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November 12, 2014 - Image 10

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 2014-11-12

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a 0

the writer's notebook: the 'writing process' process

Iread about the writing process
a lot, or talk to people about it.
There's apparently some pro-
cess that you're supposed to devel-
op so that your writing becomes
as good as it can be, some way of
going about writing things that's
the right way. I mean, there's no
right way but there's certainly a
wrong way, or so I've been told.
One Master of Fine Arts stu-
dent told me that before writing a
story, he will, for several months,
just think about plot and themes
without ever writing a word. Some
creative writing teachers have
told me they write everyday. Oth-
ers, only a couple times a week.
On computers, or at first on yellow
pads or on their phones hastily on
the bus. But I don't have a process
yet where I write things in certain
modes systematically, not really.
I tend to write in my room for
about an hour at a time, on my
computer, at my desk or in my
bed. That sounds not-so special.
But I get sort of hyped up for it.
The door has to be closed, and my
phone, tucked away somewhere,
not talking to anyone or going on
the Internet. It's not like doing
homework or writing some paper.
It's like a Zen Buddhist thing
where I clear my mind. Or, at least,
Most times, I wind up leaving
the computer to get something to

Wednesday, November12 20147 The Statement B
Personal Statement: I didn't go to my grandmother's funeral
by Katie Burke
-f W v M i


drink, while trying to avoid Face- of the thing that you're trying to
book and things like that, maybe write, but that's hard to do. Some-
eat a little food, but not a lot since times you have to step away.
it takes time and the point is to I know this writer who gets up
clear your mind and get back to at 4 a.m. and runs five miles then
the computer as soon as possible. locks himself in his office and
The idea is that you get focused writes for six hours everyday.
in and write through to the end He keeps himself in there and
his kids aren't allowed to bother
him too much, and I can't imagine
the amount of words he's getting
out each day. If he's writing non-
stop he could be getting out maybe
12,000 words. I don't think I could
write for half that time. After an
hour, maybe, maybe two, I can feel
my brain deflating. I can get 6,000
' Lclose-to-polished words in a week,
on a good week.
I guess I just still don't know
how it's supposed to go:Some peo-
ple write for hours and hours and
some people write sparingly. Some
on the go and others in a quiet
space. I guess I do both, mostly
the second, which results in better
writing but also less writing, so
it's a tradeoff. In both cases most
of what comes out of a draft is shit
anyway, but it's about making it
as lacking in shit as possible. Like
I said, there's no right or wrong
way, there's only the best way, for




My grandmother was my
fashion icon. As a single
mother raising six chil-
dren in Queens, her hats always
matched her gloves, which
matched her shoes. Her kids were
always the best dressed on the
block and consistently sported
camelhair coats and knee socks.
Seriously, my dad and his broth-
ers look like British royalty in their
childhood photos.
My grandmother would refer
to my female cousins and me as
the "Glamour Girls," and would
always have an extra sequined
clutch or beret to hand out once
she figured out online shopping.
Sipping her gin martini - which
had the tendency to make her "toes
tingle" - after Christmas Eve
mass each year, she would divulge
her thoughts on the outfits of the
church crowd.
Because of my grandmother,
I dress up to travel. I dress up for
doctor's appointments. Heck, if it
weren't for the Michigan weather
and my lack of a "normal" sleep
schedule, I would dress up for
class, too. One of the most impor-
tant lessons she taught me was
how the effort in your appearance
can convey how much effort you
are willing to put in to other parts
of your life. She hammered that
lesson into my dad, too - his nick-
name around the bleachers at mine
and my siblings' sporting events
was "Blazer Man."
When my parents would go out
of town, my grandmother would
come stay with my siblings and

me. I can't count the number of
times she chided me for throwing
my clothes on my bedroom floor
or wearing a wrinkled school uni-
form. I've never seen anyone so
appalled as when she discovered
my mother donated our ironing
board to a local charity.
My grandmother was also a
creative problem solver. On one
of her babysitting stints, we came
home from one of my siblings'
sporting events to realize we had
locked ourselves out. Being a quick-
thinking10-year-old, I grabbed the
nearest rock and presented it to my
grandmother. Without hesitation
she took it from me and smashed
in our back window to reach in and
unlock the door. The incident has
become slightly embellished in its
repeated retelling within my fami-
ly, and has now become the, "Katie,
get me a brick," break-in of 2003.
My grandmother died the
spring of my sophomore year. My
family knew it was coming. She
had been living and firing on all
cylinders in her apartment in D.C.,
but at 96, had finally started to
slow down. By Easter of that year,
she had moved to an assisted living
My grandmother's funeral was
during final exams, and my parents
told me to stay in Michigan. I regret
that decision to this day. Though I
dressed to the nines and headed to
St. Mary's in Ann Arbor that day, I
never felt the closure a funeral cer-
emony where you're surrounded
by family seems to give.
One of my last and favorite

