Saturday, April 12, 2014

For Pro Tem

I like most eager recent graduates am in this nostalgic transitional phase. That's right folks your loveable blogger is graduating from university soon. I wanted to dedicate this blog entry to Glendon's bilingual newspaper, Pro Tem the newspaper that has solidified the path I chose to pursue and has given me the courage to chase after writing and entry level editing jobs that I didn't used to have the courage to apply to a couple years ago because I didn't think I was ready. I just wanted to say that the confidence comes not just from the way Pro Tem looks on a resume but the positive effect the strong, independent, multi-talented, ambitious women I've had the privilege of putting together the paper with this past year have had on me. They are the women with ambition that the world needs more of. I never knew that a paper that has a name that's Latin for temporary name would have so much potential.

No matter who you are there's nothing more important than being part of things that help you realize your inner potential in a way that surprises and amazes you. That's why I have done a short, sweet blog tribute to Pro Tem Newspaper. My last article as an editor of Pro Tem was a music review of concert series that happened at my university campus. I have always loved music and have written about music since I was a teenager but my experiences writing this particular concert review are what made me want to apply to be a Blog T.O music reviewer as soon as I found out the position was available (see attached j-peg below):



Monday, February 3, 2014

Pete Seeger Tribute

Recently singer/songwriter Pete Seeger died at age 96. As someone who grew up listening to his music I truly believe that the loss of Pete Seeger was a huge loss to the world of music. Currently deaths of people who have gained a great deal of renown, especially for music and acting are associated with dying too soon, with common causes of death being things such as drug and alcohol abuse, for the basic human universal reality of death being associated with our cultural obsession with melodrama. I don't deny the tragedy of these circumstances but it causes assumptions, assumptions that someone like Pete Seeger is just another victim of tragedy which isn't true. He's someone who's accomplished great things and gave back a great deal to society without feeling the need to walk in the superficial and melodramatic circus of celebrity.

When someone asks me what makes me a fan of Pete Seeger's music I have multiple positive associations. One of the most positive is a return to music and storytelling as a communal activity, where there's no pedestal for the performer to stand on because everybody's in it, as active participants together. The combination of the communal, healing power of a Pete Seeger performance and the subjects that his music explore is the music's greatest asset. Pete Seeger music is a call for civil rights and action while striving for peace through the power of the community and the return to music and storytelling's ancient origins. It is also a satire of cultural subjects that never seem to change and sometimes it's even a light hearted folksy celebration of life. Yesterday I found myself listening to "We Shall Overcome" and "Where Have All The Flowers Gone?" and I realized something:the difficult things it explores are things that we're a long way from achieving but I don't think that's what matters. Listening to these songs inspire us as individuals to never stop trying.

The true value of Pete Seeger's legacy is that it reminds us of music and storytelling's true value that sometimes gets lost in the plastic facade of western culture's notion of celebrity. It brings us together and empowers us rather than the understandable temptation to drift apart and that's 96 years of life worth celebrating.

Below: two Pete Seeger Youtube videos:
1. "Where have all the flowers gone"
 2. "We shall overcome":



Sunday, January 26, 2014

on editing

The thing I find atrocious about blogging as a publishing medium is that it lacks a proper editing software. There's a flawed system that checks grammar and spelling but the wide spread usage of slang, short forms, and uncommon names on this blog makes that particular software useless. With Microsoft Word there is at least an option to add a particular word to the dictionary which is great and makes up for the fact it is an equally as flawed system, a fact I find myself extremely aware of thanks to a linguistics class essay I wrote that helped me pass the class in first year uni (thank you writing gift).

