Wuthering Heights
Mere Christianity
Madame Bovary
Tess of the D'Urbervilles
Crime and Punishment
The Forgotten Garden
These Is My Words
The Help
Ella Enchanted
Princess Academy
The Goose Girl
The Kite Runner
The Great Gatsby
Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl
The Giver
A Wrinkle in Time
Lord of the Flies
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Ender's Game

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

writing literary criticism in the digital age: how'd we do?

Dr. Burton asked us on Monday (the last day of class! gasp!) to write about how we "met the stated learning outcomes." I whipped out the old syllabus to make sure I didn't forget anything. These learning outcomes were grouped under three headings:

I read To Kill a Mockingbird in what we usually call regular form, my own beautiful, new paperback copy; I had different experiences, however, with both Remix and Rainbow's End (read about my experience using a digital format here). Even though I didn't love reading those two books online, I grew to respect the digital world as a resource. I did both traditional scholarly research (here, here, and here) and not-so-traditional research, like forums and looking for other student work. One of my favorite tools that I use to consume other people's work is Google Reader. I use it every day to stalk friend, family, classmate, and wedding blogs.

My most obvious creation is of course, this blog. At first it was intimidating to write a post every day and try to make it sound like a paper I would hand in to a professor, but Dr. Burton taught me that blogging is a completely different type of writing. You have to cater to an audience that will click away if they are not engaged from the beginning. This was also interesting in trying to write "legitimate" literary criticism (Dr. Burton answered my question in this post). I also started using Twitter; I haven't done much with it yet, but now that classes are almost over for me (hooray!) I think I can make things work. (as well as pinterest.com. it's so fun. i think you should try it out.) Diigo has been very helpful in seeing what my classmates are working on; we have been able to help each other as well as find simply interesting websites. And I'm using it often to show my mom things that I like as we try to plan a wedding.

This is one important aspect of learning/teaching that often gets overlooked. But the things we did under this heading were the ones that gave the most rewarding feeling (like hearing back from someone who responded to a forum that i posted; see this post). And it is always exciting to see that someone is reading my blog from France or Germany or some other foreign country. And finally, our eBook is complete. Never before have I worked on such a meaningful project with such tangible (in a digital sense) results. Being a part of the editing team was an intense and great learning experience (both Nyssa and I have shared our thoughts). It is honestly refreshing to have a class that I know will matter to someone, if not right now, at least someone in the future. 

Now, we would love you to join us at our final, a webinar, later tonight. See you there! 

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

free webinar: launching our eBook

Please join us for the launch of Writing About Literature in the Digital Age at a free webinar taking place Wednesday, June 15th, 2011 from 5:30-6:30pm MDT (you can sign in using LearnCentral's site, or simply click here at that time).

Writing about Literature in the Digital Age is a free eBook by students at Brigham Young University who are pushing boundaries of traditional literary study to explore the benefits of digital tools in academic writing. This collaborative effort is a case study of how electronic text formats and blogging can be effectively used to explore literary works, develop one’s thinking publicly, and research socially. Students used literary works to read the emerging digital environment while simultaneously using new media to connect them with authentic issues and audiences beyond the classroom. As literacy and literature continue their rapid evolution, accounts like these from early explorers give teachers and students of literature fresh reference points for the literary-digital future.

The table of contents for Writing About Literature in the Digital Age can be browsed here.

During the webinar, we invite you to hear the authors discuss their work and the making of their eBook. You will be able to download your free copy of Writing About Literature in the Digital Age during or following the webinar launch on June 15th, 2011.

Contributors: Alymarie Rutter, Amy Whitaker, Annie Ostler, Ariel Letts, Ashley Lewis, Ashley Nelson, Ben Wagner, Bri Zabriskie, Carlie Wallentine, Derrick Clements, James Matthews, Matt Harrison, Nyssa Silvester, Rachael Schiel, Sam McGrath, Taylor Gilbert, and Gideon Burton.

