Who Are You Writing To?

Assignment:

For this blog post, we were required to complete a mini-assignment from “Revising & Refining.” In this mini-assignment, we were tasked with looking at our Evolutionary Essay from the perspective of four peers: a top expert in our field, a trusted peer in the Minor in Writing, a trusted peer from outside of the Minor in Writing, and someone who isn’t an expert in writing or in our field. Reading our essays from these perspectives would help us see in a new light what’s working in this draft and what isn’t. Below, the four peers I chose and my predictions for each of their points-of-view:

  1. Emily Kramer: Emily was the director of the team on which I interned this past summer. Next week, I am interviewing at the new agency she works at. Emily works primarily with numbers, and her work is quite strategic. I think formatting my essay as an outsider looking at my work will make it easy for a reader unfamiliar with writing assignments at the University of Michigan to follow along. However, she doesn’t know anything about the Minor in Writing program or my major, so that may be something I would want to explain better.
  2. Hannah Schiff: Hannah is a trusted friend as well as one of my peers in the Capstone course. I trust her constructive criticism. I think out of all the potential audiences listed, Hannah would be most welcome into my work and understand my motivations best. However, I think she also would buy into it the least. She has experiences in many of the same classes as me, so I know she would be looking for clear, honest analysis of my academic writing.
  3. Joey Schuman: Joey, my little brother, is a freshman at U of M. He also writes for the Daily and is an amazing writer. Joey and I struggle with different elements of our writing. I think that they elements of my writing that I pick out to analyze wouldn’t be ones he would pick out on his own, but that he would understand them with my explanation. I bet he would suggest that I clarify the structure and format of my essay.
  4. Frances Hinkamp: Fran is one of my best friends from high school. She’s a great writer, but she’s pre-med and hasn’t done a lot of writing in college. She also would be very unfamiliar with the courses I took and assignments I completed for those courses. We talk a lot about how the curriculum differs tremendously between the small university she attends and U of M. She also has trouble getting out of her own head when she writes, so I think she could sympathize with that aspect.

Conclusions: My findings through this exercise are fairly similar to what I wrote about in my writer’s note for my Evolutionary Essay rough draft. My main concern is that the way I structured my piece and my reasons for doing so are confusing. This exercise supported those concerns. If I have doubts that Emily, Joey, and Fran, my three trusted peers who are unfamiliar with the minor in writing, will be confused by my approach, then I have to consider making some clarifying changes. I am thinking about explicitly stating who is “reading” these past works of mine and why their objective opinion is important. I also want to clearly mark the transition between my first-person voice and a third-person perspective. Also, I need to do some brainstorming on why I chose to approach analyzing my work this way and synthesize my ideas so they would be understandable for someone less familiar with the assignment than me.

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Can You Figure Out How This Bike-Powered Water Pump Works?

Like I said in my initial post about this article, it sounds like the type of article I would typically stray away from; admittedly, lately I’ve been addicted to “listicles” and anything involving food/wine and culture. But I think it could be stimulating to seek out “how-to” help from somewhere other than Google or Siri. Also, articles I usually skip over, such as ones about design or art, could be inspiring in interesting ways.

There is a video demonstrating a bike-powered water pump, an explanation of how it works, and a discussion about its significance. As a writer, I rarely consider challenging my audience to answer a question or develop their own arguments. In many of my academic writing classes, I’ve been taught to establish a strong thesis and use the rest of my essay to convince readers to side with my thesis. In a more open-ended writing class like this one, however, it has been interesting to experiment with asking a few questions in my projects that I do not necessarily have a concrete answer to, and asking my peers to determine their own conclusions.

First, I would love if my classmates viewed the below video demonstrating the bike-powered water pump:

Then, please consider the following questions for class discussion:

  1. What genre would you classify this article as belonging to? Why?
  2. Do you think the balance of text and images/video is effective? What were your initial impressions upon reading the article?
  3. Are there particular writing elements you see as being characteristic of “how-to” articles? How could you apply these techniques to your own projects?
  4. Do you think the technique of an author allowing a reader to draw their own conclusions before establishing them straight-away is useful in this piece? Why or why not?