I found myself look back at some of my old blog entries, extremely embarrassed to find small errors I wasn't the least bit aware of till recently and dear readers I sincerely apologize. Blogging is a means of expression that's a stream of consciousness style therefore some technicalities are excusable but the same rules still apply. This blog entry is a pledge to edit better and write as best as possibly can. I first started this blog as a means of getting my writing out into the public sphere, as a reaction to a personal hunger to develop an audience for my writing. I know that all the influential people who may have my short and long term future in their hands are probably reading. Seeing those small errors was a source of panic as a result of that. Readers, I hope to encourage you to edit better and more carefully and write as best as you possibly can. It doesn't matter who you are, it's impossible to avoid the fact that we live in a society where literacy and effective writing skills are valued and respected.

Now for my own philosophy on editing: writing that uses an abundance of big words rather than simple language that's more familiar and reader friendly isn't good writing. So please promise to be the individual who chooses to be reader friendly rather than the person who uses language as a means of showing off their intelligence to the whole world. If you don't know what I mean read the first couple of chapters of William Zinsser's On Writing Well and  pick up copies of John Steinbeck's and Hemingway's fiction to figure out how to use simple, straightforward language effectively and cut out the fat and frill of what you're writing.  Often it's the writing that says more with less that sticks with the reader and is significantly stronger.

I hope you can find this entry helpful and choose to join me in my goal to edit and write better.  I'm currently making changes to old entries. I have no idea if this is considered unusual due to the fact I learned about blogging on my own.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Rosemary's grad school application tip list

The past two months I've applied to multiple graduate creative writing programs. After my recent experiences with the application process I have a lot of insight to share on the subject. The semi-stressful and super hard work it required has inspired me to write about my experiences applying. If you're a reader thinking of doing a Creative Writing M.A or M.F.A or any other graduate masters level program this list of tips is for you. It's based on my past mistakes,  what people who have helped me have told me throughout the application process, and things I've learned based on reading multiple articles on grad school online.

 Below is a list of  things I've learned from my recent experiences:

