Clarissa Gordon: sharing her voice from Rutgers University

Clarissa Gordon is a sophomore Journalism major and Creative writing minor at Rutgers University. A good friend of mine, she was born and raised in New York City and we have always shared a passion for reading and writing. She currently writes for the Daily Targum, a student-written and student-managed newspaper and for Trim magazine, the fashion magazine on campus. Whether her articles take a journalistic approach or they include a version of herself I have always admired her writing. I chose to her to do my digital writer profile on because I hoped to learn about how she implements her voice and grows as a writer despite limitations and the influences and inspirations behind her work.

I began our conversation by asking Clarissa how she got involved in writing outside of the classroom

Clarissa: I took a basic writing for journalism and media class my first semester of sophomore year and realized I had a knack for reporting, especially with the current political climate and my overall interest in current events so I decided to pop into the Targum offices. It only took me two articles before they offered me a position as a correspondent and on the side I write for Trim.

Clarissa, typical to most New Yorkers, has always had a special interest in current events that deal with entertainment and pop culture. So even on a large campus like Rutgers she connects her interests by writing articles on a campus Spring Drag Show and Rutgers FORM (Fashion Organization of Retail and Marketing) fashion show showcases.

What version of yourself are you trying to portray online through your articles?

 Clarissa: Well first things first as a journalist I’m never to insert my opinions into my articles – maybe if I’m writing a review on an art exhibition or a fashion show, but even then, opinion is scarce. Trim is where I’m allowed to really be creative and use my voice: I mostly write for the love and lust column, and as someone who considers themselves a sex positive feminist, I try to empower my female readers, which I think is especially important on a college campus where young women might struggle finding or accepting themselves.

I admire Clarissa as a writer because I have always known her as a strongly opinionated person and she uses her voice to advocate issues that are important to shed light on.

What are some things you keep in mind when writing something new?

Clarissa: I mostly just try to showcase clear and concise writing skills while at the same time making sure my article is interesting and attention-grabbing.

And lastly I asked, what inspires/influences you as a writer?

 Clarissa: Ever since I can remember I’ve always liked to write – I used to sit down in front of my first laptop and jot down chapters of novels in like elementary school…so that passion has always kind of been there. More recently, I think I was definitely inspired by Lena Dunham and how she’s a great writer on so many levels – she can be a journalist and a story teller when she wants to be, but she’s also great at writing jokes and films and tv shows and basically anything she sets her mind to. I’m also inspired by young women I know personally who are writing for Vogue and the New Yorker. Their salaries aren’t the best, but when you’re a writer, money isn’t really ever the end goal.

 

Cliff Kretkowski: A Profile in Forms of Writing

Cliff Kretkowski is a father of 3 boys, a salesman, pastor, and writer in his free time. More specifically, he is my dad and one of few people I actively follow and am intrigued by on social media that I can actually contact. His posts on Facebook are what I specifically dissect, as that is his primary form of social media communication. The subjects of the posts are varied, some dealing with music, others with prayer and religious concepts, and other areas of interest in my father’s life. I recently spoke with my dad over the phone and conducted a casual interview with him in regards to Cliff Kretkowski the writer. The purpose of our discussion was to identify the process through which Cliff creates his posts, and to see his thoughts on that writing as compared to the written word of literature, an area he has dabbled in throughout his adult life.

Who is the intended audience of your posts on Facebook, as based upon the videos and links you include it could be several different types of people.

Well that’s actually a really good question, because sometimes you’ll see if I see something about, ya know, Metallica, or something like that I’ll directly make the post out to you, but then the other day I posted that song about Nanny [Cliff’s mother] and made some comments, or then even the other day one about the Grateful Dead. Those, I think you see, are for a general audience, because it’s a sweeping kind of a comment or issue being made. I generally feel that’s how I post.

Whenever you post do you try to have some sort of media within the post, whether it be a video or a picture, or does it just kind of happen?

I think that’s the inspiration. You know, now that you say that I think I rarely post without an attachment. I don’t really ever just go ‘Hey, I’m having spaghetti for dinner’, I usually just hear a song or see something of interest and I’ll post that with a comment on it. It kinda broadens the picture, or the video, or the anecdote. The attachments branch my post out to the people who see it.

What is the difference in writing on the Internet as compared to writing for a book, in regards to when speaking on similar issues and different ones?

Now thinking back to your last question and reflecting on that, when I post something online it’s always commentary on something else. As a writer, or when I journal, it’s always about experiences in my life, not commenting on an anecdote or opinion of someone else.

Do you feel that’s in part due to the medium of conversational social media as compared to books, which have no interface?

