posted by Carol Shih
(I’m sending my work to TheMorningNews.org. It’s an online magazine that publishes personal essays on art and life and all that good stuff.)
I composed this piece after reading the NY Times’ Wedding section for the past couple years. It’s an opinion piece that explores my fascination and disgust with their coverage of rich, elite weddings. I don’t have any previous credentials… but you could help me make some
Author: carol shih
Phone: 972 922 3182
Address: Box 93483, Duke University, Durham, NC 27708
Posted by Carol Shih
Eriks Reks: Bookworm’s Manifesto
I know everyone likes Eriks’ Bookworm Manifesto, but so do I! I don’t want to overdo the commentary on this particular work, but…I like it. I really do. Maybe it has something to do with my own fascination with children’s books. Here’s my favorite part:
What was your favorite book as a kid?
I know mine was this book called Little Fur Family by Margaret Wise Brown.
It was furry. I mean, it was actually, literally, sensorially—however many ways you want to
say it—wrapped in its own coat of fur.
See picture (too bad you can’t touch):
When my mom read to my brothers and I, we always wanted to touch it. “But I wanna hold
it!!!” we would cry.
Now, I don’t think these are the best lines that Eriks has ever written. (He’s got some great lines in his other piece.) But he has this effortless way of capturing memories, senses, feelings in very simple words. His sentences aren’t complex, you see. He doesn’t load them with terms you can’t understand. He’s speaking to you on your own terms. And that’s what I love about his voice (not his speaking voice.. well, his speaking voice is nice too… but you know what I mean). His words make me want to wrap myself in fur and touch the furry book. (Is that weird?)
Janet Li: On the Job
6:30 AM. My boss, Melvin, otherwise known as
“Jai” (pronounced JAY), wakes up. Once his eyes are
opened, he reaches for his MacBook Pro, just an armslength
away, and checks and sends any emails he needs
to at that moment, “while in bed, mind you.” He
proceeds to read some news. This morning, he browses
the USA Today and reads all the sections, though he
finds the international and science-related news to be
the most interesting.
I don’t know if I like this section best. I think I just like the whole thing! Why? Again, I am drawn to the simplicity of Janet’s language. It’s clear and direct. She doesn’t add any frills to it because she doesn’t need to. Her profile of Jai feels like it’s spot-on even though I don’t know Jai at all. But, after reading her piece, I feel like I am connected to him. I also like how the piece is set up according to the time of day!
posted by Carol Shih
I plan to submit my Project Two piece, “Elite Weddings” to Duke’s Office of News and Communications. The office invites faculty and members of the Duke community to submit articles to their op-ed program where they’ll publish it on their website.
The Office of News and Communications is geared mainly toward the Duke community, but often their articles get picked up by local newspapers. Instructions for submitting an article are located here:
According to their webpage, I’ll have to limit my piece to 750 words (no problem!) and make it seem more relevant (that’s slightly a problem). But aren’t weddings always relevant?
Although my piece may not be news-worthy, I think it will be a good fit for this publication because my piece is already written in the form of an op-ed. Plus the editor, Keith Lawrence, will work with you help make your op-ed ready to submit. What a good deal!
Posted by Carol Shih
This piece grew from my X4, when we had to write about a text of some sort. Most of the beginning stayed the same, and I inserted more of my opinion in subsequent drafts. Verbalizing why I liked reading the Wedding Section was the most difficult part. I’m not used to thinking so hard about why I like certain things! It was a good process, though, and it taught me how to diiiiig deeeeep.
by Carol Shih
There is no point to writing. Really. The words just vanish off the page and the second you read this, you’ll forget everything that you’ve read anyways. If you’ve already read this far, I apologize for wasting your time; I should have told you sooner.
You can stop here, if you’d like.
If you made it past the dotted lines, I cannot help you any longer. Well, if you’re still reading, then you might as well. This is where I start telling you interesting things. Thoughtful things. Things that you’ve never heard before and things that you will probably forget soon after reading this. I will make a bold statement about the world and how you and I are intertwined–interconnected–whatever–
I’ll talk about me and all my transgressions and bring up shit that you don’t even want to know but you do want to know so you can feel like you know me. I’ll write to you like you’re my best friend and try to include you in the conversation, but it’s really just a ploy because the entire essay is about I I I I I I mememememe I I I I I.
And maybe, as you are reading, you will feel increasingly more brilliant. Your brain cells feel like they are multiplying and your brain will probably be too big for your head fairly soon, because you think every word is genius, pure genius. You will be fooled into thinking that this essay is about life and you’re reconsidering how you see life. And you’ll resolve to CHANGE. (Whatever that means.) You’ll decide to write down every stupid thought that comes to your head after this, and maybe write an essay like this one that displays your pure genius.
Really? Let’s be honest. All you’ve done is read a couple hundred words and wasted your time. Just imagine yourself with those extra five minutes you just wasted reading these pointless words. You could have depleted the world of fresh water with an extra long shower, yelled rude things to your neighbor who lets his dog pee in your yard, put on some deodorant instead of… not, prank-called your boss and told him to shower more, walked in circles until you felt too dizzy to walk anymore, cooked your kids a good breakfast with eggs and bacon instead of handing them a Jimmy Dean sandwich (who died just recently, by the way), and cleaned the mold on your toilet.
