Posts Tagged ‘writing’

The Bullet Article: “Professors Embrace Social Media in Class”

Thursday, February 17th, 2011

The UMW Bullet published some writing of mine!  It’s an article entitled, “Professors Embrace Social Media in Class”.

Here’s a teaser:

It’s not every day that students are encouraged to use websites like Facebook and Twitter in class, but there’s a new department at UMW that’s trying to change that.

“Learning is a social endeavor,” said Andy Rush, new media specialist in UMW’s Department of Teaching and Learning Technologies (DTLT).

This philosophy is one of the underlying principles of new media, a discipline that is storming the pillars of traditional lecture-listen-regurgitate methods that dominate pedagogy and forging new ones that place more emphasis on the communal aspects of education.

Read it, and comment!  This is the second time ever that my words have been printed.  The first time hardly counts, however; it was a really bad bit for my high school newspaper.

It’s worthwhile to discuss how I went about writing this, if only for posterity.

Journalism is a foreign language to me.  When I signed up for Newsgathering this semester, it was only because the course fulfilled a requirement, and furthermore, only because the other course that also fulfilled that requirement wasn’t offered this semester.  You can imagine the surprise I still feel at playing the journalist these past two weeks, and then having my article printed!

Reviewing the Interview Notes

Going into this project, I was a complete newbie at interviewing.  I didn’t know what key words to look for in someone’s responses that would give me that feeling of, “Oh, this is going to be a good quote.”  I’m sure that reporters develop a sense of this to the extent that the choices they make in what to take down as exactly and what to gloss over as narrative becomes unconscious.  Until I learn the talent, I have to take down just about everything.  Actually, by the third interview, I got a tingly feeling when my source said something particularly quote-worthy.

I originally thought I would be able to jot my notes on paper, but see above paragraph about being a novice.  I ended up using my computer because I type faster than I write and could use a bullet system to organize questions and answers.

The second hurdle was deciding what questions to ask.  Really, this ties into the biggest issue, which was figuring out where I wanted to go with this article.  I knew that I wanted to write about DTLT and New Media, but what did I want to say?  Luckily, my editor gave me some direction, and the article became what you read now.  However, I wish that I’d had a better idea of it before I went to interview.  It would have helped shape my questions.

The last obstacle was style.  I was unsure what The Bullet’s publication preferences were, but thankfully, I had an understanding editor who was gentle in correcting me.

Overall, this was a fantastic experience, which I hope to repeat.

Suvudu Writing Contest

Tuesday, February 15th, 2011

For those of you who write science-fiction or fantasy, Suvudu (a division of Random House, Inc.) is currently hosting a writing contest.  Submit your entry of 50,000-150,000 words between now (the contest started on Jan 18) and March 18 and your story may be considered for publication.

I’m psyched!  Whether or not I will be successful in getting my story written by the deadline, it is a great incentive to get my butt in the chair and write!  I hope my fellow writers will consider doing so as well.

Here are all the details:  Suvudu Writing Contest.


[golden pen]

5-Card Story: “The Rest of the Day in Different Worlds”

Friday, February 11th, 2011

A 5-Card Story

I found this writing exercise via Jim Groom’s Digital Storytelling class.  Students find five photos and then create a story from them. Sounded like fun…

"Panzerfaust Attacke"


869 Paris-Marais

Photo by Voyageur Solitaire-mladjenovic_n

wallpaper - The ISLAND

Photo by balt-arts

Alice in Wonderland: White Rabbit - Who Killed Time?

Photo by Brandon Christopher Warren

Park – Parque del Campo Grande, Valladolid (Spain) HDR

Photo by marcp_dmoz

Today began as a battle.  My four year old son and I hiked the hill and strategized like generals, plotting the submission of the lake to our miniature, plastic forces.  We pursued conquest like hunting hounds until our stomachs began to growl, and we remembered that even the dogs of war must be fed.  His mother threw meat sandwiches into our yapping mouths, and reminded the pup he had homework.

While the afternoon was new, I shouldered my tan canvas messenger bag and took the long way to town, stopping now and then to sketch out the birds I saw chirping their calls from ancient yews and towering bay laurels.   My legs are strong, however, and carried me to the library within the hour.

I greeted the shopkeep, kippah firmly applied to his head, and spent the rest of the day in different worlds.

The first of my creations was floating continent, vast and mysterious.  Dragons lived in this world, and magic, and adventure beyond dreaming.  Steps there must be tread carefully.

The second was a place of time–of no time.  A place littered with clocks, all of them meaningless.  I met a girl there, with skin as pale as the surface of the moon, who talked of rabbits and played cards.

The third world was my favorite.  It is the world to which I always return.  For this one, I forsook words and simply drew, straining to capture the photograph in my head.  This world is a real one, and so more tantalizing.  I dream of taking my son to see the lake where I used to play.

