TURNING THE TIDE 2.0

Dear all,

Hello! It has been some time since I last sat down and wrote a Blog. I regret not taking the time to write, because so many special things happened over the summer, and I wish I had kept some sort of record on TURNING THE TIDE. To make up for the all the posts I didn’t write, I’d like to take a moment to tell you a bit about my summer, this blog and myself.

For those of you who don’t know me, I’m from NorCal and I’m a literary journalism major at University of California, Irvine. Yes, I’m a writer, borne from my love of reading. I am a freelance writer for two startup companies, and plan to move into public relations this fall. This is my final year of college. I’m really excited to use my potential to do good, but I’m definitely nervous at the same time!

Summer highlights:

– Landed my dream journalism internship at the UCI ANTrepreneur Center. I learned the importance of networking, how to listen and how to talk to anyone. This internship helped me find my first public relations opportunity.

– Went on a backpacking trip with my uncles, in NorCal. Want to read more? Check out my article. 🙂

– Had a great time with my friends at the beach on multiple occasions. Having a car is wonderful!

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When I started this blog, I had trouble pinpointing exactly what interested me and keeping readers engaged. I would write about some pretty random stuff. Then, I branched out into writing prompt style posts, which got a bit more traffic. I think the most recent stage was when I wrote about study abroad in Ireland.

Now, I am going to try something new! My new theme makes my blog pop, and motivates me to write engaging content. There’s something deeply satisfying in straying away from a traditional look. Besides the theme, the content will change. From here on out, the blog will focus on photography, student life, careers and current events. Occasionally I will do a writing prompt if I need the practice. I think my new direction will keep me on my toes, since I’ll need to read the news, search for interesting subjects, etc. That said, I’m going to post at least once a week, on Mondays.

To all my past readers, thanks for reading this post and following my blog. I appreciate your patience, and I’m sorry to have left you hanging this summer! I look forward to seeing what you’re up to and will do my best to maintain a presence here on WordPress.To first time visitors, I hope that we can connect. If one of my posts inspires you, please don’t hesitate to comment on it. I’ll take a look at your blog, too.

Cheers,

–Jennifer

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On Journalism and Careers

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As a student journalist, I have consistently been doing internships in my field since I started college. Looking back, I’d say that the first internship I had triggered my interest in journalism. I was a rookie reporter at the local paper, that’s for sure, but I learned that I liked jotting down notes from interviews and then turning that information into art for the summer. I had the chance to shadow the other reporters and see how they operated. At the same time, my work had a limited audience, given that I lived in a small town most people wouldn’t know about.

My experiences at my first internship helped me do well in my beginning journalism classes at UC Irvine. I felt like I had definitely picked the right major and that I was likely going to be a journalist after college. I continued to do two more journalism internships to get a feel for the career that I felt I’d do well in. Each had a different work environment and set of skills.

Then, sometime during my junior year in college I started Googling careers related to journalism and one of the biggest (and most promising) was a career in public relations. The pay for a public relations specialist was significantly higher than for a journalist (about $15,000 more of a median salary) and it seemed to offer more stability. I thought about it for a while. I’d get to write, edit, help clients and companies make the most of their businesses, work with the press, give speeches…it sounded like a dream.

I kept reading to see what the requirements were. A Bachelor’s in either journalism, communications, or English…check. Internships in journalism…check. Friendly and outgoing personality…check! I remember thinking, “People actually get paid to do what I would love to do every single day. Count me in.”

Since discovering that PR was a viable option for me, I have also gotten to learn skills outside of my field. I applied for a summer job which I actually took in the fall as a food service worker at the campus dining commons, and have started working at the campus library as a Special Collections and Archives Assistant. It’s nice to make a little money, and I think it’s also an excellent strategy for this generation of students–the more skills you have, the more employable you’ll be in the future.

Recently I landed a journalism internship at the UC Irvine ANTrepreneur Center. I think it’ll be a great opportunity to network with entrepreneurs, students, UCI faculty and local businesses. I will be doing plenty of interviewing and writing, and my work should hopefully reach a wider audience.

Choosing to work on campus was also part of my strategy. You can make it yours, too. Just think: if you live on campus or do not have to drive, it’s a win, and you have the opportunity to see your school a little differently. If you’ve admired the place you’d like to work for a while, you can become a part of what makes it great, and then you can become a representative and even raise the standard.

While everything seems to be falling into place, I’m scared. In one year I will no longer be in school. I’ll be on my own. At the moment I want to go to the Career Center to talk about public relations and what I might need to do differently next year. Interning at a p.r. firm seems promising, but I need to look into it more.

