Let Me Tell You About My Job As An English Ambassador At My School

In an effort to share more of my day-to-day life with you, I thought I’d tell you all about my job. I applied to be an “English ambassador” over winter break last year and got the job just in time for spring, so this is my second semester doing it.

Basically, this means that once or twice a week I meet with prospective students – usually juniors in high school – who are thinking about majoring in either English or English & Creative Writing. (A brand-new major at my school! I switched from just plain English to that a while ago.)

This is always in the afternoons, since the students and their parent(s) spent the morning touring the campus and learning general information about the school. They come to us after lunch to receive information specific to the program they’re interested in, as can anyone eyeing any program. (For example, there’s someone with a position similar to mine who talks to Engineering students, et cetera.)

A typical session involves however many student/parent groups stopped by today, plus me, another ambassador, the woman who advises all the students in this department, and a professor. The advisor gives an overview of the program, the professor talks about what writing and lit classes are typically like, and my fellow ambassador and I weigh in with the student perspective.

It’s honestly a really enjoyable job! Admittedly, it’s not a very difficult or strenuous job, so… yeah. Buuuut it also helps that I love talking about my school and more specifically the English program! It’s the kind of thing I do anyway, only now I’m getting paid for it.

Additionally, I like that it’s way more low-key than giving the general tours of the school! I’ve talked to at most five families during a session, so it’s not like I have to be super outgoing in front of a large group: It’s pretty quiet and relaxed.

It’s definitely been a learning experience. I know the details of the English program backwards and forwards and inside and out. I’ve developed a spiel of sorts – although it changes a little every time, since I adapt it based on the interests of the students I’m seeing on that particular day – about my experiences as an English major. I’ve gotten to know the professors I work with better and have found out all kinds of interesting things about the projects they’re working on!

I love talking about the writing/literature community, too. The student-run literary mags, the open mics, the readings and book tours, the Iowa City Book Festival, the guest lecturers, the writing- and lit-focused floors in the dorms, the writing groups located across town.

I think it’s important that they know that Iowa City can/should play just as big of a role in their college experiences as the school itself. I didn’t really give the town a second thought when I visited or even applied to the school and while everything worked out just fine, it could have been disastrous. Luckily, this is a super supportive place and people welcome writers of all stripes.

I also make sure to mention the Rainbow Room, which is the LGBT writing group affiliated with the Iowa Writers’ House, an organization I’ve been volunteering with for almost a year now. (I co-lead the RR!) It’s so so so important to me that I let students, whether closeted or out, that there is a place for them! Since upperclassmen did that for me when I was an incoming freshman, I think of it as paying it forward: I’m so grateful they helped me in that way, so I’ll do everything possible to encourage the next cohort of students to do and be their best.

It’s a wonderful job and I’m so glad to have it. The funny thing is, I didn’t go to a session like this when I toured UI! My mom and I had had a long day and were both tired, so we just headed home instead. I had already fallen in love with the school and knew even then it was where I wanted to go, but sometimes I laugh because I didn’t think attending an English information session was important at the time and now it’s one of the best parts of my week!

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The School Routine Tag

Hey guys! Today’s tag is a bit out of the ordinary in that I’m borrowing it from YouTube and not another blog like I normally do. I found this on studyign’s channel! Sareena is one of my favorite studytubers. Her videos are so well made and she talks about all sorts of school-related things, gives helpful advice, et cetera. I really admire her!

Anyway, enough chit-chat. This tag is geared more toward secondary school students, I think, but it looked like fun so I’m determined to make it work for college too. Hope you enjoy!

P.S. You can find Sareena’s answers here.

The Old Capitol, an historic building on campus which now houses administrative offices. I see it every day as I go to class.

How long does it take you to get to school?

Some of my classes are only five minutes away from my dorm, while my furthest is ten to fifteen minutes away. It all depends on whether I feel like strolling or booking it that day.

What do you like to eat for lunch?

