I chose to listen to Alison Gopnik’s interview (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4XX-DD69lfQ). She is a writer who uses her family as a source for inspiration in her psychological work. Alison uses her own life in her books. She says that a psychological book about children falls into two categories. The first is about your own life: a memoir, an autobiography. The second is a self-help book: advice on how bringing up children should be done. Alison hopes for a balance between personal experience and scientific perspective in her book.
Alison needs a regular schedule. She sets time aside to write. Generally, Alison writes at her office: there are less distractions. Alison says that it takes her a while to get going, but once she has a story she then manages to maintain a high level. It flows and almost writes itself. Structure is key in her stories and that is what takes her a while to get going.
Alison writes at least a 100 drafts for each chapter: she re-writes and re-writes. That is the way to improve your writing and get good at it. Then she claims it becomes addictive.
Alison used to read a lot of fiction (loves Star Trek) but now has moved to reading biographies and diaries and history. This is because she tended to feel depressed after reading fiction.
Before the world reads it, her brother Adam and then Blake, a critic reads it. Her husband also reads it: she says he is a great reader: her audience. Her writing is about rhythm, what it “tastes” like. When something is well written you don’t notice the writing. If you stutter then the writing hasn’t been effective. Overall, Alison feels her writing has become cleaner and simpler. She is less nervous of being eloquent and poetic.
Writing a profile has been one of the most enjoyable projects I’ve done so far. I wouldn’t consider myself a writer but I do love writing about people. I think everyone has a story worth telling. So writing a profile was a great opportunity for me to interview and get to know a person I probably would never have got to known otherwise.
This process was an interesting one for me that required organisation and some give and take from both sides. It demanded cooperation and a certain amount of trust. As soon as we got speaking I realised my interviewee was nervous and didn’t want to open up very much. I had to gain his confidence and trust in order for him to share with me. This was a rewarding experience but I couldn’t help but wonder how much I could really learn from a couple of hours of knowing my interviewee. I wondered if there were details he didn’t share with me, and perhaps I with him.
Overall I had to make sure I was honest and I took special care not to jump to conclusions or make any judgments but let the person speak for himself. I think my profile was successful in portraying an aspect of my interviewee’s character but was definitely limited by the short time we spent together. I think the strongest feature of this profile is the revealing of my interviewee’s qualities in a human and real way. Its weakest are perhaps that it is short and doesn’t go enough in depth and detail into his story.
I was very inspired by reading previous class members’ interviews, especially John Marks profile. This helped me decide what sort of tone I wanted my profile to have: personal but interesting and factual. For me the most important thing in this profile was story and voice. I think I managed to convey both of these, I just hope my voice didn’t drown out his.
The goal of this cultural commentary was to engage with some aspect of culture, for this it needed an explicit statement, evidence and a point of view. I knew I wanted to write about something I was interested in, something I had an argument about and wanted to discover in more depth. So I began thinking of subjects that interested me. Legalisation of drugs was an issue that I was curious to learn more about. However I felt I didn’t have enough personal knowledge on the subject. So I engaged with an issue that was similar but that I would be able to relate to more: the legalisation of alcohol. In terms of format, I chose to work with Storify. Purely because I wanted to challenge myself to use a different tool that I hadn’t worked with before. I also thought it would work well for my story in that I could support my evidence with facts and links that would be easily accessible to the reader. I liked the visual aspect of Storify and felt it would make my arguments more engaging. I enjoyed being assigned a cultural commentary as it gave me the opportunity to get involved and develop an opinion on a subject relevant to my culture. The cultural work I felt was mostly a comparison between European versus American drinking legislation. For me this was an interesting issue because I am between both cultures at the moment. It gave me an excuse to compare the two different cultures to each other and the impacts each has on a younger generation. I tried to do this from an objective, non-bias point of view. A reading I did that really helped me shape my essay was “Saudi’s in bikini’s” by Kristof: this made me realise how NOT to do it. I wanted to start with an open point of view and make up my mind from there. Overall I feel happy about the essay I wrote. I enjoyed learning more about the subject. I fear that I maybe didn’t go enough in depth but I like how easy to read and clear my arguments are. I hope it will develop a better awareness of the subject whilst being educational at the same time to both parents and teenagers.
Reading through Why Is This So Good and Writing Without Borders, I was struck by how relevant the stories were. I enjoyed learning about global issues through a narrative story and them being explained in a compelling way. Different to journalism, I found articles that weren’t purely aiming at sharing facts but stories. They touched me in different ways and made the ideas memorable. Talking about memory, in Writing Without Borders, a new piece of writing is presented: “On Memory: New Writing from Japan” (http://wordswithoutborders.org/article/on-memory-new-writing-from-japan On Memory: New Writing from Japan). I loved the way words were used in so many different forms, there was a real play on language but also on meaning. This is especially noticeable in the following sentence: “While the exact origins of the decision remain unclear, we are pleased to say with the utmost certainty that, if we remember correctly, the resulting collection of diverse rememberings, misrememberings, rerememberings, forgettings, misforgettings, is if not(hing is) unforgettable, then memorable in many ways.” A story is shared about memory and how important it is in the shaping of our lives. And so I believe that Why Is This So Good tries to do the same thing, explore subjects that bring meaning to our lives.
One particular story that caught my eye was: No. 93: Ta-Nehisi Coates and the case for reparations (http://niemanstoryboard.org/stories/whys-this-so-good-no-93-ta-nehisi-coates-and-the-case-for-reparations/). In this article, we are told about the reasons for why black families were locked out of the housing market for decades. It is a balanced and logical essay that calls to our understanding what these families went through. As the author puts it: “The key to the genius of “The Case For Reparations” is its focus: on Clyde Ross, on North Lawndale, on housing policy. That tight focus is deliberate. The promise of America, the big-picture concept, is that everyone is supposed to have an equal shot — at “making it,” at earning a living, at a plot of land or a house. Coates makes it clear that for black Americans, that promise always has been, and still is, a lie.”
One of the reasons I decided I definitely wanted to take CW 110 was to write a narrative essay. I felt it would be a challenging and interesting subject to invest myself in. I also believe that without this class I probably would never have written a narrative about myself. Mostly because of time, opportunity and the million other things I could be doing. But also because of the impression it gave me of being perhaps a little self-centred or narcissistic wanting to write about myself. But as I progressed with my narrative I realised it wasn’t just about me, writing a story is about so many other things and other people. I found it a cathartic experience and one that made me realise that there is something special, liberating and relatable about sharing with others and allowing others to understand what I had experienced and been through.
When I read “A Trip to the Taj” by Bhattacharya, I realised that short essays can illustrate issues and global challenges in a personal way that news reports or academic essays can’t. I enjoyed reading Jane Hammon’s essay “Boiling the Dog’s Head” which I found interesting because of its use of different formats and styles. It encouraged me to be original, mix things up and be myself when I was writing. I struggled with letting people in though. In the beginning I didn’t want classmates reading about my personal life and the things that I have had to overcome. But when I started reading other people’s narratives in class, I really enjoyed it. I felt I could learn a lot from what others had been through. My classmates’ insights were also spot-on and helped me to progress in my writing and as a person. Something I had to work on was not just giving an overview of the subject but making sure I gave enough details that the reader could picture the scene described. During class time, I felt I could really think about my essay and relate it directly to the readings we were studying. So often I would suddenly have inspiration and edit/add to my narrative during class as the ideas were coming to me.
Overall I feel happy with the essay I wrote. I think it’s a story I have been wanting to write about for a while. And as I re-read through it one last time I realise my narrative may not be finished yet. I still have a lot to say. So I might just keep on writing…
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