Monday, June 13, 2011

how we edited the eBook

The blogging hiatus is now over. We are completely finished with editing each individual chapter for the eBook and have sent them to the design team... And I gotta say, it's looking SO good!
Photo via Flickr
I was put on the editing team (along with Nyssa Silvester and Ashley Nelson) with zero experience. I am planning on pursuing a minor in editing, but as of yet I haven't taken any classes and haven't really edited papers aside from classmates'. 

Nyssa sent me a style sheet and my assignments-- 6 classmates' final drafts to do a first, medium edit. I was worried that I would be absolutely no help. After finishing the first chapter, Sam McGrath's, I sent it on to Nyssa for a second edit with this plea: "Please let me know what changes you made." When I received her email I was pleased with the results. She said, "Here's a copy of Sam's essay with the changes I made. I only took your edits out when they changed the voice of the essay or when they wound up obscuring the meaning. Overall, I think you did a very good job."

Nyssa's email was not only relieving but gave me ideas on how to be more effective. It helped with the rest of my edits, and the second edits sent to me by Ashley. 

Using the Microsoft Word "Track Changes" feature, the editing team made grammar, punctuation, and minor content changes, sent them to the next editor in line via email, and then sent them to the author of the chapter so they could accept changes and send them back to Nyssa for the final look-through. This was easy and effective to get edits between editors and authors. I pretty much completed my entire assignment in two nights, long nights, but two nights nevertheless.

Of course, I have a lot to learn. But contributing in such an obvious way (this is what everybody who sees this eBook is going to read!) when I felt like I had nothing to contribute gave me a reason to continue at the fastest possible speed and do my best work. There wasn't too much stress either (but I only speak for myself; I bet Nyssa would say otherwise).

I feel good about the way the eBook is turning out. I have also found a lot of wonderful resources through this experience (like the online Chicago Manual of Style through the BYU Library). And I'm excited about where I'm going-- I like editing! Hooray!!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

the final draft... finally!

Creating Mockingbirds: The Importance of an Authorial Online Presence
Alyssa Rutter
CCL photo by Dendroica cerulea on Flickr.
"For Harper Lee, [To Kill a Mockingbird] rolled out beautifully, it sold beautifully, it took on a life of its own, and its success had very little to do with the fact that she had to be out selling it. The book stood for itself. It would be nice to have that kind of a culture today, but we don't anymore." - Adriana Trigiani in Scout, Atticus, and Boo: A Celebration of Fifty Years of To Kill a Mockingbird

“Keep in touch!” Those three words had a prominent presence in my yearbook and bounced up and down the halls on my last day of high school. I was surprised one of my best friends said instead, “You have got to get a blog. I’m never going to know what’s happening in your life if you don’t keep a blog updated.” My family was beginning to enter the blogging craze as well: mom, sister, aunts, cousins, second cousins, and cousins once removed (you think I’m kidding). So a couple of weeks after the graduation parties died down, I created myself online with a picture, a short bio, and an introductory blog post. Posting the link on Facebook legitimized it: From that day forward I was a blogger with a publicly available online presence, despite my amateurism.

Pressure to conform is increasing in intensity for those who are not making themselves known through the internet. Facebook, Twitter, personal blogs and other sites are becoming requirements for keeping in touch and both receiving and sending information quickly. The stakes multiply for modern authors with desires to be a part of both popular and high culture. Authors who fail to enter with a strong presence into the digital age leave the door ajar for active members of the public to push in and create their presence for them.

Harper Lee

An aspiration to make an epic discovery for my class project started me on the search for contact information of Harper Lee, author of classic American novel To Kill a Mockingbird. Some snooping produced this: Harper Lee has not granted an interview since 1964 (a mere four years after publication) nor published anything since Mockingbird in 1960 (“About the Author”). I was stunned and disappointed, then curious. Lee composed a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel on her first try, a beloved novel that spent 88 consecutive weeks on bestseller lists, then abruptly dropped out of public view (“About the Author”). Why? My further search garnered intriguing results. In her final public interview, Lee admitted that the attention was unexpected and overwhelming, almost “frightening” (Madden 162).  Alice and friend Reverend Thomas Lane Butts explained that exploitation of her words and work, specifically misrepresented interviews and autographed books, was disheartening (Murphy 71, 128). More intriguing, however, were accusations that Mockingbird was in fact the work of renowned author and Lee’s longtime childhood friend and colleague, Truman Capote.

