Tag Archives: writing

Hyperbolic Coffee Filters

I cannot take complete credit for this poem (for in reality I contributed only one line of this tanka), but as soon as I saw this one-word prompt from the Daily Post, I thought of it. My coworkers and I create a tanka each week, with each writer contributing a line at a time. A few weeks ago, our staff came out with this one:

An unhappy truth:

Our quaint little coffee pot

uses a filter

hewn from Shadow and the Void.

Now it only brews decaf!

A tanka is like an extended form of the haiku. For information on about the history, use, and formatting of a tanka, click here.

I think that this poem is my favorite one that my staff and I have cranked out so far, because to me decaf coffee is, indeed, the liquid form of the void. If you know me or see how many cups of the dark stuff I drink every day, you know.

My most recent post before this one was written about a year ago (to be exact: a year minus eight days). Here’s to posting more often on my blog! Cheers.

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Writing for a Better Semester

Hey! I’ve been away for a while again. I found that, although I have had MASSIVE AMOUNTS OF FREE TIME during this past winter break, I could not bring myself to start up posting again. I have recently discovered an article, however, which has helped remind me why I like to write at all: “Writing Your Way to Happiness” By Tara Parker-Pope of the New York Times. I like spilling my mind onto the paper (I keep a journal as often as possible) so that I can look at it. Then I like to put it away and forget about it. Then I love going back to edit things while reminding myself of where I’ve been. There’s a calming quality about that. It’s like, if I can organize my thoughts on the paper, I may also be able to add more definition to the modge-podge of experiences that is life. This reflection also helps me put my “tragedies” into perspective. What I thought of as my Titanic disaster at the time later turns out to be a little leaf sinking to the bottom of a puddle along my path to something else. The end-of-the-world brand of broken hearts end up being more like the chipped edge of a teacup which I can still drink out of.

Recently, my Titanic was being denied the experience of spending a semester abroad. I found out only a month before I was set to leave (visas ordered, plane tickets bought, things notarized…). I felt guilty for feeling so broken over it, but in fairness it had been a dream of mine from before I even began college almost four years ago. I had spent those years dreaming about it and telling everyone, and I spent all of last semester jumping through loops and paying all of the necessary fees (every time, only just barely able to pay the bills). My heart was definitely in it! And I felt so proud that I had done all of that work all by myself. It’s taking longer than I expected to get over it, though I am better than I was. I’m trying very hard not to be bitter about having had all that time and money go to complete waste. I’m trying to gracefully accept the perpetual advice, “Maybe there’s a reason you were supposed to stay back” (true though it may be). I want to get geared up for this semester without begrudging my own presence here. I have work to do. I need to move on. I do not have time to continue to have bad irritated moods or tear up when I think about it. I still can’t figure out why I haven’t gotten out of this funk yet when it’s been a month since this all blew up in my face. It’s not like someone died now, is it? But when I think about other places or see that a friend has had a wonderful adventure somewhere else, I can’t help but notice my heart aching a little. I feel a little cheated, I think. Perhaps this feeling will further dissipate when classes begin and I have something else to care about, like good grades. I hope so. I’m tired of feeling sad and angry and jealous, and I’ve got to stop taking my frustration out on my loved ones. I need this Titanic to become a little leaf in a puddle soon.

Too much? Perhaps. Buy maybe this’ll help me just get a move on already. It’s time. If you’ve gotten this far, thanks for bearing though it!

Anyway. Back to that article! I completely believe in the power of reflective writing to help you change your perspective on your world. I’ve always been a big fan of journaling for that reason. To accentuate my zeal for journal-keeping, here is a list of 101 Reasons to Write a Journal. I highly recommend. Though, if you’re on here at WordPress writing your own blog already, I’m probably just preaching to the choir. Write on, friends, and be happy.

