posted by Dayo Oshilaja
“So they have to come back. Come, touch my car, hell, I’ll give you the keys and you can take it for a ride around campus. But come bacl, bring your little girls. See, I almost got lost in the shuffle and dull prestige of university, the dirty gray of the oft-walked, cracked sidewalks, I mean, the smell of new calculator batteries was almost becoming exciting to me.
I want to live life in color. So come back, please.”
- The Pink House on the Sidewalk or How I Learned to Dream Again, Margarette Kuhrt-
I liked Margarette’s piece from the moment she first read it in class. It has such a strong emotional impact despite its rather quite, conversational tone. Margarette focuses her essay on a seemingly trivial event, two little girls creating a chalk masterpiece, which has a surprisingly large impact on her life. The whole piece is very well-written and Margarette uses the conversational style so well, you almost feel like she is talking right to you. I especially love her subject matter, it’s something we can all relate to and I have felt like this many times before. I chose this quote, which is the ending to her piece, because I think it is such a wonderful example of everything this essay does so well. Thank you for sharing this piece with us Margarette.
- Alexandra McKnight “Tags for the Moment”
I think my favorite piece of this whole semester is Alexandra’s Project One, Tags for the Moment. It’s absolutely beautiful and rife with so many different emotions, heart-break, pain, grief, anger and her ultimate redemption as she learns to move past a difficult relationship. There are so many sections of her essay that I enjoyed including the following:
“Maybe it was for more selfish reasons, like to avoid a feeling I didn’t want to admit was
controlling me: stereotypical female weakness. I had never been the type of girl to lose
herself because of an overgrown ape with a penis (also known as a man) until Monday. I had
become that girl: the one who cries relentlessly while mascara runs down her face and bows
her head before she says, “No really, I’m fine,” then falls into the arms of whoever is
What I like so much about Alexandra’s work is that it is so honest. She doesn’t try to hold anything back including her pain, anger and disillusionment. She lets the reader see and experience it all right along with her. The passage above is a perfect example of that as Alexandra questions her own actions and emotions. But my favorite quote from her piece is the following:
“True love was simple. It was not filled with hidden secrets, insomnia filled nights, or broken
promises. Love was a simple equation: what you put in, you get back in return. My situation
was also simple: I deserved better than Brandon.”
This is such a triumphant moment in her piece because after this realization Alexandra starts to heal. She pulls herself out of the morass of emotions that she dealt with after her break-up and really tries to put this relationship behind her. This is such a powerful and well-written piece and I really enjoyed reading it. Thanks Xan!
Posted by Dayo Oshilaja
I have decided to publish one of my pieces in the Passport Magazine. It is a student run publication that began in Spring 2005. It has an international theme and publishes entertaining accounts of people’s travels world-wide. The magazine is published bi-annually in December of the Fall Semester and in April of the Spring Semester. The magazine specializes in collaborative work, and works closely with its writers to develop and publish articles and photos.
There is a 500-1500 word limit for all submissions so I will have to cut down my piece. They also have a list of suggested topics which include, travel experiences, destinations, cultural discussions etc. There are also guidelines for how you should cite your article. Since I have missed the deadline for the Fall Issue, I will submit my piece for the Spring one.
I will submit my Project One to the magazine because it has an international theme and focuses on my adventures, or more aptly, my mis-adventures during my first day in London. I plan to submit this piece next week and hopefully it will make it into the April issue of the magazine, so be on the lookout for that!
posted by Dayo Oshilaja
This has been a labor of love. I have enjoyed every moment that I have spent on this project. Working on this project, gave me the opportunity to do something that I have always wanted to, pick the brain of Professor William Darity. This project started as my X5 piece which focused on my conversation with Professor William Darity. We talked about President Obama and race relations in the United States.
At first, I had trouble figuring out how to present our conversation. I thought the topic was too complex for the Question and Answer style so I created a narrative of our interview. I also wanted to include timeline, so that people un-familiar with the subject would get a sense of what I was talking about. For my Revision 3, I cut out all extraneous information, and added more quotes. My main criticism was to try and differentiate my voice from Professor Darity’s so for my Revision 4, I decided to change up the format. I also created a more elegant timeline. I used the Question and Answer style, the narrative format, and changes in font to distinguish between my voice and Professor Darity’s.
