Halftone Magazine is a unique internship that is offered at Rowan University and because it is so unique, it also offers unique opportunities.
Professor Jason Luther is the man behind the magazine. Throughout the years that it has been in existence, it has been a great success. But surprisingly, this internship is not as old as you’d think. In fact, the internship started up only a few years ago.
The idea came to Luther during a college showcase in the fall of 2019. He just so happened to be discussing cultural criticism in the writing major with a freshman. There seemed to be a lack of space or a way for students to showcase their creativity, they said. At the time, Jason Luther received scholarship money that he was to use in regards to entrepreneurship. With the discussion he had with this freshman in mind, he considered some ideas.
Then, he came up with Halftone Magazine where the idea was accepted.
Halftone was planned to be launched in the year 2020, but due to the pandemic the plans had to wait. Once the situation began to settle down, fall interns were hired and the people working on the magazine immediately got to work on designing and writing up articles.
Initially, the idea was to start off small. Even a class was offered for pop culture. But to their surprise, the course had been so successful that it is now being offered every semester.
Now what does Halftone aim to do?
Writing Arts is considered an arts major, but the major doesn’t give students as much opportunity to express their own creativity as much as one might like to believe. Halftone aims to provide students with that space along with chances to think more critically about their writing. “People don’t talk about criticism that often,” Luther said. His goal is for Halftone to allow interns to think about criticism, why it matters, and how it should go into their own writing.
He is also aiming to have the internship help students establish connections with the city, such as trips to concerts and art festivals in Philadelphia. Not every student is comfortable with the city where most opportunities for a career in writing can be found. If they can get students more comfortable with the city environment, it could help set them up for their future.
Jason Luther has also admitted to his ambitions for the internship sometimes blinding him from what’s really important: growth and improvement.
One of his current interns, Casey Wang, said that she has gotten better at writing emails because of this internship. Some interns have now learned how to create zines.
It is good to have goals for an internship, but Luther is also proud of the current process the magazine has gotten done. His ambitions for Halftone Magazine are going to drive him to help the internship grow even more and he always has those goals in mind while building this project even further.
During the week of March 7th I was able to attend the virtual conferences for the writing arts career week, and it was a great opportunity for me to learn more about the department. It was nice to finally see the faces of all the writing arts faculty, many of whom were professors whose classes I took or would likely be taking in the future. The topics that were discussed were robust, and I learned a lot about what it is I could be doing in the future.
I knew going into this that I would be writing my next Writer’s Insider blog on career week before I attended it. I studiously took notes and paid close attention to each of the event’s panelists with the confidence that I would emerge from the first meeting with a solid thesis to work with. Yet as the week progressed and I listened to more of the panelists speak, there was a commonality in nearly all of their presentations that I couldn’t help but find concerning.
Finding a good job after getting a writing arts degree is difficult. This wasn’t a surprise to me, I’ve been aware for some time how the economy of writing relies on the exploitation of writers. What did catch me off guard was just how universal the struggle seemed to be. On Tuesday, when the meeting topic was post-graduation life for WA students, some of the panelists told of how difficult it had been for them to find a meaningful job as a writer. It was easier for some than it was for others, but the struggle was still there all the same.
It made me wonder; does every writing arts student have to deal with searching for somewhere that will appreciate and actually reward their talents? If I wasn’t as intensely passionate about writing and expressing myself I feel like I would be really nervous. It didn’t go so far as to make me doubt my choice of a career, but you can bet that I was stressing for the next couple days about whether or not my resume would be impressive enough once I graduate. Or if having an impressive resume would be enough.
But I’m sure the last thing the writing arts department wants to do is give students anxiety about their life after graduating. In fact, I think they did exactly the opposite. Sure, they talked about going through the slog of a job search, but each of the panelists were already settled into a career they enjoyed and spoke from the perspective of someone who had emerged successfully.
That inspired me to write this article with the purpose of subtracting from the widely conceived notion that being a writing student means a painful job search after graduating, and to provide some comfort to fellow writers. If nothing else, I at least hope to give other students some encouragement.
As with any other career, we start at the very beginning. “Breaking into” writing or publishing as a career may seem intimidating at first, but the secret is that there’s no pressure to start. There isn’t an age limit to writing, you can start whenever you feel ready. You’ll of course do better with more experience.
But “experience” doesn’t always mean sitting behind a computer at a copywriting job. You’re gaining experience simply by writing, since you’ll always finish writing with more than what you started with, so to say. Growing as a writer is just as important as growing your career, and no effort is wasted effort. Most of the panelists recommended keeping up with your own creative writing. You’ll never know what you’re capable of producing until you bring it to fruition yourself.
