When your plans have to change

One thing we discussed in class today was the circumstances under which your plans for the project have to change. For me, this change of plans arose with a set of interviews I had intended to conduct as part of my research about people’s attitudes about gender and gender roles. However, after finishing my psychology and history research, I realized that these interviews would be redundant and unnecessary in this section of my project; the larger studies cover the information that these interviews would produce, but on a much larger and more reliable level. In addition, it was noted in workshop that the project focuses too much on me personally, and that some distance would make the project more interesting and engaging. As a result, I decided to cut the interviews out for now.

However, interviews can provide things that research cannot, such as nuance and the ability to interact with or contradict the research. Hopefully the interviews will ultimately be able to provide this, but in a different section of the project. In Ray’s words, I’m hoping this change of plans has a transformative effect, rather than an eliminatory effect.

When your research expectations don’t match what’s out there

Over the last ten days, I have begun thinking more seriously about my Capstone Project. After creating my production plan, the logical step was to begin research for the content of the project. Unfortunately, all of the information I anticipated finding is nowhere to be found anywhere on the internet or in a scholarly journal. My search terms all yield millions of results, but none of them are quite what I am looking for.

Specifically, my project has to do with the discrepancies between gender roles and gendered characteristics when it comes to living arrangements. As per my production plan, my tasks this week included psychological, historical, and interview-based research about the ways people develop gender attitudes and the reasons they hold the attitudes that they do. However, almost all of the information out there, including housing policies, blogs, articles, etc., are about housing that is designed to or should accommodate those who have some kind of gender identification issue, or a housing concern related to sexual orientation and similar issues. These are not areas I am intending to cover, as my project is centered on those who choose to live with those of another gender for social, economic, convenience, or other practical concerns. I am not looking at all at groups who are marginalized, and I definitely don’t want to approach this from a civil rights perspective. As far as media research, I was able to find only one TV show about my type of living arrangement, no movies, and no books.

My professor, Ray, has suggested that I widen my research to include these other aspects of gender and cohabitation, while at the same time narrowing my research to include only one perspective, such as media representations, that consider scenarios different from my own.
This week, I am hoping to make more progress on this front. While the holdup has derailed my production plan a bit, I plan to spend the week working from this changed perspective and catching up in time for our next workshop session.

Overcoming Contradictions

In creating the Writer’s Evolution Essay, we have discovered that a major concern is presenting contradictory claims. More specifically, writing this essay necessitates making claims which are exclusive, whether it be a result of conflicting evidence or simply inconsistent thoughts. These contradictions create tension in that we must either leave something out to make it work, or change the overall argument.

My Writer’s Evolution Essay centers on the idea of evolution in terms of my approach to righting. I aim to argue that I used to view writing as a means of creating a product with a very defined and strict process, whereas now I view writing as a learning experience in itself with less of a focus on process and more of a focus on personal growth and expression. A major contradiction of my essay is that I write about doing well by doing what I am “supposed” to do versus doing well by “rejecting” the writing process. At the same time that I argue for a rejection of the process, I discuss the benefit I have gained from process over time (i.e., taking writing classes and improving my writing style in specific ways. I have yet to decide how I will overcome this contradiction, but I think this tension is what makes my argument more nuanced and I hope to be able to account for this contradiction and make it work.

Introducing My Gateway E-Portfolio

Here it is! mayagk.wix.com/eportfolio

I hope you all enjoy looking through it, and that you get a chance to learn a little more about me through it. It’s hard to believe that the gateway course is over and that my E-Portfolio has been published. It seems like just yesterday that I looked at  others’ portfolios with incredulity and felt as I could never accomplish the feat of producing such a thing.

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank my classmates and my professor, T for their support, encouragement, and constructive criticism this semester. Without each of you, I would not have been able to accomplish all that I have this semester. You have each been integral in helping me become a better. I look forward to continuing the process and working more with all of you in my future writing classes. I would also like to thank each of you for sharing your own work with me. I truly enjoyed getting to know all of my classmates through their writing, and I am proud to have been a part of such astounding creativity, intellect, and drive to write and be writers.

