Part A: You, the Writer
As a writer, I have improved tremendously over the semester, as it is evident in my posts. For example, I’ve improved in areas in grammar (GUMPS). As a matter of fact, I don’t recall having a single comment on my blog posts suggesting me to work on grammar, and I have NoRedInk to thank for this. The basic, yet easy mistakes, were much easier to avoid with the weekly practices assigned. I also feel that I’ve broadened my horizons in terms of genres, voice, and style. If you compare my About Me to my latest blog post, it honestly doesn’t sound like it was written by the same person. For instance, I used to be afraid to incorporate horror and emotional (family, as found in my Silence is Golden? and Bow View Manor posts) elements, and I’ve improved in that area. I’m also able to write more descriptively, which is something I’ve also struggled with in the past.
My writing (and speaking) voice is very blunt. I don’t really have any stylistic elements that are “out of the box,” but I’ve established within myself that my writing is very blunt. I’m not afraid to shy away from the truth of what is actually happening with characters, or in a plot. This is especially evident in my earlier pieces, such as the About Me page and the Anecdote, “An Uninvited Visitor.” Now, I tend to use more italics and bolded texts to emphasize an idea. In poetry, I also like to play around with punctuation. Though my writing voice has generally stayed the same in terms of directness, I’ve learned how to “think like a writer.” When Ms. Hunnisett told us to do this every time we encountered something new in the beginning of the semester, I was confused. I mean, what’s the difference between reading for fun and reading “like a writer”? After completing the several prompt exercises, and practicing to really looking for minute details with great significance has allowed me to “think like a writer”. When I hear someone say something interesting, I’ve learned to write it down. When I read something in a book and notice something interesting, such as grammar, I write it down in my phone or whatever pencil and paper is lying around.
While I’m still trying to work on improving my own writing, I do have some advice to share for future creative writers. That is, I don’t know if it’s good or bad advice. Choose to take it, if you want.
Don’t be afraid to be blunt and direct with your thoughts, and use critical thinking strategies to find new ways to deal with a character. Back in February, I was afraid of misusing metaphors because having a poetic voice was really not my style. I’ve come into realization that we all have our own voice, and if it’s blunt and precise, then that’s okay, as long as that’s subject to YOUR style of writing. For the second part of that advice, I just want to add: find other variations of cliche that isn’t cliche. And if you do use cliche, add a twist at the end to get the reader really thinking.
Regarding writing, I think I’ve actually fallen more and more in love with it. I mean, I’m not planning on making it my full-time job or anything in the future, but I would like to write a few pieces every few months just to practice my English Language Writing skills for further academic endeavors. Writing is also an interesting way to see how one’s voice changes and evolves over time, and it would be fun to keep in touch with that part of myself. I would especially like to work on my flow and structure in my written pieces, as I’ve received several comments in the past that that is an area of mine, in particular, to improve on. For school, I would especially like to get better at personal narratives (along the lines of Critical/Personal/Universal pieces as well as anecdotes), and I would also like to work on improving my style of Position Papers for Social Studies. Though I am the biggest critique of my work, I want to be able to appreciate what I write, and not criticize it so harshly.
Part B: You, the Blogger
My blog is strange. When I was first starting to “birth” my blog, I ended up spending hours staring at other students’ blogs to get an idea of what mine should look like. I settled on choosing purple as the theme colour, because I was feeling a mixture of emotions at the time- I was feeling the calmness of blue because it was only the beginning of the new semester, but I was also feeling the fiery frustration of red because I felt that I just wasn’t creative enough. I think that my blog has both positives and things to improve on. For the positives: the theme of the blog has been consistent (purple), I am actually inspired by the quote under the title in the home page, and all the contents are organized precisely by category and pages. I really do like the layout, and I feel that everything ties together consistently and cohesively. For the negatives: the background of the website doesn’t fit well on the screen (so I would try to find something that doesn’t clash with the text and overall layout), and finding a variety of different sources of inspiration for my “Inspirations” page. I’ve received comments on how it was hard to read the text of my posts due to the clash with the background image, so this is something that I would want to fix and consider if I were to make another blog in the future. I would also like to post more often, as I do write random pieces in my journal, but often those ideas don’t get through.