Don’t worry, there’s more you can do for yourself than typing away at your own creative projects. Rowan offers multiple internships through the writing arts department itself, the Glassworks literary magazine, Singularity Publishing, and the Halftone pop-culture magazine that are open to all writing arts students that meet the requirements. Remember, this is just in the microcosm of Rowan University, and there are countless other external writing internships that students can apply for .
Alright, so let’s say now you’ve gone through all the steps you want to start your career. You’ve filled out numerous applications and sent them to various companies in the hopes of finding a first step. The unfortunate truth, however, is that most of your attempts will be met with rejection.
Rejection is very rarely, if ever, an indication that your writing is bad or that you’re underqualified. A healthy approach is to look at it from a statistical standpoint. Publishers or other officials in the field sometimes take thousands of applications for a few openings, and they’re taking less than 1% of them. The odds can be slim, and being rejected means that this time the odds weren’t in your favor. It means you should keep persevering, because eventually you’ll be that one in a thousand.
I wish I could keep naming off solid patterns of activity that would give clear answers to the questions to buzz around the mind of a nervous writer, but I think the most important thing the panelists tried to emphasize was a certain mindset. First of all, you have to really and truly be passionate about writing to do any of this. Though, since you, dearest reader, are already here that’s obviously true.
Second, you have to stand up for yourself. If you don’t advocate for your voice or believe in your own work, nobody else will. That means building yourself up and presenting yourself as the best you can be. If someone criticizes your work, that means it was important and impactful enough to elicit someone’s response, and very rarely does any writing garner a response if it isn’t meaningful. And promote yourself! Spread yourself around so that as many people as possible will know your name.
Lastly, and most importantly, keep on writing! As stated earlier, you will grow and come to discover more about yourself through your own writing. Read and listen to others’ writing, and balance your inward craft and creativity with external communities. You’re never alone, and that extends to being a writer as well.
To the discouraged writer, or student hesitant to enter writing arts yet describes writing as their passion, know that this article is for you. Finding a career in writing isn’t like trudging through a thick jungle in search of an ill-faded opportunity, it's a clear yet winding path. And you already have the map, it lies in your own writing. It’s up to you how you’ll use it to chart your course.
The beauty of the internet is its vast resources for learning new things. Inspiration can easily be found. Pointers on developing new skills are there to help you. A lot of the internet can be inaccurate and we know that, but that’s because some things are based on personal experiences and opinions.
When you think about what drives a writer to write, there’s a variety of reasons as to why they do it. There’s no shame in writer’s wanting to see their books get adapted into films, or to have thousands of fans gushing over the same characters as them. Those writers were successful for a reason. They were able to find the motivation to help them write their stories.
As for people like me? We still struggle with figuring out how to even write a sentence out on a paper. Staring at a blank document isn’t as fun as one would think, but at that moment we have nothing to fill that document with.
But even if we were able to get that first sentence out… Have you ever been able to keep that spark going?
For me, I am not afraid to admit the tens of hundreds of documents filled with half of a story. The rest of the story stays in my head. Because I lose the drive; I am no longer motivated to have it written out, to have it shared with an audience bigger than just myself.
One of my biggest sources of motivation has always been having supporters. When there are people who genuinely enjoy what you write and share with them, then it only makes you want to write more. Having others like what I put out is a great sense of accomplishment. It tells me that I am not doing something that’s a waste of time.
Sadly, that isn’t always enough for me. Writer’s block hits a lot. My insecurity spikes up no matter how many compliments I receive.
So what other ways can I keep on pushing my drive to write, whether it’s for me or others?
I’ve always seen ads about MasterClass, a website where you can learn from people who have achieved their success story. Writers. Chefs. Athletes. Now that they have reached their goals, they aspire to teach and help others achieve theirs.
As college students, money can be an issue. MasterClass does cost money if you wish to learn from people who are experts at their craft. The good thing for us is that articles on the site are still free for viewing.
Now whenever I wish to seek ideas for my writing or plain motivation to keep on writing, I do a basic google search. Writing motivation or writing ideas. It doesn’t have to be difficult; we have the internet as a resource and we should be free to use it.
And MasterClass popped up with a lovely article, listing some strategies that can help us write. I’ve decided it would be nice if I were to list out some of the strategies and how they might help you keep motivated, depending on what might work best for you.
Set Writing Goals
This is not a bad idea, especially if you are trying to work on something that’s the length of a novel. The amount of words that are in a novel… It's quite daunting. Splitting up the word count and setting a daily goal for words written can help. You might end up shocked by how many words you were able to get down.
My only issue with this method is my habit of coming up with an idea and wishing to see it to an end. There is no set structure and I do not know how long the story will go on for. I only write. I write as many words as I can in the hopes of seeing the story to the end. If only I knew when I would reach the end and what it would be.