If I’m near one of the dining halls, I usually eat whatever the Asian station is serving that day. If I’m studying in the library when lunchtime rolls around, I usually buy something from the café there, which has snacky items such as raw veggies and ranch dressing, pita with cucumber salad and hummus, fruit, yogurt, et cetera.

What classes are you taking?

Age of Dinosaurs; Writing & War; Mystery/Detective Fiction; Gender, Sexuality, & Media; and Magazine Reporting and Writing! You can read more about them here.

What’s your favorite subject?

I always enjoy writing workshops, particularly those focused on creative nonfiction! They’re intense, but well worth the effort.

(This question and the one below proved trickier to answer than I thought they would, because you study specific, not general, subjects in college. But I did my best!)

Throwback to my freshman-year desk!

What’s your least favorite subject? 

Probably philosophy? I actually ended up earning a B in the Principles of Reasoning course I took last semester because I worked so hard, but boy was I stressed out about that class. I won’t deny that it challenged and stretched my brain in very good ways, though. I just had a lot of sleepless nights because of it and I wish I hadn’t.

What grade are you in?

15th grade. I’m a junior in college.

What time do you get out of school?

Not the same time every day, that’s for sure! Because that’s not how college works lol. Mondays are my longest days, since I have four classes and my last one gets out at 5:15. On Wednesdays and Fridays I’m done just after two. I only have one class on Tuesdays and Thursdays and it’s over before noon, but that doesn’t mean I have the rest of the day off: It’s time to study and attend writing group meetings and work at my job in the English department!

Writingggggg

What do you like to wear to school?

This changes according to the season, but you can usually find me in either jeans or this really soft pair of gray leggings I adore, a T-shirt, and a flannel. Dressing like the lesbian-est English major is hard work, but someone’s got to do it.

How early do you have to wake up for school?

Although my earliest class is at 9:30, I wake up at 7 every day, including weekends, because I find that maintaining a regular sleep schedule is necessary for my mental health! It helps me feel a lot more alert later on and dramatically improves my state of mind.

What’s your favorite item in your backpack?

I love my pencil case! I like to use lots of highlighters and colorful pens when I take notes and it keeps them all in one place so I’m never digging around in the bottom of my backpack for a writing utensil. My parents bought it for me when they went on vacation in Australia because they knew I’d been looking for one. It has a map of the country plus some little pictures of famous landmarks and the native animals.

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I’m tagging:

And as always, feel free to participate whether or not I tagged you. (Or ignore this tag, if you so choose.)

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What is your school routine like? (Or, if you’ve already graduated, what was it like? How did it change over time?) I’d really appreciate hearing from all of you, because I’ve always been fascinated by the differences between countries, as well as how each individual person makes their day-to-day routine uniquely their own!

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Why I Have A Writing Tutor Even Though I’m An English Major

Once a week for the past three semesters, I pack up my laptop and any books or handouts I need and head to the Writing Center on campus for tutoring.

I’m majoring in not only English & Creative Writing, but Journalism as well – i.e., Maximus Writimus. Writing Central. Writing2.

So why do I, of all people, sign up for tutoring sessions every semester?

1. It keeps me accountable

Not only do I work hard during the sessions themselves (more on that later), but I also try to make progress on my current assignments during the intervening week so that I’ll have something to show my tutor the next time we meet. I’ve never had a judgmental one yet, but I would feel so bad if I showed up to a session having accomplished nothing the previous week! In this way, I’m motivated to keep going even though I don’t always feel like it. (Actually, I never feel like it. “A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.” – Thomas Mann)

2. I love having a second set of eyes to look over my work

Whether I’ve made typos, have massive gaps in my reasoning, or wrote something just plain confusing, my tutors over the years have provided a fresh perspective. Sometimes the problem is the difference between what I meant to write and what I actually wrote!

3. Brainstorming is just better when someone else is there to listen

Similar to the above point, I know when one of my ideas is confusing when I’m talking a million words a minute and my tutors look baffled: Either I need to explain it better (and in doing so, hone and clarify it) or I need a new idea!