While I spent most of my search (for new and fresh writing pieces) on the class blog, and the student blogs, I was inspired by the following outside-of-school blogs:
- Shut Up And Go https://shutupandgo.travel/
I’ve actually been a frequent visitor of this blog since last year, and even wrote a paragraph on them for an essay for an English class. This blog is a hub of several content creators who all abide by their motto: “Shut Up And Go.” Basically, it’s a bunch of millennials who say that there should be no excuse for you to travel and explore, whether that be a road trip outside of town, or flying across the ocean. They don’t, however, condone selling every bit of your materialistic items to go on a luxurious 5-star hotel stay in Bali. They encourage people, especially young people, to use what they already have, and to find alternatives to problems that are stopping them from going to where they want to go. Now while it doesn’t have any fictional pieces, the blog inspires me to go out of my comfort zone and find convenient alternatives to problems that arise (this can apply to writing).
- Gemma’s Bigger Bolder Baking https://www.biggerbolderbaking.com/
I’ve been following this blog ever since it’s humble beginnings, and it surely has improved over the years. This blog is one about food, food, and (did I mention?) food! There are hundreds of recipes for different occasions, whether that be snacking, hosting, or even just sticking to the basics. Gemma Stafford, the author of this blog, is one of the few people that have inspired me to go to the kitchen to actually make food from scratch; before, the kitchen was just a hub for me to eat. I’ve tried several of her recipes, from donuts to frosting, and every time I’ve made something of hers, it’s never failed to impress! I’m also inspired by her being able to post so frequently, and the overall aesthetic and organization of her blog.
Part C: You, the Student
- Discuss an “aha” from Creative Writing class
In the Creative Writing class, there were several “aha” moments that came up as a result of the activities we did in class. Here are a few moments that I recall having some effect on my writing:
- The first time that we were assigned to complete a NoRedInk activity, for example, was when I thought to myself, pfft I would probably be done in less than 5 minutes since grammar’s nothing. My arrogance got the best of me when I realized how many small mistakes I was making in the assignment, which got me questioning how many mistakes I was making in my daily written assignments for English and other core subjects! NoRedInk has also helped me catch grammar mistakes in other students’ work, which further helps me in return to perfect and hone and my own skills.
- Another “aha” moment that stuck with me was the river writing and river walks that we did as a class toward the end of the semester. Admittingly, it was hard to do the assigned prompt in our journals for the particular walk, as the river was all the more distracting. It was nice to rewind for 40 minutes during the school day, and just try to appreciate the smaller, simpler things in life. Going to the river more than once allowed me to notice more and more details each time we went.
- Going to Bow View Manor to visit the elderly changed my perspective a bit. This was my first time visiting a senior home, and it was the first time where I dedicated a full 30 minutes just to talk to a stranger. I didn’t know what to expect, but ended up enjoying the experience overall. I realized how short life is, and I didn’t want to end up regretting not doing what I wanted to do; this made me want to incorporate this aspect of life in my future written pieces. I hope to visit again in the future.
As a reader, I have accomplished quite a few things over this past semester. For instance, I managed to read a total of 14 books (6 fiction, 2 comics, 2 young adult, 1 self-help, 1 poetry collection, and 1 non-fiction). I’ve managed to broaden my horizons and genres of books; as you can see in my list above, I stayed away from sticking to one type. I also went out of comfort zone by reading a poetry book, and more fictional books than ever. In the past, I would gravitate towards young adult books and MAYBE non-fiction. By reading a poetry book, I was able to gain inspiration for my own poems that I’ve written, whether that be on the blog or in my journal. For the upcoming summer, I plan to read the following books: The Innocents Abroad by Mark Twain, Macbeth by Shakespeare, and The Wars by Timothy Findley. These are 30-1 level books, which would be difficult in terms of comprehending the bigger picture, and summarizing the main themes the author is trying to address, but in order to grow as a reader, I need to find challenging material to tackle.
