Literary Starbucks

It’s not procrastinating if this blog posts garners me points for class, yes? I just stumbled on Literary Starbucks, a collection of short posts, emulating the writing style of specific authors or literary characters, describing their hypothetical Starbucks’ coffee orders and experiences.

Holden Caulfield, for example:

Holden goes up to the counter to get a dark roast, but he’s forgotten all his money at home, so his little sister has to pay for it. He stares moodily out the window as he waits for it to brew, wondering where the ducks in the pond across the street go in the winter. Also, he’s pretty sure the barista is a phony.

I want to say that there’s a mini assignment tucked away somewhere that offers an exercise to write the same story using different voices, and this blog seems to do that super well. Just thought it might be a possible source of inspiration for those writing fiction and want to see examples of differentiating voices on a micro-level. Or for those needing to lie to themselves that they’re not procrastinating (read: me).

Portfolio thoughts

For the Gateway class, I harnessed some ambition (past tense is key here) and decided to design and hand-code (sort of, with HTML/CSS a lot of the standards are already set in stone and it’s more like aggregating pieces together than reinventing the wheel) my portfolio. This turned out to be way more work than I’d anticipated, so this time around I think I’m going to focus more on the content and use a WordPress theme.

My Gateway portfolio has a super minimal design, which I think suits me and my writing well. My main throughline there was a focus on writing as a way for me to make sense of all my thoughts, and though some pieces may seem disjointed at first, they all made me stretch my brain and interpret familiar subjects in a new way. For my capstone, I’m going with a similar theme, this time focusing on my writing as a process and a verb rather than a collection of pieces, something I wrote in my developmental essay that stuck with me. I also want to address my gravitation (in both my major and writing minor) toward creating things from scratch, and how I wanted to come out of college with tangible evidence of my learning (in the form of many, many CS and writing projects) rather than just focusing on absorbing material already spelled out for me. I’m not quite sure how these concepts will translate to my portfolio as a composition (it seems kind of meta?), but I guess everything here is an iterative process, and I trust things will come together in the end (this has been my mantra this semester but so far I’m more talk than anything to be honest… woo senioritis).

My early thoughts on structure – my portfolio will probably stick to a fairly standard theme with a navigation bar on top, with tabs for my Developmental Essay, Capstone Project (which will have a table of contents and the ability to navigate between individual essays), and a dropdown for earlier writing. I’m planning on including an introduction on the first page to explain my portfolio concept, and some reflective material before each individual piece to provide some context for the reader.

Sharing is Caring

Yesterday in our meeting to go over rubrics for the capstone project, Blake brought up the fact that even though we (him, Katie, Yona and I) were discussing some nuances of our projects, all of which take a more traditional argumentative format, we were still a little in the dark on the actual concepts of each other’s projects. Since I know everyone reading this has been on the edge of their seats wondering “Wow omg what is that girl Margot doing for her final project I bet it’s super cool and interesting and she knows exactly what she’s doing right now and is totally calm about everything because it’s senior year so everyone around her is calm too and not stressed at all and it must translate into every aspect of all their lives,” I’ll tell you.

I’m not sure where exactly the idea came from, but I decided to write a series of Open Letters to various…entities, I guess, many with a “sorry not sorry”-ish sentiment.  The first letter that came to mind from a random conversation during our developmental essay intro workshop, was an open letter to my neglected, perpetually starving Neopet.

Picture of yellow virtual pet
Meet jellibelli74 (picture taken in her prime)


Something I want to address and explore, if implicitly, is the power that humor and satire holds in revealing greater truths about our daily lives. My Neopet drama may seem relatively innocuous, but I started thinking a lot about neglect as I wrote it (and I’m trying not to get too dark and intense here since it’s been a surprisingly slippery slope). The Apologia genre traditionally consists of a kind of preemptive self-defense, so I’m going to explore the genre in the form of letters, combining some pop culture elements and humor to add my own weird voice. I’m still refining my list of topics and need to consider how to arrange the collection in a cohesive way, but it’s coming along, I think?

