Category Archives: student blogs

Formulaic Writing

The idea of formulaic writing has always been something that I am on the fence about if I am being honest. As a student, having a structured formula was an aspect of writing that I relied on. Not in the sense that I could not write without it. I just felt more comfortable having a guide, especially when I was younger. I struggled with organizing my thoughts. I always had so much to say and it was sometimes confusing because there was no structure. Once I learned how to create structured pieces that is when my writing improved. I would not have learned that without the help of writing formulas that my teacher introduced.

As a teacher and just as an adult in general I can see how formulaic writing is not beneficial to students. It could turn into something they rely on. Even in my own classroom I have students everyday that question how long a writing assignment should be or how many sentences in a paragraph. It has gotten to the point where I do not even answer anymore. I tell them to write as much as they feel they need to answer the prompt correctly. Part of me completely understands where they are coming from though. They live in a world where they are not learning to be more knowledgeable, they are learning to make the grade. So how could you really blame them? Personally, I cant be the teacher that pounds into her kids head that making the grade is the most important thing. So I try to keep their creative juices flowing with small quickwrites that they do not have requirements for. But this makes me think, can we actually get away from formulaic writing? Is that even possible? Is it beneficial? And if not then what else do we do ?

Hana Feels

For this week’s blog I chose Hana Feels. It is a blog about self-harm. I thought the way Inglis told the story using text like dialogue and the suicide hotline was an interesting way to deliver this message. I like that he added journaling to gain an inside perspective into our main character. It showed Hana’s progress with being able to open up and talk about her struggles. Inglis provided three different outcomes which I enjoyed. It felt like a pick your own adventure book. I thought the depiction of the Hanna’s mom was on point. It gave the audience a clear picture as to why she can’t talk to her mom about her mental heath struggles. The most important part of this piece was at the end. Inglis provided resources for his audience if they find themselves struggling mentally.

The topic of self-harm is something I’m familiar with. I spent my high school years hiding my scars, now my tattoos cover them. I know first-hand what it’s like to suffer with feelings of sadness, anger, and depression. I had a difficult childhood, and I had every right to be angry. But I could have used some guidance in how to process my emotions in a healthier way.  It took years to work through my traumas and learn healthy coping mechanisms. I believe there needs to be more mental health awareness and services provided for children and adults.

Hana Feels

This piece was very interesting. It gave an authentic glimpse into mental health for many of us who struggle. I enjoyed the realism, even if it held up a daunting mirror to myself.

First, I liked that we could choose how to respond to Hana. It allowed me to be more conscious when going through the conversations. It made me think what would I want someone to say if I were Hana? It was an easy navigation and I liked that it didn’t take ages to get to the end. I was able to be engaged for the entire duration.

Anytime someone tried to help Hana, it would always have a negative spin once Hana internalized it. This was very powerful because that’s the reality that comes with mental health struggles. No matter how helpful people try to be, sometimes your mind can put you in a place where you’re not ready to receive or accept that, which results in constantly turning things into a negative.

At the end, after her mom got a call from the hospital, her mom said Hana always thinks about herself. I thought this was very poignant in depicting their relationship. Beforehand, Hana and Jen’s conversation alluded to the rifts that were there, but seeing it added new perspective. To me, it revealed that Hana was in fact the victim. If you’re in crisis and someone reacts like that, I can only imagine what Hana endured growing up and struggling mentally.

All in all, this was a sad yet realistic piece. It was hard to read, but overall I really enjoyed it.

Hana Feels

The reading, Hana Feels was a very sentimental piece to read. I honestly couldn’t stop and I was debating in the end whether or not to try again and end the story another way. The story can end in three different ways, in the way I chose I assume Hana is somewhat okay. Her friend did end the friendship, her mother did call her to tell her she would see her in a month. But I’m not quite sure how Hana is doing? Like is she doing better where she may possibly stop cutting herself? Is she ever going to call Will (I think was his name) again? Like I have questions now. I don’t know if my ending kind of left it open in the sense for the reader to decide how Hana is by going based off what was read. But it does make me wonder if the other endings have more clear endings on what exactly happens to Hana health wise, and if we do get those definite answers.