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An Unconventional Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is one of those holidays that has always intrigued me. It’s one of the only holidays that anyone can buy into. Its not for any religion, ethnicity, or other specific group. It is simply American, which, I think, is what makes it so special. On Thanksgiving, we celebrate our collective coming to America. Everyone, whether they have ties to the mayflower or just immigrated to America last week, shows their gratitude and indebtedness to those first brave explorers who ventured across the sea in search of a land free from persecution or oppression. We think about all the opportunities we’ve been granted in America and remind ourselves of the sacrifices that were made in order for those opportunities to exist. On the more personal level, its one of the few times of year where we all pause to appreciate what we have – our family, our health, our personal successes and achievements, and, of course, the food we eat. Almost everyone goes home at Thanksgiving, no matter where they may be and how far away their family is, because its one of the few opportunities each year when everyone has the time and the inclination to be together.

In my family, we don’t usually celebrate Thanksgiving, at least not in the traditional sense. My parents never really understood the holiday, plus not one person in my family will touch a turkey with a ten foot pole, let alone put one in our oven and then eat it afterwards. And cranberry sauce? No way. What are you supposed to do with that weird tangy goop? When I picture Thanksgiving, I see happy families, spending time together, watching football, wearing thick winter sweaters. I see long tables, overflowing with corn, sweet potatoes, newly carved turkey. But in my family nobody watches football. Nobody wears thick winter sweaters, especially not ones with snowflakes or moose on them. Nobody craves the heavy comfort foods of the holiday. Not one of us has watched the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade since my sister was a baby and we put it on so she could giggle at the floats and balloons. Instead, we often find ourselves on a beach somewhere, or simply at home doing nothing. So usually when people ask what my Thanksgiving plans are, I tell them I have none. They are always shocked. Sometimes people even tell me they feel bad that its not something my family does, since its “THE BEST HOLIDAY EVER”.

But this Thanksgiving I finally had plans to tell people about. Instead of going on a trip or passing the time at home, my family decided to have a real Thanksgiving dinner. Everyone will be in town, and everyone has to eat, we figured, so it just made sense. We invited my mom’s parents, my dad’s father and his girlfriend, my aunt and uncle, and our best family friends with their three kids. We set up a long folding table at the end of our dining room table to create one long table where everyone could sit together. We cracked out the Passover linens and the fancy napkin rings. We made place cards. When Thursday came, my mom took to the kitchen, preparing nearly a dozen overflowing dishes for the guests.

Around five o’clock, everyone arrived. By six we had sat down to eat. We didn’t have Turkey or cranberry sauce, nor did we have sweet potatoes or corn. There was not even one pie. Instead, we worked together to build an elaborate paper Turkey to put in the middle of the table. We ate chicken, quinoa pilaf, kale salad, roasted asparagus, and other regular dishes. We did it buffet style, with everyone lining up at the kitchen counter with their plates. We drank a slightly excessive amount of wine followed by a slightly excessive amount of scotch. Our first Thanksgiving was unconventional, but lovely.

Thinking about it afterwards, I realized that Thanksgiving is not really about any of those traditions. While the food and the football and the parade play their role, they aren’t the important parts. What’s important is that we were all together for a whole day, just being happy and keeping each other company. We may not have gone around each saying what we’re thankful for this year, but our mere presence implied that we are thankful for one another. While I loved our unconventional Thanksgiving, I know that if we never have one again it won’t matter; because no matter where in the world we are or what we are doing, if my family is together on Thanksgiving, it’s more than enough.

 

Our Thanksgiving Turkey
Our Thanksgiving Turkey

THIS IS NOT A CLASS (my advice to the future MIW cohorts about the gateway)


My advice about the gateway course: THIS IS NOT A CLASS.

In the gateway to the minor, we learn what it means to be writers. We explore our feelings about writing and what writing means to us personally. We develop and reflect on our process. We create. We critique. We are inspire and are inspired by one another. We build a community.

Take note: we do all of these things, but we do not seek a grade. It’s not about “doing well,” “scoring,” or “competing.” It is simply about doing, no matter what that means. Beware of approaching the gateway as a class in the typical sense, because if you do you’ll miss the point.

Have fun. Don’t worry about getting an A. If you do your best and put all that you can into your work, the A will appear. If you distract yourself with “A” thoughts, your writing will suffer.

THIS IS NOT A CLASS. Be sure to read the warning label.

 

Warning Label

Nobody Really Knows How To Write: A Bold Proclamation

My bold proclamation about writing is that nobody really knows how to write.

You may be thinking to yourself, “that’s a lie! I write every day, so clearly I know how. You wrote these words I’m reading, so clearly you know how too. Millions of people write every day in essays, books, blogs, and even notebooks, so it seems that everyone knows how.”