Assigning the title of “best book” I read this semester is a challenge, as I’ve read several books that have impacted me and my writing in one way or another. Alas, I will give this title to Can You Hear the Nightbird Call? by Anita Rau Badami. I’ve mentioned this book several times on my blog, but that’s just how good it is! It was actually recommended to me by one of my teachers, and I’m sure glad I took his suggestion. It’s about the journey of 3 women, who eventually cross paths, in Pre-Partition India and Pakistan, and Post-Partition. It’s also the journey of how these women end up in Canada, in a time where bias and prejudice is at the peak in Canada for South Asians. Being part of the first generation of Pakistani-Canadians in my family made me relate to this book in some ways. I was able to discuss the political aspects of this with my parents, which connected us more in that way. It also reminded me of Khaled Hosseini’s style of writing; having read 3 of his books this semester, this gave me a similar feel, but in a different setting.
Reading has definitely improved my writing. Looking back at pieces I wrote for English last semester, in a time where I wasn’t reading as frequently, I can see the clear difference and impact it has had on me. I am able to think of fresh ways to create a plot that isn’t cliche, for example. I’ve also learned and used better vocabulary not only in my writing, but in my everyday life as well. Reading from professional authors gives me insight as to how others use grammar and detail in creative ways. I tend to think, this part must have some significance, this book wasn’t published for no reason. I look forward to reading even more challenging material to further enhance my writing skills and abilities.
In order to improve and grow as a writer, I’m going to have to endure challenging material, while still referring back to the basics. I plan to work on improving my writing for the upcoming school year. The following are the specific steps I need to take for the future:
- Review grammar rules, and PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE!
As I’ve mentioned before, NoRedInk has helped tremendously with my grammar, so I intend to continue with that as well as other grammar games to make it more fun.
2. Read my old written pieces, and compare it with my recent ones.
Since I’ve looked at my old work, I’ve realized how much I’ve truly grown as a writer. Referring back to my old work will not only help me stay true to my style and who I am, but also to avoid the mistakes I’ve made in the past.
3. Get others to proofread my work.
When editing my own work, I often overlook minor mistakes, such as a comma or capitalization error. When I get a third party to edit, such as a parent or a teacher, I find recurring mistakes throughout the piece that I know not to make for next time. It also makes my work more polished when there are little to no typos.
4. READ, READ, READ!
As I’ve mentioned before, reading has improved me as a writer, and reading more will only make it better. I’ve also noticed that during writer seminars, the advice that most authors would give is to read more. And I can tell it’s worked for them; all of the authors were either well-known, successfull writers, or just had an interesting style and writing identity.
Part D: You, the Fan
From the writer seminars, to the guest speakers, to the student blogs, I have been inspired greatly by these influences. Such influences have made it to publishing posts on my blog based off of their advice, ideas, and themes. For example, Sam Beavers has inspired me to live life to the fullest, and that the simple things in life are often the most interesting. I also remember how often I would look at other student blogs, just scrolling around, to see how they think, and what I could take from them and apply to my own writing.
Studying published authors (during the writer seminars) has opened my eyes as to how professional authors think, and what actually goes into a published piece. I never used to consider the author when reading a book; I would just briefly look at the biography at the back page and never think about them again. When researching for my own seminar, I got to learn so much about Khaled Hosseni. It gave me insight as to how experiences can inspire bestseller pieces, and the amount of research it actually requires to create something in a historical setting.
I’m quite glad we (myself and Kshef K.) chose Khaled Hosseini. I’ve actually never heard of him prior to the announcement of the assignment, until Kshef introduced me to A Thousand Splendid Suns. I fell in love with his style of writing, and seeing how everything came full circle. I really liked his style of writing in the perspective of different characters, from different backgrounds, who eventually cross paths. His style of writing inspired me to write with suspense and subtle foreshadowing. He inspired me to not be afraid to write about my heritage, and reminded me that I shouldn’t forget it; as a matter of fact, I should embrace it and publicize it. I’m also inspired to learn from experiences and talking to others about theirs, and then incorporating that into the final product.