For those of you who haven’t started an internship or gotten a job offer during school, I encourage you to sit down and think seriously about your professional and personal goals. Consider your interests, as well. Write them down and put them in a place you can refer to often. Since I’m not an expert in career counseling I will not go any further except to say read a lot. In fact, read something of educational value every day, whether it is a short story, play, newspaper, magazine, etc. Just read, and I guarantee you’ll come upon one of your interests.

Do you have similar career strategies to mine? What advice would you give students or people seeking a career they feel is a smart move for them? Share your thoughts.

Where the Wind Blows

A piece I wrote for my first literary journalism writing workshop. It is narrative nonfiction. Please feel free to share your thoughts!

Traffic roared by OEX Sunset Beach on a Saturday morning in May. Bright yellow paint adorned the shop, with blue trim designed to look like waves. Signs reading “sales & service” and “kayak & stand up paddle” hung on its exterior. A bright array of rental kayaks sat stacked to the side of the parking lot. Newbies and veterans of the water frequented the place. At Sunset Beach, kayaks and paddle boards rested on dark brown sand near the translucent blue water. The grayish skies were cloudless, the wind light.

At 10 AM, two girls standing by the kayaks at the beach awaited their first stand up paddle boarding lesson. With flip-flops kicked off, their toes touched the soft sand. The white Starboard paddle boards waited for them at the shoreline. The thought of mounting their boards made them nervous, but their instructor, Jerry Katz, didn’t give them much time to doubt. Jerry, 69, was 5’10”, muscular and tan. He stood apart from the crowd with his full head of wavy brown hair and a mustache to match. His searching eyes were the color of honey. Around his close friends you could see his face break into a wide smile. Retired now, he taught paddle boarding to his friends on weekends and let them stay out as long as they liked. He enjoyed watching them learn. Once they paid the shop to rent a board, he’d teach them for free. The convenience of renting right at the beach and choosing a new route each time made this place great. He had told one of the girls the other day that paddle boarding was easy in Huntington Harbor. She wouldn’t fall in the water on his watch—his students, with the exception of maybe two out of forty, stayed upright the entire lesson. Dressed in a gray tank top and shorts, he demonstrated to them the correct way to hold the black paddle, with one hand at the top and the other ten inches below. He waded into the water and gripped one of the boards. He gestured to both sides of the upper-middle part of the board.

You will move your board out into the water and sit with your knees on the board. If you feel like you are going to fall you can always go to your knees. It’s safe. Then you’ll want to slowly stand up on the board and unbend your knees until you can balance. Don’t stand up until you are moving forward in the water. The hand that is on top of the paddle will steer you into the direction you want to go.

Jerry intended to give the two coeds from UCI good instructions and a tour. Jerry watched Jennifer push-off into the water. Holding the paddle in her left hand and the board in her right, she climbed on the board and sat on her knees. The board shifted slightly but didn’t tip. Working the paddle into the water, she began to steer. He saw that she wished to stand, so he gave her the go-ahead. She slowly rose. Her friend Jazmin mounted her board as well. They hadn’t fallen in yet. Good. Both of them were exactly what he’d expected—they had never paddle boarded before, and their nervousness showed. His cousin Michael, who always accompanied him on his tours, cruised slowly up ahead on his board. Jerry watched as Jennifer practiced the paddling motion again.

You’re holding the paddle incorrectly, Jennifer. Hold it with the paddle going this way. She heeded his advice and gripped the paddle so that it faced the opposite direction, with the bottom shovel-like part coming towards her. She began gliding amidst the water using two long strokes, and in her excitement neglected to steer to the right with her left hand leading. Other hand on top. A pretty standard mistake, it happens. After awhile they’d get acquainted with the flow. Since a large white boat loomed closer, Jennifer steered away into the neck of the Huntington Harbor. Several styles of nautical equipment and white houses with leafy foliage sprouted from the docks. The girls’ nervousness started to wear off once they got the hang of it. After ten minutes away they went.

The one direction you don’t want to look is down. Your eyes will steer your board forward. You don’t want to go straight; your board will be moving a little to the left and a little to the right.

Jennifer maintained her long, rhythmic strokes in the water, alternating from left to right every three strokes as she passed by houses, docks and boats. The houses blocked her from the wind, serving as a measure of protection. Jennifer sought solitude as she paddled. Jerry didn’t mind; his students could do what they wanted. Just like he does.

