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Author: Callie Heiderscheit
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PWR 2 REFLECTION: THE RHETORIC OF HOW WE GOT SCHOOLED
I didn’t have a clue where I was going when we began the preliminary work for pwr 2 ten weeks
ago. I never do when I start something new. Even now, writing this reflection, I’m pretty much making it
up as I go.
But, in this particular case, that was okay. We all started with something huge – a question and
its fitted answer – and the process that followed was just a matter cutting it up and tossing the
surpluses, focusing and refocusing. How did you find your own literacy?
My answer was wonderfully simple. Stories, of course, have always been one of my absolute
favorite things. There’s something that feels really crucial to me about them; whether real or fictions,
stories have the potential to present life with a box, string and bow. It’s a quality I can’t put into words
just right, no matter how scrupulous my efforts. It’s in the way that the best stories feel both full, and
terrifically unburdened. It’s like everything you’re supposed to feel and know and understand is clean
enough to be carried by a single sentence, but it can’t be. It takes the whole story to get you there.
So yeah, stories matter to me. But that’s not pwr two, ten minute discussion material. Nope,
those are the kinds of inconsequential prattling that belong exactly nowhere.
But I could still use it, right? I wasn’t sure where I would go exactly, but I was pretty sure there
were ways to stay on the leash that connected me to this interest of mine, while hopefully stumbling on
to something a little more worth discussing.
So naturally I decided to talk about the most respectable genre of all time, home to literary
treasures like Twilight and the Gossip Girl series. Kidding, of course. I ended up talking to Mr. Peterson
about YA fiction completely on accident, following my life’s trend of basically never doing anything on
purpose. I was trying to talk about something that was somehow meaningful. Somehow, I ended up
instead talking about how the genre of young adult fiction was formulaic and how Catcher in the Rye
was the most influential book I’d ever read in a really fast and loud tone of voice while gesticulating in a
manner I can only describe as “enthusiastically.”
Mr. Peterson interrupted me.
“Maybe you should talk about young adult fiction.”
And there it was. It was simple enough, it was interesting, and it was something I felt as though I
could find worth in talking about for at least ten minutes. Especially because YA really is experiencing
such a strangely unprecedented midlife crisis (ha ha), and I figured that there would be a number of
other people talking about it.
For a while, then the process moved pretty nicely. It was like I was an asteroid rapidly jetting
towards Earth. (Before continuing I feel inclined to say that I know nearly nothing about asteroids jetting
towards Earth, and my metaphor will be largely based off of knowledge I acquired from the Land Before
Time movies) My project was losing the excess mass and becoming trim and efficient with my continuing
research. My OCT helped me focus on ways to move myself more quickly and effectively (which included
not tugging on my sweater for the entire speech) and I gained some more speed. Rehearsing in front of
the class a couple of times was like getting hit with small pieces of rubble and still managing to continue
on, taking in that experience and building on the confidence it gave me, rather than letting it leave me
dissuaded. It was all pretty exciting. Exciting enough, that it was almost easy to forget that at the end of
my road, I was still crashing in to Earth.
Ah, the ten minute spoken RBA. Yikes. I had never given a speech longer than four minutes in
my life -- seriously – and I had honestly been worrying about this exact presentation since I heard about
its existence last year.
See, there’s a huge difference between speaking and writing. Penning an argument feels like it’s
for yourself. I chose facts that I felt were crucial, and phrases that I understood, and words that I liked.
Of course, the written argument is not actually only for yourself, but the lack of immediate audience
allows you to feel that way. When you write a paper, the audience is just a shadow on the wall –
ambiguous and largely ignorable – and although even when you see them, you don’t really have to give
it much thought. It’s entirely different to have a real audience; an audience that I know personally, and
can extrapolate an individual response from. An audience that stares you in the face as you stammer,
“The, uh, culture of young adult fiction is evolving…”
But, on the opposite hand, this outside pressure was definitely helpful to my process. It forced
me to consider what they would understand and what needed further explanation. For example, I knew
that before I elaborated on YA fiction as an undervalued genre, I had to explain why the literary
community felt so entitled to undermine it, and in order to explain that, I would have to explain how
young adult fiction was popular culture. I’ve had problems in the past assuming that my audience knows
more than they do, and I couldn’t do that here.
So I definitely would have to thank my classmates more than anyone. Then there’s you, of
course, as well, who listening to me nonsensically try to explain my individual (and largely premature)
ideas about stories and young adult fiction all quarter. I also want to thank you for somehow noticing a
potential topic in the middle of my thoughts before I ever did.
In the end, my ten minute presentation definitively felt like a collision in to Earth, and it
apparently looked similarly as well, but I can’t complain. At the very least, I learned a little bit about
myself, a lot about the culture of young adult fiction, and it most certainly could have been worse.
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