Reflection Letter

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This website is an archive of the work I have completed as a part of ENG101,  “Visual Thinking and Writing” taught by Professor David Morgen at Emory University during the Fall semester of 2018. More information about this course and the learning objectives can be found by clicking on the hyperlinks associated with each word. This reflection letter aims to describe what I have learned as a writer and reader from this class and the learning objectives I have met from this course.

When I first found out that I had to take an English class my freshman year of college, I felt my heartbeat rise. Throughout my life, I always tried to stay away from writing, especially creative writing. It just was not my cup of tea. Writing honestly scared me. This did not mean that I was bad at it. It just meant that I was always scared of what others would think about my writing and how I would feel about my own writing. I always felt at ease when a teacher gave me a template to follow, especially the five paragraph structure that I was taught all throughout elementary, middle, and most of high school. Research papers also helped me feel more at ease because all I had to do was write about facts. Creative writing was a whole different playing field though. I was always uncomfortable with creative writing. That is why when I had to sign up for an English class for the fall semester, I decided to face my fears and step outside of my comfort zone. Professor Morgen’s “Visual Thinking and Writing” class seemed interesting, but at the same time it scared me. However, I decided to take the risk and hoped that this class would give me a chance to become more creative, build my confidence, and help me become a better writer. At the end of this semester, I can strongly say that this course helped me meet every goal that I had expected out of this class. Through major projects such as the Literacy Narrative to the small ones such as the weekly sketches, I have grown as a writer and a reader. Every project and assignment I have done in this class has helped me achieve new skills and grow.

The very first major project that we did in this class was the Literacy Narrative Project. This project included many steps that I worked on throughout the semester. Our first step was to write a narrative about any significant moment that we remember as a reader or a writer. I decided to write about the moment when I fell in love with reading. I learned many things about myself alongside this project and I gained many skills as a writer and an artist. I learned how to write stories in different modes through this project (objective 1). After writing our alphabetical narrative, we were asked to transform it into a comic. This was my first time attempting to make a comic aside from the small comic strip we had to do for one of our Sunday Sketches. Making this comic allowed me to grow as an artist and implement visual strategies that I never thought I had before. I used strategies from the article Understanding Comics, and paid close attention to choice of moment and choice of image in my comic (objective 4) . Not only did this project teach me creative writing, but it also taught me that writing is a process (objective 3). My final draft went through a lot of work. I revised my alphabetical narrative and my comic many times. I implemented strategies of drafting, revision, editing, and reflection. My project was also reviewed by my peers and Professor Morgen, and they gave me great feedback that helped my Literacy Narrative grow and improve (objective 2). Not only did my peers review my project, but I also got to review their work as well, and this was just as helpful. Reviewing the work of others gave me insight on what I could improve on my own project. Through drafting and revising multiple times, I learned that there is always room for improvement. Each time I revisited my project, I was able to make my story more specific and improve in different areas of my narrative.

The next project, Tracing Maus, taught me how to analyze and interpret visual information (objective 4). This project helped me realize just how important choice of image, shading, and diction and sentence structure are when reading and making a comic. I had to choose a page to trace from Book 1 and a page from Book 2 that stood out to me, and then analyze the two pages. This assignment was new to me. It deviated from past English classes I had taken before. In the past, I was never asked to analyze just one or two specific pages. I found this assignment to be very educational and beneficial. It was a new approach on analyzing a text of different genres. This assignment taught me that details are very important in text and in imagery when telling a story, especially in memoirs. Imagery was a key component in Maus. “Without the imagery, a reader would not be able to feel a connection with the characters in the book, and Spiegelman would not have been able to clearly get his message across.” The specific facial expressions and shading that Spiegelman uses to portray this memoir is really helpful when reading the comic. It helps a reader connect and engage with the story. Tracing to analyze was also a new approach for me, and it was surprising to see what new things could uncover just by tracing these pages rather than just reading them. Tracing these pages helped me understand the author’s specific choices when writing this comic and how it related to his overall message. For example, before doing the tracings, I did not pay attention to the way he drew his characters and why he chose certain characters to portray his story, so “the tracings helped me understand why he drew some characters and objects the way he did.” The shading was a way to differentiate between black and white. His choice in imagery helped the story flow in a sensible manner. All of his artistic decisions were well thought out and had an overall deeper meaning. I would not have understood this if it were not for this assignment. Visual interpretation opened my eyes on a new way of interpreting texts.  

