Introduction to Blogging

Blogging has always played a significant role in my life. I constantly find myself scrolling through all different types of blogs: food to fashion to sports and so on. The Oxford Dictionary defines blogs as regularly updated informal web pages that are usually controlled by an individual or a small group of people. However, I find blogs to be a way for people to showcase their personality and opinions to outsiders. Regardless of what a blog may be about, the information that is shared usually shows us something about the individual writing it which is unique to this genre of writing and something that I find especially appealing. Blogs are often compared to personal diaries or journals. Additionally, blogs can cover a very wide array of topics. The only necessity is that you are passionate about what you are blogging about! Regardless of what ones interests are, they will without a doubt be able to find some sort of blog that resonates with something that they like and find interesting.

The structure of blogs is flexible. That is one of my favorite parts about this genre. You are able to make your blog unique to you! However, like for most genres, it is important that you capture your readers attention from the start so that they want to keep reading what you have written. Therefore, it is key to begin your blog with a catchy title and opening. This will introduce the reader to you as a writer and to the content that you will be blogging about. Another necessary component of a blog are images. A large block of words on a page can easily bore a reader and I know we have all experienced our fair share of that. Adding images is an easy way to engage with your reader and support the content you are writing about.

My favorite blogs to engage with are food blogs. As an avid foodie, I am always looking to try different restaurants and cuisines in all different cities. I love reading about peoples experiences at different restaurants and using these blogs to make my own eating plans when I travel to new places or am just exploring my local restaurants! These blogs allow me to connect with foodies all over the world which is something I find to be so unique and exciting. I love the pictures that many food blogs include and the detailed descriptions of what the writers favorite dishes are. I also love food blogs that include individuals recipes that they make at home. I am always looking for new recipes to try out and these food blogs give me great insight on new ideas!

I think it would be interesting to turn my origin piece about my childhood blanket into a blog. This would allow me to write about all different things relating to my blanket: stories from when I was younger, the best things about having a special childhood object, all of the places my blanket has traveled with me to and so on. I will be able to add pictures of me with my blanket from over the years which will give my readers an even greater insight into my life-long special relationship with my blanket. I am looking forward to experimenting more with this genre over the next few weeks!!

https://www.lexico.com/en/definition/blog

Introduction to the Genre of Fairytales.

For my second experiment, I plan to create a fairytale story. I loved learning about the blogging genre in my first experiment, but I now am interested in using a genre I enjoyed throughout my childhood, instead of a genre I use daily in this digital age. 

Ever since I was a little girl, I enjoyed a good fairytale bedtime story. Some of my favorite fairytale stories included Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, The Little Mermaid, and The Twelve Dancing Princesses. What I enjoy about fairytales is that they are all are consistent—they usually begin with “once upon a time,” or “very long ago.” Additionally, the story usually takes place in an imaginary land with magic elements. 

What is a fairytale? The dictionary definition of a fairytale is “a children’s story about magical and imaginary beings and lands.” The fairytale genre is one that has always excited me, and I look forward to exploring this culture!  I researched a few different sources about how to construct a fairytale and the conventions of a fairytale. I cited them below! 

Fairytales are made up of many fun, intriguing aspects: the moral lesson, an animal, a mysterious character, an obstacle, and a happily ever after ending. To make a good fairytale, each of these components need to be included. For example, in the very well-known fairytale Cinderella she faced the obstacle of having two evil step sisters and an evil step mother, all of whom made her do chores and suffer. The aspect of magic was the Fairy Godmother, and the moral lesson was “kindness towards all, forgiving others for doing wrong, and never letting bad things ruin your heart.” Easily one of my favorite childhood stories! 

I plan to take my personal statement essay of my experience and challenge being diagnosed with Celiac disease as my origin piece and turn it into a magical fairytale about being a young gluten-free girl on this path. I hope to include all aspects of a fairytale: a gluten villain, a magic gluten-free fairy creating all food to be gluten-free, and I am brainstorming some more ideas as I learn more about this genre! I hope to add some illustrations to my experiment as well. 