School has drilled into us that all assignments have due dates. Typically, anything past those due dates are not accepted. And because school has drilled this thought process into us, setting deadlines for our writing can help us pump out the work we need to produce. In the heat of panic, we do not care for quality and only wish to get the work done. As a writer, that is what we should do: write then revise. Deadlines can help you do just that.
This was a method I’ve tried for myself. My issue is my self awareness. When I know a deadline was set by myself, I am able to push it back when I struggle to meet the original deadline. But if you are someone who can make a deadline and keep it, then this strategy would help motivate you to write and keep at it.
Join a Writing Group
When surrounded by people who do certain things, you can’t help doing the same. We absorb the habits of people we are exposed to. Surely, we all must’ve noticed certain phrases or actions we do that originally were something our friends do. The same can be applied to writing. When surrounded by people who write and are motivated to write, you follow suit.
The article suggests joining National November Writing Month, NaNoWriMo, to help people come together and write more. Since I am not a sociable person, I have a difficult time accepting the idea of being surrounded by a lot of people, especially large groups of people.
I can admit, however, if it were a few collective writing friends I am very comfortable with sharing with them. And currently I frequently share my writing with an online friend. Since they write, too, we like to motivate each other to write while encouraging breaks when they are needed.
So you can join a national group where everyone who is a part of it aims to motivate each other to write. If that’s not your thing, it’s always nice to at least have one person who you can confidently share your writing with.
Now the article contains fifteen different strategies which can help motivate you to write more and to keep at the momentum. Out of the fifteen I had read, some provided me with temporary or short bursts of motivation. The three that I have mentioned here are just some of the methods that did not help me. I chose to discuss these in the hopes that maybe they might help other writers who are motivated differently compared to me. One solution will work for some people and another solution will work for others. It’s just important to know what those would be.
Just never forget why you wanted to write in the first place. Whatever inspired you to start writing, I hope you never lose it.
As someone who does a lot of creative writing, the most challenging part of beginning a project for me is exactly that–the beginning. Every writing class or other form of instruction I’ve received has time and time again stressed the importance of having a strong start. I always had my suspicions that they were right, and they were only confirmed as I matured as a writer. You can’t have a story without the beginning, so the beginning is arguably the most vital piece of the machine, right? It’s where, as a writer, you are at your freest to write openly and experiment. But why do we have trouble with the part we’re able to flex our creativity to its fullest extent?
I’m not the only writer who struggles with beginnings. Numerous other writers I’ve talked to, from fellow writing arts students to published and established authors, have cited the start of their work as the most challenging part. I myself have rewritten the beginning of my passion project, a science fiction novel, twice in the few months I’ve been working on it.
So why on earth are they so difficult to write?
Maybe there’s just something inherently challenging about writing a sound start for a story. Personally, I find it difficult because my inspiration usually doesn’t start with a clear beginning in mind. I think of premises first. The details and nuances of a setting or characters are what comes to my mind first, and I can figure out how they mesh with one another later. Everyone’s mind works differently, but the task of putting your very best foot forward seems universally challenging to writers.
In an attempt to breakthrough and finally begin a project, one might wonder if there’s some kind of trick or technique to writing a particularly strong start. Any writer with a drive to improve tries to optimize their own writing by figuring out what works and what doesn’t. Maybe there’s a set formula that you can plug thoughts and ideas into and extract an objectively sound opening that establishes character, continuity, and setting all at the same time?
Well since writing doesn’t work like math, a neat and tidy formula like this will never be possible. It’s actually a lot simpler, because a beginning only truly needs to do one thing; compel the reader. A beginning is there to draw the reader into whatever concept or idea you, the writer, have hooked them on. Even prolific authors would struggle to fit the entire continuity and premise in the first chapter of their story. A successful beginning is one that makes the reader want to continue reading.
I say this as though it’s some obvious solution to make all your writing problems disappear. This isn’t to say that you don’t need a thorough understanding of your own world; you absolutely do. Creating something compelling is a challenge of its own. What lessens this challenge, however, is the variety of methods you can use to compel your audience. My goal here is to highlight a few of those methods and outline some ways you can get your audience to keep turning the pages of your writing. While I’ll generally be referring to these methods in the context of fiction, they’re very much applicable to other forms of creative writing.
A good ol’ fashioned prologue
“Prologue” is a very general term to describe an event or series of events that occurs before the start of a story. What events those were and when they happened is something you decide, but regardless of those choices there are some clear benefits from using a prologue.
A prologue can show an important event that gives the reader some needed context to understand the world, or show an event with consequences that echo over the course of the story. It might show how a character got into the situation they find themselves in at the beginning of the story proper. A prologue could also be something that happened to make the world the way it is now, and by doing that ease the reader into the potential uniqueness of your story.
