Posted by Janet Li
Below is the confirmation letter of my online submission to The Louisville Review, a literary magazine from my hometown in KY.
There was a space for me to comment on my online submission in the form, and thus, I sent The Louisville Review the following letter:
To The Louisville Review,
My name is Janet Li and I am currently a junior at Duke University. I spent my elementary through high school years growing up in Louisville, Kentucky.
I took a creative nonfiction course this past semester. Skyscrapers and Rice Paddies is a product of my work in that course. The piece focuses on my travels to Shanghai and a southwestern village in China and how it has shaped my view of nature and technology, and city and country. When I traveled to both places, I had constantly compared the city and village in China to my past experiences in Louisville and thus I felt it was appropriate to send this piece to the Louisville Review.
Piece that was submitted: Skyscrapers and Rice Paddies
Posted by Janet Li
I plan to submit my piece “Skyscrapers and Rice Paddies” (Project One) to World Hum. “Skyscrapers and Rice Paddies” focuses on my visits to my village in southwestern China and to the global city, Shanghai. I focused on the relationship between that of city versus country as a foundation to lead up to the tension between that of nature versus technology.
World Hum. World Hum is a travel website that focuses not only on the journey of traveling but also on “how travel changes us, how it changes the way we see the world and how travel itself changes the world.” Many of the stories on World Hum have been featured in anthropologies such as The Best American Travel Writing (the travel writing version of our Best American Essays book!). I think my essay might be a good fit for this publication because the primary focus of my piece isn’t necessarily what I experience directly while traveling, but more so the thoughts that stemmed from my experiences while visiting the two places (the village Fengyu and Shanghai). Travel to Fengyu made me think about the life that I have been used to and some of the issues that regarding nature vs. technology. However, currently, World Hum is not accepting submissions.
If so, I might look into another publication, such as a local literary publication from my hometown in Lousiville, Kentucky known as The Louisville Review. The goal of this literary magazine is to bring local readers work of both established and new writers.
Posted by Janet Li
R1: Which One First? by Erica Lin
I remember a passage from Erica’s R1 that really stood out in my mind when I first browsed through the first responses.
“I feel it when I write about plot. I feel such passion towards the work itself that I seriously reconsider my current career plan as a pre-med student. Even now, while I write about writing about plot (Did I get that correctly?), I feel could just immerse myself in my laptop for days. After I have slaved over and perfected the climactic ending, I realize that I must return to the beginning. Grudgingly, I develop the characters.”
I personally do enjoy developing characters, but I really enjoyed reading Erica’s response to Lamott’s advice to focus on the characters. From the passage below, the sentences are repetitive in that they all begin with “I” and allows for the sentences to blend from one to the next. This technique works well with the passion that she expresses towards writing about plot. It was very interesting so see such passion, passion that was strong enough to make her reconsider her career plans.
The Christmas Party by Rachel Revelle
Having been in Rachel’s writing group, I have been exposed to her writing. I really enjoyed reading both of her projects, but I especially enjoyed “The Christmas Party.” The piece gave me such a grand feeling. As one of the members in the writing group put it, “the essay feels like it would be in Southern Living!” I think Rachel is able to achieve such tone through her vivid descriptions of Mrs. Copeland and the Christmas party.
“Open the door on Christmas Eve, however, and you will be welcomed into illuminated chambers of Christmas cheer that have been part of the heartbeat of Murfreesboro for thirty-five years. Cars line the street. Candles cast a glow on wreaths in every window. The sound of escalating merriment beckons you up the brick walk, particularly since the side porch holds what I’ve always considered the “young folks” bar. And then, upon stepping into the entrance hall, there stands the dignified hostess.“
She describes the invitation and entrance to the party so vividly and places us, the readers, in the shoes of a party-goer. We are there, on Christmas Eve, attending the illuminated party. She continues this style for the entire piece, injecting Mrs. Copeland’s words when they are important, but most relying on her own observations of Mrs. Copeland and the party. This piece has allowed me to “attend” a Christmas party that I have never attended.
