Tag: final draft

Culture of Hands (final draft)

Outsiders psych themselves out. Becoming an artist, more specifically a ceramist, is not about natural talent. It is about time and effort. A diligence to become better. No one is born ready to play soccer, just as no one is born to draw or sculpt clay. It’s a practice that leads to perfection with time and failures; the most basic thing individuals need to master this art is a willingness to continue even when he or she does not want to anymore.

Mastery does not come just from watching another perform the task, though it does provide a platform for imitation. The language of a ceramist is “mastered by overt instruction (even less so than languages, and hardly anyone ever masters a language sitting in a classroom setting.) We master by apprenticeship, through social practices and supported interactions and time by people who have already mastered the discourse” (Gee 7). Experience is an essential part of mastery, it is “how people, given the proper support, can ‘make it’ in culturally alien environments” (Delpit 550). Certain hand placements, recognizing how pliable clay will be just from the look of it, even mixing glazes. Talking about such things are completely different from experiencing it. That is why the best mentors will let their apprentice try out all his or her ideas, so that they will see what exactly that will do or why that would be a bad idea. Instead of simply being told yes or no, real experience is gained.

In a room, there are several students. All of them have had prior experience taking an art course, but not all of them have ever experienced building via clay. Some of the students fool around and joke. There are those who do not value the chance that they have been given. In fact, the majority seems not to care. Only one or two of the students take to this art. Of building things, out of clay with their own two hands. For those students, they understand that there is a value to creating, that the life of an artist is something most are too afraid to endure. For the kids who watch on, they see their lack of skill and claim, “I could never do that,” but that is not true. An artist is not just born. They are made. Through time and practice; a skilled artist takes years to create. Like a wine, the longer they have, the better they are. For the ‘naturals’ of the room, it is not that they are predisposed to it. It’s that they already have a foundation somewhere else that lets them mushfake the practice of ceramics. Mushfaking is when people apply other things (skills, information, values, etc.) when the real thing is not available to use (Gee 13). This allows them to create a substitute in abilities to replace the fact that they are newcomers. When it comes to clay, an apprentice who is proficient in kneading dough in the kitchen might have already mastered one area. Wedging clay is similar to kneading dough; for a ceramist, air inside of clay is dangerous. The air that is trapped inside of the clay can cause the piece to break when it is being fired. There are many air bubbles inside of reclaimed clay, which is why potters will take the time to wedge all the air out.

A ceramist’s hands are everything to them. Without steady hands, nothing can be built. The intricate designs are impossible to achieve without delicate motions, but the base of the piece that’s made needs a strong foundation. It needs hands that will not budge from their place. On a wheel to center the piece, the hands must work together to cone a piece up and down. That is why to do this properly, the hands touch one another to give them extra stability. The arms are drawn into the body, held near the core. To center clay on a wheel, one hand presses against the body of the clay, usually at the base of the palm since that is the area that will give the least. The other hand will brace the top with the side of the hand that has the pinkie finger as this is the flattest a ceramist can make their hand; this hand will also typically be holding a wet sponge. As the clay spins, it becomes dry and there is no lubrication between the clay and hand. The result of this friction which makes it impossible to deal with. Using a sponge that has a little water in it allows for the ceramist to slowly add water to the body. The water softens the clay and lets the ceramist more easily manipulate piece. There are other processes one might do to build the clay to the height they want it, both hands embrace the sides of the clay and increase the pressure. That forces the clay to ‘cone’ up. A potter might repeat these two processes a dozen times until they are happy with the starting point of the clay.

Technical skills of an artist are just one part of the process. Another side is that of the morals, of the creativity. How far they are willing to put themselves out there. An artist bares their souls to the public and endure the critics. The best pieces are the ones that have a story, something that goes beyond the surface. And the artist is the one that knows that story best, yet rarely do they share the full extent. After all, no matter what they say, it’s the people who decide what they hear.

If someone were to look at a handcrafted bowl, they could think that making that bowl was easy or they could assume that some skill went into this. They would probably not think deeper than that. They wouldn’t think of the journey that the clay had had itself or the process by which it was made. The clay that I’m most familiar with is clay that is local to me. There is a business that digs the clay right out of the earth before being ran through machines to wedge the air out and then is it bagged. After being processed, it is driven the few miles to the studio. From there on, it is either made into something or tossed in a bucket to be reclaimed. The clay that makes it into a final product is shaped, sculpted, and then dried out. It’s size shrinks back, first when the water is evaporated from it then again when it is fired. The color or the texture that it’s given is another step of the process, but why were those colors chosen? The texture?

