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Final Reflection Letter

Upon graduating from high school, I thought of myself as an accomplished writer. I was never the strongest English student in high school, but my perpetual improvement gave me confidence in my ability to succeed at Emory. However, until taking Professor Morgen’s class, I did not know how my writing would translate to the college level. The first few classes were challenging because I was not only introduced to the comic medium but also, had to adjust my writing to fit college expectations. In high school, I only wrote analytical pieces while, in this class, I had to complete a multitude of unique assignments. Perhaps, my favorite assignment was writing a personal narrative, a style foreign to me. Although I initially struggled with this format, through multiple revisions, I improved my writing in this facet. On another note, Professor Morgen also assigned weekly blog posts called “Sunday Sketches,” which challenged my creativity and versatility as a writer. Though I entered English 181 as a capable writer, through fulfilling the learning objectives, I have become a more versatile and improved writer, which will help me in my future endeavors.

A large component of Professor Morgen’s class was the literacy narrative. As mentioned above, writing the first draft of my narrative was a rather challenging because aside from applying to colleges, I had never written about myself in a reflective manner. Furthermore, finding distinct memories that shaped myself as a reader proved to be harder than it sounded. Since I could not easily think of any defining memories, I utilized the X-pages activity to help me brainstorm. I eventually had a list of ten memories to choose from, and I soon began writing.

In this first draft, I opened my narrative by explaining my early struggles while reading To Kill a Mockingbird and Romeo and Juliet. That was soon followed with my experience in my 10th grade English class. Though it was unfocused at times, I was successful in writing a narrative. I was effective in explaining my memories, but I was ineffective in describing what those memories meant to me. Instead of explaining how my mindset changed, I merely stated, “I was no longer skimming the pages, but rather reading actively because it was essential to thoughtfully comment on the text” (Literacy Narrative Pt.1). Recognizing this deficiency, my goal was to begin fixing this issue in my comic.

The transformation from my first written draft to my comic was rather extensive. After reading my first draft, I determined that my opening anecdote regarding To Kill a Mockingbird and Romeo and Juliet was ineffective. I realized that having two examples explaining my difficulties was rather redundant. Also, both examples lacked story-like substance required to be portrayed in comic. Therefore, I started thinking about more distinct memories that heavily impacted me as a reader. Eventually, I settled on my failing of an English pop quiz in 6th grade. I thought this would be a better anecdote because it would allow for dialogue and show what I was thinking at the time.

However, before making this change, I wanted to see what my peers thought. I made a storyboard of my comic, and I was ready to be receptive of constructive criticism. For being a rough draft, most of peers said that my storyboard was rather clear and easy to understand. Hearing this, I was very relieved because I think it validated my changing of the anecdote. On another note, I did receive some criticism. One student specifically said that my comics biggest strength was its “flow,” but he/she would have preferred the inclusion of some extra panels to slow down the passage on time. I really took this criticism to heart and added extra panels in beginning of my comic to establish the setting and the beginning of the plot:

Here, I used three panels to illustrate the hallway of my middle school. As described by Scott McCloud, establishing the setting through multiple perspectives while time is frozen is quite effective. Link

Upon completion of my comic, my second written draft was much more comprehensive than my first written draft. Illustrating the Indian Camp scene forced me from analyze how my mindset changed and what reading truly meant to me. In my first written draft, I simply wrote:

“After rewriting that essay, I saw literature through a different lens. The way that Hemingway could make such a dense text made me realize that literature is an art form” (Literacy Narrative Pt.1)

Furthermore, after writing this, I did not discuss what I learned from that experience in depth. Creating my comic forced me to this because I had to use my illustrations to show how my interpretation of Indian Camp changed:

The illustration on top is supposed to reflect my initial reading of Indian Camp. By labeling all the characters, I show how I really was focused on plot. However, in the illustration on the bottom, I am not longer focusing on the characters but on the tools the doctor is using. This eventually helped me to comment on the racism within the story. Link

These thoughts behind these illustrations were further reflected in my second written draft.Reflecting this notion, in my revised piece, I wrote, “Instead of focusing on the birth of the child, I noticed that doctor used a hunting knife and fishing line to deliver the baby, which, of course, is not the appropriate equipment” (Literacy Narrative Pt.3). Shortly after writing this, I explain that when rereading Indian Camp, I no longer solely focused on the plot but started to examine the themes, such as racism, within the story. Furthermore, I realized that reading and writing entailed the analytical identification of patterns, which helped me improve and enjoy my other academic pursuits. After completing the literacy narrative project, I feel that without creating my comic, I would have never expressed this notion within my narrative.

Besides creating my written narrative in various mediums, I also gained experience writing blog posts for my weekly sketches. These posts were pretty unique compared to any of my prior writing because I published my sketches and unfiltered thoughts online. Therefore, I had to express my thoughts and ideas extremely clearly so that any casual internet user could understand my work. Additionally, if I had to use the work of others to complete my blog posts, I would have to cite their work to ensure fair use (Example). One sketch that I am proud of was my 8th sketch: “Data viz of Excitement and Productivity.” The purpose of the sketch was to log data about various aspects of my day, such as my productivity and excitement. I learned a lot from writing the reflection for this post because I had to specifically had to cite my data. For example, when examining my daily excitement levels, I wrote, “On 3/18 and 3/19 I had excitement levels of 8 and 9, respectively, because I was excited to see someone I had not seen in a long time” (Data Viz). Making this sketch was rather helpful because I never written an analytical piece in which I had to assess the validity of my study. Because of this experience, I feel like I am more well-equipped to tackle this sort of writing in my future classes.           

Another rather unique assignment in Professor Morgen’s class was the Halfa Kucha. In this assignment, I had to apply Judith Lewis Herman’s views on trauma and recovery to formulate my argument. In my Halfa Kucha presentation, I discussed the healing of trauma regarding Teddy of Sabrina and David of Stitches. To synthesize an argument, I had to apply Herman’s claims to both David and Teddy’s respective situations. In my presentation, I argued that David completely healed, while Teddy didn’t because he resorted to “highly controversial radio programs regarding Sabrina’s death and children’s books to deflect his trauma” (direct quote from class recording). This portion of my argument was highly effective since Herman claims that reliving the moment and feeling numb are common for traumatic victims. Throughout my presentation, I cited Herman more to make my own ideas quite convincing.

In another assignment, I also analyze the trauma between David and Tillie of Spinning. In this assignment, however, I do not use Herman’s thesis, and instead make my own claims based on the characterizes of specific pages in each comic.

By the end of this course, I am now a more versatile writer by learning how to write a narrative and illustrate a comic. The process of drafting my Literacy Narrative was enlightening in that I learned that illustration could be a useful tool in my writing process. If I am ever having trouble writing for a class in the future, I will illustrate my argument to make it more comprehensive. Additionally, I was introduced to a new, innovative presentation style in the Halfa Kucha assignment. Although the timing was relatively stressful, I do believe it to be an extremely effective means of presentation. Overall, I learned a lot in my first-year writing class that will help me be successful in the future.

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