I appreciate Gianna’s pre-mention and warning before the read that this piece is heavy. Because it was. This piece wasn’t necessarily a trigger for me, but I definitely feel it was very realistic. And I speak from experience and just knowing others who have dealt and struggle with mental health. This piece definitely highlights and brings awareness to how friends and family really don’t notice because respectfully, people are wrapped up in their own life. It’s not a bad thing, it’s just human nature. This piece illustrates that how someone can show signs of struggle and we may still not be able to pick it up. With that being said, friendly reminder, always check in on those that are close to you.

I also enjoyed how this piece was an easy read, you were able to also pick lines that you wanted to maybe say for that character to get more information or words from Hana. Colors always changed for each interaction as well. And I also did appreciate reading the journal entries because I feel like in the journals itself we got more from Hana then what she would tell others.

Blog #10: Trauma Dump

(real menacing-looking teenage boy right here ^^^)

This was quite the eye-opener for me, and I think one of the more timely and presently urgent pieces of e-lit that we have experienced thus far. I have always had a fascination with unjust punishment, and whether or not most punishments fit certain crimes. I think that this comes from my early love with Iron Maiden’s Hallowed Be Thy Name as a pre-teen – which presents the narrative of a man on death row for a crime he did not commit. 

Still, throughout this piece, and as I shifted through each case, I tried to envision and fill in certain unanswered gaps with my own imagination. What crimes could have been committed? Murder? Assault? Petty theft? I tried to run an entire span from what I may consider to be petty little crimes to severe offenses. Regardless, I felt a great amount of empathy, and not even just for the prisoners who may or may not have committed whatever crimes assumed or not, but just for human existence within this whole societal system – I felt sympathy for the whole.

I feel a sense of paranoia for how slow and lacking in progress the powers that be, whatever you might wanna call them, are in ensuring a just outcome. The consequences of their justice system weigh down more than just the offenders, and whoever they most potentially think is an offender, they weigh down those surrounding them. Friends, family, extended acquaintances, people they may not even know. To view certain people as a social currency, a most valueless one, during a pandemic is absurd to me. They get sick, a guard gets sick, their family gets sick. The lack of care itself is a disease, it spreads, it consumes, and it gives nothing back.

In high school I remember being assigned the task of creating a video essay on WW1, one that I intended to convey how the horrors of what happen to soldiers on the front line (which are often propagandized through uplifting motivational packages that feed into the ego death phenomenon or whatever), but more so how they affect those back home as well. So I spliced authentic WW1 footage with the barber shop scene in Luis Buñuel’s Un Chien Andalou, where a woman emotionlessly gets her eyeball slit by a razor blade. My AP English class was disturbed and confused and some appalled, but I thought it was a success in challenging students’ perceptions of this trinkling of suffering idea that I was getting at.

Coincidentally, that same day some students were talking about Columbine in a class that I was in, I never found out who said this, and who reported it, but the students were making some sort of list of students that they thought were most likely to “shoot up the school.” I topped the list, which is not completely a shocker to me. I was very brash, edgy, and looked like I could have roadied for SLAYER back in ‘83. All of my band tees had pentagrams on them, my hair was long and nappy, I always seemed on-edge unless you tried to talk to me, and my brother was missing from school for over two years at that point (mental health issues and bullying due to sexuality led to him being transferred, not my business to share).

Apparently, the teacher who reported me reported me as “threatening to shoot up the school,” and the woman who ran the behavioral department ran with it, and an investigation through my submitted school work commenced about half-way through the school day (my presentation was during second period). I was called down to the office (a rarity that confused the class and the teacher I had, I think it was 5th or 6th period) and told to sit in a room, facing the wall. I was told that I was there for some threats that I made, then told that I was there because some students were listing off names of school shooters and their teacher confronted them once my name was mentioned. Very muddy waters. What really was it? I’ve had to piece it all together because the people questioning me and reporting me absolutely didn’t know all the details. What the fuck?

