Posted by Tim Xue
To the Editors of “On the Move” Newsletter:
My name is Tim Xue and I’m a sophomore studying biomedical engineering and English at Duke University. I live in Fountain Valley, CA and I’ve also been a member at Los Cab since 1999. This past semester, I wrote a piece in my Creative Nonfiction class that I hope you will consider for publication in the next issue of “On the Move.”
The piece, titled The Wall: A Handbook on the Basic Elements of Tennis, is a first person narrative about my experiences with tennis through the years, centered around the lessons I’ve learned by practicing against a wall (I know it may sound odd, but give it a chance). I’m aware that the newsletter’s primary purpose to inform club members of events and get them further involved, but I’ve occasionally seen longer articles profiling a recent outstanding accomplishment by a member, a new tennis coach or fitness trainer, or a longtime member and his or her unique experiences at the club. My work falls into the latter category as a longer article, and there are several reasons why I believe it is a great fit for the newsletter.
Two of the main focuses of my work, Wojtek and the wall, are rooted at Los Cab—Wojtek has taught hundreds of children, teenagers, and adults tennis throughout the years, and I know for a fact that there are other people besides me who practice at the wall. My piece also contains elements that appeal to non-tennis members as well—the themes of disciplined learning, agony over injury, and recovery as a journey that pervade my work are things many athletes have experienced and I think would enjoy reading about.
I’ve attached my piece in both Microsoft Word and PDF format. Its current design, layout, and title are catered towards the class for which the project was written; I can certainly see it being condensed into a more traditional publication format, and of course, I am also open to any further modification suggestions you may have should we decide to pursue and continue this process. Please enjoy reading my work, and thank you in advance for your consideration.
You can reach me at the following addresses:
Cell: (714) 914-9925
Posted by Tim Xue
One of my favorite pieces that I’ve read this semester is Dayo Oshilaja’s X3, Spoken Word. The X3 assignment called for chronicling a current event, and she wrote a flowing piece about her experience at a Spoken Word exhibition. While Dayo vividly captures every detail of the experience, it is her use of metaphorical description and colloquial language that brings the moment to life for me.
Cited below are my two favorite parts from the work; the first quote begins the introductory paragraph, while the second describes Joshua Bennett’s reading.
“Anticipation was a living breathing thing inside that room. You could feel it in the air, dancing off people’s skin, hiding in their nervous laughs and in the constant twitching of bodies that just could not keep still.”
“It was a moment divorced from time and space. Here was this man letting us in, I mean all the way in to himself…He shared with us his history…He treated us as more than just an audience.”
This piece was fascinating because it read like poetry. The interesting irony here is that in describing this exhibition where the reading of poetry was almost musical, lyrical, Dayo created an essay that itself sounded musical and poetic. It is for this particular reason that the phrase “a moment divorced from time and space” particularly resonated with me. The entire narrative was so in the moment, so gripping, that I nearly felt transported into that room with Dayo, removed from everything around me.
It’s an inspiring piece, Dayo. I’ll have to go to one of these exhibitions sometime. Thank you.
One of my other favorites is Grace Kohut’s X4, in which she uses an anecdote about her quote book to lead into a decoding of E.E. Cummings. Though the crash course in E.E. Cummings is very interesting, I especially enjoyed the conversational style in her enrapturing introduction:
“Words have always been important to me. Whether they be spoken, in a book, or on a piece of art. You know when you read something that takes your breath away? What do you do? Some people reflect and move on, some underlined with a pen, some even star it and fold down the page.”
This introduction is extremely effective in drawing in the reader. I found myself nodding along to each of her questions, and as I did, I grew more excited to hear what she had to say next. The following paragraph, a semi-digression, is fun to read as well because Grace makes great use of additional “commentary” clauses. Each sentence is infused with feeling.
“…letter by letter, the words of a master.”
“…honored and privileged, like I was being let in on a well-kept secret.”
So many of things Grace articulates about words, I’ve felt or thought about but never said. I’m a big quote person too, and it was a pleasure reading about quotes from another’s perspective. Thanks, Grace.
Posted by Tim Xue
I am planning to submit my first project “The Wall: A Handbook on the Basic Elements of Tennis” to the publication On the Move.
