Creativity by Bustle

I stumbled across this article on Bustle about writing prompts that I found quite stimulating. (Notice my great different word for interesting @speaking fellows?) I know that we all usually write for a prompt at Barnard, but there are some great ideas to spark creativity in here! Enjoy!


Is calling something a thing a thing?

by Skyler Samuelson, Writing Fellow ’17

Check out this interesting New York Times Opinion piece. Alexander Stern muses on the popularity of the phrase “…a thing.” (“Is that actually a thing?” “When did that become a thing?”) In offering different takes on the linguistic phenomena, his idea that the modern world is closing the gap between reality and satire intrigued me most. As Stern writes, “The absurd excess of things has reached a point where the ironic detachment needed to cope with them is increasingly built into the things themselves, their marketing and the language we use to talk about them. The designator “a thing” is thus almost always tinged with ironic detachment. It puts the thing at arm’s length. You can hardly say “a thing” without a wary glint in your eye. The volume, particularity, and inanity of the phenomena effectively force us to take up this detachment. The complaint that the young are jaded or ironic is misplaced; it’s the conditions that are this way.”

Food for thought: is this a thing?

The word of the year is…

by Skyler Samuelson, Writing Fellow ’17



Thank you, Monica. My words of disbelief can’t really get on this word’s level. Because it isn’t a word. I decided, therefore, to use a gif. (How do you pronounce gif anyway? Does it matter? Clearly words don’t need to be pronounced anyway anymore!)

The community of those who still communicate in full sentences (punctuation, capitalization, and all!) has erupted at the announcement that Oxford Dictionaries’ word of the year is, in fact, not a word. The emoji named “Face with Tears of Joy” has instead been “chosen as the ‘word’ that best reflected the ethos, mood, and preoccupations of 2015.”

Oxford Dictionaries’ specious justification is that 2015 saw emoji use increase. Why wasn’t the word of the year the word emoji, you might ask? I haven’t the foggiest. I don’t even want to get into the choice of emoji. How does the face that’s laughing so hard it cries sum up the ethos of a world confronting hate crimes, nuclear deals, annexations, and refugee crises? Words that made the shortlist were: sharing economy, on fleek, Brexil, Dark Web, lumbersexual, they, refugee, ad blocker.

See definitions of these words and a funny(ish) video by Oxford Dictionaries about what communication would look like if we communicated in real life using emojis:

To sum up, here’s light reading for your afternoon:

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.

Darcy: 😍

Elizabeth: 😂

Darcy: 😩

Elizabeth: 😳

Darcy: 💍

Elizabeth: 😍

Darcy & Elizabeth: 💏


Two reading related events were recently brought to my attention: 1. The #rockthosereads movement across Harlem, and 2. Светлана Алексиевич (Svetlana Alexeivich) recently was awarded the 2015 Nobel Prize in literature.

The grassroots organization Total Equity Now, founded by Joe Rogers Jr., has declared the first day of every month “Literacy Across Harlem Day,” and on these days, Harlemites are encouraged to carry reading materials outside of their bags, rocking their reads in support of reading and literacy. As far as I can tell, it doesn’t matter which reads you’re rocking, as long as they’re reads.

Alexeivich is not widely read. She is a Belarusian author who writes Russian non-fiction; an ex-Soviet Union critic turned Putin (President of Russia) and Lukashenko (President of Belarus) critic. She fiercely opposes the Russian government, especially Putin’s annexation of Crimea (2014), which she condemns as imperialist. She writes compelling accounts of peoples’ voices. In a conversation with Anna Lucic she said “The heroes, feelings, and events in my books are all real.” (

Her books are not published in Belarus.

How are the Belarusians supposed to #rockthosereads of their Nobel Prize Laureate? In many places in the world, people rock restricted reads. What is the danger of rocking reads? What is the power?

Weird English

A reading I had for class: the introduction of a book called “Weird English,” by Evelyn Nien-Ming Ch’ien. 

“In immigrant communities where weird English is exclusively an oral phenomenon, pidgins and misspellings may have meant a lack of education or fluency. But for weird-English writers, the composition of weird English is an active way of takin’ the community back” (Ch’ien, 6). Ch’ien references recent writers who are combining English with another language or languages to write works rich in reminders of multiculturality. (There’s some weird English for you.) Lois Yamanaka, Irvine Welsh, Jonathon Safran Foer, Derek Walcott, Touré… some of the authors leading this new genre of “weird English.”

“1. Weirding deprives English of its dominance and allows other languages to enjoy the same status; 2. Weird English expresses aesthetic adventurousness at the price of sacrificing rules; 3. Weird English is derived from nonnative English; 4. The rhythms and structure of orthodox English alone are not enough to express the diasporic cultures that speak it” (Ch’ien, 11).

But this is hardly a new genre. The best writers in the English language mess with the English language. Whether it’s from another language or slang or n’importe quoi or ничего, it’s all u n o r t h o d o x.

The opening lines from A Clockwork Orange (Anthony Burgess): “What’s it going to be then, eh?” There was me, that is Alex, and my three droogs, that is Pete, Georgie, and Dim. Dim being really dim, and we sat in the Korova Milkbar making up our rassoodocks what to do with the evening, a flip dark chill winter bastard though dry. The Korova Milkbar was a milk-plus mesto, and you may, O my brothers, have forgotten what these mestos were like, things changing so skorry these days….

The opening lines of Finnegan’s Wake (James Joyce): riverrun, past Eve and Adam’s, from swerve of shore to bend of bay, brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation back to brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation back to Howth Castle and Environs.

So what do rules mean in literature? Are rules reserved for academia? Is the orthodox version of English for those who wish to only use English for communication? In that case though, what are we trying to communicate at places like Barnard/Columbia? If we are trying to learn how to think, shouldn’t our writing be a reflection of the multiplicity of influences that exist in all of our lives? Americans have such a reputation of being unable (or at least unwilling) to learn new languages. But English is such a rich language, if we are willing to push its linguistic barriers. As a language, it is extraordinarily tolerant of foreign words. carpe diem spaghetti pistol au revoir chai gesundheit…

Не знаю. Может быть это ничего ещё раз.