Writing Samples Lauren Dyas
Title: Take the Plunge! This article was written for Stowaway magazine. The assignment given to me was to write a how-to article with a personal touch. It will be published in the Winter 2014 issue of Stowaway in the â€œInsider: Just the Ticketâ€? section. Word count: 567
Take the Plunge! While planning a trip to Hawaii, all my siblings were getting SCUBA certified. Not me, though; I was terrified to even try. After weeks of motivational speeches and new tactics to convince me, something finally clicked and I decided to get certified too. Learning to SCUBA dive was one of the most pivotal moments in my life. Being in the beautiful ocean, 80 feet underwater (and breathing!), with remarkable animals surrounding me, I realized I had never seen or experienced anything so exhilarating before. The fear and the excitement of it changed my perspective and my life hasn’t been the same since. Here are 5 steps to get your own open water SCUBA certification so you, too, can start your newest adventure. 1. Learn to swim Many people have this step under their belts already, but not all do. To get certified, you’ll be asked to swim approximately 200 yards and to tread water for ten minutes. It may sound difficult, but even if you just spent your childhood summers casually swimming frog style in the pool, you should be fine. You don’t need good form; you just need to be able to do it. 2. Be at least 12 years old By age 12 (some dive agencies will allow age 10), you can get a junior certification and by age 15 you can get fully certified. 3. Have (or save up) money It usually costs between $100 and $500 to get certified. The reason for the huge price range is because of all the options. You can take an online course or you can take an in-class course. You can take private lessons or group lessons. You can buy gear or rent gear. Step 4 will talk more about different class options. As for gear, it may be less expensive and easier to rent gear, especially if you plan only to SCUBA dive on a few occasions or during travels. Renting allows you to leave the stress of packing your gear behind you. You can find a list of necessary equipment at http://www.padi.com/scuba/scuba-gear/intro-to-scuba-dive-equipment/default.aspx or through the company where you decide to get certified.
4. Take the class and do practice dives You can take the class online, or you can take it in a classroom. The classroom option will often be by a pool so that you can easily do the required confined water dives with your instructor’s help. The benefit of taking the class online is that you go at your own pace and you learn when and where you want to. The classroom, though, gives you more opportunities to ask questions and get personal attention. After you’ve learned all you need to know, you’ll have to pass a written test. Don’t stress about it; it isn’t long. Just make sure you pay attention in class and know how to be a safe diver. After the test, you’ll need to do at least two open water dives (usually in the ocean or a lake). 5. Pick up your certification card Once you finish your open water dives, you’re ready to pick up your SCUBA Open Water Diver Certification card. Don’t forget this step since you’ll most likely need to show it when renting or buying SCUBA gear. Your instructor will either give the card to you or tell you where to go to pick it up. Then you’ll be ready to explore the underwater world!
Title: Literary New England This article was written for Stowaway magazine and will be published in the Winter 2014 issue in the â€œGetaways: Away for a Weekâ€? section. The assignment given to me was to write a 900-word article that describes a place that could be explored and enjoyed over the course of a week. Word count: 937
Literary New England New England is the home of many famous authors whose homes have become museums or National Historic Landmarks. Why not travel to some of their homes and not only have a great travel experience, but get a nice history lesson too? Here are some ideas about where to go and what to do: Mark Twain Hartford, Connecticut William Faulkner referred to Mark Twain as “the father of American literature.” Twain wrote The Adventures of Tom Sawyer—also known as “The Great American Novel”—in Hartford, Connecticut, where he lived for part of his life. The Mark Twain House & Museum is one of the many places to visit while in New England. Grant Olsen, who visited many New England