This is one of the sources I explored, where I learned some skills on how to get started creating my own version of a fairytale!

https://libguides.mssu.edu/c.php?g=185298&p=1223898

A(n) ___(adjective)___ Essay

Reflective/Personal/Exploratory/Belletristic

I went with a Mad Libs style title for this post, because I’m not entirely sure what exactly to call the piece of writing I’m attempting to create. I felt restricted when writing my origin piece as a rhetorical analysis and even more so when experimenting with Blackout. Now, I want the freedom to reflect on my political engagement by exploring my personal journey through different experiences relating to protests and politics. I know that I want to write a first person, non-fiction essay in which I describe and analyze my experiences, thoughts, and feelings. But when it came time to name the genre of said essay I couldn’t pick just one of my proposed adjectives (remember when I said I’m indecisive?). While most of them could describe the genre I’m interested in, I have issues with each of them.

A screenshot of Schlissel’s email announcing a 2020 presidential debate hosted by UofM. Coincidentally, I received this email on the very same day that I decided this would be my next experiment – all the more reason to do some reflection on my political engagement.

Reflective – Okay, if I absolutely had to pick just one adjective, I would describe what I’m doing as a reflective essay. The main point of a reflective essay is to analyze a past event from the present and reflect on how you have changed as a result. Essentially, this is what I’m doing, but I intend to reflect on a series of past events rather than just one. Furthermore, the reflective essay (like many other things) has been ruined by school assignments trying to make students “think more deeply about what they’re learning.”

Personal – A close second to “reflective,” personal essays have elements of narration and reflection that are appealing. Again though, I feel that the label of “Personal Essay” has been too marred by the CommonApp to truly encapsulate what I’m going for here.

If you really thought I was going to talk about any form of personal reflection without referencing Mulan, you are sadly mistaken

Exploratory – I love the idea of writing an essay about something that I still haven’t quite figured out myself. I want to reflect in a way that insights come throughout the piece rather than in a clearly defined thesis. Where I got caught up on the label of “exploratory essay” is that the explanations of this genre that I found in my research were all lacking the personal aspect that I found so appealing in the first two adjectives.

Belletristic – In all honesty I’d never heard this word before my research, but it’s really cool so now it’s here. I’m too unsure of the actual implications of this adjective to use it as a label for my genre, but after googling it’s meaning I knew I had to include it. I found the Merriam-Webster definition, “literature that is an end in itself and not merely informative; specifically light, entertaining, and often sophisticated literature” to be the most intriguing and fitting.

A location more conducive to insightful self reflection than the second floor of the UgLi

As I move forward in trying to write an essay that is personal, reflective, exploratory, and belletristic, my clearest guide is to look at examples of those who have already accomplished such a work. Primarily I am drawn to Leslie Jamison’s “The Empathy Exams” and Scott Russel Sanders’ “Under the Influence” as models for my essay. Where I believe these essays transcend the standard academic sense of the word “essay” is in their vivid narration, references to outside sources, interwoven reflection, relatable insights, and artistic personal writing styles. These are all elements that I hope to be able to include in my own essay.

Intro To The Photo Essay…

For my second experiment I want to try a photo essay. After my last genre X, I wanted to try something a little more abstract. I’ve yet to hear of anyone in my class interested in trying a photo essay, so I was drawn to doing something new and exciting. I’ve always loved photography. I may even be a little photo-obsessed considering I have almost 5,000 pictures on my phone at the moment. But, whether it’s capturing memories with family and friends, or beautiful landscapes and buildings of places I’ve travelled, I love taking photos.