Other topics I have in mind: Open Letter to Semicolons, Open Letter to The Girl Running Incrementally Faster Than Me On The Treadmill At The Gym, Open Letter To My High School Mascot, the Maple Leaf, Open Letter To The/My Viola… PLEASE let me know if you have any suggestions or thoughts!

Can’t wait to hear about everyone else’s projects!!!

On (not) making decisions

I rambled to poor Katie for our allotted fifteen minutes about thoughts that I didn’t realize have been floating around my mind for a while. I kept babbling about the intersections I see between computer science and writing, and writing and thinking, and how technology has shaped our writing and thinking, and even between running and cooking and everything else, and it all combined into a laundry list of ideas I was somewhat awful at articulating.

So Katie came up with a super neat idea to make sense of these intersections by creating an interactive visualization of my brain, separated into fragments based on my interests. The user could click on one or more different sections, and all my ramblings could be organized in this way (i.e. clicking on both the CS and writing sections would show an essay on those parallels, but only selecting CS would show an essay solely on my thoughts there). I’m unsure how well I can separate my ideas and research overlapping topics in a logical way, so her other suggestion to write a New Yorker-y kind of article might offer a more coherent and straightforward (if that’s even possible for me…) argument. She also suggested making a podcast (since I mentioned I like listening to them), which sounds entirely daunting. I do think a podcast would lend itself well to integrating other people’s direct perspectives, though, so it’s definitely an avenue I’m looking into. Thanks Katie!!!!!

Coming up with project ideas for Katie was way easier than coming up with my own. I guess being removed from my personal fears of all the freedom we’re given made it easier to brainstorm creative (and hopefully maybe kind of helpful) ideas for her.

I have a feeling I’m not the only one in our class terrified of commitment.

why i write, revisited

After suggesting in class today that it’d be nice to go back and revisit our Why I Write essays, I figure I might as well put my money where my mouth is (that sounds awkward. sorry. just needed a nice idiom there).

I initially wrote my essay inching toward the idea of honesty, and how I find the transparency that comes with writing so useful and necessary in my thought process. I’m still drawn toward this central idea (a reason I didn’t make many moves to revise my essay completely) but I’ve definitely broadened my definition after playing around with different forms of writing this semester.

Coding the portfolio, visualizing my essay, and even writing for my Techcomm class (something I don’t think I’ve talked about very often, I guess because a decent amount of the 1-credit class consisted of resumes/cover letters and what goes into a Powerpoint…super dry albeit useful stuff) have all pushed my definition of writing and its capabilities. I’ve learned the different considerations necessary for these different forms of writing – visual rhetoric for my remedation/portfolio, and the kind of precise, structured language necessary for technical communication. These spanning topics have made me think further about the importance of writing as communication for external sources, not just for my own (almost selfish?) needs to figure out the world and my brain. I guess these considerations would result in more of an extension of my original essay than a total revision. I’m excited to write for future courses in areas and departments outside of my comfort zone to push these boundaries even more.

done! (mostly)

I don’t know how but I’ve seriously underutilized gifs in my blog posts. I guess it comes down to the whole gradual comfort thing, somehow thinking they might not be appreciated here…yeah, I’m not sure what I was thinking either. So, my thoughts towards my portfolio, starting from the beginning, in the language of Leslie Knope’s expressions (my bad if you don’t watch Parks and Rec):

How I felt (all gifs found here) when we got the assignment and I decided to play around with HTML for my portfolio:

Leslie Knope of Parks and Rec doing Rocky moves

Realizing the scary amount of resources and not knowing what I was doing at all, and the reality that slapped me in the face this weekend at the state of my portfolio (and my roommate seeing it and telling me “That looks so boring”):

Leslie Knope with a giant slurpee cup on her face

Throughout this weekend, rearranging and writing and of course, our favorite, revision (occasionally taking a break to study for databases and computer organization):

leslie knope saying "everything hurts and i'm dying"

Today, accepting that my portfolio will be a work in progress, and actually feeling pretty alright about the whole thing:

leslie knope smiling
In case you can’t tell, in my future life I aim to be Leslie Knope

Thanks for all your advice, comments,  words of encouragement, and sympathy in all our shared struggles. If you feel like poking around my portfolio you can check it out here!

who needs a degree when we have books

I’m getting excited for the upcoming overwhelming amount of free time that comes with our impending winter break (though I’m sure this week will feel like the longest of the year). I get the sense that I’m not the only one who loves to read in their spare time, something I don’t get nearly enough of during the semester. That said, I’ve been making a pretty ambitious list of books to read, many of them coming from npr’s super distracting “book concierge,” a mosiac of some great books of the year.