  • start early, as early as possible:  to apply and convince the people who are reading your application that you're super eager to be a student at their university do your research and put careful thought into what's right for you. Also: the applications take time so if you rush it and do your application last minute your application's quality will suffer and your letter, portfolio, and the letters from your referees (academic and professional references) will be less thoughtful and polished than it should be. October is a good time to start because it's when all the universities are in the middle of their fall semester and update their application requirements/deadlines on their website. Starting in October also means that there's lots of time to talk to potential referees and gives the referees lots of time to figure out what to say about you; it also allows time for multiple drafts of the portfolio and letter of intent. If October isn't ideal allow a couple weeks minimum to allow lots of time on the application and lots of time for your referees to be the best possible advocates for you and the things that make you awesome.
  •  apply to multiple places: grad school is competitive and the application process is like applying for a job. The thing about grad school that's different from all other levels of education is that for the first time they want a copy of your resume, they want a letter of intent ( a letter structured similar to a cover letter with an identical purpose: proving you really want to be there and belong there), they want relevant academic and professional references to speak on your behalf, and they want a portfolio. In other words: sending an application to grad school means leaving the decisions in the hands of a committee of academics who, based on the opinion of the majority decide if you're a good candidate for the program you're applying to. Many of the best programs are also the most competitive and accept very few applicants a year. Apply to multiple places and you'll increase your chances of somebody, somewhere thinking that you're an ideal student for their school.
  • Remember: When applying to grad school grades are important but not the only thing that will help you get into your program: yes, grad schools have a minimum admission average in fact some have higher admission averages than others. Despite that it's important to realize grades aren't the only thing that will get you into grad school. Some applicants have been out of school for a long time, working in either a field relevant or irrelevant to the program they're applying to prior to applying, some are fresh out of their undergrad, some are straight A students and some aren't. What many of these places have made super clear is that they want to know that you can do a good job both academically and professionally in the field you're applying to and once you've graduated you can be an alumni that was worth their time and resources, that can make them proud to say you're a former student of their university. Build up as many relevant experiences as you can: (volunteer, work, educational, community involvement, or all of the above) and make sure that your marks don't suck in classes relevant to the program you're applying for.  If you can prove you have lots of relevant experiences and your portfolio is strong they are often willing to make exceptions in terms of marks especially when applying to a creative writing program.
  • Conduct lots of careful research in terms of  tuition funding:  Grad programs have a lot of tuition and living expenses funding available to you if you take initiative and are well informed enough to wow people with your awesomeness and/ or use some aspect of your identity that qualifies you for additional government funding to your advantage e.g: a disability or being of aboriginal heritage. Because the assumption is that, as a grad student you're also a potential, future colleague of the teachers at the university you're a student at (or other universities) it also opens doors to potentially getting paid work experiences that look incredible on your resume and cover tuition and living expenses, such as being a teaching assistant or research assistant. If you apply to UBC's creative writing program and actually get in (they're super competitive and specified on their website that they accept a third of their applicants) there's also a possibility of being paid to edit their literary magazine. Figure out how to apply for these things;the application process isn't identical in all universities and you won't get the assistance you need if you passively assume you'll get it. Not being strategic has a terrible consequence:you're on your own in terms of paying for tuition and grad school is expensive. OSAP is available at the grad level but it's best to avoid accumulating student loans. 
  •  Be strategic in terms of referees:  Ask yourself the same questions you'd ask yourself when figuring out who's the right reference for a job. When choosing your referees ask yourself the following: how well does this person know me? How do they know me? Is the way in which they know me relevant to the field I'm applying to? Have I built up a good enough relationship with this person that I can trust them to say lots of good things about me? Can I trust this person to write a letter in a clear and coherent manner?
  • Help your wonderful, willing referees in any way you can with writing your letter of reference because the fact that they're willing to take time out of their busy lives to help you makes them a total angel:To make up for any gaps your referees may have in terms of what they know about you help them out by providing them with additional documentation/ hints about your accomplishments (e.g: writing samples, a resume, a simple bullet list in an email specifying some recent stuff you've been up to that's relevant to the program you're applying to, etc). Even if they know everything about you providing the additional documentation/hints about your accomplishments is helpful because it makes that person's job as your referee way easier. Because they're the ones doing you a favour you have to do everything you can to help them and make writing a letter about you easier. Also well...hate to state the obvious but they're human so helping them out by providing them with all the resources they need stops them from making mistakes or forgetting things (which could happen). This is the part of the application you have no control over because the letters are supposed to be confidential and submitted separate from your application. Some referees will show you their letters in order to clarify they're on the right track but they technically aren't supposed to show them to you and don't have to. The only part of the referee aspect of the application you have control of is who you choose, the help you provide them with, the reminders you send to make sure they don't forget to send the letter on time, and the things you tell them to help them with the letter. Choose wisely and don't send them any emails regarding the application without getting someone you know that's a good editor to look over your email for grammar, content, and tone. Your referees are your guardian angels throughout the application process so be nice, help them as much as you can, send a thoughtful expression of thanks when it's all over, and keep them up to date from the beginning to the end of the application process.
  • Reach out to the graduate secretaries at the universities you're applying to and ask questions: This has proven to be a great way for the people making the decisions to put a face to a name, or at the very least, when the university is too far away to visit, and there's not enough time to visit and talk to the department staff in person, you can, at the very least, give the people reading your application a chance to put a voice to a name. It makes you seem keen and eager and, when read they your application it gives them an impression through a moment of emotional connection. Why is that important? It provides them with something that's not just information on a piece of paper or submitted electronically. This is also another reason to start early: an impression is embedded in their mind that you're an eager beaver that has reached out to them multiple times and was super friendly, asking questions related to your program that aren't available on the website (without the pressure of a deadline fast approaching). 
The following is a personal experiences that made me realize the power of showing up to these places in person as an eager applicant: 

I showed up at one of the universities I was applying to, walked into the department that offered the program I was interested in, and dropped off a part of my application and it meant that every mistake I made when looking for the person I was supposed to give my application to caused me to meet a whole bunch of department heads and secretaries that would be reading my application and deciding if I was a worthy candidate. Specifying my reasons for being there and introducing myself meant that, within seconds there was a room full of people wanting to find out more about me and really interested in who I was. That's when I learned the unspoken importance of making that first impression when you're interested in applying as a grad student.