What also sparked my interest in a photo essay was a piece I wrote last year in English 325. The paper took a very different approach to analyzing photography, arguing that society has become increasingly image-based and that we may be missing out on important moments, instead living behind the lens. I’m interested in transforming those ideas into almost a counterargument against my own argumentative essay. Looking back on it, I question whether or not I fully believed the points I made against the overuse of photography. I definitely do wonder if spending too much time taking photos is harmful, possibly taking away from real experiences. But, what about the special moments that can only be captured with a photo? With the genre of a photo essay, I want to not only demonstrate the amazing things photography can do, but also write with photos.

In terms of what the genre is- I did a little research. According to Wikipedia, (I know not a great source but I’m just trying to get some basic info here), “A photo-essay is a set or series of photographs that are made to create series of emotions in the viewer. A photo essay will often show pictures in deep emotional stages. Photo essays range from purely photographic works to photographs with captions or small comments to full text essays illustrated with photographs.”

So, from this I learned a photo essay can range in the amount of writing it chooses to include and sparking emotion is important. But then again, isn’t this the primary purpose of most writing? I’m interested in experimenting with the use of captions in my own piece.

Then, after reading a photography blog post called Collective Lens, I learned there are a few important elements in the photo essay genre:

  1. The story– Your essay should be able to stand alone, without a written article, and make logical sense to the viewer.
  2. A range of photos: A variety of photos (wide angle, detailed, portraits etc.) should be included. See the types of photos section discussed below.
  3. The order of the photos: It is important that the order of your photos effectively tell a story, in an interesting and logical sequence.
  4. Information and emotion: Your photos should include both informational and emotional photos. Those essays that effectively evoke emotion while providing information tend to convey their messages the best.
  5. Captions: In a photo essay, captions are your best opportunity to describe what is happening in words and ensure that the viewer understands. Include informational content in these captions if necessary.

The elements above actually didn’t strike me as too different from your average essay. They still demonstrate theme, emotion, require a topic or “story” to tell, and order matters. Yet, I love the freedom and ambiguity placed on how much/how little to include writing, and how much/how little information you should give the audience on what it actually is they’re viewing.

I’m excited to begin the process of my first photo essay!

Intro to Transcendental Essays

My first encounter with transcendental writing came in 11th grade English class when we had to read Walden by Henry David Thoreau. At first I was excited by the idea of diving into this new philosophical writing style that I had never really encountered before, but this excitement died down quickly when I got a concussion and still had to keep up with the transcendentalism unit. If you’ve ever encountered a piece of transcendental writing and thought it was dense, imagine trying to work your way through it while heavily concussed. Needless to say, my first interaction with the genre was not the most engaging or convicting to me as a reader or a writer. Something about it has always stuck with me though. I spend a lot of time musing many of the major points of the transcendental movement; nature, divinity, the connection between people and their environment; but have always held my distance from the genre. I wanted to explore transcendental essays through this experiment in hopes of overcoming my unfortunate introduction and exploring a style of writing I have felt disconnected from.

As I began to research this philosophical movement and the writing style that arose from it, the first thing that I felt like I needed to understand better was what made transcendentalism, transcendentalism. The main things I could find were that transcendental writings were grounded in an understanding of non-conformity and self-reliance with an emphasis on the importance of nature all centered around a air of divinity. There is also a heavy emphasis, overt or not, on the idea of the sublime, a certain abject greatness that one often experiences through interaction with their natural surroundings. In order to see these conventions at work, I went back to where it all began and took on a passage from Walden. The passage was a little different from what one would consider a traditional transcendental piece in that it was not mainly focused on nature. While this was still an important part of the chapter, a lot of it focused on a philosophical take on possession and human desire centered around purchasing a farm. Thoreau states, “As long as possible live free and uncommitted. It makes but little difference whether you are committed to a farm or to the county jail.” Thoreau really emphasizes the pillars of self-reliance and free thought here by promoting an idea of individuality and the benefit of living untied to society. This exploration of transcendentalism showed me a side of the genre beyond just what I expected (which was an author marveling at the beauty of some trees) and opened up the way I could approach the genre and the theme of political control of nature that is expressed in my origin piece.