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This Term…? And Autobiographical Art

Today’s Daily Post prompt is called Salad Days, and it’s asking us to talk about a time when we had some “good old days”. But…salad days. Salad days? I can’t make a connection between the topic and the title. How do “salad days” become good days? These sound like they refer to days during which one must only consume salads, which is not appealing. They would be healthy days, but not necessarily good ones.

Anyway, if we’re to stick to the recommended topic, I’d have to say that I don’t have any “good ol’ days” yet. I’m still young, so for me the old days are pure childhood…and I don’t remember a lot of it. For one thing, I remember not worrying about calories back then, which felt like freedom but wreaked havoc on my body.

So salad days or good old days…whichever. I don’t think I can get much past this salad days concept. Since this post was a bit of a dud, I will leave you with a quote I found recently that I really like:

“All art is autobiographical; the pearl is the oyster’s autobiography.”
-Federico Fellini

Everything we write here contains a trace of our own lives. Even though we’re not always writing about ourselves, little hints are enclosed in the work about the where we’re at in our lives. We leave pieces of ourselves in our art so that, when we come back to it later, it feels like a memory. I guess if I ever want to reminisce about the salad/good old days I’d just go back and read what I’ve already written.
Over and out now.

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Which Parts of Grammar Do You Struggle With?

Today, I’m responding to the prompt from The Daily Post! It’s actually perfect for me today, because this story has been making me chuckle for weeks now.

The Prompt:
Second-Hand Stories: What’s the best story someone else has recently told you (in person, preferably)? Share it with us, and feel free to embellish–that’s how good stories become great, after all.
The Daily Post

My Response:
At the Writing Center on our campus, we get a lot of non-native English speakers making appointments. Reasonably so: it’s a safe and nonjudgemental place to discuss questions and problems about language and writing. It can be a relief (for any writer) to talk to someone who does not determine the final grade. That means, though, that we often get requests to be the grammar-checkers for papers. Although that is indeed a very important part of writing, it is not the only thing. Therefore, whenever a writer asks for full-scale grammar corrective action, I do try to take a look at other things that could improve the paper as we go along. I do it sneakily, so that we do still mostly pay attention to grammar, but they still get a lot out of the session.

Recently, a fellow tutor shared a story with me about a session he had with a another writer. During one of our slow times without any other writers around, he said, “Oh hey, I’ve got a story for you. You’ll enjoy this.”

I asked, “Oh? Why’s that?”

“You’ll see. So I had a session with this one student whose first language was Chinese. I sat down with her, and the first thing she said was, ‘Please help me with the grammar in my paper. I don’t know what to do!’ So I asked her my usual question about what parts of grammar she struggled with the most…” And at this, he had to pause to indulge in a laughing fit, which he tried to control so he could continue the story. When he recovered, he crossed his legs, folded his hands over his knees, lifted his chin, tipped his head in a dainty manner, and smirked. “And she said, with a very serious face: ‘All of it.'” After hearing this, I couldn’t keep it in. I cracked up for a solid five minutes. Usually answers to that kind of question are different but just as general…and very few are so blunt as to say it up front like that. Plus, to handle more than a couple grammar items per thirty-minute session is ambitious…oof!

It was refreshing and wonderful and hilarious. Apparently the writer had a good sense of humor about her and was openly willing to admit that she was just lost. Good for her! I would have been so shy. (Although I still love languages, it’s hard to admit that I need help.) I’ll be studying in Spain next semester, so I’m trying to draw from the strength of the students currently studying here at my university. I admire them so much, especially the ones who are taking non-sheltered Grad school or masters courses here instead of in their home countries. There are a variety of reasons for them being here instead of there, but can you imagine the drive and bravery it takes to do that? Upper level courses (like those of the grad school curriculum) are hard enough in your native language. Wow. They’re so cool. I recently met with another writer (whose first language also happened to be Chinese) as she was preparing to do a presentation for her grad class. She shared with me that it was her first semester in the U.S. She was worried because her classmates (who are at least mostly native-born Americans) speak English so well, and that it was going to be so difficult for her. My jaw dropped–she was doing such good work already (as could be seen in her own writing)! I told her that I thought her speech and writing was excellent (which wasn’t a lie), and that if this presentation were in Chinese she would totally OWN them on language skills anyway. That seemed to help!