While its true that almost everyone writes and thus has the ability to put words down in succession, I don’t believe that anyone knows “how”. And by “how”, I mean the method one uses in order to get those words on the page.

We take writing classes and complete assignments in pursuit of learning “how” to write. Nevertheless, there is no consensus on what this “how” is. And nobody has been able to explain what I should do when I’m stuck or what the rules are when I’m not.

I recently attended a live interview with a fairly accomplished author and teacher of writing who herself said that she has no method for writing, no steps to take. She couldn’t describe exactly how she writes in any real or concrete way.

If someone like that doesn’t know the “how,” how could mere students know? Let alone those who’ve never taken a writing class.

Nobody really knows how to write. We’re all stabbing blindly in the dark.

An Evening With An Actual Writer

This past Thursday, I attended Literati Bookstore’s event, “SWEETLAND WORD SQUARED: WRITER TO WRITER, WITH LAURA KASISCHKE.” The event was a live interview of Laura Kasischke, a well-published author of both novels and poetry. She is also a professor of English here at the University, which is why she participated in this interview series. Here are some thoughts I had and things I took note of during the event:

  • During the introduction, the interviewer read a VERY long list of her achievements. Ms. Kasischke is clearly very successful, and her achievements are truly impressive (especially for a new writer who has yet to publish anything of note!). Nevertheless, she seemed/looked/sounded very nervous during this section. I found myself thinking that she should be more confident in the face of such success. Maybe she is just uncomfortable with the formal recognition?
  • Ms. Kasischke on powering through: “I write whether I have writer’s block or not.”
  • As part of the interview, Ms. Kasischke read aloud from her forthcoming novel. In it, she describes (at GREAT length) a boy drowning to death – but you don’t realize until very late into it. I found her ability to catch the reader by surprise very remarkable. Her command of descriptive language is also very impressive. Furthermore, she writes with great rhythm – her words flow well and move forward forcefully. When she stopped reading, I wanted to ask her to keep going.
  • By the time she finished reading, she settled in and seemed much more comfortable than at the beginning. Maybe talking about her work rather than her awards put her at ease?
  • From listening to her speak, I gathered that she seems to think the idea of having a “writing ritual” is silly – she thinks of it as something she does, not something “structured” or “with method.” Following from this, she noted that the themes of her writing come from her life and from within. She emphasized that her themes are not picked out in advance. I think that her skepticism for a writing process is interesting, especially since she is a teacher of writing. This seems contradictory.
  • When asked what her pre-occupations are: “Sex and death.” The audience laughed. She asked if anyone really thinks about anything else. Then she added that she also thinks about motherhood and religion and the “physical life” and language.
  • She reads from “Mrs. Dalloway” when she wants to be inspired.
  • Next she read a few of her poems. Her poems are just as engaging and descriptive as her prose. One of the poems she read felt extremely personal – it was weird hearing it from her, since she knew what it is about while she read it, but the rest of us did not.
  • She commented that a big part of her creative process is reflecting on the ways that what’s happening in her life while she is writing influences what come out.
  • She made a big deal about “The Habit of Writing” – she was really motivated to express how important it is to write every day, or at least on a regular basis, in order to stay in the habit.
  • Her thoughts on teaching: Everything is a drag anyway – teaching writing is as close as it gets to being a full-time writer and also having a job.
  • Other thoughts on writing: “It’s not always going to be fun.” “Learn what you’re obsessed with.” “It will distract you from the things that make you anxious and depressed by making you anxious and depressed.”
  • On getting a good poem out of breaking her ankle: “Other people break their ankle and they get nothing from it.”
  • She describes writing with the goal of publication as “soul-corrupting” – She says it doesn’t work. She is adamant that it’s better to just write and see if it gets published.

On the whole, I found Ms. Kasischke to be very interesting and inspiring. Her thoughts on writing were dense and well-articulated, and pushed me to think more about my own writing experience. At the end of the event I bought her book, “The Raising.” Then I went home and read the first seventeen chapters. I highly recommend it.

 

 

 

 

The Plight of the LSA Student

Over the past few weeks, I’ve found myself having a very specific conversation multiple times. What’s interesting is that I’ve found this conversation to be, in all of its iterations, a lengthy and emotional complaint, rather than a platonic dialogue. Further, each person who has raised the topic has approached it neither casually nor conversationally, but rather with an overwhelmingly intense discontent (which sometimes bordered on anger, or even fury).

At this point you’re probably wondering, “What is this topic? Why such outrage?” Put simply, it’s the plight of the LSA student.

