Writing Log #3: Portrait of a Process

Bethany Herold

Professor Egger

ENGL 2060 E01

27 September 2015

Writing Log #3: Portrait of a Process

How do outside forces influence or shape writing? Although there are many important elements of the writing process from technique to revision, the inspiration and critiques one receives from outside sources, both direct and indirect, play a large role in the final product. Different opinions on the origins of these exterior sources, as well as the weight of their impact, vary from writer to writer, but most seem to agree that their writing voice is largely shaped by experience and exposure. What follows are takes on the aforementioned aspect of writing by three distinctly different, but equally talented, writers.

Michael Luo is a domestic correspondent and investigative writer for The New York Times. He has written award-winning series and helped front multiple journalism investigations. Luo asserts the significance of keeping a “good writing” folder which contains notable articles worth studying and styles worth imitating. Every time he completes a piece that he feels is truly worthwhile, he “believe[s] some of that rubs off on [him], even if it is just inspiration.” Editors have also played a large role in Luo’s career, and he credits much of his growth as a writer to their critiques and direction. The habit of matching the interests and desires of given editors has made him more adaptable and well-rounded as a writer. This trained him to seek out stories that actually interest people, and has increased his generation of reactions and reader participation. Ultimately, outside forces have trained Luo to match the ever-changing flow of what intrigues readers at a given time and place.

Beverly Cleary is an award-winning children’s author, famous for beloved stories like Ramona Quimby, Age 8 and The Mouse and the Motorcycle. Cleary started out working in a bookstore, and was deeply stuck by the stereotypical child characters in the children’s literature of her time. She constantly witnessed little boys and girls in stories undergoing an evolution into flawless and superior little humans. This was far from the truth in her eyes, and she sought out to create a character that was a more accurate depiction of childhood. Cleary loosely based one of her most memorable characters, Ramona, off a “rather impossible” child that lived in her neighborhood. She also drew many concepts from the influence of her own life, as well as stories in the local newspapers. Many names were even selected for her characters all because she overheard them while eavesdropping on conversations. Her fan-base even had some sway in the stories, as she chose to write a story about a boy with divorced parents after receiving a request from two little boys going through a similar situation. Cleary strove to keep her characters as real and accurate as possible, and always valued the voices and opinions of her readers.

Ernest Hemingway is considered one of the literary greats, and had written many successful award-winning novels and short-stories such as The Old Man and the Sea and A Farewell to Arms. He didn’t care as much for outside influence and opinions, and was more or less religious when it came to his writing habits and schedule. He did think very highly of certain authors like Twain and Shakespeare, and swore that reading the work of the great authors begot great thinking and therefor writing. Outside forces such as his work space greatly influenced his productivity, and he believed strongly in writing in the morning while standing up. He mentioned on several occasions that his most successful writing was completed while he was in love, hinting that adoration and acceptance freed him up and gave him confidence as a writer. Aside from romantic partners, select writers, and his editor, Hemingway felt that most outside influences were counter-productive and in some cases detrimental. He essentially believed it was best to limit the number of sources capable of influencing his writing.

For me, the answer is not black and white nor simple. I see truths in all of the perspectives of the mentioned writers. Like Luo, I know the importance of emulating good writing techniques and adhering to the interests of the readers. I appreciate Cleary’s uncanny awareness to real-life accuracy with her characters, and her tendency to write about less than desirable subjects like divorce, all while spinning it in a positive light for her young readers. Hemingway was wise in limiting the amount of people capable of influencing his work, and was just as selective with his schedule and customs. There is something to be learned from all three, and I have my own forces that influence and shape my writing as well. For me, it’s important that my writing be truthful; not just facts, per say, but also true to who I am and what I believe. I surround myself with those willing to be honest with me, but who are also reliable and trustworthy. I read often, and strive to always have a classic piece of literature at my side. Although it’s only one aspect of the writing process, outside forces play a crucial role that can set up a piece for success or failure. It’s commonly said that you are what you eat, and likewise your outside forces often become your writing. Surround yourself wisely.