Seriously, who’s gonna read this thing?!

A common concern of mine throughout the semester has been about who, outside of the minor in writing community, would actually want to read my work. This is especially true of the portfolio. While it has the potential to be beautiful and highly impressive, it’s also long and pretty involved to read. An exercise we completed outside of class allowed us to analyze our audiences. The activity didn’t necessarily convince me that everyone’s going to jump at the opportunity to read the portfolio. However, it reminded me that different people read with different purposes and different expectations. Even if they just glance at the portfolio and don’t spend the time clicking on every single link, they could find something to connect with. Below, the audiences I’ve decided will most likely actually read my portfolio:

  1. MiW faculty and peers: My minor in writing teachers, past and present, and other faculty for the minor, will likely be reading my portfolio for grading purposes. Thus, they will be expecting me to meet all criteria on the rubric. Also, though, they could be looking for ways to use my portfolio as a teaching tool for future cohorts. My minor in writing peers will likely be looking at my portfolio out of curiosity. We’re dedicating a lot of time to perfecting these portfolios, and I know at the end I’ll want to go back and see the diverse and highly outcomes of all our hard work. They also may seek some inspiration.
  2. Friends and family: I usually only send final drafts for most major projects I complete to my parents. Somehow, though, they end up in the hands of grandparents, cousins, aunts, uncles, and family friends. My dad is a writer, so sometimes he’ll constructively critique me or I’ll seek some advice from him. Other than that, those closest to me are usually just there to provide me support. They are who know me best, so if they praise my work and feel that it rings true to me, I’ll know that I’ve done my job.

    grannie
    My grandma’s usual reaction when I send her an essay on semiotics.
  3. Potential employers/networked connections: I am still debating whether to pass my completed portfolio on to potential or past employers. With my gateway portfolio, I felt more of a sense of urgency for potential employers to read it because I felt it would up my chances of being hired for an internship. Now, though, I want to do the portfolio more for me. I still may send it on to people I have networked with over the past few years or am networking with now who could find it relevant. I’m pursuing digital media careers, so this project could be useful in displaying my digital ability and confidence.

The Over Halfway Point

The semester is over halfway through, and at this point, our capstone class projects should be fairly developed! In class yesterday, we took time to pause from our projects and reflect on our personal writing characteristics. Optimally, we would be able to connect the aspects that characterize our writing at its best to its capstone projects. Below, the questions we were tasked to answer:

1. What characterizes your writing at its best?

I think a lot of times my best writing is what comes out of the “shitty first draft” very rough original draft. If I prevent myself from just writing without much thought, I spend too much time filtering myself to make sentences sound just right. Sometimes when I do that my writing ends up reading way too contrived. When I keep it simple and work off of whatever comes to mind first, the outcome is usually pretty insightful and honest.

On the same token, I’ve really come to appreciate the revision process. An interesting element that I could incorporate into my evolutionary essay is that I used to think of revision as almost the same as editing. I would just fix grammar and spelling mistakes and edit sentence structure. Revision takes much more time than that, though. In effective revision, the theme and organization of the piece of writing as a whole gets considered. The writer evaluates how to rearrange or rewrite to make the piece the strongest.

2. How will your project reveal something about you as a writer?

In relation to the above point about revision, I think the fact that I’ve decided to switch gears with my topic and genre at this point in the project reveals somewhat of a sense of humility and thoughtfulness. Although this project is long, I’m trying not to just go through the motions. If it means going back through what I’ve found so far and continually adding research, then that’s what I’m going to do.

Being given the opportunity to write about something we’re actually interested in will hopefully manifest positively in the final product. I hope my passion for and curiosity about mindfulness will be reflected in my personal narrative. I’m also prepared for this essay to reveal some flaws and insecurities about me both personally and in my writing. I’m using some pretty wise, intimidating examples, like Amy Tan and Joan Didion. It’s hard for me to mimic their style and voice while also making it personal, so I think that flaw will come through in my writing. It’s also a topic I am constantly learning about. A wide audience will likely to be able to relate to my piece because I will be writing alongside them.

