Preface / Writer’s Introduction

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Hooray. I just graduated. Rather than write a reflection, which I still might do in the future, I thought I’d share the preface of my final thesis [a short story collection], in which I attempt to trace my roots and my writerly interests, and also predict my undetermined future as an emerging writer. 

I’m from a town in Connecticut called Cheshire—pronounced Chess-sure, not Chess-shire, which is the British way—and it used to be a place other state residents probably never heard about. The most exciting thing to happen to the town was likely a new tenant moving into 7 South Main Street, which was home to a pizza shop, a tailor shop, a deli, and today, for now, a Thai restaurant. The only “club” nearby is Costco. People left their front doors unlocked during the day. Our summer block parties were legendary.

Then, in 2007, a woman and her daughter left Stop & Shop without noticing who was driving behind her, and they led, unintentionally, a man and his partner into her home. She and her two daughters were raped and killed. Her husband was beaten in another room, but managed to escape before the house was set on fire. To say this was a blessing would be wrong in this case. He had lost everything.

The illusion of Cheshire as a place where Nothing Ever Happens was shattered. At the time, I didn’t acknowledge how much the incident fascinated me, but now I cling to the darkness of it all. Before this event, to be clear, I never had a great affinity for happy stories. I disliked—and today, to some degree, still dislike—Disney-animated movies. I filled my brain with titles by Robert Cormier, Douglas Preston, Ellen Hopkins, and Carol Plum Uccie. In sixth grade, I wrote a short story from the point of view of a Holocaust prisoner in Auschwitz, then later did a book report on Jose Saramago’s Blindness. But the Cheshire invasion was something that happened for real, and the tangible reminder of it lives as a memorial garden where the Petit house once stood.

Months after, fear hung like impenetrable fog over Cheshire. People had to look over their shoulders as they exited Stop & Shop, nested in a busy shopping plaza. I took from this home invasion the idea that everything is not as it seems. Tragedy causes life to veer from normalcy, leading us to question everything. If we look harder at something, we can never look away again. This message is the crux of my short story collection.

Like many short story writers, I did not consciously write to form a collection. Only for this collection did I acknowledge that my characters are often broken from a daze by tragedy. The narrator in “Recycle” is a police officer on a regular night watch when he finds a woman pushing a dead baby on the swings, forcing up memories of his own daughter who died from SIDS. The narrator and his father in “The Boarder” have led a reticent life since the death of the mother and wife in the 9/11 attacks, but a new tenant adds more tension to their fraught relationship. A stripper in “Honey” is reminded of her abusive stepfather when a handsy client gets rough with her and suddenly, she wants out of that world.

These eight stories are experiments. Pulling from and stitching together MFA lessons, conversations with writers, and weekends of imagination, I became like Frankenstein and somehow, several Monsters have emerged. I leave these stories in this collection to note my sense of accomplishment in writing them and a recollection of my journey in learning to craft characters, backstories, and endings.

Cure for Sleepwalking

My characters are always keen observers. I think this is because most of my characters mirror parts of me. I have always been shy; at parties and social gatherings, I prefer to stick in the corner of the room. I am not quick to share an opinion unless asked. Like Callie, the protagonist in “Gaw Gaw,” I was never comfortable in school and tended to shield myself with books. But the problem with observers is that they can become quite dull and passive. My first-semester mentor, Hollis Seamon, spotted this issue in the first draft of “Recycle.”  Believing the character was too mired in grief, Hollis wrote: “Give him much more to do, show us how/when his feelings break out of passivity into actions—even destructive, disturbing actions—rather than just allowing him to sleepwalk through the story.”

I had to wake up my characters; they had to act. So I started reading stories with astute fly-on-the-wall characters who still felt alive in the story. Jennifer Egan’s protagonist in the short story “One Piece” showed me how. As a child, her older brother had accidentally killed his mother when he was playing behind the wheel of a car, and this incident seemed to indicate to others that he can never be trusted. The protagonist is stuck between pitying him and wanting to help him. The story would have been boring if she continued to stay inside her head. But Egan didn’t allow that to happen. “So many things are wrong I can’t sit there. I feel crazy, like worms have crawled inside my bones,” the narrator says, at her breaking point (Egan 85). She knows she needs to change others’ perception of her brother; he is not a killer, he can be a savior. At a bonfire gathering, she climbs a tree, waits for people to notice, for her brother to see her. And she jumps. Her brother springs into action, puts out the fire, redeeming himself in everyone’s eyes. I remember the character for her vision of the world—but this action had defined her for me, this action made her character.