4. I know I’ll get something done during the session, even if it’s very little

Sometimes I do nothing but brainstorm, while my tutor nods and offers suggestions, asks questions, et cetera. Sometimes I make outlines. Sometimes I write a first draft. Sometimes I revise.

No matter what, I get something done each and every time. I used to come away from some sessions feeling disappointed that “all” I’d gotten done was brainstorming or outlining, until I remembered that those are just as important to the writing process as, well, actually writing. Something is better than nothing! If I leave a session with more and better ideas than I had before, at least I’ve gotten somewhere.

5. I don’t know everything about writing

Contrary to what you might think, English majors (or Journalism majors or Communication Studies majors or… I could go on, but I won’t) don’t know everything there is to know about writing! See the above quote by Thomas Mann.

My tutors have always been great at teaching me new skills or reminding me to look out for the things I usually forget. Take outlines, for instance: Since I love writing, write a lot, and was decently good at it, I was never really taught how to outline a paper in secondary school because it was always assumed that I just naturally knew what I was doing. Buuuut… I didn’t! And I still don’t! No one is born knowing everything about their craft, not even writers. If they think they do, that’s just arrogance.

I don’t have a tutor despite being an English major. I have a tutor because I’m an English major. I know my limits and weaknesses and so decided to get help.

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There you have it: My reasons for utilizing the writing tutoring available at my school! Plus, tutoring sessions are free, taught by ultra-knowledgeable grad students studying writing or literature, and help me to avoid pestering my friends for feedback 24/7. Why wouldn’t I take advantage of that opportunity?

Have you ever received writing tutoring or been the tutor yourself? What was your experience like?

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In A Heartbeat | I’m Not Crying, You’re Crying

“A closeted boy runs the risk of being outed by his own heart after it pops out of his chest to chase down the boy of his dreams.” (x)

You’ve probably already heard of “In A Heartbeat,” since the trailer was released this spring and, now that the film itself is available (for free!), it’s all anyone’s been talking about on  YouTube.

If you haven’t, you’re in for a treat.

“In A Heartbeat” is an animated short that, in the words of this article on The Guardian, is “about as long as it takes to microwave a cup of ramen noodles.” I think that’s a terrific description, don’t you? Pop in your favorite flavor before you press play and, by the time the credits roll, you’ll have a steaming hot and delicious meal to chow down on as you rewatch the video. Happy-crying into your noodles as you do so.

All right, all right, I’ll stop with the ramen-related advice. #sorrynotsorry

In just four minutes, “In A Heartbeat” tells the story of a young boy named Sherwin and his crush on his classmate, Jonathan. Wordless, accompanied by beautiful instrumental music as cute as any we would hear in a Pixar short, the tiny film opens with Sherwin hiding from Jonathan in a tree, watching him with a dreamy look on his face.

When his heart quite literally leaps out of his chest to follow the boy, Sherwin panics and desperately tries to catch it before the object of his affections, not to mention the entire student body, notice. It’s about more than just a first crush: It’s about the uniquely gay fear of accidentally outing yourself and what it’s like to keep your feelings hidden.

Happily, the film ends minutes later with the boys reunited under a tree, their two hearts joined as one. One heck of a Wholesome 2017™ aesthetic, isn’t it? No one dies. Jonathan doesn’t reject Sherwin in front of everyone to prove his masculinity. And, although animation is for everyone, it likely has special meaning to young questioning and closeted kids.

“In A Heartbeat” even plays with our conception of “good” and “bad” colors:

A week after its debut, the short already had over twenty million views on YouTube. Not bad for a project that began as the senior thesis film of two college students, Esteban Bravo and Beth David, who have both since graduated. I’m so so proud of them! They’ve received massive amounts of attention, even award nominations and job offers. WHEN WILL YOUR STRAIGHT FAVES EVER.

