Pre Shitty First Draft :)

All in all, this was quite the shitty first draft reminder!! I hadn’t thought past the conceptualization, so physically creating turned out to be a new challenge. My initial question going into this writing was where the introduction belonged in my final product. Then I realized an introduction already implies belonging at the beginning… I suppose what I will decide is whether this piece will be the writing that readers first see before going on to my feature piece. Since it somehow morphed into a bit of creative writing, I wonder whether I will need more explicit explanation. Perhaps not… Anyway, this was quite tough for me to start. We’ve talked about conceptualizing this project for so long that I was at a loss for how to begin. To begin with, I didn’t know what tone my introductory piece would take. I began writing with a more journalistic, investigative tone only to realize it sounded way too much like what my actual product will be. So I started over – the only thing that got me going to was thinking back to why my topic matters to me. And so I went back to the night of the election and began describing. Once there, I understood the tone I wanted.

Writing a personal description of my experience during the election means that my liberal political leaning is most definitely exposed – I feel that this is necessary to the introduction, but also don’t want it to compromise my credibility when writing my feature piece. I try to show how I am aware of my own biases and the influence of my environment, but I’m unsure how this comes across. As I edit this piece I’ll work more on this aspect.

I feel that there’s a fine line between writing a somewhat investigative/research-based journalistic piece and exposing who you are as a person – this goes back to my credibility question. Once you add the knowledge of the all the flaws of personhood it becomes more and more difficult to take their word at face value. However, as my final minor in writing project it’s important to me to also explore why I felt a connection to this topic, especially one to which I wouldn’t have gravitated two years ago. When I feel stuck, it’s a great reminder that also helped me create my introduction.

To be prepared for the feature piece, I need to sit down surrounded by printed out research pieces all wonderfully highlighted and organized, and make an outline. I found that when I really sat down and focused on only creating, my writer’s block went away. An outline will aid in both my creation and my organization, so it’s a win-win. I also plan on rewatching Adichie’s The Danger of a Single Story – it’s been too long since I saw the entire speech and that is another “go back to your roots” reminder.

Anna Forbes

Writing the introduction for my Capstone project was impactful because it helped me realize underlying motivations I have for writing a novel. Subconsciously, I was aware of these feelings, but I had not considered them as primary reasons for why I wanted to write a really long book (that is extremely likely to manifest into a trilogy).

My little brother is going to be the best husband (I promise there is a point to this). He grew up with three older sisters who have pounded the “Women are to be respected” mantra into his head. He can and has played every sport he wants to. He also plays guitar and piano and has an elaborate ramen bowl every day after school that he makes himself. He loves with his whole heart, something I have been given the delight of experiencing. He is a modern-day renaissance man. I love how he embraces the different ways God has made him. I don’t know if he’s had to deal with pushback from the world that says he has to fit in a box, or that cooking or hugging are not masculine. Nothing makes me angrier than thinking about the possibility that this might occur.

It is important to me that I am allowed to be a mix of person, too. I can receive joy from smashing a volleyball, singing Defying Gravity, and walking into the Clements. I used to picture librarians, or even women, as quiet and dispassionate and weak. I do not think this anymore. I am a strong woman writing about strong women.

Writing the introduction helped me solidify my primary characters. I will be writing flashbacks about Anna Pope, whom many scholars consider America’s first great female book collector (FBC), and Estelle Doheny, a devout Catholic and philanthropist who started collecting when her corrupt oil tycoon husband was convicted of a whole bundle of crimes. However, the story will revolve most heavily around Margaret and Anna. Margaret is my first minor character. She is based on two real women in my life: Margaret Carney, the Director of the International Dinnerware Museum in Ann Arbor, and Emiko (Emi) Hastings, the Curator of Books and Digital Projects Librarian at the Clements Library in Ann Arbor. They are my mentors and role models for my future career in libraries and museums. Margaret (the fictional one) is Anna’s mentor in the story. She will be written into many scenes, hopefully when she and Anna meet and as the narrative progresses.