The third major assignment, Comparing Stitches and Spinning, was the most difficult assignment for me, but the one that I grew the most from.Though this assignment was still an analysis like the past project, we now had to compare and analyze two different memoirs through the lense of Hillary Chute (objective 2). Hillary Chute’s essay, “Women, Comics, and the Risks of Representation,” was difficult to take apart and understand. I struggled to find key arguments that I could use for my comparison essay. After continuing to figure out her essay paragraph by paragraph, I was finally able to find few major points that I could elaborate on. I also had to ask myself questions such as, “Who is my audience?” and “What was the author’s purpose?” To answer these questions I had to carefully think about the prompt I was given. I knew my audience would be students from my English class who have read these two comics already which is why I decided not to go into specific details about the context of the story and go straight into my argument. Then I decided that both authors’ main purpose for writing their memoirs was to recover from their trauma, and I wanted to base my thesis off of this purpose. However, I struggled with making a thesis that did not follow the same conventional format we learned all throughout high school. I was used to the thesis statement that outlined the three main parts I would be arguing in my paper and then turning it into a five paragraph essay which included: introduction, point 1, point 2, point 3, and conclusion. I felt safe with this approach. However, I kept working at my thesis and I was finally able to produce a thesis that represented my essay well and deviated from the conventional format. You can see the 3 main points format I used in my original thesis which was  “In Stitches and Spinning, both authors use imagery, personal handwriting, and perspective to tell their memoirs in the most personal and emotional way for their audience to understand their childhood trauma.” Professor Morgen helped me realize that my original thesis was not something that I could really argue since they were essentially already true. He told me I needed a thesis that has room to dispute which led me to my final thesis, “Through this analysis I was able to see that both authors use visual representation of trauma to demonstrate the lack of communication and struggle with identity in their lives as a means to recover from their trauma.” This is a thesis that has more room to argue and is also different from the conventional format I was taught in high school. I also met the learning outcome of implementing strategies of research, drafting, revision, editing, and reflection in this project as well (objective 3). As you can tell, I have two drafts posted of this assignment. That is because I had to make some major revisions to my earlier draft. Professor Morgen told me that I was a good writer but a little hesitant in writing what I actually meant. He told me to be more confident in my work and my ideas because my paper lacked confidence. He was not wrong. I was lacking confidence while writing this paper, and I was holding back on many ideas I had about the paper all because I was scared that I would be wrong. After talking to Professor Morgen, I gained confidence in my abilities as a writer. He told me it was okay to take risks sometimes as a writer. So after many revisions and drafts I was able to confidently produce my final draft which I believe is much better than my first one. I had finally gained confidence on my own ideas and learned the most important thing as a writer which was that it is OKAY to take risks.

Next was Mapping Climate Change. In this project, we were asked to map a pattern that we noticed in the comic. While reading Climate Change, I had noticed the recurrence of Santa multiple times throughout the book, and I found it to be really out of place. However, I did not take the effort to understand why the author would use a fictional character such as Santa in a book about climate change, so I assumed it was just a random choice that the author made. So when we were given this project, I realized it was the perfect way for me to revisit this Santa recurrence. From looking at the pattern more closely and analyzing the meaning of it, I realized that the author had carefully and thoughtfully used Santa as a symbol which represented bad. This project helped me realize how valuable it was to look at a text from afar because sometimes it has hard to see patterns when reading a text closely.

In this class, we also had weekly Sunday Sketches that helped us portray our creativity. At first, this was really daunting for me because I never viewed myself as a very creative person. I was always concerned that I was doing the sketches wrong at the beginning of the semester. However, as the weeks went by, I got more and more comfortable with my work and my creativity skills. When I look back at my sketches, I can clearly see that I am a creative person and that I have those skills in me. I would not have been able to realize this if it were not for these weekly sketches that made me step out of my comfort zone and try something new. These sketches were educational and fun. Through these sketches, I became more creative and I became more comfortable with technology. Before this class, I had no idea how to make and use a website of my own, crop, edit, or collaborate images through online sources such as Picmonkey or Pixlr. Now I am able to employ technology appropriately (objective 5). After doing so many of these sketches in which many involved using images of others, I am also more comfortable utilizing the concepts of intellectual property (objective 5).  

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My favorite Sunday Sketch

Overall, I have truly appreciated this class, my peers that I have learned from, and Professor Morgen who helped me step outside of my comfort zone. This class has given me lessons that will help me flourish in the real world such as not being afraid of trying something new. Many of these assignments required confidence and new approaches that I was not familiar with, but at the end I was able to succeed in those areas. This class has also helped me in chemistry class which may sound odd. The whole visual aspect of this class has helped me implement visual strategies in chemistry as well. I found that drawings and charts are really helpful when taking notes in chemistry class rather than just words. The visuals help me understand the material better. In chemistry, we also have to figure out a molecules chirality, shape in space, and their orientation which is very complicated. I am unable to figure these things out in my head so I started to draw them out and look at it visually and this proved to help me understand the material. The visual strategies I learned from this english class has helped me in chemistry, and I believe it will help me in many other areas in the future as well.  

Hope you enjoyed my website!