Writing in School

I’m talking about everything that comes before college. How much are students actually required to write? I remember in second grade having to write some kind of essay or paper in class. I think we were being taught something about the format. Similar assignments were given during the rest of elementary school. The writing was always done in class.

But I’m sitting here thinking about my middle school years and I can’t remember writing anything substantial during that three year span. And then in high school we generally wrote one major paper a year and spent months on it. I wrote about Dracula once, violence in video games, and two topics that I can’t seem to recall at the moment. All of that is to say that I was not forced to write hardly at all until I stepped foot on a college campus. And I think this could be a contributing factor when it comes to people saying writing is a dying art. Imagine if millions of students across the country have similar experiences. And then they enroll in a degree program that is not writing-intensive. Mine was, but my degree plan had a grand total of two math classes. College algebra and Stats. I’d prefer a class that required 15 essays in 15 weeks over stats every day of the week. But I imagine there are MANY programs that are just the opposite and have very little writing.

All I’m saying is that perhaps it isn’t the media or non-writers who are tossing around this myth that writing is a dying art, maybe it’s the entire education system that’s pushing this idea along. I don’t know. How much were you required to write in school?


On this day in 2014 I published Listen to Audiobooks?.

 

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Two Years After Graduation: My Progress

Last year I wrote a post about what I’d accomplished in the year since I finished school. It’s only fitting that I do it again.

Two years ago today I walked across the stage at the University of Houston Downtown graduation ceremony. It was quite the day that I won’t be forgetting anytime soon. Probably helps that I have a picture from that day on my nightstand just a few feet from where I sleep. You can read a little about what I accomplished in the first year after graduating from college here.

I’ll only be talking about what I’ve done in the last year from this point on.

The end.

Seriously. During my first year I wrote my book and started this blog, but in the last 365 days I haven’t done much. It hasn’t been a lack of motivation. I haven’t written anything, which is fine by me because there’s something much more important that I need to figure out before I think about that. It’s called a job, a real one.

I’ve been actively searching for a job since at least August. All of them in CJ. And nothing has panned out. Now I’ve reached the point at which I don’t think I’ll ever be working in CJ, which is disappointing and ridiculous at the same time. First, the American criminal justice system as a whole is under a microscope right now. One would think CJ agencies all over the country would actively be seeking out applicants who have a college education and have displayed over the course of their lives a high level of moral character. I have. This isn’t me bragging, it’s simple fact. Second, I know based on my experience during these last few months that I’m much more qualified for any CJ job than a significant portion of the applicant pool for any jobs in the area. I can’t speak for other parts of the country, though it’s very likely the same, but most CJ applicants down here apply with a high school diploma and a few college hours. You know just as well as I do that there’s a big difference between someone who went to school two or three semesters and someone who finished.

That last paragraph just seems like a rant, but oh well.

My main goal for the last year has been to find me a job in CJ, and I’ve failed at that. Now I need to reevaluate what my future holds.

No question for y’all today. Last year’s post included a handful of pictures, but not today. I don’t feel like including any.

PS: my failed job search has nothing to do with the economy or the worth of college degrees in today’s society, just know that you’re wrong if that’s what you’re thinking.


On this day in 2014 (as you already know) I published A Year After Graduation: My Progress.

 

On Writing Tutors

Just yesterday someone asked me to look over an analysis paper written for an English class AFTER it was turned in. So I did. And I was surprised to find out that this person had a writing tutor. And this wasn’t the first time I’ve been asked to do this for someone.

I have to be honest. When I was in college I wrote somewhere between 30-40 papers. Maybe 20-25 percent of those were English analysis papers and the rest were CJ papers. But the topics never mattered, not really. I always knew my worst paper would never score any lower than a high B. This has nothing to do with cockiness or even confidence, it’s simple fact. I wrote more than 90 percent of all of my papers in college between midnight and eight in the morning of the day they were due. Why did I do this? Because it worked for me.

Anyway, the point I’m making is that I know how to write great college papers like I know the back of my hand. It’s just something that was easy for me as it most likely was easy for you. So when someone asks me to read over something I don’t play nice. I give it to them straight. Because what’s the point of being asked for my opinion if I’m going to pretend that it’s something it isn’t? Turns out almost everything I told this person had already been said by the professor.

But it got me thinking about the writing tutor who has repeatedly said she disagrees, and that the paper is excellent. I don’t particularly care what another person says about it because I read it with my own eyes and reached my own conclusions.