References

Cleary, Beverly. “Transcript from an Interview with Beverly Cleary.”Reading Rockets. Reading Rockets, 2006. Web. 27 Sept. 2015. <http://www.readingrockets.org/books/interviews/cleary/ transcript>.

Plimpton, George. “Ernest Hemingway, The Art of Fiction No. 21.” The Paris Review. The Paris Review. Web. 27 Sept. 2015. <http://www.theparisreview.org/interviews/4825/the-art-of-fiction- no-21-ernest-hemingway>.

Schulten, Katherine. “Why I Write: Q. and A. With Seven Times Journalists.” The New York Times. The New York Times. 17 Oct. 2011. Web. 27 Sept. 2015. <http://learning.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/ 10/17/why-i-write-q-and-a-with-seven-times-journalists/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_r=1#ML>.

English Major Manifesto

English Major Manifesto

We are not a declining genre with no hope for employment after graduation. Our perception has merely been contorted by business-minded naysayers and well-meaning parents bent on bettering our future. We will not fall prey to this rat race for wealth and luxury. Literacy shall not be traded for profit as long we have anything to say about it. We are more than calculating robots incapable of original thought. Drying out the funding of our program is denying us the basic human rights of self-expression and captious evaluation, and we will not stand for it. Stability is unworthy of sacrificing our God-given talents as we strive to unveil the essence of mankind through the eloquence of written language.

Scientists thrust humanity forward, mathematicians keep us in check, and artists entertain. But we tie it altogether, making sense of life’s chaos for the present populous, while offering consideration and wisdom for generations to come. Words are our instruments. Paper is our laboratory. Our respect for the past creates a concern for the present, and this is a trait brought upon solely by literature and historical appreciation. English majors are soul-searchers, and this world would be lost without us. Within our minds is the key to true enlightenment, because we dare to ask “why” and “so what?”

We become educators, writers, editors, lawyers, publishers, journalists, novelists, poets, and CEOs. But we are also capable of much more, all because of our ability to adapt. We are found in almost any career because of our coveted critical thinking skills and unsurpassed creativity. We understand people, and relate to circumstances foreign to our own. We bring with us the beauty of language and literature, and are fully aware of how to apply it to any scenario life throws our way.

Do not be ashamed of your passions, and do not wander from the path you were born to travel. Read. For reading is the doorway to everything under the sun, and beyond. All genres teach valuable lessons and stimulate growth. Think. Set aside time each day to truly reflect, and then actively work to solve or better understand a problem; no matter how small. Write. Always, write. Even if the words do not make sense at first, they will lead you somewhere wondrous. It is through this process your creativity flows. Repeat. Continue to repeat the process everyday. You must not worry about following a particular pattern, because through actively reading, thinking, and writing, you will evermore develop a better discernment of yourself and the world around you.

Get lost in your Dickens, Tolkien, Lewis, Dumas, Austen, Twain, Shelley, London, Poe, Cather, and Stevenson. They made an everlasting impact on society. Who is to say you cannot do the same? This mortal life occurs only but once. How shall you spend it? Locked away in a cubicle? Performing the same tasks day in and day out? Caught up in a degree that pleases your family and spouse, but drains away your happiness one day at a time? Managing a business that, intentionally or not, financially wrecks the future of society through illusions and schemes? That is fine, if it suits you. By all means, be my guest. The government may try to lure your minds towards the sciences for financial gain and power. Any statistic-based article you read on college majors will cite the fact that Bachelor’s of Science degrees are more successful and financially favored than Bachelor’s of Art degrees. What choice do you have?

Ah, but you do have a choice, and with an English Major, you will have more than one. When it is all said and done, would you rather look back on all the money you made, or all the lives you changed? Does a large retirement fund appeal to you, or a well-rounded life that sincerely made an impact? Do you want to hate every minute of your nine-five job so you can retire to your mansion in the evening, or be shocked that it is time to return to your two-bedroom apartment because you have been so enthralled with your work for the day? I, for one, knowing no career is truly perfect, would rather savor my occupation. Make a difference.

