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December/January issue

Inside: -Debate on right level of reader investment in stories -Review of hit show Pretty Little Liars -3 examples of reading responses used as effective brainstorming for essay planning

Letter to the Readers: My Journey as a Writer

Dear Reader, English 101 may seem like an easy and unbeneficial class because it is a lower-level, required class to take. But as a writer I underwent many processes and significant growth throughout the creation of all of my essays. In this reflective essay, I will shed light on the essays I decided to focus on revising and reimagining, and why I chose to make the certain choices I did. I will also point out my audience and how my pieces of writing will benefit them. My growth and processes I went through as a writer will be highlighted as well. One of the major aspects of being a writer is revision. A paper is never perfect and there can always be changes made to some part of it, or it can be completely re-written due to looking at the text in a new way. An assignment I had to tackle was substantial revision of one of my essays. I chose to substantially revise my rhetorical analysis writing piece by looking at it in a new way and comparing and contrasting it to another text I had read. In my original rhetorical analysis, I selected the short story, “The Lottery� by Shirley Jackson and wrote about how Jackson uses this story to show the negative aspect of group mentality and connects it to how this status quo allows outdated traditions to continue existing. This was a well written paper but I selected it for substantial revision because I thought the text allows for a lot of options and flexibility, thus I would be able to make an abundance of changes to it. (continued on next page)

I still used the same text in my new paper, but I focused on different parts of it and compared and contrasted it to another short story, “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas” by Ursula Le Guin. I analyzed the ways that Jackson and Le Guin tell their stories in terms of description, point of view, and endings. I believe this paper can appeal to a variety of audiences, because both stories I analyzed are mature enough for an older adult to still be interested in reading about, and interesting enough to hold a younger person’s attention. I think it would be beneficial to the audience because my substantially revised paper analyzed certain choices the writers of the story made and how those literary choices can affect the reader of the stories, which makes it relevant to everyone not only as readers, but also writers, because it can provide examples of ways to engage one’s audience. In both the original rhetorical analysis and the substantial revision, my biggest struggle was including too much of the plot in my paper. I had to learn to get rid of a lot of extraneous details that did not really support or prove what I was trying to argue. I had to work hard on both papers to cut back on the summary of the texts I was analyzing, and include only relevant details that were necessary to mention. My other task as an English 101 student was to articulate a genre change essay. This involved looking at all of my essays I had written for the semester and picking one to write in a completely new style or type of writing. I chose to do a genre change on my op-ed assignment, which had been about how a relationship in the show Pretty Little Liars defied the stereotype of typical teen relationships portrayed on television. For my genre change, I wrote a television review of the show Pretty Little Liars and focused on the various reasons why it is a great show specifically in terms of character development and relationships between characters. I believe this was a good choice because it reviews a television show that some people discredit or overlook, and my review might inspire someone to watch the show and discover how good it is. In my op-ed I struggled with organization problems and sentence structure as well as providing too much details of the scenes of the show I was mentioning. I had to work to make sure my arguments were coherent and supported with the necessary information from the show while also being sure to prove my point. I had to not rely just on providing the example from the show, but explaining why it was important. I also had to remove a lot of the details that I initially thought needed to be mentioned, but really didn’t, in order to be able to come up with enough arguments without exceeding the word limit too much.

In my review of the show for my genre change, I struggled with focusing on just a few central reasons that I loved the show, because initially I came up with too many, and it did not flow, and I went over the word limit. I also struggled with writing too many examples for each reason, because my paragraphs got too long due to providing the example and reasoning. I overcame this by planning out a couple examples for each reason, so that I would be able to explain why I chose these examples without making my review too long. I believe that my first semester in a college level writing class was a great period of growth in terms of my quality and technique concerning writing. While I was considered a great writer prior to taking English 101, I feel that my writing significantly improved. In the beginning of the semester, I struggled with analyzing the evidence I included in my essays as opposed to just presenting it. At this moment in time, I am able to not just list things that I think will make my point, I can go further by expanding on what I present and evaluating it. I believe this was the biggest strength I gained, but it is not the only one. I have also been able to resist including too many details and summarizing too much. I had always engaged in writing a substantial amount of summary and extra details into my essays. I now have a better awareness of what is necessary to include in my papers, and what is just superfluous details. This has made me a more concise writer and has really improved my essays. In the future, I know I will have to correct more mistakes and overcome many struggles in my writing in order to reach a higher quality in my essays, but I feel that this semester, the improvement on my writing has provided me with a solid foundation to move forward with tackling more challenging material.