An artist bares his or her soul for the art. And then society overlooks it. The complex realms that they put hours, days, weeks into are thought of for a moment and then forgotten. The life of any artist is hard; they suffer in silence, and only after they are gone does society look back at their art to remember the individual. To be an artist is hard, and there is little gain from it. Some people claim that acquisition of this discourse, “the mastery of which, at a particular place and time, brings with it the (potential) acquisition of social ‘goods’ (money, prestige, status, etc.),” yet during an artist’s infancy, they are worse off (Gee 8). The few connections that they do have, it does not bring them status or fame. So why is it that someone would want to be an artist? The only thing that they could possibly get as a newcomer is self-satisfaction. An inner peace with themselves. Being an artist is one of the hardest things to master. It required an infinite pool of creativity. The best thing a budding ceramist can do is to acquire a master in the art.

Masters are not always easy to find; it is even more difficult to find one that is willing to take on a student. For an apprentice to gain the full membership to being a ceramist they need a sponsor that can open the doors for them, but sponsors don’t take pupils under their wings just for the sake of it. Thankfully there is an incentive for a master to take on an apprentice, “they lend their resources or credibility to the sponsored but also stand to gain benefits from their success, whether by direct repayment or, indirectly, by credit of association” (Brandt 557). Sponsors gain a peer, someone else who appreciates and understands them. An ally of the same field of which they are a part of. There are other forms of repayment to the master but in the end, that is the most significant piece.

Decades ago, a Japanese potter created a style of pottery called Kintsugi, they would mend broken pieces with gold. It has been reformed slightly since then, now it is a mixture between gold and an epoxy. Before this method was developed, it was originally thought that broken pieces could be fixed but they would be ugly and their value would drop. Once clay has been fired initially, it cannot revert to its pre-bisque form. This makes perfect repairs impossible. And unfortunately, the repairs were ugly. Which is why this style of repair became so popular. It would fix the cracks and while the cracks would still be clearly visible, it was made beautiful. This style demonstrates the idea that the pottery is more beautiful for having been broken. The cracks and mends show a history to the piece. The troubles that it has overcome. A ceramist of this style values what has been broken, almost more so than the pieces that have not faced hardships.

This is not meant to assume that each pot does not have its own story. On the contrary, clay has many secrets hidden in it by the time someone comes along to purchase a piece. Like where the clay originally came from. Or how many times the vase had been started only to be wedged back down or tossed in the reclaim bucket. If it had turned out the way the artist had intended, or if it was as much a surprise to them as it would be to the buyer. The glazes that are homemade tend to be more unstable in their form and decay after time, one firing might be different from the next. There are some steps to a potter’s process that must be taken on faith. A piece shrinks as it dries out and then again when it is fired and becomes bisque ware. There is of course an estimation for how much a piece will shrink and one could take the time to figure it out but a seasoned potter can draw on their previous experience to guestimate. Glazes can be tested before applying it to a piece but there will then be a delay; the final piece may not reflect what the test piece showed. The initial look of glazes cannot be trusted, reds become vivid greens while greys become blue. There are no certainties for clay, it is too fragile. Whether it will survive a firing is a chance; a chance that improves with a potter’s skill, but there are no guarantees. Some parts of the process must be taken on faith.

The basics of pottery are easy to master. Individuals can pick up on the superficial features of mastery with practice but there are subtler aspects that one cannot learn without interaction with masters (Delpit 557). A prominent difference between master and apprentice is their willingness when it comes to store made glazes. A master might claim that it is not true pottery when a premade glaze is used, that the potter slacked off. While an apprentice would find the premade glazes a blessing and appreciate the diversity that it offered them. The glazes bought from a store are more stable and still create a unique look for each piece. Newcomers apply the glaze themselves, so for them, it should count as a full piece. The difference between master and apprentice here are the values and beliefs. The apprentice who chooses a premade glaze has not yet acquired the full identity of a ceramist.