3. What do you still not know about yourself as a writer?

Ugh, it feels like quite a lot. Sometimes it feels like every time I’m asked to do one of these reflective exercises about my writing, I end up talking about the same aspects of my writing. It’s hard to uncover things about yourself when you’re the only set of eyes. I actually think it would be helpful for other people to pick out some interesting qualities about my writing.

But I am curious about how my voice has developed over the past few years. Like Julia said in class, it’s exhausting and pretty difficult to find ways your writing has developed when you’re just exhausted and worn out of writing. But like her, I also feel like my passion for writing has decreased a little since freshman year. That could just be attributed to the sheer number of similar academic essays I’ve had to write over the past four years. Freshman year, I would write and revise my essays to perfection. Now, between job applications, trying to have a little fun second semester senior year, and an unusually high workload, I feel as though I’ve lost a bit of that passion. It’s been nice to have so much time to work through the capstone project and find what really makes us excited about it.

BONUS: here’s a link to one of the really interesting pieces I found about mindfulness through my research!

 

 

 

“That Person”

Shelley often brings up “that person” from her previous gateway and capstone courses, the student, each semester, that overhauls their entire project midway through. She says this not to freak us out, but rather to reassure us that it’s completely okay if we have a change of heart midway through the project. I never thought I would be “that person” but there I sat in workshop today, listening to my peers give feedback to a project very similar to mine, re-evaluating the choices I had made so far.

Here is what my mock-up looked like before workshop today:

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Through meetings with my mentor, a professor in the Communication Studies department specializing in journalism, and with Shelley and my blog group, I came to the realization that a journalistic style may not be the best fit for my topic. My mentor said that for something to be considered “journalistic” it had to take a unique angle on a topic and find something newsworthy and important. I was seriously stretching to find something especially current about yoga, mindfulness, college experiences, and my personal experience. My introduction naturally took more of a narrative style, which leads me to believe that may be a more realistic avenue to pursue. In class today, my blog group was supportive of that idea. They feel as if my passion for the topic would best come through if I really put my agency and experiences in it like a narrative, rather than taking myself out of the piece like in a journalistic piece.

It also helped to hear my peers’ feedback on Cameron’s project. Our topics are fairly similar, both revolving around health and our personal experiences with an active practice. The language and tone his piece took on inspired me, and I valued the advice he was given on where best to introduce the “importance” or “what now” of his piece.

Moving forward, I first want to meet with Shelley and clarify my ideas. I know I’m not completely re-hauling my project, but I am admittedly very type-A and feel like I can’t move forward until I’ve made certain decisions with clarity. Then, I may need to read some personal narratives as research and decide on the best platform/audience based on my new genre. I think that I should also revisit my previous research to see what I can take away from it and apply to my new ideas. Finally, I will need to rethink the structure and content of my piece.

What I am still struggling with, even after talking it over with my blog group, is finding my purpose for writing, why it’s important to me and why I feel like now is the right time to write it. Any feedback, seriously, about yoga, why it’s important to you, why it’s relevant now, and the challenges and benefits of mindfulness, would be much welcomed and appreciated.

 

Is Yoga for Everyone? A new way of thinking about my Capstone Project.

Honestly, going into the session I thought I could be one of those students Shelley talks about, the ones that decide to completely change their topic midway through the process. I still don’t feel completely confident in my project, but I feel better than I did before workshop.

One of my major concerns about my project was if it was important enough, or if it could enter into a larger social conversation. My classmates had some interesting advice for me in terms of connecting the personal nature of my topic to a bigger picture. Becky suggested asking an interesting question: Is yoga for everyone? It’s a trend that doesn’t seem to be going away, but just because it’s trendy doesn’t mean it’s right for everyone. Pre-workshop, I didn’t even consider the high prices of yoga class or looking closely at the “hype.”

I was happy that my peers could validate the relevance of my audience. Julia brought up that a college student’s life is based around a schedule where you are always looking to the next day, which is completely contradictory to the thinking of yoga. I also never considered focusing on U of M students in particular, but it could be something interesting to bring in, as U of M students are lucky to have the resources of many yoga studios that other college students may not have.