For my Project 2, I haven’t made any significant changes. I simply added a final paragraph that more coherently wraps up my piece. I really like the final version of this piece and I think it’s one of the best things I’ve written all year.
posted by Dayo Oshilaja
This is the first sentence of my five hundred word treatise on my life so please bear with me as I try and make it witty, funny and so entertaining, you want to keep on reading, to find out exactly what I have to say. I’ll try not to bore you, but that might be a challenge. There is only so much a twenty-one year old college student can say that hasn’t been said many times before, by better writers than me. Suffice it to say, that this is a piece about me. Actually, if I am being completely accurate this is a piece about how to write about me.
It is never easy writing about yourself which is such a paradox because you’re always told to write what you know and what subject do you know better than yourself? But still, I stare blankly at the page trying to figure out what to say. I think the biggest problem is where to start. Already I have written 170 words (well now 174) and you don’t even know my name; so let me pause and introduce myself. I am Dayo Oshilaja. Ok, now that I have gotten that out of the way, I guess I should tell you some basic facts about myself. But what do you want to know, my gender? I am a woman. My age, I indirectly (and quite cleverly) told you this in the first paragraph. I also told you that I am in college. But I have to be careful because THIS IS NOT A MEMOIR! (I put this section in CAPS and Bold font so that you would believe me. I am not arrogant enough to think that I can write a memoir.) Maybe one day in the distant future, I will attempt it.
My third paragraph and my piece is dithering; partly my stream-of-consciousness at 11:07 p.m. on November 9, 2010 and partly my semi-humorous attempt to follow in the illustrious footsteps of writers like Ander Munson and David Eggers. I suppose this would be the moment for an anecdote— some vividly-described, coming-of-age moment— where I show my readers how I learned some important life lesson. This brief but powerful anecdote is peppered with quirky and memorable characters with names like Axl and Lennox (characters from a TV show I just finished watching). The anecdote is also serious but it still manages to have its moments of comic relief. But most importantly, after you read it you will know even more about Dayo Oshilaja.
I love even numbers (even though all the significant dates in my life, like my birthday, month, day and year are all odd numbers) so this will be my fourth and final paragraph. Traditionally, last paragraphs are supposed to leave you with powerful, insightful and slightly disturbing quotes that you remember long after the piece fades from memory. Unfortunately, all I can say is that I hope that you know me better now, than you did five hundred words ago.
Posted by Dayo Oshilaja
This piece originally started as my X2 piece and was supposed to be my witty attempt at describing my very hectic and eventful first day in London. My group members really enjoyed my paratactic style so I decided to continue working with this piece, for my Revision one, because of their positive feedback and because I really enjoyed the subject matter. As I tried to write my Revision one, I was not entirely sure what to do with the piece and I eventually ended up writing about my second day in London. This new addition was highly confusing, and written in more of a writerly and observational style than in the paratactic and conversational style used in my original X2. My group members noticed the change in tone and Professor Harris challenged me to really try to focus my piece and make it as coherent as possible. So I went back to the drawing board, and completely eliminated all my Revision One additions. I finally decided to further focus on my first day in London, by providing a more thoroughly detailed account of my arrival in London starting from my experiences in the airport until I arrived in my new room. This piece has been both a joy and a challenge to write and it has been significantly improved thanks to help of my group members and Professor Harris.
posted by Dayo Oshilaja
Sarah Vowell simultaneously presents her readers with an esoteric sample of quotes, descriptions and other historical facts while also giving us her un-mitigated opinion. She keeps the story moving at such a brisk pace because she has such a conversational style and is able to effortlessly interweave her humorous and ironic opinions and pertinent historical information. Take the following quotes, which are an excerpt from the paragraph describing John Wilkes Booth. Vowell quotes from a letter written by Booth to the editors of a Washington newspaper which says “This country was formed for the white, not for the black man… And looking upon African slavery from the same standpoint as the noble framers of our constitution I for one, have considered it one of the greatest blessing. (23) Vowell then injects a more light-hearted tone into the paragraph by saying ironically, “So this is whom we’re dealing with –not the raving madman of assassination lore, but a calculating, philosophical racist. This juxtaposition between fact and opinion is continued throughout the book and makes this novel such an enjoyable read despite its highly unusual subject matter.
