November 10, 2007

back in black (and a red bandana)

hey guys!

i haven't blogged in so long. i miss it! i miss reading all your intellectually stimulating (and otherwise) comments and speculations. i don't know about you guys, but my life has taken a turn for CRAZY. srsly, i've never been so busy. no wait that's a lie, because that's exactly what i said last year around this point in the semester. so, by extensive use of logic and deduction, it is that point in the semester when everything goes nuts.

by the way, it's super cold in my room, which is causing many typing mistakes. my fingers can't handle the pressure without slipping up a little, do forgive them. *goes to find a sweater*

yeah, so back to crazy busy! i've got a midterm monday, a huuuuge drawing project due tuesday, and of course, my inquiry paper to work on. thankfully my graphics studio prof has given us a break, but not for long, so i'm taking advantage of my time.

but here's the REAL reason i blogged today. as i've already established by my halloween costume,Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucketmy dad is a pretty cool guy. last night he and i were having a great conversation. somehow we started talking about when he first came to america and was going to school, and he was telling me how hard it was for him to adjust to going to school here. when i asked him why he told me that although he was very fluent in english (he and my mom attended british schools), the system of education was so different here that it was hard for him to understand the expectations of his professors. there is also a lot of importance placed on presentations in america, since we use them as one of our main means of communication of ideas in education and the workplace. (case in point, research presentations!) but not in india. i started thinking of my dad as a non-native speaker back in 1970, going to his university writing center, and said to myself, "cuuuuuute!"

i'm pretty sure he didn't have a writing center at his university, but still, he was in the same position as many non-native speakers that come into the c4w. it's incredible to think he was at that point back then, because he's had so much experience in the business world by now. that's 30+ years of work right there. i was also talking to him about urdu (which he brought up, because he loves talking about it) and i discovered that i don't actually know urdu. i know HYDERABADI urdu. hyderabad is a city in india and apparently has a very colloquial version of the actual language of urdu. it's a combination of hindi and farsi, as well as some arabic i think. the other day when i was talking to Jayashree, she told me that she finds it hard to insult someone in urdu. and i was like ARE YOU FER SRS?! because i'm really familiar with some pretty heavy duty swear words, i love them. but what i discovered is that all of those words, adopted by urdu-speaking hyderabadis, are actually hindi words. so pure urdu is to hyderbadi urdu as british english is to american english. HUGE difference! my dad gave me an example of how he and his friends used to make fun of those "pure urdu speakers": instead of saying "your mom" you would say something like "instead of praising your mother, i am going to insult her." it was so great.

by the way, for those of you who didn't know, i found out that freddie mercury was INDIAN. that just upped my cool factor by about 10%! and i was already pretty cool to begin with! anyway, so now i'm thinking about languages and all the cool ways they can be used. i wish i had time to do stuff again, because then i could learn some more about urdu. oh well, i always have...when i'm old, i guess...yeah.

one other thing i have to mention: for all of those who heard my "little brother being eaten" story, i should mention that in the nightmare my brother was a muppet. it was scary and sad. i hate nightmares. i'm glad i don't have a little brother so he can't be a muppet and get eaten. see you all on tuesday!

September 30, 2007


So I'm lounging in front of my monitor right now, pumping out a fairly straightforward bit of literary interpretation (Melville's "Bartleby," if you're curious). The word count says I'm at 652, which I'll take for 45 minutes of work. I've done much worse. . . and because I have no attention span to speak of, I'm on the blog again! Great. . . but anyway, a question popped into my head, so I figured I'd toss it to the group: how has consulting for a few weeks changed the way you write essays (or anything else, for that matter)?

Personally, I think I might be operating a bit differently re: strategy in short papers. I can be a long-winded bastard sometimes, which is fine and dandy when I'm off doing my own thing but tends to cause problems on three-page papers. A teacher of mine liked to talk about "insight density"; that is, cramming the most insight possible into each paper. I've always liked that idea, but I've usually applied it to papers that are five pages at a minimum, which gives me room to "get cute" a bit while still getting plenty in the essay.