So I put myself in the shoes of a writing tutor. See, writing isn’t the same as math or some other subject in which there is a very clear right and wrong answer. One person can reach the exact same conclusion via a completely different route from another person. And that’s okay. And I realized that my philosophy as a tutor would likely be very different from just about anyone else’s. As a tutor, I’d want to be involved with the student as early on in the essay writing process as possible. And time permitting, I’d do the assignment myself. Perhaps without the student having knowledge of this. Because then I’d be in their shoes with a real perspective as opposed to someone who is simply looking at the paper.

But my question really comes down to how much should the tutor help? Let’s say the paper is gone over once with the student and corrections suggested. How many more times should this be done, if any, before the paper becomes the work of the tutor rather than the work of the student? I don’t necessarily have the answer to that, but I do think a tutor has a responsibility to the student to be honest. Be critical. Be reasonable. Don’t give the student ridiculous expectations that can’t be reached. If you work with a student who is really struggling and you’ve reached the point at which the paper is as good as it’s going to be as written by the student, then say that. But don’t give them the idea that it’s better than it is. Because you’re really not helping at that point.

I have no experience with writing tutors, do you?


On this day in 2014 I published Books You MUST Read.

 

What Happened to the Short Story?

Shortstory

One of the last college classes I took was an elective on British literature. And one of the focal points of the class was the analysis of short stories. Some authors we studied were James Joyce, Jorge Luis Borges, and Haruki Murakami. And prior to that I’d had no experience with short stories. I can’t remember ever studying them in high school and I definitely hadn’t ever purchased a collection on my own.

In the couple of years since graduation I’ve had no more exposure to short stories but for the few I’ve read here on WordPress. But maybe it’s just me. Maybe there are still writers out there who release short story collections and have large followings. I just have no idea who they are if they do in fact exist. Is this the norm or am I detached from the rest of you?

And I’m not talking about those writers who write dozens of 30 page short stories and just put them on Amazon every other week. Anyone can do that and receive little to no recognition for doing so because the quality just isn’t there.

Do you write short stories? Do you happen to read them?

Reading in College

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Photo Credit: Eduard Titov

Two things before I continue. First, I know there are some people who don’t go to college. Second, I know every college experience is different.

A very common post here on WordPress is how little time college kids have to read. Obviously I’m not talking textbooks or journal articles, I’m talking books written by their favorite authors. I’ve seen this exact post dozens of times. Let me tell you about my 2012 calendar year.

Spring semester – 18 credit hours (Jan.-May)

Spring mini-mester – 3 credit hours (May)

Summer – 15 credit hours (June-Aug.)

Fall semester – 18 credit hours (Aug.-Dec.)

Winter mini-mester – 3 credit hours (Dec.)

Okay. One would think that I wouldn’t have any time to read at all, right? Eh. Wrong. Even though most college students have right around three months off for summer and another 4-5 weeks during the holidays, I had neither. But I managed to read 44 books that year. My best ever.

I found the time to read 44 books during a calendar year in which I took 57 credit hours while working weekends. I think we can agree that most college students are not taking that many hours. The point of this post is to say that there really is no reason for someone to say they don’t have time to read in college. Cause it’s just not true. I’m talking undergrad here.

Saturday Selects: Getting your degree

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Photo Credit: Degrees Finder

Saturday Selects is a series of posts I write the first Saturday of each month in which I discuss a topic that is unrelated to my typical bookish posts. You can read the previous posts here. This week we’re going to talk a little about college. And that ever moving target we all know as a degree. But first, let me tell y’all a bit about my experience.

My time in college started in August of 2010. This came of course immediately after graduating from high school in June of that year. I didn’t step foot on campus until orientation, which happened in July. My first thoughts were not all that positive. See, the University of Houston Downtown is in downtown Houston. There are skyscrapers and a million gazillion cars everywhere, people walking around in suits, there’s the county jail…suffice it to say that there is A LOT going on in downtown Houston. As there likely is in the heart of any metropolitan area. So I don’t know how I still managed to think that I’d have that picturesque college campus. Nope. The school consists of six buildings that are within walking distance of one another. North and South Towers, which are literally towers. I think they’re 13 stories high? Academic Building. Commerce Street Building. Shea Street Building. One Main Building. Why am I telling y’all this? My experience is immediately different from the experiences of most students just in the layout of the university. There are no huge areas of green grass surrounding any buildings. There aren’t extravagant buildings added each year. Though two of the buildings have been added within the last decade. The point I’m making is that UHD has a different feel to it than most universities. There aren’t even dorms.