Solitude finds Jerry when he is out hang gliding and surfing. To be Jerry is to respect nature. Nature is the earth, wind, sun, air we breathe, the animals down to the smallest insect. It’s all encompassing, the natural order of the world. Jerry finds meteorology so interesting that he’ll put you on hold to watch the weather report. You’ll never understand nature but you try to. You have to be in good shape to hang glide, because the higher you go, the more your oxygen intake decreases. You have to realize life is short and that it is your responsibility to get what you want out of it. You know what you want. The stakes are high if you are inexperienced, and naïve about where you fly. Sometimes even experienced fliers didn’t make it. He knew that well. He watched his good friend Buddy crash into a 1,500 ft mountain. Buddy broke his neck from the fall. He tried to get up and move around, but his spinal cord severed and he could no longer breathe. Since Jerry is experienced he doesn’t see the risk at all, just the potential for a future flight. His extreme confidence carries over to his independent thinking: learning and refining skills takes time and commitment. If he wants to surf, he can surf, and if he wants to hang glide, he can hang glide.

Today is a good day for flying here at Cerro Gordo Peak, Jerry thought on a Sunday morning in 1977 when he was 33. July 24 dawned with active and unstable conditions in the Inyo Mountains of California’s Owens Valley. Patchy, cumulous clouds filled the cerulean blue sky, with airflow coming out of the southeast bringing moisture from the Gulf of Mexico and California. Jerry’s chances to set a world record for the furthest distance in a hang glider looked promising. 100 miles wouldn’t kill him. He drove up the dirt road in Cerro Gordo, a silver mining town which means “Fat Mountain.” It featured one of the most productive silver mines in California, its ore hauled to the Los Angeles area. Sometimes Jerry would look for ore samples here. This morning, he went to see Barbara on the way to the peak. She lived in a notoriously drafty, 1,800 square ft, 120-year-old wooden house with a tin roof that gleamed when it caught the sunlight. A slender 5’3” woman in her late 60’s, with short, grayish hair, Barbara owned the property that would serve as his launch site. She always asked Jerry to sign her guest list. She’d give him water in return for his signature and make conversation with him.

At 1:30 PM Jerry tensed as he stood looking at fifty feet of cliff, which veered off abruptly into the abyss. He waited for the wind running south to north up the Owens Valley. Then, running with his glider, he leaped off the cliff, finding his first thermal—a column of warm rising air. To stay in the thermal he began flying in tight circles by shifting his body one direction to the other, steadily gaining altitude. The rapid beeps of his variometer affirmed his rate of climb. He had thermals on the brain because he needed height at this crucial stage. He could not rely alone on ridge lift from the wind that blew against the mountains. As he moved through the air, drag slowed him down. The faster he travelled the more drag he encountered, something he’d need to avoid. He understood the rough terrain and its tendency to create turbulence for a flier. Beginners might consider it hard to anticipate the weather conditions and act appropriately, as the unstable air off the peak meant wind blasted from different directions. But Jerry wasn’t a beginner. The wind whipped around him, his muscles relaxed and he concentrated on his next steps.

He caught several more thermals, climbing ever higher, and looked out at the magnificent landscape. The Inyo Mountains, 400 ft below him at times, beckoned and he’d descend just under the peaks. Other familiar landmarks included Mt. Whitney in the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range, also Owens Dry Lake and Lone Pine. As he gained altitude and distance he left the Inyos, moving towards the White Mountains, splotched with pockets of glistening snow along the uneven ridgeline and slope. A greenish tinge on the mountains intermixed with earth in various shades of chocolate, sepia and sandy brown. Sharp rocks jutted out in spurts, confirming that one mishap in midair could result in a fatal accident.

Jerry had flown Cerro Gordo many times before. The 7,800 ft peak served as a launch site for him and his fellow hang gliders. All of them had tried for months to be the first Class II glider pilot to soar cross country over a hundred miles. Pioneers like Jerry flew cross-country by starting at one point, thermalling up to14,000 ft and then continuing onwards. He called cross country a new concept for gliders who had gone through a rigorous trial and error process by the manufacturers to expand their capabilities. He had other records here, too: Friday’s maximum altitude of 20,000 ft and Saturday’s Altitude Gain of 11,482 ft from the lowest point of his flight to his highest point. Now he aimed for distance. He planned to take off from Cerro Gordo and fly just over 100 miles and come in for a landing at Janie’s Ranch in Nevada. With two years of experience, he trusted his knowledge and acquaintance with the area.

For Jerry, leaving the ground and soaring comes first. After that, cross-country is the goal—pushing the envelope. He will tell anyone it’s man’s dream, and you need nothing except a glider. You can hike your glider up a hill and just take off. Jerry’s investment in hang gliding comes from his idea that he is utilizing nature. He craves the feeling of flying because he is surrounded by nature. The camaraderie that naturally follows the sport is a big part of it, too. Hang gliding is part of life.