Since I've had a lot of people coming in to see me from those new 1301/1401 WRIT classes (including, I think, three people on the same assignment) I've been helping people with a lot of shorter papers (like the one I'm supposed to be writing now) and one thing I often encourage is to get to point rapidly and develop it as much as possible. This seems basic, but it's something I'm awful at. I'm starting to think that consulting on shorter papers is making me better at writing them.

Anyone have a similar experience, or am I a tad nutty?

September 25, 2007

What Happens if One is Not a Creative Writer? Sept. 26

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September 13, 2007

Well, that was strange

I tell you what: writing this little biography has been plenty weird. I've never been the type to keep a journal or anything like that, so trying to sit down and write about myself (not an especially interesting topic) was. . .strange.

It was, however, the first thing I've written in DarkRoom. I'd highly recommend it if you have a short attention span (which I do); I think there's a superior Mac-only program for those of you who go for that sort of thing, but I really enjoyed the DarkRoom experience.

September 6, 2007

no gods, no ghosts, but...

It’s a little strange, considering my lifelong love of books, that my earliest book-related memory should involve being paralyzed with horror. The book was Cuentos de Terror – Tales of Terror – a small, blue, hardcover book with a sharp-edged spine and a shiny layer of shellac over the top. I don’t remember much of the book’s contents, because as a child I was always too afraid to even look at the book from across the room, much less open it. It was squeezed in on the far end of the bottom shelf of our living-room bookshelf, and I remember being in that room alone, around age 5, overwhelmed by its presence, and definitely not looking at the book – that would be madness – but always keeping its image on the periphery of my vision, testing my limits like I was chewing on a cankersore.

On the cover, under the nondescript black title, was the stark scene, all browns and yellows, of a little boy crouching behind a rock, watching a witch riding a broomstick above him in a muddy gray sky. I can’t say what made me so deliciously afraid of this image. The burnt, colorless landscape, maybe. Or my sad certainty that there was nothing off the edges of this picture; that this kid had no house, no family, no mother, and it was just him and the rock and the witch floating around up there, perpetually just about to discover him.

That particular image isn’t terribly important to me today. I’m indifferent and sometimes actually hostile to a lot of the what gets called “horror? these days. But remembering it has got me thinking about the powerful, physical presence that books can have in a given space. That little book transformed my whole reality, creating a kind of vortex where the textures of the book bled out into our yellowed curtains and into the dark of the patio behind.

I hope I’m not reproducing a clichéd Neverending Story narrative here, but it’s true. As much as I use fiction as a means of escape from reality, reading is also a physical act for me, an act that engages me with my surroundings in unexpected ways. I’m not a mystic, I swear, but growing up into political and cultural consciousness has only strengthened my awareness that text can act on the world, and that stories can enter into and transform it. Which might be the central reason, actually, for my aversion to most horror movie narratives: I worry about this rapidly growing mass of fictional hells, because they’re real, in a sense, and we human beings are responsible for them.

literacy... OK; numeracy? not so good

Just from talking about our reading/writing selves in class on Tuesday and now reading your own stories about developing literacy, my head is spinning with memories, feelings of "yea, me too," and "whoa, THAT'S interesting!" Biking home on Tuesday night (after reading just the first couple posts), I had a vivid memory of my kindergarten classroom and the "letter people." Did you all have those cartoons posted up in your elementary classrooms? All the vowels were female, and the consonants were male. Since I didn't want to be a boy (aren't 5 year olds the most obsessed about gender?), I chose to be "Miss I" for an in-class performance about something that began with the letter (the exact moves of my "itching dance" are best left forgotten). At that time, I was terribly shy, so I'm sure the stress of performing in front of my classmates is what burned it into my brain.

Yet, I had completely forgotten something else I used to do that now seems related: when learning about numbers, I turned those into characters too, drawing hair on them and assigning each a personality and gender. 1, 2, 6, 8, 9 were female; 3, 5, 7, and 10 were male. I was never quite sure about 4. I was always thinking about the numbers as characters, although their characteristics could change. I'm sure that had something to do with my love of stories and characters in fiction. I don't remember when I stopped thinking about numbers as characters, but I don't think I've ever really had a rich sense of connection with numbers since then. I'm always transposing numbers in my head, I forget them quickly, and I've never felt like I "got" math the way some people did (even though I'm quite proficient at plugging numbers into formulas to pass those kinds of tests). I wonder if my illnumeracy is what illiteracy feels like: there's a world of symbols and texts out there, but I'm not really "in" it.

