Goodbye to the Grove

Orange groves garnish
the south Florida countryside,
so far and so wide.

A girl of ten plays hide and seek
with the trees north of Lake June Road.
Running through the dirty blonde sand,
she stops to grab a fresh bite.
The juice trickles down her chin…
she tosses the peel, hoping
that Farmer John doesn’t catch her.

At sixteen she had her first kiss,
under the early spring blossoms
blooming. Lying in the sand,
wrapped ever so tight in his arms,
believing their love would last
forever… or at least beyond
the first unwelcomed winter frost.

At eighteen, the time came to say
goodbye – her studies took her
miles away from her cherished
groves. In Minnesota, she
found solace and solitude
in a quiet apple orchard.

At twenty-two, she met a new
love and shared with him her orchard.
This is where her forever
indeed began. Lying in
the meadow, she took him in and
tangled together, they counted
the stars that twinkled the north sky.

At twenty-four, she made the trip
home to the sandy groves. She
took a stroll to reminisce…
Closing her eyes, she caresses
her belly while thinking deep –
her new forever will arrive
in just a few months down the line.

Saying goodbye to the
the grove, she grabs one last orange,
takes a taste… goodbye.

——

This poem went through 7 days of revision, guided by a packet given to us by our professor for our “X-Treme Revision” poetry project. Read the original version here on Versification, my poetry Tumblr. I really feel like it has really come a long way, but I don’t think it’s finished. But then again… are these things ever finished? I may just put this one away for a while and see what happens the next time I look it over. So, if you’d like to give me some feedback, please do in the comments below – I really enjoy hearing your thoughts and any advice you may have for me!

Over the next couple of weeks, I will be composing a case study on my revision and will describe in detail what went into changing this poem. Once that’s turned in, I’ll be sharing it (at least a condensed version if not the full thing) here, in case anyone is curious about how the process went for me.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Writing for the Workplace

Writing for the Workplace

No witty introduction to this one – we’re diving head first today!

I work in Corporate America… and I can’t tell you how many times I want to claw my eyeballs out of their sockets with the nearest sharp utensil when I read a terrible email from a colleague. Why does this happen? I have to assume a lack of proper preparation for workplace environments is to blame.

Over the summer, I took a course about teaching technical communication. Because of that course, I have narrowed down the area of college writing I want to teach – writing in the technical world for engineering and science students. I think it’s important for students bound for a corporate, professional workplace after they graduate understand how to effectively communicate through writing.

Our world has most definitely reached the digital age in recent years – communication will never be the same as a result. It seems that we, in corporate environments, converse with our colleagues over email and IM systems more than we pick up the phone. I personally like this, because I find it easier to be more concise with my words and convey my point clearly. Granted, there are some times where it’s always better (and easier) to pick up the phone or schedule some face time with your co-workers, but it’s essential to corporate success that people understand how to communicate through written words.

Some tips I’ve come to hold near and dear when composing work emails, documents, and more are as follows. If you can remind yourself of these when writing a co-worker, you’ll be off to a great start.

  • Keep it simple and be quick, clear, and concise as possible. Short and sweet is the best way to go – you don’t want to bog your readers down with pages and pages and pages to read. Explain your message clearly, be concise, and be sure to get to your point as quick as you can – if you are a busy person, you should assume your reader is just as time-poor as you are.
  • Write as you would talk – except use the proper version of your language. Your voice is what the reader will hear when they read your message, so make it conversational. Don’t be afraid to let your personality shine through, either – these are your words, and you are attaching your name to the message… so own it!
  • Break your message into short paragraphs and avoid long sentences. Reading words on a screen can be daunting for some, and easier for others. Accommodate your audience – breaking up your paragraphs and keeping sentences short will allow your message to be easier to read. I tend to get overwhelmed when a colleague sends me a long email and it’s all in one paragraph. I have literally copied and pasted it into a Word document to break it down, so I can receive their message a little more clearly. Think about this the next time you don’t use paragraph breaks!!
  • Maintain a positive tone.  It’s tough to read emotion through written word sometimes (especially in text messages!), so it’s important to be positive throughout your message. This will help your reader see the point you’re trying to make without negativity.
  • PROOFREAD AND EDIT BEFORE SENDING! I will say this over and over until my students understand this must happen EVERY SINGLE TIME a message is sent to someone through written words. I won’t lie – I’ve caught some serious typos or found that my message didn’t make sense when I reread it before sending. I suggest reading your message to yourself out loud to see if it makes sense. Things seem to read differently when you hear them aloud versus when they stay on the page. Don’t hesitate to have someone take a glance too – a fresh pair of eyes can catch things we don’t the first few times around.