ENGL 302A: Exercise 2 “Ether Tree Maintenance”

Friday, February 4th, 2011

Prompt: “Write a short character sketch (it may be from life), focusing on how your character makes a living.  Put your character in a working situation and let us know by a combination of direct and indirect methods what that work is, how well he or she does it, what it looks like, smells like, and [how] the character feels about it.”–Janet Burroway, Imaginative Writing

Peter received his task from Max on a slip of paper pushed across the flat stone they used for a table in the Labor & Commission tent.  “Be careful,” the extensively freckled man warned him, before gesturing for the next in line to come forward.  Peter thanked him and wished him a good day before turning away, chipper than he had been when he woke up this morning.  If Max was issuing caution, the assignment must be something good.  He inspected the parchment as he walked down the dirt path, lantern in one hand, paying only enough attention to the rest of the world to evade collision as the town woke up and attended to their duties.

Co-ordinates and the order, “Fix it,” were his only clue.  It was plenty.  He adjusted his direction, making for the supply building, nodding and exchanging hellos with those he passed.

Jenna greeted him with the barest nod of acknowledgement, more concerned with snapping her gum and the latest news, which she spread across the wooden counter, following the words on the paper with a slow-moving finger.

“Anything new,” he asked, sidling up opposite her.

She flicked the page at him, picked it up.  “Get your own.”

Peter tsked, giving her half a smile and a wink.  “Don’t be cruel to the heart that’s true, pretty girl.”  He propped an elbow on the counter and gave her the widest, most innocent eyes he could make around the newspaper she held up like a barrier.  “Why’s it all the pretty ones can get away with bein’ so mean to the boys that fancy their sweet, soft hearts?”

Jenna dropped the paper with a heavy sigh and rolled her eyes, but a smile peeked about the corners of her mouth.  “Oh, shut it, you.  What you want, Petey,” she drawled.

His grin was broad, but soon exchanged for a frown of concentration as they got down to business.  Despite Jenna’s frequently brusque attitude, she was a mother hen to the people she took a liking to, and rarely let someone go into the field without a good argument to take far more than they reasonably needed in precautionary items.  It was worth any extra flattery to get the most recent tech Research & Development shipped to her but she held onto like a badger with a brick of honey.

He strapped on a utility belt, slung a tech pack loaded with instruments he may or may not need but Jenna wouldn’t let him leave without onto his back, set the co-ordinates into the navigator and headed out into the darkness the swallowed up the world beyond his town.

To live beneath the Atlas City Plate was to live in a world of darkness and ruin and servitude.  Peter knew this as clearly as he knew his dirty, unwashed face in the mirror above his washbasin.  He didn’t know this simply because he had been told as much by his elders and betters. Waking up morning after morning in the same darkness he went to sleep with, watching his parents labor in the ether factories, bending in subservience to the Altanian patrols–it was enough.  When he’d come of age and went with the others to the top…

Peter still remembered climbing, endless climbing, to reach the surface of the Plate.  It was entirely forbidden for any of them to go to Atlas itself, a caveat he’d not understood until climbing out of their sewer system and into the street of the Ether City.  The moonlight blinded him.  The buildings were tall, reaching toward a topless sky, not squat and ruined.  The air had been fresh, and when he descended to the place he’d been born, it was like stepping into a prisoner’s cage.  They had not been able to stay long, out of fear of discovery, but Peter knew the experience would be impossible to forget.

“Ether pumps the blood of this city, and we work the ether factories.  That’s why we can’t go to Atlas.  If all of us knew the truth, that would be the end of them,” Max had said.  No one would work beneath the Plate if they knew what the moon looked like.

“Why don’t they bring the factories up top?” He’d asked.

Max had shaken his head. “The ether is down deep in the earth, thousands of times deeper than the deepest hole you could ever dig, even if you spent your lifetime doing it.  They don’t know any other way to get it.  Remember, there was ether before there was Atlas.  No one knows how it was originally discovered.  We don’t even understand the technology in the factories.  They were created long before us, and remain as mysterious.”

Standing here, miles away from town, Peter wondered what the Atlanians would do if they knew about the natural reserves of ether, like the one he’d been tasked to fix.  It loomed, a beacon in the darkness, hidden by the empty buildings surrounding it.  Rare, beautiful, luminous:  An Ether Tree.

The trunk was a mix of rotted, wasting wood and a heavy complement of plastic-sheathed metal; once it had stood perfectly perpendicular, suspending wires from one of its kind to the next.  Now it was wrapped in a serpentine network of translucent tubing containing natural, nonmanufactured ether, and leaned precariously to one side.  The wires hung limp, or not at all; some had long since broken off and fallen to the ground.  They belonged to a rusted past.  Peter was here to fix the present.