Anna’s name is still in-process. I like the name Anna because it means “grace” and it is a family name. I have given her the last name Forbes, because it is a middle name. I originally named her Sophie Forbes, the name of my great, great grandmother, but it felt too selfish. It is also on my list of possible baby names for the future. I will report back on my final decision.

Names and motivations included, the most surprising revelation I had while writing the draft of my introduction is the opportunity fiction affords. At first, I placed the setting of Anna’s childhood in Camarillo, California, where my step-grandparents live. It did not feel right, because so much of who I want Anna to be is personified in Sylvania, Ohio, where I grew up. I modeled Ana’s childhood library and literary pursuits after my own. Everything in this snippet from the introduction is true:

She found escape and retreat in the attic-turned-library her mother built for her on the second floor. There were many places to sit: the window seat overlooking the driveway, the fluffy green rug that followed her to her college dorm room, the Pottery Barn Kids bean bag that seemed to decrease in surface area as she got bigger. There were many books to read. Her grandmother took her on a book-buying spree every birthday until she was 18. Some of her favorites over the years included The Amazing Days of Abby Hayes, the Harry Potter series, Anna Karenina, and an Introduction to Medieval Architecture (in that order).

At first, this too felt selfish and a bit annoying, but it is what I know. I know the way Anna thinks because I know the way I think. It is easy this way.

I also came to points when I felt like it was necessary to diverge from my personal story. An example of this is that Anna is 23 and already a graduate student in the University of Michigan’s School of Information. She is ahead of me, but I thought this necessary to build her credibility for the reader. It was a weird moment at first. I had the thought, “I can’t do this, it’s not real,” but then it became, “I CAN DO WHATEVER I WANT, IT’S FICTION YAY!” I usually cringe at dishonesty, and that’s what fiction feels like to me. Going forward, I need to find a way to shift my mental stance on fiction from dishonesty to fun storytelling.

Draft Development Mini-Assignment: Remember, Research, Write, Repeat

One thing that writing the introduction made me realize was just how compartmentalized the research of my piece is. This seems kind of ridiculous to say as it is very hard to have truly universal research that is relevant to all pieces of a project, but I feel it is very true in the case of my project. I realized in writing the first two vignettes (which I am considering analogous to the introduction) that so much of the research that I am going to be related discretely to only one vignette or maybe a handful of them. For example, in writing the first section I really didn’t use any of the content research that I had done up until this point. I can see where it will be relevant down the line but with respect to my introduction they weren’t really relevant.

What was relevant as far as research goes for the introduction was a research into my own past. I found myself having to rack my brains and try to remember what was going on in my life at the time that this moment happened and try to remember accurately what had happened. This is a form of research too which is hard to frontload at the beginning of a project as well as you generally don’t think about these things until you are sitting down to write them.

While writing these two sections I didn’t really feel inspired to look outside of my own experiences to what other people had experienced although I do not think this will always be the case. Some sections I have already included are motivated explicitly by external sources and I expect this may be true with many other sections as well. As terrible as this sounds though I think that with many of them I won’t discover these outside links until I am trying to write about that particular portion of the story. I think that this is in part because of the nature of what I will research. I am not looking up research articles and facts to support arguments that I am making aren’t really the kinds of things that I am looking for. The things that I have found myself researching are stories of the experiences of others and plotlines or stories in fictional books, movies, or TV Shows that touch on similar subjects that I am discussing and working through in my own memories. Thus, when I reach thinking about that topic it triggers me into thinking about that story or experience that I am remembering someone else talk about and I am compelled to look up and explore again.

Thus, I think for me a key component of research that I am now realizing might not be cramming all of my research into the beginning so that I have a full understanding and knowledge of what is going on might not be effective. What would be more effective is working along and trying to keep an open mind and not rush as I work through my experiences and the different vignettes that they are translated into. So, research for me may not be front-loaded but instead interspersed equally throughout my experience of writing the paper. In order for this to be viable though that means that I need to not dawdle in really starting to try and work on my paper. It will be pivotal that I start writing and working through my paper while others are still researching in order for me to fully do it justice as my research may come later.