Well...that's all I got to offer in terms of tips. I'm currently in the step of the application process where I wait and it's all in someone else's hands and have one more application due at the end of this month. Good luck to all of you applying to grad programs and always remember that although it's an overwhelming process there's lots of people out there who can help.

Also: if you google anything about grad school there's a lot of fantastic resources out there that can help you with every step of the process. Feel free to share your insights on the subject in the comment section. Swapping stories  is cool!

Friday, August 9, 2013

Summerworks Stumble upon

I've been approached on street corners for a variety of different reasons throughout my lifetime but the one I experienced today was by far the most interesting (I'm a city gal these things are just so darn inevitable). It started something like this: I was waiting for a streetcar on Toronto's infamous Queen Street west and the next thing I knew I was approached by a friendly Summerworks staff member (they're always friendly I swear friendliness is in the fine print of their hiring policy somewhere) who greeted me and said "hey want to see a Summerworks show it's free". Moments like these are a rare and beautiful occasion: as much as I firmly believe in paying artists for their hard work I'm also a student, and I love seeing live performances and pretty much anything cultural or artsyesque so I was willing to give up my evening if necessary for this rare opprotunity. What I really hope for is that these guys start getting patrons and recognition there's nothing I've ever seen that I could compare that to. What I ignorantly signed myself up for was something 100 times more exciting than I expected. In this particular performance it's one audience member and about four or five actors guiding the audience member through a series of alleyways. It's loosely based around the story of Alice and Wonderland and uses the rhymes of Alice and Wonderland's author, Lewis Caroll. There's also a hint of Dante's inferno influence. In this particular context the audience member is temporarily Alice and the mythological mysterious nature of the characters and the things they say to you make you experience the same perplexed, lost, and confused emotions as Alice did in the original narrative. Every adventure and every encounter feels like a dream due to its distance from predictable reality and the unpredictable nature of what you will be told to do, where you will be told to go,and where your adventure leads is guaranteed to make you temporarily much more interested in these dream like requests than the activities of Toronto's downtown core happening in the background. The immediate instinct is to assume that there is a protagonist: the protagonist is the audience member and the actors are all guides and active participants in this theatrical game. Be prepared to run, the woman you're told to follow gets gradually faster and eventually moves at the pace of a fast sprint but don't worry this exhausting chase ends after not too long. Another tip: the suitcase is tough to open and I had a hard time finding the hat and coat but make sure to find them: they're key. "Midway along the journey of our life" makes you question such matters as what's the difference between a raven and a writing desk. Be prepared to be lost, if you're lost you're in the exact state you're supposed to be in. Pay close attention to the woman with the stilts and the big pink clock: she's your most important guide and listen and watch carefully.The actors anxiously await your arrival and show up in key parts of your journey, guiding your every move. Check it out: it's called "Midway along the journey of life". If you're in toronto and have an hour to kill (and $15) and you're not shy about performances that use audience interaction go for it! Another highlight of the Summerworks theatre festival....

Sunday, June 23, 2013

so you want to be a writer mike raven

Dear Readers,
Welcome to the first of many (hopefully) guest blog posts. This one comes from Mike Raven and it’s his story about his experiences trying to balance his passion: writing with the demands of everyday life. Hope you enjoy it. While you’re chilling online I encourage you to check out Mike’s blog: http://thoggy.blogspot.com and his youtube channel: www.youtube.com/ravenswingthog for more writing and etc by Mike (once you have finished reading of course). Enjoy!

 So you want to be a writer?