i hit the roof but i had aimed for the ceiling

To be completely honest with you, I think my biggest motivation for writing is my own ego. When I was a kid, I think I already had a knack for writing well because I read entirely too much. But every time I heard praise for my writing from teachers, or my parents, or anyone else really, it just bolstered my ego and encouraged me to write more. Disgusting, I know. What's even worse is, I think that still applies. But all superficiality aside, I also got a rush every time I saw something I had written that really worked beautifully. It still happens to me. Every once in a while, when I'm writing a 12-page paper at 3 am, I'll bust out a gem of a sentence and then I just sit there and look at it and love it. I suppose I'm just a big ball of self-promotion.

Of course some of the credit for my literary development goes to my parents, they were always very encouraging about my writing when I was younger. It's also possible I picked up my reading habit from my mom, who still goes to the library and comes back with a stack of books about two feet high. I'm not even kidding. Usually I have to help her carry them all into the house, in a couple of shifts, while trying to squish my own books into the pile. I also need to give credit to my first grade teacher, who recognized my love for reading and told my parents I was reading at a fourth grade level. That was a huge deal to them, bless them, so they nurtured my literary obsession. I really do think that before you can write well, you need to be exposed to other great writers. It's inspirational, and it develops all the language skills you need. Of course then you would go on to create your own style, and your own taste in your writing. But that's where it all starts, for me at least.

When I got older and found refuge from the hell that is middle and high school in music, I think that had a huge influence on my writing as well. I always listened to the lyrics in my music (I usually can't do that music where you can't understand what is being said, or does not have meaningful lyrics. I feel like it's missing something, like a pizza without cheese or something.) and had so so so much admiration for the people that wrote them. That's probably why I put song lyrics in my blog titles. I find them really inspirational. A lot of times if I feel something, and I can't quite put it into words, I usually find it in a song somewhere and think "how did you know, backstreet boys?!" (Just kidding. About the backstreet boys.) It's incredible when someone can take such a delicate, somewhat indescribable thing like an emotion and put it into words. So music really fuels a lot of my creative writing. I would never steal someone's ideas, but I definitely find that they push me to be more creative and inspire me quite a bit.

That was horribly long and I apologize. But in response to the blog site question, I'm a hardxcore user. peace out.

Ha ha ha John the extended entry idea is excellent ^o^

Freshmen Year, Semester 2
Intermediate Expository Writing

Personal Essay 2 Assignment Description: Write about a personal conflict.
Mr. B's blatant in-class "hint": "I've gotten so many essays that gives a description of a perfect family. Bull****. No one is perfect. The best essays always consist of some sort of struggle"

Continue reading "Ha ha ha John the extended entry idea is excellent ^o^" »

Can't think of a clever title, so I won't try!

I have always been an avid reader- I guess it could be blamed on genetics. I remember in second grade, instead of listening to the teacher explain the lesson of the day, I would hold my book on my lap, ignore her, and delve into a world that was far more interesting than the abc’s. I don't remember a particular situation that has really challenged me in my reading comprehension or developed this talent. Perhaps it was a product of being the middle of seven children, and I needed something to make me stand-out.

However, I'm the type of person to take things at face-value. By nature, I don't question things immediately. Consequently, while reading a novel, story, etc, I would not question the setting, the plot, the characters’ reactions, and the narrator’s view-point. This caused my reading to be somewhat shallow. While I was able to pick-up on key concepts and bring together themes, symbols, etc, I felt like I was always missing something. It was not until my freshman year at the U of M, with my Shakespeare 1001 professor Joanna Klein, did I realize what I was doing wrong. There wasn’t a particular comment or situation, but through the course of that class, I began to understand, little by little, that literature is a medium and not absolute truth. When I began to read these fictional novels with more of a critical eye, my understanding of the theme greatly increased, and I was able to be more of a critical reader! Kind of nerdy, but fun! ?