Of course, there will be exceptions. Case in point, my boss and I are very close – if someone read our emails, you’d be able to tell that right away. We use emoticons and sometimes shorthand, but most of the time we keep it super professional – our company records all communication for legal purposes, so we want to be sure we’re professional when on the record. We start with the usual address (“Hi Nicole,”) in the first round, but then usually it’s a conversation back and forth in the replies that follow. The important thing here to be sure you gauge your audience and use communication to accommodate accordingly.

If you have questions or want more advice about writing for work or your professional environment, let’s chat!

Wind Tankas

Tankas are a form of Japanese poetry, with a structure very similar to a haiku. Instead of stopping at 5-7-5, we add 2 more lines, making it 5-7-5-7-7.

Below are some I composed for my poetry class about wind. We are collaborating with the Herron School of Art at IUPUI for an exhibit coming up in November. When I have more information about the show, I’ll be sure to post!

Enjoy! :)

—–

When the winds change, you
feel it everywhere. The gust,
forgiving of the
past, sends you into a spin
pushing you to what’s ahead.

—–

The gulf’s heavy sigh
brings me back to life – opens
my eyes, awakens
my soul… I can now see the
world – unfiltered consciousness.

—–

Indiana breeze;
it tickles my ear and tells
me secrets of past…
the hot days will pass
and cool nights will soon arrive.

—–

Leaves thrashing, sending
limbs flying, debris swirling
around me… I’m lost –
my world, gone, from the Mother’s
wrath and her furious gust.
Revision & Poetry

Revision & Poetry

Well, this is embarrassing. I haven’t been updating like I should. I have let things get in the way of writing for me again. That changes today. For those who know me, I’m somewhat a perfectionist when it comes to sharing my writing. I need to work on being more candid on my blog, because that’s what it’s for, right? So, here we go again. Buckle up and enjoy the ride. :)

I am in a poetry course this semester, studying under the Indiana Poet Laureate. Thus far, this class has helped me change the way I view writing poetry. I’m becoming unafraid to share my works-in-progress, and learning to better embrace critical feedback. Last night, we were discussing readings about revision. A few things grabbed my attention, but especially the notion that we have to stop being nice and sweet throughout our poems. This is me, completely. My poems are generally whimsical and fluffy and nice, leaving me with either a longing or a warm, fuzzy feeling. But sometimes we need that harsh reality to shine through. That darkness is everywhere in our lives, and we shouldn’t sugarcoat it when we share our experiences with others by way of writing. We have to stop letting our good manners get in the way of being raw and rude. Our poems can mean so much more if they have that bite or sting. That means it’s real. If it provokes emotion, then we’re on our way to a good poem.

Revising is something I’ve talked a lot about on here in the past.
TL;DR:
I revise as I go and that’s kinda bad for my writing.

I need to learn “first vision, then revision” (wise words by Lynn Emanuel in her piece “In Praise of Malice: Thoughts on Revision”). The idea of getting it out on the page without trying to revise immediately is key. I’m beginning to learn that I need to put a piece of writing away for some time before revising it, because the person I was when I wrote that poem is not who I am now, in this moment… or even five minutes from now. Something new will come along, either through education or experience, and I can apply that to an editing/revising session down the road. In fact, I pulled out a poem I wrote 12-13 years ago for our “X-Treme Revision” process in my class. I read through it and like the thought of it… but my age shows in my writing. I look forward to sharing it later after I complete this process with my class.