No, but seriously, my list is getting longer and longer as I keep judging these books:

image of collage of best books of 2013

by their covers (and blurbs, i’m not that shallow…). This whole finals-studying thing is going really well, in case you can’t tell.

Do you guys have any recommendations? also, PSA, everyone read Tenth of December.

putting on my bloggerpants

I think what scared me the most about blogging at the beginning of the semester was the freedom. Even though every week we’re given guidelines and suggestions, when it comes time to sit down on my WordPress dashboard I usually end up doing the whole “write a word, no that sounds dumb, write a sentence, ehhh” dance. I tend to want to jump around and address all different topics related to the prompt, or change my mind all over the place, and I’ve found it’s a lot easier to control these tendencies over longer, more academic pieces than for these blogs. So this class has definitely taught me the importance of being succinct yet comprehensive over just a few paragraphs. (Though I’m not sure my rambling tendencies will ever go away)

I’d also never really written in the kind of conversational tone I associate with blogging before this class, and especially early in the semester found myself self-conscious writing directly to my classmates (in retrospect, none of you are scary at all). I’ve grown a lot more comfortable blogging, and I think I’ve started to get the hang of the balance between super formality and super personal. I still haven’t gotten the hang of blogging with images (my instinct right now is to post a picture of pants to elude to the title of this post. I have since talked myself out of that idea), so that’s something to work on.

I’ve noticed that throughout the semester as a class we’ve collectively become more comfortable with blogging and each other’s styles, and I know that’s definitely helped me benefit from the blog beyond our required posts and comments. thanks guys!


second chances

Like some of my classmates have expressed, I never appreciated revision until college. In high school, my classes mainly required in-class writing, and time constraints, convenient rubrics letting me know exactly what I needed for an A, even boredom led to my “one and done” philosophy towards writing. I wasn’t pushed until freshman year to actually, you know, think about the words I’d put to paper. Now I find the whole process weirdly calming. I’m a big backspacer and re-reader as I go, but even that isn’t enough to save me from the awkwardness of initial thoughts all running into and around and between each other. Somehow I’ve grown to enjoy stepping back and trying to see my writing from a different lens.

That said, I’m no stranger to those awful hours staring at the same page, rearranging paragraphs and words and commas hoping everything will somehow fit together, until finally reality sets in and I admit (sometimes only a temporary) defeat. The opportunity to revise, both directly in this class and just the practice of turning in multiple drafts by hard deadlines, has made me realize the amount of work that really goes into writing that we just don’t see. I think I tend to glaze over the actual painstaking effort of my favorite books and assume their authors just sat down and came up with genius on the first try (this theory is most definitely supported by the whole “one day JK Rowling sat down in a coffeeshop and wrote Harry Potter on a napkin” story). Of course I don’t know anyone’s writing process but my own, but I probably discredit the amount of hard work, not just talent, that goes into really great writing.

brain pickings

Disclaimer: this post has nothing to do with our e-portfolios…

I know people say that you can carve out time for anything if you try hard enough, but I think as students we’re constantly processing so much information that I know even when I have actual spare time, my brain just wants to relax (and my stomach wants ice cream). I do think there’s a little space in there, though, and my friend recently sent me to this site that provokes some inspiration on a daily basis without asking me to watch a 20 minute TED talk that’ll Change My Life.

The author of Brain Pickings describes the site as a “human powered discovery engine for interestingness” and I think that sums it up better than I can. I just subscribed to the newsletter so I can’t vouch for that quite yet but the site’s daily articles span topics from writing to science to art to politics to all the little things in between and seriously, everything is just so freaking interesting and well put together. Just browsing a few articles gives so much food for thought and has really got me thinking about the importance of being genuinely curious in the world. I hope you guys check out and enjoy the site too and try to stay sane through these last few crazy weeks 🙂