literary sites in 2012 said, “I love history and literature, so when they intersect it’s magical.” Mark Twain’s home was designed by his wife and is known for its unique beauty. You probably won’t spend more than 3 hours at the museum, but while you’re in Hartford, you can also visit the house of Mark Twain’s neighbor and fellow author, Harriet Beecher Stowe. The Harriet Beecher Stowe Center and cottage is architecturally very different than the Twain home, but just as beautiful in its own way. http://www.marktwainhouse.org/ Emily Dickinson Museum Amherst, Massachusetts Emily Dickinson, the famous American poet, was born in Amherst, Massachusetts and spent most of her life there. “She withdrew herself from public life for many years and basically confined herself to that house and wrote,” says Lindsay Call, a literary enthusiast who has visited many of New England’s literary sites twice in the past 15 years. Amherst is one of the most beautiful parts of the state, and this is where Dickinson’s home—and now museum—is located. It’s called the Homestead. Next-door to the Homestead—and also part of the museum—is The Evergreens, which is the home of Dickinson’s brother. The Evergreens now houses its own art collection with
over 200 works of art. Note: The Emily Dickinson Museum is closed January–February. http://www.emilydickinsonmuseum.org/ Henry David Thoreau Concord, Massachusetts Walden Pond is located in Concord, Massachusetts, where Henry David Thoreau built a cabin in the woods and lived as a transcendentalist for two years. He then wrote the book Walden to describe his experiences. Walden Pond is over 60 acres and it’s more than 100 feet deep. Technically, it isn’t even a pond; it’s a lake. But that simply means there’s more to see and do while you’re there. If you want to experience the beauty of what Thoreau experienced, even just for a day, take a hike around Walden Pond and discover the hundreds of acres of woods surrounding the pond. You can even go fishing or swimming in Walden Pond. Or if you’re looking for a more relaxing vacation activity, grab some lunch and have a picnic near the water or rent a canoe and go for a ride. It will be easy to be distracted by the beauty of the nature, but don’t forget to take a tour of Thoreau’s cabin. Ralph Waldo Emerson Concord, Massachusetts Also in Concord is the home—and now museum—of one of Thoreau’s good friends and fellow transcendentalists, Ralph Waldo Emerson. The only way in the house is by guided tour. The tour teaches you about Emerson’s life and literature. Nearby is the Concord Museum, where you can find even more information about Emerson, among other authors and topics as well. http://www.nps.gov/nr/travel/massachusetts_conservation/ralph_waldo_emerson_house.html#pl an
Louisa May Alcott Concord, Massachusetts The author of Little Women also lived in Concord. Like the home of Emerson, the only way to see Louisa May Alcott’s house (also called The Orchard) is by guided tour. If you go in December, there is an Annual Holiday Program hosted by The Orchard House. Or if you go in September, you can participate in the Annual 5K/10K Run or 5K Walk. It follows a beautiful course and the money raised goes toward supporting historical preservation. http://www.louisamayalcott.org/ Robert Frost Derry, New Hampshire An hour north of Concord is Derry, New Hampshire where you can visit the farm where Robert Frost lived for 11 years. Like the other authors’ homes, you can take a tour, but if you want to do more than a tour, you can also attend a poetry reading. And be sure to enjoy the scenery of the area, especially if you go during the autumn months. As Frost puts it in his poem Nothing Gold Can Stay, “Nature’s first green is gold, Her hardest hue to hold.” Note: Robert Frost farm is closed January 1–May 4 and September 7–December 31 http://robertfrostfarm.org/ Remember that these are only a few of the many sites you can visit in New England. While in Concord, you wouldn’t want to miss out on seeing the famous Sleepy Hollow Cemetery where many well-know people are buried. Among them are Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathanial Hawthorne, and Louisa May Alcott. And if you’re in the mood for a taste of American history, you can visit the location of “the shot heard ‘round the world” and other war related sites. Or head to Boston for a taste of city life. No matter where you are in New England, you’ll find plenty to do.