Walden Pond– the inspiration for Thoreau’s book (photo courtesy of http://bostonmagazine.com)

When researching how to approach transcendental writing I came across a students’ reflection on the genre where they made an observation that really stuck with me. “[Transcendentalism] is about being your own person, using your intuition, and finding your own purpose in life.” (http://transcendentalismexploration.weebly.com/final-transcendental-reflection.html) As I continue through this course seeking not only a purpose for this project but for myself as a writer, attempting a transcendental essay seems as good a place as any to start.

Introduction to Satire

Being raised in a family of self-identified comedians, one of the phrases I heard growing up was “if you don’t laugh, you’ll cry.” The idea that one should take a comedic approach to life’s darkest moments is one that I’ve carried with me all my life. There’s something about the shock value of approaching a difficult subject with humor and honesty that can make the most specific topic relatable and really make people laugh. So when I was contemplating how to approach writing about a past relationship, it only seemed natural to approach the more painful details using satire.
Satirical essays tend to be brief and to the point, with detailed headlines that encompass the writer’s point. While topics range from global events to everyday experiences, the general premise of satirical writing is fairly uniform — a commentary on a subject, often made by exaggerating and making fun of it. According to satire writer Alex Baia, the most important aspect of satirical writing is a strong point of view. Writers use extreme specifics to differentiate their writing while making clear their overall point.
Satire serves as a way to extend self-deprecating humor to our entire society. By making fun of ourselves and the situations we end up in, whether it’s a toxic relationship or the leadership of a bigoted president, satire helps us cope with the harsh realities of today’s world. With websites like The Onion and The Hard Times accumulating staggering social media presences, it seems that everyone is looking for a piece of comic relief these days.
Satire can also serve as a reminder that we’re not alone by speaking to shared experiences among certain groups. After finding out my roommate went through a relationship and breakup almost identical to mine, I started sending her headlines and memes that fit our situation so we could laugh together at our shared relief and horror of what we had gone through. Just last night, Reductress, a feminist satire website, reposted an article on their Instagram entitled “Man Who Brought Immeasurable Amounts of Pain To Your Life Wants To Be Friends Again.” I was both surprised and comforted to see a headline that encompassed exactly what I had planned on writing about. The article, written in the second person, places the reader directly into the situation, thus maximizing its relatability. The writing is concise, detailed, and full of quotes that sound all too realistic. The article made me laugh, but it also made me feel validated, realizing one of my most personal experiences was actually not as unique as I thought. Posted just 20 hours ago, the photo of the article’s headline already has nearly 45,000 likes and over 1,000 comments, serving as a reminder that maybe I’m not so alone after all.

Screenshot of the Reductress Instagram post as of 9/24/19

Introduction to Fairy Tales

When I think of fairytales, I automatically think of my childhood. Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, Snow White, Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel and the list goes on and on. Logistically speaking, fairy tales are children’s stories that include magical and imaginary features and characters. Fairy tales do not necessarily need to be stories about fairies, but typically include a few majestical characters such as elves, unicorns, goblins, dwarves and so on. Many people recognize fairy tales as stories that begin with a phrase such as “Once upon a time…” and ending with a phrase like “happily ever after”. Additionally, most fairy tales feature both good characters and evil characters often providing the plot with a conflict and a resolution. But speaking from the standpoint of a 19 year old girl who grew up reading and appreciating fairy tales all her life, fairy tales are a fantasy that may feature a villain or a witch, but always end with the perfect happy ending.

For as long as I can remember, I have always been a fan of fairy tales. Nothing is more exciting than a story filled with magical characters and objects. As a young kid, I always fantasized about fairy tales relating to my own life. I recall countless playdates with friends which consisted of putting on costumes and acting out our favorite fairy tale stories. My favorite fairy tales as a child were definitely Cinderella and Snow White. My mom read me these stories as a young girl and I always followed up by watching the movies based on these fairy tales with my friends. Their inclusion of princesses, a main conflict, a villain and a happy ending appealed to me as a child and continue to appeal to me today.