I think I have laid some good researching groundwork especially with respect to form, where it is really necessary at this point. I have narrowed down what I want my piece to look like and seen a couple of different writing styles in this form as well so I can pick and choose between what I want it to look like. This, I think is where my research really came through in writing the introduction so far. I had a good idea of how I wanted to write these sections and have them look even though it is a more non-traditional writing style due to the amount of research that I have completed already.

I guess I have to start somewhere!

Writing an introduction at this point was more difficult than I anticipated. Not knowing where to begin, I started with a quote from the series of essays that has inspired me the most thus far. In the end, I do not anticipate that this will be my “starting point,” but nonetheless it was the only way I could think of starting being that Solnit’s quote was so prevalent to this project. I grappled with wanting to touch upon my own experience as an athlete in the introduction, but in the end, I decided that It would be best because it will increase my credibility throughout the rest of the project. I also had some trouble “beefing” it up. I am not finalized on the essay topics therefore I was not able to preview what I wanted to address about that in my introduction. SO right now it is definitely a little choppy. I wanted to end with a “thesis statement” of some kind in order to introduce the topics I will be discussing. I also usually write introductions after I have complete the first draft of the body of the project, because I do not want to go into writing the essays feeling I have to explain what I mentioned in the introduction, but rather create the introduction around what I have written about in the essays.

The gaps in my knowledge are still general feminist concepts/theories. I am not going to directly incorporate them into the introduction necessarily, but I do think that having a better understanding of their language and usage of worlds and phrases will allow me to better articulate the points I am trying to make. While conducting my research the questions that continue to present themselves are 1. How do you argue with money generation—sport is a business model? And 2. Why are the successful women in sport still underrepresented when they have proven to close the gap? I think even after this project these questions will continue to haunt me, but as I read more and more, I find evidence in athletes like Serena Williams or the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team, that at their caliber there should not be a difference in wages or representation in the media. Yes, currently male sports generate more money, but is anyone in the industry’s highest levels really trying to put women’s sport on that same map?

I admitted there was a lot I did not know before starting this project. Being that I study the sport industry because of my Sport Management Major, I have always been aware of the gender gap. More than 60% of my classmates are male and I am a part of a small percentage. But after conducting my research and reading about women who have voiced their opinions on the current state of inequality, I have come to realize the disparity more and more each day. I notice when I am reading the daily sport news how it is rare to find an article on a woman, I notice in my sport management classes when I am in a group project with all males that I am assigned less work/ responsibility, and I notice that when I am applying for jobs in sports the population of women in the front offices are limited. I notice this now, the parts of womanhood that I was ignorantly blind to before. I also thought I wanted to just comment on the harsh reality that women live in the industry, and I will, but I also want to comment on certain people’s success and how they have overcome obstacles in an industry that is not favorable to promoting female involvement at the same level they do men.

My plans have been to immerse myself in research over spring break so that is exactly what I am going to do to fill what the empty spaces that remain in my research. I have been having fun with exploring genres I want to emulate and blindly researching different topics, but now I need to get more specific with what I am looking for and how I am going to be concise with what I decide to write about. I do wish to get back to my patronous a bit more. Although David Sedaris does not necessarily write about females, or athletes for that matter, I think reading his work is refreshing and a great stylistic example that could encourage me to start drafting some of the essays.

More reading, more writing, more parenthetical citations!

It’s obvious that I need to do more research on how women perceive womanhood. This isn’t because I don’t feel comfortable making assertions within the introduction. But I know that quality and quantity of information is what gives theories and claims validity and reliability. For that reason, there needs to be more parenthetical citations at the end of my sentences. Being an undergrad, although I’m a senior, makes me conscious of being perceived as something other than an authority. A bulk of the written work will be conveying to an audience what I’ve unearthed through the interviews and the process of transcribing them. While the other 25% will be grounded in other people’s research. I don’t want that small, although important, section to give me anxiety about what I’m doing in my own research. So to confidently move forward I need to feel like my introduction and literature review are strong and thorough and well written, but also an accurate representation of my own processing of information and the trajectory of my project.