Jerry depended on his Pacific Gull Alpine competition glider. It was capable of a 10:1 glide ratio, which meant that from one mile up he could travel ten miles forward. The 16 ft. long wing had a patch of cornflower blue in its center, followed by patches of white and navy blue wingtips. A triangular structure called the control frame hung suspended through the middle portion of the wing. To control the glider, Jerry shifted his weight in the direction of the intended turn and used the shift control bar to move backwards or forwards.  His glider came equipped with a harness and a white parachute, which he wouldn’t need to deploy unless he had to make an emergency landing. He had never used a parachute in his life, but he carried one out of safety. For protective gear, he wore a medium-red colored powder suit to combat the freezing temperatures beyond 15,000 ft, special sunglasses to prevent glare, ski gloves and a black helmet. Instruments attached to the glider included an altimeter that would measure his approximate height and air pressure, a citizen band two-way radio and a sealed barograph to record his altitude and times on a chart from takeoff to landing. He obeyed the regulations for a glider pilot interested in setting records.

After Jerry bought a kit and put a glider together in 1973, he took a single hang gliding lesson from Bill Bennett Hang Gliders on the beach at Playa Del Ray. He had talked to Bill Bennett and Bill Moyes, men who helped popularize the sport by adapting NASA engineer Francis Rogallo’s Wing into manufactured flexible wing gliders. Like many other beginners, Jerry the first time made it 15 ft off the ground and flew for 100 ft. Escape Country, near El Toro, became his flight territory. He practiced on 500 ft hills and advanced to the 1,300 ft hills once he felt comfortable. He moved onto flying off mountains after he had mastered Escape Country.

At 10, 12 and up to 14,000 ft, Jerry discovered stronger cloud development. This related to the thermals rising. The clouds cast an ominous dark blue and purple hue on the land below, as they crept ever closer to Jerry’s glider. He called it “overdevelopment”, the perfect condition for a thunderstorm. This thunderstorm developed by updraft, the same as thermals, and overdevelopment arrived from the south due to monsoon flow. Fifty miles in, Jerry flew over Black Mountain Peak, and then crossed the White Mountains. Westgard Pass, a crucial point of his flight, lead out of Big Pine. The battle against the wind wasn’t terrible because there were no westerlies that day, so his passing over it left him a 50/50 chance to fly further.

What is this airflow going to do? Will I find lift? Am I going to hit some thermals? What are the clouds and conditions like? Where are the people I started the flight with?

At 16,000 ft the pilot of a white sailplane running parallel to Jerry, a bit below him, warned him of a thunderstorm building up behind him. The pilot dipped a wing in the air to him, and pointed back to the gathering clouds. Jerry acknowledged him with a thumbs up. For half the flight Jerry had been scratch-flying, trying to work his way up higher in light lift. He pressed on, though, getting to use his skills. As lightning flashed far in the distance while thermalling, a pair of golden eagles helped him get through the last stretch of the flight. He passed the 95 percent mark as he crossed the state line to Nevada.

The thunderstorms brewed in the distance as Janie’s Ranch came into view. A rush of adrenaline kicked in. His world record stared him in the face. The timing—perfect. Jerry didn’t worry about setting this record or not, just thought of it as an incredible opportunity. While at a steady 18,000 ft, with the ability to continue fifty miles more, he didn’t want to push it. Better to work his way down before he got sucked up into the storm. He spotted a landing field with an orange wind sock on a dirt strip and started doing aerobatics, which caused him to lose altitude quickly. 7,000 ft to go…6,000…5,000…4,000… 3,000…2,000…1,000… The ground rushed closer to him, Janie’s Ranch getting larger, the wind whipping his hair. He turned into the headwind and pushed the control bar in, tipping the glider nose upward to slow his progress. He went straight down, like a parachute. He sought control without blowing backward in the wind. His glider stalled, allowing him to land correctly on his feet. An all-around easy landing, thanks to the gusts of wind. Four and a half hours in the air—so worth it. The 103-mile world record…was his.

It had been a stellar day to get lucky and he felt elated that he made it without crashing. A stoked Jerry felt even more excited about going home. No time to sit and contemplate his record here. He had work tomorrow, after all. A road wound its way back to Lone Pine, a hundred miles away. To get there, he’d need to hitch.

He dubbed Janie’s Ranch, an off-white, five bedroom house a “gentleman’s club with benefits.” Janie herself wondered why he landed in front of her property and would he partake from them? He deflected the question by telling them he had a glider to get home and that it wasn’t interested. Then, a chubby, bald man smelling of alcohol sporting glasses and gray side burns offered him a ride back to Lone Pine, the hang gliding base. Jerry didn’t think twice. He folded up his glider, setting it in the back of his ride’s dump truck. He didn’t mind that his new road buddy enjoyed drinking a half gallon of Red Mountain wine while he drove. From Nevada they went through Bishop, Big Pine and Independence in just over two hours. Proud and tired, the world record holder welcomed the return to civilization, happy to rest his sore legs for a bit.