Gaining a foothold in the world of art is possible to anyone that has the connections or the status. That is true for any discourse, connections and status can get an individual in anywhere. Becoming a potter is an expensive endeavor that those without funds or relationships to the art would struggle to find an opening into the world, but those that have a foundation only need to be willing to dedicate themselves to the act completely. This begs the question of whether it is worth the effort to enter such a world. Each person must answer that by their own standards, are they willing to spend the time, money, and effort on something that could end up benefiting themselves? For me, the answer is yes; pottery is an opening to a word that calls for me. The art and creativity are relaxing but also challenging. There is a solace that comes with the hours spent over a wheel, slowly pulling the walls of the clay up and then carving out the perfect form. The immediate frustration when you nick the lip of the pot; the satisfaction of being able to save it anyways. Pottery for me is nothing but opportunity, an endeavor that I would like to continue with for the rest of my life. Outsiders who want to join are scared off by the skill of masters, yet people should not hesitate to put themselves out there. After all, only those who become a member will truly understand the meaning, the value behind being in such a world.

The Conflict of Relationships (final draft)

Conflict is unavoidable because people are different throughout the world. They hold onto their own ideas and thoughts. These conflicting ideas and beliefs often lead to either the rejection or acceptance into a new social group. Kara Poe Alexander examined over seven hundred essays where students explained their story behind whether or not they were accepted into a new discourse. Discourses are how people people speak and act; there are several layers to them, the first being the primary discourse. This is the basis for someone’s beliefs and values. As relationships expand so do discourses. Following the primary discourse is the secondary discourse. This is further developed into non-dominant and dominant discourses; dominant discourses provide monetary or status gain along with beneficial connections while non-dominant discourses only provide social connections. All of these concepts were first introduced by James Paul Gee.

Students of the English 122 class were given the opportunity to replicate Alexander’s study. They were all required to write their own literacy narratives, stories about a significant moment in their life that had to do with reading or writing. Afterwards the narratives would be pooled together under the name Rising Cairn. These stories more often than not, shared a time where a student’s relationship with a mentor was developing. Students of the English 123 class went on to read these narratives and were then responsible for distilling the stories in a process similar to Alexander. Following her study where she first introduced master and little narratives, master narratives followed a tradition outlook at literacy where literacy would lead to success and little narratives were more localized to the individual, she then branched the categories out further into eight choices: success, hero, child prodigy, literacy winner, victim, outsider, rebel and other (Alexander 615). Interestingly, instead of Alexander’s diverse collection of essays, those from English 122 seemed to offer the unique views of students who are all at a relatively similar time in their life. Most of the essays submitted had a common thread, a theme that connected all of the stories.

There are simple universal concepts and actions that span all cultures and discourses. Such as smiling when happy, marriage, and the way people speak. Social groups form habits and create their own values and beliefs, something that someone outside of the discourse could struggle to embrace and understand. This struggle comes from an individual’s primary discourse. Conflicts of discourse could attribute to one of the reasons that people of both Alexander’s study and they people of Rising Cairn struggled. It’s no surprise that most of the essays revolved around their relationships with people. Kayla Farrell’s essay “Turn Around” focused on her struggling against a difficult teacher that pushed too much homework on all of the students and displayed how relationships influenced someone’s view. For some of the students of her story, they lost their affection for English. Others faced his difficult teaching head on. Kayla Farrell fell on the side of a fighter. Instead of giving up when presented with a negative influence, she struggled. Spending time after class, she would ask the teacher for help. And when that failed, she went somewhere else. A tutoring center at her high school. There she was able to find willing masters and sponsors to guide her. Kayla’s teacher in this case was a mentor that rejected her. He was a member of a dominant discourse yet he was unwilling to positively guide her. Thankfully she’d had enough experience prior that she was able to mushfake her way through. Mushfake is a term coined by Gee that refers to a person substituting in a different but similar discourse when they don’t have the ‘correct’ discourse for their audience.