What I particularly like about her novel is that she tries to provide a comprehensive understanding of her topic by addressing all of the historical factors surrounding a particular event. For example when she is focusing on Booth and President Lincoln, she takes a moment to describe the institution of slavery informing the reader that it was not merely an imported custom but one already native to American shores. (36) Far from detracting from the novel, this side-note allows the reader to gain a better understanding of her subject matter and she does this in a very lively and thought-provoking manner. Vowell’s novel is a good template for how to construct a non-fiction essay that is both personable and factual. I love her seamless transition from historian, to fiction novelist, to blogger and then back again. I also like the fact that she approaches her topic from a wide variety of interesting perspectives. I hope that I can incorporate her seamless transitions from text-based evidence to personal opinion in my own writing.
Posted by Dayo Oshilaja
In my opinion, the best example of creative non-fiction is the piece entitled “Portrait of a Masked Man” The story focuses on Mexico, the Zapatista movement and a man, presumably the narrator, struggling to draw three members of the Zapatista movement. The essay unfolds itself sentence by sentence describing its subject matter through a combination of anecdotes, observations and history lessons. The essay also does a good job of incorporating some of the tools that we have learned in class, giving us access to the narrator’s thoughts and making us privy to his conversations. Simultaneously, the narrator makes sure to put everything in historical context giving us poignant snapshots of the relevant history of this specific area of Mexico.
As you might have guessed, I like the structure of this essay. It offers a multi-layered approach to the subject matter. It is like a film giving you a variety of different camera angles and scenes each possessing a pertinent piece of information that carries the story along. At its most superficial level, this is simply a story about an artist and his subjects. You dig a little deeper and you are drawn into the history of the Zapatista movement and the conditions that gave birth to it. Dig even deeper that and you also see that this is a piece about art which traces the lineage of art in Mexico and beyond. What this author manages to do so well is to weave together all these intricate themes and details into a concrete and cohesive tale.
As I continue to write for this class, I will try and use John Berger’s work as a template for my own. I will work from a simple idea, into a more complex framework as I try andaddress all the subtle nuances of my subject matter. I will try to approach my work from all different perspectives so that my readers can feel right along with me but still understand the context of my work.
Posted by Dayo Oshilaja
It took me a day and half to write these words. I don’t mean I sat at my computer for an actual day and a half. I mean that it took me one day and half of the next day to work up the courage and energy to write this piece. I have a love and hate relationship with the process of writing. Sometimes we are infatuated with each other, like an unholy addiction. I eat, dream, and sleep about writing. I toy with the idea of becoming a professional writer seeing myself poised as the much younger but no less talented protégé of the great Toni Morrison. I write endlessly and fervently laying out paragraph after paragraph and filling up page after page. And sometimes the words just desert me with no explanation at all, leaving me listless and unmotivated and days and weeks and months go by without me writing so much as a sentence.
I suppose this is why “Bird by Bird” resonates with me so much. I enjoy Lamott’s descriptions of a writer’s angst and see something of my own struggles with writing mirrored in her book. I particularly like her chapter entitled “Shitty First Drafts” which demonstrates just how difficult the writing process can be even for professional writers. But I think Lamott’s most helpful piece of advice is in the chapter entitled “Finding your own voice.” She offers up a very interesting description of why we write. She says that a writer’s job is to, “see what’s behind… [the door] to see the bleak, unspeakable stuff, and to turn the unspeakable into words—not just into any words but if we can, into rhythm and blues.” (198) Lamott continues by saying that this is impossible without finding, “your own true voice.” (198) Despite the many pieces and papers that I have written over the years, I don’t think that I have found my own true voice yet. But I know that this class will help me begin to develop one, as I attempt to form a more stable relationship with writing process. And hopefully, as I commit to writing every day, and as I write my responses and exercise pieces, I will be able to, “expose the un-exposed” in my own true voice. (198)