[Click the link: "Read More" to continue reading about Hillora's Wentworth trip]
It was a rather complex set of influences which led to my experiences abroad, on the first time that I have traveled overseas. Having been severely limited in my social and experiential life by the developmental disability Asperger Syndrome, I had never considered that I might be able to travel to the places I dreamed of seeing since I was a child. In the spring of 2012 I changed my program at UNCW to a double-major in Creative Writing and English, and learned about the Wentworth Fellowship, which enabled English majors and minors to travel abroad on a research trip. Suddenly, I felt that it was time to confront my limitations and see if I could overcome them once again, as I have done many times already; simply by starting college, finishing two two-year degrees, transferring to UNCW, and achieving academic success beyond anything I had imagined myself capable of, I had proved that I could do just about anything I set my mind to.
Saturday, March 15, 2014
Friday, February 28, 2014
|The hotel we're staying at. This is the convention location too!|
We are having a fabulous time in Savannah so far. Kathleen and I arrived on Friday and spent the night at the Opening Event. We had the chance to hear Alison Bechdel give a reading. She was hilarious! Kathleen read her graphic memoir, Fun Home, in a previous class. I'm definitely interested in looking at her work after this.
|A slide from Bechdel's reading|
Renee arrived late last night, and Ms. Sumerel and Ellen arrived today! We're so happy to start the first full day of the conference. We set up our Outstanding Chapter display and attended the Scholarships and Awards Ceremony. We were one of two chapters present who received the Outstanding Chapter Award! Thanks to all the hard work and effort each member puts into being a part of this chapter. Also, a major shoutout to Ellen Watts for creating a winning application for the award.
|All of us with the Outstanding Chapter Award|
Then we attended the Regional Networking session. We had the opportunity to meet others from the Southern region, including the student representatives. We also found out we won a Common Reader Award for our Coming of Age Roundtable Discussion from last month! Wow...great job everyone!
We couldn't wait to eat dinner after such an eventful day. We ate at Spanky's and decided to call it an early night to prepare for another busy day on Friday.
Ms. Sumerel had an early morning with an 8:00AM panel she was the moderator for. This panel was titled: Twentieth Century Literature. Then Ms. Sumerel, Kathleen, and Ellen attended the Business Session and Regional Caucuses. I walked by the Chapter Merchandise Sales and saw some great t-shirts. One shirt said, "Sherlock is my Holmes boy." Another shirt read, "Cool story, Poe." :-D Unfortunately, when I went back later to purchase one they were all sold out...such a bummer. Moral of the story: If you go to the convention next year make sure you buy your shirts really early.
Renee presented her paper, "The Beats Move On," in the Contemporary American Literature panel. She did a fantastic job!
|Renee presenting her paper|
Next, I presented my paper, "Children of the Pedro Pan Airlift: Impact on Relationships," in the Latin American Literature panel. I was nervous about the Q&A session but we had great questions and a great discussion between the panelists. Our practice session last month really helped a lot. Thanks to all of you who were able to offer us advice and help us prepare.
At the Regional Networking session we met a Sigma who is here from the University of Alabama- Huntsville and she is the only one here from her chapter. We ran into her again today and she attended my session. She joined us for a nice dinner at the Pirates' House.
|The Mango Chili Glazed Salmon...yum!|
One more day in Savannah! We didn't have any presentations or sessions scheduled for today, so we explored more of the city. Moon River Brewing Company was our choice for lunch. We found Savannah's City Market and spent some time in the shops. My favorite places from the day were Savannah's Candy Kitchen and the Savannah Bee Company. The candy shop had free samples of milk chocolate pecan fudge. Savannah Bee Company had free samples of honey and it was all delicious! I couldn't help buying some to bring home. My favorite is the Orange Blossom (the Winter White is a close second). We also caught a glimpse of a wedding that just ended by the river.
After a day of walking around the city, we went back to the hotel to drop off our shopping bags and to rest before our last dinner in Savannah.
The convention has been an incredible experience! I highly recommend submitting papers and trying to be a part of the next one, which will be in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Savannah, Georgia has been one of the friendliest cities I've been to. The people at the hotel were always hospitable and willing to help us in any they could--offering tips on the best restaurants and telling us the best spots to explore. This week has been filled with great papers, scholars, literary discussion, and fun adventures in one of the oldest cities in Georgia.
Tuesday, February 18, 2014
Saturday, February 8, 2014
The first time I realized I wanted to be an English major was my junior year in High School. My English class was reading “A Tale of Two Cities,” and every day we would discuss what we read the night before. My teacher, Mrs. Hicks, would ask us to analyze certain passages from the book and give a deeper meaning. I found that while I was analyzing I was actually enjoying it! Because I thought Mrs. Hicks was one of the most intelligent people I knew, I wanted to be an English teacher just like her.
When I was given the prompt for my first college paper I was so excited to get started. The day it was due I couldn’t wait to turn it in and leave my professor in awe. Within the next week I was given my paper back with a little red letter written on the top right corner. Nothing says ‘reality’ like a ‘C-.’ Through the next few months my writing became better, but my hopes of being an English major were crushed. However, I persevered and decided my patience could not handle watching children all day.
I ended up changing my concentration to Professional Writing with a minor in Journalism. After taking some field experience classes and writing many stories I have no need to fear that little red letter on the top of my papers.
Monday, January 13, 2014
I’ve had assassins on the brain, considering I devoured Dualed and Throne of Glass by Sarah Maas within the space of two days. These books have their differences but they both have something to do with awesome ladies who are prepared to do anything to win their freedom.