 Hi - I'm Mike, and Rosemary has been kind enough to let me write a little about writing on her great blog.
I've struggled with writing for years. And years.  I like the idea of having writing as a hobby, but the trouble I face is with fitting writing alongside everything else.

 To give a little background, I live with my partner and 3-year-old son, and I work full time doing an office job, which I enjoy and, more or less, pays the bills.  Over the course of the last eleven years nine of them have involved me studying a variety of things on an evening, from computers to construction.  I also care for my grandmother on a weekend. As a result, I've generally had little time to write.

 Okay - you can now ignore everything I've said just said, because it's all justification for why I haven't written enough. Anyone can have reasons why they haven't got around to doing something, often quite understandable reasons. The reality is that if you want to write, especially as a hobby, (which I do) - you can find the time.  It doesn't have to be a lot, but it does have to be done if you want to call yourself a writer.

 I do not consider myself well versed in the world of writing at all, but I have stumbled across two things that I found helpful.

 The first was that I went on a creative writing course.  I found this was great for me, because it made me write.  The course itself I virtually remember nothing about, but every week I had to turn up with a new piece of work, and deliver that to my classmates. That creates competition, which is good because you don't want to be the one guy that didn't write anything, and you don't want your work to be the worst. Let us be honest - you want your work to the best and you want the rest of the class to be envious of you. Let your ego help you out.

 The second thing is that I started a blog. I started blogging regularly last September, and aim to blog once every other day.  Again, it doesn't have to be pages and pages of text, but it makes you write, and makes you practice your writing. This is important because, despite everything your imagination is telling you, writers don't actually wake up one morning, buy an old fashioned typewriter and, over many cigarettes and coffees, write their first ever work which turns out to be a best-selling masterpiece. For one thing you can't get the ribbons for typewriters any more.

 If you want to write, go do it today. And let me know what you've done - I'd love to read it!

 About the blogger:
 Mike is a part-time blogger, part-time megalomaniac who is awaiting the inevitable calls from the public to rule the world. In the mean time he'll stick with the day job. Feel free to check him out at his blog at http://thoggy.blogspot.com or see him and his evil twin Joel have fun at www.youtube.com/ravenswingthog.

After reading this are you thinking to yourself: I want to write something for this blog? If so don’t be shy: send me an email at rmayrichings@gmail.com. Before you send that email see submission instructions via the following link: http://rosiewritingspace.blogspot.ca/2013/06/call-for-guest-bloggers.html.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

call for guest bloggers

Dear readers,
I'm now officially looking for guest bloggers. No I can not pay anyone for their contribution but have decided I love the idea of adding the point of view of other writers or just people in general who are passionate about something relevant to the blog and want to write about it. This call for guest bloggers isn't representative of R.M.R's Writing Space becoming something it's not so much as a need for it to advance as a blog. If and when I get guest writers R.M.R's Writing Space will stick to its usual content  with myself as the lead writer but I'm wanting to also include other writers with all levels of background in writing as occasional, guest writers. R.M.R's Writing Space is a five year old blog documenting my journey as someone pursuing writing and working on the occasional creative project. It also includes opinion pieces on writing, theatre, movies, and music. I like alternative perspectives so don't send me an article on the latest in celebrity gossip or a rant about how much you love the latest teen music sensation. I admire originality, flamboyant quirkiness, people who tell stories fearlessly from a point of view that's raw and often challenging to showcase publicly,  and experimentation so if any of that sounds like you then welcome home and I'd love to include your writing on my blog! R.M.R's Writing Space used to also be the first peek at fiction works in progress but that's no longer a smart idea so I'm no longer including any fiction or poetry. If interested email me at: rmayrichings@gmail.com ideally with what you're thinking of writing about based on the above criteria but if you don't have an ideas I'm sure we can work something out, brainstorming ideas with people is something I'm happy to do and love doing.
all the best,
your usual blogger,
Rosemary
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