Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

Professional Writing Courses Teach You More Than Just Professional Writing

When I first entered Dr. Haimes-Korn’s Professional Writing Course in August of 2018, I was very apprehensive. As she detailed what we would be doing in her course for the semester, my social anxiety told me to drop the class the second she mentioned we would be interviewing strangers. Against that voice in my head, I stayed with the class and I am incredibly happy that I did. I have grown as a writer, as a student, and as a person by sticking with this class.

IMG_1450
My content design team for my professional writing course.

This course teaches you so much more than professional writing. One of the most useful things I learned in this class was how to work within a content design team made up of fellow students. I learned how to provide useful feedback and how to take constructive criticism to make my writing even better. I even learned from my teammates to stop making those same mistakes in my future writings throughout the course. Most importantly, I learned how to work as a team and collaborate with my group, which wasn’t what I had anticipated considering group work in college is usually the worst. It was an added bonus that I really like my team members. I’ll always be grateful to my team members Allyson, Caroline, and Donna for helping me grow personally and always helping with my writing.

Another thing I learned about was what experiential reviews are. Not only that, but I learned that I love them. I actually love them so much that I actually wrote two, one of which wasn’t even an assignment for class. By learning to write experiential reviews, I observe new places with a new eye. I take in everything about the place I’m visiting, from sounds to smells. For example, when I visited The Masquerade, I observed that the venue “smells of old antiques and is dimly lit with gothic chandeliers”, which isn’t something I would have normally noticed.  I was able to really immerse myself in the experience of seeing that concert, knowing I would have to write about it later. This assignment made me want to write about more places and immerse myself even further in the future.

This course also helped me understand who I am as a person, as well as a writer, better than before. Through our professional identity and marketing skills assignment, I was able to really understand who I am and express that to others through my blog. I learned that “I tend to focus on my communication skills, organizational skills, and time management skills. I can learn new tasks quickly, communicate effectively, and strive to do tasks to the best of my ability.” By completing that assignment, I learned who I am to employers and in the job market while being able to express that coherently through writing. That assignment alone provided a lot of help with my future goals.

Our final project in the course was probably the most challenging for myself, which was to interview someone and write an article for the Rescue Dog Olympics held in Atlanta. This assignment was my first time having to perform a journalistic style interview with someone I didn’t know and write up an article detailing what that person had told me. The most intense part was the interview itself. However, after interviewing with my assigned client, I realized that I learned so much as a writer and as an individual.

Screenshot (25)
Rescue dog River from my spotlight article for Rescue Dog Olympics.

Given my mental health, I thought I would inevitably fail the task but quickly realized that wasn’t the case. I first hand learned how to hold a conversation with a client in order to get information to write an article, and it really wasn’t all that bad. I actually had fun doing it, which made me realize I was much stronger than I give myself credit for. Writing up the actual article, I learned how to convert questions and answers into an easy to follow story that was engaging and heartwarming. My article was all about a rescue dog named River and I actually have great pride in being able to tell her story. This assignment helped me realize the potential I have as a writer and opened a new career interest for me.

This website is my ongoing writing portfolio, and this class was an amazing way to jumpstart it. I not only learned how to write experiential reviews and journalistic articles, but I learned how to create interesting infographics and how to create engaging blog posts. Outside of writing, I learned how to branch away from my comfort zone, work within a group, and understand who I am as an individual. This class was a great joy to take and I will forever be grateful for ignoring that inner voice that told me to switch classes at the beginning of the semester because I would have missed out on so many great opportunities to grow as a writer and as a person.

What My Skills and Professional Identity Looks Like

My name is Arianna Lentini. I am an English major who has a minor in professional writing and I am currently working in retail. When working, I tend to focus on my communication skills, organizational skills, and time management skills. I can learn new tasks quickly, communicate effectively, and strive to do tasks to the best of my ability.

After using several of the different transferable skills checklists provided in class, I’ve found that I have several skills such as above average listening skills, organizational skills, adaptability skills, and the ability to work under pressure. While these are only a few of the many skills I’ve found that I have, they seem to be some of the most important skills. All of these important skills can easily be used in any career field I choose to go in with my English degree and can also help me in my courses now.

I’ve spent many months looking for internships on LinkedIn and careers in general. The keywords I typically have used are creative writing, writing, content creator, and social media marketing. Looking for jobs outside of retail, I have noticed that I really need to work on my teamwork skills, which I have been working on throughout my professional writing course. I am a very independent person who loves to work alone, but I recognize that working in a team is typically more effective. That is the largest skill I feel that I need to work on. I also feel that I need much more experience to truly be the best I can be at my given career path.