Through my research synthesis I realized that media texts about women/womanhood, and sometimes manhood, are incredibly helpful because they too are doing what I am seeking to do: meshing narratives/storytelling with definitions/embodiments of womanhood. Although these are portrayals of womanhood, or in some instances mother-daughter relationships, they tell me a lot about how identity is in conversation with structure, with objects, and with the inner self and psychological processes. How identity relates to structure specifically isn’t always a function of how we act or dress in public spaces, but also how we’ve come to conceptualize ourselves over time.

The most important thing that my research taught me is that womanhood really is a process, which has a component of inevitability and certainty. I think that element is either incredibly apparent or obscured. Caitlyn Moran makes it seem very apparent, but I think many people I’ve interviewed struggle to locate the line between the two. So what’s at the heart of our struggle with womanhood, is perhaps the coercive nature of change. Growth is often uncomfortable (physically in terms of the body, or even in relation to societal expectations and interactions at certain ages). I think what I might struggle with in my interviews as a result of all of this, is challenging the idea that we were passive in the past during our transitions or even now. Those transformative moments and relationships were as agentic as naming for oneself what womanhood is.

Questions writing a draft introduction has raised:

1. What literature exists to provide a working framework for my sub-hypothesis that a spiritual transformation underlies how women talk about what womanhood is, what it feels like, how it relates to their with their mother?

2. Would it be beneficial to make the literature review and introduction more narrative? I thought about this in relation to my exploration of media texts, like visual art work and film.

3. Where is it best to insert personal narratives about myself? (Introduction or Methods where it’s traditionally appropriate to talk about relationship to subject matter).

4. Can interviewees bring their childhood into adulthood through their understanding of their relationship to and remembrance of their mother/grandmother? Or is this something I will discern for myself through transcription and listening to the audio.

To have a solid first draft by March 10th I need to do a thorough analysis of how literature reviews are put together. As Jake mentioned, I need to review the references in the research I’m reading for my project. I also need to transcribe the interviews I have done so far in order to pull out initial themes and start researching what literature exists that make sense of the results. This blog post was perhaps more helpful than writing a synthesis or introduction. It felt easier to access my thoughts and make connections. I probably need to to more low-stakes free writing (like the draft development assignments) to create stronger drafts of my project.

Returning to Claudia Rankine, my patrons, will hopefully help me get back to the basics of good writing. Perhaps where some hesitancies lie within translating research into synthesis is in the quality of that translation, but also the impact. Rankine is a master at making experiences come to life. What feelings those experiences hold become tangible on the page.  It’s inspiring to read, but mostly to dissect how she uses words to narrate. I need to return to fundamentals, as Tharp suggested, to feel confident writing something I’m usually reading (aka research articles). Rankine also gives us all permission to be really daring in our work. I’ve been hesitant about what’s exigent about my project’s subject matter, in part because I’ve researched and read pieces that use the ability to define something for oneself as oppressive if it excludes another. Navigating this has been particularly tricky. Solnit really talks about the power of naming things. So I feel a little stuck, not necessarily in terms of moving forward in my project, but in relation to ethics and compassion.

Really Bad First Drafts Are Okay

Hello blogosphere! I feel like it’s been awhile since I’ve posted a new blog post directly from my account, so a warm greeting to all of those out there in Sweetland blog-land. My class was recently tasked with synthesizing all of our research we have gathered so far for our capstone project and then taking a crack at writing an introduction for our project (the real drafts are due post-Spring break, eep!). After diving into both of these tasks and creating a really really shitty first draft of an introduction (there were spots in my intro where I actually said “need more info” in parentheses), I have definitely come away with a greater knowledge of the things I need to research further and the overall deadlines I need to set for myself moving forward.

To give some background, I have done a majority of my research for my project on prominent women who attended the University of Michigan. A lot of this research has been focused on “the first women,” which, appropriately named, are the first female students to ever attend the University of Michigan. I feel as though I have a pretty well-rounded knowledge of what it was like to be the very first women to attend the University, but outside of that I do have a ton of other questions. A lot of these questions revolve around the experiences of women at the University between the years of 1900-present day. I know, I know. That is a HUGE time period that I have left unexplored in my research of University of Michigan women. I think a lot of that is due to my natural interest in people who are named “first” in accomplishing something. But regardless of my affinities, this introduction draft really opened my eyes to an entire section of history that I have been blissfully ignoring to research.