For other notes on characterization, I turned to Janet Burroway’s section in Writing Fiction on how to make complex characters. She borrows Aristotle’s term consistent inconsistencies (Burroway 148). Consistent refers to actions that make sense and fit in with the rest of the details  created for the character. One character might be a painter; a writer can extend the nature of her occupation by describing the paint stains on her hands and her favorite pair of jeans spotted with paint splatters. But an inconsistency or contradiction in this character might be that the painter is a clean freak. Every time she paints, she layers her whole studio, ceiling to floor, with clear plastic and she dons a plastic suit as well. To me, I can understand this character—she is both real and odd. I kept Burroway’s lesson in mind when I crafted the father figure for “Gaw Gaw,” an academic whose head is full of history and facts, but doesn’t have much room to remember general tasks like cleaning his house or noticing that something is wrong with his daughter.

I also find inspiration for characters from my daily life. Living in New York City does not necessarily affect my setting so much as my compendium of written and soon-to-be written characters. New York City: it’s full of weirdos—vagrants have imaginary conversations to subway walls, pant-suited women wear Hello Kitty backpacks to say I’m a big little girl, and there is a strange species called hipsters, whose diet consists of kombucha, kale, and tofu and can be found living in Williamsburg. In “The Curious Vietnamese Boy,” the laundromat is inspired by the laundromat I frequent in Bed-Stuy, and I also stole the owners’ likeness from this place. I am sure the owners sometimes wondered why I was staring so much.

Writers are often told to “write what you know.” This is not meant to confine the writer; it is not a rule saying to write only what we know, but rather it is a sensible tip to have a real-to-life foundation and quality, especially with people; then from there, we can allow imagination to go where it pleases.

 

Getting Inside Their Head

 

Continuing to experiment with characters, I played with perspective in this short story collection. Three short stories – “Gaw, Gaw,” “The Boarder,” and “Recycle” – began as third-person stories, which is what I normally write. My former aspirations to become a journalist and the years spent at my college newspaper made me believe that third-person was the only way to write, the only way I can write. But I loved first-person, loved how they fooled me into believing a character could be a friend. I pitied and envied Charlie from The Perks of Being a Wallflower as he told the story of finding where to belong in high school. Despicable Humbert in Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita felt like an artist describing a spectacular masterpiece—his language masking the vileness of his actions. Reading such literature showed me what I lacked in my own attempts at first-person: conviction. I needed to write a story where readers feel they can only hear the story from this character, and no one else.

I looked to Denis Johnson for more offbeat voices, especially from Fuckhead in his collection Jesus’ Son. Johnson exposes the ridiculous and the pathetic side of humanity through fascinating characters. The narrator of the “Car Crash While Hitchhiking” sticks with me: he is bitter and vicious and uses drugs to drown out the world that he feels has wronged him. But his thoughts feel like rollercoaster rides. He describes a scene in the hospital, after he, the driver, and the driver’s wife were in a car crash. “She was glorious, burning. She didn’t know yet that her husband was dead. We knew. That’s what gave her such power over us,” the narrator says (Johnson 9). Who would think of an injured woman as “glorious”?

To re-craft “Gaw, Gaw” I imagined observations that only someone obsessed with fairytales would say. I made a list and asked, “How would she feel about Halloween after years of being fed fairytales and academic literature on Halloween by her academic father?” Callie used fairytales in the way we would use logic.

Capturing first-person voice is also a matter of dynamics. We are told to always have dynamic characters – show reactive characters — but I like hearing how voices change according to circumstance. My initial attempts at writing first-person perspective also disappointed me because the voice was always a failure. My narrators always managed to sound perpetually angry and snarky, and this voice, like in real life, builds a cement wall between the reader and the story.