Jerry didn’t make a big deal out of getting the record, not realizing so many people thought differently. He got asked to interview for articles and go on television and he rejected most of the offers because popularity didn’t interest him. Rather, spending weekends with friends doing a sport he genuinely liked motivated him. He appreciated the physiological aspect involving endorphins and rising serotonin levels and felt the same thing after surfing a great wave, and skiing a challenging mountain.

Three hang gliding manufacturers wanted him to fly their gliders. He tested their gliders and got a little money, but not much. People in the small hang gliding community shook his hand and knew his name. He also ended up in the Guinness Book of World Records. It took five years for someone to break his record.

He remained the same old Jerry, though not quite as driven. The Chuck Yaeger of hang gliding had lowered his intensity level from 100% to 75%. He continued to fly cross country and competed in numerous competitions, but then transitioned into recreational hang gliding.

Jerry went into private business selling building material, divorced, raised a son and taught hang gliding. At age 69, he’s still learning. He volunteers at the LA County Arboretum and does crime analysis for the LA County Sheriff’s Department. He’ll tell you about teaching third and fourth graders from different schools around the county about the different plants and other wildlife surrounding them. Pointing out lakes and waterfalls to kids who have never laid eyes on them before makes him appreciate nature all the more.

He favors free form landscaping, which is apparent when you visit him and see his garden. This spectacular 20-year-old garden is a certified wildlife habitat: it lays claim to over 375 species of plants and 50 different trees. Real order does not exist. You catch what you miss the first time, as if the magic of the place swallows you whole. Among the kumquats, loquats, sweet lemons, pomelos, cherimoyas and Hawaiian plants, to name a few, nestle Buddhas and lawn ornaments. Jerry feels tranquil here, and when he waters he sees what is changing in nature.

36 years after setting the hang gliding world record, he’s lining up things to do in his busy schedule: biking, surfing, teaching stand up paddle boarding, watching lectures from The Great Courses, visiting with his family and trying to meet women. He still hang glides, though he doesn’t feel like he has to fly all the time.

In Huntington Harbor, Jerry stayed back with Jazmin, who paddled slower. The pair talked about family and rested once in awhile, taking it easy. Jennifer kept paddling faster and faster, her rhythm mechanical and fluid. She propelled herself forward by raising her arms and pushing through the down stroke as if she were slicing the water with great force. She should be going faster since she felt comfortable and Jerry’s cousin Michael kept her company. Get your butt back to the side and don’t get hurt, he thought as he observed Jennifer’s tendency to edge into the middle of the channel. He wanted her to mind the boats and yachts coming through the center and to stay out of their way. Keep to the right side where the boats are. If there aren’t any boats coming, you’re fine.

As Jennifer passed by Gilbert Island, Jerry and Jazmin caught up to her. Jerry pointed. To your left is Trinidad Island. You two are doing very well. At this point they could loop around Trinidad Island and return to Sunset Beach, but they asked to continue. The strength of the learner mattered to Jerry, and he felt the girls still had enough energy. Most people he taught felt they had had a sufficient tour at this point and turned back.

That boat there is a Duffy. A small, electric-powered boat with navy blue trim hanging from its top moved towards them on the other side of the harbor. They caught the boat’s wake with their boards pointed straight into the waves. Jennifer stopped paddling for a moment to judge how stable she was. After taking on the first wake, the girls anticipated and enjoyed the small waves from boats that came their way. They managed well because they were taught to point straight and not perpendicular into the wave. The group passed large groups of kayakers and paddle boarders. They called to each other every time they peered down into the 20 ft deep water and saw golden brown shore stingrays darting beneath them, creatures Jerry usually didn’t encounter when he paddle boarded here. Little white birds hunted fish. A Styrofoam 7-Eleven coffee cup floated in the water.

They took a right and continued down the channel until they saw the Pacific Coast Highway and a large bridge. If they floated beyond the bridge they could get fined for being in a no-paddle zone. Jerry told them to paddle around the orange and green shoal markers a hundred feet ahead, cut across the wide channel and stick to the right side where the boats were. Here the current picked up into what he called a two-for-one, meaning that every two strokes equaled the effectiveness of one back in calmer waters. You are exercising your core muscles now. And see that thing up there in the air? What’s that? How cool is that? A paraglider, Jennifer answered, seeing the orange and red parachute in the sky. Yes, that’s right. Wish it was me, Jerry thought.  Jennifer sped up after hearing Jerry’s instructions, determined to cross the channel before the two approaching boats came closer. Jerry helped Jazmin learn how to paddle a certain way—she had to turn the steering mechanism and her board into the headwind, paddling harder in the strong crosswind of the channel. She wasn’t using enough energy. Floating near a green bank, he watched her struggle against the wind and then gave her instructions to correct the problems. Jerry yelled at Jennifer and Michael to wait up when he was within earshot.