People struggle to obtain the correct discourse without a sponsor. As Brandt explains them, sponsors “are powerful figures who bankroll events or smooth the way for initiates” (Brandt 557). Without them to act as a guide, a newcomer would be unable to master a discourse as they would be unable to gain the experience that they need. Abby’s piece, “The Giving Tree and Me,” was about herself as a young girl with her father. Together they would read stories every night. He was her mentor into literacy and a positive one at that. He introduced her passion for reading, he showed her the value and joy that it can bring. Gee calls their relationship that of a master and an apprentice. Brandt looks at it like a sponsorship while Delpit would see a mentor. No matter the term used to describe the relationship, it is the easiest way to enter a discourse. There are cases where someone is able to mushfake their discourse, to imitate. As they perform, they gain experience and become encultured by it. Mushfake can lead to mastery without a direct sponsor. Lisa Delpit, another master of discourse, also believed in the necessity for masters and exposure to the discourse. To truly become a member of a discourse, people must engage in with others.

Unlike Alexander’s study, the students of English 122 seldom wrote about success. Instead, the majority of students focused on local and little stories that emphasized the individual rather than the literacy. This could be due to the initial essay question. Perhaps it was phrased in a way that urged the ideas of a local story. Or the sample size was smaller. The majority crafted unique stories that avoided the idea that literacy means success, instead they focused on the impact that literacy had on their relationships. Literacy is something that everyone learns in this culture, knowledge does not equal success anymore. The idea that literacy is a step in the right direction has downgraded to being only shifting someone’s eyes to the right direction. Success is still far away and only his or her eyes have moved.

Relationships are an important part of acquiring discourses. In the opinion of the essay, relationships are vital to discourse. Any discourse that involves language needs multiple people so that conversation may happen. Without practice or exposure to those who have already master the discourse, they will be unable to become masters. This is why the masters of language and discourse have a significant amount of responsibility for how individuals turn out. If they fail to accept anyone into a new discourse, then eventually there could be no one around to continue on the discourse. Theoretically if that happened, a new discourse would emerge of people who would value being more open for new members. This is why acceptance and guidance into a new discourse is important for everyone. Why teachers need to focus on having a positive impact on students. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the cases. Many teachers fail to inspire their kids to reach further than they thought to. Those are the teachers and people who help kids learn to hate reading. Their disinterest is the start of a downward spiral for a lot kids. The first step of their disinterest. In class they start to mushfake, apply what they already know instead of expanding their conversation.

The majority of papers from Rising Cairn were about experiences with people. Stories of how there was either someone there to push them forward or someone there to hold them back. The influence that relationships have is significant, especially those that reject them from a discourse. Gee and Brandt have their terms to define the positive influence, but what about the negative? Those who are in a position to reject, often have an incredible amount of power towards the individual. Relationships play a significant role in life. They are unavoidable and a necessity in today’s society. Yet many people fail to value them to the right degree. Students from across the country were able to admit to being victims in their essays to Alexander and again the posts on Rising Cairn. These individuals will soon graduate from being students and be active members of society, those who rejected them from a discourse have played a hand in denying them opportunities in the future. While those who were guided now have the connections and values to give them a better opportunity at life.

First Week Writing Assignment

A flashback to the past… Or the beginning. This was the first writing project that we were given.

Looking back, people have made a vast improvement when it comes to writing and learning. The first feedback that I ever received only focused on the grammar and there were points where I disagreed with what they had to say on the matter.

english_firstweek1

Higher Education

School and learning are two separate entities. A school is a place, where occasionally, learning can be found. Learning, on the other hand, is not bound to a school yard. A person can learn anywhere. Be it through traveling, relationships, or a textbook. A higher education is the dedication of learning beyond government standards. Anyone who strives for higher education does it because of their own selfish desires. There is no third party force, it is simply one mind craving for more.

The ideology of Barnett’s The Idea of Higher Education, is accurate in the sense that it is a disturbing experience. A higher education isolates a person from the surrounding world. They know knowledge that the average body does not necessarily know. This then creates a system of power, because knowledge is power. Even in the very beginning, knowledge was revered. Those who knew what poisonous berries were, would survive. Or someone who used a cart with wheels rather than carrying items. Society advances based on knowledge and the capabilities to further educate themselves and the next generation. Barnett’s claim that there are no final answers, allows for the belief that there is always more that can be reached.

There are a few downsides to knowledge. The first being that, knowledge is not absolute. It’s fluid, it can always change. For hundreds of years, people assumed that the center of the universe was the Earth. Nowadays, that idea is laughable. The second thing is, it strips the individual of his or her innocence. Like a kid growing up too fast, knowledge forces a person to accept the hard facts that they encounter. Instead of living in a false happy world, people realize they are limited.