If I were to choose someone different, I would consider doing The Beatles. I’ve recently began reading their lyrics as forms of poetry, and what I came across was very interesting. The song, Blackbird, has a great significance. It was written during the Civil Rights movement, in a time where African Americans were demanding and fighting for their rights. The “blackbird” in the song is about an African American girl finding freedom. After discovering this, I would like to know the meaning and significance behind some of their other work.
Here are some of the genres that have interested me the most:
- Historical fiction: As found in Khaled Hosseini’s works, and in my reading ladder, I’ve gravitated towards historical fiction. Though I’m not passionate about history in general, I really like reading twists on history, and reading about a story that could’ve been really similar to such a circumstance in real life. As seen in my reading ladder, I’ve also read some books from the Usagi Yojimbo series, which takes place in the Edo period in Japan, as well as The Darkest Hour, which takes place during WWII. I’ve also read some historical fiction pieces from other students, including Hefseeba B. Reading such pieces has inspired me to write my own, Silence is Golden?.
- Fantasy: Now, I haven’t been reading any particular fantasy books this past semester, but it is the genre of fantasy that has first sparked my love of reading. From fairy tales, to young adult novels, such as The Selection series by Kiera Cass, fantasy books have inspired my love of reading from a young age. Though I have been gravitating towards more war, adventure, action-themed books, It would be a pleasure to read some fantasy every now and then.
The writers have all taught me something to reflect back to, and they have all given great advice. For example, Khaled Hosseini has inspired me to try new experiences and get inspired by those in order to contribute to a polished, written piece that many people can relate to. The writer seminars taught me that I should never give up, whether that applies to writing or real life. They’ve inspired me to continue to practice writing, even as the summer break approaches.
Here are a few emulations from the writer seminars:
- Khaled Hosseini: “With the passing of time, she would slowly tire of this exercise. She would find it increasingly exhausting to conjure up, to dust off, to resuscitate once again what was long dead. There would come a day, in fact, years later, when [she] would no longer bewail his loss. Or not as relentlessly; not nearly. There would come a day when the details of his face would begin to slip from memory’s grip, when overhearing a mother on the street call after her child by [his] name would no longer cut her adrift. She would not miss him as she did now, when the ache of his absence was her unremitting companion–like the phantom pain of an amputee.”
With the passing of time, she swept even more. Sweeping the floor, dusting, shining, polishing. Time went at a snail’s pace; it was as if every second were an hour. She was long dead, her body was here, but her brain was long gone. There would come a day when she wouldn’t recognize him, a day when it felt as if two strangers roamed the same four walls, one of them inanimately sweeping. She would not miss him as she did now. It was as if she swept him out of her memory.
- J. R. R. Tolkien: “There he lay, a vast red-golden, fast asleep; a thrumming came from his jaws and nostrils, and wisps of smoke, but his fires were low in slumber. Beneath him, under all his limbs and his huge coiled tail, and about him on all sides stretched away across the unseen floors, lay countless piles of precious things, gold wrought and unwrought, gems and jewels and silver red-stained in the ruddy light.”
There it stood, a gold-white mosque standing tall and humble. The athan boomed softly in my ears as I stood there in a trance. The minaret was tall and proud, donning an intricate mosaic design forming geometric shapes out of white, aqua, and teal pieces. Its golden dome lay in the center of it all, catching a glimpse of warm sunlight, creating a blinding sensation in my eyes. Within the building, people were rushing to and from inside, their feet pounding against the floor in a repetitious rhythm. It was a stampede of peace and tranquility, but there it stood, tall and humble. A gold-white mosque.
- Jeff Vandermeer: “Where lies the strangling fruit that came from the hand of the sinner I shall bring forth the seeds of the dead to share with worms that gather in the darkness and surround the world with the power of their lives… In the black water with the sun shining at midnight those fruits shall come ripe and in the darkness of that which is golden shall split open to reveal the fatal softness in the earth.”