One of the websites I used to assess myself was located at SkillsYouNeed.com. I discovered that my listenings skills were above average, which means that I am more likely to enjoy more meaningful relationships and are less likely to misunderstand what others are communicating – I don’t just hear what is being said, but bring together the verbal and non-verbal signals to gain an accurate interpretation of other people’s views and opinions.  I also learned that my verbal communication was also above average, which means I normally use appropriate language and know when to talk, and when not to talk.  Having good verbal communication means that I can express yourself well to others – explaining my ideas and opinions in such a way that they are usually understood by others.

However, not all of my scores were as great. My skills in communication in groups was well below average, which means I am not particularly confident about communicating in group situations. I learned that working on my verbal communication and listening skills will help to boost my confidence. My emotional intelligence was simply average, which means that my measure of how well I understand and deal with my emotions and the emotions of others is average. I learned that I should take time to understand and improve my own emotional intelligence since it can help with my personal development and in engaging with those around me.

This exercise also allowed me to understand some of my marketable skills. Some of which were my abilities to think on my feet, set realistic goals, use media to present ideas creatively and keep to a schedule. I also realized that I follow through on plans, handle many tasks at once and get projects done on time. Lastly, I learned that I am adaptable, creative, empathetic, energetic, and well spoken. All of these examples are great when applying for jobs.

River the Rescue

There are many stigmas held against rescue dogs that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Some of the stigmas people may believe is that, rescue dogs can not be trained and will have behavioral issues. Another is that rescue dogs can’t be purebreds. The final, and largest, stigma is that rescue dogs are given up because there is something wrong with them. In reality, most dogs are given up to shelters because of moving, personal issues, no room, financial reasons or even lack of time. Some of the dogs in shelters have lived a hard life and have a rough and abusive past, but that does not mean the dog is “broken”. Take River for example.

River’s Story

IMG_1727
River waiting for treats.

River, a two-year-old Black Mouth Cur mix, was rescued by Jill and Jay Waddell, when she was just six months old. River had gone through some difficult things in her short life. River originally came from an abusive and neglectful situation, spending most of her life in a crate, without any bonds with humans or dogs. When she was rescued from that situation and brought to a shelter, she faced several families who adopted her and then quickly returned her. It can be assumed that it was due to the fact that River needed some extra time and attention.

Jill and Jay met River and ended up adopting her and renamed her River to stick the theme of their previous two dogs named Canoe and Kayak! They were a little wary at first after hearing how families had brought her back, as anyone would be. They soon realized why she had been brought back and started to fit the puzzle pieces of her past together.

River started out pretty aggressive. While she never hurt anyone, she would bite their clothes and pull or jump all over them. They observed this behavior mainly in the backyard. This led them to believe that her crate had been in the backyard. She would also start to panic whenever there was any sort of yard equipment in her rescuer’s hands, such as a rake. This led them to believe that River had been previously been abused with yard tools. River also liked to lick anything metal, which they assumed was a form of her self comforting, since most of her life at that point had been in a metal cage.

River  had no concept of how to be a “normal” domesticated pup. She didn’t know how to play and did not know how to act around people or dogs. Jill and Jay eventually went to a trainer for help with helping River. The approach of the first trainer was not a good fit, which involved reacting to the negative behavior in a negative/ punitive way.  Instead, they discovered the best way to deal with the aggressive behavior which was River’s fear reaction was through love. Whenever River got riled up, they would sit with her and just hold her tight–even when she would try to wiggle out, they showed River that, no matter what, she had a family who unconditionally loved her and would always be there for her. She would softly tell her nice things and showered her in love. She would do this as long as twenty minutes until River felt safe enough.

River Today

Screenshot (26)
River being patient.

Fast forward to now, River is a completely different dog, even though she is still a work in progress. She is only two years old, so she still has quite a bit of energy. She has even received the title of being the business partner in the organization of the Rescue Dog Olympics in Atlanta. “She doesn’t have any actual assistant responsibilities,” Jill had joked. However, River’s job does entail lots of emotional support and snuggles. She is constantly loving on her family as well as everyone else. She also loves to run, play with toys and now knows how to have fun with other dogs. Just by giving River the love that she so desperately wanted and some extra time and care, Jill and Jay were able to completely transform her into a beloved member of the family.

At the moment, Jill is training River to become a therapy dog for chronically ill children.  She says that because River has so much love to give to others that she would make a great therapy dog to those in need. River still has a lot of work to do, since she still has so much energy and loves to jump on people to show her love, but will still make a great therapy dog in time.