Jenna Krause

September 5, 2007

Thursday's Prompt

My parents were the ones who influenced me most when I was a kid and it became time to develop my reading and writing skills. When I was young, reading became such a comforting thing to me that I curled up with a book as often as I could. I also saw that my mom was a big reader and I think part of me wanted to be just like her. She would take my siblings and me on a weekly library visit, where we would inevitably end up arguing with her about how many books we were allowed to take home with us--the three of us must have been so obnoxious, running around the children's section and making huge stacks of books that we just HAD to read that week. Now it's turned into a costly habit of going to all the great used book stores around the city. Once I'm inside those doors, I turn back into that little kid who just wants to take home every book she sees...Now, though, instead of my mom telling me "There's just no way we can get through twenty stories this week! Put half of them back!", it's my friends dragging me out of the store annoyed that I've made them stay in a musty old bookstore for over an hour.

My dad was responsible for my inner-editor. I remember in eighth grade I had to write a ten page essay on the President of our choice (Ronald Reagan?! I honestly chose him because we had pictures of all of the Presidents on our classroom wall and I thought he was the most handsome). I felt as if I was shuffling toward the gallows as I shakily approached my dad to look over my essay. Even though he is generally a nice guy, his style of editing both content and grammar was so intimidating and harsh that our editing sessions would end with me in tears. This Reagan paper had been no different--after nervously waiting for what seemed like hours, he set the paper down and said something like, "Is this your best work?" Ouch. We then had to go through a 300 page Reagan biography to try to find better content, even though I had been working on the paper for weeks and it was due in just a couple of days. He is amazing when it comes to final drafts, though, and it was usually worth these dreary editing sessions to shape the way I write today. It ultimately made me care a lot more about the things I write and it made me more aware of errors in grammar and punctuation to avoid. Unfortunately, I still have an inane fear of others reading what I write (which is the cause for this darn blog entry taking almost an hour to write), but I think, or rather, I hope, that the fact that I care so much will come in handy as a Writing Consultant.

The horrors of standardized tests. . . (Thursday Prompt)

As part of the continued playing-about-with that defines my interactions with Movable Type, we're going to try. . .

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it takes years

I was going to write this out, edit and copy and paste it here, but then I decided that was missing the point of what a blog is supposed to be about.
As far as learning to read I remember being read to a lot as a very young child. Several people deserve the credit for my learning to read. My parents, older siblings, grandma and, of course, Sesame Street. When I was five, going on six, my older brother was very sick and lived in a bubble room (laminair flow?) at the U of M hospital for a few months. Thankfully we lived in Minneapolis and my parents didn't have to commute far. My grandmother watched my other siblings and I while my parents were spending time at the hospital. I don't remember it at all, but my mother claims that all of the sudden I was reading and she credits my grandma. It was probably a group effort though. I have always been a good reader and loved it. I've never thought of it as a chore.
Writing has always been easy, too. But I'm not one of those people who writes a lot. I've never kept a journal, written a poem, or anything else that didn't have some assigned purpose. I'd rather spend that time reading. Writing is very technical and when I'm given a task usually have a general outline in my head before I'm done reading the assignment.
There are a few writing related events I remember through my life that I guess influenced me. My horrible failure of my first book report in fifth grade is one. I really liked my teacher and the book (cant recall the book) and I started to sum up every page, every moment of the book. At that rate my report would have been as long as the book. My teacher quickly steered me right and suddenly the idea that I was to sum up in one or two pages what the whole thing was about made total sense.
My 12th grade English teacher was determined that we would enter college knowing how to write papers and had us write several, covering all the basics such as "descriptive" and "compare and contrast" and "argument". She made it seem so simple and was the first to make it seem like a process that had steps and standard organization instead of just a blank sheet of paper.
In summary, I guess I agree with Emily S that there really wasn't one event, one person, but a whole series that influenced my reading and writing


Like Miranda, I dug through my memories, both fuzzy and clear, and couldn’t really put my finger on any one person or event that had a huge influence on my literacy development. What I did find was a bunch of vivid images. In my mind I searched for a face that had an impact on me, but instead, came across the rustling pink dress I imagined on one of the sisters in “Striped Ice Cream,? a thin novel my mom read to my sisters and I countless times in steamy July. When trying to recall an event of significance, instead came to mind the big plastic “reading bubble,? inflated by a fan in a corner of the classroom and painted with fish by my fellow first graders—a place to silently read during free time. And then there was the memory of a winter supper of bread and milk in the dog-centered story of “Sable? in third grade, the orange light of a fire flushing the faces of hobbits and trolls, and the dusty, sugar smell of cut grass and dry dirt roads in “Dandelion Wine.?

