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?

How Can A Summer Program Change Your Life?

Sara StammerSara Ashley Stammer
Student Representative, Eastern Region
Alpha Epsilon Alpha Chapter
The College of New Jersey, Ewing, NJ

For years I always have solicited my mother for advice. That sentiment was true in February when I learned about the NYU Summer Publishing Institute in New York City. I asked her if she thought I should take a chance, apply, and see where it led me, and as always, her unrelenting support backed me the entire time.

When I arrived at the six-week intensive magazine, book, and digital media program I did not know the extent of the powerful, unsolicited advice I would receive. My education in this graduate program spanned well beyond what was directly told to me in my classes. Although I learned a lot about the publishing industry from the program I also learned a lot about life that is applicable to any career—academic, professional, or otherwise.

First, in a world in which we find the need to have all the right answers all the time, it is imperative to remember data doesn’t create content. Data and analytics will not help the quality of our lives. Data may inform, our entire life is spent collecting knowledge and experience, but people have the ability to persuade. Many human problems cannot be solved with algorithms or computers, they need human solutions.

Second, every move in your life does not have to be calculated—break the rules and take chances. It is time to stop thinking like a student and start thinking like a human. You have an opportunity to get it right next time; worst case scenario right now is playing it safe. We are making microevolutions every single day. It is fine if some are deliberate, but we never will have the ability to control everything. Companies and jobs do not and will not love you back; this is your journey, make it about you!

Finally, be a collector of many great thinkers, know and need the people around you. Understanding you are not an expert in everything is the first step because the best work is never done alone. That being said, identify your unique selling points and market yourself in your own way. Networking is just systematic development and cultivation of professional relationships so keep it simple and know who you are. Be where you are and look around, and most importantly, don’t be so focused on looking ahead that you forget where you are.

What’s the best advice you have ever been given that you have either listened to or ignored? Comment below!

Sigma Tau Delta Summer Program Scholarship

Due November 9, 2015, 11:59 p.m. Central Standard TIme (CST)

The Summer Program Scholarship is available to active undergraduate members, including seniors who are about to graduate at the time of application. The scholarship provides up to $1,500 for the purpose of attending a special summer program, either in the U.S. or abroad, which furthers the applicant’s engagement with Sigma Tau Delta’s mission. Qualifying summer programs must be at least three weeks in length and no longer than three months. Applicants should demonstrate academic scholarship and chapter service, and must explain the relevance of their summer program to fostering their engagement in the discipline of English, including literature, language, writing, or literacy. Note: This scholarship cannot be used toward a regular summer session at the student’s home institution.

Before receiving this scholarship, applicants are required to provide proof of their enrollment in the summer program described in their applications. Should winners not be able to provide such verification within three weeks of being notified about the scholarship, their awards will be presented to the runners-up.

Applications being accepted through Monday, November 9, so apply today!

New York School of Professional Studies

Chapter Project Grant: Bridging the Gap Between High School and College Writing

by Chi Tau Chapter
University of Maryland, College Park, College Park, MD

Don’t forget to submit your Sigma Tau Delta Project Grant application by the extended deadline of November 1, 2015. Keep reading to see what one chapter accomplished with their project grant last year.

Sigma Tau Delta’s Chi Tau Chapter has tutored at local high schools since our Students For Students (SFS) keystone service project’s inception. Former Chi Tau President Lena Stypeck founded SFS in 2013. This semester, our chapter had the opportunity to build upon that legacy with the support of a Sigma Tau Delta Project Grant.

In recent years, our chapter has strived to extend our Society’s values in writing and education beyond the confines of our campus. In an effort to create a Sigma Tau Delta presence in our local community, chapter members held several SFS tutoring sessions at Northwestern High School, a school just down the street from the University of Maryland (UMD).

Chapter members brainstorm and edit with local high school students.

Chapter members brainstorm and edit with local high school students.

During each visit, our members offered writing expertise and college insight to eager students at Northwestern’s career center. Most sessions this semester focused on college application essays. Students approached each session in various stages of the writing process; some came with a full draft in hand, while others had a prompt, a blank page, and writer’s block. Regardless of the student’s progress, our members engaged him or her in brainstorming, outlining, or revising.

Chi Tau President Amanda Dew tutors a local high school student.

Chi Tau President Amanda Dew tutors a local high school student.

Perhaps above all, our members had the chance to dispel a variety of the high school students’ fears about approaching a daunting essay assignment. When students first discovered we had chosen to pursue a college English degree, they often were astonished. Many of them hated writing–or they found it too difficult. We hoped showing them the steps to tackling big assignments and giving them tips on creating impactful essays would make the writing process less intimidating. Furthermore, we worked to build and fortify the students’ confidence in their writing abilities to ensure these students would know in the future they were perfectly capable of college-level writing.

Many students told our tutors about their desire to attend college. One student’s family recently immigrated to the United States. Another was a College Park community native who had dreamed of attending UMD since she was young. Both students’ enthusiasm was inspiring. Plus, our tutors had the chance to share the inside scoop about everything UMD has to offer.

Beyond the chance to engage with local high school students, the SFS service project aided recruitment. While tabling at events, SFS entices many English majors to join our group, and encourages non-English majors to engage with their local community. In an environment, at least at UMD, where English majors are becoming less and less common, recruitment is vital. We want English majors to be aware of the practical applications of learning to read and write critically so they can pass such awareness on to new generations of college students.

We hope to continue to grow a passion for writing and literature in the campus and surrounding communities as we prepare for fall 2015!

About Sigma Tau Delta Project Grants

Sigma Tau Delta’s Project Grants are designed to encourage local chapters to be innovative in developing projects that further the goals of the Society. The Society will award a limited number of grants, for no more than $500 each, to support local chapter activities. Funds may be requested for separate projects or for parts of larger projects, and chapters should explore ways to use Project Grants in combination with funds secured from other sources. Funds may be requested for ongoing projects, but there is no guarantee that projects funded during one grant period will receive funding in future grant periods. Winning chapters may also receive up to $350 in travel assistance for sending at least one student representative to the annual convention to participate in a workshop and/or roundtable. Winning chapters are encouraged to share a chapter exhibit at the convention. To provide additional recognition for the project, a final report must be submitted as a narrative (300-800 words) or a video (2-3 minutes) suitable for posting on this blog.

Applications must be complete and received by the extended deadline of November 1, 2015. No late submissions will be accepted. Award winners will be notified by November 15, with one-half of the awarded funds available immediately; the other half when a final project report is filed.

Project Grant Application Details and Application Instructions