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Poetic Clickbait

Michelle Pena, Writing Consultant

I, like many of my peers, have found myself regularly distracted by what is posted on various social media platforms. Whether that be the witty quips developed by particularly clever comedians on Twitter or the seemingly flawless lives of influencers and models on Instagram.Michelle Pena Like many English majors and lovers of the written word, I actively search for poetry through those social media sites.

This tendency has caused me to not only discover a new area of online distraction but also a new subset of writers and their work. A few such poets are Rupi Kaur, Atticus, and R.M. Drake. Their work exemplifies a newer form of poetry unique to our society’s emerging group of social media writers. This type of writing can be identified by its short and concise messages, which are usually obvious in their intended meanings.

These poets have cultivated a lively and devoted following through their social media accounts, some of which have led to the publication of their varied works. The social acclaim achieved in those instances is by no means unattainable for those interested in this genre. It is simply the application of a formula which many, once unknown, social media “celebrities” have utilized to attract the attention of the general public.

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Instagram poetry of r.m. drake

So reader, if you see yourself approaching the prospect of social media publication, there are a few things you must consider. The first being your choice of platform. All websites are not created equal because, dependent on what you want to write and how you are trying to write it, the medium you select is crucial. Some important questions to pose to yourself at this point would be: Are you writing poetry? Is it short? Does it convey a certain aesthetic? If not, would you want it to? If any of your answers to these questions are yes, then you may fair better on Instagram.

The typical audience you will encounter through Instagram will be looking for something to scroll by and enjoy briefly, versus a long descriptively complicated piece. If you are more inclined to write long style poetry, short stories, or sample pieces from a larger work, you may want to take a look at Tumblr. There are entire writing communities devoted to reviewing and responding to various works in any style and genre you might have interest in. Twitter, while not exactly the ideal place to post your writing, is an excellent platform to market your work from other places, using hyperlinks and witty sayings to draw people in.

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Instagram poetry of rupi kaur

It sounds easy, when laid out in that manner. Just upload your work, get feedback and notice, and in the blink of an eye, you’ve earned recognition. But in order to have your work seen and recognized by a mass number of people, you will need to catch their attention and acquire their devotion. Identifying the time when your posts will be most effective may seem daunting and exhaustive, but it is relatively easy information to acquire.

After quickly Google searching the best times to post on Instagram, I was able to discover multiple articles that posit what times are best depending on where you and your audience are located. One article published by Later.com, an online Instagram partner, details useful information about time scheduling and operating within the app itself. Another article on Forbes.com, called, “50 Free Ways to Increase your Instagram Followers,” aims to give you exactly what the title implies: advice on things such as what to use as a hashtag and what filter would be most effective for a photo (btw, its Mayfair).

Now the last bit of info important to consider are the pros and cons of participating in online publishing. Notice how I refer to posting your work online as “publishing,” this is because if you post your fully produced poetry online, there is a chance that traditional publishing companies may not consider it. According to Kidlit.com potential publishers want, “new, never-before-seen content,” and putting your entire collection of poems online may ruin any prospect for you to traditionally circulate your work. On the opposite end of this lies the possibility for internet notice and recognition.

By building an online following, the consideration for your writing increases as do your chances of being published. While it could be an amazing opportunity to get feedback and gauge how well your writing does in the public eye, your work might also be stolen or misattributed by others. Also, it is important for you to keep in mind that obtaining literary notice through the internet and otherwise takes time. This span of time is not the judge for how talented you are as a writer; it is simply part of the process of publishing. So, never lose hope that you can establish yourself and your work. It will just take some patience, determination, and the perfect hashtag. 😉 #writeon

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The ePortfolio: Shaping Your Online Presence Through a Professional Medium

Haley Petcher, Consultant 

The weather is still pretty warm, but somehow it’s already October. October means that graduate school applications are beginning to be due, and for those of you graduating in December, the “real world” of jobs is right around the corner. You want to get into grad school and to get a job, but how will the committees and employers know the real you? How will the people writing your rec letters know details about what you did during your undergraduate career? The answer is what you would expect from a University Writing Center employee: by writing.