Absolutely, When I put something on Facebook I want to share it and allow everyone to have their own reflections on it. But when I’m writing for a book I’m calculating, I’m writing thoughts, taking experiences, and formulating a comprehensive idea. I’m not necessarily sending out ideas when I’m on Facebook, so it’s very different to me.

Do you have a preference between the two?

I don’t prefer Facebook, because honestly don’t really think there’s a literary component to it aside from the actual act of writing. To me, it’s not a place to convey deep, significant thoughts, it’s more perfunctory. I don’t necessarily sit and ponder over what I’m writing online, I didn’t revise and research parts. To me it’s like having a conversation around the room just with a keyboard.

So would you not consider it then a ‘technical’ form of writing?

No, I don’t. And you’ve seen this, people will use the letter ‘u’ for ‘you’ on Facebook, so people aren’t even thinking of the full context of writing when on Facebook, and they don’t have to, I don’t judge that, it just doesn’t seem like something for someone involved in engaging writing.

 

Overall, my father uses Facebook quite often but doesn’t view it as an alternative or equal to his literary writing, just more so an outlet for thoughts and reflections t be shared amongst friends and family like text messaging. I conducted the interview with my father as I do whenever I call him, a very casual and conversational format. The interviews contents are quite interesting to me and a different perspective from most of the ideas that have been discussed throughout the English 397 course.

My Profile

For my profile, I interviewed my friend Katie. She currently writes for The Review as a Senior Reporter. She hopes to hone her writing skills in this position and apply them beyond UD in her journalism career. My goal for this interview is to probe Katie about some topics we’ve been churning about, plus her writing and where she wants to go with it. I picked Katie to interview because she’s an open person and has experience with different types of writing. I find her tone in her pieces to be exciting enough to keep people interested, but not explosive enough to turn people off.

First things first, I ask her to tell me about the pieces she’s written so far. I wanted to see if they were mostly in one genre, and I found quite the opposite.

“So far it’s been pretty diverse. I have a column, I recently wrote a satire piece for them. I’ve covered a few events, and I’m going to localize a global story for my next piece. I just got published in Delaware Today. It was a sports piece, which is pretty new for me.”

When Katie talks about being on the job as a reporter, her face lights up. I think that is a testament to someone who has found their calling; she is able to adapt in her chosen profession to produce a variety of pieces.

Next I wanted to tackle something we’ve been discussing in class. Being cog in the wheel of journalism, she has a unique perspective on the field and where it’s going. I was looking to see if she’s more Carrful or Boydish by nature.

How do you feel about physical newspapers vs. online publishing? Do you think the internet is destroying the authenticity of reporting or is it a tool for better circulation?

            “I always love seeing my work in the physical newspaper when it comes out-” I can imagine there is an added element excitement to see your words printed in such a form utilized so much powerful writers who came before us. “it makes it feel a lot more real to me. Would it be weird to say I like the smell of them?” I appeased her on this query, but I’m more a book sniffer myself. “That said, I think it would be naïve to say that the internet is singularly destroying or helping newspapers…[it’s] more of a grey area. I think that with the public’s ability to post anything they want, people are wary of the media nowadays and trust the real newspapers much less. But I also think that the internet allows people who may not otherwise read a physical newspaper to get their hands on good journalism. The model is definitely [undergoing] a transition, so I’m excited to see where it will go.”

            We’ve talked a lot about the impression society has of the journalist in our Journalism class. Because of recent events in the news, it is hard for the average person to feel like their news source is as unbiased as possible. Like Katie said, it is hard for the public to trust the media especially newspapers. She touched on something here that we haven’t a lot in class, which is the influx of new readers that have come on the scene because of its availability online. She gives us a good example of this…

            “Students using their UD emails can get a huge discount on The New York Times online. Being a broke college student that I am, I probably couldn’t or wouldn’t shell out the money of a full physical description.” Good to know.

Finally, I asked her about her ultimate goal for her time at The Review. I was looking to see where she wants to go UD and beyond.

“I definitely want to continue to sharpen my skills and begin to write more long form stories, and I also think editing or taking some sort of leadership role would be cool. Long term my dream job would be to have someone pay me to travel and write about it. I’m not sure that job actually exists, but in a perfect world that’s what I would do.”

            To wrap up, I asked her if she had any advice for writing online pieces.

“Try to make it so that every paragraph you’re writing either says something interesting or alludes to something interesting you are going to say later. Each sentence a reader reads should make them want to read more. This keeps your reader on your article. Doing this without being click baity or gimmicky is difficult and requires you to be conscious of each sentence you’re writing, it’s relevance, and how it fits and flows with the piece. Also: don’t use interactive tools. Unless they’re adding something to the story, they can be straight up annoying.”

