An Open Letter to Potential Employers

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To whom it may concern,

At the time of writing this, I am a graduate student. I am working on a teaching credential so that I can become a certified public school educator at the middle and high school levels in California. What you are seeing on this blog is not my expertise but my personality. I am fully aware that you will probably come across it, if you are to look me up on my Twitter or you were one of the lucky few who have received my business card.

If you ask my references, there are a few qualifications that are consistent. I’m intelligent, a good writer, outgoing. People may not remember my name, but they remember my face or my actions. I stand out like a sore thumb in a crowd of people who are just skating by.

But if you don’t trust the people whom I have called upon as reference, then perhaps you would rather hear it from the man himself, the one you might be considering for hire. Very well. I understand that no candidate is perfect, and right now, it is an employers’ market. We, the potential hire, has to bend over backwards, just to figure out what it is you want us to do. However, I’m not so naive as to think that the hiring process is a one-sided deal where I have to sound like the perfect candidate for your company. I’m interviewing you, too. But I suppose a little more background on me is in order before that happens.

Here are a few things I would like you to know about me, that will always be apparent if you want to work with me.

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Reflecting on Sex and Sexuality in Professor Ginkgo Chronicles

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I am writing this in response to a friend’s post-graduate project that involves bringing together experiences from the fan fiction and LGBT communities. You can find out more about her project here. This is a reflective essay on my experience writing my Pokemon fan fictions, Professor Ginkgo Chronicles (PGC) and Oda Twin Chronicles (OTC).

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Trick or Treat? A Logical Approach

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Based on the kind of stuff I post on this blog, you probably think of me as that anime guy. But when I’m not pretending that real life isn’t there to kick my ass, I’m a philosopher that occasionally teaches Math (I say “occasionally” because I’m not exactly working yet).

Now I’m not one to get into the holiday gimmicks very often, but since Halloween is coming up, there has been one thing that puzzles me about this holiday. I am, of course, talking about this thing that kids like to say to neighbors they rarely ever interact with, dressed in their costumes, only to get some candy from them.

What exactly do we mean when we say Trick or Treat?

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Jack Merridew Helped Me Through High School

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I have a confession to make. While I love writing and I enjoy expressing myself in that medium (and love it even more when other folks actually read it), I myself was not much of a reader. This is a huge problem for me since most writers also enjoy reading (or at the very least, are good at it). I end up writing a lot, enough to a point that many of my readers probably stop halfway through due to the length.

The truth is, I do actually like to read; except that when it comes to reading, I don’t do very much of it. When I was growing up, I was always reading something that was what seemed to be “beyond” what my peers were reading. I mean, I read the first five books of the Bible (613 laws and I still can’t remember all of them) in the 6th grade, Stephen King’s Carrie (still surprised that his publishers never edit his work) in the 8th grade, Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot (that’s pronounced GAHD-oh, by the way) in 9th grade, Niccolo Machiavelli’s The Prince (the bourgeoisie is evil) in 10th grade, and Karl Marx’s The Communist Manifesto (may the proletariat rise) in 11th grade. Did I mention that I read all of these things on my own time without instruction from any of my teachers?

When I was in high school, the Accelerated Reader program was in its foundation stages, and I took the assessment test for it in 9th grade. Despite my peers being at or below their grade level in reading, I was one of the rare cases that hit 12.9 overall in comprehension and vocabulary. I honestly believe that the program must’ve been broken, because that meant there was no level for me to “accelerate” to because 12.9 was the highest level they went to at the time.

There was no way in hell I was going to read college-level material in high school. My friends are reading all the fun stuff like Harry Potter and I got stuck with some of the highest-level books that I’m sure even college students had trouble reading if they didn’t have instruction. Needless to say, I tried picking up Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace, which I believe was assessed as a 10th grade level of reading. After 50 pages and 100 distractions later, I gave up. Reading was not my forte.

And that became a problem for me once I got into college. I was amazing enough to get by in high school with my abilities and things, but I never truly enjoyed the work that was involved in getting through all of it. By the time I got to college, my assumptions of success without trying very hard became a farce. Over time, I had to leave one college to transfer to another, hoping that somehow I’d be able to find my niche and squeeze by. Three colleges later, I graduated, and yet I wonder how I actually made it. I still don’t have a regular stable job, I still want to improve myself, and I still don’t really read a whole lot, like I would like to.