I believe that writing any story, regardless of the setting, time or theme, in the form of a fairy tale can make the story more enjoyable to both write and read. Fairy tales allow people to escape reality for a moment and immerse themselves in a fantasy world for the time being. Fairy tales are an exceptionally creative, unique and special literary form. I think that writing a story about my childhood blanket in the form of a fairy tale will allow me to use my creative mind to add an interesting twist to my childhood story. Therefore, I am looking forward to the opportunity to turn a piece about an object that has a very significant meaning to me personally into a fun, lighthearted fairy tale.

https://literaryterms.net/fairy-tale/

Blackout Poetry: “If the CIA did haiku”

When I read Andrew Kleon’s description of blackout poetry (see above) the vague plans swirling in my head for unarticulated reasons seemed to click. I knew that I wanted to do something with President Mark Schlissel’s statement to the UM community amid the events of 2017 when known white supremacist Richard Spencer was trying to speak on campus. And I also knew that I wanted to try my hand at blackout poetry, since one of my friends had recently posted some of her gorgeously illustrated creative endeavors on her Instagram story. But only after hearing blackout poetry described as akin to CIA censorship did the connection between the themes of first amendment rights, rhetoric, and blackout poetry become clear to me. However, before I took on the grandiose visions in my head, I had to do some research to figure out just how one actually does create blackout poetry.

a collection of four different blackout poems by Andrew Kleon

Blackout poetry is created when the – writer? author? creator? – artist decides to redact all but a specific selection words from a physical piece of text. That’s the most generalized description that I can provide without inadvertently excluding any subset of blackout poetry. Since so much of blackout poetry is subject to personal creativity and visual presentation, I would classify it as more of an art form than a written genre – but I guess that’s why they call writing an art too, right?

There are a number of different approaches to making blackout poetry. In my discussion of the conventions of blackout poetry I’m going to break the whole process down into two halves: Composition and Creation. I’m using “composition” to refer to the process behind the words that comprise the poem and “creation” to refer to the physical manifestation of the piece.

I’m actually gonna switch things up on you and talk about the creation side of things first. The creation of blackout poetry starts with the selection of a base piece. Some people use newspaper clippings. Other people use random old books. Authorities on blackout poetry all seem to agree that you can use pretty much any previously written piece as your base. A general theme is that the base piece was written by someone else originally, but there’s no one saying you can’t blackout something of your own. Then, there’s what you do to the piece. Another general consensus seems to be that everything done to your base should be done physically – with sharpie paint, crayon, pencil, etc. Even though the New York Times apparently made an app that allows users to electronically blackout sections of articles, it’s just not the same. From there it’s up to you. Some people, like Kleon, stick to the CIA style plain black sharpie redaction, while others (see above gallery from Intstagram) choose to whiteout or add illustrations or collages to either change the visual appeal or add meaning to their poem. The physical presentation of the poem is where the artist has the most freedom, because they must draw their words from what’s already been put on the page.

When it comes to the composition side of things, a lot of people seem to say that the best, maybe even the only, way to to start is my skimming a page for a word or phrase that stands out to you. What to do after that is somewhat ambiguous. Some sources just suggest looking for other interesting words then (magically) putting them together to form a poem. When I talked to the friend who first sparked my interest in the genre, she explained that after finding the initial word or phrase she composes based on syntax. If the phrase is a noun, she looks for a verb, or vice versa, and eventually a poem comes out. She seconded the suggestion of composing on a separate notebook before doing anything to the actual piece, only marking it up when she knows exactly which words to keep. Blackout poems are all very short, maybe a phrase or two. However, it doesn’t seem like much about the text itself matters beyond this point. Some people claim that you need to redact at least 50% of the text for it to not count as plagiarism, or that you should avoid using more than three words in a row. Some people rely only on words in their exact form on the page, others adapt them with letters from adjacent words, or even black out all but a single letter from a word in order to spell their own. Some blackout poems read disturbingly like a “live, laugh, love” sign, while others are insightful, funny, quirky, or downright confusing. You write from what the page gives you.