I was in that room for hours when the woman running the behavioral department told me that she came to the decision to send me to Trinitas to be evaluated, and that if things didn’t check out right then I would be committed. Terrifying for me, I don’t want to get too personal, but if you read prior closely you can piece things together, and I knew the nightmare that that was. The idea stressed the living hell out of me. She began typing up a police escort on her computer, trying to hover the screen away from me, but I saw the time request that she put, and called her out on it. “2:35, isn’t that when school lets out?!?” I panicked. She tried to act all nonchalant about it, and explained that that is when I was to be escorted out by the police at the front entrance of the school.

Great, she is making an example of me, everyone is going to see the cryptic metalhead edgy kid getting shoved into a cop car at the time of day where parents and students and faculty surround the front of the school. Why? The time she set wasn’t even an hour plus! If I was some school shooter wouldn’t they want me escorted ASAP? She was visibly frustrated when I exclaimed “can’t a parent or guardian come pick me up and escort me instead? I can call my mom!!!” Turns out that was a rule! Why are you throwing a visible temper fit because I can’t get escorted in front of everybody by the police?

Anyway, I sat staring at that wall for four hours, and my teacher, who was not fond of the video I submitted herself came by, crying. Apologizing because she had no choice but to show them the video. I almost cried, I didn’t like seeing such an important and influential person in my life that stressed, even though I was a tad miffed earlier in the day that she didn’t get the edginess of my video entirely. While in the room I overheard her arguing with the principal at the time and my IEP case manager, they were all heated. I was shocked, it sounds like the other two are defending me. That almost made me cry. The phrase that did make me cry was her shouting “I do not know this kid, I have never seen this kid, I don’t trust the way he looks, I do not trust this kid!” If you never saw me shouldn’t that be a good thing!?!

To make things worse, the woman saw the video (which was praised by the principal for being “college appropriate” by the principal at the time, but not necessarily high school appropriate”) and through him I was told that her big problem with it was the anti-semitism she saw in it, and that she was upset about my inclusion of Nazi’s burning Jews in concentration camps. Interesting. I immediately told him that all of the footage that I used was simply WW1 footage found on YouTube of American soldiers fighting in trenches, an art house surrealist film, and Opeth music videos that show Satan. When he got back he and my case manager apologized for the confusion, they were visibly frustrated, and annoyed with this woman – I had a sneaking suspicion she had wrongly sent kids to Trinitas before … after telling this story many times in the seven years since I have learned that she did.

I thought I was in the clear, they looked back at the video and knew that she was lying, but by this point school had ended hours ago, and had long gone home. Apparently once she submitted the report only she can take it back. A few moments later the principal came back with a black and white polaroid from the 90’s of two white boys and I shuddered in fear. “Oh no, is he about to randomly turn against me?” He asked me if I knew who the two young men in the photo were, and I legitimately gulped that I was so shitting bricks. Before I could answer “Erik and Dylan” he told me. “That’s me in high school,” he softly revealed, “I know what you’re going through.”

My new hero.

My mom eventually came. Don’t think she didn’t haul ass because she did, she just worked a few hours away that day, and left work instantly and as early as possible to save her Baby Bear (so edgy amirite). She took me to the Trinitas in Elizabeth after, where I would sit in a chair for four-plus more hours, staring at another wall because it was either that or Family Feud, and nah, I hate Family Feud. Note: my case manager was such for my IEP, which I had because of my ADHD. He knew how excruciating all of this chair sitting was for me. 

It was scary sitting there. Every now and then some kids would pass by, all of which were there for reasons that nearly made me cry. It was sad sitting there. I felt violated, ashamed, and insulted – just for being. My evaluation went well, the two women evaluating me were shocked that I was there. My mom recognized them from last week, actually, which was funny because when they asked me about mental health in my family, I answered none whatsoever. I was really scared. 