Author’s Choice: to involve readers in a story or leave them as outsiders? In every piece of writing, authors have to make the important decision of deciding how much they should involve their readers in the events of the story. Writers make certain choices when it comes to point of view, language use, and overall writing style. For some stories it is preferable to have the readers emotionally invested in what is happening, but for others detachment is a better approach. Two short stories, “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas,” by Ursula Le Guin, and “The Lottery,” by Shirley Jackson, both deal with morally questionable societies that take part in allowing something horrible to happen under the guise that it is necessary for the betterment or preservation of their society. Le Guin and Jackson both weave stories that involve their readers differently through different points of views, writing styles, and use of description, which results in varying degrees of accountability of the readers. Le Guin and Jackson both introduce their stories by describing the setting. Both stories have settings that seem like typical towns where one would assume nothing bad could happen. Jackson mentions that the morning was clear and sunny, flowers were blossoming, and the grass was richly green. Le guin takes a similar approach by writing that that there are boats in the harbor, gardens, avenues, and great parks. The initial descriptions are similar, but the authors vary in descriptions and detail, and this affects how the readers feels about the story. Le Guin goes into great detail about the citizens, and even dedicates a lengthy paragraph to them. She also describes various things in the town, such as the summer festival going on, and the horses, and weather. . Jackson takes a different approach and doesn’t go into great detail about anything. She just gives the necessary facts and descriptions. She instead focuses more on the actions and events of the story, as well as includes a substantial amount of dialogue. (continued on next page)

The different ways in which Le Guin and Jackson introduce their stories carries on throughout their writings, and has an effect on the reader. Le Guin’s excessive amount of detail and descriptions she included could cause the reader to feel as if they can imagine the setting, and think of themselves being there. In contrast, Jackson’s method of focusing on actions and dialogue could make the readers feel like they are on the outside observing what is happening. The differing writing styles of these author determines the level of involvement of the reader. The points of view of “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas” and “The Lottery” are vastly different. Le Guin addresses the reader directly, and even asks questions, and the narrator seems to be telling a story and is all knowing. She tells the readers how great Omelas is, and asks readers what other great things belong in the city, allowing the readers to come up with their own version of a utopia, causing readers to be personally invested. She does this so that when she introduces the child who is locked away and neglected, while the rest of the citizens experience joy in Omelas. This kind of story-telling causes the readers to be invested with the good and bad parts of the story. They feel guilt over the neglected child, because they have already imagined Omelas as their own joyous utopia. Jackson’s point of view takes an opposite approach. She never addresses the reader, and does not reveal how anyone is feeling or what they’re thinking like Le Guin does. Her narrator is merely an observer, which is what the audience is as well, witnessing what is going on but not having an emotional connection. There is no guilt or responsibility the readers might have in Le Guin’s story. This can be a good or bad thing, depending on whether the individual reader likes to feel like they are a part of everything going on, and experience what characters are going through. Some readers might prefer to just get the essential information and then just spend the rest of the duration of the story not being directly involved. Jackson and Le Guin take very different approaches when they wrote the endings of their stories. In “The Lottery,” the character Tessie “wins,” and is stoned to death by the people of the village, including her own family.

It is a depressing but clear and memorable ending. It showed how wrong the society is, but never hints at the people changing their ways. “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas” had a much more hopeful ending, but it was ambiguous. Le Guin mentions that the people who have seen the neglected and locked away child usually are upset or angry and cry, but they eventually accept it. She goes on to say there are some people who see the child and choose not to go home, but instead keep walking, and leave Omelas. But she doesn’t know where they are going. Both endings are interesting and make great conclusions to the story, but the difference between them is large, and readers will have a strong preference toward one, even if they appreciate both of them Ursula Le Guin and Shirley Jackson both accomplish the task of writing a short story that allows readers to get a glimpse at immoral societies. They do this in very different ways due to their varied writing styles and choices in terms of points of view and descriptions. These choices the authors make lead to a discrepancy when it comes to the amount readers are involved and invested in the story. But the amount of investment can be a positive or negative thing, because readers are different, and some prefer attachment while others prefer detachment. It comes down to the type of story the author is writing, and whether they want to have their readers to be part of the story. When it comes to “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas,” Le Guin wanted her readers to be completely invested in the society she created, to the point where they were able to imagine it how they wanted it to be. This caused the readers to struggle with their own morality as they were faced with the neglected child who was locked away and forced to suffer for the sake of the utopia that the people in Omelas, including the reader, benefitted from. This is also why the ending of the story was ambiguous, because the author wanted the reader to see that there was the option to either accept the mistreatment of the child while continuing to live in a utopia, or to walk away, facing an uncertain and unknown future. In “The Lottery,” Jackson chose to not involve or invest her reader, but to instead just give them the same position of the narrator, an observer. The reader couldn’t choose how they wanted the town to be, and they weren’t given excessive details about how wonderful the setting was, or faced with a specific person who was suffering because of the immorality of the society. (continued on next page)

