Culture is an iceberg. Most of what we immediately think of is just what’s above the waterline – food, music, holidays. But so much of the cultural norms are hidden below the surface, and it can be overwhelming to try and navigate all the hidden expectations when you’re thrown into foreign waters. To ease the experience, CAITLAH (Center for Applied Inclusive Teaching and Learning in the Arts and Humanities) created Dive In with the help of WRAC faculty member Cheryl Caesar.
Dive In is a forum where students can talk about their experiences with culture shock in the MSU community. This website gives students an outlet to discuss the differences in culture and to express their struggles in acclimating to MSU’s culture.
Over the years, Caesar has asked her first-year writing students to expand their audience beyond their classmates, to write beyond their culture bubble. For First-Year Writing classes at MSU, this is a ubiquitous goal. However, Caesar wanted more for her students. “ I got tired of asking them to imagine they were writing for a particular audience — why not do it for real?”
In 2012, Caesar submitted an idea to the FYW Program for a new pilot curriculum based on culture shock. Part of the curriculum included a written personal narrative about students’ experience with culture shock. The necessity for the Dive In website came later, “I began receiving so much wonderful, thoughtful and creative material that I could not just keep it to our classroom,” Caesar explained. She began dreaming up a website that encompassed campus and beyond, stock full of information on various cultures as well as local and campus resources.
The project quickly gained traction and soon other MSU staff and students jumped on board. “A senior in Teacher Education, Caren Kadri, is interested in taking it on as a research project. Also, two groups of students from Kate Fedewa’s WRA 150 are doing research in order to contribute profiles and FAQ. One group, headed by Alex Heavin, will be presenting this research at UURAF (University Undergraduate Research and Arts Forum) in April,” said Caesar.
The heart of the website though, is student stories. One such story comes from Q:
“Living in a different culture is like a double edged sword. Not only people can learn another culture, but they also can feel culture shock as I had. I still have a language problem, but I am better in English now than I was before. And I have learned about American behavior such as eye contact and have become used to it; so I can respond to people while they are talking, even sometimes other people avoid my eye contact while I’m talking. Moreover, I have found many entertainments with friends in the US besides my playing style in Korea, so I can spend and hang out with others more time. Fears can make your situation worse. Do you want to make new friends? Have a little courage.”
Currently, Dive In has been a great tool for students in FYW; however, Caesar would like the site to be more widely known and used by students, campus organizations, and professors. “I would like to see it known to all new students [. . .] And I would like students to take it over as their own forum, with a chat room and whatever else they might envision,” she said. Caesar is hoping to extend the reach of the project by one day getting the website to become part of orientation or become a freshman seminar.
You can get involved by writing about your own experiences, offering comments or suggestions, or sharing resources on culture shock (such as events, articles, and FAQs). Caesar can be contacted at email@example.com.
We are pleased to announce that Alyssa Onder, Professional Writing senior, has been accepted to the Denver Publishing Institute. While Jon Ritz brought the program to her attention as a sophomore, she only remembered the program recently while looking into her plans for after graduation. As a certification program, Onders decided the Denver Publishing Institute seemed to be a better fit for her than grad school. Associate Professor Stuart Blythe only has good things to say about the program, “The Publishing Institute is a terrific first step for students interested in book publishing. Many students actually walk away from the Institute with a job offer.” In regards to Onder’s acceptance, he explains, “Alyssa was in a section of my WRA 202 that I taught a couple years ago. Based on the good work she did then, I’m not surprised that she was accepted.”
While this four-week long program focuses mainly on book publishing, they make every day count. Lectures and workshops cover everything from book design and packaging to proofreading and copyediting to media marketing and a bit of multimedia publishing. In response to her acceptance, Onder explains what she’s looking forward to most, “I’m hoping to learn more about where the publishing industry is headed. Because DPI focuses largely on book publishing as opposed to magazine or e-publishing, I’m interested to learn about how the industry is keeping print alive and how I might be part of that.”