On the ride home I kept thinking about how mad I was that I had to go through over eight hours of 16-year old paranoia, which is very exaggerated, and while sitting at Trinitas the woman who sent me there was at home enjoying her night, eating dinner, watching television, whatever. Simply because of a wrong accusation and her lack of trust in my appearance, she cost my mom pay, wasted hours of her co-workers time, made an educator cry, and further stigmatized me for simply being. Did she ever face any sort of consequence for this? Not because of what she did to me, that’s for sure, but simply because she deemed me a bad kid I was suddenly disposable and expected to be humiliated and made an example of, regardless of whether or not she actually had the time or presentation to prove whether or not I was actually intending to, or did, any of the things that I was being falsely accused of. A cynic she made of me.

Exposed

First of all what the heck? I am trying to keep this blog PG but this was my first initial reaction as I was reading this piece. My dumb self assumed that this piece was only an audio project so I kid you not, I held my phone to my ear for a minute before I accidentally pressed something and I then realized that the piece had readings available. Which I was glad because the music was kind of eerie. Anyways, the readings were sad. I felt sad immediately, it instantly gave me scary movie vibes but based on true events (and we all know those are the worst).

What I noticed with this piece was for the most part it was mainly dark, color wise. But also they music and very large text. It almost made it seem that these recordings, the inmates was sort of yelling at us for a cry for help. At least that’s what I got with the big text. I’m not going to lie, I got chills reading some of these. Like the reading of the inmate who just got a bit of hand sanitizer and was immediately hexed for it. Like what?

These stories were a little tough and sad to read like many of the other readings in this class. I think though, the reason this one effected me a little differently was the music and the big text, I honestly felt like with the large text it was a cry for help. And regardless that they are in prison, I still sympathize with them because regardless where you are, if you are sick you should be taken care of to some extent and not treated so poorly. I honestly never even thought or knew that this was going on in the jail systems. But I am honestly not surprised. Knowing people who’ve been in jail myself, I’ve heard it all. And it’s not pretty.

Exposed

This piece I found very interesting and something out of the norm. The play on the word Exposed here was very fitting for this e-lit work. Seeing how exposed the prisoners were during the time of the pandemic, as well as exposing the actual prison system and the actions they may not have taken to keep the prisoners safe at that time.

During the pandemic the world was placed on a hold. Everyone tried their best to stay to indoors and avoid contact with others to keep themselves and they loved ones safe. I never once took into consideration what might have happened to those who were in prison during this time, and how they had to survive within such confined spaces with constant contact with individuals. Even the guards who had to work within the prisons who had no choice but to be so closely involved and still had to return home at the end of their shifts and hopefully not get the other members of their families sick in any way.

Even though prisons are filled with people who have done wrong, a human life is a human life and should be respected as such. Overlooking the criminal part, healthcare should be given to all human beings in times of need, especially during a pandemic with an illness that could cause death. To read that prisoners were denied medicine, doctor visits, and medical treatment in general was very hard to understand in the United States of America, which a very well developed first world country. Reading they were unable to disinfect their living quarters and were subjected to being housed with sick inmates seemed unreasonable with a prison system that makes so much money off of those who are incarcerated.

I noticed most of these inmates whose messages were used throughout this piece were from state prisons and institutions, which I feel should have been well off if the government money is what would fund what the prisoners needed to be safe. I don’t know if this was done on purpose by the author, to expose the state facilities as apposed to private owed prisons, but either way this shed a light on something that we may not think about, but the story has to be told.

