My Painfully Long Capstone Project

Welcome to my 200 page book that is my Capstone Project. Over the course of the semester, I have been working on creating a book called Truth Be Told: A Young Writer’s Guide to Creative Nonfiction. Creative nonfiction has made such an impact on me during my college career, and I wanted to find a way to share my experience with others, but also for them to create their own experience that would be as positive as mine.

I wrote a first person book based on my own experiences as a young writer navigating the field, because I wanted to create a “how to guide” that was more accessible for beginners. I also wanted to use the book as a way to showcase that young writers produce exceptional work that other young writers can strive to produce themselves. I never thought I would pull off a 200 page book, but here it is.

merefox95.wixsite.com/capstone

Adulting so hard it hurts

So all this Capstone-ing and creating this book that will be used as a teaching tool reminded me that I’m going to be a teacher next year. I got an email that I passed all the exams for the state of North Carolina that I needed to while I was doing research for my Capstone and I was like…. WAIT…. I’m actually going to be a teacher next year.

I accepted a job with Teach For America to teach elementary school next year. 20 small children will be relying on me to teach them things. It’s safe to say I am totally freaking out right.about.NOW. I didn’t major in education or anything like that, so I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting on things I learned during my time at U of M that will be useful. Two things college has definitely taught me how to function on no sleep and how to ball on a budget– both of which will be great skills for when I am a teacher next year.

(idk i just thought this was a great mention of Teach For America on none other than The Office!)

As I begin to put together the book for my Capstone project, I am doing something I thought that I would never do, just as I never thought I would be a teacher. This resonates nicely with one of the most important things that I have learned about writing.

Don’t go into something you’re writing already knowing how it’ll end. You can have an idea, but if you’ve already planned the ending, then what’s the point?

I’ve always had my life planned out, year by year, minute by minute. High school, U of M, law school, assistant prosecutor, prosecutor, judge, congress, governor, president. That was the plan. A lot of those things might still happen, but at some point along the way, I realized that you have to let other things happen too.

 

Shameless Plug: Call for Creative Nonfcition

Does prefacing something with shameless plug make it any less shameful? I’d like to think so, but then again, it might be like when someone says no offense and you brace yourself, because you know that means they’re about to say something offensive. On the other end of the spectrum, maybe a plug doesn’t need to have the word shameless in front of it, because asking for others to help you accomplish something shouldn’t be shameful in the first place?

Okay, anyway, let’s get to the part where I promote my self-interested agenda. After all, you must be interested in it if you clicked on this post knowing it was a shameless plug.

So, for my Capstone project, I am creating a handbook/book type thing tentatively called A Young Writer’s Guide to Creative Nonfiction. I want to use my experience as a young writer who primarily writes within this genre to help others learning the art of creative nonfiction. But, here’s the thing, what’s a guide without examples?

Yes, here it is: the shameless plug. I want to use your essays in my book, so that young writers can learn from the exemplary work of their peers. I’ve dropped the link below for the submission requirements and the licensing agreement. Please help a girl out and send me your creative nonfiction essays, so my Capstone will rock and I can graduate.

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1fczoxkWZ2nCnUqT6csm9QfjDPi2N36du-jU5XuansNo/edit

 

bAAck and better than ever…

Washtenaw County Jail (WCJ) is the one place where I have felt safe as a writer. Usually jail and safe don’t go in the same sentence, but in this case, being a workshop leader in a creative writing program at WCJ offered me the safe space that I never knew I needed. Project Community found me at freshman orientation. I had no idea what classes I wanted to take, what I wanted to major in, or if I even wanted to be at U of M. When I learned about a program at orientation where students went into local jails and prisons to lead creative writing workshops, I was intrigued. I signed up, not really knowing what Project Community would be.