 

 

Writer to Writer, Friend to Friend

The person I chose to profile and interview is both somebody who I consider good friend of mine, as well as someone who I deeply admire as a writer. Katherine [Katie] Nails is a Senior Reporter for UD’s newspaper, The Review, as well as a freelance contributor to DelawareToday Magazine.

Katie is not only an immensely talented writer, but she is informative and fun to read as well. As a journalist, Katie is charged with the daunting task of keeping her text concise; providing sufficient material while keeping the reader interested and engaged. While I am personally not very adept at getting points across succinctly, the way that Katie writes makes it appear effortless. Moreover, Katie’s terse style does not detract from personal voice or style to the point of banality. Something she does exceptionally well is add flare and creativity to journalistic pieces. One of my favorite lines that she has written comes from a recently published column in The Review about her journey to her birthplace of Chicago following the Cubs 2016 World Series victory. It is the very last line of the piece.

This line epitomizes what it means to be an effective writer: It incorporates voice and creativity without drowning the reader in a sea of words. When reading this quote, I can immediately visualize the atmosphere following a World Series victory, an over joyous crowd of millions forgoing their differences in the name of love for a baseball team and a city. That being said, as a reader I don’t have to bend over backwards to understand the meaning behind the text, and it feels as though I could be having a normal conversation with Katie.

I recently sat down with the author herself for a brief interview regarding her work and the trials and tribulations of being a writer. I started our conversation asking about what appeals to her about writing, and more particularly journalism: “The job itself is like a scavenger hunt for me”, she said.  “It’s like a puzzle that has to be put together. And then the actual writing part is kind of like…I’ve always enjoyed I guess [sic] the creativity of being able to express myself. I’ve always just liked words, but then journalism kind of allows me to use them to make a difference.” Katie enjoys both the hunt for clues and answers that comes with being a reporter, as well as the creative outlet and ability to evoke ideas and change that comes from being a writer in general.

I then proceeded to inquire about who her intended audience is when she writes: “…For the Review, it’s obviously the Review’s readers, who are mostly college students and professor but then I also do…I’m also a columnist, so with my columns…they’re pretty personal to me, but I also try to sort of widen them to get anybody who reads, you know anybody who happens to get their hands on it to see something in another way.” Katie writes to inform her community, which, seeing as she is a college student, happens to be comprised mostly of fellow college students. However, she writes her columns not so much for a specific audience, but for anyone who might enjoy reading a creative piece of writing.

I decided to transition to asking about how she incorporates voice and her own unique style into her writing: “…Well you know me pretty well, I’m fairly sarcastic, I…I don’t know I kind of have like short little quips I guess. And you can definitely see that in my writing…like I said journalism is pretty hard you’re not really allowed to insert your own voice, but…you apply your style through the structure of the story.” I believe we both happened to be a bit confused about terminology here. Personally, I can clearly hear Katie’s voice in her writing, and I definitely can spot where she likes to insert witticisms. However, I think that when she discusses an inability to insert voice in a journalistic piece, that this actually refers to tone. She definitely seeks to be objective in her reporting, but I can still get sense her style, which I think is synonymous with voice, in all of her pieces. Her tone, on the other hand, must not sway one way or another in order to remain unbiased.

Finally, I asked her one last question regarding what she felt to be the most difficult part of her job as a writer: “I mean the most difficult part I think would be…as a journalist your job is to be pushy and make people uncomfortable, but make them still want to talk to you. It’s kind of like finding that line and toeing it but not jumping over it. It’s like a very fine line that we’re constantly walking…” Although I have little journalism experience, I understand this concept: you want to divulge as much valuable information from someone as possible, but you don’t want to turn them off from talking to you. It’s as if you are walking a tightrope.

This interview was very casual, yet informative, and I am happy to have been able to gain new insights into journalism and Katie’s work.

The Fit Equestrian

Lauren Mahr is currently a University of Delaware sophomore student, NASM (National Academy of Sports Medicine) certified personal trainer, a member of the University of Delaware Equestrian Team, and the founder of The Fit Equestrian. The Fit Equestrian consists of workout programs and meal suggestions for horseback riders and workout lovers alike. The fitness programs range from beginner to advanced, and are available online for purchase. Lauren runs The Fit Equestrian Instagram account, website, and newsletter. The Instagram account consists of workout examples and videos, recipes, and general health tips. She currently has over 3,000 followers on Instagram, so, as one of them, I wanted to hear from her to see how she manages to connect with them and keep them coming back for more.

What inspired you to the start The Fit Equestrian?

I was inspired to start The Fit Equestrian because it combines both of my passions, riding and exercise. I knew that fitness was something that was definitely missing in the equestrian world and I want to fix that! We always talk about how riding is just as much of a sport as any other, but we don’t really treat ourselves like athletes.