Regardless of what, how, or when, a prologue wastes no time. It establishes key details and makes it clear who or what is important and, chiefly, why. Your reader doesn’t want to wait, so why should you? An effective prologue is one whose purpose the reader understands and understands quickly. Therefore, there are some questions that should be asked before settling on beginning your story with a prologue.
Is it necessary? Do the beginning events need contextualizing for the story to work the way you want it to? If the events in the prologue would be covered more effectively in a flashback or through later exposition, you may want to consider another option. Going over something obvious or something that could be better contextualized later in the prologue could bog down your opening, and a more direct start to the story could preserve a speedier and engaging pace.
Begin with important memories
If you want to use a prologue but don’t have any idea of an event that would justify using it, consider beginning with some of your protagonist’s crucial memories. This could mean a significant memory they have or it could be a more direct flashback. Either way, there’s a lot that can be gained by immediately showing a very revealing part of your character.
Showing a crucial moment can add to the reader’s investment in your protagonist. A critical memory can show many things about your main character. It could show something responsible for their motivations and what they value. It could also display an incident that shaped the way they view the world. These critical details can show the guts of your character and give the reader a chance to walk a mile in their shoes. Remember that a likable character is often one a reader can understand or relate to, so these details should be stressed in this opening. If done well, an opening like this will create a compelling reason in the form of your protagonist for the reader to keep reading.
That being said, this type of beginning’s effectiveness is heavily dependent on your protagonist as a character. An unengaging protagonist will make an opening like this fall flat. It might be beneficial to ask yourself before writing this if you have a clear idea for your protagonist, and if their memories would be able to contribute to the narrative on their own. A beginning like this requires acting on that vague yet true advice given by every writing instructor under the sun; show, don’t tell.
The other challenge this opening presents is what exactly your protagonist is recalling. Going back to being revealing, ask yourself does this memory show a lot about them? Make sure the event is actually noteworthy enough to become the opening of your story. If this sounds similar to the hurdle faced when writing a prologue, that’s because it’s not a coincidence. Many aspects that make for a strong prologue work here as well if the right moment is chosen. A moment that features a highly emotional experience or a difficult choice can strongly reveal the deepest facets of how a character acts, and can immediately present your reader with a compelling main character they’ll have reasons to root for.
Starting in the middle
Beginning a story in the midst of the action, or in media res, is my personal favorite way to begin a story, and arguably the most effective when it comes to engaging a reader quickly. This can mean starting during a high-octane situation that demands immediate action, or it could mean beginning with the plot already underway. The universal example of this I see people refer to is Lord of the Flies, where the opening lines describe the boys stranded on a beach after their plane crashed. However you wish to go about opening this way, the strength of starting in media res is how it uses suspense to immediately draw the reader into your writing.
With nothing to go on but what’s given in the first sentences, your reader will want to keep reading for answers; shoot first, ask questions later. A sudden situation with a gap in knowledge creates tension. This type of beginning also sets up momentum for the story and prevents it from being slow, which I think is the worst thing an opening could possibly be.
Measures still have to be taken in order to write an engaging opening in the middle of your story. Resist the temptation to over-explain what’s going on. If the reader receives crucial information that could easily explain what’s happening before it’s done happening, they likely won’t be as engaged. The lack of knowledge is what drives this kind of opening, and providing too much description or context can take away its most important function. It can also work against the opening in a technical sense, since exposition or explanation in your writing can detract from the action and break up tension you’ve worked to create.
Secondly, the action has to distract the reader enough to wait for character introductions. Other openings would have the characters somewhat explained, perhaps enough to justify the actions taken in the beginning, but starting in media res forgoes this in exchange for a more sudden start. So if the action at the beginning relies on an understanding of the characters, special care should be taken to introduce that context in a way that doesn’t interfere with the initial pacing. By choosing the right moment, one where the action flows and there are plenty of questions to be asked, you can set up a beginning that could leave your reader enthralled and curious enough to keep reading.
Creating a solid beginning of a story in essence only requires you to be able to grab your reader’s attention, but that challenge on its own is what many writers stumble over. More than half the time it boils down to creating the right circumstances that will allow your writing to become compelling. Hopefully what I’ve written here will help other writers have the confidence to tackle the start of something they may be stumped on. After all, the only place you can start is at the very beginning.
It has become more common for the stories we read today to feature a lot more diverse characters than ever before. Writers are starting to tap into their cultural heritage and channel that into their writing. Whether it is their sexuality, their personal identity, or their ethnicity, readers will see a lot of what makes up the writer as a person while reading their works.
What’s even more impressive is when writers start to branch out from who they are and feature characters that are vastly different from them in their works.