Passing Broadmoor, they took a right away from the main channel and went through some canals. Then they cruised by Admiralty Island in a narrow section of the harbor. They saw cars going by in the residential area away from the harbor on their left. Off to the right was a long row of waterfront property. No two houses were alike. Jerry liked paddling at a slow pace; he exercised often and felt no fatigue. The girls’ energy levels dropped, something entirely normal. The energy they generated came through their arms and into the core of their bodies, easing down into their heels. Their heels pushed the boards forward, keeping them stable.

In the final stretch back to Sunset Beach the girls gained more confidence than ever as they steered through the water. Jerry led the group towards the rainbow of kayaks. Go in straight to the shore, real slow. As the board hits sand, step off to the side. To prevent herself from crashing into Michael when they reached the shoreline, Jennifer risked bumping the nose of her paddleboard into an orange kayak and almost tumbled in. She did the quick motion stop and propelled forward, what he wanted her to avoid. With the exception of her recent lapse, Jennifer did better on the paddle board than Jazmin. Some people remain stiff when they paddled, but not her. Jazmin quickly figured out how to do it after more instruction. Jerry encouraged her to dismount her board slowly, and she made it without any problems.

Jerry smiled when the girls told him how much fun they’d had out on the water—they had done something they didn’t think they could do at first. They had such a good time, and it made him happy. He wanted them to take another lesson soon. As the girls said goodbye to Jerry, the sun rose high in the brilliant blue sky. Other people were preparing to paddle board away from Sunset Beach. It was 11:45 AM, time for Jerry’s 15-mile bike ride. But he hoped the girls would find a way to get back on those boards.

The Magic Paddleboard

It’s time I got back into writing mode. To my followers reading this, thanks for sticking with me. To new readers, thanks for taking time to look at my Blog.

Last quarter I had the pleasure of interviewing Jerry Katz for my narrative writing class. Our final project required us to write a lengthy narrative (12-19 pages) and become storytellers. Over a period of several weeks I got to know Jerry, a man who lives life “actively.” He surfs, hang glides, rides bikes and gives tours at the LA Arboretum. He’s lived in Southern California all his life. While I was deciding on an appropriate angle for the story, he invited me out to one of his beginner stand up paddle boarding (sup) tours at OEX Sunset Beach. He helps the owner of the place run a Meetup group.

His friends pay $10 for board rental and then he teaches them for free.

On May 11 I went out for my first paddle boarding lesson. My friend Jazmin came too. Jerry wanted me to write about it in my piece, so the night before I prepared mentally for potential difficulties–I’d leave the reporter’s notebook and the camera behind. I hoped my short-term memory would carry me through. It was all in the details, details, details.

I felt so free out on the water. I sped ahead and was the leader of the group at one point. And I had plenty of time to think about how I was living. Clearly, I needed to try new things more often. Didn’t know I’d really like doing any particular sport, and here I was getting a “high” off of stand up paddling! We were paddle boarding in Huntington Harbor, so we weren’t out in open ocean water. The water was still, except for the Duffys and other boats passing through. Kayakers came in packs.

Jerry’s instructions were clear and I remembered most of what he said. I kept track of easy landmarks–a boat, a shoal marker, the Pacific Coast Highway bridge. The feel of the board was odd at first, but once I started paddling in smooth strokes I didn’t think so much about it.

Two hours later we made it back to the shore.

Was it really over?

For that day, yes.

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But I came back to see Jerry in July. Paddle boarding didn’t feel weird at all this time–I hopped on and enjoyed touring with about 20 other people, including my friends Linda and Diana.

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The realization that I had fallen in love with paddle boarding right from the start led me to learn how to cook, knit and crochet. I also like spending as much time as I can outdoors. I went on a short hike with my dad and braved the snow, wind and the rain. Now I bike ride for fun.

In my next post I am going to share my narrative piece about Jerry. I recently submitted the piece for an online literary magazine that features writers from my school. Longform writing is getting more popular these days, and WordPress is a great and easy place to post.

Jerry is just an awesome guy. He treats people well. I thank him for helping me work on my storytelling skills and opening my eyes to the wonderful world of paddle boarding.