Harper Lee closed herself off without giving the public a reason. Naturally, critics and readers alike ventured to understand the disappearance of the bestselling author. Lee, however, refused to give in. Most reader and critic explanations were positive and based on fact. One, however, had its beginnings in fact but was skeptical: Was Truman Capote an unappreciated ghost-writer of To Kill a Mockingbird? Lee and Capote had been friends since kindergarten, wrote side-by-side in New York, and then helped to edit and do research for each other’s novels (“About the Author”). And, of course, this was Lee’s first novel while Capote was already nationally-acclaimed. Speculation circulated that after so much fame and publicity Lee felt too guilty of hurting Capote’s career to continue in the limelight. Of course Alice, Lee’s close friends, and the majority of Mockingbird scholars and readers pled and still plead disparately (Block, Windham 5). But because neither Lee nor Capote has explicitly said otherwise, a few diehard Capote fans still believe. In 2003, Ben Windham crossed paths with Archulus Persons, Capote’s father, who continued to claim that “almost all” of Mockingbird was written by Capote (5). Though today greatly outnumbered, these loyal followers have portrayed Lee in a negative light, posting opinions of both her and Mockingbird on blogs and forums across the internet.

To Kill a Mockingbird’s popularity may not have suffered from the rumor that Truman Capote authored the piece, but the reading culture of the 1960’s South is hardly comparable to the blooming digital age in which we now live. I echo bestselling author Adriana Trigiani in the belief that publishing and reading culture has changed since To Kill a Mockingbird’s publication; no longer can authors release a book and go into hiding as Harper Lee did (Murphy 184). Readers are beginning to turn to the internet to find out more about a book or author; they generally either Google or guess the most obvious domain name, usually the author’s name or the book title (Krozser 16, 18). Type harperlee.com into the address bar and a fan-based website with this disclaimer appears: “Please note that harperlee.com is a private website, unaffiliated with Harper Lee or her representatives.” Instead of what Lee herself wants readers to know, an unknown entity includes what they consider to be worthwhile. Innocent readers can be deceived if they fail to read the small print.

Boo Radley

Mysteriousness, absence, and incomplete stories generate rumors; and few have told this tale more clearly than Lee herself. Through the narration of Scout, a young tom-boy, To Kill a Mockingbird depicts the small town of Maycomb and the adventures of Scout, her brother Jem, and their friend Dill while commenting on racism and assumptions in Southern communities. Arthur Radley, known to Jem, Scout, and Dill as Boo, was often talked about but had not been sighted since Scout could remember. Much of the children’s entertainment came from “the idea of making Boo Radley come out” (Lee 43, 9), but they were too afraid to actually go up to the door to say hello, instead sticking a friendly note on the end of a fishing pole and unsuccessfully trying to dislodge it on a side windowsill (Lee 53). Readers and critics alike have been holding out the figurative fishing pole to Harper Lee and distant authors like her for years, but attempts have fallen short and we are once again left subject to any information but the author’s.

Very little time or creativity is needed to twist a story or description into a slightly less factual one, and it takes even less time to proliferate through a well-connected community. Never having heard anything different, Scout believed Jem characterized Boo “reasonably”: “[He] was about six-and-a-half feet tall, judging from his tracks; he dined on raw squirrels and any cats he could catch, that's why his hands were blood-stained. . . . There was a long jagged scar that ran across his face; what teeth he had were yellow and rotten; his eyes popped, and he drooled most of the time” (Lee 14). The children knew only enough of the stories and descriptions which Miss Maudie believed to be “three-fourths colored folks and one-fourth Stephanie Crawford,” the town gossip, to create their own once-fact-based version of Boo (Lee 51). Jem, Scout, and Dill took for truth what they had heard, regardless of the source. They did not know what Boo Radley actually did or looked like, but because of “facts” circulating around their little town by those who were actively engaged in continuous conversation with their neighbors, the children did not know where to get the real facts, likely did not recognize that their perceptions were skewed.