So moving forward, I am going to dig into the history of women in the 20th century. I have already done a little bit of research into the University’s first black Homecoming queen in the year 1968, and although that is a good start, I know I need to push my research further in order to fill my current gap in University history. I think one of the first places I will start is by learning more about the women who formed the Michigan League and what it felt like for women during that time to not be allowed into the Michigan Union building. Their experience is something I put in my introduction draft, but did not have enough information to fully uncover the impact the women of the Michigan League had on the University culture. In addition, I am interested in researching more about what it was like to be a woman, specifically a woman of color, during the Civil Rights Movement at the University of Michigan. I think Opal Bailey’s difficult, yet impactful experience as being the first black Homecoming queen during this time period speaks to a greater need for exploration into this historical era.

Opal Bailey at the 1968 Homecoming game. Source:

In addition, I found myself while writing my draft introduction asking a ton of questions about the experiences of more present-day students. Although I will be doing a lot of first-hand research on current day students through my podcast, I think it may be important to understand some of the diverse experiences of female students throughout the past few years. The Michigan Daily will be a great source for this information as they have a ton of op-ed and opinion piece content from women and women of color on campus. The newspaper also recently released a “Women Issue” a couple weeks ago that I am excited to explore.

In regards to my patronus Charles Baxter, I think it might be good to spend some time delving into his work over Spring break in order to better understand storytelling and characterization. Although my podcast and investigative bibliographies are non-fiction, I ultimately would like to tell a cohesive story of what it means to be a female student at the University of Michigan. Sharpening my storytelling skills will only help me reach this goal.

Research Reflections, and other thoughts

Hope all of you are managing your projects well. I anticipated some of this, but it’s been striking to me how much research there is for us to do. I feel like my topic is a little broad, so I’m focused now on trying to do as much research as I can without biting off more than I can chew and overwhelming the project. To do this, I wonder if I can come up with a reasonable, representative sample of sources, become an expert in their philosophies through reading their insight and glean some overarching themes from their work. So far I’ve gone mostly to longform journalists, but my next task is to dive into the Paris Review’s series of interviews with fiction writers to see what interesting things they have to say. And, I’m finding it helpful to use sources to get to more sources. For instance, one first-person essay I read praised the teachings of John Franklin in the book Writing for Story, which was a source I already planned on investigating, so writers’ knowledge of other writers has proven useful. If any of you have ideas about where to go for good advice from writers on writing, I’d love to hear them.

One challenge I’m facing now is the introduction. The structure of my writing will consist of first an introduction, in which I explain what this project is about; followed by alternating sections, half with stories and half with assessments of other writers’ stories. I have a good story planned as an example that kind of served as the inspiration for this project — one that I experienced while reporting a story but that I never got to tell because of space constraints. I was originally thinking that would be the first story of my project, coming right after the introduction. But then I thought it might be good to include it in the introduction so that readers understand my purpose for this project and what I mean when I talk about stories. So I tried the draft of the introduction with that story in it, and I think I’ll sleep on it and see what I think about it.


If I’m being totally honest, I feel as if between my annotated bib, project mini assignments etc., I am becoming absurdly repetitive as we continue to work toward completing our capstone projects. I have introduce my patronus, Russell Kirk, on too many occasions either via my writing or directly to my class/blog group in a workshop setting. I thought, initially, that choosing Kirk as my patronus could be beneficial in helping me to better understand the original focus of my project. However, now that my project’s angle has shifted, I’m pretty much over Kirk and his “Ten Conservative Principles” (which eerily felt as if they mimicked the ten commandments).

Trying to write an introduction was reassuring because, at the very least, it confirmed that my interest in my new topic is genuine. By the way, rather than focusing solely on modern American conservatism, I am hoping to explore the impact of our frequent use of such terms to define the way people think in American society. One question I might ask myself as I continue my research might be: is considering yourself to be either conservative or liberal beneficial to the overall progress of American society? I would almost consider that question to be rhetorical, but I know many that might disagree. I still intend to interview these people. BUT, I’ve given up on the idea of recording these interviews with a video camera (it just did not seem practical).