Barnett’s passage correlates to Nussbaum’s thoughts from “Education for Profit, Education for Democracy,” in the sense that higher education is the work of an individual. That one must actively reach for it on their own accord. Which is what most college students are doing. For the first time in their career, they are only ones that are responsible for collecting their knowledge. But that is why they are there. Because they want more knowledge and they are willing to work for it. Unlike high school, higher education is a challenge. Professors will not track a student down if they are missing work, or go out of their way unless the student makes the first move and shows the initiative. Students must work to achieve their knowledge.

Higher education is an education that is beyond high school. That should not be limited to schooling solely in college or university. It should encompass any experience where the individual is the one who reaches out for the information and actively possesses it.

Higher education is essential to society because without it, society would stagnate. It would cease to advance and other cultures and civilizations would advance past us. Right now, the USA is a leading world power. If there is a decline in the pursuit of higher education, the position of the country will decline or be surpassed. Knowledge gives the beholder superiority over others. As a result, knowledge is coveted throughout the world. And it always will be. The only thing that will change is the information that is most desired.

White Chicks in Discourse

 

White Chicks in Discourse

In the study of Discourse, the all of communication, it becomes apparent how unavoidable Discourse is. Even in movies such as White Chicks, viewers can make connections to Discourse and the many layers of it. James Paul Gee, one of the foremost thinkers on the concepts of Discourse, offers a complex standing on what a Discourse is truly capable of. His paper on “Literacy, Discourse, and Linguistics: Introduction,” explains and introduces his ideas of Discourse. One of his claims is that people are limited in their primary Discourse; this is where many people begin to reject his ideas (Gee 10).

One of the people who reject his ideas on the limitations of Discourse is Lisa Delpit. Her ideas are not as grim as Gee’s; she believes that so long as an individual believes that it is possible, then mastery of a Second Discourse will be feasible. Her stance on Discourse’s limits are that they may be limited only by what the mind limits itself to. Delpit paints a pretty picture that leaves an individual with hope of achievement whereas Gee’s grim nature does not encourage accomplishment.

Other points of Gee, like the complexity of Discourse were more readily accepted. His idea that Discourses have two sides is something in hindsight that seems obvious. The idea that Discourse has many faces. The first and foremost, is Primary Discourse. This Discourse is learned in the home and influenced by peers. This one is easy to see how it might be difficult to overcome but could still be achieved. The other side of Discourse is Secondary Discourse, this can then be further broken down into dominant and non-dominant Discourses. These are the Discourses that are learned after the Primary, and are separated only by the majority of the room. In the movie, two FBI agents must enter a society that does not recognize their Discourse as dominant, they are forced to become the outsiders.

Being the outcast or the non-dominant Discourse can sometimes be beneficial, for it “often brings solidarity with a particular social network…” which would allow individuals to have the oddball connections that members of the dominant Discourse would be unable to obtain (Gee). The individual or outcast can offer views and opinions that the dominant members might not be able to express. In an office, many companies look for a diverse cast of people to work there. Especially with jobs that require creative thinking, those ‘oddball’ people, the ones that failed to meet society’s norm may be the ones who create the best solutions.

The benefits of having a non-dominant Discourse are brought to life in the film, White Chicks. This movie brings two male FBI agents who are black, and dresses them into two their complete opposite form of two females that are both rich and white. The girls who Kevin and Marcus Copeland have to imitate are the true stereotypes of rich white girls. Those girls had fulfilled their gender roles completely and now so must the FBI agents. With only a brief preview of how the girls actually behaved, Kevin and Marcus must substitute their knowledge and mushfake their way through the weekend in the Hamptons and catch the bad guys. Mushfaking is a term coined by Gee; it is the idea of imitation.

The first of their struggles comes from their meeting Brittany and Tiffany’s friends. Right after they enter the hotel, the two must use their abilities to overcome the barrier of this Discourse. Luckily for them, the friends accept them and become a mentor for them. Under their guidance, the men are more easily made aware of acceptable behaviors and actions. Without the aid of the friends, their mission to uncover the bad guys and save the true Brittany and Tiffany would have failed.