In this case, the saying “action speaks louder than words” take a backseat. I like to hear a long monologue once in a while, where it’s just the narrator reaching past the pages and grabbing hold of us. Just as I love the inflections and pitches voices take, I like hearing in my head the colors in a character’s voice. I read André Aciman’s Call Me by Your Name, a novel I picked up during Banned Book Week about the emotional and sexual yearning a boy feels for a male tenant at his family’s house in Italy. In Jandy Nelson’s beautiful YA novel I’ll Give You the Sun, Jude’s yearning as she reminisces on her broken relationship with her twin brother bursts from the pages: “This is what I want: I want to grab my brother’s hand and run back through time, losing years like coats falling from our shoulders” (Nelson 245). Same goes for her brother’s judgments about his family: “Because I can see people’s souls sometimes when I draw them I know the following: Mom has a massive sunflower for a soul so big there’s hardly any room in there for organs. Jude and me have one soul between us that we have to share: a tree with its leaves on fire. And dad has a plate of maggots for his” (Nelson 30).

To That End .  . .

Examining this collection, I remember how long I had spent thinking of endings to finish up my pieces. I used to prefer shock endings—twisting endings like the one in Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” or in M. Night Shyamalan’s movie Sixth Sense. Both storytellers planted asinine clues through their works that hinted at their endings, but they didn’t dwell on them. Viewers never focused on how the protagonist’s wife didn’t seem to acknowledge him because we just assumed it was a symptom of a dying marriage. We never thought the lottery meant killing a town resident because it just seemed like a town hall meeting. The closing words “then they were upon her,” still sticks with me today (Jackson 302). My intent to have similar twist endings fell short mainly because my intent was to shock readers and not benefit the story. Reading shocking endings and twist endings become tiresome—you can only feel a certain way about the ending once. Other endings, however, have more of a timeless quality because you regard them in a different way with every read.

I have read endings that felt so natural in the story, felt like it belonged, which made the story’s message more profound. During my first semester, I learned the term “rhyming action” from Hollis Seamon who was quoting Charles Baxter. Rhyming action is a moment of “déjà vu, which is only an eerie sense of some repetition, of a time spiral, of things having come around back to themselves” (Baxter 111). Something that happens in the beginning of a story—a detail, a word, a feeling—appears again in the end. But our impression of this detail, word, feeling differs greatly because the story has led us “toward a new state, a new condition, into the future of manifest possibilities” (Baxter 113). I spotted the occurrence of rhyming action in Jennifer Egan’s “Why China?”

It’s the story of a man facing an embezzlement investigation that jeopardizes his career, his family, and his moral compass.  The story begins in an open-air market in China where the protagonist Sam spots the con man who had started his downward financial woes. They are the only Westerners around. Sam approaches him, but it seems that Stuart does not remember him. Throughout the story, Sam gets closer to him, a motivation to perhaps understand what had made him the target and to distract himself from his impending downfall. In the end, we see Sam and Stuart converse face-to-face again. Like the beginning, it’s just the two of them existing, for a moment, in their own world. But there are notes of differences: the setting of a noisy market is swapped for a quiet Buddhist mountainside temple, and here, Sam finally reveals that he was from Stuart’s past—and to Sam’s surprise, Stuart knows him, too. There is a sense that we have come to the same spot, but only when Sam tells that truth do we realize that, no, it’s different this time, that things will change and can never go back.

In one of the stories in this collection “Look See Wonder,” I also experimented with rhyming action. The story is about Nina who mourns her relationship with her sister as they run in different crowds, experience different things—she fears no longer knowing her. In the beginning, they had been close; Nina remembers how her sister had tried comforting her after a bad fall, “cradling Nina in her arms, shushing her, smoothing back her hair.” At the end, under difficult circumstances—“Margie’s warm hand tightly clasping hers in accord”—she receives her sister’s support again.

I also hear I like to use zero endings, but I’d never heard of the term until taking Al Davis’ Fiction class. With a zero ending, according to Al, “you bring the story’s central dramatic action to resolution but with a whimper rather than a bang, so that a bit of the work takes place in the reader’s mind. ‘How have things changed?’ she might ask. The result of such an ending is an impression that life is epiphanic, with its high moments and breakthroughs, but not explosive or decisive.” This is evident in Raymond Carver’s short story “The Cathedral,” which charts one man’s prejudice against a blind man that his wife had befriended. He doesn’t really understand what it means to be blind, making snarky comments here and there. But in the end, the blind character tries to make him understand, by having him sketch a cathedral with eyes closed, as if he was blind. “His fingers rode my fingers as my hand went over the paper. It was like nothing else in my life up to now” (Carver 14). In this moment, the protagonist doesn’t say anything—the judgment is absent from the character, and he begins to understand how the blind man sees the world. Yet, we can only guess at what happens after the moment ends.