I’m fairly impatient by nature, so I’m ready to write this next formal proposal and get my thoughts out in writing again. For next steps, I really want to think carefully about a publication venue, because I think it could narrow in the angle I’d like to take in my journalism piece. I also need to do some research on immersive journalism. Some written student comments during my pitch included names of teachers to be used as resources for journalism help, so I will definitely be checking those out. I also will keep browsing journalistic pieces about yoga for information and inspiration. This one was a great example.

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Distinctly Different Writing Communities

My English 325 class is a diverse and welcoming community. We’ve only met once so far, but in that first class, we went around and shared interesting facts about ourselves. Usually these activities are quite dull and repetitive, but in this case, I heard some completely unexpected stories. My own fun-fact, that I studied abroad in Prague, seemed boring in comparison to what some of my classmates do or have experienced. The detail my peers shared when characterizing themselves came through again when we were asked to write in detail about somebody that raised us. My classmates were vulnerable, passionate, and sometimes messy, but most importantly, they were very open.

In contrast, the writing assignments in my communications courses can often feel more limiting. Last semester, I took a communications course about global iconic events. Our only essays were two identical assignments, different only in topic choice. We were tasked with writing about how the media portrayed two different global iconic or media events. I almost felt uncomfortable writing my second paper, about Malala Yousafzai’s Nobel Peace Prize ceremony, because it was sounding freakishly similar to my other paper, almost robotic. We did some in-class workshops where I read my classmates’ essays, and so many of them sounded the same. To me, this consistency in produced work is a reflection of restrictive writing guidelines and assignments in the communications department. I find myself sticking to scripts and feeling uncomfortable with sharing “too much” in these types of courses.

The writing in each of the unique writing communities I have been a part of has been a reflection of the people in that community itself. So far, our community in Writing 420 with Shelley has been welcoming, comfortable, and inspiring. If it continues this way, I am excited to see the writing my classmates and I produce.

3 Magazines Every Writer Should Consider Reading

For one of our first small assignments, we were tasked with reading this article and deciding which three magazines we were interested in reading. I did not begin making my list with the intentions of choosing the magazines in any particular way. Ironically, however, I chose one magazine I already read, one that I would be likely to read, and one that I would not normally choose to read, but that I would like to challenge myself to.

One of the more interesting articles I found was from “Make:” magazine, “Can You Figure Out How This Bike-Powered Water Pump Works?”  This article is crazy. There is a video demonstrating a bike-powered water pump, an explanation of how it works, and a discussion about its significance. As a writer, I rarely consider challenging my audience to answer a question or develop their own arguments. In many of my academic writing classes, I’ve been taught to establish a strong thesis and use the rest of my essay to convince readers to side with my thesis. In a more open-ended writing class like this one, however, it could be interesting to experiment with asking a few questions in my projects that I do not necessarily have a concrete answer to, and asking my peers to determine their own conclusions.

Below, the three magazines I will be adding as new bookmarks to my browser:

1. Make:

I would love to challenge myself to read this magazine. It sounds like the type of magazine I would typically stray away from; admittedly, lately I’ve been addicted to “listicles” and anything involving food/wine and culture. But I think it could be stimulating to seek out “how-to” help from somewhere other than Google or Siri. Also, articles I usually skip over, such as ones about design or art, could be inspiring in interesting ways.

2. Lucky Peach

Lucky Peach sounds like a way more fun version of the culinary publications I usually read, like Food and Wine or Cooking Light. Anyone who knows me at all knows that I love cooking, baking, trying new restaurants, and devouring cookbooks, restaurant menus, and food magazines. Upon visiting the Lucky Peach website, the first issue that screamed out at me was the one about breakfast. Beyond just breakfast recipes, I can satisfy my breakfast obsession through articles like one about the resurgence of the New York bagel or how to keep eggs fresh for eight months.

3. Fast Company

When my dad lost his job 7 or so years ago and was creating his own company, we began to get Fast Company delivered to our house. Even though at the time, I was in high school and had no intentions of looking for a job or creating my own business, my dad encouraged my brother and I to peruse the magazine to gather inspiration and motivation. Since then, I’ve continued to read the magazine fairly often to get inspired by what young entrepreneurs are up to and to stay up to date on modern workforce trends.

