Writing is a Window into a Person’s Soul

Day 2: Getting to Know My Classmates (Tuesday, June 23, 2020)

Writing is a window into a person’s soul. By reading and responding to your posts, I get to know you a little better. 

I appreciated Dr. Zamora’s “shout-outs” this morning, which prompted me to read all my classmates’ daily reflections on the first day of the writer’s retreat. Here are my thoughts as I read my classmates’ hopes, dreams, and fears, and struggles.

Dr. Zamora: Every time I gaze at the image on the homepage, I desire to be transported to South Carolina where the beach is a beautiful walk away. 

Jada: I care to read your letters. I love your open and genuine tone. I look forward to reading more of your letters.

Fatima: Since I have never been a confident writer, I admire your confidence as you state in your opening sentence, “My gift is writing.” Thank you for your  wisdom and your simile: “My writing space is everywhere” and “Thoughts sprout like flowers.” Yes, ideas are always dancing around in our heads. We need to write them down before they blow away. 

Megan: Your reflection resonated with me since I struggle with bouts of insomnia too. I am struggling with issues that are deeply buried and hidden. I also find myself struggling to breathe in deeply too. Once we return to our ‘normal routines,’ I hope we are able to find solace and sleep.

Tether: Just like you, I wasn’t ready for the first day of ‘class.’ I just finished teaching on June 16, and June 23 arrived so abruptly. I was also inspired by classmates, and their enthusiasm was infectious. I love the idea of a “writing hideout,” to escape the mundanity of everyday distractions of cooking, cleaning, paying bills, answering emails, so forth.

Kate: I love “meeting 17 new writing friends.” As a bonus, some of these new friends are writers and teachers. I did not realize all the jargon floating around; thanks for pointing out digital literacy, electronic literature, social-emotional, writing space, and fluidity. 

Jenn: I look forward to reading your thesis on teaching writing to students with disabilities. I plan on working on my thesis on online grammar checkers during the writer’s retreat and would love to hear about your experience. At times, I feel that there is more fluidity with writing.

Marykate:  I love being a student again, too! Wow, that is amazing that you already have three chapters of your novel. I cannot wait to read it!

Medea: Since I love your stories of your family, I look forward to reading your memoir. Although the Writer’s Retreat was not at Liberty Hall, I enjoy the comfort of being at home writing asynchronously, sipping my green tea.

Jason: Being connected and engaged during remote learning is essential. And Dr. Zamora was able to set the right tone and mood yesterday in creating this community of writers.

Kelsey: This idea is so powerful: “I write to be free.” Please explain how writing frees you?

Cheryl: I met you last year in Professor Keifer’s class. I hope you had a productive sabbatical. 

Diana: My daughter’s name is Diana, so I will not forget your name. I miss hot yoga and savasana. I am glad to read that your husband is so supportive and helpful, especially when you are trying to write.

Nives: It is nice to see your face during the Google Meets. I am glad to read that you have conquered some of your fears. I need to learn to overcome my anxiety. The older I get, the more difficult to accomplish. I like the title of your memoir, Seashell, it reminds me of human beauty and frailty.

Kefah: I appreciated your extended metaphor to the Wizard of Oz, especially when you painted yourself as a bricklayer, paving your own path.

Lexie: I really liked your quotation: “I write for relief.” Writing provides us a means of releasing our fears, anxieties, and doubts, especially during such uncertain times.

Katelynn: I started graduate school as a private writer, too. However, I realized that I can still be a private writer and a professional public writer. It is not a binary.

I hope I did not miss anyone. I really enjoyed reading all of your posts. I leave you with a paradox: Although we are different, we are similar. 

Although we are different, we are similar.

Day 2 Reflections…

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Day 2 is in the books whoo hoo! I enjoy this retreat very much I wish it was longer! I have to admit when our spring semester was cut short and we were forced into this remote learning environment I felt so uncomfortable and uneasy. I hated the idea of having to communicate with my professors and classmates via video chats. I already got to know them all in person and we immediately connected and became close. I was worried that losing that in real life learning environment would mean we wouldn’t connect as much and put a distance between us. But my fears and insecurities quickly turned to hope! I soon realized that in some ways the distance and what I believed to be disconnectedness via virtual learning actually made us closer! I started to become more comfortable with the video chatting and since all of us were having to adjust very quickly to these new changes we were in this together! We bonded even more and helped each other through it. Which brings me to my thoughts and feelings about connected learning. I never heard of this concept until I began my journey in the Writing Studies program.

I’ve learned so much about the positive effects of connected learning. In particular about participatory culture. I was inspired when I learned about this powerful movement. In a world that is ruled by social media and the eruption of the world wide web and all the good and bad that comes with it I at times felt lost and obsolete. I must admit growing up in a generation pre internet where I knew what it was like to survive and thrive in a world without a cell phone (gasp) I had ambivalent views about the internet explosion and social media bombardment. But what I have learned so far in the Writing Studies program with many courses geared towards educating us about the digital world we live in is that there is a lot of good that can come out of our digital experiences if we learn the tools we need to become active in positive ways that can promote and implement real change. Participatory media allows people to create, connect, and share their content or build friendships throughout the media and promote and bring awareness to important issues that matter to them and to the rest of the world. I’m all for it now and feel empowered. l I’m a better human being for having learned all about connected learning and the power we all have to facilitate real change.

