Subliminal Journalist In The Making

Thanks to Netflix I have been re-watching one of my favorites, That 70s Show. After the Hubs gets home from work and before he leaves for school we watch a few episodes together; squeezing in time for each other before it’s time to say goodbye for the night.

We recently watched an episode where the audience learns ‘Donna’ likes to write and wants to possibly pursue a career in journalism. It got me thinking about how many characters in my favorite TV shows were or wanted to be journalists.

Hmmm, maybe subliminal messaging just turned a new leaf? Where my conspiracy theorists at? Just kidding, #aintnobodygottimeforthat

1. Rory Gilmore – Gilmore Girls

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2. Phoebe Halliwell – Charmed 

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3. Carrie Bradshaw – Sex And The City 

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4. Clark Kent – Superman 

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5. Sabrina Spellman – Sabrina The Teenage Witch 

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6. Robin Scherbatsky – How I Met Your Mother 

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7. Donna Pinciotti

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8. Kermit – Sesame Street

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9. Rebecca Katsopolis – Full House

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10. Harriet M. Welsch – Harriet The Spy

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I’m not sure Harriet counts, officially. But we can categorize her as an investigative reporter in the elementary school department. This movie was one of my all-time favorites growing up. You’d have to ask my Ma how she managed the re-runs.

I’m sure plenty of other kids watched the same television shows growing up and connected with the same characters, and most probably didn’t want to pursue a career in writing. Personally, I can help but feel I might have been drawn to these characters for a reason and if anything, it’s another sign I might need to keep me motivated.

Maybe destiny really is written in the stars.

Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Conference 2015

This was my why not me moment.

Somewhere in March I received an email asking how much my words were worth. Intrigued, I actually read one of the zillions of emails sent by the university, daily. It was informing students about a nonfiction conference in Grapevine, Texas. You could submit work and if selected, attend workshops with editors, authors and professionals in the literary world.

These selections would also be in the running for cash prizes. As a broke, almost graduated, ever-since-I-was-young-wannabe-writer and student, I submitted a personal essay, why not me. And I was chosen for selection! I was floored, I finally threw out my insecurities and dove in head first and it paid off!

The conference was this past weekend. I don’t think I have the words to craft a proper gauge on how I felt. You know when Hagrid tells Harry, ur a wizard -arry, and Harry begins to understand he won’t have to spend all his time with the Dursleys? Or, when Harry rides his broom for the first time and finds out his father was also a decorated seeker? Or … well I could keep the Harry Potter metaphors going all night … you get it.

The conference was more than just a learning experience. I felt like a grew as a person who loves words and reading/writing stories. Here are a few of the speakers from the lectures I enjoyed the most:

1. Anne Fadiman speaking about her book The Spirit Catches You and You Fall DownHer keynote speech left me feeling full. She emerged herself into a unfamiliar world of Hmong refugees struggling with new life in California. “I believe in accidents, without them I never would’ve wrote my book.”

Happy accidents, this resonated with me. I need to embrace all the humps because those are what put me in the right places at the right time, like this literary conference. 

2.  Dan Barry and Kassie Bracken speaking about merging the two worlds of journalists and photographers. The importance of collaborating with professionals to tell a compelling story.

“Writing about people of poverty like victims is a mistake. It’s not fair to them as an individual.”

I think it’s easy to feel sorrow for those who aren’t as well off as an “average” human being. But it’s not just about their monthly income, it’s about the story and how people of poverty survive. 

3. The panel discussion with Caleb Hannan, S.I. Rosenbaum and Hanna Rosin. Hannan wrote an article about “Dr. V” and her magic putter. The outcome was tragic as the subject committed suicide during the interviews. His candid testimony led us to believe if you feel like something bad is going to happen, then you need to have an open discussion with your editor and vise-versa.

I personally believed he had balls to talks openly and honest about his mis-steps and answering the questions from his panel-mates. You can read the article here, and the letter from the editor here. And Rosenbaum’s after the fact article here.