Now, there will always be that one person who doesn’t see a reason as to why writers start spicing up their protagonists. These critics
might argue that writers are just creating self-insert fantasies for themselves. Others might say that the characters writers are writing are too different from them, which can contradict the previous statement.
Then, there are the critics who accuse writers of making their protagonists a specific ethnicity, sexuality, or gender identity different in order to attract readers’ attention when it does not impact the story at all.
If the reason as to why the protagonist of a person’s story is just that, to spice up the main character and nothing else, then I agree. There is no point in diversifying your protagonist if the story remains the same when we replace them with a plain Jane or average Joe.
There should be a reason to include diversity in your cast of characters and that reason should definitely not be to draw reader’s attention for the sake of drawing their attention. We want to see diversity because it is what we all deserve as readers. It’s what we crave.
We’ve all experienced this, haven’t we? Haven’t we all read books as kids and wondered why there was never a character that reminded us of ourselves? Children would ask why the protagonist of a fairy tale was never the same skin color as them or why the protagonists never seemed to share their cultural background.
In the past, a white male was predominantly the protagonist of a story and much of the classic literature that is taught in class has a white male protagonist.
Being someone who is an Asian American, I have never saw myself as a white male. Obviously. And I had a hard time reading about characters who came from the same background as me. This comes as a disappoint to me.
We can learn so much from the novels we read and we can understand the complexity of other people that surround us. But can we really truly understand and relate to the main character of a story if we are always reading about a typical white guy? Surely not.
Thus, it is highly encouraged for us as writers to branch out from the box category where all existing protagonists currently sit in and write about characters that will represent the population of people who deserve to be represented.
But it’s not that easy.
The reason as to why writers are starting to branch out to tell stories about a more diverse character has been revealed. But the reasons as to why we still may not be reading about many diverse protagonists should be addressed, as well.
Based on my personal experience, my desire to branch out but lack of doing so comes from a wall that stands in my way. This wall is built upon a foundation that is made up of two distinct problems: fear and lack of understanding.
Fear is self explanatory; writers fear the backlash of writing about characters that are a different ethnicity, a different sexuality than what they are. How can a white person write about a dark skinned protagonist? How dare a straight person write about a gay character? Do we have the right to do this when we might not even be on the level of understanding to do so?
It is that nagging voice inside of our heads that tell us that we are portraying these characters that are meant to represent a population wrong. Every ethnicity and sexuality comes with their own set of stereotypes. Not every stereotype made is accurate, but that doesn’t mean these stereotypes weren’t drawn from truth. The challenge is knowing where to draw the line and find truth amongst these exaggerated statements.
And this is where the lack of knowledge becomes a barrier. Anyone would have a hard time explaining how to fly an airplane without personal experience flying an airplane. The same can be said for writing a character that is different from the writer in multiple ways. For example, I am Asian and I might have a difficult time understanding how a Russian protagonist should be portrayed. And me being aromantic can make it difficult for me to draft up an accurate romance novel.
Research is key, but not everything on the internet is accurate or true. Not to mention that some things are better learned through experience.
What better way to experience learning about other culture than going to the people we know? We surround ourselves with people who have lived different lives compared to us. They identify themselves differently than us and have a heritage that is unlike ours.
We want to learn, but maybe the fear stems from our worry that we’re pestering them with unwanted questions about how they live their life. It’s not something we have to concern ourselves with, really. If it were me, I’d be flattered to know that someone wishes to understand my culture better, that someone wishes to understand how I go about life as an asexual aromantic. It’s a huge compliment when people want to take time to learn and understand you better. Not to mention that you get to learn a lot about how they go about their daily lives, the customs they keep, and even the foods they eat.
So don’t be afraid to ask questions. Don’t be afraid to want to learn. The next time a friends asks you over to hang out, take some time to understand how they go about things that might be different from you. They don’t remove their shoes indoors, noted. It’s customary to bring gifts for the parents when meeting them for the first time, now we know.
We are allowed to write about characters that are diverse and unique. But it’s not something that we should fabricate. All writing requires research. This is no different.
Take these little tidbits of knowledge and keep them close. Use it to help inspire and to write. Because the things we’ve learned from others is the truth of others. People live a diverse life in comparison to ours. And if we feature them in our writing, we bring something fresh and wonderful for readers to see.
I know it’s kind of passé, but I’ve always wanted to start my own blog – not just a microblog like Tumblr, Twitter, or Instagram, but a real blog where I actually write stuff. The thing is, before I even get to writing anything, I’m plagued by several questions.
What’s too personal for the internet? And what’s too vague or niche to be interesting to anyone who comes across my site? And, come to think of it, who am I even writing to?
When I found out about zines, suddenly these questions became blissfully irrelevant.