River’s Impact

River is just one example of the countless rescue dog stories being made every single day. Rescuing a dog from a shelter as opposed to buying one directly from a breeder has so many benefits. By rescuing a dog saves two lives: the life of the dog rescued and the life of another dog in need that can now come to the shelter due to the open space. Most rescues are already spayed or neutered and even microchipped. Most adult dogs are already potty-trained and with a rescue, the workers will be able to tell you about the dog’s unique personality. According to the ASPCA, about 3.3 million dogs are brought into rescue shelters while 1.6 million dogs are adopted each year. By adopting a rescue, you can help shelters bring in more dogs that are in need and keep the euthanization rates low.

Rescue dogs have so much potential that more people need to see, which is a reason Jill started the Rescue Dog Olympics in Atlanta. It’s a dog lovin’ festival and dog party on Sunday, March 10, 2019 in Piedmont Park.  It’s a chance for people to do something fun with their dogs and for families looking to adopt to meet some great rescue organizations and find their new family member. It’s a way to spread awareness to the greatness inside every rescue dog and to show just how much they deserve to be loved for their entire lives.

What Happens When You Mix College and Mental Illnesses

Believe it or not, having mental illnesses and going to college isn’t the easiest thing to do. Being in denial about just how bad your mental health is and starting college is even more difficult. I went into college thinking nothing bad could possibly happen as long as I went to class and did my homework. I thought, like most people probably think, that college would be like it was in movies; you’d get a really cool roommate and love your classes and live your best life. But what happens when college doesn’t happen like that?

To start out, most people don’t graduate in exactly four years. Graduating in four years is actually pretty rare yet is still a marvelous feat to achieve. In reality, as many as 59% of people seeking their bachelor’s degree take up to 6 years to graduate. Since it’s so rare to actually graduate in 4 years, a term called the “Four Year Myth” has become pretty well known and is true to its meaning. In a study of 580 public four-year universities, only 50% graduated on time. Even knowing how common it is to graduate late, it doesn’t make it any easier to deal with as an individual.

I personally started college in 2015 right after I graduated high school. I made out a plan for my courses in order to graduate on time, which included taking summer courses.

IMG_6342
Ari sitting in front of her university sign her first year of college.

 

Yet here I am starting my fourth year with no idea of my graduation date. My first year of college wasn’t like the movies. Instead, it was incredibly hard. I was uprooted from my routine back home and was forced to live on my own where I inevitably collapsed in on myself like a dying star. The mental health issues I was already battling went into overdrive and I finished my first semester with a 0.067 GPA and a letter of academic probation in my mailbox.

However, I wasn’t the only one facing a challenge like this. In the 2014-2015 school year, 1,170 students dropped out of their own colleges because of mental health issues. That’s a staggering number to look at yet it gets worse when you realize that it’s a 210% increase since the 2009-2010 school year. In the same study, 87,914 students asked to start counseling in the 2015-2016 school year. Mental health is an alarming issue in college students all across the nation as well as people outside of college.

For me, I faced the two most common mental health issues in college students: anxiety and depression. I’m not talking about feeling sad and being nervous in class, I’m talking weeks without showers because I lacked motivation and skipping a day of class then never going back because I felt too anxious to face my professor as to why I was missing. I’m talking days on days where I only ate microwavable macaroni cups in my dorm room because I was too anxious to face people and staying up for 72 hours straight because I couldn’t stop thinking about anything and everything. That kind of anxiety and depression. What’s worse is that students all over the country endure the same emotional pain and one of these students could be in your class.

To get more specific, anxiety and depression affects 57% of women and 40% of men. On top of that, 40% of these people do not seek help. The reason many don’t look for help is for a variety of reasons.

MentalHealthStats
Infographic based on a survey done by loyolaphoenix.com

It’s possible they’re in denial of how bad it is or maybe they can’t afford to get help. It’s possible that many could have misconceptions of what it means to go to therapy, like that it makes you weak or that therapists don’t actually do anything. Then there’s the more macabre possibility: maybe they just wanted to give up. Whatever the case may be, mental health issues are only getting worse in college students.

For me, I was continuously told to give up my dream of a college education my entire second semester. What’s worse is that I was told this by the therapists on campus. I was told there was no hope for me at that point and that I needed to give up in order to reevaluate my life. It was just assumed that I didn’t like college or at least this specific college. It was assumed that the only thing causing my distress what college itself, which couldn’t be further from the truth. By the summer of 2016, a week before I was to move into my on-campus apartment, I was told that I was kicked out of school because of my grades. However, I had spent the entire summer appealing failed classes with the help of an off-campus counselor and one appeal went through, allowing me to go back to college. However, since I live so far away and had nowhere to live near campus since I lost my apartment, I had to take a year off.

