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On Creative Writing and The Magic Tree House.

As the English poet, essayist, and critic Samuel Johnson once said, “The greatest part of a writer’s time is spent in reading, in order to write; a man will turn over half a library to make one book.” The importance and influence of broad and thorough reading on writing is as true for a woman as it is for a man, and I am either insightful or vain enough to consider myself a living example of this.

One of the first book series I followed as a child was Mary Pope Osborne’s The Magic Tree House. I read the first chapter book, Dinosaurs Before Dark, when I was in second grade, or seven years old. I worked through the volumes my little school library had on its shelves, then moved on to those in the public libraries in my town. When the Scholastic Book Fair came to my school, I raced through the catalog with such speed that I often ripped its pages in my haste to find the latest Magic Tree House. These books were valuable to me, I now realize, because they provided information, escape, and entertainment all in one text; I was interested in the more historical and literary elements of the chapter books because I was so engaged in the adventurous narrative and characters who reminded me of myself.

That annual Book Fair catalog arrived like clockwork when I was a nine-year-old voracious reader, and it held more than news of a new Magic Tree House installment: Osborne announced a nationwide writing contest. In this announcement, Osborne encouraged her readers all across the country to write and title a sample chapter of a Magic Tree House book of their own creation. The winner would receive their own “magic tree house,” or a life-sized cardboard cutout of the famous titular structure, and a letter from Osborne herself. At nine years old, I had written and illustrated several of my own “books” (a little series about a girl-detective named Crystal Harper and her friends), but I had never attempted to write for a contest with such a genuine audience and (what seemed at the time) proper stakes. My love for the series was more than enough to motivate me to research and write my own chapter for a new Magic Tree House book, Sunset on the Sahara.  

I submitted the chapter several weeks in advance and waited anxiously for a response. When I received my letter from Osborne congratulating me on being selected as one of the winners, the joy and pride were unlike anything I had felt up to that point in my little life as a writer. For me, this experience was so rewarding because an author I loved and admired had found my work as engaging and rich as I had always found hers. 

New Beginnings

Choosing my most rewarding piece of writing is like forcing a mother to choose her favorite child. I love all my scribbles equally. Okay, maybe I like my short stories and potential novels a little bit more than my post-it reminders and shopping lists, but that does not change anything. However, if I had to choose only one piece as the most rewarding, I would have to say it is the excerpt of an unfinished novel entitled “New Beginnings,” which I had published in Montclair’s National Society of Collegiate Scholars (NSCS) Literary Magazine in Spring 2013.

I had always dreamed of being a published author ever since I wrote my first short story at the end of sixth grade. To see my name in print and how proud my parents were was an outstanding feeling. Looking back at the excerpt itself, I will admit, I sometimes cringe at the way I worded a particular sentence because writing never stops even after it has been published; a writer continues to grow, change styles, and relentlessly critique their own work. Nevertheless, I still cherish this accomplishment.

As a novel, New Beginnings was a great struggle to write. The storyline changed so many times that it was difficult for me to tell whether the characters were even the same people I thought I knew from the start. My babies grew up so fast! In fact, two separate short stories emerged from this idea, which was supposed to be a novel, and seemed to have a happier existence as independent pieces; this realization ultimately led me to submit an excerpt to NSCS. I never expected it would be published.

This piece was the most rewarding because it reinforced, just as my acceptance to Montclair State University had, that dreams do come true. As I struggle to find writing time in my busy schedule, I often reflect on this achievement to motivate myself. Perhaps one day “New Beginnings” may become the novel I dreamed it would be.

Writing about Vermont

When I lived in Vermont, I began reading fiction to learn about the state, to absorb its essence and ethos. This enterprise resulted in the publication of my three guides to Vermont fiction, one of which focused on stories for children and young adults. I want to describe four insights I gleaned from this book.

First, reading has a profound and nourishing effect on the imaginations of the young protagonists. Their favorite books offer them solace, instruction, and a frame of reference. Second, reconciliation is crucial to the process of growing up. The characters initially meet challenges with resentment or indifference but overcome them with understanding or forgiveness. Three, family dynamics and school experiences have an impact on the development and enlightenment of the young characters. They learn about coping with death or divorce from a range of relatives at home and about attributes like discipline or courage from compassionate teachers and librarians at school. Finally, the protagonists are strongly attracted to Vermont. Whether native-born or reluctant arrivals, they become engaged in, and eventually part of, the landscape.