There is another poem I am working on for our packet project – this basically is an assignment that will track our revision process. As a class, we all took an oath to revise this one piece of work over the course of a week for a minimum of one hour each day. I will be tracking my progress and will probably scan my revisions so I have them saved electronically – I will be glad to share with you. I always enjoy seeing how others revise or get from one point to the next with their writing, so I hope you will find something useful out of my experience. Also… I urge you to give me feedback – I want to know what you think of my work. Tell if if it sucks, tell me what I need to work on, tell me what you’d change if you were the author… I don’t like hearing “this is great, don’t change a thing!” (See my earlier post on peer response sessions.) Side/end note: one thing I struggle with when it comes to poetry is knowing when it is done. When do you stop revising a poem? When do you call it done? I don’t have an answer for this yet, but I hope to get closer as my poetry improves.

Revision & Poetry

Reflection: Theories and Applications of Teaching Composition

When I began this course, I feared I did not have enough experience as a teacher like my fellow classmates, as I have only tutored in the academic setting. In fact, until this class began, I did not believe that I had a pedagogical background. I discovered that it has been there all along, waiting to be uncovered. I’m beginning to understand this desire to teach has been here all along, and I have to reflect on my life as a writer to even begin considering what my teaching theory could be. To be honest, I never thought I had a set of theories about writing and teaching writing until this course. I have discovered that my teaching principles began to take shape when I took a course to become a tutor in the University Writing Center (UWC). It brought a lot to light for me, and helped me identify and physically write down what two of my theories could be.

  1. Writing is therapy. Many who write can funnel their passion creatively, or use research as a way to find the answers to their pressing questions. In my experience, journaling has been a savior on its own. I can spend a few moments a day writing out what is bothering me or what makes me happy. I also enjoy challenging myself to put a creative spin on my words when freewriting.
  2. There is not one end-all-be-all way to write a piece. The beauty about writing is that it’s flexible and can vary from person to person. After I trained to be a tutor for the UWC, I realized I would need to adapt the way I assisted each individual student. Some learn better by seeing, then doing… and others learn better by simple instruction. Even though I would begin each session the same way – breaking the ice, asking them questions about the piece, and have them begin reading aloud – I would often find myself ending the session a different way every single time. This alone helps me learn to adapt to unique situations in an instructor position, which I believe is very important.

My goal for this semester was to better understand theory of teaching composition, and learn how to apply it in my future classes. I believe I met half of that goal, simply because I do not have a classroom yet to test my ability. I have gained a better understanding of the reasons why we teach composition, and I have a better outlook on how I might do so in the future. For instance, for my final individual project I created a syllabus based on the four theories I made a personal connection to – expressivism, genre, culture studies, and social justice.  These are the ideas that captured my attention the most.

Now that I have completed this course, I am able to take a deeper look into the traditional definition of theory – Theory is defined as a supposition or a system of ideas intended to explain something, esp. one based on general principles independent of the thing to be; a set of principles on which the practice of an activity is based. Considering this definition and the readings, theory has a large role in teaching composition. Up until I began my graduate degree, I did not understand how theory had a place in writing. when I look back on my education, theory was present the entire time – I just didn’t realize I knew how to identify it. This course has most definitely helped me in that area. Writing was always just a hobby, a way to get the ideas and demons out of my head and onto paper. It was just, and still is (but with more meaning), my form of therapy.

I now understand that the role that theory plays in writing can be quite flexible – there are many ways to go about instructing someone to conduct a task. Understanding theory and how to apply it to each unique situation in the classroom helps everyone – instructors and students alike – become more versed in a craft. Looking back on this course, I now realize how theory really comes into play – and I really understood that subconsciously when I began working as a writing tutor. I can now clearly see my path as a writer would be to help others and educate them about the craft. I will now be able to go forward and help others learn the art of composition.

Personal Literacy History Prompted by Discussion

Personal Literacy History Prompted by Discussion

Since I was young, I have enjoyed reading and writing. What I didn’t realize until recently is that throughout my childhood, I was on the path to become literate. To me, literacy has changed a great deal since I was young. For example, my family did not have a computer in the house until I was in 7th or 8th grade. I often wrote with pen/pencil and paper, in the confines of my room. It was a private thing for me – I had many journals in which I would write about what happened that day at school or at home. It was more of a release versus a mode of communication (like it is for me today). I remember when my small town finally had internet access (dial-up, but still exciting… ugh, it pains me to say that I was excited about a dial-up internet connection when today I won’t settle for anything less than a super-fast connection) – I would walk just under a quarter of a mile to my aunt’s house and use her internet. I would also go over to use her word processor on her computer – I would create a newsletter, pretend I ran a newspaper and report the local news or anything that was of interest to me. In fact, I remember calling it “Up-to-Date News.” Moving forward through school, I found a special connection with my English classes because we were prompted to write about what we studied. Same for history – those two classes required papers and essays. It continued to be a passion through the rest of my teen years, and now that I’m almost out of my twenties, it’s how I want to make a living. Funny, these recollections… means so much more now that I understand my literacy path.