El Relato

Given that I was away over the past weekend, I didn’t get to sit with my mom and translate Bastardo, with her at all, so I had to do things the easier way with translate. I still tried to read what I could in Spanish, like the first page after the title. I think it was really interesting how Núñez pointed out how many chapters there are, the number of combinations to the story, and how much of the world’s population it would take to explore every single possibility at least once if every person had a different adventure through the piece. Maybe it’s to set the vast number of possibilities, but it could also be for the opposite– the limits to the choices we as readers are able to make. There may be no other reason to including these details than to explain how the piece works.


Mi Nombre Fue…

The second page had so many names on it. I know fue is past tense, translating to was, and used in the first or third person (in this case, first), so I didn’t need the translated page for this one. Considering this piece is described by the author in the previous page as hyperliterature, I expected to be able to click different names and start going in different directions, but this wasn’t the case. That said, the sound effect of the typewriter that automatically repeats once you click the play button did almost create an illusion of typing things out myself in a way.

What was also strange is that Henry Morton Stanley and the given name Henry were repeated a lot. A coincidence? Deliberate choice? One way to find out, I guess.


Iteraciones

The third page gives the option to print, which would be nice to use if I had a printer at the moment. Unfortunately for me, I do not.

I also noticed that the sections were in different order on the original and the translated page. What was nice is that each section was still the same, so as long as I could find the matching section, I could easily find the translation. That said, why is each section numbered rather than given a title for the characters they are about?

Funcionamiento

I was quite interested in the page on the piece’s functioning, particularly because of the first sentence:

En Bastardo, la finalidad es combinar fragmentos de forma exponencial para que cada lector decida, en colaboración con las herramientas digitales, cuál es su relato óptimo.

The translation was rough for me before looking at the page, but I could tell it’s about the power the reader has in the story he/she creates from Nuñéz’s creation. That said, my attention then turned to the end of the sentence— cuál es su relato óptimo— because I’ve been in a season of learning to relinquish that control of my own ideal reality or focusing so much on what I want. Like I mentioned briefly in my last post, my grandma recently passed away. Did I want that to happen? No. Did I feel ready to let her go? No, but truthfully I don’t think any amount of time could have prepared me for that. But God. I’ve seen His hand in bringing together people in my family that don’t necessarily get along. He’s brought back prodigals in the family and we were all able to welcome back these people with open arms in celebration of my grandmother’s life. I’ve been able to reflect on the example my grandma set for me as a woman and a child of God, especially with how I observed her running her business, Holland Mountain Farms, which closed about ten years ago before her dementia started to set in. I thought about how her business was her boat, and how Jesus was not only in her boat, but preaching from it through her too. (That analogy will make more sense in scrolling through my recent Instagram post).

My point is, this “relato óptimo” isn’t always the best one. It seems like it on the surface at times, sure, but is it purposeful? Is it challenging? Is it what we want, or is it something we may not have even realized we needed? Where does your plan lead you? Where could it lead you that you might not have considered? There are so many questions when we as human beings try to take more control than we are able– we are limited in knowledge, wisdom, strength, and abilities with undoubtedly imperfect wills that inevitably lead us in the wrong direction at some point in our lives. That’s why I believe what I do, among other reasons. I don’t want that control, as it’s done nothing but feed my anxieties and it’s led me down several dead ends in life. I’ve come to understand that God’s will is always good, even if it doesn’t feel or seem like it to us in the moment. I don’t want my “relato óptimo” anymore, and while it’s still nice to imagine it sometimes, I don’t.

The other part of this page that struck me (though this one I needed the translation for) was the Funcionamiento Literario talking about a “search for identity based on a historical figure.” In a way, that’s kind of how the Bible has been working for thousands of years now (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Our identity and purpose is found not in our imperfections, not in our past, not in the physical makeup of our bodies, but in the redemptive work of Jesus. And I guess that’s where this would differ, as Nuñéz explores the several identities of Henry Morton Stanley who is undoubtedly just a simple human being like the rest of us.