As to the effect of childhood reading on the sensibilities and choices of the characters in these books, In Haas’s Working Trot, a boy concerned about his future relaxes by reading Wuthering Heights, as does the girl in Wright’s Down the Strings, who is examining her next steps in life. The heroine of Kinsey-Warnock’s If Wishes Were Horses broods upon an injustice by rereading Black Beauty, while in Walkers’s A Piece of the World, a girl consoles herself with The Wind in the Willows. Paterson’s title character in Lyddie, a child mill worker, slakes her parched existence with Oliver Twist; in Winthrop’s Counting on Grace, a girl and boy, also mill workers, sustain themselves with The Red Badge of Courage. In Doren’s Nell of Blue Harbor, a young girl, struggling to cope with an adult emergency, wonders how her idol, Laura Ingalls Wilder, would handle the situation.

Reconciliation plays a key role as the young protagonists attempt to resolve problems and face reality. In Jackson’s A Taste of Spruce Gum, the heroine’s young heart feels betrayed by her mother’s remarriage, wounded by her stepfather’s behavior, and offended by her harsh new environment. Circumstances force her into a context in which she not only takes charge but also recognizes how much she loves her new “Papa.” In Stevenson’s Happily After All, the protagonist is forced to come to Vermont to live with a mother who, she thinks, has abandoned her. At first, she cannot adjust to Vermont, which is pretty, though in a “different way,” but she finally makes peace with her mother, who turns out to have been her loving Book Fairy all along. In Graff’s A Long Way Home, a boy sulks when his mother brings him to Vermont and cannot understand why his childhood friend refused to fight in Vietnam. A poignant revelation about the Civil War enables him to grasp the meaning of courage and, in a moving resolution, to respect his friend.

The particular ambiances of family, schools, and libraries have a major influence on the growth of the characters. Fisher’s eponymous heroine in Understood Betsy has never been asked to take responsibility or make a decision until she comes to live with her off-hand, eccentric relatives in Vermont; she then remodels her life on their mature and loving examples. Facing disasters like floods or fires, family members unite in new ways. Frost’s Maple Sugar for Windy Foot pits a family against a terrible flood. A young boy is waist-deep in water helping to get the horses out of the barn as another family’s house whirls by. Afterward, with his father, he views the barn “with its dead cattle, its destroyed hay and grain” and the “river-battered acres of what had once been a beautiful farm.” Having come through this crisis together, he feels he is “deep-down friends” with his father.

Complementing the importance of family relationships and the discipline of farm life is the influence of teachers and librarians. In Gauthier’s Hero of Ticonderoga, the two protagonists, both uninterested students, become engaged in and fascinated by research. In Doyle’s Stray Voltage, “The only person in his world who makes Ian feel valuable is Mrs. Worth, his sixth-grade teacher.” In Winthrop’s Counting on Grace, when Grace and her friend must give up school to work in the mill, Miss Lesley tutors them on weekends in her spare time. In Paterson’s Jip, His Story, a young teacher lends him books and assures him of her protection.

The characters have or develop a beneficial and devoted relationship with Vermont. The historical novels emphasize the statement that Meigs, in The Covered Bridge, attributes to folk hero Ethan Allen: “No person has come to live here who did not love the land.” The Vermont scene is rich and vibrant with pride in heritage, family roots in the land that go back generations, the tradition of neighbor helping neighbor, and challenges and hard work. As a boy observes in Haas’s Unbroken, “everything was work here. Everything was food and firewood and racing the summer to get both put away in time.”  The experiences of ancestors’ hewing out a life in the wilderness produce the qualities that the young protagonists find in their households of aunts, uncles, grandmothers, or grandfathers—wisdom, endurance, humor, and optimism.

In Stolz’s novel, By the Highway Home, a young girl mourns her brother, killed in Vietnam. She looks with affection at her books, filled with characters that make her weep—the little Mermaid, Oliver, Little Nell, Charlotte. Beth, and Bambi. She searches for and copies comforting quotations into her journal. In an essay by Simone Weil, this girl finds the following advice about death: “Do not grieve, or keep me always in your thoughts, but think of me as you would remember a book you loved in childhood.” I borrowed a portion of that quotation for the conclusion of my book’s introduction: “We all–librarians, teachers, and parents—remember with affection ‘the books we loved in childhood’ and the incalculable effect they have had upon our lives. The stories in this collection are the stuff of future memories for the young readers we esteem, support, serve, and love.”

