Family Holiday Conversations on Why I Write

Kelly KramerKelly Kramer
Zeta Tau Chapter
Liberty University, Lynchburg, VA

It’s Thanksgiving. If I’m lucky, I’m being interviewed by well-meaning family members; if not, it’s my college roommate’s family. Regardless, when they hear I’m an English major, they want to know if I’m writing a book, which reminds me that, again, I’ve been too scared to try NaNoWriMo this year. I scramble to sound like a normal person, because it’s hard to talk to people who aren’t habitually reading six books at once and daily scribbling down notes for their next project. I like to tell people I love stories, implying we definitely can talk about Twenty One Pilots and the new Star Wars film, and they don’t have to pretend to be interested in my odd niche of the world. Also, that I am open-minded, cool, and mysteriously in-the-know about all creative mediums.

KKramerBlogPic2Really, that’s why the new, sexy topics for English students are films, TV shows, and song lyrics: It’s just where our culture is headed. We can’t be too academic about it, or we’ll get behind the times. I’d know. At my Sigma Tau Delta induction the professor talked more about Terrence Malick’s film The Tree of Life and some rap lyrics by Kendrick Lamar than more traditional literature. What matters isn’t the medium so much as what kind of stories are shaping the world. If more people watch Memento than read Metamorphosis, then that’s where we, English majors, the expert analysts of culture, need to be headed.


Story medium totally changes what kind of stories are told. No one’s ever said the story that reaches the most people wins. With a film, you have a massive group of people, all working together to create a thing. The final product can be pretty ambitious, with many different components, like acting and cinematography. A written product, while still just as complex (take Tolkien, for instance), only needs one creator. You can build a whole world independently, a whole philosophy, and pass it on.

When you interact with the written page, you feel like you’re about to respond, that the person across the table from you is waiting for your answer. If it existed as a song lyric, you’d be tempted to sing along, to identify with the speaker instead of giving her an answer. And, if you saw it as a line of dialogue in a play or a film, you’d be tempted to watch, as an outside observer. Writing encourages your reader to interact with you, almost personally.

Today, the form of writing might appear to limit your audience; however, it also opens up incredible possibilities. If you’re frustrated by sexist rappers or screenplay writers, there’s not a lot you can change by yourself in that field. But, with the written word, you can do something. Frustrated about your school? Critiquing the latest blockbuster? Analyzing your home culture? You can do this with the written word, and you don’t need an army to back you up. In fact, writing is the best tool for metaphorically raising an army, because it gives one person the ability to approximate a conversation with their audience.

KKramerBlogPicI’m not trying to say English majors should isolate themselves from other creative mediums. However, we have to interact humbly and cautiously. All mediums are not created equally. We’re probably hopelessly out of our depth when it comes to story beats and lighting and cinematography. Just keep writing! If this is what you’ve chosen, don’t be embarrassed about it. Whether you’re analyzing great writing, or doing it yourself, you belong to a glorious tradition of shared opportunity: self-expression. So, don’t stop writing. Love the experience, with deletions and writers block and overdosing on coffee. Embrace it.

How do you plan to field questions about your English major this holiday season?

Midwestern Blog Contest: The Foundation of Success

Maya AlpertMaya Alpert
Midwestern Region Blog Contest—1st Place Winner
Alpha Epsilon Eta Chapter, Secretary
Stephens College, Columbia, MO

“Finding Home” is the theme chosen for Sigma Tau Delta’s 2016 International Convention. Home is an interesting concept, one that can be concrete or abstract, depending on who is defining it. In honor of this theme, the Midwestern Region hosted a blog contest asking the questions, “What does home mean to you?” Maya Alpert’s blog, “The Foundation of Success” is the winner of the Midwestern Region Blog Contest.

The idea of home often is tied to geography, to the physical markers of belonging. I was raised in Southern California and left for the North Bay area after I entered high school. Home changed once more when I relocated to Missouri. Moving with my family across the country, leaving my birthplace, my beautiful California landscape, changed my physical definition of home. But home is more than geography, and for me, one home that has not changed is the home of my strong and unique educational upbringing.

House made out of books with appleFrom kindergarten through ninth grade, I was homeschooled. There were a few hands lent by the occasional charter school, but my mom engaged in the majority of my education. There are many versions of homeschooling, and some kinds, the kinds revealed to the world in grim news reports, do serious damage not only to children but to the reputation of homeschooling itself; but my homeschooling, the kind my mom employed in order to educate me and my siblings, was the “good” kind. My mom’s teaching allowed me many wonderful opportunities: I engaged with my community in an educational manner at times when traditionally-educated students were in the classroom; I developed an early sense of my passions, such as writing and reading, and was not confined to learn those subjects at anyone else’s pace but my own; and, homeschooling fostered strong relationships with my parents and siblings. I experienced an education that, when I was growing up, was largely criticized and misunderstood—but it was mine.

My educational experience is not universal, but there are many positive attributes to homeschooling. Homeschooling provided a learning-positive foundation that has stayed with me through my time at a small charter high school, to community college, and finally to the prestigious women’s college from which I will earn my Bachelor’s Degree in English.

MWBlogContest1stPlacePic2For me, home is the academic base that has helped to secure my current success. I am Editor-in-Chief of my college’s literary magazine and a member of two international honor societies, Phi Theta Kappa and Sigma Tau Delta. I have an intense love of writing, reading, and learning in general. I owe this to my homeschooling experience. Homeschooling is a part of my past, but also my present and future. No matter where my physical home may be, my distinctive education is a constant in my life. In other words, it is home.

How does your personal education experience play into your definition of home?

Midwestern Region Contest: Home is…

Timothy LeonardTimothy A. Leonard
Midwestern Region Blog Contest—2nd Place Winner
Alpha Sigma Delta
Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne, Fort Wayne, IN

“Finding Home” is the theme chosen for Sigma Tau Delta’s 2016 International Convention. Home is an interesting concept, one that can be concrete or abstract, depending on who is defining it. In honor of this theme, the Midwestern Region hosted a blog contest asking the question, “What does home mean to you?” Timothy A. Leonard’s blog, “Home is…” is the 2nd place finisher.

What does home mean to me? A question like this really makes an individual think. I say think because the answer he or she gives, and even myself, will reveal what they are most passionate about—or, what is currently most important to them.

The old, anonymous quote states, “Home is where the heart is.” Like the hands of a clock, an individual’s heart changes with time. Here, the metaphorical destination of home changes too. I think the real question should be, what does home mean to me at this present time? My home is in the text of authors who have written their final words, but are now clinging to some representation of life on dusty shelves. My home is sitting in used and rare bookstores, sorting through forgotten stories hoping to find a lost treasure deserving proper retirement in preservation.

Hand writing in notebookMy home is the pen in my hand, writing the thoughts of my mind—transcribing theories developed by broken texts, with no clear beginning or end. My home is the study of English. I live in the neighborhood of concentrations—being visited each day by a new neighbor in the form of theory.

My home has no doors, walls, or even a roof restricting my imagination to travel within the subconscious mind. For it is my home that I return to each new day, English. I welcome all who are passionate about the writings of long ago, who are curious about theories that are left unanswered, and who are not afraid to be challenged in theory by fellow scholars.

Yes, my home will change with each new day of my life. However, it’s how we leave imprints of ourselves in objects that reflect our passions, and in the end illustrates how we arrive at our final home. So, what does home mean to me? Home is where I am right now, where my feet are planted, and where I’m living through the pages of my favorite book.

In which book do you find home?