These days, though, everything is digital. With Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, etc., we have a large digital footprint with details about ourselves, but none of those footprints are professional. At my undergraduate institution, Auburn University, I learned about ePortfolios, which are basically personal websites that showcase your experiences and skills by contextualizing pictures, papers, and projects. I created one for an English class, but I have a confession: I didn’t finish one in time for applications. Guys, I regret that. However, I recently completed one that represents my experiences in undergrad, and I hope to complete another ePortfolio by the end of my MA program.

Before you say, “I don’t have papers to share,” I promise that ePortfolios aren’t just for English majors. I’ve seen examples of ePortfolios by by engineers, pharmacy studentsbusiness students, artists, nurses, and vet students. They pick some of their best projects and presentations to showcase and contextualize.

Creating an ePortfolio is like writing a paper with pictures. Here are a few quick tips to get you started:

  • First, think about your audience. Often it’s professionals, like a professor who is writing your rec letter or a graduate or hiring committee.
  • Next, write a “thesis” for your ePortfolio. That is, what do you want to prove to your audience? One of my friends, for example, majored in English and minored in business. He wanted to prove that his experiences in English, tutoring, hiring committees, and leadership meshed with his love for books. After getting his MBA, he hopes to find a job at a publishing company.
  • Consider how you want to organize your ePortfolio. Should each page have to do with a verb, like “research” or “teach,” or should each page relate to words like “teamwork” or “service”?
  • Pick the most important things you did that are connected to your “thesis” and organize them according to your pages. When you write about them, try to explain the project and to explain what you learned from it.
  • Pick an online venue, like wix.com or weebly.com. (They’re free!)
  • Start creating your ePortfolio! (Remember to use appropriate pictures. Pictures of you outside – by yourself – are often good.)

When you complete your ePortfolio, you can put the link on your resume or email signature. (If there’s something to click, people will probably click it. Take advantage of other people’s curiosity!)

You’re probably wondering what happens if your future employer or grad school doesn’t review your ePortfolio. The great thing is about creating an ePortfolio is that by analyzing and writing about your work, you will begin to better understand what you enjoy about your studies and experiences and how your time in undergrad will help you reach your goals. The ePortfolio shows that you can think critically about your interests and allows you to explain how volunteering at the animal shelter or starting a club for students who enjoy tap dancing makes you an attractive and unique candidate for the job.

If you want some more examples, try checking these out! Also, since an ePortfolio involves writing and is like a paper, you can always bring it to the University Writing Center for a writing consultation.

Note: I received most of this information from presentations I attended while working with Auburn University’s Office of University Writing (OUW). You can learn more about ePortfolios by reviewing the OUW’s website.

Writing Centers and Twitter: How We Use this ‘Weird’ Space and How Students Perceive It

Jennifer Marciniak, Assistant Director, University of Louisville Virtual Writing Center

When I use Twitter, I use it for a wide variety of information. My interests are varied, and, therefore, my Twitter feed bounces from what’s going on in higher education to the latest trade rumors in Major League Baseball.  I get the Groupons and other “slick deals” of the day, as well as headlines from oil and gas industry newspapers and blogs that commiserate with one another on the newest objections to hydraulic “fracking.”  You’ll even find Usain Bolt tweeting photos of himself at post-Olympic parties alongside updates regarding The Walking Dead and Grimm.  Yes, my Twitter feed is eclectic, to say the least.

However, interspersed among all these posts are those from writing centers at other universities. My position in the Virtual Writing Center at U of L demands I keep up with what’s being discussed in terms of online writing and writing centers as a whole, and for someone who is a perpetual headline-skimmer like me, Twitter is hard to beat. In terms of writing centers, there are the regular business-oriented tweets like University of Wisconsin –Madison’s call for students: “New badgers: stop by the UW-Madison Writing Center for individual writing instruction, group workshops & more!” Then there are “emergency tweets,” like University of Central Missouri Writing Center’s last minute change in plans that was cross-posted to UCM’s main Twitter feed for maximum effectiveness: “@UCentralMO writing center has temporarily been moved to Humph 119 Conference Room. Hopefully we will be back in #humph116 later today.”  These types of Tweets are basic bits of information that students need to know in order to find and understand the Writing Center’s “place” at the University.