Reading fiction about Vermont was the catalyst for my initial appreciation of the role of place in fiction. This experience led to my doctoral dissertation, in which I developed a theory, formed over the prior ten years, that place is the primary element in a piece of fiction because it affects the destiny of the characters.

 


 

 

 

 

 

On Tension, Rebellion, and Resignation

The New York Times‘ Opinion Piece: 31 December 2016.

From the (Impromptu) Desk of Alexander Hamilton.
The Central Offices of The New York Times.
620 Eighth Avenue.
Manhattan, New York.
The United States of America.

It is on the eve of the end of our year 2016 that I write to you, America, you great unfinished symphony (for indeed, you are still and may ever remain both great and unfinished). While, as the founder of The New York Post, it pains me to publish in The Times, I am told by certain parties of note that my publication is no longer of certain unblemished repute. These selfsame parties have called upon me (through temporal and technical means I do not entirely understand) from a place of concern for the future of this country; as a man who was once also concerned for these same reasons, and as a man who helped, in his own part, to mold this nation into the power it has been and is even now, I feel I have several brief remarks to offer on the state of this country and its place moving forward.

In the first place, I understand from conversations had and brief readings conducted prior to the penning of this piece that the nation finds itself in a state of apparently severe tension, confusion, and even rebellion. Rest assured that of this country, this has always been true. The United States of America as I have known it has thrived on the active pursuit of discussion of converse opinions and conflict. For my part, I have always been and, even in the current climate, would remain a passionate and invigorated orator, author, and politician. Further, at the birth of this nation and beyond it, these discussions and the demonstrations, arguments, and even duels to which they lead were not without their proverbial pain and suffering. The investment of the people of this nation and their willingness to argue and struggle for their beliefs is telling, reassuring, and admirable.

In the second place, then, I must reiterate the power and value of oral and written discourse. Silence is and always has been the killer of progress. When America moved to force itself from its place under the thumb of Great Britain and King George III, it did not do so with obedience and subservience; it did so with written and spoken resilience, passion, and rebellion. Further, then, I can emphasize the additional value of further protest when absolutely needed. Americans have always been known for their determined willingness to seek life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that is as true now as it is in my time.

In the third and final place, however, it is critical that, as Americans, we remember the value and usefulness of (it nearly pains me to admit) compromise. While it will sting to concede certain points so dear to consciences and minds, we must remember that, as a nation, compromise will move us forward for the sake of the common and, now, it seems, universal goods.

When in doubt, America, remember that “a nation which can prefer disgrace to danger is prepared for a master, and deserves one.” Pursue justice without fear, without shame, and at all costs in the coming years.

Most sincerely,
Your obedient servant,
A. Ham.

Amelia Earhart Reporting In!

Y’know, I’ve always loved aviation, but I never thought I’d be able to fly into the future! People seem to think I’ve gone missing, but it seems as though I traversed through astral planes! 

Boy, does 2016/2017 look different than my time. Technology has vastly improved, and the planes! Aircrafts of all sorts can be seen flying simultaneously in the sky–amazing. Drones, helicopters, bigger and faster airplanes, even tiny versions with remote controls that children and adults can play (or practice!) with. It seems as though there has been plenty of progress, not only in terms of technology, but also in society’s advancements as well.

I’m remembered for being the first woman in male-dominated spaces–and now look at America. In the 1930s, women were reduced to housewife roles, but now we have women astronauts, CEOs, scientists, and women in fields that were designed by society to be against us. Now, women have a choice in what they want to do in life, from housewife to CEO, and everything in between and women of color are holding great positions of power, a power that was nearly nonexistent in my day. This is so important for young generations to see, that even though society was pitted against you for so long, you can rise above it and prove it wrong.

Though, with all this progress, I worry that we put our young girls in proverbial boxes, even in 2016/17. Objects, behaviors, and ideas are still constantly categorized by gender, such as colors, toys, dreams, and emotions. Why does society still do this, especially considering that gender fluidity is a conversation that has come to life in the present day — and that following gender binaries can be so limiting. If a young girl excels in mathematics, let her. It’ll only stunt her growth if you tell her that math is a “ man’s” discourse. And what makes it so, anyway? Not everything is so black and white – let things just be without categorizing or gendering them.

We must not fall back on the progress we have made–cherish the dreams and aspirations of young girls, of young women of color, and of anyone who identifies as female. All women are important, but have been told otherwise for so long. Society still needs to stop trying to stunt our growth. It’s a fruitless effort, anyhow, considering we will prove society wrong regardless.