In addition to in-depth workshops on editing and marketing in the publishing business, the Institute also offers one-on-one sessions with DPI graduates and prominent figures in publishing. “I’m excited for the networking! There are so many experienced publishers, agents, and editors from the ‘The Big Six’ visiting DPI to work with students. I’m eager to meet them and learn about their experience with the industry.” Of course, ‘The Big Six’ Onder is referring to are the most distinguished publishing companies across the world: Simon and Schuster, HarperCollins, Random House, Macmillan, The Penguin Group, and Hachette. From these prestigious companies, there will be two representatives from HarperCollins and one representative from Penguin, Macmillan, and Random House at the Institute, respectively.
Upon graduating the program, she will receive a Publishing Certificate. Since Onder is in the Editing and Publishing track of Professional Writing, this program gives her a perfect opportunity to not only explore the publishing industry and what it has to offer, but to network inside the business and launch her career in publishing.
Terribleminds shares a writing exercise that can improve your writing, which is to take one thing and describe it ten different ways. Try it out. Pick a thing.
Here are the rules:
Focus on it and describe it multiple ways. Ten, as noted.
Each no more than a sentence of description.
(Feel free to choose a real world thing. Say, a lamp in your corner, or the flu you had last week.)
Differ your approaches in how you describe this thing.
Try pinballing from abstraction to factual — from metaphorical to forthright.
Here’s what I came up with:
After sitting in the car for ten hours, I was tired of traveling. My butt was worn-out from French kissing the seat. My neck was stiff like a pole. Like a baby with a wet diaper I was. Like an old and dusty bookshelf I felt. Frustrated and ready to stretch my legs. Connected like a group of organic compounds, waiting for H2O to break the bond.
Now you try!
The goal here is just to flex our descriptive muscles a bit.
I could start this by stating that Twitter is an incredible micro-blogging site that has revolutionized social networks and connected the world in a global conversation like never before – but I’d be stating the obvious. The truth is, Twitter is one weird place. Sure, it’s just one of the more popular corners of the Internet to hang out, but, not doubt, it inspires some odd behavior. Round up all the humans with internet access, give them 140 characters to state their opinions and the ability to read and respond to almost anybody else’s opinion, and we’ve got ourselves a straight up verbal rampage on our hands. Should be fun.
Let’s look back on the most popular Twitter trends of 2013. There are the more well known entities that you couldn’t escape if you tried such as Horse ebooks or Doge. (So done, much annoying.) And then there are the obscure such as Twitter canoes or subtweeting (The overuse of mentions and the blatant disregard of them so people don’t know they’re being talked about.). Some of these may not have reached you in your corner of the Twitter-verse because – let’s face it – Twitter is huge and some conversations don’t quite circulate far enough. One thing’s for sure: there’s no end to these trends. As long as Twitter lives, grows, and changes, so will its users and the rhetoric they use. Check out NYMag’s 2013 Twitter Glossary for more trends.
Last Thursday, Facebook revealed its latest achievement, Hack, a new programming language. When Facebook was created ten years ago, it was coded entirely in PHP. However, as Facebook became bigger, the language became harder to manage and developers were more susceptible to making mistakes. The manager of Facebook’s Hack team, Bryan O’Sullivan, helped eliminate those errors by creating Hack. The website has moved almost all of its code over to Hack in the last year. The company released an open-source version of the language for the public last week.
As an open-source programming language, Hack was designed to allow developers to write bug-free code fast. By keeping some elements of PHP and combining the structure of other programming languages, Hack was born. In order to debug code more efficiently, instead of checking while the program is running, which is what PHP does, Hack will check for errors ahead of time, which is called static typing. The language itself is most similar to PHP; O’Sullivan encourages programmers that want to use Hack to only convert the parts of their code that are the most important, as it is not necessary to redo everything. This blending of both static and dynamic typing forms a method called “gradual typing” which has been shown to provide swift feedback and incredible accuracy.
Read more about this new language at ReadWrite.
“I do know that if I put something like ‘Texting is good for us’ in the title of a talk, I am guaranteed an audience.”