. Instead, the reader is an outsider who is just reading the conversations between the characters, and reading the story unfold through the ritual of the lottery. The reader isn’t faced with making a decision about the lottery, they have to read that a woman is getting stoned to death by her own friends and family. The reader is not as emotionally invested or involved in what’s going on like in “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas.” But being detached can have benefits as well because the reader’s judgment isn’t as clouded, they can clearly see how wrong this society functions. In stories about immoral and twisted societies, it is a better approach to not involve the readers emotionally, and instead let them be an observer, so they can realize the full extent to which the society is unethical and harmful.

My review of the show

Never trust a pretty girl with an ugly secret. The tagline for the hit series Pretty Little Liars immediately creates intrigue. It was marketed as “Desperate Housewives for teens,” and compared to Gossip Girl, but Pretty Little Liars is definitely not in any other show’s shadow, and it is not another frivolous teen soap. Pretty Little Liars proves is not only an entertaining television show that sucks you into the central mystery, but it is triumphant in portraying realistic characters and relationships with each other and their families. The premise of the show revolves around four girls; Spencer, Hanna, Emily, and Aria, who have drifted apart during the year their friend and Queen Bee Alison disappeared, but are brought back together by the news that Alison was murdered, and someone is taunting them with secrets only Alison knew, via text message. The person doing this poses as simply, -A. As –A’s threats escalate and get more dangerous, the girls try to figure out who is behind it. While this concept for a TV show may be looked at by some as ridiculous or over the top, it sets up for a high stakes and mature theme for a show, and it makes it possible for the show to have storylines that are not only entertaining, but can resonate well with the audience. Technology is so prevalent today, but so is bullying, and the two go hand in hand quite often. Many people have gone through what the main characters on the show are enduring, even if it is on a much smaller scale. The viewers can easily sympathize with the four leads through relating their own real life experiences to what the girls’ are being faced with. An important and unique element of Pretty Little Liars is that the four main characters are all girls who are very different from one another, but still are able to be portrayed as individuals, and developed characters with layers instead of becoming overdone stereotypes. (continued on next page)

Spencer begins the show as the “smart” one, but is so much more. She is under constant pressure from her family to be the best, and is fiercely competitive and intense. She is also the least trusting and is guarded. But as the show continues, she has vulnerable moments, including a mental breakdown and contemplating suicide. She is also the most protective of her friends. Hanna starts out as being the “it girl,” who is popular and seems superficial, but she struggles with an eating disorder and is insecure. However, as the show goes on she gains confidence, and doesn’t let anyone mistreat her because she discovers her own worth, and is the character that has the biggest sense of humor. Emily is the “sweet” one, who doesn’t speak up for herself often, and avoids conflict. She hides the fact that she is a lesbian by dating a guy. But after being labeled the weak link by –A and being tormented, she becomes brave and bold, and embraces her sexuality, even after facing disapproval from her mother. Aria is introduced as the “artsy” one, and is a loner. But she deals with her father manipulating her into keeping the knowledge about his affair from her mother. She feels guilt due to keeping it a secret, and the pressure to keep her family together. Pretty Little Liars creates four leads who are all unique and developed, and viewers will have no trouble relating to at least one of them, and caring about the struggles and obstacles the character endures. Something that is always being shown on Pretty Little Liars how strong the bond Spencer, Hanna, Aria, and Emily have. While the romantic relationships are part of the show and get screen time, the friendships are always highlighted and emphasized much more often. I think this is definitely one of the best parts of the show. There are so many shows, especially targeted at teen girls, which show friendships in which there is backstabbing, gossip, and conflict over a guy. Pretty Little Liars never does this. In the first season, when Hanna and Sean have a fight at the Homecoming dance, Sean dances with Aria and in school the next day gives her flowers and shows interest in wanting to date her. Aria tells him that Hanna is her best friend, and to talk to her about their disagreement. In so many other shows, Aria would have done something like started to date Sean in secret. But instead, she doesn’t get into a relationship with Sean because she doesn’t want to hurt Hanna.