In many ways, zines can arguably be considered a precursor to blogs. In Marc Arsenault’s words, “After a couple decades of screen fatigue, there has emerged a movement of people who want more direct and in-real-life experiences. ... Zines are the personal blog post you hold in your hands and savour like a fine wine.”
And unlike throwing your writing into the vast wasteland of the internet, you get to choose how you want it to look and who to share it with.
Worrying that what you really want to write about is too personal or too niche? So what? Make it anyway, put your heart into it, and just keep it for yourself or share it with your closest friends. Or, print a bunch of copies and share it with the wider world if you so choose. Many people like to trade zines, and some even sell them on Etsy.
Zines can be about literally anything, and you don’t have to cater them towards a certain audience. Or, you can cater some to a certain community, and not all. You have the freedom to create what you want without it being anchored to a specific ”site.” Some use the genre to create their own periodicals.
They can look however you want them to look, too. You’re not stuck in the confines of HTML. Type it up or handwrite it, draw your own illustrations or make a collage out of found sources. Make your zine by hand or use a tool like Canva.
Maybe posting 280-character hot takes on Twitter is the way of the future, but I think that making zines strengthens our connection to our writing. At least to me, holding my own finished zine in my hands has felt more personal than staring back at my words on a screen.
“Every poem is worth writing, but not every poem is worth reading,” my poetry professor has often repeated to our class.
It’s a saying that she picked up from her professor during her college days. And don’t mistake her – it’s said in a loving way.
Sometimes, our thoughts and experiences are so heavy that we use writing as a tool to process them, but the thing about art is that once it’s out there, you can’t control how others interpret it.
I’ll admit, I kind of dread sharing my writing because of this.
Last week, I was by no means looking forward to sharing a poem I wrote for a workshop. It touched on something personal that I experience, which I didn’t expect my peers to pick up on.
They complimented the poem’s craft and offered helpful suggestions on how to improve it, which I really appreciated. But the thing that stuck with me most about that workshop, was the way my one classmate understood exactly what I was referring to. Just like that, I felt a little less alone.
Giving our stories a singular, straightforward understanding isn’t always the goal. When we write creative works, it’s not really up to us how other people feel about, interpret, or regard our words. But if those words can act as a balm to just one person, it’s worth it to push past that fear – even if that one person is just yourself this time.
As I was waiting for “Too Loud for Looseleaf” to start a few weeks ago, I reacquainted myself with the feeling of sitting in Pfleeger Hall’s uncomfy seats. I heard footsteps clacking by on the floors, heard chatter and laughter buzzing around the room. I saw a classmate walk into the auditorium and wave at me, and I waved back. They sat next to me. We talked, face-to-face. They told me, as a sophomore, this was the first time they’ve attended an event at Rowan University – in-person, that is.
The night started, and words flowed from the stage, directly to my bare ears. My eyes weren’t burning from watching a screen; they were fixed on the performer standing right in front of me – in-person.
These details are mundane – no-brainers – but they still felt very significant to me. I realized, a week into the Fall 2021 semester, that I’ve only spent a measly one and a half semesters actually on campus. The majority of my uni life has consisted of sitting at my desk and typing away on my keyboard, sitting on my bed and staring at my laptop screen, and taking walks throughout town for my sanity’s sake. Thrilling.
But I don’t mean to complain – I don’t need to remind anyone of all the things we’ve lost during this difficult year and a half.
Despite how much I wanted to, I wasn’t able to stop time, and September 1st, 2021 came. My first day back was the first time in ages I had to make the arduous trek all the way down to 260 Victoria. I had forgotten what it feels like to have a heavy backpack weighing down my shoulders, to walk past a sea of people with their faces in their phones. It was a throwback to another time – I almost forgot to put my mask on when I went inside.
In-person classes feel radically different. You don't have to worry about unmuting yourself, or clicking “raise hand,” or, for the mic-shy like me, typing your two measly cents into a chat box. You can just speak up. And when you share your opinion or your writing, you know you’re actually being heard this time – you’re not just talking to a grid of people with their cameras off, and the occasional face clearly typing away on another project, and one nodding professor. Classmates and professors are actually real, and sharing their time with you.
My professor and my classmates were masked. It was uncanny, seeing people I’d only ever seen on little pixelly boxes on Zoom move and look alive, hearing their voices ring through the acoustics of the room rather than my tinny speakers. Even more uncanny to me was the way I didn’t feel anxious about chatting with people at all anymore.
During quarantine, I was worried I’d regressed. Now that I’m out of my room and out in the real world, I can see, in practice, all the ways I’ve grown. I think all the time I spent inside my room and all the disappointment I experienced over the past year has made me less afraid to be myself.
I think many others are feeling the same way.
