Dear Prospective Minor in Writing Applicants,

I was hesitant to apply to the Minor in Writing because, well, I didn’t really know what it was. It was introduced to me with an email forwarded from an older friend without any real explanation. As I searched the Sweetland Center’s website I understood the structure of the program, but I still had unanswered questions. How much freedom do I have to write what I want? Am I just going to be studying grammar and punctuation all day? What will the classes be like?

I wished I could have seen students’ work, their progression, their struggles. I wished that there was a glimpse into the program other than the descriptions of courses and historical syllabi.

Over the course my time in the Minor in Writing Gateway, I’ve developed an understanding for all of these questions. And so, I wanted to share my experiences to show you, the prospective applicants, my struggles and progression, my missteps and successes.

An accumulation of my experimentation can be found here, in my Gateway ePortfolio.

You’ll see a discovery of my writing process, how I learned to think again. You’ll see the progression of my voice and how I learned to highlight it throughout various genres. You’ll see how I developed a strong sense of different audiences, and how they might react to assorted techniques.

And hopefully, you’ll see how I plan on continuing to experiment and question my ideas from now, until my final Capstone course, and beyond.

Happy reading, prospective students. Send in that application; you won’t regret it.

Best,

Ashley

An Open Letter to Future Cohorts: Welcome to the CHAOS

Dear Writing Cohort-folk,

First of all, congratulations!  Getting admitted to this program is easily one of the coolest things that’s happened to me since coming to U of M.  The projects in the gateway course are really fun, and, if you play your cards right, they’ll  really push you to grow and develop as a writer.

This brings me the main point of this blog post: “playing your cards right”; what exactly does that mean, and how do you go about doing it?

The answer is simple, but much easier said than done: You need to constantly revisit the chaos.

There’s this article I read for Writing 300 (Seminar in Peer Tutoring) called “Responding to Student Writing” by the very smart, scholarly Nancy Sommers, where she discuses the notion of “revisiting the chaos” in writing, meaning re-entering the place in your writing process where you feel lost, overwhelmed, or just plain old unhappy because you’ve cut too much, rearranged things in a weird way, or have done something else to really mess up whatever balance you had in the previous draft.  For her, revising is built on this notion, and I couldn’t agree with her more.

The truth is, I don’t think you’re really a writer until you reach a point in your work where you think you’ve completely destroyed everything and have no hope of recovery, only to find a few minutes later that you’ve made the piece waaay stronger than it was before.  And I think you need to do this at least 3 times.

For me, this is what the gateway course has been all about.  I have been revisiting the chaos so much that I practically live there.  Is this terrifying, stressful, and at times awful?  YES!  But DAMN have you read my essay for Project 2???  That stress and terror are worth creating art I feel proud of.

My point in telling you this, future writing minors, is not to scare you off, or give you any sort of tough love.  I just want you to know that if you find yourself feeling freaked out, lost, or overwhelmed in your revising process, it’s okay.

This is a good time and place to be lost.

Lorna Goodison- How I Write

Yesterday evening, I had the pleasure of attending the Sweetland Center for Writing’s How I Write serious featuring Lorna Goodison. The audience was treated to the author’s reading of her own poetry from her most recent book and answering of some questions from the audience.

Lorna is Jamaican, which caused for an interesting reading as her accent added flavor to her poems spoken aloud. On the same note, she talked about many different places and cultures across the world. The entire reading felt like an exotic experience, not only inspiring me to write about the places I go, but making me feel as if I had been the places she talked about.

It seemed that she wrote about many things that simply interested her, mostly items that came from her heritage. She wrote about Africans or Christopher Columbus, as a kind of homage for what her history has done for her now.

This reading was a great experience and I’d be interested to see how other authors come off in the same context

Sweetland Writing Center

Last week, I went to my first appointment with a Sweetland counselor and found it very, very helpful.

Instead of jumping straight into my pieces, we talked a long time about background, the purpose of the assignment, and where I was coming from. Only after that did we begin to go over the pieces, in which he pushed me to think of all the different possibilities that a story could present. Wanting to turn my memoirs into fiction, he showed me ways the story could develop and allowed me to question myself on how much I wanted to develop it in certain directions.

He also gave an incredible tip in setting up characters. I was finding it difficult to write in new tones or voices, and he said sometimes that is most true for particular characters in a story. As a suggestion, he recommended basing those characters off someone in my life that I was very familiar with, someone who’s personality I understood quite well, and to use their thought process for my characters, allowing creativity to make its own changes. This was a way to build distance between me and my writing and to allow for the opportunity of multiple voices from one author.

The appointment allowed me to go back and revise my stories, radically, again. I think this repurposing assignment has been the single assignment where I’ve done such comprehensive, completely new revisions every time. My stories come out looking almost heads over tails new, but somehow, I’m not upset that it’s changed so much, rather, excited that I can see it becoming more well-rounded and can only hope that the development continues.