Onwards

Writing each story individually can be described in a mix of ways: painful, necessary, tedious. Yet, putting them together into this imperfect collection felt surreal and gratifying. Some stories I wrote before the program. Others I wrote while in the trenches of writing my packets, some as a distraction from my packets. For some stories, I remember exactly why and where I wrote them. Even after revising, I still sense the pauses and hesitations, which sentence I gave up on, what characters I never felt satisfied with. However, for my more recent stories, I read them and seriously question if I had written them. I like it when this happens; I take it as a sign that I am letting the story speak for itself, and I, as the writer, disappear.

After this program ends, I’ll continue to revise with the intention to submit short stories to magazines and journals. Revision is my favorite process. An editor I admire said, “Revision is a re-‘vision’ as in reimagining the work, not just revising.”

While advancing my writing career, I’m also on the opposite end of the spectrum as I pursue a career as a book editor. I recently acquired my first novel, which will be published in May 2018. At this very moment, I am editing the first draft. What I can take from this program is a sense of knowing what to look for in good stories. It is crucial to not only recognize strengths and weaknesses in the submissions that come through, but also express these opinions to help the writer. Just as Hollis Seamon, Eugenia Kim, and Al Davis did for me, I want to be a mentor to writers. I want them to experience that wondrous feeling of growth that I gained after three semesters with Fairfield University.

This foot in the publishing world also lends me some advantages, but not in the way that most people think. There’s no increased likelihood of me being published; we have turned away “publishing insiders” because sometimes the writing is not up to par. I know, however, that I am more knowledgeable of the publishing process. I already know how to query, who to submit to, and what to say, while others might need to do more research. I am also heartened by the opportunity to learn from editors who still admire great writing. Publishing might seem like a space where art competes with commerce, but there are people inside who value the art and do their utmost to defend the fictive worlds spun by authors.

I envision a long writing career for myself and will fight to guarantee it. I don’t think I can ever escape writing. Because here’s how my writing cycle usually works (by this point, I’ve gotten a sense of the rhythm my writing life follows): There will be periods where I will not write. I will do anything I can to avoid writing. I will watch dark, twisted Netflix shows, read pretentious literature, cook up a storm, decide to treat my friends decently, and book an overpriced trip. But eventually, I will daydream while having a conversation with a friend or start hearing snippets of conversations that never happened, between two people—characters—I have never met. To get them out of my head, I will write—on my laptop, fingers pecking on my cell phone screen, me dictating a story to my iPhone. When I finish the first draft, I probably will celebrate. I will feel triumphant. I will tell my mirror self that I am the best writer alive, until I return to my story and see all the faults that my addled brain refused to see during the writing process. I will edit, while my insecurities and doubts, like Churchill’s black dog, breathe down my neck. To escape, this feeling, I might step away and there will be periods where I will not write.

This cycle is something I cannot break. I don’t want to either.

Welcome to my website!

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Credit to Amina Seyal

QUICK FACTS:

Loan Le, living the Brooklyn life, Simon & Schuster editorial assistant, fiction editor at The Rag and Causeway Lit, freelance editor, MFA candidate in fiction writing

BUSINESS BIO:

Loan Le is a freelance writer and editor specializing in nonfiction and fiction projects. Loan is a versatile writer and editor who promises to deliver quality work. She is available for both developmental and substantive editing. For nonfiction projects, her specialties include personal development essays and narrative memoirs. For fiction projects, she possesses an editorial eye for plot and structure, characterization, and dialogue, and can identify main issues to make the writer’s prose sing. View a few of her projects here.

Loan currently works as an editorial assistant at Simon & Schuster’s Atria Books and Keywords Press. She edits fiction for The Rag and Causeway Lit. She is the coordinator for Young to Publishing’s Writers group. She is also an MFA candidate in fiction writing at Fairfield University where she graduated summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in English and with awards in journalism, creative nonfiction, and fiction. She has interned at Contagious Optimism, The Record-Journal, Simon & Schuster, and Folio Literary Management. Her work has been published at The Record-Journal, Wagner, and Off The Shelf.

If you’re interested in having her work on a project or would like to inquire about rates, please email her at writerloanle@gmail.com. Her LinkedIn profile can also be found at https://www.linkedin.com/in/loan-le-4409303a.