memories of my grandmother
is sitting in her apartment dur-
ing Fall Break earlier that year,
drinking coffee and discussing
our favorite topic: clothes. Spe-
cifically, we talked about the per-
fection of navy blue. It has the
slimmingeffectofblack withoutthe
drabness. It goes with almost
anything and adds that put-togeth-
er feel. It can be worn at just about
any time of the year.
Since then, to me, navy blue
has been my grandmother's color
and holds a dominant place in my
closet. It has come to represent her
mantra of looking polished every
time you step out the door - one
I have failed at frequently in my
senior year - and putting your
glittery-shoed foot forward.
Navy blue has been a constant
reminder of my relationship with
my grandmother, one I thought
could never be replicated. This
year, however, I have added a new,
slightly contrasting color to my
closet, which has come to repre-
sent a woman who has had a simi-
lar impact on my life.
Ann and her husband George
run their own cleaning business.
Every Monday and Wednesday
night, they come in and clean the
Student Publications Building on
420 Maynard Street, or the address
of my second home, The Michigan
I met Ann shortly after my
grandmother died, when I was
working on the summer staff of
the Daily. The newspaper's weekly
production was on Wednesday

nights, and that summer I had
developed the bad habit of pro-
crastinating by socializing with
anyone willing to chat. Ann calmly
put up with my blabbering about
whatever had happened in my life
that week, and pretty soon, would
come in with some great life advice
for the crisis of the month.
Once the school year
started, Ann beganto ask me ifIwas
keeping up with my homework and
going to class as I gradually started
spending more hours in the Daily
office. She has threatened to call
my mom on more than one occa-
sion if my grades were in trouble of
Ann makes sure I'm never
walking alone at night, and that
I'm being safe when I drive to
Detroit. She hugs me when I'm
upset and tells me when I'm freak-
ing out too much over little things.
When the stress is male-related,
she never hesitates to reiterate the
well-known fact among women
that men are generally stupid.
My favorite topic of discussion
with Ann, however, is fashion. Ann
is the first person to tell me if I'm
showing people up in my outfit or
look like I just rolled out of bed.
She tells me about the fabulous
blue jacket she bought over the
weekend, and shows me pictures
of her sundresses when we feel
like complaining about the arctic
Last winter, Ann showed me
pictures of her well-dressed son,
who had just passed away from
cancer, and the beautiful outfit she

wore to his funeral. Every time we
look at those pictures, she smiles.
Ann is one of the strongest women
I have ever met.
The best days are when my
hot pink sneakers match Ann's
hot pink shirt. Those days always
spark the discussion of how great
hot pink is. It's a bold statement;
it's approachable. It adds some fla-
vor to an outfit and it's visible from
far away.
When Ann came in a few
Mondays ago, she said she had
something for me. She went out to
her car and came back with a hot
pink T-shirt, just like the one that
matched my sneakers. Now I had
the complete outfit, hot pink from
head to toe.
Looking at Ann's gift some
days later, I thought about my
grandmother. I thought about how
she would tell me about going to
the different shops in New York
City to make sure her hats and her
gloves matched. I thought about
her all-white outfit - complete
with white patent leather Go-go
boots - she wore to open presents
with my cousins on Christmas
morning. I thought about her viva-
ciousness, her flair, her strength.
I didn'tgoto mygrandmother's
funeral, and I still regret it. Hoe-
ever, I no longer have the feeling
that I'm missing something, that
the closure I was meant to feel by
being with my family at the cere-
mony will never come. I've learned
to see my grandmother in other ,
people and in other colors. And for
that, I am forever grateful to Ann.


T H E statement
Magazine Editor: Photo Editor: Managing Editor:
Carlina Duan Ruby Wallau Katie Burke
Deputy Editors: Illustrator Copy Editors:
Max Radwin Megan Mulholland Mark Ossolinski
Amrutha Sivakumar Editor in Chief: Meaghan Thompson
Design Editor: Peter Shahin
Amy Mackens

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