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I try to live my life now with intention. I do my best not to just go through the motions but rather, feel, breath, digest, and embrace all the good and the bad emotions and experiences that have become the story of my life so far. That’s what brings me to my closing comments for this blog post which is a few details about my thesis project. In the spring semester I took a creative non fiction course which was geared towards memoir. We were required to read several memoirs from diverse and inspiring authors who shared their deeply personal and compelling stories of their struggles and triumphs. Our professor gave us a assignment to write our own memoir, first a short draft and then an expanded version which would be our final draft. I was intrigued but also hesitant. I wasn’t sure what to write about. What did I have to say about my life in the last 38 years since I’ve been in existence? By semester’s end I had thirty pages written of the long hard journey I have been on in trying to conquer my anxiety and OCD diagnosis. I was diagnosed with anxiety as a young girl around the age of 12 at a time in the early 90’s when it was still taboo to openly discuss any type of mental health disorder or illness. In my twenties I was diagnosed with a specific form of anxiety, the more debilitating and confusing form: Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Luckily I had mild to moderate OCD, not the debilitating kind that sadly many people experience. I was still able to function but the complex symptoms and certain stressful life events that compounded my illness made life extremely hard to thrive in. So my thirty pages so far is me purging all the good, the bad and the ugly of what I have been through over the last 20 years in battling through this.

My professor in this course encouraged me to continue on with my story “The Seashell” and I also got amazing feedback from two other classmates who have read it and who I have discussed it with. It’s not an easy topic to talk about today even though mental illness has become less stigmatized. I mean how many commercials a day do we see promoting depression and bi polar medications? Where were those advertisements of hope when I was suffering? Not to mention the countless websites and blogs dedicated to helping sufferers fight their battles. But I’m happy to see the tides of change in mental health awareness over the years. It brings hope and less shame to those of us who are diagnosed sufferers. As I write in my memoir, hatred and self loathing goes hand in hand with mental illness. It can be a very isolating and lonely place to exist in. But through the years with amazing support and love surrounding me, and also the self love I learned to develop which took me years and years to achieve, I have pushed through the dark times and am here today talking, living, thriving (but still have my moments) and writing so openly and honestly about it. What a catharsis it has been and I hope it will continue to evolve into something great for my final thesis project. It just started as a small required assignment but has turned into a real passion project for me. I will give more hints and details to what the symbolism of the actual sea shell means and how it relates to my story in later posts. Thanks for listening. Sorry it’s so long! Ugh! Dr. Zamora knows me already I write way too much! See you all tomorrow! Xo.

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Day 2: The Powerful Retreat

I know we don’t have to share our prompts and we can write about our thoughts, today’s prompt actually inspired me.

When asked what were the most impactful moments from the first day, I didn’t have to think to long or hard. Yesterday I realized how much writing means to everyone. Each of us take something unique from the process of writing and develop it into our own gift. I think that’s special talent. We may not know exactly what we want and/or need but we know the feeling associated. I previously mentioned that my mission is for self- discovery within my words. From there I would like to know or probably understand what actually sets me apart from others. It’s similar to that job interview question, “Why are you special?” Now I can’t say because my grandma and mom told me I was.  Almost everyone knows it is easier to say something than to believe it for yourself.

Today I’m aware of the laziness plaguing my internal writer’s motivational cord , basically me. I’ll admit I would like things to be done and expressed in an easy way, maybe like the Staples easy button commercial. Compared to yesterday, I am a bit more confident in some ideas. More importantly, I know I need to set specific goals. My form of a ‘take-away’ is to develop, confront and understand myself, specifically the character within, voice. I didn’t realize I had a voice until recently and when I finally acknowledged it, it felt like a different person from me. Who am I?

Voice is what your writing represents. Voice is what the audience listens to or can relate to. Voice is either the message or shares a message. Rather than taking away, maybe I would like to give away or send away the heaviness from not writing. In many ways I would like to release the personal burden through words.

A classmate mentioned having ideas to write in the most inopportune moments (during a shower or driving). For that reason I keep a notebook in my bag. Unfortunately, there are times when I cannot whip out my notebook fast enough. My mind, feelings and the extra goo that were racing from excitement before is now at a stand still. Now it’s all gone. I advise you to sometimes not attempt to recall the thought, only because it has a tendency to never make sense.

During our writing break, I decided to hop in the car, order Starbucks, take a drive to a quiet, shaded place in a park… to simply think. There were no interruptions, no music, less people, great view and deers jogging. Believe it or not, felt a sense of empowerment in being by myself. It was a mindful moment that I know I cannot repeat but I don’t mind trying for a similar experience.

I was able to create a Venn mock up of my ideas. Fantabulous! Tonight I will elaborate each step. It could be my version of a roadmap to my thesis.  Whew and Yay me!!