http://www.nps.gov/nr/travel/massachusetts_conservation/list_of_sites.html Title: Construction Zone This article was written as an editing class assignment for BYU Magazine in the “What’s On” section. The targeted audience for the magazine includes BYU alumni and BYU students. The assignment was to write a short blurb describing something current and relevant for the audience. Word count: 130
Construction Zone Pedestrian traffic has always been high near BYU campus. In May 2013, BYU began heavy construction to fix this problem and add more drop-off points on the east side of the Wilkinson Center. The construction will continue each summer until it is finished in 2015, but some students have strong feelings regarding it because of its proximity to the heart of campus. “The Wilk is definitely the most visited building on campus, not just by students, but [by] visitors too,” says BYU student Kasse Adams (BA ’13). Despite frustrations, many students also understand the necessity of the construction and the benefits it will soon bring. Even Kasse admits that since “it’s summer term and there are less students around,” now is the best time to do this construction. WEB: http://campusdrive.byu.edu
Title: Don’t Try This at Home … or on Vacation This article was written for Stowaway magazine under the “Tales from the Trip” section. The assignment was to write a first-person narrative about a humorous, disastrous, or otherwise interesting travel experience. Word Count: 508
Don’t Try This at Home … or on Vacation Do you remember the Yellowstone bison attack In July 2010? A woman got too close to a bison while she was camping at Yellowstone, and the bison trampled her. She was badly hurt, and the story was told again and again on different news stations. The video of it was posted on YouTube and, although the woman was injured, she lived to tell the story. There were many other close calls that summer too. That was also the summer I decided to go to Yellowstone. I was so excited. It was my first real camping trip ever, and I was going with some friends. My fifteen-year-old cousin, Mikey, begged me to come along and I finally agreed, on the condition that his mother approved. After three days in Yellowstone, we still hadn’t seen any bison up close. And honestly, I wasn’t disappointed at all. I had just learned of the woman who got trampled and there were signs all over the park that read, “CAUTION: DO NOT APPROACH BISON”. On the last day of our trip, we decided to drive down to Jackson Hole, Wyoming. On our way, we saw a herd of bison, so we stopped to get a better look. When we got to where the bison were, my very intelligent teenage cousin ran into the middle of the field and started getting closer to one of the bison, saying, “Here buffalo, come here little buffalo!” and making clicking noises with his mouth (like you would to get a kitten to come to you). The bison would take a few steps toward Mikey every few seconds until it stood about twenty yards away. This bison didn’t want to be snuggled like a kitten. It was angry. I started yelling at Mikey to come back. Mikey said, “He’s coming closer to say hello.” Right, because we all know how friendly those wild bison are! I would have just marched out onto the field, grabbed Mikey by the hair, and pulled him back to the car, but we’re talking about a football-player sized man-child here. Finally, the bison had had enough and he charged. I thought to myself, oh gosh, I’ll have to bring home the body of my dead cousin to his mother. Did I say I was yelling before? No. Now I was yelling. I was screaming at Mikey to run. After running for a few seconds, he dropped to the ground and the bison blazed past him. Mikey then got up and ran toward me. I ran to him too, crying and laughing at the same time. I was so happy to see him alive! As we started walking back to the car, I noticed that Mikey was barefoot. He guessed that his shoes had somehow come off in all the chaos. We went back and found his shoes, each one about 100 yards away from the other.
We got in the car and made it safely to Jackson Hole. We each ordered a Bison Burger at a restaurant in town. It seemed only fitting.
Title: Experience the YucatĂĄn, Mexico This article was written as a feature for Stowaway magazine, whose audience is young travelers on a small budget. The assignment was to write an article (1,000â€“1,600 words) that provides diversity in length, format, content, and design. Word count: 1050
Experience the Yucatán, Mexico People come from all over the world to see the wondrous sights and Maya ruins of the Southern part of Mexico—the Yucatán. The ruins are beautiful and even mysterious. Places like Uxmal, Chichen Itza, and Loltún are visited over and over again, sometimes multiple times by the same people. Both the natural and the manmade wonders draw so many people to explore this part of Mexico. Sightseeing Celestún Celestún, where the water is blue and the food is delicious, is a fishing town in the Gulf of Mexico especially known for its seafood. Restaurants right on the sand offer you the chance to enjoy a tasty meal while watching the sunset. Many people go to Celestún for its array of wildlife too. Flamingos are part of Celestún’s ecosystem and it is quite a sight to see. They may not have as beautiful a sound as some other birds, but the sight of them makes it worth it. The flamingos have made it their home because the water is perfect for them—it’s made up of both fresh water and salt water. To see the flamingos a little closer, you can take a guided boat trip. And even better, as part of the boat trip, you can see the Tampeten petrified forest in a wetland of freshwater. Sounds impossible, right? That’s part of what makes it so amazing. It’s a forest where the roots of the trees are under the water, but the trunks are growing above for all to see. The best part about Celestún is that it’s not crowded with tourists, so it can be truly relaxing, like a vacation should be. Cenotes The Yucatán is hot, so one of the most refreshing aspects of its geography is the cenotes. A cenote is a natural, freshwater pool and they are found all over the Yucatán. Anciently, the Maya people used many of them for sacrificial purposes. Today, locals and tourists alike use them for swimming, especially on a hot summer day. Some are hidden away deep in caves while others are out in the open for all to see. Almost anywhere you go in the Yucatán, you can find a cenote.