On the Move is a bi-monthly newsletter published and distributed by Los Caballeros Racquet and Sports Club (Los Cab), where I’ve been a member since I was ten years old and where much of the autobiographical evidence from my piece is grounded. The one liner just below the title states the publication serves as “Your Guide to Los Caballeros Racquet and Sports Club’s Programs and Activities.” There are not many articles because as a newsletter, the purpose of the publication is to let the club members know what is going on at the club and get them further involved. What takes up most of the space are schedules and pictures of ongoing events, and the few articles that do appear usually accompany these and are fairly short in length. However, there are usually two or three longer articles published in each issue of On the Move. These typically profile a recent outstanding accomplishment by a member, a new tennis coach or fitness trainer, or a longtime member and his or her unique experiences at the club. The latter is what I will be targeting.
However, there are a few potential complications with submitting my piece. Most of these longer profiles take the form of a Q & A or a third person narrative. In addition, even the third person profiles, which tend to be longer, are still maybe only half as long as my project one. I began reading the newsletter regularly when I was in high school, and I only recall two times that I have seen an article of similar length and form to my project one (a long first-person narrative) published in On the Move. Because it is a relatively short, informational publication, I will have to make a strong case if I am to convince the editors to devote a full page to my piece, as there are usually at least three articles per page.
I believe I can argue my case well, though, because I strongly believe my work is a great fit for the publication. Two of the central focuses of my work, Wojtek and the wall, are rooted at Los Cab—Wojtek has taught hundreds of children, teenagers, and adults tennis throughout the years, and I know for a fact that there are people besides me who practice at the wall. My piece also contains elements that appeal to non-tennis members as well. The themes of disciplined learning, agony over injury, and recovery as a journey that pervade my work are things many athletes have experienced and (I think) would enjoy reading about.
If my piece is accepted, there is one minor change to the form of my project one I am considering. I may get rid of the tennis handbook elements and definitions and adjust the title to broaden appeal. The handbook elements only add enjoyment, I think, if you play the sport and understand the implications. In addition, it may be difficult maintaining the form given the publication’s format constraints; I may just use dotted lines separating the four sections. As for an adjusted title, I was thinking along the lines “The Wall: A Story of Embarrassment, Learning, Injury, and Rediscovery.” Of course, this is all experimental at the moment, and I would be open to the editors’ suggestions.
Posted by Tim Xue
My Project Two grew out of my X4, the interview assignment. As you may recall, I interviewed Duojie Cairang, a Tibetan international student who lives in a block below me with some friends of mine (however, none of us know him too well). I wanted to take the opportunity to just have a conversation and get to know him better. One issue I wanted to talk, in addition, was Tibet.
My first draft basically chronicled our conversation itself. For revision three, I added an ending that many felt was dark, mysterious, and pseudo-ambiguous. In short, my workshop group liked it. However, I needed to ensure was that Duojie was okay with the ending. For the final project, I switched to a script format to allow for easier interjections/comments, added comments regarding Duojie’s tendencies and my thoughts, added dingbats to “bracket” the interview, expanded the ending, and added a photo.
Duojie has read the piece, and is satisfied that I have represented him accurately. His only request is for it to remain unpublished. Due to the touchy nature of the subject, he is worried that, should my piece somehow become widely circulated, the Chinese government will take action and deny him re-entry to the country (worst case scenario). His request will be honored.
Posted by Tim Xue
Please see attached!
Posted by Tim Xue
This piece began as my X2 in which I wrote about a place/object that was important to me—a racquetball wall where I often practiced tennis as a child. Even though it’s an inanimate object, it felt more like a person to me because of all the memories and experiences “we” went through.
My first draft was fairly basic: I introduced the wall and kept the focus tennis-specific, briefly describing how it helped me improve as a tennis player. After group workshops, however, I found that my narrative missing some key moments and since the piece had much more potential to grow, I continued work as my first revision. Because I felt like the essay was losing emphasis on the wall, I divided it up into three sections titled Initiation, Applications, and Reflections. The general format of the essay consisted now of introducing the wall, showing how it helped me in a tennis match, and concluding.