92 Best Peace Quotes images | Quotes, Peace quotes, Inspirational quotes

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s showdown with Day 3.

Thanks a bunch,



The Writing Process can be defined as the following: A writing process describes the series of physical and mental actions that people take in the course of producing any kind of text. With that said, coming into my second term as a Reading Coach alongside my first year as a graduate student within the M.A. in English Writing Studies program, I have come to an understanding of this phenomenon within my classroom; students struggle to get started on any type of writing assignment. My research study is to test the effectiveness of my program T.A.W. P. in aiding students with the Writing Process.

Writer’s Retreat Day 2

Up until yesterday, I thought I knew what I wanted my project to be, but I was still a little skeptical. I wanted to write something worthwhile, but also something that kept me captivated throughout.

As I was working on my freewrite prompt for the day, trying to answer the big question: “What were the most impactful thinking moments from yesterday?” An essential part of what I was thinking yesterday was that I wanted to engage in a project that allowed me to work with my father. That’s when I came up with the idea of writing a series of short moral stories, because growing up, that’s the activity my father and I did the most. He would articulate stories in our native language (Gujarati), and I would translate the stories and write them in English. He would never admit that he relished those moments; his excuse was he was helping me
“become a stronger writer.” Which, in turn, I think he did.

As I continued to work on today’s freewrite, I got an even better idea, the second most impactful thing I thought yesterday was that I wanted to work on a project that kept me engrossed. Nothing is more interesting to me than my father’s journey. He is not in any way famous, just a simple man who probably has the same story as any other immigrant father. But it’s much more than that for me.

You ever look at your parents and think, “Wow, I don’t even know you?” That’s how I feel about my father, growing up he was never really around, he worked day and night, literally. And other than that, he has kept most of his life before having me, private. The only anecdotes I know are the ones I’ve heard from his uncles and aunts.

So day two of writers retreat has been a success, not entirely because I have not started writing yet, but I am now 100% certain about what I want to do. I am going to write a Biography of My Father. This means sitting down with him every night for the rest of this week and interviewing him, more like irritating him until he throws the remote at me. I may or may not be joking about the last part.

Reflection on the First Day of the Writing Retreat@ Kean 2020

Blog 1: June 22, 2020

After abruptly shifting to remote learning on March 17, 2020, I did not get a chance to reflect on my experiences as a graduate student and as a high school English teacher. In terms of my graduate experience, my professors smoothly transitioned us to remote learning without sacrificing academic rigor. In my Digital Literacy class, I was able to leave with a digital story treatment filled with memes and gifs that chronicled my emotional journey during COVID-19. In my Research Methods class, I managed to write the first 15 pages of my research proposal along with an annotated bibliography. During the writing retreat, I plan to expand my research proposal. I look forward to Dr. Zamora’s feedback. 

Since I had great professors during remote learning who taught me Slack, Zoom, Google Meets, Blackboard, and various other educational technologies, it made my transition into remote learning quicker and more efficient. I did not have to quickly learn how to implement new technology platforms since I was accustomed to using them as a graduate student. By the second week of remote learning, I was able to successfully schedule both Zoom and Google Meet sessions with my students. By the end of the school year, I felt confident to be a marshal for the first virtual graduation, which was conducted via Zoom. From the experience with remote learning, I agree with Dr. Zamora that socio-emotional during remote learning, a period of isolation, is paramount. It is important for our professors to connect with us;  it is important for us, educators, to connect with our students, their parents, and our colleagues. Humanity is crucial during remote learning. 

However, by the end of the year, I had enough of remote learning. I was mentally exhausted and was not looking forward to September 2020. What would the first day of remote learning look like in September? 

Fortunately, Dr. Zamora provided such a great first day of remote learning. It was organized, multimodal, and interactive. Here are my thoughts about today’s first day of remote learning lesson:

  • I liked the suggestion of everyone switching their view to grid-view since it created a sense of community and connectedness. 
  • I also enjoyed the Two Truths and One Lie icebreaker since it was engaging. Based on my experience, students during Google Meets were checking their social media and not paying attention to one another. However, with this particular icebreaker, the  audience had to listen to one another to find discover the “lie.” Everyone was engaged and learned new information from one another. Listening to one another is essential in creating a sense of connectedness.
  • I also plan to provide information on slides so students can hear and read the directions. Having directions in writing is like a comforting blanket; students can refer back to them when needed.
  • I also liked that Dr. Zamora focused on participation and that participation is an important part of the “grading.” Yes, engagement and collaboration will be a major part of my grading policy in the fall. 
  • Multimodal assignments such as posting a picture of your writing space create a community of writers. The photograph gives the audience a glimpse into your little part of the world. It creates a beautiful sense of intimacy.
  • I miss blogging, and I am excited to learn from Dr. Zamora and all my classmates, old and new.

Overall, I had a great first day and look forward to tomorrow when I will be working in small groups and with Dr. Zamora. 

(Gify, June 22, 2020)