Posted by Janet Li
This piece about my boss Jai, the RC (residence coordinator) for Keohane, actually began as my Revision 4 (which I wrote two weeks ago). My first draft of the essay was a little unorganized, as I could not figure out what direction I wanted to take my piece. I needed a more cohesive theme. With the help of my writing group and Professor Harris, I decided to focus on how Jai’s professional/work life was always present in his personal life. When he gets off work at around 7 PM, he isn’t actually getting off work. Instead, he continues to work. By emphasizing the relationship between Jai’s work and personal life and by changing the format of my piece to be, in Lawson’s words, “more conducive to its sequentiality,” I hope to have painted a clearer picture of a day in the life of a residence coordinator.
Posted by Janet Li
Note to reader: You will be glad to know that there are no surprises. The results of my quest will not make you blind, it will only make you momentarily unable to see.
CLICK THIS LINK BEFORE READING ON: http://www.michaelbach.de/ot/mot_mib/index.html
(I’m not sure how to create endnotes in a wordpress blog, so treat this as endnote #1: try it on full screen. You can even adjust the size of the dots, adjust the speed of the blue crosses, and add bars to explore the illusion.)
First discovered by Ramachandran and Gregory in 1991 (Perceptual filling in of artificially induced scotomas in human vision [PDF]) , MIB (motion induced blindness) is an illusion in which visual stimuli disappear – just erased from your eyes….
Maybe you didn’t see the disappearance of the dots in the above link. No worries, you are probably a tiny percentage of the world’s population with really, really, really, really, really, really, really perfectly good vision that makes you normal and the rest of us weird.
Drawing upon Monson’s words, I too have “wanted to vanish,” though not “for a very long time” as he does, but intermittently throughout my twenty years of life. You know those stressful times? Making a presentation in front of thousands of people. Or those embarrassing times? Falling down flights of stairs. Well, those are the times in which I have wanted to be those yellow dots (scroll up and click on the link above in case you were too lazy to click it the first time you skipped my words above). The flashing green dot would be “me” to the world. Each aspect of me could represent the yellow dots. The moving blue crosses behind the yellow dots would be the world (always a moving blur). As people glance in my direction, one or two or all of the parts of me will simple vanish for a few seconds (milliseconds, in the illusion)…. I would be there, yet I would not be there.
A perfect illusion.
I sent in my computer to Duke’s Office of Information Technology (OIT) Service Desk because it continued to spit out the following blue screen of death: Unmountable Boot Volume (JPG). Today, I came across the following email –
Your computer failed diags it appears that you have a bad Hard Drive. [omitted some of Durrel's email]
OIT Service Desk
I am quite fond of computers. The computer I carry around (SONY VAIO EA Series) contains some of the most valuable images, documents and words that belong to me. Now, my images/documents/words certainly have disappeared into thin air.
This time, it is not an illusion. I suppose I have vanished in some way. Some part of me has vanished, but I suppose not in the way I had wanted to vanish from the world.
Posted by Janet Li
This piece originally started out as an exploration of the relationship between country and city in my X2. I had hoped to explore the differences between a rural village in Southwest China (Fengyu) and the global city of Shanghai. As I began revising this piece, I found myself hinting at a new relationship, that of a tension of nature versus technology. While working on this project, I found it difficult at times to figure out what I wanted to say: did I want to focus solely on nature vs. technology? Or did I want to focus on the country vs. city? Or did I want include both? My final piece now has become one in which I use the relationship between country versus city as a foundation to bring in my exploration of the relationship between nature and technology. In addition, I have also brought in some field work and research and have hopefully transitioned smoothly between the times and places I have included in my piece.
Posted by Janet Li
Sarah Vowell knows how to flow smoothly from first person to third person. It is the mixture of a history text, travel journal, and personal thoughts that form the interesting premise Vowell sets forth: to travel to important physical landmarks relating to assassinated presidents and their assassinators. I found myself feeling slightly guilty to find something that seems a little morbid and grave—dead presidents —a little funny. I think this is what makes Vowell’s piece work. She presents a subject we would normally think of as somber, and has turned it into in a lighthearted comedy.