Dualed is set in the city of Kersh, where everyone has a genetic alternate twin, or Alt. Tailored to look exactly like them, each person has to kill their Alt in order to remain within the society. The whole idea is to build a city of soldiers to protect the city from the Surround, which is the rest of the war-torn world former United States. From age ten to twenty, each young adult in Kersh has the chance of being activated, in which they are given the origin point of their Alt and 30 days to kill them, or a code within their genetic makeup will kill them both. The main character is West, the last child still alive in her family.
The entire premise of this book sounds amazing, and it was a fun literary adventure! The execution was a little shaky with the shoddy world-building and somewhat wooden side characters, but there was plenty of action and intrigue.
One of the things that bothered me though was West’s narration. Is there such a thing as being too much in the head of the narrator? If so, that’s how I felt Dualed was. I enjoy knowing the thoughts and the motivations of a character, but it felt like too much. And that may be great for some people, but not for me. A character’s motivations should be present through their actions rather than in-head expository monologuing. I know the phrase “show, don’t tell” is too overused, but it is perfect in this case.
Other than my overwhelming desire to get completely out of West’s head because she sounded like a pull-string doll of a Female Dystopian Protagonist, Dualed was good for what it was. There were some plot inconsistencies that made me shake my head and go “but why would they do that?” but for the most part this book was a fun adventure. If you’re in the mood for even more gritty post(ish)-apocalyptic dystopian literature with female protagonists, then Dualed is another one for the lists.
As an English Major, I seldom read as much as I want. Especially outside of assigned readings for class. So, when I bought The Glass Castle in the middle of last semester, I knew I wouldn’t have time to read it until Winter Break. Since reading memoirs is somewhat of a passion of mine, I waited for the last day of class, anxious to begin a book that a former professor had suggested for me. When, by midterms, I had finished half the book in a state of procrastination, I realized it was time to put it down and get back to my class work. The next weeks I spent waiting for finals to be over so I could finish it.
One of the most interesting facets of memoirs is their attention to a specific theme throughout the subject’s life. In Jeannette Walls’ book, The Glass Castle, poverty and ignorance seem to be at the forefront of what she is commenting on. But in the beginning she seems to be not so much commenting, but describing her life. Only later, in the last half of the book, does her voice become stronger with indignation. Walls’ memoir surprised me with its simple honesty and relatable home-life depictions of family. In a small way, I could relate to the poverty surrounding her family, but I could not imagine living in a room with a hole in the roof above my head and no running water inside the house. What I’ve just described is only one of the many surface problems she faced during her childhood. Other, deeper issues existed in her family. Her mother, an artist, could barely be bothered to get out of bed most days. Her father, very much an alcoholic, spent all of the income that the children were able to gather on drinking and “business ventures”, better known as poker games. When, in her late teens, she was able to escape the small town in West Virginia to New York City, she found life in the big city liberating. Several years later, the rest of her siblings joined her there. A few years later still, her parents decided to move there, but lacking the gumption to work for their keep, they were evicted and became homeless. The children took the parents in, one at a time, but eventually the parents took over their homes. The children were forced to offer an ultimatum: clean the place up, or move out. The parents moved out. Still later, the parents found an abandoned building to “squat” in, and lived there for the remainder of the book. In the last few chapters, Walls discovers that her mother owns incredibly valuable land in Texas, but will not sell it. The land was worth approximately one million dollars. Her parents chose to be homeless.
Walls shows how complicated family life can be. She shows how alcoholism can wreck an entire family, but she also shows how sympathetic degenerative relationships can be. Her book spurred on my passion for reading and writing memoirs, and gave me some valuable information on how a good memoir progresses.
Saturday, January 11, 2014
As a recipient of the Wentworth Scholarship this year, I have dedicated much of my recreational reading to biographies and interviews of Ernest Hemingway. To give myself a reprieve from my studies of a young Hemingway in Paris, as my own adventure in Paris approaches, I picked up The Paris Wife by Paula McLain. The novel is a historical fiction of Hemingway’s life in Paris and first marriage to Hadley Richardson. While the book was not exactly the escape from my studies I had envisioned, I decided this would be a fun way to stay on task.
The novel chronicles the journey of Hadley and Ernest when they first meet in Chicago. The story winds through the ups and downs of their marriage as the couple find there way through the streets of Paris and Europe, all the while with Ernest working toward his first novel, The Sun Also Rises. The Paris Wife is a clear homage to Hemingway’s journey of becoming one of America’s greatest writers. The novel is written from the first person perspective of Hadley, and the reader is sure to fall in love with McLain’s characterization of Hemingway along with her. Although the reader must keep in mind that the book is complete fiction and does not in any way represent the true nature of Hadley and Ernest’s characters and relationship with one another, the book makes an important and interesting point; Ernest became the writer he wanted to be when he went on this journey to Paris with Hadley. While my work for the Wentworth is to prove that the place, Paris, is what pushed and inspired Hemingway to finally publish his first novel, I realized while reading The Paris Wife that it was not just Paris that encouraged him to complete his novel, but the people in his life too, particularly his wife. It’s the complete experience as a whole that is inspiring; the people, the places, the events, the feelings, and the actions; the very elements that Ernest himself wanted to capture in his own writing.
McLain’s novel is a well-crafted fiction with all the accuracies of a true timeline to almost make the reader believe it is true. As Hemingway himself said: “All good books have one thing in common – they are truer than if they had really happened.” I believe The Paris Wife falls under this category. Whether you are a devout Hemingway fan or looking for a book to escape into, McLain’s novel is a woven tale of one of the world’s greatest literary giants, and paints a provocative interpretation of the beginnings of Ernest Hemingway.