wendylbolm

Archive for the ‘College Goals’ Category

A New Life

In Awesomeness, College Goals, New Orleans on May 19, 2011 at 8:49 pm

I have now lived in New Orleans for almost a year and an half. In the past year, I have gone from living in a constant state of unemployed terror to someone who has a number of possibilities in front of her.

Some of you already know from Twitter, but I have been offered a graduate assistantship at UNO. In the fall, I will either be working in the writing center or helping a professor with research. This will provide me with a stipend and free tuition, so I will no longer have to worry about maxing out my loans every semester.

The money from the assistantship will also allow me to travel in the summer of 2012. Right now, I’m thinking a trip to the UK is in order.

For the first time, I’m also looking into PhD programs. I’m hoping I’ll be working towards a PhD and enjoying a stipend and health benefits by 2013.

I’ve also been a bit surprised the past month, because I somehow managed to snag myself a boyfriend. This is surprising because I’ve been actively seeking a girlfriend since before I moved here and have been trolling (as much as it’s possible for me to troll) the Jewish queer events in New Orleans. The bf managed to go with the flow enough to skirt all of my objections, and it’s been interesting, to say the least.

Yesterday was my 29th birthday, so my mother has been in town for the past few days. She went home this morning and left behind two or more weeks worth of food and a kitchen full of dirty dishes. Included was about three pounds of liver pate. A few months ago, Doc Brite wrote about a Chinese market across the river that sells Banh mi. I’ve never tried it before, but I’ve decided to give it ago because of all of my pate. Bf is going to take me to the market over the weekend, and I’m going to buy the fixings to make homemade ramen and compare my banh mi with the market’s deli. I’m hoping I’ll have just enough to also buy some lotus buns.

That’s been my life in the past month. I’ve been getting things done. I haven’t been writing enough, but I’ve managed to finish a few books, finish up the semester as a professor and graduate student, and enjoy life more than I have in years.

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More on Anonymous vs. Scientology

In Anonymous, Awesomeness, College Goals, Fiction, Life Goals, Scientology, Writing Opportunities on April 20, 2008 at 1:12 am

I attended a protest last Saturday, and I wrote a post about it for Sticks of Fire. You can find it here.

I also have exciting news. After years of dabbling in fiction and winning a few awards, I finally have an acceptance letter from a magazine. A little vampire yarn I wrote called “Monica” is going to be published in Arrhythmic Souls. Today has been a good day.

Spring Break and changing the world

In College Goals, Writing Opportunities on March 2, 2008 at 5:18 pm

Even though I have a week to go until Spring Break, in many ways I have been taken an impromptu Spring Break from the internet. Sometimes graduation and a quarter-life crisis hit at the same time. I’ve been doing a lot of soul searching in the past week.

One thing I’ve been thinking of quite a bit (and it’s something I’ve never bought into) is the theory many students and beginning journalists have about how they’re going to use their writing to change the world.

They just don’t get it.

Journalists don’t change the world. They write about the people who do. In fact, journalism keeps most journalists from changing the world, especially if they want to cover their passions.

Think about it. If you’ve worked your way up to the presidency of a gay pride organization, no editor is going to let you write about it. If you volunteer for a soup kitchen that needs volunteers, no editor is going to let you write about it. If you join a protest, guess what. No editor is going to let you write about it.

Some journalists get around this by specifically not joining the groups they want to cover. I did this when I was a journalist at The Oracle, so I spent two years covering events I wanted to join in on and people I wanted to befriend but couldn’t because of ethics.

The upside to the new world of journalism is blogs, where many journalists are given free reign on some newspaper owned blogs and their own personal blogs. However; I don’t think many newspapers would hand over their server space for a blog on any kinds of activism, and I know of a couple journalists in my area who have been fired over blogs they started in their own time.

“But, what am I supposed to do?” You might ask. “I really do want to change the world, and I thought reporting would help me accomplish this. You must be cynical, Wendy Withers, because all of my friends want to change the world, too. And, with new guard journalism, we’re sure to succeed.”