Another instance in which the show proves how strong and important the friendship is between the four leads is when Emily admits she is a lesbian. The other girls do not judge her or treat her any differently than they did before they found out. Hanna tells her she loves her no matter who she dates. Spencer lets Emily and her girlfriend Maya spend time together at her house when Emily’s mother, disgusted by Emily’s confession of being a lesbian, forbids Emily from seeing Maya. There are so many moments throughout the show where the girls are loving and supportive of each other and put their friendship before romantic relationships, and I think it sets Pretty Little Liars apart from so many shows but especially shows targeting the same demographic.

The four main Pretty Little Liars characters (from left to right): Aria Montgomery, Emily Fields, Spencer Hastings, Hanna Marin.

The family relationships in Pretty Little Liars are also done exceptionally well. My favorite is Hanna’s relationship with her mom, Ashley. Hanna’s dad left them for another woman, and replaced Hanna with this woman’s daughter. Despite the lack of support, Hanna’s mom works hard to provide for them. Ashley makes sacrifices to ensure Hanna gets everything she needs, but Hanna supports her too. (continued on next page)

When they were behind on mortgage payments, Hanna sells purses and accessories on eBay to try to help her mom with money. I loved Hanna’s relationship with her mom because it showed how single moms struggle and how their kids can step up to help. They just have each other, and that causes them to be really protective and caring of one another, resulting in a close and loving relationship. On the other side of the spectrum, the show also sheds light on families that are less supportive, which is very realistic. Spencer’s parents are always away on business trips, leaving her alone much of the time, and when they do interact, she is criticized and made to feel like she can’t measure up to her sister Melissa, who is favored by her parents. It is shown throughout the course of the show that Spencer’s true family isn’t her biological one, but her friends and boyfriend, Toby. Both of these types of families are common in America, and the show is able to accurately represent both of them in way that viewers are able to connect to. Pretty Little Liars is a television show that in my opinion, does not get enough credit or accolades. It does have a large teen audience, and centers around four girls getting threats from an anonymous person, causing many people to not take it seriously. But the most important and prevalent part of the show is the relatable characters, and their relationships with each other and their family. The show succeeds wonderfully at developing these characters and their relationships. I’m so happy I decided to give the show a chance, and I think if others also did, they would be surprised at how invested they can get in the exceptional characters and their realistic relationships.

Brainstorming: Rhetorical Analysis Essay

The text I decided to rhetorically analyze is the short story titled “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson. The setting is a rural village with a population of about three hundred people. In this village, a ritual called “the lottery” takes place every year. People gather and select a paper slip from a box, with the heads of households taking slips first, and then everyone else in the families does so. A woman gets the “lottery,” the paper with the black dot. She protests about it being unfair, but it is in vain as the citizens rush to stone her to death. I thought this story would be interesting to analyze because of the irony of it. The lottery modern America is a prize everyone wants to win. But in this story the “winner” will be sacrificed in order to keep the summer harvest happening, and to keep things the way they are. You definitely don’t gain anything from “winning” the lottery, and the citizens naturally dread it. Yet they keep participating in it and not protesting because it is tradition. It is these two things I intend to analyze and provide my insight on. I want to analyze how this story embodies the status quo in an extreme example, with holding onto traditions and ideas that are outdated and not beneficial, and how being a part of a group can prohibit you from taking an individualist approach and realizing that the tradition you are helping to preserve could be harmful and illogical.

I want to analyze how this story embodies the status quo in an extreme example, with holding onto traditions and ideas that are outdated and not beneficial, and how being a part of a group can prohibit you from taking an individualist approach and realizing that the tradition you are helping to preserve could be harmful and illogical. I want to concentrate on how it is shown that some of the citizens, including the woman stoned, are against the lottery due to mentions of them being nervous and displaying nonverbal sings of being uncomfortable, yet they participate in it anyway because it is a tradition and the group as a whole does not question it. I also want to mention a character who does not want the lottery to be outlawed, and believes it benefits the village, in order to show the contrasting beliefs.

