Sunday, May 30, 2010

Week 5 Blog Assignment

Objective: While most of your writing this week will deal with larger spaces, I'd like to suggest that you use this opportunity to warm up by working with a small space. Place yourself wherever you usually do your writing. Now show that place to your reader without using the words "cozy," "small," "open," "professional," "noisy," or "quiet."

The intermittent buzz of the DVR recorder (at least I think it’s the DVR recorder) lures my attention away from the computer monitor and over to the muted television set. The silent picture promises an amusing episode of Bravo’s The Real Housewives of New Jersey but that is if, and only if, I get my homework done and can still keep my eyelids propped open. Otherwise, that tantalizing episode will join the rest of the archived shows I never really get around to seeing, but feel comforted in having nonetheless.

Trying to train my attention back onto schoolwork, I catch a glimpse of what is behind me in the large standing mirror leaning against the wall that happens to be in my direct path of vision leading back to the monitor. The walls enclose a space no bigger than what I imagine Martha Stewart’s cell to have been in jail, but they are sufficient for what needs to happen within them. A computer desk, black, but adorned with gouges resulting from careless moving, an armoire, also black, but with scratches from the clumsy handler of the computer desk, and a large queen-sized bed layered with numerous blankets and pillows all surround me as I work. The pile of books on my nightstand never really diminishes, and with each course I take, the promise of a growing library presents itself to me daily. The wheels on my desk chair never have the opportunity to squeak as the floor space is confined to a “turn-around” area only. I can spin my chair around, but not without catching my knee on the corner of my bed. In the other direction, a pyramid of shoes that doesn’t fit in my closet is spilling out into the only area that could come close to being designated a walkway.

It’s tough having to move back in with your parents to finish college, especially when you work full time to try to support yourself but the paycheck awarded to you by the local school district doesn’t cut it. I am thankful for the intimate setting in which I get to focus on my academics, but the setting is the only thing I would describe as “intimate” in the bedroom that I inhabit at my father’s house.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

On Drafting the Personal Essay: ENG 330

A point that Zinsser made about the narrowness of the memoir versus the autobiography is what summed up the differences for me.
Autobiography: Narrow
Memoir: Narrower
Personal Essay: Narrowest
Even after writing my piece, I kept saying “Is this a memoir? Yes. No. Wait-it’s a personal essay. It’s more of a snapshot of one event. But it has affected me my whole life! It’s a memoir. No-it’s a personal essay.” Truthfully, I still have questions as to how the class will perceive it in our workshop. I tried to take into consideration that a personal essay is informal, intimate, and honest- all elements that are present in my piece. I also made it clear that I was not an expert in my area and suffered because of it-but also learned because of it, satisfying the aspect of interrogation.

The issues that had arisen for me when planning my personal essay were in regards to giving myself permission to write about something that I might otherwise prefer to keep private and being able to narrow in on a specific time in my life that I wanted to highlight. I found myself asking “How much do I want to reveal?”, “Who would be offended if I made a connection between alcoholism and eating disorders?”, and “If someone else wrote about this, would I want to read it?”

My weight is a HUGE issue and it’s hard for me to discuss it without injecting some humor to make light of it. I do, however, realize the value in sharing such a story as I am not the only person in the world to deal with this-or any other type of bodily insecurities for that matter. You don’t have to be overweight to relate to my essay. Maybe you have a desire to get a boob job because you think your boobs are too small. Maybe you think your nose is too big. Maybe you have a third nipple you want removed. Whatever the issue, I think that most people would find some common ground with the event I chose to discuss, and therefore the answer to the question of wanting to read such an article myself would be yes.

My family history of alcoholism, which I highlighted as a comparison to my addiction to food, was an element that made me cringe when I actually put it down on paper. Thinking about how the elders of the family like to sweep such family secrets under the rug and pretend that there is nothing wrong made me nervous that that issue would overshadow the real significance of my experience. But because I am writing for the purpose of this course, I am protected by the fact that they most likely will not read it, and therefore, will not have the opportunity to be as critical as I suspect they may be. On the contrary, if they were to read it I have a certain amount of loathing reserved for their denial of the issue of alcoholism present in our family and would likely muster up the courage to say “Well, what part of that is a lie?” to which they would have to reply “No part of that is a lie.”

Works Cited

Zinsser, William. On Writing Well. New York: Collins, 2006. Print.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Nonfiction as Literature-ENG 330 Week 1

As a class we were asked to discuss what creative nonfiction is for a discussion board prompt-and everyone did the “Uhhhh…I think” insecure response deal because none of us could really define it. It’s sort of like defining the word “the”. We use it all the time, but I don’t think I could define it very easily. Upon reading ch.11 in On Writing Well (Nonfiction as Literature), I had a little more insight with the help of Zinsser’s account of the “new literature of nonfiction” which to him includes “all the writers who come bearing information and who present it with vigor, clarity, and humanity” (99). Turning nonfiction into a form of literature (which I usually associate mostly with fiction-such as Jane Eyre, etc.) would seem to be a difficult thing to do. However, when Zinsser cited Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, I was able to comprehend what he was referring to. Of course he listed a multitude of other authors that I had never heard of, but luckily I had taken a course on Nature Writers so I had been introduced to Carson’s work briefly before.

By taking an issue that concerns humans in a very real way and turning it into a piece of writing that is full of color and passion and lacking in snooze-ability, Carson was able to reach out to her audience and make an impact. Her use of terms such as “evil” and “sinister” in the following passage are not typical of what one would expect from a piece of nonfiction, but she
marries those terms with human action that is real and documented, and not made-up in some sci-fi story:

This pollution is for the most part irrecoverable; the chain of
evil it initiates not only in the world that must support life but in living
tissues is for the most part irreversible. In this now universal contamination
of the environment, chemicals are the sinister and little-recognized partners of
radiation in changing the very nature of the world—the very nature of its life.
(Carson par.2)
As a reader, I am drawn to her strong language; I want to know more about what she is referring to. Whether or not you agree with what Carson is saying (think the debate on global warming), you want to read on because it seems as though she makes a compelling argument. That should be the goal of the nonfiction writers…wanting their reader to want to read on, to listen to their argument (based on responsible research and reporting) and develop an intelligent opinion based upon tangible information.
No matter how the specifics are delivered, the sphere of nonfiction includes information that should be considered truthful to those who take it in, not misleading or misrepresented. I would speculate that most people do not enjoy being lectured at or feeling like they are reading an encyclopedia article when they want to take in information, so if an author can succeed in presenting the material in a creative and appealing manner, it is likely that the reader will not only better remember the information, but also appreciate it.
Works Cited
Carlson, Rachel. “Excerpts from Silent Spring.” 1962. PDF file on Web. 2 May 2010.
Zinsser, William. On Writing Well. New York: Collins, 2006. Print.