“What’s wrong with you, huh?  You look pretty enough for a party to me,” he said.  He approached it with caution at first, aware that the situation might be a trap set by Atlanians who had finally discovered his people’s secrets, but soon arrived at the Ether Tree’s control box without incident. Peter sighed as he opened the box’s back panel, where a mass of wires confronted him.  At least it wasn’t covered in dust or dirt, a sure sign of neglect by their engineering patrols.  Peter squatted and pulled the tech pack over his shoulders and in front of him.  Time to get to work.

ENGL 302: “In the Garden” & the Writing Process

Wednesday, February 2nd, 2011

I’d like to share on this blog some of my writing process.  When I went to write the short piece “In the Garden” for ENGL302, I was having a hard time visualizing the location.  Since I did not want the reader to feel as if the surroundings were “floaty”, I realized that I would need to know exactly where they were myself.  I’m also trying to be a better artist–I’m terrible at it–so I thought it would be a real help to sketch out the area.  Below, you can see what I created.  It ultimately aided me greatly when I went to write the exercise (not that the exercise was a standout).

Sketch for "In the Garden"

I found that creating supplemental pieces like this are immensely useful last semester, when I had to use Inform7 for my Electronic Literature course (taught by Professor Zach Whalen).

It’s also interesting to compare what I sketched & what was written.  Everything is a draft until the submitted work.

ENGL 302: Exercise 1 “In the Garden” & Thoughts

Friday, January 21st, 2011

As I’m taking Introduction to Creative Writing (ENGL302) this semester, and trying to use this blog for more things, I thought I would share some of the work I’ve been doing.  After all, I am planning on being a writer and I want to get exposure as well as thoughtful critique by anyone interested in doing so.

This week, Professor Rochelle asked for us to create a 1-2 page response to our choice of prompts.

I went through pre-writing and draft work, but it was no more than two minutes after I churned what would be my official reply that I felt the desire to completely rework it.  This was surprising to me, because I typically feel good about what I produce and turn in, but I think it’s a sign that I’m growing as a writer.

The prompt:  Describe a garden as seen by a man or woman whose significant other has just dumped him or her.  Do not mention the man or the woman, the significant other, or the dumping.

There was a distinct beauty in the arboretum’s flower garden that did not fade.  There were huddling, top-heavy cones of lavender that did not wilt.  Matured, fist-sized roses in pinks and yellows and virgin whites brushed petals with lady’s breath in the gentle breeze, but would not shrivel.  Even the sun, though in its final fits of burnished gold and muted reds, refused to turn to ash; Apollo drove his steed toward night, but the sky did not blacken early.

The world should be cracked, crumbling—different.

It was not.

The brick path, sanguine in color, wound north and disappeared for a moment behind a mighty sculpture of a marble nude examining a single chiseled rose resting in his lifeless palm before returning, completing a u-shape.  Boxwoods (declared so by the miniature signs placed by them) prevented visitors tramping from one side of the footpath to the other.  The shrubbery was an arm’s length thick and half a man’s height, ending now and again to make way for a flower pot or piece of art.  Amidst the greater labyrinth the gardeners had coaxed and nourished from the ground, this was but a small loop, a diversion from the more fantastic exhibitions hidden further within, and thus it was mostly desolate.

The psychic keen should have brought every woman to the path, should have pierced the heart of every chest that swelled beneath a fair face, but only a harried mother existed here, one hand keeping a cell phone to her ear and the other swatting at her dallying boy, and she spared not even a glance for the plants.  Her orange skin and Dolce & Gabbana sunglasses covered nothing but a corpse; she snatched her son’s hand from the caress of a daffodil, as oblivious to the single desire of Narcissus the aches of her sex; when the world should have been reeling with the howling of agony, it heard nothing.  The garden remained, and the woman and son disappeared around the bend.

It was not a moment later before a low murmur of voices from the south announced new arrivals:  An Asian man and woman, old and worn, appearing wrinkled like raisins spent a lifetime baking beneath a prairie sun.  They tottered, bodies close and fingers interlaced and it was as clear as the matching rings on their fingers or the folds in their skin that they had seen many years, and they had seen them together.  Fog clouded the woman’s dark irises. Her gaze was void.  The man, his head tilted down to her ear, talking low but constant was surely her world.

But it was she who paused and lifted her head, nose pointed to the low-hanging dogwood blossom just inches from her ear while her husband blinked.  She raised weathered palms, cupping it with such gentleness that it could have been crystal, and bent the star-shaped flower to her face.  The woman inhaled deeply, chest rising—once, twice, great lungfuls of scent without sight!—then took her lover’s hand and continued their walk.