Now that you’ve been reading our work, we think it’s about time we introduced ourselves.
Shewonda Leger is a writer who has love for creativity, whether its fiction or non-fiction. She is a graduate student at Michigan State University, pursuing her master’s degree in Digital Rhetoric and Professional Writing. When she is not at home in her pajamas working on her novel, she is writing for WRAC or consulting at The Writing Center @ MSU. Follow her on Twitter @Mz_Poesy.
Haley Erb is a junior in the Professional Writing program. She also studies creative writing and the digital humanities. She is a pro-oxford comma and an excellent marshmallow roaster. Willing to ramble about typography, writing, design, food, science, books, space, or pretty much anything. She can be bribed with sour candy. Follow Haley on Twitter @haleys_comma.
Kelly Turner is a Junior and Professional Writing major here at MSU. Writing, reading, and obsessing over TV shows and books are how she likes to spend her time. She believes peace, love, and reading are all we need. She loves website development and environmental science, and if you can’t tell, she’s a huge nerd. She’d also like to die peacefully in a bath of peanut butter and chocolate. Follow Kelly on Twitter @wordscreateus.
Leading this creative bunch is Casey Miles, PhD student in Rhetoric & Writing, with a master’s degree in Digital Rhetoric & Professional Writing. Casey’s research focuses on queer rhetorics, specifically looking at butch ways of knowing, doing, and being in academic spaces, as well as documentary and video composition. Casey continues to work on her documentary series, The Gender Project, which explores gender, gender identity, and sexuality in everyday lives. Follow her on Twitter @soulsmiles.
Starting November 1st, all peer-reviewed work published by scholars working within The University of California system will be available for free on the university’s eScholarship website. This is a big move toward open access publishing, and comes in the wake of Aaron Swartz’s death as he was on trial for “illegally” attempting to do exactly what UC is starting. An interesting caveat to this move is that scholars can opt-out on a per paper basis. Read more at The Verge.
For all you organization geeks (like myself), go-getters who like to plan ahead, frequent group collaborators, and anybody who just appreciates the beauty of a Gantt chart, I give you TeamWeek, a web and iOS interactive Gantt chart. TeamWeek has a pretty simple interface, yet it’s not so simple that it’s boring. Think the colorful drag-and-drop interface of Google Calendar, or even iCal, yet flipped so time stretches horizontally rather than vertically; and tasks are arranged by team member instead of day. And for my Gantt chart geeks, imagine a chart where you can move dates and times without having to redo the whole dang thing!! Whew I think I need a cigarette.
Latte art from my local coffee shop, GrandRiver Coffee in East Lansing.
Lifehacker recently reminded it’s readers that working near others can boost your productivity, which resonated with me. I’m a coffee shop fanatic. When I travel, especially for work and school, I don’t look for the coolest bar or world-renowned restaurants, I look for independent coffee shops. Places where the locals go to get some work done while sipping a hopefully fair-trade latte. One of the reasons I love coffee shops so much is that I tend to get a good amount of work done. I’m by myself, but not alone. Check out LifeHacker’s piece about why this is true, then peruse their suggestions for staying productive while working at your local coffee shop.
The Oregon Trail, classic computer game of yesteryear, started in 1971 as three student teachers struggled to get their students engaged. Hello, pedagogy. The game started on a teletype machine available in a janitor’s closet in a junior high school. Interestingly enough, the cold war inspired the US to create grants to out-pace Russian technological innovation. As such there was a boon in PC manufacturing, leading Minnesota public schools to be one of Apple’s first large-scale commercial customers, putting 500 Apple II’s in classrooms across the state. And since the game came on a diskette it was shared easily.
The game came to be the cult classic it is now when programmers who’d played the game as kids added graphics and retooled the plot a bit, coining the phrase, “You have died of dysentery.” The educational innovation of The Oregon Trail is that it gave students instant feedback, which served to keep students engaged and more importantly learning.
While The Oregon Trail started in a history classroom, it’s effect on getting millions of students using computers is the genius. In fact, you can now relive the magic with an app. In 2009 an iOS version of the game was launched, with already over 3 million downloads. Mental Floss does a lovely job recounting the legend of The Oregon Trail. Hop over to their post for the rest of the story.
Apartment Therapy recently asked, “Do You Still Blog?” With the proliferation of microblogging platforms like Twitter and Instagram, this seems a relevant question to consider. The impetus to document our lives remains, but for specifically blogging Apartment Therapy offers an overview of currently popular blogging platforms, some you’ve heard of like WordPress, and some you may not have, like the open-source Ghost. If you’re thinking about getting back into blogging, read on. Or rather, write on.
Lifehacker offers useful solutions to common resume issues in this post. The overall strategy they suggest is: “get creative, be upfront, and do a little rebranding.” For example, in how to deal with an excessively long resume they suggest only including relevant experience as a way to cut down on the content. In a pinch, this post offers common sense solutions to better your chance of landing the job you’re after.
The typical, or maybe fantastical, writing set-up usually involves a desk, a chair, a clear surface, paper and pens (plural cause you’ll be burning through them), or maybe a laptop, no powercord of course, pristine. I don’t know anyone who writes like this. Most writing usually involves a cluttered desk stacked with books, papers, cups, bills, junk mail, a million pens buried underneath it all, and that one sock you can’t find the match to. Or maybe a tiny table at a coffee shop with your laptop next to your latte next to your muffin next to your notebook next to your smartphone. Or maybe you write sitting on the couch with syndicated TV shows on in the background, a kitten curled next to you and nag champa wafting through the air. Now, have you ever imagined writing at a standing desk, your feet free to dance to the latest too-embarrassed-to-admit pop star’s album?
My standing desk – a workbench with wooden bed risers. Total cost: about $150.
I’ve been using a standing desk at work and at home for the last couple of years as a component of better back health. However, this post is not a rage against sitting and whether or not that’s good or bad for you. In fact, this might just be the first body-positive blog post about standing desks ever to appear on the internetz! I’ve found there are two types of blog posts about standing desks; first, SITTING IS SO BAD FOR YOU WHY WOULD YOU EVER, and second, Be More Productive By Getting Off Your Ass. Both of these fall into that preachy health morality genre that I find repulsive. But they also offer tips for building or buying a standing desk, as well as what your body might experience at first. To be fair, there’s also a “Sitter’s Manifesto” out there too.
As a writer, the standing desk engages my creativity in a much different way than sitting at a desk or on the couch. I can move around, I can pace, I can walk away from the monitor to gather my ideas or work through a thought. I can stretch. I can dance! The world around my body is much more alive and tactile when I’m standing and writing. However, introducing a standing desk to my workflow definitely took a few months. Standing is hard on the feet if you’re not used to it, and I knew from my many previous retail jobs that my feet were gonna hurt. So I started with an hour, then slowly increased my time. I also invested in an anti-fatigue mat, which is a dense foam mat used in commercial kitchens, pharmacies, and at check-out lanes in convenience and grocery stores.
Lifehacker recently featured DeskHacks’ four-week Stand Up and Work Challenge. While the overall tone of this challenge preaches to that health morality, I like the idea of a four-week challenge to get people who are considering a standing desk started in the process. Jesse Noller, a programmer/writer, wrote about his experience after 5 months, finding, “I feel more refreshed; and switching “into work” and “out of work” (meaning, in and out of a task) is easier/more approachable.” Don’t get me wrong, I still sit and write, just not as much. And most (if not all?) public writing spaces like coffeeshops, offices, and libraries, are designed for sitting. And mama needs her lattes.