Why write? There is no precise answer. I write to create a sense of clarity in regards to thoughts circling around my head. Your unique writing voice is one so far from your own, yet somehow it mirrors you in many aspects. Only by wandering through blank, white pages can we unlock ideas, unfettered by fear of repercussion we would otherwise experience through verbal communication. Write because there is much to be discussed. People will avoid meaningful communication without thinkers and writers to stir the pot, as we inquire about the difficult questions. Concerns will not be voiced. Lives will not be changed. Epiphanies will not be revealed. Heightened levels of awareness will never be reached.

Ultimately, we should major in English because it makes us enraptured, and it is something we feel called to. We cannot live without it. Risk everything to be unforgettable. Revel in life’s simplicity. For it is the small moments, not the big checks, that take your breath away. Speak clearly, and write well. Most importantly, create. Color outside the proverbial lines of life. You are more than a statistic. More than a salary. Alter the criteria. Be free. Dream. You may come to find that you will not be broke doing so. And I guarantee you will be rich in happiness.

Redface!: Native American Stereotypes in Film and Television

Bethany Herold

THTR 3611 E01 “Drama of Diversity”

Professor Kent Homchick

12 September 2015

Redface!: Native American Stereotypes in Film and Television

The phrase “history is written by the winners” is one often coined, and it wouldn’t take long to guess which side won the Indian vs. Cowboy battle by watching an American Western or two. Frequently overlooked because of more recent racial strains with the African-American and Latin-American populations, Native American discrimination is all but a story neglected on the proverbial museum wall of American history. Americans love to watch their John-Wayne-style icons battle it out with the blood-thirsty savages, saving the day just in time for a good ol’ lynching and beer on tap at the all-white saloon downtown. Native Americans are briefly tossed in and out of the films, and commonly only meant to represent the obdurate antagonists. Not to mention many of the so-called Indians themselves are actually portrayed by Caucasian actors on-screen. When authentic Indians are shown, they are more often than not background characters, and you hardly witness them outside of a historical setting.

Caucasian actor portraying an Indian

It’s an effortless and oblivious process to form a mental distance from characters-or in this case races-that are never fully developed and diversified, and over the last one hundred years more than four thousand movies and television episodes have been made depicting Native Americans in this light (How Hollywood Stereotyped the Native Americans). According to the Redface website, the term “refers to the creation and propagation of racist American Indian stereotypes and caricatures.” Removing the blinders to watch just about any Western or Historical film reveals an onslaught of Native Americans stereotypes that stick with numerous people to this day. These stereotypes not only contort the view of the historical Indian culture, they also inhibit the modern-day realization that these people still flourish and exists. Native Americans are a people of the present too, and should be treated as such with respect.

A stoic Tiger Lily from Disney’s Peter Pan

One film stereotype example would be that of the Stoic Indian. Men, women, and even children are delineated to be these stone faced individuals, capable of conveying no more emotion than a Romulan from Star Trek. It spans from realistic films like Stagecoach all the way down to animated characters from beloved childhood classics like Peter Pan. This creates a very flat character and can often imply lack of intelligence, which brings up another common stereotype: Native Americans generally are shown as a savage people with little to no intellect. The term “injun” was created with much correlation to the rudimentary intelligence and animal-esque tendencies deemed accurate by naive settlers, and Hollywood in its Golden Age was quick to jump on that bandwagon in its representation of the race.

Another pigeonhole, offensive to both Indians and feminists alike, is the categorization of Native Americans women as either princesses or squaws. The former, this idea of an Indian princess, is all but folklore (Redface!). Unfortunately, many have Disney to thank for this false premise as Native American tribes had little to no caste system, as well as no mentions of royalty. Even though some leadership rights in tribes did follow a bloodline, hence the position of Pocahontas as the chief’s daughter, any implications towards actual royalty labels is a reach. It is a common held belief that this stereotype was created to make Indian women more White and civilized, thereby making them more sexually attractive and suitable for Caucasian men. Even today, Native American females are overly sexualized as icons for advertisements or cheap Halloween costumes. The latter term is very loosely derived from one of many Native American languages to mean “wife.” This is the less romanticized woman, and she is generally shown performing laborious tasks and caring for children. The squaws are often ugly and plain, while the maidens and/or princesses are made to be exceedingly beautiful. There is very little middle ground, and the two extremes are over dramatized in both physical features and day-to-day routines and activities.