Mérida Mérida is the capitol of the Yucatán and a city filled with great food, fun activities, a unique culture, and plenty to see. Public transportation is cheap and both the buses and the taxis are easy to use, so getting around the town isn’t a problem at all. While downtown, in El Centro as it’s called, there are shops, restaurants, and vendors on the street. The activities range from touring a beautiful, old Cathedral to visiting an art museum, or stopping for lunch at one of the many restaurants or markets. Some of the most common meals that are native to the Yucatán are panuchos (very basically, black bean filled tostados) and sopa de lima (lime soup). Also in El Centro, you can buy hammocks, hats, or even live cockroaches connected to a broach to wear on your shirt as decoration. Yes, you read correctly. A common product sold in El Centro, something you’ll find in almost any shop, is a cockroach, alive. It’s usually bejeweled and has a chain glued to it so that you can wear it on your shirt around town. The Beach One of the best parts about Mexico is the beach! That’s why many people go to Mexico in the first place. The water is warm and blue. And if you’re staying in Merida, La Playa Progresso is only 30 minutes on the bus. Remember to wear lots of sunscreen because the sun in Mexico will burn your skin faster than you might think. Maya Ruins Uxmal Uxmal is one of the many Maya pyramids in Mexico. Some would say it’s the most amazing archeological site in the area. There are only eleven ancient buildings currently uncovered in the area, but there are over 200 more still buried underground! If you stay at Uxmal until dark, you can see the amazing light show and learn a little about Uxmal’s history. The show is in Spanish, though, so if you don’t speak it, you may want to take an English tour during the day.
Loltún Loltún is a huge cave that is cool and dry in the midst of a climate that is hot and humid—one of the many wonders that we find in this part of the world. It’s filled with stalactites and stalagmites. Did you know that it takes 100 years for one stalagmite to grow a half-inch? And touching one can stunt its growth because of the oils on your hands. There are ancient paintings on the cave walls too, from the time of the ancient Maya people. Along with the natural wonders of the walls and ceilings in the cave, there are even more wonders as you go deeper into the cave. Here, you can get a guided tour, as you can at many of the other sights in the Yucatán. Mayapán Mayapán is one of the less common Maya ruins. It’s not as full of tourists as some of the others, but still just as amazing. One of the coolest things about Mayapán is that you’re allowed to climb on all the pyramids. There are no ropes to block out the people like there are at most of the others. It’s like a playground for adults. A huge ancient, marvelous playground. Other Adventures One of the most exciting parts about the Yucatán is the weather. It is hottest during the spring months. It is usually in the 90s and sometimes reaches up to 105 degrees Fahrenheit. Even during the winter, it almost never gets colder than 60 degrees. Obviously, though, the most common time to go is during the summer because that’s when most people have their vacation time. Summer in the Yucatán is usually in the 90s and the rainstorms are so much fun. It often rains so much that the streets are flooded and you have to walk down the street in water up to your knees. Oh, and the rain brings out the bugs too. Although Mexico is already filled with big and interesting bugs, even more seem to come out after a rainstorm, so make sure you wear plenty of bug spray.