Earhart over and out!

Ginsberg Returns

America I came back for a visit and I see that you have learned nothing

America you did what? Donald Trump in two thousand seventeen?
I can’t believe my own eyes.
America when will we stop profiting off of war?
Are you kidding me, still, with your atom bombs?
I came back to see – now I wish I didn’t.
America have you lost the mind you never had?
America when will you grow up?
You don’t even try to hide behind lies anymore?
When will you look at yourself through another lens?
You thought the Troskyites were your enemies now they rig your elections?
America is Standing Rock the next Trail of Tears?
I’m sick of your – Oh I don’t even care anymore.

America you are pushing us to the next world.
Your machinery is now your worker.
You made me want to leave this place and now I’m glad I did.
Stuff and more stuff is not the answer.
Burroughs was right to cloud himself from your truth.
How could it be that your practical joke gets bigger and bigger?
How is it possible that things got so much worse?
I’ve given up.
America I’m going back to sleep.
America the plum blossoms are gone.
The newspapers are the same just the names are different.
America do you really have a prime time show about the KKK?
America based on what I see now I am proud that I was a communist.
At least you are legalizing marijuana – finally.
I want to go back to sleep.
One thing is for sure, you will always make trouble.
I still read Marx in my grave.
I have been proven right.
I still won’t pray to your god.
You should listen to the mystics that you’ve jailed on reservations.
America you hated the communists and now you make oil deals with the KGB.

Donald Trump and Time Magazine?
I’m no longer obsessed with Time.
But I saw Trump on the cover and had to come see.
Donald Trump is a Businessmen but is not serious.  But this is serious.

This is gonna get ugly America

I’m going back to sleep.

 

 

All Apologies by, Kurt Cobain

The New York Times: Op-Ed. December 19, 2016

All Apologies

Kurt Cobain

Donald Trump is president? How long have I been asleep, and where the heck am I? As I look around here I’ve got to say, I like what I see. People are rallying in the streets and all over college campuses for LGBT and equal rights. Voices are being heard. Changes are being made. I’ve always said, “the duty of youth is to challenge corruption.” That’s what it’s all about man, so get busy; looks like you’ve got a lot of changes to make. I mean, Trump – really?!

The music industry stinks. What happened here?! Auto-tune. Gangster rap. Disney Channel groupies. It’s awful. What happened to writing songs and playing them in crummy bars? It’s all, like, tribute tunes and stolen melodies. Is no one writing original material anymore?! The local bands now are kinda cool, working their way to the top the way we used to. But these ‘big names’ with radio time, It’s all junk. Bowie’s dead, and a bunch of others. I’m not gonna talk about it. Talking about it just makes this whole thing even more weird. It’s all really weird man.

Courtney published my journal. Can you believe that?! All my thoughts, all the messed up things that go on up here, *gestures to his head* it’s all out there in print. Someone can go pick it up for like, 20 bucks, and read it, and think they’ve got me all figured out. I mean, I’ve said it before, “I don’t blame the average seventeen-year-old punk-rock kid for calling me a sellout. I understand that. And maybe when they grow up a little bit, they’ll realize there’s more things to life than living out your rock & roll identity so righteously.” I didn’t sell out. She did. If it were up to me, I never would have published that. But whatever, if people wanna buy it and read it and act like they know me, who am I to stop them. Like I said, “I’ve never been a very prolific person, so when creativity flows, it flows. I find myself scribbling on little notepads and pieces of loose paper, which results in a very small portion of my writings to ever show up in true form.” Maybe it wasn’t good writing. Maybe some of it was okay. Maybe it all sucked. At least I wrote my own stuff. A lot of it was for me, hence the journal. The songs were for me too, I guess. I wrote what I wanted to hear, what the guys wanted to play, and what we thought sounded cool. A lot of it’s still around it seems, which is cool.

There’re all these books and documentaries now, about my life and my relationships and things I’ve said. I never thought I was that interesting. I guess if I have to leave you with some ‘words of wisdom,’ then I’ll just say, “I’m a spokesman for myself. It just so happens that there’s a bunch of people that are concerned with what I have to say. I find that frightening at times because I’m just as confused as most people. I don’t have the answers for anything.” Courtney will probably take this now, and use it to write a sequel to my journal or something. Whatever. As long as I make it back to ‘the great beyond,’ it’s cool. 2016 is weird man, but keep doing what you’ve all been doing.