Long story short, I fought long and hard with the war raging in my head. I traveled 5 hours every week to attend therapy in order to make sure I was ready for the next time I attended classes. Even though I lost all of my loans and financial aid, I started back at the same university for the 2017-2018 school year and made the President’s list. I was put in the local newspaper back home and earned my loans back. I worked hard and went from a freshman to a junior in 365 days. I joined clubs, got a part-time job, made friends and seemed like a normal kid. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have off days. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t still feel the effects of mental health issues in my academics and my daily life.

All in all, if I’ve learned anything, I’ve learned that it’s possible to make a comeback. I’ve learned that mental health issues are more common in college students than anyone would like to admit. I’ve learned how to overcome and how to share my story for those in a similar position. While it wasn’t the experience I planned for or wanted, I wouldn’t change it for anything.

Tattoos in the Workplace Infographic

new-piktochart_32789136 (3)

Works Cited:
“Tattoos in the Workplace Statistics.” Support Tattoos and Piercings at Work, Support Tattoos and Piercings at Work, 2012, http://www.stapaw.com/tattoos-in-the-workplace-statistics.

“Tattoo Statistics – How Many People Have Tattoos?” History of Tattoos – Origin and Meaning of Tattoos, http://www.historyoftattoos.net/tattoo-facts/tattoo-statistics/.

“Interesting Statistics About Tattoos In The Workplace.” JobMonkey, 24 Mar. 2016, http://www.jobmonkey.com/statistics-tattoos-workplace/.

The Masquerade Should Be Your Next Concert Venue

The Masquerade’s Purgatory stage, which smells of old antiques and is dimly lit with gothic chandeliers, is an incredibly intimate location for a concert. The Masquerade is located in downtown Atlanta near the capitol building and Five Points, which makes it pretty easy to locate. Grafitti decorates the entire way there and even the parking deck. The walk from the parking deck down to where the stage is located is full of dimly lit brick walls and brick arched entryways.

The Masquerade has been around since 1989 and has recently moved from their old location, which is the feature image of this post. It’s housed artists such as Nirvana and Radiohead, so it’s a fairly reputable venue for a concert to be held. The Masquerade holds about 500 shows per year, ranging from popular bands to smaller bands.

My friend and I got there about thirty minutes early and observed their security team check bags, pockets and jackets to make sure everyone would be safe during the concert.

IMG_0522
The entrance to the Purgatory stage.

All of the staff members were incredibly friendly and were all working hard to make sure that it turned out to be a fun and safe night for everyone. They even continuously walked by double and triple checking to make sure everyone was okay and excited for the night to start as we waited for the doors to open. The Purgatory stage is only one of their three stages; the other two stages are named Heaven and Hell. The stages can hold as many as 1,000 people.

Walking into the Purgatory stage felt like walking into another dimension. From the brick and glass doors we had seen outside, inside was all black with fake candles and antique-looking lightbulbs strung from the ceiling. We all shoved our way to the stage, getting as close as humanly possible to where the musicians would soon stand. The first act came out, a small Atlanta-based artist called I The Victor. As they played, it became apparent that all of the musicians and staff acted as though they were a family. The musicians would ask us to give a round of a applause to staff members for working so hard at putting all of this together and even asked us to buy one of the staff a drink since it was his birthday. I have been to two previous concerts in my life yet this concert reverberated so much positive energy from every single person.

The next act was a rapper from Texas named De’Wayne Jackson. He got personal with the crowd by telling us his hardships he’s gone through and how he took a chance by moving from Texas to LA. He told us how our society is going through a lot of hardships and that we need to band together to keep an open mind and open heart. It was an incredibly positive and personal experience while he was onstage. While he performed, we could see the staff hard at work making sure everything was perfect. They were bringing water bottles to the performers onstage, taking photos and videos, attending the merchandise booths and helping people find the bathrooms. Most importantly, we could see a man upstairs controlling the lights for each performer, making the concert experience even cooler.

IMG_0525
The stage inside.

During the time it took to switch acts, the gothic chandeliers would turn back on, allowing us to see the room better. Posters of bands and singers that most likely played at The Masquerade encased the walls around us. There was a small digital clock near the stage where Pac-Man and some ghosts would run across from time to time. In the back of the room were two merchandise booths for all of the acts and the exit door. To the right of the stage was the bar, which was always being attended. Staff stood by the walls and doors, ready to help on a moments notice. It was truly a fantastic venue for a concert.