Brainstorming: Ad Pitch For my Ad Pitch, I decided to bring awareness about something that is a prevalent and problematic issue in today’s society. Due to advancing technology, the media has the power to damage a girl’s self-esteem through deceptive images of models and celebrities that use Photoshop, heavy make-up, and other retouching techniques. There are many girls who do not realize the extent to which technology is used to make these women in magazines look flawless, which can cause them to develop eating disorders and other unhealthy habits and ways of thinking. I am interested in presenting statistical facts, as well as visual evidence such as before and after pictures of models and celebrities that undergo Photoshop. An ad I found that has a similar goal is called “Dove Evolution.” It is short and to the point, thus catching the viewer’s attention. The tone is very matter of fact and serious because it does not contain any preamble or narration. There is no speech because it is not needed, the story being told doesn’t need explanation to be powerful. It shows a model who is initially without any kind of makeup or other beauty products. It then shows in sped-up time, the model’s face getting make-up fully applied, and hair being professionally styled, and her picture is taken. The creator of the ad makes a very wise decision by showing the computer with the model’s picture, and then

allowing the viewer see the Photoshop effects being applied one by one, drastically changing the original picture, which was already unrealistic due to all of the hair and make-up done on the model. Showing what truly goes on behind the scenes by revealing how the Photoshop is done makes the ad extremely persuasive to the viewer because there is nothing hidden or left to speculate about. The creator of the ad contrasts this with the final scene of the ad, which shows the model’s Photoshopped face on a billboard, with two people walking by stopping to admire it. This is intended to show how society is affected by these unrealistic images while being in the dark to the true reality of what these models look like and what goes on behind the scenes. The overall tone of the ad is very serious, and the effect of it is informative to the general public. The ad ends with a statement for the viewers to think about, “No wonder our perception of beauty is distorted.” • Dove Evolution: An ad I found that had a style that appealed to me was called “The Media’s Distortion of Beauty.” I found it when I was looking for my first ad that was related to my topic. I thought this ad had a style similar to what I want to do for my Ad Pitch. This ad utilized a slide show type of presentation, using a program like PowerPoint, which is what I intend to do. I like the style because it allows versatility and the ability to incorporate types of media while also including text, while still being easy to create, which makes it feasible for this assignment. I intend to adopt a similar style used in this video by using an accessible program like PowerPoint. I want to include statistics and important facts in my ad while also using relevant pictures and gifs that relate to my topic, such as before and after pictures and videos of models and celebrities before and after Photoshop has been applied. • The Media’s Distortion of Beauty:

Brainstorming: Substantial Revision For my substantial revision, I plan to focus on my ethnography. I chose to revisit this essay because it was my lowest grade, and throughout the paper I failed to formulate a clear argument. Due to this, I suffered from a lack of direction and focus. It was not technically a true ethnography because I did not have a solid argument. In order to overcome this problem, I plan to attend more of the meetings of the club I selected, and interview more people as well as use surveys to collect data and statistics that I can include in my revised ethnography. Instead of summarizing my evidence like I did in my original ethnography, my new data and observations will serve a true purpose in the larger scope of my ethnographic study. In terms of revision, this new paper will undergo a lot of necessary changes in order to make it an ethnography. Global revision will take place because I am changing my direction and arguments in my paper. I will also look at each paragraph of my paper and make necessary changes, resulting in substantive revision as well. I will also rephrase statements and fix any grammar mistakes. A lot of revision will be done with organization, and including stronger ethnographic evidence, and analyzing this evidence in relation to not only the club, but the campus and local community as well as how it relates to the political ideology in society as a whole. I plan to accomplish this by establishing a fresh thesis. My new focus will be on either analyzing the club’s view of a political issue, such as abortion, or on how the imbalance of Conservatism vs. Liberalism on college campuses can affect communities and society. I feel like either one of these focuses will enable me to possess a clear direction and be able to support it with relevant arguments. My original ethnography was more of a report and summarization of the community I was observing, whereas my new ethnography will have a clear focus and argument due to substantial revision. (Editor’s note: As mentioned in my note in the beginning, I ended up doing my substantial revision on my rhetorical analysis essay instead of my ethnography. Writing the reading response shown above helped me figure that out, and it is why as a writer, brainstorming your writing ideas is so important.)

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