I have a lot to figure out before I am ready to work toward submitting something on March 10th. Luckily, Spring “break” has arrived. I hope to use the upcoming week to answer questions like what form should my renovated project idea be presented in. Podcast? A series of think pieces? Memes? I am not too worried, though. As soon as I commit to one form or another, now that I have my questions/arguments set, I think I’ll begin to make some serious strides.

If I were to share a tentative plan of attack it would be this: continue to examine the effects of the Trump presidency (and more importantly the realization that the Republican party is made up of more than what should be considered to be conservative), as well as the accuracy (or rather the inaccuracy) of the terms and labels we use to define our political beliefs and values. Then, I just need to start writing stuff.

God That Was Awful

Me, at the moment

I suppose there’s value in bad experiences, though?  Hopefully.

I am glad that I wrote a super shitty first draft of an introduction, because it taught me exactly what not to do in my actual project.  I know that might sound dramatic, but it’s the truth; I honestly am not sure that I could use a single sentence from that introduction in something that I would actually present to an audience.

Essentially, what I wrote was my condensed perspective on the situation in Detroit.  It was poorly organized, rambling, incompletely researched, and also highly opinionated.  As I was writing, I knew that I kind of hated the way I was saying the things I was saying; I disliked how condescending and sanctimonious it sounded, how unsympathetic it was to suburbanites, and how vague it was about my actual concerns for Detroit.  The issue was that I wasn’t acquainted enough to write about my topic in a way that didn’t feel over the top; I couldn’t sympathize with suburbanites because I haven’t yet investigated their beliefs (beyond cursory looks at Facebook statuses, which I always follow with a scowl), I couldn’t make specific points about my project because I haven’t yet found the stories to serve as evidence for my larger argument.

This is where I plan to go next.  I realized as I was writing that it would be so cool to use some sort of personal narrative, whether it’s my own, one I get from someone I know, or one I uncover through documents like newspapers and civic records (time to put those history research skills to work!), to capture all of the ideas that I was expressing in this introduction.  I don’t think that my feeling about Detroit’s ongoing transformation needs to be stated specifically; doing so would not only be less interesting than allowing stories to speak for themselves, but also might turn off people who don’t want to read a critique lambasting their worldview.  A story, I hope, would grab readers from the moment they approach my project, would make actually feel an interest in the stories of Detroiters.

I also see from this exercise that writing an introduction connecting the four essays in my project will probably be impossible right now.  I envision this introduction as a sort of skeleton for my project; it will hold together disparate elements, will ground them in common ideas about gentrification and urban change, and, because it will welcome readers to my webpage, it should make clear what is to come in my individual essays.  Because of that, I think it’s important that I tackle at least one of my essays first; my plan is that, by the time of my workshop after break, I will have a fairly complete draft about one of my topics.  My inclination at the moment is to write first about the QLINE rail; I probably know that topic better than any other, and I think exploring it now would give me the confidence to do well on my other sections.

Going forward, I’m still questioning how exactly I can keep this piece balanced and interesting to an audience that it is more or less criticizing.  I’ve actually thought about reaching out to Lorena Balic, from my blog group in Gateway, because she too did a project in which her target audience was not necessarily a sympathetic one (although her stakes were higher than mine).  What is the best way to get someone to hear something they might not want to?  Is it better to be blunt, or to lull them into thinking I’m on their side before I strike?  My natural inclination is to do the latter (I’ve watched too much Survivor, probably).  But again, I don’t want this to be a hostile project; I want to make people from the suburbs think, rather than criticize them, I suppose.  My guess is that this will prove to be the most difficult balancing act for me on this project; how can I rein in my own opinions to make a piece that will not exclude from its readership the very people who I’d like to see it most?  In order to solve this, I think it would be useful to look at some pieces in which the author had an opinion (or even agenda), but maintained a fairly unbiased writing style–I’m not really sure what one of these pieces might be, so any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!