The quote above is Jeff Grabill’s explanation for the title of his recent Ted Talk – and spoiler alert – he doesn’t actually say if texting is good for us. He does, however, offer an insightful look at the power of networks and writing education.
Speaking engagingly and intelligently for almost 12 minutes is a uniquely difficult (and anxiety ridden) task. “[T]he situation was challenging. [...] I had to try to be interesting, engaging, and absolutely on time in a speech situation that was basically live TV … and without my typical memory aids.” explains Grabill.
As a rhetorician, however, Grabill was uniquely prepared:
“To prepare, then, I relied on my rhetorical training (Ta da!). Specifically, I created a memory palace, a very old technique for recalling a speech. It isn’t memorizing the speech, but in a classic memory palace, you imagine rooms of a house/palace and what you will say in each room. During the talk, one simply “walks through the palace.” Another take on the memory palace can be found in this season’s Sherlock.
Jeff’s recommended TED Talks:
Chris Messina, a former Google designer, first proposed the hashtag idea on Twitter back in 2007. However, he wanted to use the ‘#’ symbol as a way to create “groups”. Here’s his first tweet proposing the idea:
Much to his chagrin, Twitter rejected his idea then but took it up years later as a news feed sorting technique. Had Messina patented the hashtag idea back then, he could have earned quite a sum of money. However, he had two pretty good reasons for letting the hashtag become public property. “Claiming a government-granted monopoly on the use of hashtags would have likely inhibited their adoption, which was the antithesis of what I was hoping for, which was broad-based adoption and support – across networks and mediums,” Messina explained. “I had no interest in making money (directly) off hashtags. They are born of the Internet, and should be owned by no one. The value and satisfaction I derive from seeing my funny little hack used as widely as it is today is valuable enough for me to relieved that I had the foresight not to try to lock down this stupidly simple but effective idea.”
To learn more about Messina and the birth of the hashtag, check out Business Insider’s article here.
By the time you leave the Professional Writing program, you will have crafted more pieces of writing than you will ever know what to do with. It’s good practice. The breadth of experience and expertise you will take from the faculty and curriculum will give you a skill-set in high demand.
But when it comes to working as a freelance writer, there’s just not a lot that coursework can do to prepare you for the day-to-day business situations you’ll find yourself in. Here are some tips to avoid a big mistake I made getting started.
Watch Out For Rocks
When you first start working as a freelancer, it’s easy to jump right in to what you’ve learned, know, and love—creating high-quality content. Be careful though, there are some rocks beneath the surface. The reality of the freelance world—and this is certainly not unique to writers and content developers—is that many clients are not entirely certain about what they want, need, and more importantly what happens on the freelance side to make it happen. This can lead to confusion and friction down the road unless the scope of your work is laid out in advance. It’s in everyone’s best interest for both sides to know what is expected of them. Take the time to sit down and work through what needs to be done.
I consulted with a small, local client on marketing strategy and implementation. At the first board meeting, we spoke generally about direction and metrics/targets for the quarter.
During the next month’s meeting, I shared news about unexpected growth in a different area. One of the members later told me how confused some of the board was to not hear about what we had discussed during the first meeting. We had set no month-to-month targets or even discussed the need for monthly reports. Why would they think that? Because without explicitly outlining how we would handle updates and meetings, each member of the board developed their own expectation. That was my fault.
Come next month, I was prepared with every metric I had. It was much better received. Lesson learned—always manage expectations from the start and think ahead.
Remember Your Training
You are being brought on as a professional. Your input in negotiations is not only valuable, but necessary. The difficulty will come in building and maintaining those relationships. You don’t want to miss a deadline because you could not get information or feedback in a timely fashion. Give yourself breathing room and make sure the client knows what is expected of and from them.
Even if you don’t intend on making a freelance business your primary career, you will find that your skills and working knowledge are too valuable to not exercise on the side—especially in today’s economy. Keep an eye out for workshops and information from the Professional Writing program on how to get started.
“Adrian de Novato has been writing professionally since 2011. He currently writes for the Amway Corporation and has consulted with various business and public advocacy groups. He is a graduate of the professional writing program and lives in East Grand Rapids.”