Get Out That Pen and Start Taking Notes

*This post comes from the Reporting is Hell Blog on Tumblr, for my reporting class taught by Amy Depaul. Click here

Reporting is something I’d love to do for a living—I’m drawn to it because I enjoy talking with people and writing down facts about things that have happened or things people have said. I’m a firm believer that news will never die and that people should be aware of what goes on around them. I have respect for writers who not only get the facts right, but can grab my interest and deliver a quality article. I am the kind of person who will sit at the breakfast table with my newspaper or magazine and just read the morning away.

I walked into class with a little experience under my belt on how to report for a local newspaper, as I was an intern for a few weeks over the summer back at home. As an intern, I conducted many “man on the street” interviews and wrote breaking news, features and profiles. I felt like my writing at the end of the summer had tightened up and grown stronger but that I was still a little fish in a big pond. Even though I was a little nervous before starting LJ 21, my first LJ class, I felt ready to do some serious work.

Reporting on the beat takes persistence. For me, the crime story was a classic lesson in reporting. First, my hunt for an interesting case to write about proved to be mildly annoying at the beginning and then frustrating because I couldn’t seem to find anything for a few days. I started to grow desperate, so I spent a lot of time looking at several cities in Orange County, like Huntington Beach, Newport and more, clicking on link after link until I wanted to tear my hair out. I finally stumbled upon a hit and run case, but was the police refused to answer my questions. Second, what I realized too late was that I needed to push the officers for the information I wanted by stating my purpose and refusing to back down. I settled for writing about vehicle burglaries in Newport Beach instead, which wasn’t quite as interesting, but I later very much regretted it because I limited myself to second best by not being more adamant.

Articles don’t write themselves, it’s up to the writer to do the legwork. Some people think writing “just a news story” is easy. Right? Wrong. I went to the Great Park Pumpkin Harvest in Irvine and really wanted to capture the mood of the place. I noted the variety of booths, things that were popular, statistics and the weather. I talked with several people and asked them simple questions, like, “Why are you out at the pumpkin patch today?” I ran around for about an hour learning more about the place by just watching. Covering this event seemed to have no limits, because I was able to talk to people running it and people enjoying it, and since it was by no means controversial, people wanted to talk to me. The hardest part was really capturing the mood, which I spent a few days trying to figure out how to organize from the mass of information I had on hand. After several attempts, I ended up liking the lead and how it helped make the piece so much better.

Writing is revision. The experience Q&A was the one assignment I misjudged. I thought it would simple interviewing my roommate about her birth dad coming into her life after 19 years, but it was not at all. I took awhile thinking up the perfect questions for her, and I thought the interview went fine until I got my grade back. I was disappointed because I had missed a key takeaway from the assignment—to put the experience in chronological order. I decided to redo the assignment keeping this in mind. As I came up with questions for the new interview, I found that they were better because they had focus, rather than being general and sometimes abstract, which might have been hit and miss for my particular subject. The interview went even more smoothly than the first one, and I was able to get her to elaborate on details while sticking with a timeline. I listened more carefully to her responses so that I could ask follow up questions and help her stay on track. I think it worked.

Stay out of the comfort zone. Interviewing a professor was definitely a highlight of the class for me. It was a challenging experience overall. I researched Amy Bauer, a music theory professor at UCI, for about an hour and a half. I made sure I knew what books and articles she had published and what they were about. I wrote out specific questions about the abstract of her main book, and asked how a person would go about analyzing music—I double checked the questions to make sure they didn’t sound stupid. This research was thorough, but I felt out of my comfort zone because I didn’t want to insult her by not understanding something and I didn’t know how forthcoming she would be. The interview was successful, as she answered my questions (albeit she sounded too prepared on the first one), demonstrated chords on the piano and helped spell out complicated names for me on the spot. The most difficult part of this assignment for me was to decide to include her two-page response to my first question—I realized that I had to keep it in even though it was long because the history she talked about sets the scene for the composer she researches and shows how he influences history as well.

Reporting is oftentimes very fun, and writing about subjects you are interested in always helps. The meetup profile was another class highlight. I chose to write about a group called Get Walking/Keep Walking from Irvine because I read that these full-time workers would meet at scenic places on Saturdays and walk a few miles together. It sounded like good exercise and something I could participate in. I am an avid hiker, and the group actually ended up hiking starting at Turtle Rock Community Park instead of walking. I predicted that I would be doing most of my note taking on the hike, and I was right. I carried my notebook and pen for about two and a half hours and asked people all of the questions I had come with (my writing looked pretty sloppy). I spent most of my time walking and talking with Alex, the assistant organizer, and found that his outlook on life was very positive and that being a part of this meetup group gave him the confidence to be a hiking leader to his grandchildren. I enjoyed writing the piece because I had such a memorable time with the group!