 

 

All Apologies – Nirvana, 1993

Quotes from Brainyquote.com – Kurt Cobain

O Tempora! O Mores!

THE NEW YORK TIMES OP-ED MONDAY DECEMBER 5, 2016

O Tempora! O Mores!

William Strunk, Jr.

After an absence of seventy years, I have returned to America to discover that my beloved English language is unrecognizable. At Cornell, where I was a professor for forty-six years, I was well known for my brief book on English language usage, The Elements of Style, which was published by Harper’s in 1920.

Imagine my surprise to discover that my former student, Andy White, republished my book in 1959, with revisions, an introduction, and a new chapter on writing. Of course, he published it under his formal name, E. B. White, an extremely successful writer for many years on The New Yorker staff. I regret, in a way, that he and the publisher believed that the book needed to be brought up to date, so to speak, because I admire the terseness and intensity of my original. In his introduction, he describes me in my classroom, leaning far out over the desk, clutching my lapels, blinking my eyes, and saying, “Get the little book! “Get the little book! “Get the little book!” That was the whole point, really—its brevity.

To revert to my theme, that the Standard English that I revered has changed drastically, let me mention one of my first acts upon returning to New York. I telephone the house of an old acquaintance, deeply aware that she would be long dead. A young woman answers. I identify myself and inquire, “Am I speaking to hergreat-granddaughter?” “Yes, this is her.” I am appalled, since in my day speakers knew that linking verbs like “to be, to seem, to appear” take the subjective or nominative case. Of course, the young woman should have said, “This is she.” To test this rule, one can finish the sentence in one’s head: “This is she (who is answering).”

The young woman, however, is kind enough to offer to take me on a little sight-seeing tour by automobile. As a former teacher, I have always enjoyed conversing with young people, but this lovely young woman is unable to articulate a single sentence without innumerable and highly ungrammatical uses of the preposition “like.” Making conversation, I ask, “Are you in school?” She: “Yes, I go to, like, an art school.” I persevere: “Are you enjoying it?’ She: “It’s, like, awesome.” When she ends the conversation with, “Hopefully, I will become a painter,” I despair of her rhetorical gifts: she believes she is saying, “I hope I will become a painter.” I must come to grips with the fact that she is speaking currently acceptable American English.

I press on with my research into the new American language by visiting an English writing class at a local college. These students also frequently use the slang interjection, “like,” but I am interested as well in other surprising changes in usage. The students are reviewing with their professor an essay with some errors he has identified. He gives me a copy to follow along. I am surprised and pained by the errors he overlooks. The weeds are growing mightily in many of the sentences we parse. “This is a subject which defines . . .” is left unpruned; imagine the improvement in writing, simply, “This subject defines . . .” and removing three useless words. The teacher allows “Charles’ friend” to stand, instead of following the rule of forming the possessive singular of nouns by adding ‘s, no matter what the final consonant: thus, “Charles’s.”

I turn to the current literature on changes in language, or the lexicon, to find out that popular usage has vanquished, one by one, the rules I cherished seventy years ago. The latest such text, by John McWhorter and published by Holt this very month, is called Words on the Move: Why English Won’t—and Can’t—Sit Still (Like, literally). I mourn the usage that I spent my career perfecting in order to pass it on to my young students. I can only shake my white-haired head and say, “Oh, times! Oh, customs!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

­­­ William Strunk Junior (1869-1946) was a professor at Cornell and the author of The Elements of Style.

 

 

 

 

 

Audience & Public and Private Writing

As cliche as this may sound, writing always has been an outlet for me, whether it’s personal, creative, or academic writing. I was never able to commit to anything and privacy was a word known not in my house when I was a kid, so writing in a journal was absent from my childhood. However, I used to create little newspaper pamphlets highlighting all the scandalous news happening around my household—Prince, the Icy Blue Eyed Husky, Protects the House Once Again from Notorious Mailman (see more on page 2)—and, always an entrepreneurial spirit, I charged my family members 50 cents per issue. My groundbreaking articles were stuffed with hyperbolic details and science-fiction like twists (I was a poor reporter–who cared for objectivity when you can insert an alien taking a casual dip in the over-chlorinated pool?). Every other summer morning, the Comic Sans adorned newspapers were hot off the living room’s press and ready to distribute. Truthfully, I never actually sold one of my little newspapers that I wrote so diligently—I blame it on the Comic Sans (what was I thinking??).