Stereotypical Indian Maiden used in modern-day advertising

Another stereotype suggest that most Indian males are violent and blood-thirsty. This warrior, or buck, character is perhaps the most dominant in visual adaptations of American History. Keep in mind that the young warrior is almost always bested by a superior white man of the same capabilities on screen. The cowboy is the better shot, the better one in hand-to-hand combat, and ultimately, the better warrior. This alone raises some red flags, but when the white hero is nowhere to be seen, the Indian warrior reverts to his bestial instincts and attacks innocent families on the plains. He is often shown wielding a tomahawk and unleashing random attacks on defenseless White settlers. The warriors will find any reason to scalp the White men and violate the White women, and typically leave the homestead a flame, chanting and making war cries as they ride off bareback into the sunset. Not to say this type of scenario never happened, because “while warfare and conflict did exist among Native Americans, the majority of tribes were peaceful and only attacked in self defense,” the ADL reports. “Just like European nations, American Indian tribes had complex histories and relationships with one another that sometimes involved combat, but also included alliances, trade, intermarriage and the full spectrum of human ventures” (Nittle). It’s just unfortunate that it took until the 1970s for Hollywood to break away from that stereotype.

Popular image of Indians attacking white settlers

As Hollywood matured and time progressed, movies in the latter part of the twentieth century began to diversify their perspective of the Native American culture. A broader range of stereotypes were introduced, such as the Noble Savage who obeyed the laws of the Whites and lived in harmony on the reservation, the peacekeeping Chiefs (although highly fictionalized as it was a common name given to Native American leaders by Whites), and the Magical Medicine men and women who could heal anything with the rattle of a filled turtle shell and some plant-based suave. Modern Indians are often portrayed in a negative light, shown as drunken gamblers that have nothing better to do with their government-commissioned money than corrupt the lives of well-meaning White men with their casinos. Finally, there’s little differentiation between the numerous cultures and tribes throughout the Native American populous in film adaptations to this day. Tribal traditions and languages are often mixed, or shown to only reflect one tribe at best. The Redface! website explains that “nowadays, most producers do their best to hire actors that are from American Indian descent, or at least to some degree. But the issue is still a sensitive one. There is much bickering and fighting about who should get the available roles in Hollywood A-list films.”

Perhaps this issue is not recent enough in history to demand the respect of today’s populous infatuated with more pressing matters like marriage rights and welfare requirements. Many would argue that Indians are a thing of the past. They’re not making current headlines, picketing, or moving up in political and economic positions. Does that make ignorance right, intentional or not? As a society, people are trying to steer away from racial slurs and stereotypes related to many races, but very few individuals will bat an eye when Native Americans are mocked or portrayed historically inaccurate on-screen. The Redface website raised a wonderful question: “Is the childhood game of Cowboys and Indians the cultural equivalent of Germans playing a similar game that might be called Nazis and Jews? Why would we tolerate one and not the other?” Perhaps people should be required to reflect on such occurrences more frequently. Not all Germans were Nazis, and not all White settlers were arrogant and entitled peoples. However, does that excuse piteous reenactments, whether child’s play or on-screen entertainment? May society not forget the past when assessing its present, and may the people of the present not forget the Native Americans of the past are still here today.

References

“How Hollywood Stereotyped the Native Americans.”YouTube. Framesinmotion2007, 31 Oct. 2007. Web. 11 Sept. 2015. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_hJFi7SRH7Q&gt;.

“Identity and Assimilation.” PBS. Native American Public Telecommunications, 2 Sept. 2006. Web. 10 Sept. 2015. <http://www.pbs.org/indiancountry/challenges/stereotypes.html&gt;.

“Native Americans Stereotypes in Movies – Firstamericans.org.”Firstamericansorg. Web. 10 Sept. 2015. <http://www.firstamericans.org/native-americans-stereotypes-movies.html&gt;.