Now just a little more about my experience while I was there. I never considered taking part in any fraternity or association on campus. It just wasn’t for me. I never really thought to make a bunch of friends or socialize, to be honest. My philosophy while I was in school was essentially go to class, sit in the front row, take notes when necessary, get home as soon as possible once class is over. I’m not kidding. I could easily go days in class without speaking to anyone. Because I was there to get the piece of paper I have sitting right here in front of me now as I write this. The degree. And no one I went to school with was going to help me get it but me. I stuck with that philosophy throughout my time in school. And guess what it got me? Not only did I get that degree I was after, but I did so with honors while being the youngest in my graduating class. My time at UHD ended on May 15, 2013, the day my graduation became official.

But this post isn’t all about me. I’m 22. I know A LOT of people still in school. My high school graduating class is now four and a half years post graduation. You and I both know that some of these degrees that are being sought will never be earned. Why? Because my philosophy doesn’t seem to work for most people. All you ever hear about is the college experience and how great everyone wants those years to be. That’s great, but I’m afraid that too many people have lost sight of the actual goal. See, the goal isn’t to have sex with as many people as you can or to see how many weekends in a row you can find yourself over the toilet because you don’t know when it’s time to stop drinking; it’s that degree. At least for me it was. I was one of those guys in high school who constantly said how smart I was but I didn’t try (I graduated #427 out of 527). Because I knew college would be the time for me to put up or shut up. I put my money where my mouth was and got down to business the minute I walked on campus.

Another part of the equation I’m thinking about now is how many kids don’t particularly care about what they’re doing because they have parents who are paying for their new car, their off-campus apartment, and everything else they NEED while they’re in school. See, I didn’t have that. My parents cannot afford college tuition for any university, so all of my expenses were paid for by grants, scholarships, and the federal government. That was my incentive for staying focused on the goal at hand. Sure my GPA was high and I was getting paid to go to school, but if I decided to slack off for a semester or two I’d struggle to find the money to pay for future classes.

This post isn’t meant to say that every single person should go to college and get their degree. That’s not what I’m saying because I know that college isn’t for everyone. Quite honestly, I’m not even sure it was for me. But I gave myself three years at a university to get it done and I did. And if I can, so can you. But you have to want it. You have to be focused on what it is you’re trying to do. Do you want to be one of those students who spends nearly a decade in school without getting your degree? Or do you want to become a graduate?

My message to you would be to forget about that upcoming Halloween party. Forget about what you’re going to do for your friend’s 21st birthday. Go study. If that’s too much to ask, then read a book and get off Twitter. Focus on the ultimate goal of the college experience. You have the rest of your adult life to make memories of things of much greater significance than that frat party.


Whew. Sorry guys. I sat down to write this and had no idea what I was going to say.

 

Have a Favorite Writing Instrument?

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Photo Credit: RGI Publications

I have to be honest with you all, I have a list of post ideas on my phone and I picked this one because I figured it’d take the least amount of time for me to write. Most only take about 20 minutes or so, but I’m sleepy and I’m looking to cut that time in half. So let’s get on with it, shall we?

How many writing instruments would you say we have available to us? I’m thinking maybe a handful? For the sake of this post I was going to focus on the physical act of writing, but we write on computers more than just about anything, right? So I think it’s only fair to include them in any discussion about writing instruments. So let’s see…pen. pencil. Laptop/desktop. Are there any more? I mean, I guess markers and crayons too. But the only writing done with either of those two is on the walls by the baby who thinks he’s helping decorate his room. Oh, a quill! Are there places you can actually buy ink and quills? I’m not sure about those. Anyway, those are the only writing instruments I can think of. I guess typewriters count too, especially since I can shamelessly link back to that post just because I mentioned them. Ha.

Let’s see if I have a favorite. Pens. They’re easy to write with unless they have some kind of gel ink that smears as you write across. I have to admit that I have a couple dozen notebooks from college full of pages and pages of notes from various classes and probably like 95% of all of that was with pencil. I’m not sure how come I did that. Maybe I made a lot of mistakes in the course of note taking and I didn’t want to have my pages full of things scratched out? It was always mechanical pencils with the nice erasers too.

On another note, I had a lot of gel pens in elementary school? Wait, is that weird? Uh oh. Oh well. So what’s your favorite writing instrument? Maybe it’s one I didn’t mention?