(in reference to Ramadan)
Where lies the hunger that came from early morning I shall bring forth the patience of the hungry to share with others that gather in prayer and surround the world with the power of their fast… In the scorching heat with the sun setting at dusk those desires (hunger) shall come ripe and tomorrow morning of that when the cycle repeats again.
In terms of reading more of a particular writer, I intend to read more of Shakespeare’s work. Now, I know saying that is controversial, because I myself loath having to read and study his text for English Language Arts in High School. I sound hypocritical to say I want to read more of his work. The main reason is so that I could appreciate his work, and prepare for my next English class in the upcoming school year. Over the summer, I’m planning to read Macbeth. This will introduce me to some of his other work (I’ve previously read Romeo and Juliet and The Merchant of Venice) and it will allow myself to be more familiar with his style and language.
Part E: You, the Critic of your work
Here are two pieces that I published on the blog that I am most proud of (at the moment):
When told we had to do our first free choice for the blog, I panicked. Mostly because I had no idea what I wanted to do. Yes, I knew I wanted to write a short story, but about what? I ended up writing about a story that’s actually based off of real life events. The story is about a man who is sleepwalking, and goes over to his brother, who wakes up to the sound of him. He almost kills him in his sleep with the gun hiding under the bed, and then miraculously turning back without touching his startled brother. This is a pretty accurate representation of a story my parents told me. The first time I heard it, I laughed; I found it quite funny. Then, it got me thinking as to how scary the idea really is, so I decided to write this in a horror-style fashion.
- I decided that I wanted to write a short story, only I didn’t know what it would be about. I ended up deciding to write about my father almost killing his brother in his sleep (with his permission, of course).
- I familiarized myself with Edgar Allen Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heart. I’ve already known this piece and studied it in Grade 7 and Grade 10 English Language Arts, but by going back to it, I felt inspired by the horror elements, and how I could re-establish that in my short story.
- I wrote, edited, reviewed, and repeated this process until I got the story just right.
When writing this short story piece, there were several challenges I faced. At first, I didn’t even know what to write about. I knew I wanted to write a short story, but I had no idea as to what it should be about. Once I knew what to write about, I panicked knowing that I would be incorporating horror elements, which has not been successful for me in the past. I also didn’t know how to address the main character and his brother separately, as I didn’t want to use any names. The final challenge I recall was establishing the setting, but also not deterring away from the action. I wanted to affirm that this took place at night, and how dangerous the situation was, without making the reader confused.
The above poem is in the form of a ballad, a poetic form in which there are four stanzas, four lines each. There are alternating lines of one iambic tetrameter, one iambic trimeter. There is a rhyming scheme of ABAB. I chose this format because I liked the more fun, folksy feeling and following a specific structure made it easier to establish a poem that actually made sense.
This poem was also just a fun piece that I wanted to play with, and it has little to no deep meaning behind it. At least that was not intended.
The poem’s title, Land Where Fairies Abound, is a reference to the Mi’kmaq translation of the word, Kejimkujik. Kejimkujik is the name of one of Canada’s National Parks located in Nova Scotia. I was inspired by this to write the poem loosely based off of the mythology of the people inhabiting the area, the Mi’kmaq. As a side note, remember that this is not an actual tale or story tied to a specific tradition; I used the translation of the word Kejimkujik to write a piece about fairies.
There were some secret critters there
by old Fairy Bay
one-by-one, in the air
The first line introduces the “secret critters”, which is referring to the fairies that are said to dwell the forests of Kejimkujik. The second line, by old Fairy Bay, is in reference to an actual bay in the National Park. The last two lines are just to create a sense of imagery of such creatures that would come about, without describing the actual fairies. This gives readers the opportunity to imagine how they would want the fairies to look like, while giving them a loose structure as to what they’re doing. I only put capitalization for the first word, There, and for Fairy Bay. Fairy Bay is the name of an actual place, so it made sense to capitalize those words; however, the first word was capitalized because it gave notion to the beginning of almost a sentence, or just introducing a new idea. There is no punctuation, except for a comma after one-by-one, and a period at the end of the last line. The comma is to create the much needed pause, so the line doesn’t sound choppy. The period at the end is to close the introduction.