My manner of development has been gradual and marked more by sensory milestones than people and places. While this does not exactly make me an expert on the journey to words and understanding, I think it is still important. That I can physically remember the words I have loved and perused will—I hope—give me something to entice with, something I can hold up as a sign of my growth, something that may encourage others.

(Also...blogs that rule:

Cover Your Mouth

good idea John)

writing history

the main influence on my writing over the past five years has been Ralph Ellison. His fiction hasn't had much of an effect on my writing style as I am a lousy fiction writer; his non-fiction essays, however, have influenced my writing in several ways.

For example, one technique I use often in my writing is that of the parenthetical statement. often times the parenthetical statement will consist of a clever turn of phrase or with some sort of relevant free-association riffing on the given subject.

Being a History major, I also make references a lot in my writing, whether it be to Shakespeare, or hard-bop jazz of the 1950s, or to Lyndon Johnson, or whatever else may work. Ellison did the same in his writing because, though he wasn't a history major, he was concerned with historical events, figures, et cetera and their influence on his craft.

Above all, Ellison was concerned with emphasizing the musicality of language in his writing; I try to do the same.

[Now, I am not doing the aforementioned to the best of my abilities in this blog entry, seeing as I am sitting at the front desk of the writing center and have to split attention between work and homework.]

At the same time, the largest influence on my writing, period, has been my father. He's an English and Theatre teacher and as such has served as a bit of the literary rod with which the child was spoiled while I was growing up. I remember one time in 3rd grade I was having a hard time with writing a five page report for school. [Five pages? What vile cruelty!] For almost a half-hour, he pummeled me with the question, "Why are you writing this?" To which I would reply, "Because I have to!" Finally, on the brink of tears, I realized what he was asking: why was my report important? What was I trying to convey with the report? And then it all made sense. That Socratic query is what I always ask of myself and others when writing [though I ask in many different ways, not just repeating the same vague question].

Re-Learning Literacy in Summer School

This past summer, I had the opportunity to work as an Americorps teacher in North Minneapolis. Being an English major, and an avid book reader, I thought I had already mastered most of the primary skills of reading and writing. Was I wrong. Even more surprising was realizing that I was re-learning the ABC's from an eight-year-old Hmong girl for whom English was a third language.

As we sat together in silence during the third week of school, I racked my brains trying to think of a way to get her to start writing. Although there was a language barrier between us, it seemed like we had a more basic communication problem. Over and over the two of us would talk, read books - I even discovered her love for Hangman. As we talked, she would construct elaborate descriptions of her family, her favorite foods and games, but when I asked her to write it down she just stared at the paper.

Finally, the problem dawned on me during a training with a Hmong language specialist. She explained that Hmong speakers were quick at picking up oral language, but couldn't grasp the idea of written words as quickly - because their native language had never included an alphabet until it was compared to English! I had never even contemplated a language with a written component, and I realized how narrow my point of view had been when working with my student. From that day, I learned that I would have to re-learn my idea of reading and writing as I knew it.

When we started school the following Monday, I turned to my eager Hmong student, and asked her if she wanted to work on a story. She nodded furiously, and began to tell me about a princess in a castle who was being chased by evil witches and monsters. Obviously, she was a natural writer. It was me who had the trouble recognizing it.

This experience has helped me re-define my idea of what it means to be able to read and write - sometimes that is a process that has many more factors than grammar and a good thesis. As I work on my literacy development, I try to keep in mind the fact that all writers are learning. In my case, I want to learn how to improve the nuance of capturing moments like this one with my student - for her, it meant learning the ABC's.

Thursday's Assignment

The most important element in my literacy development has certainly been my mom. An undergraduate English major herself, my mom is an avid reader and always encouraged the same in me. Because of her, I spent my childhood reading Lewis, Tolkein, Plath, and Frost. When I was a little girl she bought me a book called 'The Bed Book' because Sylvia Plath had written it. To this day it is one of my favorite books. In addition to instilling in me a love of literature, my mom helped me to realize my love of writing, encouraging me to keep a journal and write letters to my parents when I was angry with them.

