Learning More Than How to Write

image_6546160.JPGLearning More than How to Write

This would not be as honest reflective essay if I did not begin by explaining how I landed in this section of English 131. Over Christmas break I found out that the honors section of English I was originally signed up for had been cancelled. The only remaining sections of English were 8 a.m. sections, and anyone who knows me can attest that I would never intentionally begin classes for the day before 11am Between sleep complications, medications, and my schedule for Mondays and Wednesdays, I set myself up for failure as the time that this class is scheduled for alone has put a great strain on my schedule and other needs. In addition to this, I was incredibly sick for the first four weeks of the semester between the flu, strep throat, and bronchitis all back to back as the weeks passed. My level of participation and quality of work I have produced for this class have been attributed to these factors, and while I absolutely recognize that I have not prioritized this class and could have worked much harder, I still find it necessary to first address these concerns. Even with all of that, this section of English 131 has included many elements that have contributed to my critical thinking and writing skills.


Composing monthly letters has been a different way to communicate with my younger sister. After my sister received my letters in the mail, she let me know that it was a surprise. While it is of course more convenient to text or call, receiving a letter is different and much less expected, so in turn it often meant more for my sister to receive letters as she could keep them, and they would not be lost among other parts of her day to day life.


I was unfortunately sick on the day we had a presenter speak on crafting a resume, so I had to create one similar to what I used in highschool and essentially “hope for the best”. The most interesting part of creating the resume was being able to add new leadership positions and goals since coming to Lenoir-Rhyne.


The workshop essay has been my favorite part of this course. I tend to avoid asking for feedback from my peers and tend to only work alongside faculty or staff, but this assignment pushed me out of my comfort zone, especially on the day my essay was read aloud and critiqued. While not everyone in the class knows a great deal on writing or how to write, there is still something to be gained from listening to the critiques of someone who is a sole reader and member of my intended audience. It adds a different voice and has helped me become more aware of “getting my point across”, something I struggle with behind unnecessary big words and long sentences.


My biggest regret has been not being able to attend Zadie Smith’s interview on Swing Time as I was sick. Swing Time quickly became my favorite work we read during the semester, and I am looking forward to reading more of Smith in the future as she writes largely on my interests. I wish I could have attended her interview and been able to include elements from it into my Swing Time essay.


I really enjoyed writing on Swing Time and would probably name that essay my strongest work I produced throughout the semester. There were not always opportunities to have in class discussions on the feminist and African-American culture elements of the novel, but I was thankful for the opportunity to explore these elements greater through my writing. Because Swing Time is not written linearly and has a number of elements beyond what is read on the surface of the pages, the novel was difficult sometimes to read and write on, but I am most proud of the essay I produced above all other works over the semester.


My least favorite part of the course has been the requirement to keep a blog documenting my work. In highschool I was required to do something similar, but the demands were greater than simply posting my essays. Thankfully posting my essays and resume has not been too demanding. I am only in opposition to maintaining a blog because my works are published for anyone to see, and sometimes I am insecure about my academic writing. This, much like the workshop essay, has pushed me out of my comfort zone.


Though there have been a number of frustrations and poor life chances over the course of the semester, I have learned much about myself as a student and writer. Writing this essay especially has been helpful in processing this class and the semester I have had. My greatest takeaways are being more receptive to feedback and critiques from my peers as well as the importance of time management. It has not been hard to stretch myself thin in my college journey so far between balancing school, my sorority and executive board position in my sorority, campus ministry and serving as both the president and chaplain of this ministry, the Honors’ Academy as well as Engaged Scholars. While I by no means am proud of my success in this course, I walk away with a better understanding of myself and my priorities and will carry this with me for the entirety of my college journey.


Annotated Bibliography

Smith, Zadie. Swing Time. Penguin Books, 2017.

Zadie Smith’s  Swing Time details the life of an unnamed narrator through a non linear narrative. Smith plays with allusions of identity as well as the theme of shadows through the unnamed narrator, alternating between accounts of their childhood and adult life. The narrator’s identity proves to be dependent upon race, class, and prestige, but especially upon surrounding women through Smith’s probing of the relationship between the narrator as well as Tracey and Aimee.


Beatty, Robert. Serafina and the Black Cloak. Disney/Hyperion, 2015.

Serafina and the Black Cloak details the journey of an interesting main character, Serafina, who makes it her goal to end the man in the black cloak who haunts the Biltmore estate at night time and makes children disappear. Only Serafina knows that the man in the black cloak is responsible for the missing children, and is determined to end his streak, even it means breaking the few rules she has been given her entire life.


Collins, Billy. “Snow Day by Billy Collins.” Poetry Foundation, Poetry Foundation, www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/46707/snow-day.

Billy Collins’ Snow Day  depicts a snowy day and a speaker who foreshadows some sort of corruption in response to the snow day and its happenings. The snow day is a disruption to normalcy as people are out of school, government offices are shut down, and people are home from work. Because there is a drastic change, the speaker suggests that disorder will follow.



Richtel, Matt. “Blogs vs. Term Papers.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 20 Jan. 2012, www.nytimes.com/2012/01/22/education/edlife/muscling-in-on-the-term-paper-tradition.html.

Richtel’s “Blogs vs. Term Papers” works to convince readers that term papers have an unavoidable rigidness and are too mechanistic. Richtel argues that students’ blog posts are brief and personally expressive, but still can serve the same purpose, and are often more fun to write.
Twenge, Jean M. “Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 19 Mar. 2018, www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2017/09/has-the-smartphone-destroyed-a-generation/534198/.

Twenge argues in “Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?” that the use of smartphones by contemporary teenagers has drastic effects on their mental health and sleep time. In arguing for this, Twenge also argues that taking away electronics will always be impossible, but that electronics, especially for young people, should only be used responsibly and in moderation.