Back to Iteraciones

14

My first thought was of Jeremiah 17:7-8 with los ríos mentioned. Water is necessary for life, and I think it’s important how this passage mentioned “That time he didn’t listen to the water” and how it ended in wasted or lost time and this going astray from the water source left John feeling orphaned and alone. No longer does John want to be known as John the orphan, even if just to himself (at least that’s how it comes across).

I’m no orphan, but I’ve been and felt so alone that I almost considered myself to be one. I’ve had that supposed need to make a new name or identity for myself and not once did that work. Even if it seemed to, it was slowly eating away at who I actually am– as a survivor, as a human being, as a daughter, as a granddaughter, as a writer, as an artist, and most importantly as a child if the Most High King. He stood at the door and patiently knocked, even when I refused to hear the river of life in His voice that was on the other side of the door. I gave myself so many identities and labels I couldn’t keep up. So I don’t think John needs the new name, the one he has is just really difficult to accept and live with sometimes. I get that. It’s nice to have that control for a moment, but just because you can change something at the surface, doesn’t mean it will change at the core. We all need water. Anything living needs water. That won’t change no matter what control we have on anything.

19

And now I start to wonder what John did. Did he make himself an orphan? From what it sounds like, maybe it was self defense.

I also wonder how this passage could be part of some relato óptimo. Beatings? Scarce food? Fragments on the ground that (I would assume) are that of a glass bottle of some sort? How does this seem ideal? Nuñéz wants readers to make an ideal reality out of this. It just sounds like the reality of this world– this broken, broken world.

62

“Is war hard?” What kind of a question is that?

I’d have replied rather tersely too, to say the least. And that applies to all wars: international wars, civil wars, internal wars, verbal wars… any of it can be really, really hard, regardless of whether you’re fighting or witnessing it. And Henry covered some wars– reported on them– and witnessed them before going to Africa, as Nuñéz mentioned Henry had done.

I understand wanting the answers to a question, but sometimes there are things best left unsaid or not discussed. Sometimes there are things that need to sit for a while before they are discussed. Some things need time to process, and it’s sometimes hard to know when to respect that, and when to push that conversation into the light.

Exposed

For this week’s ELit piece I choose to do Exposed by Sharon Daniel and Erik Loyer. Going off the title alone, I did not know what to expect. After reading the about page, it hit a little close to home. I’ve had a “cousin” (my mom‘s best friend’s son) who has been in and out of prison for the last 20 years. This person and I were very close as children, but I have not seen or spoken to him in 15 years due to his life choices. He also happened to be one of the incarcerated released early due to COVID-19 spreading throughout the facility. 

I thought this piece conveyed how stressful and anxiety inducing life was for those incarcerated during the pandemic. It stated that prisons suffered from lack of social distancing, proper cleaning, hand sanitizing and a shortage of food and medication.  The treatment of afflicted prisoners was far worse. It breaks my heart that these humans were forced into solitary confinement as known as the “hole” which is considered psychological torture. General population also suffered greatly during the pandemic with restricted phone privileges and suspended visits. This piece truly exposes how big of a humanitarian crisis COVID-19 was and how it pandemic impacted some of the most vulnerable people in our society. 

I think Sharon Daniels puts into perspective how terrible and unjust our prison system is. And I whole heartly agree.  I also agree with Daniels when she stated that there needs to be a massive and permanent reduction in prison population. There needs to be an education over and more mental health services provided to low-income areas throughout the country.

EXPOSED

EXPOSED was the perfect title for this piece. I believe that we all have some type of idea as to how things operate in prison but we are never exactly sure what goes on in prison from day to day. There are some people that believe those who are incarcerated shouldn’t receive great health care or anything great for that matter.

Navigating through this was pretty chilling. Experiencing the global pandemic in the outside world was extremely difficult, but to know how people in prison experienced it is mind-blowing. To read that there were prisoners that requested medical attention and was basically denied was very hurtful to read and now know. This was a major eye-opener to what really happens in prison, especially during COVID-19. This piece surely educated us and hopefully touched people to the point of wanted to do something to make a change.