In a sea of tried-and-true – and tired – stories about straight romance, anything LGBTQ+ stands out. Unfortunately, much of the latter is still plagued by the tragedy of heartbreak and even death. We need stories like “In A Heartbeat” to remind us that things don’t always have to be this way.

P.S. You can follow Esteban and Beth on the official “In A Heartbeat” tumblr here. (It’s full of adorable fanart they’ve reblogged in the last few weeks!) You can also find the score, by the Spanish composer Arturo Cardelús, on Spotify here.

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Book Riot’s 40 Tiny Tasks For A Richer Reading Life | Getting Back My Old Enthusiasm For Stories

Hey guys!

A few months back I was browsing Book Riot (one of my fav bookish websites ever!) and found this list about forty ways to enrich your reading life. And I thought, why not? To tell the truth, between depression making me feel down and college keeping me busy, I haven’t read with nearly the same passion that I used to. I’d like to get that feeling back, and this seems a good way to do it.

As the article itself says,

“There are little ways we can enrich our reading lives every day: Small changes we can make or ideas we can try to change up our reading patterns and find new books to love. Here are forty places to start…”

I’ll keep you updated on my progress! Probably gonna write little posts about each task as I cross it off my list. Super excited to see where this leads me! Enjoy!

  1. Wake up fifteen minutes earlier than usual and use that time to read a poem.
  2. Visit your library – especially if it’s been awhile – and ask a librarian for a recommendation.
  3. Let go of one reading prejudice and never think about it again.
  4. Read one book in a genre you think you despise.
  5. Ask someone you respect for a book suggestion, and read it right away.
  6. Give away the book that’s been on your TBR pile the longest.
  7. Volunteer for an organization that promotes literacy.
  8. Read a book that looks like it will make you feel uncomfortable.
  9. Commit to a reading challenge.
  10. Cull ten books from your collection and donate them without bringing any new books home.
  11. Read out loud to someone you love.
  12. Make a list of the ways reading intersects with love in your life.
  13. Listen to the audiobook of a book you DNFed years ago.
  14. Read your best friend’s favorite book, no matter what it is.
  15. Dog-ear a page.
  16. Write in the margins.
  17. Ask your oldest relative or friend their favorite book. Read it right away and tell them.
  18. Read outside.
  19. Listen to an audiobook while you run errands.
  20. Read a play. Let yourself take the time to imagine how it might be staged.
  21. Reread a book you hated in high school. Reread it twice.
  22. Apologize to someone you’ve been snobby or snarky to about books.
  23. Read a book by an author from a country you’ve never imagined visiting.
  24. Read a collection of poetry by a single poet, front-to-back, twice.
  25. Give your favorite book from childhood at the next baby shower you attend.
  26. Give your favorite book from your twenties to your favorite college student.
  27. Read a book by a person who doesn’t look like you.
  28. Read a book by a person who wouldn’t understand you in a million years.
  29. Read one page of a holy book from a faith you were not raised with.
  30. Listen to a podcast about books.
  31. Attend the next reading in your town, even (especially!) if you don’t know the author.
  32. Write a handwritten letter to a living author you adore.
  33. Visit the grave of a dead author you adore.
  34. Visit a place you’ve only ever read about in books.
  35. Crack a spine. Go on. Do it.
  36. Read a superhero comic, especially if you haven’t in years (or ever).
  37. Watch an adaptation of a book you like and try to like it for what it is.
  38. Memorize a poem.
  39. Reread the book you loved best when you were sixteen.
  40. Have a conversation about books with someone you’ve never talked books with before.

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Care to join me?

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The High School Stereotypes Book Tag

Hey, look! My second tag in as many days! Shock, gasp, amazement. 

Today’s tag asks me to assign stereotypical high school student personalities to fictional characters. I am not currently in high school and in fact never went*, but I stole it from Giovanna @ Book Coma Blog because I’m in a schoolish (is that even a word?) mood.