Introduction to Photo Essays

For my final experiment, I am going to experiment with a photo essay. I had no idea what genre to pick for this last round, but Julie suggested a photo essay and I thought I would try it because a photo essay can be a pretty creative genre and flexible genre. While I’m not sure what I want the subject of my photo essay to be yet, Julie thought of doing something with tennis fashions, so I am considering that!

Hopefully I will be inspired over the next few days and come up with a great subject. If anyone has any suggestions, I would love to hear them in the comment or in class!! Especially am open to ideas that might be more out-of-the-box with respect to my origin piece, which discussed gender equality in professional tennis. I want to do something more creative/fun/light/apolitical.

 

In the meantime, here are some conventions and examples of photo essays:

  • A photo essay focuses on a particular theme, story, or subject
    • Experiences are often the subject of photo essays, from what I have seen
    • Usually, the author of a photo essay will introduce their work in the beginning, maybe telling the reader what inspired them and what they hope to accomplish
  • They have a title
  • There are several photographs and they are usually accompanied by text
  • The amount of text can vary, from shorter captions to a longer essay
  • Photo essays are often meant to evoke emotions in the reader/viewer
  • There is some type of conclusion or resolution to the work

I found through my research that photo essays can be very diverse in subject and message. This article describes a famous photo essay/book called 42nd and Vanderbilt by photography Peter Funch. Funch captures pedestrians on the street on their way to work over a span of years, which I found super cool.

This website chronicles the past and present of Detroit through photographs, and struck me as pretty remarkable. There are many longer pieces of text scattered throughout this website. The theme of this website seems to surround the “fall” of Detroit, as most images show the dilapidated buildings and other abandoned sites.

Here is a photo essay from The Boston Globe website that has little text, with only captions excluding the introduction. In the introduction, the author explains her motivation for the work, which was to try to rediscover the city for herself and learn to appreciate it in a new or different way.

I am looking forward to exploring this genre further over the course of my experiment. Again, if you have any suggestions, please please send them my way!

 

Intro to the Photo Essay

Returning back to my original piece and its focus on hegemonic masculinity in American football, I decided to flip the script: I will pursue a photo essay surrounding the evolution of women’s professional football in the U.S.

Did you know the U.S. had women’s professional football leagues? Did you know there are multiple? 

I didn’t, until my favorite Big Brother contestant Kaycee was one.

The general conventions of a photo essay are according to my personal favorite and always reliable source, Wikipedia, are as follows: a series of photos, made to evoke emotions for the viewer; can be purely photographic, include small captions, or full text essays that include photographs.

I am not a regular consumer of photo essays; therefore, this will be a bit out of my comfort zone (not as far out as a podcast would be, but definitely not as comfy as the op-ed). I found some really incredible examples to help me in this endeavor:

Brief captions:

A more interactive, multimedia approach:

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/10/11/style/this-is-18.html

Because I cannot travel to these games, nor travel back in time, these will have to be photos that I obtain from various media outlets. I still do not know exactly what the structure of the essay will be – this is something I could use all of your help on. Initially, I wanted to focus on the Legends Football League – former title, the Lingerie Football League. I worry, though, that a photo essay will play into the sexualization of these players and not tell the full story. Many are women who genuinely love the sport of football, and I do not want to contribute to a narrative that reduces these women to their uniform. If I focus on this league, I want to be sure to tell the whole story – how this is a product of American society, not the women’s autonomy. There are other leagues that I can focus on, that do not have quite the same, let’s say, controversial overtones: the Women’s Professional Football League, the Women’s Football Alliance, the United States Women’s Football League, among others. I want to do my best to portray the current status of women’s professional football in the U.S, something that I’m assuming most of us don’t know too much about. Any input you guys have is welcomed, and frankly, necessary. Plz help me.