As I continued work on the piece as my final project, I replaced my original titles with technical tennis terms suggestive of the section’s content and significance. In addition, I added a new section, titled Changeover that tied the rest of the essay together and brought it back to the present. Previously, I had felt the piece was slightly awkward because although I chronicle events that occurred when I was around age 12, I had trouble connecting the narrative with where I am now. This last addition gave my overall work a more complete, finished feel.
Posted by Tim Xue
The main point regarding research that I took away from Sarah Vowell’s Assassination Vacation is that it never needs to be just a “dull,” factual component of an essay; research can actually enrich a piece depending on how it is used. Throughout the first chapter, I never felt like I was reading anything close to a typical research report. Vowell turns a series of events centered around a seemingly boring topic into an enrapturing story using humor, a distinct tone, and by making her research not sound like research.
Whenever I wrote research papers of any sort in high school, I would use research to function primarily as evidence to support my overall argument. Research, in my mind, consisted of poring over books, magazine and online articles, or digital media in search of that elusive clip or quotation that I would insert in my paper and draw a conclusion from. Research equals facts – solid, important facts that develop the narrative. Vowell, on the other hand, uses research very differently. She doesn’t just search for the “meat” of the story, but delights in exploring the vegetables and even snuffing out the dessert. Vowell includes research whose purpose the reader may initially question, as I did. She ties it all together and makes it so interesting that I found myself following along, nonetheless, however. For example, she writes an entire paragraph on the relationship between Dr. Samuel A. Mudd’s surname and the cliché “his name is mud.” She clarifies,
“Steers’s title alludes to the cliché ‘his name is mud,’ erroneously believed to derive from the shame the Lincoln assassination brought to the Mudd family name. But it was simply a coincidence, the derogatory slang ‘mud’ having been in usage for well over a hundred years at the time of the assassination, especially applying to British members of Parliament who had besmirched their family names by losing elections and such. This quirk of freak linguistic happenstance damned the Mudd family to a level of shame unknown to, say, subsequent generations of Family Atzerodt.”
Vowell includes such details to keep the narrative engaging for her readers. She links her historical research to contemporary issues, customs, and phrases so we can find common ground and see why her research is important. She uses this technique so well, in fact, that I often don’t realize I’ve gone off with her on one of these tangents until she brings me back to the original narrative. These “distractions” are a nice break from the main story, and are interspersed craftily throughout the book.
In my own future writing, I hope to adopt Vowell’s strategy of magnifying the details and integrating them into the entire story. Her unique use of research made for an engaging, humorous, and informative read.
Posted by Tim Xue
While I have never shied away from neither reading nor writing longer essays, I confess that I have always preferred shorter ones. The authors of these shorter essays manipulate and craft language to speak more by saying less. It is this particular style of writing and narrow focus that captivates my attention, stealing me away on a brief, intense ride before setting me back down, disheveled, stunned, and moved.
Sue Allison speaks using a very direct and rhythmic, yet playful tone in Taking a Reading. This essay, written about the odd sorts of names we give measurements units, is full of subtle humor and literary finesse. She begins many paragraphs by listing unfamiliar, funny-sounding measurement units “bullet-point” style to grab the readers’ attention, then relates them to other uncommon units, everyday objects, and her personal life. Allison blends all this into just a few sentences using wordplay, and while she makes it look easy, it certainly is anything but. My favorite part of her essay has a little bit of everything: “A chain is precisely 66 feet divided into precisely 100 links. It is also what is around my neck holding a small diamond heart which I’ve kept clasped since receiving it some anniversaries ago. It cannot hold a ship to shore, but holds a great deal more.” I’m astounded by her ability seamlessly incorporate so many elements while moving forward and developing the piece; she is able to take something seemingly commonplace and banal and make it so much more.
One of my own basic writing principles is “show, don’t tell.” However, Allison has shown me that one can in fact create a stirring, emotional work by taking a simple idea and expanding on it. There doesn’t need to be vivid action or precise body language; one can just tell it like it is. I hope to adapt her techniques used in this essay for my future work. Her raw yet peppy, fast-moving yet intricate style is unlike anything I have ever read.