*Well, not a brick-and-mortar one anyway. I did earn my high school diploma, if that’s what you’re wondering. I was homeschooled from third grade until the end of my secondary education.

Enjoy!

The Mean Girl

Probably Kiki Strike and Oona Wong from the Kiki Strike series by Kirsten Miller. But… the thing is that they’re actually wonderful people, just seem intimidating until you get to know them. And getting to know them is really, really hard, because they’ve been hurt too many times before and don’t let their guard down easily.

The Dumb Jock

Originally I wanted to list only characters who are old enough to be in high school, but there are just so many good options that are too old or too young? So I’m gonna go with Ari from the Maximum Ride books by James Patterson, even though he’s only about seven. (And the size of a full-grown wolf-man…) As the series progresses you find out that he’s neither as dumb nor as jock-ish as you thought he was, that it was all just a stereotype and that he had hidden layers. But that’s what this tag is about, isn’t it?

The Bully

Ahhh! Billy-Ray Sanguine from Derek Landy’s Skulduggery Pleasant series! He literally calls himself a hitman deluxe, so I can just see him sat outside the principal’s office day after day, probably getting suspended or even expelled after a while.

The Bad Boy

This is 100% Ronan Lynch. Yes, he secretly has a heart of gold and adores his pet raven Chainsaw, but most people don’t get to know him that deep down. He’s the kid no one expects much of, who astounds people when he actually does speak up in class.

The Girl With A Bad Reputation

I’ll say… Black Widow. Seducing, killing, spying, maiming, she’s done it all. And word of that will follow her everywhere she goes.

The Geek

No doubt about it: Artemis Fowl would definitely be the geek. I imagine he would be the sort of kid who’d finish his work early and, bored, would plot mischief and chaos to keep himself amused.

The Drama Geek

It’s 100% canon that Sarah/Sadye and Demi from Dramarama by E. Lockhart are this: After all, they met at auditions for a highly prestigious theater camp! Tbh I can imagine them getting into plenty of trouble as well, although with the best of intentions always in their mind. I mean, sometimes you just gotta climb on top of one of the cafeteria tables and belt out showtunes.

The Band Geek

OK JUST HEAR ME OUT ON THIS ONE: I know Sansa Stark isn’t canonically in a band or orchestra because she’s, um, obviously not from our world. But?? In the very first book George R.R. Martin mentioned her love of music, singing, and dancing. I can totally see her as the girl who lugs her instrument(s) back and forth to school, spends all her free time practicing, wants to major in music in college, cetera. I’M SO PROUD OF HER.

The Wannabe

Since I’ve already broken my “high school-aged characters only” rule, I figure I may as well put Jay Gatsby here. He’d try so hard to fit in, and would succeed for a time, only to have it come crashing down around him. And then he’d switch schools. (Assuming we’re not staying true to the original story, because who wants to die straight out of high school?)

The Stoner/Slacker

He’s may not be a stoner, but Percy Jackson is most definitely a slacker – or is at least perceived as one. When the subject interests him, he’s all ears, but when it’s not? Good luck trying to get him to pay attention. (Although he does try his best. It’s not his fault he has ADHD.)

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I’m tagging:

And as always, feel free to participate whether or not I tagged you. (Or ignore this tag, if you so choose.)

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Have you ever fit into one of the above stereotypes? (Are there any you would add to the list?) Who were you REALLY, compared to the person others saw you as?!

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The Summer “Would You Rather?” Tag

Hellooooo everyone! Today’s post is a TAG (!!) all about summery things based on the “would you rather?” game. I’m borrowing this from PoojaG @ lifesfinewhine because I haven’t done a tag in a long, long time.

Plus, I feel like this is my last chance to do it until next year. I mean, technically it won’t be fall until September 22nd because that’s when the equinox is, but tbh it stops feeling like summer at the end of August. I KNOW THAT TIME IS MEANINGLESS AND CALENDARS ARE MERELY A SOCIAL CONSTRUCT BUT THIS IS JUST HOW I FEEEEL.