The last artist to perform before the main act came out was a band called Chapel. While we all came for the main act, each artist that performed leading up to it were all incredibly friendly, energetic, and involved. When I say involved, I mean that every single act told us to either sing along with them or dance like crazy with them or even repeat Vine references with them. Thanks to being in such a small room with a small set made it easy for the musicians to interact with us personally and made it an even better experience.

IMG_0535
The singer, Cody Carson, for the band Set It Off.

Finally, the main act came one: a rock band called Set It Off. The singer, Cody Carson, crowd surfed about five separate times and was able to do it safely, thanks to the diligent staff members. I didn’t know the band very well but quickly learned that they’re all incredibly positive souls that encouraged everyone to be their true and raw selves and to spread positivity in that room and in the world. It was a great band to witness live. After losing our hearing to the concert and screaming our lungs out for an encore, we all filed out of the room. We met with the opening acts and expressed how much we enjoyed them and even got some photos. Surprisingly, getting out of the Purgatory stage wasn’t hectic or full of pushing people out of the way. It was calm and quick and, before we realized it, we were outside and ready to go home.

This was my first time attending a concert at The Masquerade and after experiencing this, it definitely will not be my last concert. It was a personal, safe, energetic, positive, and fun experience that I would recommend to any concert lover. It’s actually pretty difficult to find anything bad about it.

When Writing Becomes Content Analysis

Like everything else in our modern day society, things are changing and evolving to adapt in the world. The article When Writing Becomes Content by Lisa Dush is a wonderful example of how even writing is changing. Dush ultimately describes what exactly content writing is in this new context and how to varies to that of traditional writing. She makes a lot of great points about where writing in this new digital age is going and how we as writers fit in. Dush also states in the article that we cannot disregard what content has become but rather to embrace the change and change with it.

The article focuses on how writing is no longer seen as just art but rather something called content. Content, in this new context, is described as “conditional, computable, networked, and commodified” (pg  174) and contains important skills needed for this generation. Dush’s rhetoric of defining content writing could easily be its own essay as it is chalk full of important information that is explained so clearly. She even goes into detail about why she has defined content in this way.

The term conditional is used to describe content in its latest context because so many different things can have an impact on the content being produced. It’s also conditional because it can be easily accessed by so many people all over the globe and can provide a variety of uses to readers. She uses computable because content writing is digital and can be easily accessed and found in a computer’s database. The term network is similar to that of computability; content writing is linked to different networks in order to gain visibility. Lastly, commodified because content writing is in constant circulation.

Simply having these terms to define content helps us as readers have a better understanding of what writing is evolving to. Her arguments of why they describe content writing is just as sound. While her descriptions of the definition plays an important part, Dush also describes the main argument of her article.

The differences between writing and content is where her main argument of the article lies. Dush included a Figure on page 182 of the differences between writing and content, which includes some important differences like the audience and the availability of that work. Her argument is plainly written on page 183 when Dush says ” However, my Screenshot (13)argument is not that the writing metaphor should be erased or superseded, but rather that we should acknowledge writing’s unavoidable status as content, keeping the two metaphors simultaneously in mind both in individual rhetorical acts and in our understandings of the field concerns of writing studies.” She encourages readers to adapt to the change in writing without forgetting our roots. She argues that blatantly rejecting this new content can result in many people losing moments to grow as creators and as people. I personally find this train of thought very wise, as the author has a greater understanding of what content can do than most people would.

Dush also touches upon what types of professions have adopted content in their daily routines, such as journalism and literary publishing. She also puts the reader at ease by explaining how to approach content through skills the reader may already have. Content can be applied using skills learned from marketing and requires something called a “core strategy” (pg 186). A core strategy is divided into four quadrants and can be used by most companies to adapt to content creation. By covering all of the bases for content writing in our era, it allows the reader to fully understand what exactly content is and how to adapt to it in one’s own life from here on out.

In conclusion, Dush provides a lot of insight to something that may be intimidating to some people. She coherently describes what it is, how it is used, and how we can adapt as writers to creating content for employers and/or companies. When I initially read the title, I had thought that content was taking over all forms of writing. However, Dush dismissed that initial thought by describing how we can exist coincide with content while sticking true to what we know. This article would be a great source for anyone looking into creating content and wanting to learn more about content.

 

 

Dush, Lisa. “When Writing Becomes Content.” Dec. 2015, http://www.ncte.org/library/NCTEFiles/Resources/Journals/CCC/0672-dec2015/CCC0672When.pdf.