When I was in a real slump in my life, I decided to take another reading assessment test. This time it was the Nelson-Denny, an assessment that specifically tests for reading ability. It turns out that I am perfectly normal in both vocabulary and comprehension in reading, but I was below average in “speed” (yes, there is a time assessment in reading); far below, if I can recall. What this means is that the time it takes me to read and analyze what I am reading takes a significantly longer time for me to do than that of an average person. So despite being the amazing person I was in high school, it became clear to me in college that I was in fact just as human as everyone else!

I occasionally contemplate on what I did right back then and why I am not doing it now in the present. That’s when I remembered William Golding’s The Lord of the Flies, and how a certain character helped me in high school.

Jack Merridew is the leader of the choir boys in Golding’s classic, and eventually becomes the antagonist to the main character Ralph. Despite being a villainous bastard, he is a natural-born leader. He’s charismatic, he already has a group of followers, and when the circumstances asked for one to rise and lead the boys to survival, he took the chance with both feet forward. Sure, he had a mean-streak and only cared about sustenance on a deserted island by any means necessary (even if it meant killing his own), but he was, in my opinion, a great leader. When I took the California High School Exit Exam, the essay question asked who I thought was a great leader and why; the choice was clear: Jack Merridew.

As a result, I earned a perfect score on that essay, and therefore passing the exam. And throughout high school, I, like Jack, was the driving force to take initiative in leadership; whether it was being an editor for the school newspaper or piloting my high school’s pending International Baccalaureate program.

And yet, even in the novel, Jack was not in full control. As many readers may imply, the Lord of the Flies had enticed Jack, and made him a naive boy leader who only sought bloodlust, regardless of his background as a former choir boy. It turns out that in the novel, it is Ralph who finds a way to return home from the island and, despite his differences, would allow Jack and his gang to also return (or at least that’s what’s implied). Ralph was elected the leader of the boys early on under circumstances that allowed him to do so (since he was in the most neutral position amongst all the survivors). He was never very confident with his leadership role or ability, and yet he wholeheartedly focused on the main objective (finding a way out) and protecting the weakest boys while he was at it. Truly Ralph was the ideal leader in this novel, but lacked the confidence and charisma that Jack had.

I’ve come to realize that I must learn from the leadership styles of both Jack and Ralph to help me out in life. I must learn from Ralph, the idealist, because his heart was always in the right place, while also taking from Jack, the realist, who had no fear in taking on responsibilities that others may have otherwise neglected.

Such is the way life itself is in many ways. We must learn to take examples from one source, its opposition, and find a balance between them that works for us as individuals. Jack may have helped me in high school, but now it’s time that I learn from Ralph as well.

Three-C Editing

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When I edit any of my writings, I use the 3 Cs. I edit for content, for clarity, and for correction. For projects with short deadlines, I will probably combine all methods into one in order to meet the deadline. This is especially true for journalistic pieces, which demand publishing almost immediately. Otherwise for basic essays that require at least three weeks of effort, at least three revisions are enough to go through the entire editing process. Of course, most of my students wait until the last minute anyway, so I end up having to treat their essay like a journalistic article; forcing me to be slightly more cruel to them. I apologize for that.

Before editing your work

Several ideas come to mind prior to editing, but it all ends with the same milestone: have a completed rough draft! Editing an incomplete article is not only a waste of time, but it often causes “writer’s block,” when a person has no idea what to write. Writer’s block is every author’s nemesis, because it pushes back any deadline or milestone they were supposed to meet. When you’re worrying about editing your work before it’s completed, you lose sight of why you’re writing in the first place. Get the ideas out first. Filter later!

Here is a list of ideas you can do before starting your rough draft. You do not have to do all the suggested elements on this list, but I highly suggest doing things in bold. I will not go into detail explaining all of them, but you can always ask me if you need me to clarify.

  • Brainstorm ideas and topics for your writing.
  • Free-write all the thoughts you have on paper for 5-10 minutes.
  • Research on your topic.
  • Make an outline of your article.
  • Create charts and graphs of your content’s elements (especially for stories).
  • Have annotated notes on your key points and ideas.
  • Write your thesis statement or purpose on a sticky note and place it in front of you wherever you write your article.
  • Write your rough draft without worrying about citing references.

Once you have gone through these pre-writing processes, complete your rough draft and consider three edits. These are the editing processes in order.