I’ve scattered photos I took in summers past throughout this post for ur viewing enjoyment.

Kind of a nice way to close out the summer, no?

Enjoy!

Live in a tree house or a castle?

A castle, because my friends won’t stop talking about Game of Thrones (I quit after season five) and that reminded me of just how much I love castles. I want a turret (or two or three or four) filled with old books!

Be able to sing beautifully or dance beautifully?

Dance beautifully, because I’ve always been more about listening to music than actually playing (or singing) it. Plus, I want to be as cute as possible with my future wife and ahhhh how great would it be if we both knew how to dance?!

Ride a horse or a camel?

I’d be up for either, but a camel would be my #1 choice since I don’t know where you can ride one around here – i.e., if I were riding one it would mean that I had traveled very far away from home indeed.

Know a fairy or a unicorn?

A fairy, hands down.

Have a backyard that was a huge bounce house or a huge ball pit?

I want to say ball pit, but think how hard it would be to find something you lost there ! So… bounce house.

Travel or stay home?

Travel, as long as this isn’t one of those trick questions where you can never visit home again.

Be able to fly or be able to breathe under water?

Uhhhhh… well, I’m scared of heights BUT thinking about all the creepy crawly creatures lurking in the ocean’s depths always freaks me out. I’ll choose being able to fly, I guess, because even though it would make me uncomfortable it sure would make it faster and easier to go places. (I’ll visit all my blogging friends. I can bother you ALL OF THE TIME.)

Know where you’re going or have it be a surprise?

As boring as it sounds, I would rather know where I’m going. I’m up to do pretty much whatever as long as I can mentally prepare myself first. I don’t function well when I’m thrust into situations without advance notice.

Be on a boat or on an airplane?

Ooh, a boat, definitely! My favorite form of transportation after trains.

Be able to see in the dark or be able to never get tired?

I could care less about seeing in the dark. And I could get so much writing done if I never got tired! I hope this means I would still be able to fall asleep, though, just that I wouldn’t need to… because I love sleeping!

Go on a vacation to the beach or to the mountains?

Mountains! I’d get bored at the beach… and mountains always inspire me. I have Lord of the Rings fantasies to live out, you know.

Have picnics in the forest or in the park?

Picnics in the forest wITH MY FUTURE WIFE. I’ve got our first twenty summers together all planned out, apparently.

Swim in the ocean or swim in a pool?

See above remark about finding the ocean creepy.

The pool has to be Olympic-sized with a really tall diving platform, though.

Be a dolphin or a cheetah?

I love cats. The ocean terrifies me if I think about it too much. You can guess which one I’d choose.

Be able to make people laugh or be able to make people trust you?

I’m going to copy Pooja’s answer and say that I already make people laugh, so I want to be able to make people trust me. (I mean, I would hope they already do. But that wasn’t the question, was it?)

Be surprised by a present or be able to pick what you get?

Is it even a present if you get to pick it out yourself?

Eat popsicles or watermelon?

Popsicles! I haven’t eaten one in forever. When I was a little kid I would practically fight my brother for the root beer or grape flavors. Still might, if the opportunity presented itself.

Go camping or stay in a hotel?

I love camping in theory but I always end up putting my sleeping bag on top of a rock or root or something and then I can’t sleep because it’s digging into my back all night. I’ll take my comfortable hotel, thank you very much.

Make art or read?

Both, tbh, but if I had to pick one it would be reading because I really need to tackle my TBR. It’s monumental by this point.

Experience an epic waterslide or an epic zip line?

I would love to go on an epic waterslide! I wanted to visit a local water park with my brother this summer but it got closed down due to faulty construction, which… yikes. Maybe next summer?

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I’m tagging:

And as always, feel free to participate whether or not I tagged you. (Or ignore this tag, if you so choose.)

-~-

How was your summer? (And when do you go back to school, if you’re still a student?!) Tell me all about it!

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