No, you’re not. Chances are, you’re sure to get disillusioned with the whole reporting process and quit after a year or two. You’ll realize that most editors aren’t willing to give you the feedback you want, you’re writing the articles assigned to you, and these assigned articles are geared towards the local audience, not what you actually want to write about. On top of this, since you’ll most likely start out writing for a small newspaper in a small market, the stories you do write probably won’t focus on the big, “important” issues. If the first paper you work for does cover those issues, they’ll go to seasoned reporters, not you.

“Your argument does seem to make sense. So, what do I do?”

You have two choices. Either stay on track with the knowledge you gained by reading this, or quit now, while you can. Quit a low-paid career field where the only feedback you receive may be how much you suck. There are plenty of organizations where you can change the world, and many would be thrilled to employ someone with a communications degree.

Think social justice organizations. Art galleries. PR firms. Book publishers. Businesses that actually pay employees a living wage and then give them a raise for a job well done.

The newspaper business doesn’t have enough open slots to provide every Jschool graduate with a job. From what I’ve seen, most Jschool graduates have no idea what’s going to be expected out there in the real world. You might as well get out while you can.

Blogging in two languages

In College Goals, Complete Waste of Time on February 13, 2008 at 5:10 am

אני ורד ווידרס. אני רוצה לילמוד ליכתוב עברית. אני גרה לילמוד ולומדת לגור.

As a way to improve my written Hebrew, I’ve decided to blog a little every day in both English and Hebrew. Today’s bit of bilingual wisdom?

“I am Wendy Withers. I want to learn to write Hebrew. I live to learn and learn to live.”

Unfortunately, Pages doesn’t seem to want to let me copy the Hebrew text with all of my periods intact. Although, considering I just spent an hour trying to figure out how to make Pages let me write in Hebrew at all, I’m not going to complain.

To check out my new Hebrew blog, click here.

Coming up- a review post of the three paid blog/writing systems I’ve recently tried.

The fun of working on a resume

In College Goals on February 7, 2008 at 5:46 am

After weeks of neglect, I’ve reformatted my resume. Please take a gander at it and let me know what you think.

Yet another reason why newspapers are failing

In College Goals on February 4, 2008 at 3:04 am

Think about how much time members of generations X and Y spend reading.

Now, think about how much time they spend watching short videos on the internet, some of which are well-produced and elicit all types of emotion. It’s all about instant gratification.

I found this video on BuzzMachine, by Jeff Jarvis (it’s probably old news to quite a few people by now).

I’m going to digress for a moment for a short tale. You see, every October (or, as I like to call it, Halloween), I work for Busch Gardens as a Howl O Scream scare actor. And, every year the same point is driven home. Busch Gardens understands that the internet and horror movies have changed the way people process fear. We have a very short amount of time (under seven seconds) to make an impression and scare the living bejeesus out of someone. They also keep an innovative site up throughout the Halloween season filled with games, videos, and other ways to connect to the event. We should think in similar ways when we present the news.

If we’re going to continue to report the news, we have to grab our viewer’s attention, in under seven seconds. Written media usually doesn’t do that. Think about the last time your attention was grabbed by a hard news story; chances are a feature got under your skin a lot more easily. Sites like Web Urbanist and Cracked do a very good job at writing compelling content, but they don’t really give people the news they need to know.

It’s been proven time and time again that younger readers aren’t reading the paper from page to page any more. On the web, they’re bouncing from site to site looking for interesting content. Somehow, we have to translate the viewing experience from videos like the one above to our news sites.
There are many news sites that use compelling video and slideshows to attract viewers. However, it’s becoming more and more important to make EVERY piece of content on a site compelling and attractive. With layoffs and bad attitudes, we’re really falling behind.

My tips for inclusive reporting

In College Goals, Tampa, Uncategorized on January 13, 2008 at 2:34 pm

This post is part of the January Carnival of Journalism being hosted by Adrian Monck of Views of the News Biz.