While most writing centers use Twitter to get the word out, there seems to be only so much a Writing Center can do to get people to follow their feed, or in terms of Facebook, “like” their page. Even when considering how the Uof L Writing Center could benefit from Twitter, I really couldn’t think of anything past the above UW-Madison and UCM examples. But further research shows that some writing centers are starting to push against the business-oriented Twitter post, and are starting to get more creative with what they tweet.  West Virginia University uses Twitter to post helpful blogs and videos like this one for students to refer to once they leave the writing center: “New blog post about interpreting instructor feedback.” Others are using more visual forms of marketing to promote their services. The University of Kansas sometimes uses internet memes to market their center, such as this most recent one with a viral photograph of a marathon runner: “Even Ridiculously Photogenic Guy knows the power of the Writing Center.”  The meshing of academic and social discourse arguably shows the writing center’s willingness to reach into dimensions utilized and accepted by the demographic toward which the center needs to market.  Writing centers can also do more than just report available tutor times and promote writing workshops. Memes are visual and often shared and/or retweeted across the social media genres. Because the University of Kansas meme was also cross-posted to Facebook, the University of Kentucky Writing Center, a “friend” of the University of Kansas Writing Center, shared the meme with social media friends and followers, who will most likely share as well.  I just retweeted it myself.

Some of the most remarkable writing center tweets are not even by the writing centers, but instead the students themselves. Student voices are by far the most heard on twitter when searching the key term writing center, out-tweeting writing centers 2-to-1.  Many are positive, giving props to what the center has to offer. One student, Michelle W, tweeted of her writing center experience: “Coming to the writing center and there’s candy, play dough, and markers on the tables #lovecollege.”  Another said, “The writing Center about to be My bff today.” Sometimes, though, student tweets show us that as Writing Center personnel we need to be aware of our actions and comments. Chelby KC tweeted about her not-so-hot experience in her writing center: “I love how there are a ton of people on the walk-in waiting list for the writing center and there are 5 staff members standing around.”  Others, like this tweet by Scuba Steve, are just a bit more in need of interpretation: “Idk why my Professor wants us to get our papers checked by the Writing Center…we’re in college for a reason #smh.” There’s no such thing as bad publicity, right? Okay, well, publicity that displays a multi-faceted response to the Writing Center’s necessity to student learning, anyway.  And while you would never hear me advocate Team_Marti’s choice to my students, the value of one-on-one assistance sometimes warrants some balancing of priorities: “I shoulda skipped this class x went to the writing center. Tuh !”

This is just a sample of how writing centers use Twitter and what people are saying about writing centers on Twitter. While it does give us an idea of how we can use this particular social networking site to market our writing center services, it is important to consider questions of oversaturation and too-much cross-posting, as well bordering on “creepy treehouse” syndrome. Another question to ask is do we even need it? Will it be another social networking tool that fades into the ether? Some writing centers have not updated their Twitter feeds in months, begging the question of whether or not it was deemed effective or possibly not used as effectively as it could have been, and therefore abandoned.

I know what I use Twitter for. If you use Twitter, I would like to know your thoughts on how your university programs, office and services (like the writing center) use Twitter. Do you think it is effective or intruding on your personal space? What do you wish the University would use it for? If you do not use Twitter, I would really like to know about your aversion to it. The Chronicle of Higher Education (March 2010) describes Twitter as a “weird space” – that people either do not use it, or they go “all in.” That’s a pretty spot-on description, in my opinion. On my Twitter feed today actor Neil Patrick Harris was tweeting pictures of his dinner while mere seconds prior a digital media scholar posted an expletive-filled retweet about hating Blackboard. And that was about five minutes after Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps tweeted yet another picture of him holding a huge fish on some island in the Indian Ocean. “Weird” is right.

Jennifer Marciniak is a 3rd year PhD student in Rhetoric and Composition at U of L. She is the Assistant Director of the U of L Virtual Writing Center. You can follower her on Twitter at @tululoo.

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