The next of their obstacles to overcome were Heather and Megan Vandergeld. These two girls were the ‘enemies’ of the film. They embodied the Discourse of rich girls and tried to square off with Marcus and Kevin at several different points of the movie. The first of their encounters was at the opening party where they had a verbal fight. At this point, Kevin and Marcus’s now non-dominant discourses came to life and allowed them to win the fight which had the effect of drawing the attention of society. Usually the idea of drawing attention would not be the idea for anyone undercover but in this scenario it was actually beneficial. The ‘winning’ of the verbal fight allowed the two to be better accepted and allowed their status to be raised. Their non-dominant Discourse was again proven to be beneficial when they were challenged to a dance off with the Vandergeld girls. When their friends who were the ones initially dancing failed, even though they were in their dominant discourse, Marcus and Kevin stepped in with some moves of their own. Their street style dancing brought an uproar that the Vandergeld girls could not compete with. This moment furthered their status and acceptance into society.

In the film, when they are leaving the mall, a thief attempts to steal their purse. Due to Kevin and Marcus’s non-dominant Discourse they were able to catch the purse snatcher. An actual standard white rich girl would be unlikely to be able to accomplish more than a call to the police, but because of their Discourses they are able to pursue and apprehend the culprit. This moment exemplifies their abilities and brings further solidarity between them and their friends.

This is where Gee’s ideas of non-dominant Discourse begin to fall apart. He had claimed that non-dominant discourses would bring “solidarity with a particular social network, but not a wider status and social goods in the society at large,” but in the film their non-dominant discourses were improving their status (Gee 8). It is true the non-dominant Discourses can have a unifying effect but the idea of it not affecting status is farfetched. Connections are a fundamental part of status; therefore, they must have an effect on the growth or shrinkage of one’s status.

All throughout the film, the men are also accomplishing something. They have begun to acquire the Discourse of a woman. Delpit would agree that “individuals can learn the “superficial features” of dominant discourses, as well as their more subtle aspects,” (Delpit 554). This is a major conflict between Delpit and Gee, the ability to acquire the dominant Discourse of the room. Gee has the idea that individuals are unable to overcome any of their primary Discourses that hold any conflict with new Discourses and as a result they will be unable to obtain new discourses whether they are dominant or not (8-9). The film choice tends to favor with Delpit’s views that “acquiring the ability to function in a dominant discourse need not mean that one must reject one’s home identity and values, for discourses are not static, but shaped” (Delpit 552). Her ideas are more realistic than Gee’s because all Discourses are learned. It is not an inherited gift that people understand when they are born. Discourses are learned through imitation and mentorship. They take a long time to perfect, in part because they are constantly shifting. The influence of society is overwhelming and unable to be ignored.

Under society’s influence, a Discourse is subjected to change; when the friends of Marcus and Kevin give their “proper support, can ‘make it’ in culturally alien environments” (Delpit 550). Which is why the idea of Marcus and Kevin putting their careers on the line for this case, is not completely unfeasible. If they fail, they will not only be expelled but also be terminated and could face serious repercussions. They are also at risk of losing their relationships with their romantic partners. Gee’s article would have them fail. It does not allow for their success; the odds are too stacked against them. Yet the two men have the support of their friends that their non-dominant Discourse allowed them to obtain and unify with.

The idea of achievement is possible because they have the support and the belief that they will achieve (549). Their mindset of success, allows for the opportunity of success. When the option of failure is revoked and persistence is continuous, failure becomes an uncertainty. But success also requires support. That is the other factor that goes into the film. Without their friends, who provided mentorship, and the environment of the discourse, success would have been impossible. Success has two factors that coincide with Delpit’s views, belief and support. Without both of these, Marcus and Kevin would have failed.

 

Works Cited

Delpit, Lisa. “The Politics of Teaching Literate Discourse.” Other People’s Children: Cultural Conflict in the Classroom. New York: New Press, 1995. 545-554.

Gee, James Paul. “LITERACY, DISCOURSE, AND LINGUISTICS: INTRODUCTION.” The Journal of Education, vol. 171, no. 1, 1989, pp. 5–10. www.jstor.org/stable/42743865.

White Chicks. Dir. Keenan Ivory Wayans. Perf. Marlon and Shawn Wayans. 2004. DVD.