There are mosques in Tampa, Fla. There are Jewish, Buddhist, and Hindu Temples. Ethnic food stores include Chinese, Japanese, Arabic, and Jamaican cuisines. An Ethiopian restaurant just opened, and there is a coffee shop owned by a Kenyan woman across the street from my university.

Unfortunately, there’s not much media coverage of Tampa’s diverse communities. We might see a small article about a new ethnic restaurant opening or a religious feature about an Eastern faith. What we don’t see are extensive articles that put the community in context and provide a diverse view of the problems our city faces everyday.

In Tampa, if the wife of a sports star dies at the hospital while giving childbirth, it’s a front page story for a week. If a Latina gives birth to two stillborn, mutated children in two years from the pesticides sprayed on the crops she picks, it’s swept under the rug.

If a little white girl goes missing, a media frenzy stirs to make sure she’s found safely. If a little black girl gets hit by a car driven by an attractive, white, female schoolteacher, the media will only stir if the black community protests in outrage over the inequality.

I am especially sensitive to inclusion. It could be because of my extensive background in anthropology, but I think it is more because I care about everyone equally. One of the reasons people find newspapers boring is the industry’s lack of innovative, inclusive ideas that show them a side of the world they’ve never seen (which is our job, by the way).

Here are some tips to starting out on the inclusive path.

Erase the word “minority” from your vocabulary.

There is no such thing as a minority vote or voter. Saying a politician courts minorities is false. Ethnic groups vote over strong cultural and moral lines, so saying one politician is courting all minorities is saying there are two cultural groups in existence, white and other.

The word minority is vague. It doesn’t describe a population in enough detail. Instead, use statistics to show that a particular group is a small segment of the population. Use the specific group name in every article about them, and even better yet, use even more identifiers to show who they are. For example, with all of the groups in India, from castes to tribes, saying someone is from India really doesn’t say much about them.

Step outside your comfort zone and explore your city.

Check out a church that caters to the group you’re interested in. Eat at their restaurants. Shop in their markets. Find their associations.

There may be a Cuban Club in your city; find it. If tensions are flaring between two gangs, instead of writing a quick brief about the violence, find the church nearest to the location of the incident and get to know the people who attend and their concerns for the area.

Go on fact finding missions to local governmental meetings and stay the entire time.

Here’s what the last school board meeting I went to looked like:

The meeting started with standing room only. The board recognized sport teams for doing outstanding work. The local paper took pictures, TV stations took video, they got the student’s names, and half the room emptied as the sport teams headed home.

A new high school was named for a leader in the Hispanic community. The local paper took a couple of pictures, the TV stations that were left took video, they got his name, and half of the remaining people left again.

A group of women were recognized for community service work they do for local schools. The local paper took a picture, got their names, and the only people left in the room were parents protesting a district line change for two middle and two high schools. The parents were a diverse group of people in the lower middle class and service men and women from the local military base.

The cameras were gone, the TV crews had left about two hours before. Print journalists were either on hand or watching from the video feed on the community network, because there were small pieces in at least one paper that did nothing to explore the issues or the people involved. It just said angry parents were at the school board meeting; an entire group of passionate, informed people who were trying to be active in local government were ignored.

Look for conventions.

There are so many types of conventions, it would be impossible to list them all. But, conventions are a good way to network with potential sources. When was the last time you sat down to drinks with a furrie? Or, a Southern Baptist leader? Or a leader in the BDSM culture? Or, a Christian hip-hop artist? Conventions usually offer press passes for free, which means you get free access to an entire group of people who are actively involved in their community. They’re usually glad to sit down for 10 to 15 minutes for drinks or coffee, especially if it’s a convention that lasts the entire weekend.

Keep your eyes open for community newspapers and phone books.

In Tampa, there are phone books for the Hispanic community and businesses that support the GLBT community. There are newspapers in Spanish and geared towards African Americans. Whenever I see a newspaper on display, I check it out. If it’s free, it’s for me, and if I have to pay a dollar to tap into insight into a community I’m not familiar with, I’ll do that, too.