She is able to present the material in an uplifting way by connecting her in-depth research on the topic and making it personal somehow. I hope to employ more research and fieldwork in my writings so that I can grow as a writer. Many times, she asks questions about the key figures in history as if they were key characters in her own life. For instance, she asks one such question: “I cannot decide who I resent more, Dr. Mudd or Jimmy Buffet, as I vomit into a paper bag on a boat in the Florida Straights.” This ordinary environment, her in a boat, makes the topic seem like an everyday thought. Another such example, in which she utilizes many times, is that she will bring forth a quote, from a person or a book, and then tack on her own thoughts. For instance, right after a quote from Timothy Douglas, the Assassins director, she states: “That crafty explanation slaps me in the forehead with all the force of ‘duh’.” With such witty responses, it is difficult to not laugh even if the subject is on the theme of violence and murder.
A quote from Chapter One that does a good job of illustrating Vowell’s use of in-depth research in conjunction with her own personal twist:
“The contents of John Wilkes Booth’s pockets also get the glass treatment. At Ford’s Theatre, I looked at the five photographs of women in the womanizing Booth’s pockets when he died, and I couldn’t help but believe that I picked up insight into his character, that he wasn’t just a presidential killer, he was a lady-killer too.“
Posted by Janet Li
I really enjoyed the structure of “The Greatest Nature Essay Ever.” In fact, I felt like I was really reading the greatest nature essay ever.
Brian Doyle does a clever job of outlining what “The Greatest Nature Essay” should look like, while also embedding that outline and structure into his essay. In doing this, he is proving evidence for the validity of his idea of a nature essay. I hope to be able to experiment with different structures for my writings, as it provides an additional medium for how the writer can express himself/herself. For instance, the part that resonated with me the most was towards the end of the essay when he says, “Oddly, sweetly, the essay just ends with a feeling eerily like a warm hand brushed against your cheek, and you sit there, near tears, smiling, and then you stand up. Changed.” This is indeed how he ends this essay, leaving me (the reader) feeling changed.
In addition to the structure, the advice of making the reader feel changed (quoted above) is also very helpful. A perfect nature essay, and I think this goes for most essays, should be short; it should allow the reader to find the conclusion by himself/herself and feel “changed.” I hope to integrate his advice into my own work. It is something that I have struggled with – learning how to be simple, yet still be clear in my message to the reader.
Posted by Janet Li
Sometimes, I just have a lot of stuff in my brain. I think as humans, we all do. Sometimes, the ideas floating around in my brain are so convoluted, that when I manage to get them partially down on paper, it turns out a little peculiar. I almost felt that Anne Lamott had personally seen my previous works of writing, whether private or public, and said to me, “I tell my students to write this down—that the dream must be vivid and continuous—because it is so crucial. Outside the classroom, you don’t get to sit next to your readers and explain little things you left out, or fill in details that would have made the action more interesting or believable. The material has got to work on its own, and the dream must be vivid and continuous. Think of your nightly dreams, how smoothly one scene slides into another… You mostly go along from scene to scene simply because it’s all so immediate and compelling.”
As a writer, I have always struggled with making the dream vivid and continuous. My dad used to say that when I wrote, it was almost as if the thoughts in my head were going faster than my typing or writing hands, so that I only got portions of those ideas down on paper. In fact, I think my writing, at least my first drafts, have resembled the feeling of trying to remember those specific details of a dream after you’ve woken up. Who was the person who led me to the secret hiding place behind the fireplace to escape the old man and why was the old man chasing after me? The fuzzy pieces of the dream are still there, but within the blink of an eye, all of the specifics are gone.
Anne Lamott’s advice for making that dream vivid and continuous is to find a friend to “bounce [my] material off of.” I suppose my most creative writings have found their way into some sort of journal, diary, or sketchpad. These are private writings; no one else has read them nor has anyone ever given me feedback, so I will never know whether my ideas are vivid and compel the reader to go from one scene to the next. The ideas are always flowing in my mind so that if I ever read one of those writings, even today, they will make sense to me. Hopefully, through writing groups and friend, I will be sure that the readers (anyone else than me) will understand all those thoughts in my brain that make sense to me.