Most of my memories of my mom from early childhood involve literacy: reading books together before bed, studying for spelling tests, even writing poems about the election of Jesse Ventura. As I have grown older, these memories have become more dear and the lessons she taught me have gained even greater meaning. When I was sick with mono this summer I filled my very empty days reading books, from travel to memoir to some twentieth century classics. In fact, this renewed focus on my first passion led me to reevaluate my career plans. The end.

Thursday Assignment: Reflection of Experience with Reading and Writing

For me, writing has always been a large part of my life, mostly because of my love for communication and self-expression. From a young age, both of my parents stressed the importance of becoming well-educated, which they believed came most effectively from reading and engaging in intellectual conversations. I have seen many pictures in our family photo albums of either me sitting with a book in my own little corner, or pictures of me with my mom reading a book to me, or pictures of me reading to my younger brother. As I grew up, I noticed that it was very important to become a good reader and writer, even if it meant trying over and over again to win the attention of a teacher or fellow classmates to vote your writing to become the “best? in the class. Honestly, I was glad to move on to bigger and more important issues, which propelled me to continue reading and writing about my own interests for my own enjoyment. From that experience, I found that writing must first become a person’s passion, and from there the writing one authors must be dedicated to an audience reflective of why one writes- with the intent to communicate an effective message to those most interested in its existence. Beyond this point in my life, I found myself reading books on various topics in order “become? like the authors I most admired. A pivotal experience for me came when I was completed a research project in the fifth grade about a selecting a famous person to create a short presentation on their lives and their contributions to the world. After much deliberation, I chose to research the writings of Phyllis Wheatley, a West African woman, who spoke French and was enslaved during the 1700s. She later became well-known for her expressive poetry and other writings. From this point on, I knew that it was very important for myself as a woman of color to use writing and verbal communication to advance myself and those around me in order to communicate messages and give voice to underrepresented peoples and themes in discourse literature. During the high school years to the present, I have found myself becoming very passionate about writing in various styles and languages in order to one day have the privilege to publish my work and make it accessible for all people, who at some point in their lives have had the desire to express themselves and share their experiences with others.

Sept. 7 Prompt

I thought a lot about this question on my busride home, and part of me kept balking at it. I don't write that to be contrary or overly clever; that's an obnoxious tone that I don't want to set in this class. I just have very little to say in direct response to it. I can think of lessons picked up here and there-- the English teacher who pushed me to use "muscular" verbs instead of passive ones provided a particularly useful one-- but overall, I find myself at a loss when asked to identify pivotal people or events in the development of my writing.

In general, when we try to take stock of our present selves, there's a tendency to look for big watershed moments. These surely exist, but can be overemphasized at the expense of processes which fuel change and development more slowly. My writing, perhaps because I've never really worked at it, has evolved more like this-- quietly and gradually. What's more, I have rarely noticed it happening. Much of the time, I write intuitively, and would be hard-pressed to trace the stylistic tics that characterize my writing to particular teachers, or authors, or projects.

As I'm finishing up that thought, I've realized a project I recently completed that has raised a lot of questions about my own writing processes. I could have written about that, but I want to leave this post, because I think it suggests an issue parallel to that raised in the prompt. For all the lessons and influences we can identify as important to our writing development, much of what we've learned about writing we do unconsciously or intuitively. And so my hanging question for the semester: how can I work to make my own writing process less mysterious in order to help others with theirs?

September 4, 2007

Welcome to our course blog!

Hello, fellow members of the Writing Consultancy course! We are all the authors of this blog and responsible for its content, so please take some time to get to know both this web interface and the Movable Type Publishing Platform (which you access by logging into the UThink site: Feel free to experiment and practice with this online tool (I know I have much to learn about its features as well).

Our first blog assignment is to create an entry responding to the following prompt by class time on Thursday:

Describe for us a person or event that was pivotal in your experience of learning to read and write. What happened? How did that experience or person influence your literacy development?

Be sure to print out your entry (a bit ironic, considering we're posting online, I know) and bring it to class for our consulting practice.

I'm looking forward to getting to know one another via this medium as well.