Nittle, Nadra. “Native American Stereotypes in Film and Television.”About.com. About News. Web. 11 Sept. 2015. <http://racerelations.about.com/od/hollywood/a/Five-Common-Native-American- Stereotypes-In-Film-And-Television.htm>.

“Redface! – The History of Racist American Indian Stereotypes.”Redface! – The History of Racist American Indian Stereotypes. Web. 9 Sept. 2015. <http://www.red-face.us/&gt;.

Writing Log #2: Writing and Reading Bodies

Bethany Herold

Professor Egger

ENGL 2060 E01

5 September 2015

Writing Log #2: Writing and Reading Bodies

My insignificant complaints seem pathetic in their meager attempts to provoke sympathy as I read about the hardships writer and educator Georgina Kleege (see here) goes through on a daily basis. Even she, in her already impaired state, felt that her adversities were nothing in light of Helen Keller’s daily trials. She was still depressed though. What benefit could she possibly offer society? The answer is her unequaled perspective. Every aspect of her being crafted a one of a kind approach that no one else can offer. Perhaps these hindrances and inhibitions are actually what make us, and our writing unique. They are also what bring us together; this sense of mutual imperfection spread throughout mankind. Why else would we seek hope and enlightenment?

So how much does my female-middle-class-mostly-cacuasion-baptist-small-town-petite self fit into the scheme of things? Now I don’t have any obvious physical disabilities or hindrances, but I have my own demons, my own impediments that make it hard to get up some mornings. On those days where the sky is gray, the ground is cold and damp, my to-do list is never ending, and I wonder why my workplace doesn’t allow more sick days, I realize I love the result of the trial by fire. It’s a unique purifying process, and I doubt the literary greats would have written in a way that touch people for years to come had they not had their share of hard times. I also have a history-some things I regret, others I revel in-and it has given me my unique perspective on this ride we all share call life. People out there have it worse, this I know to be true, but that doesn’t make me feel better, because someone always has it better too.

Why can’t I come from a privileged home? Have things handed to me on a silver spoon? As I juggle a 40+ hour work schedule, take 12-15 credit hours of college education, and as of recent, plan a wedding, it takes every ounce of control inside of me to not make a snide remark when a well-to-do-peer complains of her stressful course load this semester. Keep in mind said peer has parents pay for her rent and tuition, so while she lives lavishly she can rest just as well knowing she’ll graduate bright-eyed and debt free. *cue cynical eye roll* Perhaps, though, that’s how others view my so-called struggles. I don’t starve, sleep in the cold, or scour for clean water. The grass is always greener, or so it goes. And maybe I’m a bit bitter because I want that life cushy life. Does this longing make me as eloquently descriptive as Dickens? As romantic as Keats? As complex at Austen? As witty as Twain? Probably not of its own accord, but it helps define my writing journey.

My features, traits, background, and upbringing also greatly influence the books I pick up and the thoughts I pen (or type) down. I have always been inclined towards the classics, but why? Do I simply wish I lived in a different time? I do love the simplicity, the lack of technology, the lands that were still left to be explored. I adore the class, the old buildings, the focus on the arts and humanities, the battles, the honor, the Earth untarnished by man’s corporatism. Perhaps I romanticize it all. But perhaps not. I love writing, and find the process of transferring thoughts from head to paper almost seamless. Is that an inborn trait, or something learned from a strong literary background? Thanks again, Dad.

I don’t know to what extent each of my created and attained traits play into my writing. Or how much my hometown on the Oregon Coast makes the beach feel like serenity for me. Or why I thrive off solitary moments. But everything that has led to this point, and everything that has yet to come, falls perfectly into an orchestrated plan and purpose. I’m excited to see how my body inside and out, as well as my soul, shapes the essence of my life and who I was meant to be. I’m thankful for who I am, who I was created to be, and look forward to my development as a writer and a person.

References

Kleege, Georgina. “Blind Rage: An Open Letter to Helen Keller.” Sign Language Studies 7. 2 (2007): 186-194.