Kitchener, Caroline. “Why So Many Adults Love Young-Adult Literature.” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 1 Dec. 2017, www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2017/12/why-so-many-adults-are-love-young-adult-literature/547334/.


Kitchener begins by raising an interesting statistic, that over half of Young Adult literature readers are adults. Kitchener’s main argument is that adults are still coming of age, as are the intended audiences, and that readers of all ages should be encouraged to identify with and engage with what they are reading.


Naming the Narrator “Shadow” Rather than “I”

Playing on illusions of identity, Zadie Smith’s Swing Time details the narrative of an unnamed narrator through a nonlinear storyline. Alternating between accounts of her childhood and adult life, the narrator reveals how relationships with friends and those who hold prestige dictate her life’s entirety.  In exploring themes of identity and shadows, especially probing the relationship between the narrator and Tracey and the narrator and Aimee, these themes prove to share parallels. Smith’s deliberate choice to leave the narrator unnamed invites the audience to consider identity as being dependant upon race, class, and prestige, but for the narrator, how her identity is further dependent upon surrounding women.

The narrator and Aimee’s relationship reveals an especially dependent identity; a life consumed by Aimee and her every need. Aimee’s control over the narrator’s identity is explicitly evidenced by the narrator stating she was for Aimee “a person for whom I scheduled abortions, hired dog walkers, ordered flowers, wrote Mother’s Day cards, applied creams, administered injections, squeezed spots, wiped very occasional breakup tears and so on” (131). This take over of her life details the narrator having no identity beyond that of a shadow or a life of her own.

Much like with Aimee, the narrator also lives in the shadow of Tracey and her large personality. Tracey is depicted as being loud, dominant, and attention seeking. Even in her childhood, the narrator’s identity is compromised by an alpha personality. In revisiting the story of a birthday party the two attended as children, the narrator shares that she and Tracey “argued over who was to give Lily our mutual present- naturally, Tracey had won” (76). Though Tracey and the narrator share similarities of color and class, the narrator’s identity, or lack of, is trumped by that of Tracey’s, evidencing the narrator’s life again as nothing short of a shadow.

Race, class, and prestige of course dictate the identities of characters in Swing Time, each of these amplified by the narrator in her depictions of Tracey and Aimee; but while these hold relevance, the narrator’s self identity is manipulated by her own impossibility of living outside the shadows of the two most immediate women in her life. After her mother’s death and losing her job, the narrator states that “a truth has been revealed to me: that I always tried to attach myself to the light of other people, that I never had any light of my own. I experienced myself as a kind of shadow (4). Even in the novel’s prologue the narrator names her tendency to live as a shadow and never as her own person. Leaving the narrator unnamed serves an an element of mystery to the audience; however, if the narrator were named anything other than “I” it would certainly be “Shadow”.

Swinging back and forth from accounts of the narrator’s childhood and adult life, her identity shaped by Tracey and Aimee is revealed explicitly as a shadow, even by the narrator. Smith’s choice to leave the narrator unnamed raises a number of questions, but if the narrator acknowledges her existence as a shadow, this must take an even greater toll on the audience. Through the narrator’s vulnerability and identity shaped largely by influential women in her life, Smith’s Swing Time ultimately encourages the audience to name what shapes our identities beyond race, class, and prestige, because while these might preface our identities, we are much more likely to be influenced by those who we give power.


IMG_3460Works Cited

Smith, Zadie. Swing Time. 2016. Penguin, 2017.

First Post!

Of all the organizations, clubs, and extracurriculars I have been a part of, the most influential has been South Carolina Lutheran Church Youth organization, or “LCY”. LCY holds events throughout the year where youth from all over South Carolina gather to praise God and learn how to live in community with one another. There are love projects, which are camps for special needs high schoolers and the elderly, winter retreats, two service events, “Club 345”, where we gather for a day and hangout with 3rd 4th and 5th graders, and we hold an annual convention where we elect leaders for the next year and conduct business. There are leadership positions, which are two grade level representatives for 7th and 8th grade, 9th and 10th grade, and 11th and 12th grade. There is a president, vice president, and Chaplain, and there are conference representatives which are representatives from areas all across the state like midlands, coastal, and piedmont.

The spiritual lethargy I had preceding my first event has diminished.  I didn’t start coming to LCY events until the end of my sophomore year and although I wish I would have known this organization existed sooner, I’m convinced I found it at just the right time. My faith has grew substantially in two short years and I name LCY the single greatest influence in my own faith formation. LCY provides community for teenagers who are trying to figure out high school and who they are as people of faith all at the same time and equips youth with the confidence to lead back in their own congregations.

LCY is intentional about inclusiveness and embracing diversity- this became most evident to me by our writing and unanimous passings of resolutions against racial and sexual orientation injustices. Our resolutions were passed in response to the tragic shootings in Charleston and Orlando. We felt called and compelled by the Spirit to draft and pass these resolutions as a way of standing in solidarity with those communities and to use the power of our voices rooted in our faith to speak God’s truth that God’s love is stronger than death and hatred. It is through relationship and community God’s presence is revealed to us. LCY taught me that the greatest way to live in response to God’s unconditional love is by reciprocating it: by including, praying, and lifting up our neighbors no matter the circumstance. LCY prove to be true that that alone, we are capable of close to nothing; however, together, there is a greater capacity for love and diligent work. LCY gave me language for what I believe to be true- that all really means all, no one is climbing some sort of spiritual ladder, and that people of faith’s sole job is to love and include unconditionally just as Jesus did.


These are pictures from my years in LCY!

Left: “Bridge Building” camp for the elderly

Middle: Giving a devotion as LCY’s Chaplain

Right: One of my best friends I met through LCY, Sam.