At WCJ, I could write whatever I wanted. As a safety protocol, we went by first names only and did not provide any identifying information about ourselves. We also all agreed to confidentiality and to never share what we learned about each other through our writing with anyone outside our small plexiglass classroom. I spent Monday nights writing at WCJ for the majority of my college career. Before I found comfort in sharing my most personal stories at the jail, I never knew that I was holding back my best writing. I could write my stories candidly, not worried that those who were a part of them would object or feel hurt by their portrayal. I could write about my personal struggles, not worried that those closest to me would change how they look at me.

Not every writing community offers the same security and anonymity that WCJ provided me. I’m also part of the academic community that is the University of Michigan. I took English 325 and then English 425– both of which were about my favorite type of writing: creative nonfiction. Both also were set in a manner where we workshopped each other’s writing. Under the direction of experienced writers/U of M professors, my writing improved quite a bit. I learned a lot about the craft of writing, but I think that I was writing scared in this community. Worried that people outside the safe community that I had at WCJ knew people I wrote about or would not understand or respect me if they knew some of my stories, I always found myself holding back.

Sometimes it was difficult when I had a story I wanted to tell in one of my classes. One I thought would let me apply what I learned. One I thought would earn me a good grade. But, I would tuck it away and save it for where I knew it would be safe. Where I knew it would never be heard or told outside the walls of the jail. I wonder if some day I will have the courage to write those stories for the world to see. My writing got progressively better as I took what I learned in my academic community and applied it to the writing I did at WCJ. Maybe the world would want to read these stories now, but I am not ready. Maybe some day I will learn the type of courage it takes to risk letting people read very personal things.

My journey as a writer at U of M has been anything but uneventful. Even if the academic writing I produced was hesitant, I have found a way to still produce and share work that I am proud of, that I have won awards for. But, I have also produced some terribly dreadful writing– so bad that I shredded all hard copies and wiped my computer clean of any trace that those combinations of words ever came from me.

But I’m okay with that, because I know that I am still learning and growing as a writer. Not everything I write will be great nor will everything I write be terrible. The writing communities that I have taken part in have been instrumental in making me into the writer that I am today. More than the things that they taught me that I carry over into my writing now, the experiences of two very different communities that I was a part of were important in the moments where I was engrained in them. On the same day, I would go from an extremely privileged community of elite university students and top tier instructors to a county jail. It might be expected that I should have benefited more from a class of U of M students led by impressive faculty, but I am not sure that is true. Sure, I learned a lot in those classes, but…

 

I think there is something to be said about the fact that Washtenaw County Jail saw the best writing I have ever produced.

Idk if I’m qualified to be giving advice

So I’m supposed to be giving you future miw students some advice… but it’s the end of the term and to be honest, I still don’t really know what I’m doing. I also feel like giving advice is scary because if it leads you down a terrible path, I don’t want to be to blame….

So, I’m going to give you some advice anyway (because, frankly, that’s the assignment, so I have to), but I’m going to purposely end with idk tho. That way if your life ends up ruined it won’t really be my fault.

  1. Go with your instincts. If you have an idea, don’t waste your time trying to come up with a better one. Just roll with what you already have, and see where it’ll take you.
  2. Contrary to popular belief by teachers across America, sometimes leaving your assignment until the night before works out well (T, let me explain before you decide to flunk me for saying that). This semester I was super busy and, so, I ended up having to do things last minute sometimes. What I found is that some of my best work was produced by doing that because the pressure to meet a deadline kept me so focused.
  3. Don’t leave the e-portfolio until the last minute, though. Especially if you suck at computers like I do.
  4. Laugh at yourself and be honest. Sometimes you come in with a draft and you know it sucks. Just be honest with your work group and say “hey, this is probably the shittiest thing I’ve ever written in my life.” That way they can help you and give you a lot of constructive criticism without them thinking it’ll be too mean, because you already told them you know it sucks.
  5. Have fun! Don’t stress yourself out too much. At the end of the semester you’ll be really proud of how much you accomplished in a short time!

