course, that had to do with the modes of writing, as well. Another large difference was the “narration” of the different kinds of writing. In Lizzie’s class, I had free reign to decide about first-, second-, or third-person; with the newspaper, everything (except my first-person columns) had to be written in a third-person, objective point of view.

Both communities improved my writing abilities, but in different domains. And now I shall cease to continue this blog entry, because you’ve probably given up on reading all of it by now anyway.

Au revoir!

It’s Been Real, It’s Been Fun…

…and usually that statement ends with “but it hasn’t been real fun.” That is the opposite of the truth, however, because it has been both of those things and more.

I typically despise the notion that “time flies,” because I feel that in most instances, it does not. But this semester in the Minor in Writing Gateway course is one of those rare exceptions where it feels like just last week I was scouring the furthest corners of my mind seeking to attain the reason that I write. (Okay, maybe it didn’t take THAT deep of an analysis, but figurative language is our friend.) It feels like only a few days ago that I was sitting in the Fish Bowl, furiously typing away at what became Project II. In the same vein – I promise I’ll stop after this one – it feels like just yesterday I was stitching together the video segments that developed into Project III.

The moments in which time does seem to fly, those are moments where we find enjoyment in our doing. And that is certainly how the Gateway course played out for me this term. There were certainly times when the projects caused me some stress, and when it seemed like I might have been trying to do something that took more work than I was prepared to do – especially with Project III. Nonetheless, this course will go down as one of my favorites of my undergraduate career at the University. In large part, that categorization is thanks to the instructor I had for the Gateway – T Hetzel. She was able to make the course feel like a community of writers, like a family, the likes of which I have not experienced in any other course here, and not since my time at my small private high school in Northern Michigan. It is clear that she cares about her students and their writing, and she helped me see things about my writing voice that I hadn’t laid eyes on before.

I am grateful I decided to apply for the Minor in Writing, and even more so that I was able to experience the Gateway course with a devoted professor. And now I present to this lovely blog and anyone who happens upon it, my Gateway EPortfolio, which can be found here:

http://loganhansen87.wix.com/writing-eportfolio

I’m excited to continue my journey through the Minor and look forward to the many positive experiences that are sure to ensue. As always, happy writing!

Over and out.

Peace Out

WARNING: The Following is Cheesy & Cliché.

For those about to embark on the journey that is the Sweetland Center’s Minor in Writing, I wholeheartedly salute you. If the written word is truly a passion of yours, you will find you have made a grand decision. As the PR posters claim, a Minor in Writing definitely goes with any major.

But anyway, let’s get to some advice, which is why you are reading this (forcibly, or otherwise). The Gateway Course in the Minor in Writing is, in my opinion, as challenging as you make it. And if you want to make the most of it, you should certainly challenge yourself. By this I mean make things a little uncomfortable. Stretch farther than you have dared before. Dabble in a genre that is unfamiliar, that you previously left untouched because you felt those waters were better left uncharted.

I can’t claim that I necessarily did this in terms of the actual writing I did for the course, but my final project for the semester was something I had never done before. Putting together a mini-documentary was something of a challenge, but I am certainly glad I pushed myself to do it. And if you can muster the willpower to step outside your comfort zone in the realm of writing, you will surely be glad you did it, too.

NeverTryNeverKnow

Audience is Everything

Who? What? Where? When? and Why? – These are the essential questions. All of them, or at least some combination of them, will always govern our writing. But one sticks out from the rest. Which is that? Well from the title of this post, I think you have an idea.

It is The Who. And no, not the band, though they are fantastic. The Who is a writer’s audience and they will have their say in any piece of writing, no matter if it’s a dinky sports program or a 900-page biography of Abraham Lincoln (which I am currently reading).

We may not want to think about them. We may just want to write and say to hell with them. Well, there is one situation where that will certainly be quite alright: when the audience is yourself. I keep a journal, and I only use that space to talk to myself, so I can write whatever suits me. Oddly, I always make it very conversational, even though I’m the only one who reads it. It’s a strange melding of writer me and physical me.

But forgive me, I digress.

If the audience is anyone but yourself – and most times it will be – you have to pay them some mind. Writing aimlessly is writing unproductively. Who will read this? Who will want to read this? That is what you need to ask yourself and keep in mind throughout the process. It holds true for academic writing and all other forms, except when you write for yourself, which I have already mentioned.

Just imagine your audience standing over your shoulder while you’re writing. Would that sentence make sense to them? Would this be confusing? Do I need to explain this better? How appealing will all of this be? You will find you have produced something of quality if you remember who’s going to read it.

Don’t forget The Who. Audience is everything.

Identify_Your_Audience

Risky Business

Putting perpetual tags on anything is a business I have come to find a bit risky. Not a lot of things last forever; almost no person will be able to avoid letting you down at some point; and “the best” of anything can turn into the worst over night. I realize I sound like a Negative Nancy here, but I’d just like to call it being real.

In direct conflict with my opening statement, here are a few things I don’t believe I will ever become bored of:

-Reading murder mysteries: It was the butler, right? Actually, no, that’s never been the case in any of the murder mysteries I’ve read. But that would be too predictable anyway. The ones that do it right have me on my toes throughout – oh I know for sure now, it was the janitor! Maybe not. Two of my absolute favorites in this suspense-filled genre are Tana French (In the Woods, The Likeness, Faithful Place) and Tami Hoag (A Thin Dark Line, Cry Wolf). 

Wikipedia Surfing: I’ve read somewhere that all Wikipedia articles lead back to “philosophy.” Let’s try it (clicking first links only). We’ll start with our good ole buddy – George Washington. Ready, go: “George Washington” leads to “President of the United States” leads to “head of state” leads to “Constitution” leads to “state” leads to “community” leads to “level of analysis” (via “social unit”) leads to “unit of observation” leads to “statistics” leads to “data” leads to “set” leads to “mathematics”…leads to (HOLY SH*T) “philosophy.” And yes, I honestly just did that.

-Basking in the warm glow of the sun whilst sitting on a beach chair with my toes in the hot sand, Lake Michigan spread out before me, an Arnold Palmer or other iced beverage to one side and a copy of GQ magazine to the other: What more could I say about that?