Editing for Content

This is the easiest, yet longest method of editing for any writer. Editing for content essentially boils down to a single question: does my article make sense? In this process, editors (particularly ones who are not the author of this piece) ask a series of questions regarding what the article is talking about. More often than not, these questions aim specifically at elements that need to either be explained or reworded, because content of such detail is either missing or confusing to a reader. You, the author, should read your own article as well; and if you can, read it as if you know nothing of the subject at all. If you or your editors don’t understand your article, your audience sure as hell won’t understand either!

Keep in mind though, editors will not look for the same elements, and many of them will contradict each other. You, the author must judge for yourself what needs to be clarified or explained for the purposes of your own writing.

This process can be completed in as few as 1 complete revision, but can take as many as it possibly can, especially for longer works such as novels or dissertations (I think the longest I’ve heard about had something like 20 revisions, just for content). Editing for content is completed once the author (you) can read the article without asking any of these key questions on missing or confusing content.

Editing for Clarity

This method often complements editing for content, but I do it separately for the sake of keeping myself from writer’s block. Editing for clarity asks whether the content fits logically or necessarily. There are details in many of my own articles that explain perhaps too much to the reader, and is probably the biggest reason my readers don’t bother to read my stuff in complete detail. I have to identify what these elements are (usually filler phrases like “the fact that” or “even though”) and remove them where necessary. Sometimes you want to slow a reader down by throwing in passive verse or filler words, but you should only do this when you have mastered normal writing techniques (and never do them for an academic assignment).

The other element in editing for clarity is to make sure your elements flow logically. You don’t often state your conclusion in the middle of your premises. And if you do, like I just did, you better make it very clear to your readers that this is a point you’re emphasizing (of course, you would be using prepositional phrases rather than bold your content unless you’re blogging).

Another good example you could do in clarity (particularly for stories) is if the nature of your content flows logically. Let’s say I write about an event that happened in the summer. If I then describe another event later down the road in spring, your conclusion is that either I skipped an entire year’s worth of content or I don’t know how the seasons change at all. This content needs to be clarified.

If you do, perchance, change significant details in your editing by clarity phase, you might have to revisit editing by content. Be careful of doing that, because you don’t want to waste time on your article unnecessarily, especially when you have a deadline.

Editing for Correction

Only the daring need apply for this one; but if you’re a decent writer, you should do this step automatically. Simply put, editing for correction is your grammar checker. Many word document software have built-in spelling and grammar checkers nowadays, but they may skip over typos or even ask you to revise something you intentionally left misspelled or incorrect. Do not rely on your word document software’s grammar checker!

Editing for correction is used just to patch up your writing so that it doesn’t violate your language’s standard rules, and should only be done once you are satisfied with the content of your article. Good writers who edit by correction can have this step done in 1 revision; because if everything has already been caught content- and clarity-wise, touching up is all that’s left!

My personal method by which I correct writing is by literally (yes, literally) reading my paper out loud. This, of course, is annoying if you are in an intentionally silent environment, such as a library (where many writers do their writing). By reading my own work out loud, I can catch mistakes if I have trouble reading it.

If you cannot judge your own writing by correction, have someone else read it. By reading your own writing, you already know what you’re looking for and skim over obvious typos or phrases that don’t make sense. If your editor or friend also skims over, have them read your paper out loud to you. Once you have revised your article for correction, read it again to make sure you haven’t missed anything.

Turning in or Publishing

Now believe me, I violate this all the time because I like hitting the “Publish” button on my blogs immediately once I’m done with a rough draft (this article included). Do not do this if you are absolutely serious about being a journalist; and most definitely do not turn in your rough drafts (or halfway revised drafts) as the final document in your writing classes!

You should only publish once all 3 editing methods have been done and you have revised your article to the nth degree because of them. This may take awhile, but please remember that all your assignments must be published! Unless you are writing in a private journal that no one else bothers to read unless they happen to stumble upon it, writing is intended for other people to read.

So don’t forget to edit, and please don’t forget your deadlines, be it personal or external. The last thing a writer needs to have is a boss that’s fed up with them for not writing anything! And you know you have been, but you’ve been editing all this time. You better turn something in!

And with that, keep on writing; and if you ever need a personal editor, I’m always available for friends, but I may consult with you regarding a fee if your writing is an asset rather than just for fun!