Idk tho

SOS I Can’t Draw

I had this grand idea for project III. A short illustrated story.

It seemed like a great idea at the time. Those are always the famous last words…

At the time it seemed so fun and so simple. One problem. I forgot that I can’t draw. Like at all. Not even stick figures. The writing is going fine… well even… but the drawing it’s really getting to me.

I am currently rethinking whether I should even attempt drawing or whether I should use public domain images?

I think the most dangerous writing app is slowly killing me

Pet Peeves… Oh God… I have so many. People that chew too loudly. People who don’t say please and thank you to wait staff. People who put their gum on their plate while eating and then chew it again after. When someone looks over my shoulder while I’m trying to do something. People who say like every other word. People who talk to quietly. People who talk to loud. People who try and get on a train while people are trying to get off. Just let them get off first, jeez. People that don’t use silverware when they eat. People who lick their fingers. People who don’t hold the door for someone right behind them. People who make excuses. People who have bad grammar. People who have bad spelling. People who play their music too loudly in their headphones, so that others have to hear it. People who talk on the phone loudly in public places. People who don’t spit their toothpaste down the drain so that it stains the sink. People who don’t clean up after themselves. People who are late. People who knock into me and don’t say excuse me. Wow, this probably sounds like a crazy rant. I really an not a negative person, I swear. I guess the words Pet Peeve just triggered me.

I Hate Animals: My First Experience Writing Dangerously

What animal are you? What’s your spirit animal? What’s your favorite animal? These are the ice breaking questions that I dread the most. My natural response is to say that I hate animals. But, that is not the type of thing that you can just say to a group of people. It’s like they equate animal haters with serial killers. Oh no this lady at Starbucks asked if I could watch her stuff, and almost caused me to lose the game. Anyways, I’m back. Animals. They’re disgusting. They smell bad. Most are not potty trained. They shed. I just don’t understand what there is to like about them. Now, I’m not a psycho. I don’t go around lighting cats on fire or anything like that. But that is the assumption when I tell people that I hate animals. That’s why I always hesitate to answer the question honestly. I always have to explain to people that I’m not a psychopath, but that I just try to avoid animals at all costs. I don’t go to zoos and I try not to go to people’s houses who have pets. It’s really not that difficult to avoid. The one problem is that the rest of my family loves animals. Unfortunately for me, I was outvoted 4-1 and we have a 80 pound, super sheddy, yellow lab.

E-Portfolios Scare Me

I barely know how to turn on a computer.

At least once per day I’m convinced that my computer is broken and then someone does something super simple and tells me it was never broken. So, when I found out we had to make an e-portfolio I was super nervous. Looking through e-portfolios has only made me more apprehensive.

I started by looking at Meghan Brown’s. It’s so organized. So much color. So organized. How do I do that? I really liked her use of the tabs, and how they’re organized and what happens when you click on them. Rather than being bombard with a block of text, we get a little snip bit of info on her projects and a picture of them that links them to her full projects. I really liked that because it made me feel not overwhelmed.

I also really liked Logan Hansen’s e-portfolio because of it’s professionalism. It looks like something that could be shown to employers. I’m still not quite sure whether I want my e-portfolio to be “fun” or “professional”. I think there are some ups and downs to both. For one, a “fun” e-portfolio could better display my personality, but a “professional” one could be better for my future. So, that’s something I still have to think about.

Who remembers Ned’s Declassified?

It was that terribly awkward Nickelodeon show where Ned and his friends created a middle school survival guide, episode by episode. That show, as weird as it was, has inspired my idea for Project III.

If you recall, my Project II was an academic essay about able-bodied privilege rooted in my experience as a disabled individual. Most of my time in a wheelchair fell over my middle school years. Like Ned, I would like to create a middle school survival guide, except it would be how to survive middle school on wheels.

Rather than making a TV series, I will be making a short story with illustrations. I think that this will reach the same audience in a satirical way. It will be eye opening, yet kind of funny.