 

“Loan is not only an exceptional editor that I highly recommend for any project, she is a team player that goes above and beyond her role.  On Contagious Optimism she led teams beyond expectation, she made suggestions that improved our publication, and she edited our manuscripts to perfection.  I cannot thank her enough and I am certain that much of our success was due to Loan and our terrific teams.”

-David Mezzapelle, author of the Contagious Optimism Book Series

Fleeting thoughts : love, hate, and the MTA

8278802443_97a515a2a1_z (2)Morning: The train halts and you feel the first twinges of anger. We apologize for the inconvenience. Apology not accepted. You hold on to a warm slippery pole, and think about the many hands that have already touched it–sweat, germs, questionable fluids. Everything and everyone you hate is in this car. Lanky kids hanging about, their jostling of slangs and nicknames almost like another language. The smell of urine hovering. An herbaceous scent trailing a blood-shot-eyed kid as he slumps down in his seat. Someone without headphones blaring indecipherable music for everyone to hear. A man coughing raucously into a handkerchief, who then checks the phlegm and stashes it back into his pocket. Stand clear of the closing door. Your grip on the pole tightens as people pass by, looking for seats, their flab sliding against you. Please do not hold the doors open!!! 

Late evening: There’s a young couple facing each other, huddled and close enough to touch. But they show restraint, aware of others, or shy themselves. You sense that a look has passed between them, the kind that only couples are privy to, and you wonder if they’ve already imagined up a life together. A few steps away, a blue-eyed baby is strapped to his mother’s chest, his hands exploring the creases of her face. He listens with wonder to the words she says only to him. Everyone seems to be reading, their books shielding themselves against the world, and you know and understand what it’s like to exist in two places at once. The car is soundless. You suppose that life, in this moment, isn’t that bad.

Reminder about my Fleeting Thoughts series: releasing my imperfect, unfiltered words that often occur when my body is still, but my mind is racing.

Keeping Sean Cononie Alive

One of the pieces I wrote this weekend for The Homeless Voice!

Will Write For Food 2015

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By Loan Le

You’re not supposed to stick antibiotic capsules up your butt. You’re not supposed to drink eight to 10 cans of Monster Energy drink every day. And you’re definitely not supposed to pee 1 1/2 gallons of urine during a four-hour power sleep.

But Sean Cononie, owner of the Stay Plus Inn homeless complex, gets away with this because he says he has more important things to worry about.

The ashtray on Cononie’s desk is rimmed with six burning cigarettes – all his. In between alternating drags of those cigarettes, he gulps from a 20-ounce Monster energy drink, one of many he’ll consume in a day. Recently, he went through 20 cans in a day. Like a revolving door, his staff members walk in, sit down across from him, and tell him what’s new in their lives. Then they leave when the walkie-talkie starts chirping, but not before…

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Letters to myself

A week before graduation (wow, six months ago?), a creative writing professor asked us to write letters to send to ourselves. I’d gotten mine in September, and it’s taped to the wall, right above my writing desk. Whenever I hit a writer’s block, I look up from my computer screen and stare at this letter.

This letter reminds me of promises that I had made. Most of the time, however, this letter funnily reminds me that inside this petite Asian body is a character I imagine to be similar to Clint Eastwood …

Dear Loan,

You’re probably still procrastinating and wondering if your novel is “worth it,” if your writing in general is “worth it.” You always doubt yourself, you always go back and forth with your ideas, and you always say, “I’ll write it soon.” I want to tell you to stop that bullshit.

Sit the fuck down and write.

And when you can’t, go outside, wherever you are, and observe the things going on around you. Create a story for the people who walk with their heads down, for the people who look angry or upset. Look for the houses that look abandoned, the cracks on the road … let yourself be inspired by the broken.

Then go back and

1. Work on your novel.

2. Say ‘hi’ to your family.

3. Work on your short stories.

Love,

Loan

Sit the fuck down and write. Maybe I should copyright that phrase. Does anyone want to buy a poster? No, no one?

Whatever. I think you might like this, too–here’s something I wrote in 2009, back when I was just getting serious with my writing (completely unedited, unfortunately). I read it the other night, and I was surprised by how fervent I sounded as a high school junior.

(By the way, does anyone use Facebook’s Notes section anymore? That’s where I had posted this letter. To save myself from embarrassment, I have since deleted all of my notes.)