 

To future minor in writing students:

Congrats on making one of the smartest academic decisions during your time at U of M. To be honest, I initially took interest in the Minor in Writing because I was a COMM major looking for a way to beef up my credentials and take some actually enjoyable classes. I’m so glad that the minor fell into place for me because it has become a part of my academic life here at Michigan that I truly enjoy.

The minor in writing is far more than just a set of classes with a quota of credits needing to be met before graduation. It is a small community in which you develop as a writer and a person, and through which you get inspired by your peers in a very unique way. The freedom of having to only take 2 “minor” classes, and to develop your writing through classes in all disciplines, allows you to develop writing skills in a wide variety of areas. The classes for the minor itself are meaningful and challenging in all the right ways. Your first semester, you will take the gateway course, in which you will have the opportunity to transform old pieces of writing, utilize multimedia platforms, as well as create your own website. I am so proud of the website, or “ePortfolio,” I have created as a summation of this course, and have already passed it on to potential employers, friends, and family.

With that said, the writing minor is an extremely unique community full surprises. Part of the fun are the accomplishments and challenges that are a part of the gateway course, but here are some tips for your first class so you’re not going in completely blind:

1. Take advantage of the fact that your cohort only has about 50 people, with a group of faculty who really want to help you. Unlike your major, for which you probably wait with 25 other students just to meet with your GSI for 5 minutes, the minor in writing faculty will set up appointments with you and are completely responsive and accommodating. Meet with those faculty and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Develop relationships with the people in your class and the other class in the cohort. You will get so much more out of the minor when you play an active role in the minor community.

2. Step outside of your comfort zone when it comes to choosing project topics, platforms, and content. Unlike traditional academic assignments, the writing minor assignments are less structured and allow so much more creativity. If you’re in a pretty rigid major like me, this will be your only opportunity to play with videos, Tumblr, Prezi, etc. and to write so personally, so take advantage of that.

3. Make yourself vulnerable to feedback. In no other class will you have the opportunity to receive peer revision on so many mediums, in so many stages of your paper. I wasn’t used to having people spend 20 minutes talking about a piece of my writing, so that took some getting used to. But that feedback was so crucial when it came time to revise my paper; the revision process came so much easier when I had a diverse variety of opinions to work with. It seems scary at first, but trust me, it makes you a better writer in the end.

Overall, just be so, so excited about what’s to come. You’re now part of a tiny but extremely special and meaningful community at a school of 50,000. I swear it feels like I was just reading an older cohort’s advice for me. Before you know it, you’ll be doing the same. BEST OF LUCK! 🙂

The end (for now!)

Woah…I cannot believe this is our last blog post of the semester. With my going abroad next semester, there have been a lot of “lasts” lately, yet each new “last” time continues to shock me. I’m not so sad about having to leave a few things behind in Ann Arbor until senior year; namely COMM 122, dreary winter weather, and many of my “same-old” routines. Still, I’ve grown to love WRITING 220 throughout the semester and will be sad to leave it behind me.

The ePortfolio process has been my favorite project of the semester. From the initial brainstorming stages, to the hours spent playing around with different templates, design, and organization, to the reflection, watching the portfolio develop has been so exciting. When I was first accepted to the minor and was browsing through past cohort portfolios, I was beyond intimidated. Based on how daunting this technology-filled project initially was for me, I’ve surprised myself with how smooth the process has been.

Admittedly, I get a little portfolio-envy when we do showcases in class or do peer review and certain portfolios have features I didn’t think of or awesome designs. The most identifiable fault to my project is my lack of design compared to my peers. Still, I stayed true to my exigence from the beginning; to make a clean, simple, easy to navigate portfolio for potential employers.

I am proud of my reflection and organization, but I am most proud of how I tackled technological changes head on. Instead of becoming easily frustrated like I have with media based projects in the past, I calmly approached tech-y wrenches that were thrown my way.

Click on the image below to see my (almost) complete portfolio! If these types of projects are a preview of what’s to come for the rest of the minor curriculum, I can’t wait.

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