Moving on from one semi-embarrassing moment to another, as a teenager, I wrote angsty poetry of all my teenager-y problems and I wrote fanfics featuring Yours Truly as the main character. I (for some reason) shamelessly submitted my work to my school’s barren literary magazine. I had no perspective for an audience back then—writing was purely for my own pleasure. This, of course, changed once I developed an internal humiliation gauge in my late teenage years and realized everything I wrote in the past was cringe-worthy and terrible. My work was as deep as teenage angst could get (that is to say, surface-level deep), but it acted as my personal outlet.

I started to think of audience and public writing more seriously in undergrad – especially considering that my grade would reflect if I was successful or not in reaching this ever-ephemeral audience that seemed to pester me in all my classes. There’s a lot more pressure even just considering writing for an audience – heck, even this blog post is giving me nightmares (just kidding! …but no, really). I strongly believe that good writing is always personal, whether it’s for an audience or not. In both of my undergrad and graduate studies, my work is surrounded by my ethics and philosophies. I may not be the most eloquent of writers, but I will try my hardest to write in an accessible, entertaining, and engaging way so that my ideas are effectively put across. I’ve learned a lot about myself through academic writing than I ever did with personal writing. Writing is a pretty daunting task to begin with—digging deep within yourself makes the task even scarier, yet it’s only then that I believe writing is most rewarding.

Like many other Millennials (Shh, don’t tell the Baby Boomers), I run a personal blog I sort-of regularly update. It’s thrilling to receive a comment from someone who reads your work and feels compelled enough to respond to it. Outside of academics, having your work reach to an actual person is pretty cool, especially on the internet where everything is invisible and intangible. Turns out, I’ve never been one to enjoy private writing, I think. I enjoy writing with the hope of encouraging a discussion, whether the conversation is held with me or not. Oh, and by the way, I don’t charge my readers 50 cents per blog post. 😉

Turning the Tables in Writing

As I sit underneath the dining-room table, furiously scribbling notes on the back of a napkin, I am mildly listening to my family mock me for my choice of writing locale. They have never quite been able to understand my sudden bursts of inspiration and how fleetingly amazing ideas can disappear if I do not stop to capture them.

     When I think back on my life in and out of academia, the one constant I find is writing. Growing up, writing was a source of confidence for me. For example, I always excelled in Spelling, Language Arts and Literature in school. I liked reading stories and telling them myself. A creative writing assignment in the sixth grade sparked my interest and set me on the lifelong journey of writing.

     As my journey through academia continued, my membership in Montclair State’s honor society (the National Society for Collegiate Scholars) provided my first opportunity for literary publication; an excerpt of my unfinished novel entitled New Beginnings was printed in their Spring 2013 issue. My parents were so excited, they bought three copies and told everyone they could. I had always dreamed of publishing something, and this was one of the few times I had experienced a dream come to life.

Public writing has continued to benefit me in numerous ways. My decision to create a personal wordpress.com blog, for instance, allowed me to experiement with different kinds of texts. I was also able to broaden my reading horizons by viewing other people’s posts. This led me to learning about new cultures, religions, thoughts, poetry, and much more.

Audience is a crucial component of writing. I find that writing for public spheres creates a different kind of pressure than writing for private matters. The notion that public writing must be perfect, intelligent, and thought-provoking is – I believe – engrained in the subconscious of every writer. Knowing that a grade or salary is attached to a text, that the quality of writing may stand in the way of receiving a promotion or important funding establishes a certain degree of motivation than one might have when writing for pleasure. The shift in audience, I believe, is why I find private writing more pleasing than academic.

I am an avid journal writer and have been since my middle school days. There is a certain freedom in recording one’s secret, honest, unfiltered thoughts and knowing that it is for no one else’s eyes but one’s own. All writers need that escape from the public, that time to experiment with new styles or write purely for entertainment. I began writing short stories around my journaling era, and since then creative writing has become a passion. I enjoy bringing characters and their dialogue to life, and I welcome the day when a writer will enter the CWE with his or her own personal writing endeavors that we can nurture together.

Inspiration, like audience, is another crucial component of writing. Writers with academic assignments, I feel, often struggle because they lack that inspiration. As we encourage writers at the CWE to explore topics that interest them when they can, I hope they will learn that inspiration can come from anyone, anything, and anywhere – and they just have to be ready to capture those fleeting moments.