Instead, you’ve decided to read this.
This piece began as I sat down to write my X3. I had no idea what I was going to write about and it was already 10 o’clock in the evening. Inspiration came when I looked around my room- procrastinating, of course-and saw my tin foil man hanging on the lamp above my head. He represents a campus culture of weird art, and he’s the creation of a quirky and lovable friend of mine. Through many drafts, I included more details on how and why my friend decided to make these foil men. I’ve also tried writing more anecdotally in order to invite the reader in the story. In this last draft, I’ve included a new section on Beth Doyle, and tried weaving pictures of the aluminum men and the words together.
Posted by Carol Shih
Sarah Vowell is obsessed with death, but she makes her characters come alive. Her book, Assassination Vacation, is teeming with living, breathing dead people who ought to be rotting in their graves. I love how Powell approaches these great historical figures in American history. They are not just monuments of justice and glory—they’re people. And they have these straaaange relationships with one another (like Jackie Kennedy’s affair with Warnecke, JFK’s grave-maker).
And when Vowell gets down to describing assassinations, she runs the full mile… and more:
“Powell ran up the stairs with the bleeding Fred on his heels. The two burst into Secretary Seward’s room. Powell sliced at Seward with a Bowie knife. Fanny screamed. Robinson jumped Powell, pulling him off Seward. Powell decided to escape, hitting and slicing at the air willy-nilly.” (p 31)
She puts you RIGHT THERE. In the midst of the action! (Her Lincoln assassination is just as exciting too.) Best of all, there’s a lot of blood. There’s something with the way that Sarah Vowell sets up a scene. She not only paints it for you; she invites you in, really. You’re a guest in this world. For a moment, you’re watching Sec. Seward as he’s lying in bed, and then you’re racing up the stairs with Powell who’s slashing at everybody with his knife.
Is her book historical and informative? Yes, of course. But with her addition of all these extra, random and quirky facts— I don’t think I’ll forget what I’ve read.
Posted by Carol Shih
Brian Doyle sounds like he’s thinking out loud on paper, but he’s not. See, it’s tricky. It’s an allusion; what he doesn’t want you to see is that he is crafting a symphony of melodies with a two-page essay. While I was reading “The Greatest Nature Essay Ever,” I felt like Milo in The Phantom Tollbooth, a childhood favorite of mine. Doyle takes us on his travels from paragraph to paragraph, and no two lands are the same. Take this one, for example:
“Then an odd paragraph, this is a most unusual and peculiar essay, for right here where you would normally expect those alpine Conclusions, some Advice, some Stern Instructions & Directions, there’s only the quiet murmur of the writer tiptoeing back to the story he or she was telling you in the second and third paragraphs. The story slips back into view gently, a little shy, holding its hat, nothing melodramatic, in fact it offers a few gnomic questions without answers…”
He brings characters out of nothing! He personifies certain words and gives them sounds, feelings, texture. Each sentence is perfectly placed, and he is so very aware of his sentence’s effects. Some are chunky long-winded sentences when he’s talking about being mesmerized by a nature essay, and some are shorter, like “probably the sentences get shorter, more staccato. terser. blunter. shards of sentences.”
This week, when I was sitting down to write my X3, I knew that I wanted to emulate some of Doyle’s writing. I wanted to speak to my reader the way that his essay spoke to me, like a friend who knows you pretty well and who you would entrust with your silly secrets. I’m not sure if I succeeded, but it was fun to try a different style of writing and to use italics like Doyle. Did I have the same effect? I have no clue, but it was definitely a refreshing experience.
In sixth grade, I sat with a group of prissy girls who wrinkled their noses whenever I took out my lunch. These girls’ lunches often consisted of the same thing: PB&J (on fancy days, ham-and-cheese) sandwiches, a bag of potato chips or cookies, and a drink. My lunches, packed by my Taiwanese mother, were usually leftovers from last night’s dinner: rice and eggplant in oyster sauce, roasted pork and egg, or tofu and a black thousand-year-old-egg. Naturally, by the end of the year, I’d converted to PB&J sandwiches and left my chopsticks at home.
When Anne Lamott compares school lunches to writing in her book, bird by bird, I know exactly what she means. Lamott writes, “It was really about opening our insides in front of everyone. Just like writing is. It was a precursor of the showers in seventh-and eighth-grade gym, where everyone could see your everything or your lack of everything… The contents of your lunch said whether or not you and your family were Okay… There was a code, a right and acceptable way. It was that simple.” (pg 34)
I have to admit that I cringed inside when I found out our first writing assignment for this class was about a past event or experience that we had. It meant that I had to write about myself, and I had to spill my guts to 12 or 13 other strangers. I’m not interesting enough to become the focus of a piece. Emotions? Not for me. Feelings? I have none. And maybe I’m just a little afraid of telling people about the dark cracks in my past and family history. What if I go too far and see all the dirt that’s inside of me? Maybe I just want everyone to think that I’m Okay and that I’m acceptable.
I’m not quite sure how to end this post and where to go from here. I don’t have a concrete solution. Lamott’s book gives useful tips, hints, and suggestions, but it assumes that you want to spill your blood and guts on paper and you just don’t know how. I… well… I’m a completely different case. I’m scared.