My Purpose

I find myself contemplating about my purpose in life. I suppose this can relate to everyone has been lost before. It’s a narcissistic quality that is innate in all humans–the feeling that you were made to do something. Feeling, deep down, that some divine power had placed you on earth for a singular purpose. Believing that you were genetically designed to do one thing that could affect the process of our metaphysical world. Unfortunately, it just takes an insane amount of time to find a niche.

These thoughts of mine had resulted from a digression in self-esteem. It has been going for the past few days, I admit. Grades, friends, family…I took a hit one day, staggered, got hit with another, and finally, I fell. After this, the world ceased to make sense to me.

I don’t want to make a difference. That’s right. I don’t. Personally, I’m simply not capable of changing the way the world runs. Some people dream of creating inspiring and brilliant theories in science and math and stuff like that. Me? I’m not gong to invest my time to try and reach something that’s best to be left high in the sky. But I do want to be noticed. Do you have to bring a change if you want to be recognized? What reasons make people look at you with respect and awe?

I want to be a writer, plain and simple. But I can’t find the main driving force behind my desire. Perhaps I never will. Do I have to have one reason?

Do I want to write in order to be recognized? That’s one question.

Yes, I suppose I do.

Do I want to write because it makes me feel great?

Hell yes. Solved.

Writing is…indescribable. I love the smell of graphite that reaches my nose whenever my pencil caresses paper. I love hearing the words that I write echo in my head, in the way I intend them to be said, heard, and felt. I love the perplexity that I feel when I can’t find this one word…and I love trying to sift through the files of my mind to find it.

And when I do, the word fits snugly into the puzzle that is my sentence. Suddenly, it all makes sense. I love the fact that nothing is finished until a period is meticulously dotted. That a stretching sea of beautiful bountiful blue will forever go on until I write “and then it was drained of all water”. I love the pictures that are painted by my words and pencil (No paint, no mess). That when I used the world “pencil”, I only saw me and my red Coca Cola pencil against my piece of paper. I love the feeling of my pencil in my hand, because it’s like my hand has molded itself to let my pencil, my creative extension, fit. There’s a mark made by my pencil on the third finger, and it’ll remind me of my writing which will forever be etched in my soul.

No one has told me my purpose. At certain times, I feel like I have none. Like someone had just put me on earth for entertainment, to watch and laugh at whenever they feel sadistic.

Other times, like the moment that had occurred two minutes ago while I was writing this, I know what I need to do. And I will let no one tell me what I can and should do. It’s me who has to find a purpose. And my purpose is to write. Therefore, I am a writer.

 I guess I don’t want to let my 16-year-old-self down. Better keep writing.

Photographed by Alyssa Coffin in 2008?

Photographed by Alyssa Coffin in 2008?

College and Change

lol snacks from Costco: staples of my freshman year.

What I brought to Fairfield! So many snacks from Costco. Not included: my Capri Sun, which was a staple in my freshman year.

It’s that time again. College students bid farewell to a care-free summer with “Throwback Thursday” Instagrams of beaches and late-night beer debauchery. They express their excitement for the new school year with Facebook statuses littered with exclamation marks and emojis. Recent graduates now stuck at work tweet nostalgic memories of their first days at school.

A small part of me wishes that I can go back. I sit here, marveling that it’s been more than three months since I became a Fairfield University alumna. Three months ago, I was in class, staring at the blackboard, and desperately waiting for a nap. I was so tired by the end of my senior year. Waiting to be finished with homework. Waiting to relieve some burden that came with working at the school newspaper. Waiting to have more freedom. And now I’ll never get to go back to this time—that is, unless I decide to continue my education.

As a student I was sometimes naïve when it came down to simple tasks, sometimes wild-eyed after many sleepless nights—the result of writing essays the night before—and sometimes firmly rooted to the ground in bouts of striking certainty. Like a sculptor with a block of clay, my years at school had chipped away at my being, molding me into the person I am today. I loved my college experience, and don’t regret much, but there are still a few things that I wish I’d known from the beginning.

  1. It’s impossible to be perfect.

Like many peers, I’ve learned from plenty mistakes. I evaluate each school year by measuring my mistakes. Freshman year? I made plenty of mistakes, so it was a bit rough. Senior year? I made just enough to help me learn. My biggest mistake, however, had to do with trying to be perfect, and for a few months in freshman year, I didn’t understand what it meant to learn.