So, what is literacy? It has always been, to me, the ability to read and write coherently, to communicate effectively, and has been a part of the educational process. I think of my literacy history and then think about it from a global perspective: there are still places around the world that do not have internet connections or even computers… whereas today, in America, it seems the average family has multiple computers, a fast internet connection, and many books, magazines, or newspapers to read every day. And if your home doesn’t have some of these things, there’s a local library you can visit to feed your literate soul.

Thinking about how I became literate… my parents were adamant about encouraging me to read and write. Perhaps their parents were the same way with then, and so on, and so on throughout the family tree. I can look at this from many informational perspectives – historical, sociological, case studies, pictures/graphics, and even family artifacts. History tells me people learn to read and write because they were taught… and those before them were taught, and those before them were taught. It’s evolution to me. We, as humans, learned to communicate through signs, symbols, grunting, etc, since the beginning of our race. We use the past to improve present literacy, looking back and seeing how our ancestors performed basic literate tasks. We have adapted in some ways, and evolved from there. This takes me straight into the assumptions we discussed in class. Learning about literacy involves the changes we want to make and how we want to act on it. I have tried to remove myself and act as a spectator in recent years to how my literacy has evolved. Case in point – I have loved to write with a pencil and paper, and that started as doodling with crayons. Now, I can’t go anywhere without my computer because I use my word processor as my form of writing. I do still enjoy how a pen feels in my hand and how it touches the paper – nothing will, to me, ever replace that feeling. I can just type faster than I can physically write, so I tend to favor the computer over the pencil/paper type of writing.

Another point… we were discussing in my other class about revising as we go while typing a paper. I am absolutely horrible at removing the internal editor. I find myself constantly editing as I go when typing… but when I write freehand with pen and paper, I don’t edit as I go as much. Going back a little further and thinking about my speech classes during my early years as an undergraduate, I found myself writing freehand my ideas for my speech, then going and typing them up. That’s when the editing would come into play – while I was rehearsing the speech, I would notice myself changing what I wrote down freehand because I could better organize it on the computer. Or, I would consider how I speak compared to how I write (informal versus formal), and then change the direction of my speech to either formalize or take it down a peg so others could relate to the topic.

My literacy is still changing and evolving. I can personally attest to the statement we made in class – “being literate helps create membership” – I find myself drawn to those who read and write every day, and create conversation based on what we write about. This is one reason I love being back in school – I’m surrounded by individuals who love to read and write as much as I do, and we tend to look at the reasons from historical, sociological, philosophical, and political perspectives. Intellectually speaking, literacy has completely changed me as a person – I have to ask myself: “where would I be without literacy?” I may never answer this, and to be honest, I don’t want to. I’m glad I was brought up in a literate household and was pointed in that direction.

We were given some questions to answer following  one of our class discussions – they are listed below.

  • Given our discussions in class or what we’ve learned about ourselves as a literate person, what areas would I like to spend more time investigating? I would like to look at my life as a literate person from the historical and sociological perspectives, and weave the readings/discussions in to back up my personal evidence that says I am a literate person. I would also like to look into the literacy rates of sex offenders specifically – the topic of sex offender rights (or lack thereof) has been a great interest for the last few years.
  • What do I know about literacy now that I did I not know about literacy before I walked into class tonight? The differences of literacy history between classmates – we all have similar beginnings, but every single person is different and their backgrounds are varied.

  • What do I know about literacy now that I did I not know about literacy when I walked into class the first night? I had the undergraduate course for writing and literacy a few years ago, so I assumed I would have a good jumping off point for when I walked into this class. I’m noticing that I was not as critical when it came to studying literacy – I’m beginning to see the elements of thought as real-life application and can apply it to literacy studies now a lot better than what I ever could before.