Come time to lead my first Writing Arts Club meeting, I was nervous as all get-out. I had big shoes to fill and I’d never even done anything like it before, all on top of our collective transition from Zoom to face-to-face interaction. But the attendees and fellow e-board members kept me in high spirits with their engagement, friendliness, and eagerness to make conversation
During quarantine, typing away at the screen alone was a means of survival. Now, I’m so thankful that it only takes up a few hours of my day, rather than all of it. Being around people just feels good.
This past Monday, the club’s grad advisor, Thomas LaPorte, suggested we host a Poetry Picnic. It was lovely, having other students by my side, and talking to them naturally. We shared laughs, as well as touching and vulnerable poems.
At first, I didn’t recognize one of the attendees, Logan, without his mask on, nor did he recognize me, which made us laugh. He seemed shy to share his writing, but, inspired by the words that directly passed through the breeze and into his bare ears, he stood up and shared a beautiful poem.
That afternoon was a perfect way to, once again, welcome each other back from the loneliness and disappointment we’ve all endured – to prove that happiness still exists after pain.
So when my students ask me
“Professor, can I use the word ‘ain’t’ in my essay?”
I remind them that they do not need permission to write the way they speak
—Stephen Cobb, “European Nooses in the Classroom”
After a night of thought-provoking and snap-worthy performances, the five poets – Orville the Poet, Just Mike the Poet, Jovan McKoy, Destiny Karizma, and Stephen Cobb – sat on the stage for a laidback Q&A.
Stephen Cobb, an adjunct Writing Arts professor at Rowan University, took the mic to explain what this night meant to him:
“The idea for this started when I was in my Master’s class, and I was having trouble feeling like I was heard on the page. I was writing words that were falling on deaf ears. … So then, when it came time to do this, we did ‘Too Loud for Looseleaf,’ and we named it that because in our community, particularly Black people, we’re not going to be heard on the page.”
Make no mistake, Cobb fulfilled his mission. Too Loud for Looseleaf – co-sponsored by the Writing Arts Department, SJICR, the English department, and Diversity in Action Committee – was a night that shone a spotlight on Black voices, Black poetry, and the art of spoken word at Rowan University.
Cobb himself acted as an emcee and opened up the show. Sparing any introduction, he fired the audience right up with a poem lambasting the unfair idea of “the American Dream.” His two following poems critiqued the education system, its pricing, and its erasure of AAVE.
Destiny Karizma, nick-named the Lyrical Pro Black Unicorn, comes from Staten Island, but credits Camden as making her become a poet. Walking onto the stage, she appeared very shy – but nonetheless, she used spoken word poetry as a way to be open and vulnerable to an audience of strangers. “Love is my theme for these pieces,” she spoke softly into the mic, “but, like… I fell in love, I’m pretty sure y’all fall in love, so we shouldn’t have any problems,” she giggled. The three poems she performed were vulnerable, confessional, and tender. Her poetry collection, A Clouded Mind, published only a week earlier, was sold at the event.
The last performer of the night was headliner Orville the Poet, traveling all the way from Washington, D.C. – during a horrible rainstorm, I might add. For him, poetry “definitely started as therapy.” Now, he shares poems to motivate and inspire others. “If you get anything from my time with you today,” he told the audience, “I hope you find out what your passion is – and many of you know what it is. … I hope you don’t get comfortable. I hope you get super miserable until you start doing that thing. … Share your heart through your art!”
Spoken word is a powerful art form – and certainly, baring your soul on the stage requires a good deal of bravery.
Orville’s advice to those who dream about taking that step: “The more you you put into [your poetry], the more people will gravitate towards you being your authentic self.”
“Once you get on the stage, no one can tell you the future that it will hold,” said Cobb, “but I guarantee you all the best things are from you taking that leap.”
Cobb knows that better than anyone.
“Honestly,” he said after a pause, “this feeling is surreal. … We jumped through a lot of obstacles, relationships have changed – I went from Drew Kopp being my professor, to now I’m working with him on projects. … It’s just the beauty and the journey, and I appreciate you guys for being a part of it – I appreciate my poets for being here – our first Too Loud for Looseleaf has been a success, y’all!”
And while he worked so hard to make a spoken word night happen at Rowan, his mission isn’t over yet, already planning a spoken word workshop for students.
Too Loud for Looseleaf was recorded by Rowan Television Network, and you can watch the event here:
Photo via pexels pixabay
As the spreading of misinformation has become a common practice in our society, it’s important to consider how misinformation affects your research process and in turn, affects the quality of your work. The internet is a vast online space, and it can the number of options for researching can be overwhelming for someone who has little experience. Below you will find a guide to assist you in all of your researching needs, to ensure that all the information you gather is credible and accurate, and tips to help you find the perfect source.