The same can be said for literature readers on the internet today. Just as Boo Radley’s history, appearance, and even personality were formulated in the minds of many by rapidly-spreading gossip in a tight-knit town like Maycomb and Harper Lee was accused of taking undue credit for To Kill a Mockingbird, authors leave their readers to pseudo online presences  on the internet, where information spreads even more rapidly than Maycomb. The Internet is an impressive, medium that is evolving daily, and as a result authors must also evolve. Without using the resources available to explicitly form a legitimate online presence, authors lose control over how they are recreated and then perceived by the online literature community.

Works Cited

Block, Melissa. “Letter Puts End to Persistent ‘Mockingbird’ Rumor.” NPR. NPR’s All Things Considered, 3 Mar. 2006. Web. 5 June 2011. <http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5244492>.
“Contact Us.” Harperlee.com. n.p., n.d. Web. 5 June 2011. <http://harperlee.com/contact.htm>.
Hyatt, Michael. “7 Ways to Build your Author Brand Online.” MichaelHyatt.com. Michael Hyatt, 10 Nov. 2008. Web. 5 June 2011. <http://michaelhyatt.com/seven-ways-to-build-your-author-brand-online.html>.
-- . “Why Every Author Needs a Powerful Online Presence.” MichaelHyatt.com. Michael Hyatt, 9 Nov. 2008. Web. 5 June 2011. <http://michaelhyatt.com/why-every-author-needs-a-powerful-online-presence.html>.
Krozser, Kassia and Kirk Biglione. “Building Author Web Presence.” Slideshare.net. n.p., 2009. Web. 2 June 2011. <http://www.slideshare.net/kbiglione/building-author-web-presence>.
Lee, Harper. To Kill a Mockingbird. New York: Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2006. Print.
Madden, Kerry. Harper Lee: A Twentieth-Century Life. New York: Viking, 2009. Print.
Murphy, Mary McDonagh. Scout, Atticus, and Boo: A Celebration of Fifty Years of to Kill a Mockingbird. New York: Harper, 2010. Print.
 “To Kill a Mockingbird: About the Author.” The Big Read. National Endowment for the Arts, n.d. Web. 5 June 2011. <http://www.neabigread.org/books/mockingbird/mockingbird04.php>.
Windham, Ben. “Southern Lights: An Encounter with Harper Lee.” Tuscaloosanews.com. The Tuscaloosa News, 24 Aug. 2003. Web. 5 June 2011. <http://tldev.ny.atl.publicus.com/article/20030824/NEWS/308240365?Title=SOUTHERN-LIGHTS-An-encounter-with-Harper-Lee>.

Alyssa Rutter is a Brigham Young University sophomore studying English and editing. She is a musician, a learner, a reader, and a family enthusiast.

teaser photos. which one?

CCL Photo by Alan Vernon via Flickr
What picture do you see when you hear the title "Creating Mockingbirds: The Importance of Authorial Online Presence"?

I like both of these photos for their simplicity.

The first one seems regal [maybe what authors can be if they utilize the opportunities].

CCL Photo by Dendroica cerulea via Flickr
This one, on the other hand, focuses more on the pestering [of a reader wanting information from an author].



CCL Photo by Nic McPhee
A little more time for revision.

hey, look! i'm in a magazine!

My friend Whitney Sorensen called me Monday night and asked if I would be able to answer a few questions for her about my recent engagement. She wrote an article for LDS Living Magazine called "Marriage age on the rise, LDS single adults still hanging out." Check it out!