What factors went into creating your online presence?

I knew that social media would be the best way to try to grow my business. For my target audience, I knew that Instagram would be most effective because I think it is more popular than Facebook or Twitter right now. Growing my following on Instagram will help draw people to my website through the link in my bio.

Do you prefer communicating with your followers/clients more through Instagram or your newsletter?

I just started my newsletter, so I haven’t had much experience with that, but I do like communicating with my followers and clients through Instagram. I anticipate that my newsletter won’t be as interactive as Instagram is. So far I have only sent one email to the people subscribed to my newsletter, thanking them for subscribing, and have not had any responses, but I did not expect to receive any responses.

How is it different when writing your workout programs from writing the general content for your website and Instagram?

When I write my workout programs it is pretty similar to the workout posts that I do on my Instagram but pretty different than most of my other posts on my Instagram. I definitely put more effort and thought into my website and workout programs than I do with my Instagram.

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To check out Lauren’s website click here. To check out her Instagram page click here.

Concentrations of Reddit: Easy Come, Easy Go

Star Wars SubReddit

The Internet is a place of fleeting thoughts and hot topic debates that go as fast as they come. This reality is not always noticed because we all are often part of this culture of short attention, moving from article to tweet to Facebook post as quickly as we take steps down the street, however through the experience of ‘writing as a social action’ it is more profound to me. I took to the social media site of Reddit, which is website that houses thousands of message boards covering every theme and topic one could imagine. It is a website that allows for fans of numerous different subjects to identify with one another and to communicate amongst themselves while sharing thoughts and opinions.

On this occasion I specifically looked into the Reddit page dedicated to the Star Wars franchise, as it is currently a hot topic because of the recent massive convention held in Orlando for the fans. A this convention many of the stars of the films were present, including one Mark Hamill, the man who has portrayed Luke Skywalker for four decades. In an interview he did at Star Wars Celebration he spoke of certain changes he wanted made to the script of Episode 7 of the franchise. There was a thread on the website dealing with this interview, and being there were over 500 comments on the subject I figured it would be a great place to start. So, I left a comment expressing my thoughts on Hamill’s comments early Monday morning and left them to see how others would respond. The response was interesting and harkens back to my opening notes. I received two up votes, which is the equivalent of two likes on Facebook, and I received one response from another Reddit reader. What was interesting about this was that the majority of the 523 total comments made on the post-made Sunday-were prior to my comment Monday morning. The topic was hot for a split second, and then moved past.

Many early comments received dozens, if not more, responses and hundreds of up votes. Could that be that people took to those other posts more than mine? Of course, but I do feel the constantly moving minds of social media users in this day and age is a factor as well. Many of the other posts made around or after mind were not regarded much as well. In fact, very few comments were added to the thread after mine. It was the flavor of the day, and then was moved past. I feel this experiment shows how our culture operates in more than just social media; you must capture the attention of people quickly and then find a way to maintain the grip, otherwise they will get over it. This applies to social media as well as television, film, music, and many other areas of our society. The fleeting attention given to Mark Hamill’s comments is just a statistic in what I feel is a broader mindset across ages and mediums, not just Reddit.

Breaking News: Nothing!

For my Social Action assignment, I made it my objective to try and generate buzz for an upcoming event on campus. I am a part of the RSO V-Day which is dedicated to preventing sexual violence. We talk about life on campus, our reactions to news stories, how women and minorities or portrayed in the media, and a lot more. Plus we host The Vagina Monologues, which I didn’t get to experience until I was in college.

The event is hosted by V-Day and S.A.G.E. and it’s called “What’s Your Monologue?” I was interested in promoting this because I think it can be beneficial to share your perspective and “purge yourself” in a way when you’re feeling discomfort about a certain element of your life. There is a kind of catharsis that comes from getting out all that bad stuff. Maybe because of this event people will feel more supported in the community, get some words of encouragement, or just get something off their chest. Humans all want to be heard and felt like they are listened to, this is an event that supports that desire. I think people might be nervous to potentially share private things to an audience, but I think those who do will feel better as a result.WYM 2017 2

For the assignment I posted on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. I included the picture of the event flyer. For Twitter and Instagram I used more hashtags to accompany the post because that is the norm on those platforms. With each post, I included encouragement to click the picture and read it, which might have deterred some people. I ended up getting an underwhelming response, very few people engaged with my post at all and even less shared or commented. I think it might have been because I used the Twitter and Instagram accounts I made for class. I would have been able to reach a lot more people if I had used my regular accounts, but only a fraction of those people I would reach are in the area. Overall the response was underwhelming; hopefully people saw it and were interested but just didn’t interact with the post.