As a reporter for the Michigan Daily, I often have the privilege of attending events and receiving information that I would not have otherwise. Recently, I was asked to cover a story about a tree at the business school. While this may sound boring, it was most definitely not – the tree was a 250-year-old, 65-foot-tall, burr oak and it was going to be in the news because it was moving.

Moving? A tree? That’s right. The Ross School of Business just spent nearly half a million dollars to move a tree. Why? So that they could build yet another enormous, modern, and arguably unnecessary eyesore of a building exactly where the tree had been standing. Nothing against you, Ross students, but I see why some people thought this was irrational behavior on the part of whomever wrote the check.

A few days later, my Democratic Theory class had a meeting called The General Assembly, in which we set out to identify a problem and come to a consensus regarding the resolution of that conflict through the process of  horizontal democracy. After an hour of raising propositions, the only statement of purpose we could settle on was, “all students should be treated as equals by the University.” We took this to mean that the University should exercise equality of means and opportunity with regards to its distribution of resources and its decision-making process. All students should have a voice, we contended.

What’s interesting is that each time someone raised their hand to provide support for this proposition, he or she cited some kind of injustice that they felt been directed at us, the LSA students. Public enemy number one? A Mr. Stephen M. Ross. Why? Because he seems to have more of a say than all the LSA students combined in how money is distributed at the University, despite the fact that he doesn’t even go here.

I realized then that this was not an argument I hadn’t heard before. In fact, I have been having this same chat with my fellow liberal arts students (in one form or another) since coming to the University. Together, this points to one thing: at our vast and prestigious and spectacular institution, where we are encouraged to feel at home and reassured that we will be supported no matter what course of study we choose, money is being spent mostly to further a few agendas, while largely ignoring the vast student body. At least that’s what a lot of people around me are saying.

The Ross kids already have not one, but two beautiful class buildings complete with a state of the art gym, classrooms updated with the latest teaching and learning technologies, and their very own Starbucks. Similarly, student athletes have their own athletic complexes, study spaces, and hundreds of articles of clothing emblazoned with the yellow block M. Even the dental school was just approved for an expansive remodel. And if you’re a freshman, you can reasonably expect to sit on more than three million dollars worth of new furniture in East Quad alone.

And what about the washed up LSA students? Well, we have two options: (1) Sit in Angell Hall each day trying not to fall out of those weird old chairs that are attached to the tables awkwardly from the side while simultaneously hoping the ceiling doesn’t cave in before the lecture is over. (2) Do the same in the even-more-run-down MLB.

If you, reader, are a Ross student, a student athlete, an aspiring dentist, or a freshman granted the luxury on living on central campus, congratulations. Your interests have been deemed important by the people who decide what we should all invest in. Further, these interests have been on the agenda for a while, since its part of how you were lured here in the first place. Do you object on the grounds that the millions being put towards your college experience were earmarked for those purposes from the moment they were donated? If so, that’s true. But it doesn’t change the fact that the higher-ups decided that your cause was worth the donation more than ours to begin with. This is not to say that the University doesn’t invest in LSA at all, because that would be untrue. I, an LSA student, have the luxury of learning from some of the most esteemed professors in the country each day, and I wouldn’t ever trade that. I merely wish to point out that there is an inequality here that deserves to be noted beyond the confines of my Political Science class (which, by the way, meets in a smelly old lecture hall in a faraway science building where the tall boys in my class complain each day that their knees jut up against the seats in front of them whenever they try to squeeze themselves into the tiny seats set in rows narrower than the last row of the economy section of a small plane. You know, the row where your seat doesn’t even recline).

Maybe one day we’ll figure out how to make philanthropic billionaires from scholars of the liberal arts. Maybe I’ll even be the anomaly who strikes gold with a BA in Political Science. Either way, I hope it happens, since it’s the only way a tree will ever move for an LSA student.

Some thoughts on getting tired.

I could never get tired of reading. Why? Because reading is endless – no matter how much you read, you will never make gains on all that has been written. Because reading is never the same twice – no two stories or articles or poems or essays are ever the same. Because reading never fails to teach you something new or expose a new nuance. Because reading transcends space and time – you can go anywhere when you step inside a book. Is this valuable? Yes. What other resource is as endless and as rich? I can’t think of even one. Am I grateful? Mostly for the opportunity.

 

Has anyone ever actually found a worm inside a book?
Has anyone ever actually found a worm inside a book?