4. George Getschow’s lecture about the importance of place in a narrative. “I’m always surprised to read an article that misses the importance of place.” Place is like a secondary character and it needs to be just as important as character development. These are the dimensions of place, as explained by Mr. Getschow:

  1. The History- Research it and find out what makes your place tick.
  2. Economy- How does the place survive. Is it an oil, ranching or low income?
  3. What do people wear? What do they eat? How do they communicate?
  4. Weather- It influences peoples mood for the day and how they dress. Using weather can reveal character.
  5. Gestures- How do people greet each other?
  6. Superstitions- paying attention to local legends or tales?
  7. Sights & Sounds

As I sat in a dimly lit lush ballroom with desserts on top of clean white soft linens, tempting guests to eat their cake before dinner, the winners for the top personal essays and reported narratives were announced. The top three in each category were awarded cash prizes, and the top ten would be published in the literary journal Ten Spurs.

There’s no better way to say this then, I WON! My name is called after the 8-minute mark in the video below and I get on stage after the 9-minute mark. A professor of mine called my name as I walked by to get on stage and I tackled her into a hug. “I didn’t know you submitted a piece! I’m so proud of you!”

There is no better feeling than hitting a home run. Now that I know how it feels I want to do it again, over and over again as many times possible. This was the perfect way to kick me off into the professional world and end my stay with the University of North Texas, Mayborn School of Journalism.

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It’s a cliche to say, “follow your dreams,” but it’s true. Many times I was red-inked, felt like a poor writer and told I’d never make any money as an author. My personal dialogue said the same thing. I finally told the voices the shut-it and jumped off the high dive.

It was a rough road. I felt exposed and unsure if I propelled my story with the correct words. I cried reliving certain slices of my life. In the end it all happened the way it was supposed to, why not me. 

This conference also added readings to my already to tall stack of books. This list is more for me so I won’t forget, but If you’re looking for something new to read, all the better!

I’ve got the ‘Ities & the Itch

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The art of writing is a sacred being, its appeal is charming and the idea easy, the latter is never true. Writing isn’t easy and it never will be. If you write long enough you acquire a passion for words and new ways to express them, but it’s never an easy journey, though nothing worth while hardly ever is.

Any soul who enjoys the magic of writing remembers when they first got the itch to put pen to paper and create something creative. Any “great” remembers the craving to prefect a skill became apparent. A jolt of weightless energy that hits you hard, causing the lightbulb to brighten above your head. That’s what I want to do!

Personally, I was little, maybe six or seven, too little to actually be thinking about future plans, but I knew I enjoyed reading what I wrote and creating short stories were my fav.

I acquired an eccentric style of writing while in grammar school, and my mom thought it was adorable. I had a funny tendency to only write on the left-hand edges of my paper, the rest of the paper seemed tainted. I remember thinking, look how many pages I can write! Well, when you only use half the page …

My signature trademark was soon corrected by the first or second grade, whenever the teachers start to send you home with real homework. I’m sure it’s Pre-K now, the books are heavier and the snow they have to walk to school in is deeper.

Anyways, my itch started with writing fan fiction, I didn’t know that’s what it was called, but regardless, anybody remember the T.V. series Arthur? Yes, yes I did. I wrote my own stories for Arthur and his family and friends to wander through. I wrote some stories that were funny, others were sad. Mostly, I liked to write ones that had a good moral buried in it. Typical Shannon, I was seven going on 30. 

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My mom used to keep them in her dresser, the bottom right hand drawer. By the time I was in my teens the drawer resembled how stuffed and worn it was, papers were being pushed from the sides, the handle was hanging on by one screw and the drawer had long been knocked off its frame. It was the perfect setting for where my mom crammed us kids’ works of art.

The prized possessions were all slightly brown and had obviously seen better days. Every once in a while I wonder if my mom still has them shoved in that drawer, but the memory vanishes by the time one of us calls each other.

It took years of denying any worth to my writing before I told myself to shut the -efff up. I started my higher education with the thought I’d never leave education, I’d just become a teacher. I did my classroom visits and almost ran out the door, though working with kids was rewarding.

I think that when something sinks its teeth into you, it’s hard to deny the sting it leaves. Writing got its dirty paws around me long ago, and the sooner I realized it, the quicker I believed I did have a purpose. College really does seem to suck the life out of you sometimes. 

When did your passions sink their teeth into you? Was it a furry, ( what was Arthur? An Aardvark?) cartoon friend that sparked your enthusiasm!?

-Ramble Out