You’d have to earn their trust if you
want to catch a glimpse
if not, then you can say adieu
no chance to meet a nymph.
The first line introduces a new idea, so the first word is capitalized. The first two lines indicate how the fairies, such small, innocent creatures, will only allow you to even look at them if you earn their trust and abide by moral rules of character and understanding. The second two lines represent the consequence of not earning their trust, which is not being able to ever meet them. Like many occasions in life, this chance may only ever come once, if the procedure is done so correctly. The only punctuation in this stanza is a comma after if not, and a period at the end of the last line. The comma serves the same purpose as in the first stanza, creating the natural pause that feels right. The period, is again, to close the stanza, and close the new idea introduced from the first line of this stanza.
Dainty little creatures, they
inhabit old Keji
response to what the Mi’kmaq say
translates to a “fairy”.
This stanza describes the fairies a bit more, and references the Mi’kmaq folklore of fairies inhabiting the area. In the second line, I use the word Keji instead of the full name of Kejimkujik. This was not only to fit in to the ballad format, but also in reference to how a lot of Nova Scotians refer to Kejimkujik. In the third line, it further emphasizes that this is poem is referring to the Mi’kmaq folklore, just remembering that this piece is only inspired by such and doesn’t actually contain any historical context. The first word of the first line, Dainty, is capitalized to (you guessed it) introduce a new idea. Keji and Mi’kmaq are capitalized because they are to proper nouns. The comma after Dainty little creatures is used as a way to introduce information that isn’t entirely essential to the piece in order to understand it, but serves the purpose of giving further description. Fairy is in quotation marks because it is the interpretation of the Mi’kmaq translation. Remember, interpretations aren’t always accurate. Once again, there is a period at the end to close the statement.
They are people too, you know
and no, they’re not discrete
calm yourself and take it slow,
for you, this is some feat.
Ah, the final stanza. This introduces an entirely new idea, so it is at this point that I don’t need to explain the capitalization and the comma at the end. First, I’ll mention the commas, since there’s quite a few. The commas in the first three lines serve the same purpose: creating the natural pause that comes when reading. The last comma is to emphasize a point that is almost making fun of humanity, in a way. Okay, enough with punctuation, let’s move on to the meaning of this stanza. The first two lines talk about how fairies are not that different from “us” (“us” can refer to however you want it to). We can look at this meaning from a generalized perspective: it is not only referring to fairies but to all individuals who are deemed as different and weird. Embracing each other’s quirks is what will make us look past the differences and see how similar everyone truly is. The words yourself and you in the third and fourth lines are referring to humanity, as I feel that we need to slow down in life in order to understand each other. This is what greatness is, in my opinion.
All in all, this was a fun piece to write, and it was also my first poem this year. As mentioned, it wasn’t intended to have any deep connection, but the final stanza might actually have some meaning to it.
- I read some of Rupi Kaur’s poems, recalling back to when I read Milk and Honey. This helped me get into the poetic mindset.
- I chose to do the poem in the form of a ballad because I wanted to be able to follow a specific structure. Having a history of not doing too great at writing my own poems for English class, I figured a structure would make it all the more easier.
- I recalled a folksy poem that my brother introduced to me some months prior, Come All You Bold Canadians written by Cornelius Flummerfelt, which is about the British victory of the War of 1812. It is sung, rather than read, and that is how I decided I wanted my poem to sound like.
- I wrote a rough draft and read and reread until there was nothing else I could do. Simple, right? No, since I chose to do the ballad format, I had to comply with the rules and structure which made it easier for me as to how to write it, but harder for me as to which words I should use and in what order.
When writing this poem, there were several challenges I faced. First and foremost, I had little experience of writing poetry. The little experience I had was not so great, to say the least, in terms of the grades I got on poetry assignments in previous English classes; this is not motivating, to say the least. I also had no idea what to write about. I knew that I wanted to do a ballad, which would mean that it should sound folksy. I had to undergo several hours of search in order to find just what I wanted to write about. I doubted myself a lot in the process.