I hope this list helps everyone think outside the box at least a little; the U.S. is not a country built on the backs of White Anglo Saxon Protestants. It’s a country of diverse immigrants, and I’d like to see this fact represented more often.

Only 117 days to go…

In College Goals, Knitting on January 7, 2008 at 3:43 pm

I’m taking a cue from Arleen Spenceley who last semester kept my blogging class up-to-date on her graduation countdown.

At this time last semester, I was panicked. I couldn’t decide whether to graduate last semester (0n schedule) or use the extra financial aid I received to attend for an extra semester. I’m glad I chose the way I did, because if I had graduated last month, I wouldn’t have the skills I need to make it in today’s journalism.

Here are the skills I will gain from the the graduate class I’m taking that I should have learned before I qualified for my bachelor’s:

Flash.
Out of all my classes, lectures, and guest speakers, I don’t think anyone’s even mentioned Flash. In fact, the only thing I knew about the program is that modern animators use it for their projects on the internet.

Web site design with HTML, CSS, XHTML or even Dreamweaver templates.
No class I took required me to even look into web design, although some professors hinted that it might be a good idea to get a domain.

Video.
My print professors never even mentioned taking video of anything, and my multimedia class focused too much on publication at a regional powerhouse, so print students weren’t nurtured to use the intimidating video equipment.

Audio.
No one told me a good audio slideshow would do wonders for my career. For a long time, I worked off of tape recorders, because they were cheaper than digital. My current recorder lacks a USB port, so my recordings are trapped on the device.

I’m looking forward to Wednesday, where I’ll get my marching orders to prepare a multimedia news story that covers all platforms. I just wish I’d learned it all sooner.

If anyone wants to hire a fresh-faced journalist with two cats, a knitting addiction, and bright hair (red) please let me know. You have 117 days and counting.

Five goals for 2008

In Awesomeness, College Goals, Knitting, Uncategorized on January 2, 2008 at 1:33 am

1. Land a good job at a competitive magazine or news organization, and start my career with a bang.

2. Keep up this blogging thing.

3. Finish my first novel and submit it to agents.

4. Travel outside the U.S.

5. Take advantage of writing organizations. (I’ll renew my membership with the SPJ and join the Florida Writer’s Association. Four or five members have asked me to join in the last few years- there’s no time like the present.

My theme for 2008 is Wendy’s Year of Love. I’m going to make sure my friends and family know they’re appreciated and practice Random Acts of Kindness. It’s also going to be my year of knitting; one of my best friends gave me the Stitch and Bitch Page-A-Day calendar.

2007 in review

In Awesomeness, College Goals, Uncategorized on December 31, 2007 at 10:54 pm

This was an awesome year for me. I think I did a good job of kicking off my career BEFORE I graduated. Here’s what I accomplished:

Online presence:
I wrote articles and columns for Mookychick.
I converted my Myspace into a writer’s Myspace.
I started logging onto Facebook again.
I joined LinkedIn.
I started my own blog, which spawned another, a writing gig for 451 Press and a contributing gig for Sticks of Fire.
I have multimedia projects up on TBO.
I built my first Web site, from templates (I’m going to change it into a writer’s Web site this semester).
I uploaded video onto YouTube and used them in blogs.
I learned some basic HTML.

Print:
I finished an internship at Creative Loafing.
I started and finished an internship at Tampa Bay Illustrated.
I wrote book reviews and interned for The Tampa Tribune.

Classes:
I took a magazine feature writing course, a blog and column course, a public affairs writing course that focused on public documents, and a course that gave me more clips from The Trib. I also registered and will be attending a graduate level course before I get my bachelor’s degree.

Creative writing:
I submitted short stories and features to magazines and proudly displayed the rejection letters.
I finished the first draft of my first novel.

What I wish I had done:
I wish I’d saved more money, and I wish I’d figured out a way to travel abroad. I doubt I’ll be able to go on the Ireland trip, but I can always hope. I’d like to go to Chicago for the alt-writing internship.