Dr. Sonya Huber, one of my favorite English professors, recently posted a shadow syllabus with her thoughts on what students should take away from her courses. She writes, “Those who aim for A’s don’t get as many A’s as those who abandon the quest for A’s and seek knowledge or at least curiosity.” You might attend a university with students raised in a certain culture of expectations. Take this many AP classes. Get involved in as imany extracurricular activities as possible. Volunteer just about anywhere. Guilty. Guilty. Guilty. These experiences padded your resume and got you into the school, but they have no true worth unless you value what you learn. Fixating on that A sucks the fun out of learning! In freshman year, I received a C on a journalism assignment, a grade that pretty much slapped my A-slaving side right out of me. I didn’t deserve a better grade because I didn’t actually understand my assignment. When you pay attention to what you do have and what you do know, you live and breathe the process. Remember that it’s the process that matters. The end result is your reward.

  1. Similarly, show professors that you’re responsible and willing to learn.

I’ve often heard my classmates complain about professors. She’s such a hard grader. I don’t understand him at all! He doesn’t understand us. If these complaints are true, and the professor’s behavior persists, I would suggest dropping out of the course and finding another professor, if possible. But thankfully in most of my experiences, professors have been brilliant and compassionate, and it’s the students who need to adjust their attitude. Professors actually want to help you, so let them see that you’re willing to strive, not just achieve. After graduating, I think about the professors who not only taught me, but also inspired me, and I wish that all students could find professors like them, people whom I truly respect.

  1. My next advice is to forge supportive, drama-free friendships.

Going to college means finding your social group. Yes, it’s one of the most nerve-wracking feelings. At first you might feel like reinventing yourself. Here’s where people won’t know that you peed in your pants in sixth grade! They haven’t seen your glasses and braces phase! This is your chance to be cool! Chances are you’ll find a nice group of people and you’ll go everywhere with them: to dorm parties, late-night Starbucks runs, campus excursions. There’s a chance that you’ll stay friends with these people (that’s me!). But just like the teddy bear that you carried around everywhere as a toddler, you might find yourself outgrowing these friends. Know that this happens all the time. It just means you’re changing and you can’t have people holding you back.

When you have your friends, and you know them as well as you know yourself, then that’s the group to have. Challenge each other, but also be each other’s biggest supporters. Now that’s lifelong friends.

  1. In the grand scheme of things, your physical existence is small, but your decisions and your actions can make a great impact.

It’s easy to get stuck in a bubble of oblivion when you’re stuck on a small campus. But these days, schools encourage their students to have a global viewpoint and to be leaders. How will you become this person who’s set to change parts of the world? Do your own work. Listen to your mentors. Go out of your comfort zone.

I suggest keeping one foot on campus and another foot somewhere in the outside world. Internships are invaluable ways to do just that—places where you learn and also save connections for later. You can also find an extracurricular activity that aligns with your career goal (Mirror, FTW!)

College students, this is your chance to become who you’re meant to be. Don’t waste your time. Embrace yourself and embrace the life that you’re creating in college.

Post 5

Shannon 

I did like the in-depth analysis for Shannon’s webtext What I did not like about Shannon’s project is that she wrote her summaries in one large paragraph, which made my eyes tired. Usually, for text online, it’s better to have shorter paragraphs. I also think the black background and the white text made it hard to read.

Marcus

I liked the navigation bar that he set up for his webtext. I think that makes it easier to go from one analysis to another, rather than having to scroll up and down. I also appreciated how he broke up the paragraphs. However, I didn’t like that the webpage size appeared to large for the actual screen. This might have the result of a faulty code.

Amanda

Out of all the webtexts, I liked Amanda’s the most. I really like the homepage because of the color. Green is often associated with the recycling movement, and the appearance of that color created continuity. The large numbers helped navigate readers through each source, too. Amanda was very precise in pointing out the rhetorically effective elements in her sources. The one thing I would criticize about her website is her main typeface. It appeared to be infantile. I would have preferred if she use a serif font, which is much more serious for the topic of recycling.

I will combine elements from both Shannon and Marcus’ webtexts. I know that I will not use a dark background and light text – I will do the opposite. I will include options to jump (Jump to Top) from one section to another on the same page. And, of course, I’ll post the examples and then my analysis below.