Start, Don’t End, with Wikipedia
Wikipedia has a bad reputation that is centered around the information on the website being inaccurate, and not very credible. However, Wikipedia is a great place to get a general idea of the topic you are researching. I do not recommend citing Wikipedia as a source in your paper. But I do recommend utilizing Wikipedia to find other sources. Wikipedia has hyperlinks throughout many of its articles that will link out to another Wikipedia page to provide more information about a subtopic within your topic. Wikipedia also has a great reference section at the end of its articles that provides the reader with full access to anything that was cited within the article. Even though Wikipedia is a great starting point, it is important to remember that you must consider the information carefully, and keep in mind that you should not use Wikipedia as a fact-checker.
Search Engine Tips
The search engine you use will most likely depend on the requirements of your research. (If you’re allowed to use popular sources or only scholarly) Google Scholar is a great tool for scholarly research because the user can easily see important information before time is wasted delving into an article that can not be used for their research. Before opening an article, Google Scholar shows the name of an author, the date of publication, what database the publication comes from, and how many people cite the article to enhance their own work. The user also has the option to sort the articles by relevance to your search, or by date of publication. Regardless of the search engine you use, using quotation marks in your search will ensure that the entirety of the phrase you type in is considered. Without quotation marks, the search engine may only find information that is involved with one or two of the words in your phrase.
Consider the Websites You Use Carefully
In using a website as a source, it’s important to note that all websites are not created equally. A good rule of thumb is to try and stick with .edu or .gov websites when citing an online page. This is not to say that all .com or .org websites are bad, but they are considered an open domain. Meaning, anyone can register a .com or .org domain. A .edu, .gov, or .mil are considered closed domains. Meaning, people who try to register under these domains must meet specific requirements to do so. While a .org domain may seem safe, there are organizations to display clear bias, which is not acceptable for research purposes. If you know before you start your research what domain you would like to cite, you can add it into the phrase you use to search. For example, if I was doing a research report on World War 1 and I knew I wanted a source from a .edu, I would enter this phrase into my chosen search engine, “World War 1:edu”. Another thing to look for to ensure good information is a website’s “About Us” section. Reading about the viewpoint of the website, and its goals will help to will help you to distinguish bias. Another thing to be aware of is who a website receives its funding from. If a website receives funding from organizations or companies that have a conflict of interest with your research topic, it most likely will affect the information put forth by the website.
Break Your Filter Bubble/Fact Check
For those who don’t know, a filter bubble is when a website’s algorithm assumes what information the viewer would want to see based on their previous browsing history, search history, click behavior, and location. The problem with filter bubbles is that they often do not provide users with contradictory viewpoints, and they reinforce an individual’s views rather than allowing the individual to be challenged by new ideas. Filter bubbles show users what they think the user would want to see, which can lead to people getting varying information about a topic. Popular websites that actively participate in filtering are Google and Facebook. When using these it’s important to consider that what you are viewing is selectively picked for you, and outside perspective is often necessary. Seek information on your topic that covers both sides of an issue. An example is seen by researching anything to do with politics. In order to get a well-rounded, unbiased view, I would research both conservative, liberal, and non-partisan viewpoints on the topic. There are databases that can be utilized in research that do not consider your previous internet history. The best examples are UMGC Library OneSearch, USA.gov, and data.gov. Another helpful internet tool for research is a fact-checking website. A good fact-checking website will use neutral language and provide evidence from unbiased, credible sources. Some examples of trustworthy fact-checking websites include factcheck.org, snopes.com, and politifact.com.
What To Check For In Your Sources
A good rule for sources is to consider accuracy, authority, and timeliness. Accuracy implies that a source has verifiable information. Just because a source is using technical language or jargon of any kind does not mean that the information is correct. Verify the information with your own knowledge around the subject, and additional sources that you already know are trustworthy. Authority alludes to the information being produced by a reliable author and published in an accredited journal or online space. It is important to research your author’s credentials to see if they are informed on the subject or bias for any reason. It is also important to research other areas of a website or journal publisher besides the information you are seeking, to see what is typically posted, and get an idea of the stances that are held. The subject you are researching will impact how timeliness affects your sources. Timeliness refers to when your source was published. Your source should not be over 20 years old if you are researching a topic that evolves, changes, or has recently has a breakthrough of any kind. If you are doing historical research then research that was published a long time ago is acceptable. If you are mainly conducting research through scholarly journals, consider what is the purpose of your source is and if the source has the typical features. Typical features of an in-depth journal include; an abstract, documented research or data in the form of a literature review or conducted experiment, a reference list, and a length of longer than two pages.
Good researching requires a lot of planning and thought. As the internet gets larger by the day, it’s easier for people to put forth incompetent work, that’s passed off as quality content. Trust your intuition, if you have a feeling that a source you’re looking at is not accredited, your probably correct!