Having taken this class, I feel like I am ready to continue on with the major. I want to intern for Patch.com next quarter and I also want to write for the NewU sometime. I don’t want to miss out on job opportunities after I graduate, and I think that getting lots of clips is a good place to start.

The Quarter I Tried to Do It All

I had some pretty high hopes for my fall quarter this year at UCI. I felt like I talked about school all summer–the great clubs I was going to be a part of, two mysterious literary journalism classes (what were those about, anyway, and why should I learn it?), 17 units that I was sure I could handle, moving into my apartment with roommates from last year and spending time with my boyfriend and close friends.

It seemed to work at first. My Chinese 2A class sometimes didn’t even feel like a class it was so perfect, and the mysteries of literary journalism slowly unraveled. In my two LJ courses I spent time studying the writing techniques of journalism masters such as Walt Harrington and Joan Didion (and even wrote my first LJ piece), and wrote basic news articles ranging from features to crime stories. The analyzing and reporting classes introduced me to literary journalism. Literary journalism aims to go beyond traditional, or news journalism. This journalism often requires the writer to spend time with his subjects for anywhere from a few weeks to several years, and a story can emerge while observing or from reconstruction. Although these pieces read like stories, every detail must be real. You can find writing like this in magazines like Esquire, The New Yorker and in writing anthologies as well.

Besides journalism and my classes, I got involved with ZotSpeak Toastmasters, Rotaract at UC Irvine and Harmonium Women’s Chorus. I applied for my first writing internship in Orange County and then quit choir at the same time. I was thrilled to be accepted to work as an intern but when things didn’t work out I threw my energies back into school and the other two clubs. I did a guest speech at Students Practicing Excellent Communication Skills (SPECS), and attended a couple club meetings which were both times for me to grow more comfortable speaking in front of complete strangers. Right after the second meeting I was asked to be the SPECS co-president by my Toastmaster veteran friend. I thought it over for a week and accepted. Running the two final meetings with my friend, the co-president, was exhilarating! It sounds silly, but I actually felt an adrenaline rush being up there teaching people how to make their presentations better. Toastmasters is like an advanced version of SPECS, and it help you learn impromptu, prepared and evaluative speaking. At the same time, Rotaract welcomed me with open arms. I felt at home the first meeting, and ended up doing service activities around Orange County with them for the rest of the quarter.

It was hard to keep up. I found that I was printing out essays five minutes before they were due at the library and scrambling to make it on time to class. I made it to every class, but it was difficult sometimes and I had to keep telling myself “I love school, I love school, I love school.” My enthusiasm level seemed to hit an all-time low in the middle of the quarter and I didn’t know what I was doing. I didn’t feel like participating in classes as much, even, and my rush to please and complete projects was also affecting my relationships. I valued the pieces we read in my analyzing class even though it wasn’t fun to read 40 pages in a night and write about what I’d learned, much to the chagrin of my boyfriend, Keith. Maybe I had stretched myself too thin. Was this what they called sophomore slump?

I realized that if I were to focus solely on school or just on my activities that I’d probably be having a better time. My combination of these things didn’t seem to be working, and I didn’t have much time to take for myself. I spent a few weeks paying for wanting to be so involved with everything. I had let external factors take over my life. Looking back on this time, it was definitely a time for learning–perhaps the perfect time–for these important lessons.

I began deciding to change my approach to things. If I was too tired to make a meeting, I wouldn’t go (with SPECS I only had to plan two amazing meetings, so there wasn’t a lot of stress here), and I kept my classes as the most important thing on my list. I stopped studying at 1 AM, and got a good night’s sleep. I remember listening to Trapt’s “Lost Realist” over and over and plenty of Rameses B, which helped me grieve and relax a bit. I worked on making people close to me a top priority as well.

These changes were both necessary and painful to go through. I cried a lot. Sometimes it is hard to admit that things are not working out. I discovered things about my character and work ethic, and although I didn’t handle every situation perfectly I did the best with what I had. I learned several things this quarter, and they are:

1) Find love. Develop your interests, do things that bring you joy. Take time to care for people around you, even if you have assignments. 2) Don’t think you can go through life with expectations, you have to be ready to throw them out the window. 3) Understand why you do you things. Be able to take yourself out of a situation and evaluate.

I did make it through the quarter. At the end, I felt peaceful. In fact, it was the best finals week ever because I mostly did whatever I wanted. Next quarter I’ll be able to follow my own advice and get an early start. I look forward to it. I’ll be doing more LJ, a writing internship for Patch.com, taking an easier GE and continuing on with Chinese. I’ve laid aside time for SPECS and Rotaract, and know what my priorities are in advance.

Hopefully you were able to get to know me a little better. Thanks for reading.