 

How My Literacy Started

It probably started in Treetops, VT. Or maybe it was somewhere else. When I was young, about three or four years old, my family went on vacation. I only remember my sister, aunt, and me there though I’m told my entire family made an appearance. Usually there was no one there except for this one family that lived there year round, the owners.The rest of the cabins and cottages would sit there, empty. This place was special though. Because, besides the lake and the rocky shore with the smell of smoke lingering in the air from the barbecue cooking, this was the place where we discovered Harry Potter. It might not seem like a big thing, but it was for us. The first night that we cracked open the book, owls sat there staring at us. They’d make their eerie noises and their eyes never seemed to wander from us. The moonlight filtered through the trees and set the atmosphere. My aunt would read by the porch light, while I would listen to the soft murmur of her voice. There was nothing else but her voice, the night, and the owls. That’s all I remember now. I don’t remember one word of the book. Back then, it wasn’t about the words though. It was about being there with my sister and my aunt and having a good time. At a place that seemed to be magical, that was magical. We tore through the first two books there. And continued reading the series as each book was released for the next few years. Until we got to the fourth book. That was when my aunt got sick. Granted, she was never the healthiest. But cancer has a way of knocking anyone down. That’s when we stopped reading. And when her brain deteriorated, that’s when I stopped believing in magic.

I still cling to books. After she died, I started reading. And reading. I just couldn’t stop. The only series that I never could bring myself to touch was Harry Potter. To this day, it remains unfinished at halfway through book four. But other stories were read every day. Books would be consumed. Looking back, I can see now how I took to reading to be closer with my aunt again. How I desperately searched for a way to find her again, to find the magic again.

My sister was the exact opposite of me. She finished the series and never looked at another book. She has the entire series, in hardcover. And all the movies. But I can’t open up that one series. That’s uncharted territory that I want nothing to do with. Maybe it’s because she is five years older. And she remembers more than I do. Maybe she never lost the magic. Or maybe that was her way of holding on.

For me though, I was lost. My fragile and protected world that I had grown up in was crumbling down. Desperately, I searched for answers to the world. Writing was just one of my many attempts at fixing the world. Writing was the way to create my own endings. To find the magic, the happy and exciting places. Throughout my early education, notebooks were filled with stories of faraway places. Of witches and vampires, or knights and dragons. But they all ended up unfinished and halfhearted. It wasn’t until 9th grade English that my writing started to take a turn for the better. Because that was the year that I had Mr. Wolgemuth as a teacher. To me, he was the teacher who lifted us from the bindings of writing. The one who pointed out that the coveted 5 paragraph essay would be obsolete in the years after high school. That we were practiced enough already that it was time to start breaking the rules of writing. Of all my high school teachers, he is the one that developed my writing the most. A large part of that was because he was the first teacher who ever told me off. For a long time before freshman year, I was pessimistic. The glass was only ever half empty and I tended to searched for the unpleasant endings. But no one had ever pointed out that my attitude was undesirable. Sometimes you just need someone to point it out, and then it becomes obvious that it’s obnoxious and unbearable. He’s the reason that it dawned on me, that life is what you make of it. And all my unfinished stories? Did I really want to leave them unfinished? Or done halfheartedly? No. Nothing deserves to be left undone. I started writing because I wanted to make my own magic. But somewhere along the way, I got lost. Again.

I ended up taking two more classes that were taught by him. And now my writing takes influences from all three courses. And now I continue to look forward in my learning.  Because it’s my choice to. My writing and reading are primarily influenced by these two people in my earlier life. Thanks to them, I have a passion that pushes me forward to expand my views of the world and always keeps things interesting. There is a good chance that my future career won’t involve more than writing reports and stating the facts, but that doesn’t mean that I will stop writing and reading for my own creative purposes. Stories will always continue to be written, whether they are typed out or stored away in my head.   

There isn’t one moment that I can single out from the others. Who I am today as a writer and as a reader are impacted from countless events and people. These two events only make up a small portion of my experience. I write to remember and to forget. I write to find the motivation to keep going. Even when the stories aren’t written, my mind is filled with the tales and pictures of something more. Why do I write?  When I have so much to say about the world, why do I keep to myself for the majority of the time? Maybe one day I’ll write out the answer.