May 11th, 2010 §
By Bekah Grim ’09
I didn’t want my university education to be the equivalent of doing a crossword puzzle — memorizing just enough facts to fill in the correct answer. The English major is for seekers. It’s for those who want to read and write not because it leads to an exact career, but because literature is an avenue to explore deeper questions about the world.
This is how I went into the English major. I wanted to be a writer first and a journalist second. I knew if I didn’t read and discuss literature, I would be missing out on a safari through the greatest thinkers and word acrobats in history.
You’ve got to be down for some fear and trembling when you graduate. It’s scary and unknown. But you will leave the major with the ability to write, which is a practical skill applicable to many careers and business situations.
Be willing to write for anything and everything. Think of it as the musician’s equivalent of playing in a dive bar for a few years.
The career mentor program at SPU was one of the most helpful experiences in defining a professional direction as an English major. Thanks to a job shadow set up by the program, I landed an internship with the Marty Riemer radio show on 103.7. This was the first step of my career path into journalism.
My writing has taken me on incredible adventures so far, including interviewing Kevin Bacon after his manager attempted to cancel the interview and being the first journalist to break the news of a rabid bat outbreak in Washington, D.C.
Quite simply, become an English major if you love to read and write. You’ll read Bleak House and shuffle around campus looking existentially troubled, write home to your parents in iambic pentameter, and deconstruct “Twin Peaks” episodes. You’ll love it.
The English major is for the artists who can’t paint, but, as Billy Collins said, occasionally have a little something going in the typewriter. Pursue your passion. The world will make room for you.
May 11th, 2010 §
By Laura Grafham
Where is my home, people ask of me. I’d like to know, too; if you tell me I shall blow kisses to you through the air, floating out from letters on the page.
To avoid asking the question of myself, I’ve found it easier asking other people about their home. When I look inside, shaky and nervous, the signal comes in like fuzzy radio waves, announcers burping out past memories and words like gunshots:
The dogwood trees I climbed as a kid. Now my brother climbs them. My mother shouts through the windows. The teakettle screams. My brother is more at home in trees than I am now. And I mourn my loss. He is 13 and runs track. He is the wind.
His hair is my home and I smell it and know. He still uses Johnson’s Baby Magic shampoo of his own free will; it squeaks him clean and naïve in the shower, no exponential young man odor. His short stubbly head is a blond hedgehog that weaves and dodges away from hugs and arms. This doesn’t mean it isn’t mutual, and we both know this. It is mutually understood that he is a teenager, that he does not touch family or female sisters with affection.
We are mischievous at each other with each weave of our limbs, our eyes making electric charged electrodes out across the airwaves — we are on the same frequency.
He isn’t old enough to know what I know, but he is wiser than I am in his own secret way. We both know it. He has patience and I don’t. He has 13-year-old style and grace, married with an awkward body and mind. It is beautiful, and this is why I try to hug him.
Examining living human beings with my eyes, I tie strings from my heart to theirs. When they tug on my foundation it hurts. But isn’t this the only way to be home?
The gap between home as a location and a feeling grows more and more numerous with the passing of time and age. My foundation is mobile, has wheels, needs gasoline and oil changes from time to time. I don’t build my home to stay put, and neither do the people I care about. We build it around each other.
May 11th, 2010 §
By Anna Taylor
A friend comes to me. “Write me four hundred words,” she says. “On anything.”
Characteristically, my mind does what it does best when faced with such challenges: It goes completely blank.
You would think such a broad spectrum would allow a limitless potential. Instead, it causes my intellect to contort into an impressive fetal position.
So many times I approach an open Word document on my computer, intimidated by the sheer whiteness and emptiness that I see before me. Some people see the possibilities, embracing the opportunity to fill an empty void.
My best friend Jess, a talented artist, is one of these people. I have seen her transform a fresh canvas into a masterpiece in a matter of seconds. I, on the other hand, allow intimidation to seep into the process. What happens if what I see in my mind isn’t what flows out of my fingers? What if I can’t find the best words? What if I can’t convey the thoughts and impressions swirling in my head? To borrow a phrase, what if it doesn’t come out right?
I once confided to a mentor that I was having trouble writing because of this fear of not getting it “right.” He looked at me for a long minute and then said simply, “Don’t be afraid of a blank canvas.”
His words struck me deeply. The secret is simple, isn’t it? It never comes out “right.”
Those impressive masterpieces Jess produces are often canvasses she turns to face the wall. Words, while powerful, vital, relevant, and versatile, simply are not enough sometimes. The human mind cannot be transferred and translated to paper accurately by means of a few symbols; the fact that we can attempt to do so is amazing.
Reading and writing are incredible gifts, allowing us to try to capture something breathtaking. Ultimately, however, what they best capture is the intangibility and inscrutability that is the essence of thought and feeling.
Sometimes people speak truth into your life in a way that makes you realize something that should have been obvious all along. My mentor’s words were some of the most profound I have ever been given. Nothing will ever come out the way we want it to. So why worry? Just write. Don’t fear the blank canvas.
And now I have 400 words.