I hope to be as adept in my second language (Spanish) as these amazing linguistic role models someday. I also know some German, and I want to learn to speak Tamil. Those are my top languages of the moment. So, dear reader, any experiences with that? If not, talk to your friend from another country and ask them what their experience has been like. Cheer them on if they need it (or even if they don’t), and plan to be that awesome someday. If you are that person who has learned to live in a completely new place, rock on. I want to be like you someday.

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Quotidian Revisions Pilot Post

Hi. Wow, you’re here, huh? Welcome. If you’re here, you might be my mom…or someone she might have told. And that’s ok! It’s fabulous to have you here, no matter who you are. Even if there only ever turns out to be two readers (mom and boyfriend?), that will be more than I ever expected. That being said, I don’t want to give you the impression that I am writing just for you yet. Someday, maybe…but for now, I am wholly invested in making myself a better writer. I’m still a student, but I’m not currently in any classes that force me to actively think about my own writing. And as I write this, actually, I am waiting for a Spanish exam to begin. I’ll probably have to take a break at some point during this first post to get that done.

The timing was right: I just took my Spanish midterm.

Back to this post: I’m creating this blog in hopes that I will be able to write when I feel like it instead of trying to “save” my ideas for later. Unfortunately, ideas wait for no one—not even their creator. You see, I have traditionally kept a handwritten journal for all of the things that I felt I needed to form coherent words and thoughts for. There are a few problems with that:
1. I don’t actually like my handwriting. I’m embarrassed about it. But since I feel like I’m a little late in the penmanship game, I’ll save myself the pain by trying to type these things. And maybe, if I don’t have to deal with my own unintelligible chicken scratches, then I will also choose to write more.
2. I keep my journal at home. I simply do not have the room in my backpack or the time in my day to take it out for a writing session. More often, I’ve got better access to technology and the internet. So it’s time to move up to an electronic way of documenting things. This way, I have an easier way to edit than I might with pen-and-paper mode.
3. Nothing is keeping me accountable for writing (or not). Not that I think you’ll be begging to hear more about my life (if you think you might, I will remind you that restraining orders exist), but I don’t do any revising so I don’t get practice with that. If I’m to post some writing for the world to see, however, I’ll be likely to invest some time in taking more than a cursory glance at it. (You don’t know this, but I was recently chided for not doing that in one of my English classes—the professor handed me my B-grade paper with a note and some advice: “Some good ideas in here. Try to spend a little energy in revising.” I was furious. You should see some of the corrections he made on my paper. To be fair, though…I wrote the thing in about an hour. It was only a two-page paper. Barely anything at all.)

I will not get as personal here as I do in that journal (which I’ll keep those more revealing or secret purposes), so don’t worry about encountering any blushingly intimate passages. I promise not to write about anything more than I might tell you if I met you face to face, in polite company. What, then, will I write about? Oh, I don’t know. Anything that pushes my mind to emerge from the realm of the mundane. Those could be private concerns (over which you might not see why I’m freaking out), or they might turn out to be things that really reach you. I hope that, if you’re reading this, you find something somewhere that you can identify with. If it’s not in my writing, then with something else. That’s one of my goals though: to be a voice that reaches out. I’m normal and you’re normal (to use that term only a little loosely), but maybe there’s something here you can use]. And maybe there’s something over there by you that works for me. There probably is. And maybe, even if I write something pretty mundane, maybe it will at least comfort you to know that someone else out there struggles and/or succeeds, too. If you’re feeling that with me, let me know. We can cultivate a little corner of humanity that way.

That’s all for now. Thanks for stopping by whoever you may be. Peace to you.

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