Something Worth Writing

Author: Carolyn Grace, C’16

“Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.”

– Benjamin Franklin

I love to write.  That may seem obvious, given the length of my previous blog posts, but I feel like I need to officially proclaim it.  Whether it be an analysis of primary documents for my Modern American Culture class or a 100-word review of Lorde’s new album, writing lets me tap into my creative side in way that I can only describe as therapeutic.

Penn provides so many academic and extracurricular opportunities for me to exercise and develop my writing skills.  As a Creative Writing minor, I have already been exposed to a couple different writing-intensive classes.  The English class I am currrently taking, The Arts and Popular Culture, focuses on journalistic writing in the arts.  The course description is as follows:

This is a workshop-oriented course that will concentrate on all aspects of writing about artistic endeavor, including criticism, reviews, profiles, interviews and essays. For the purposes of this class, the arts will be interpreted broadly, and students will be able — and, in fact, encouraged — to write about both the fine arts and popular culture.

This class is absolutely phenomenal!  My professor, Anthony DeCurtis, is a contributing editor to Rolling Stone magazine.  Each week, he brings in a guest Penn alum who works in the writing world.  So far, we’ve had people come in from the New Yorker, the Washington Post, TeenVogue, and Buzzfeed, with more guests to come!

This is a piece that Anthony DeCurtis wrote recently. It's a profile of Robert De Niro for Du Jour Magazine. http://www.dujour.com/2013-09/1555/robert-de-niro-the-family-interview-photos

This is a piece that Anthony DeCurtis wrote recently. It’s a profile of Robert De Niro for Du Jour Magazine. http://www.dujour.com/2013-09/1555/robert-de-niro-the-family-interview-photos

The final project of the class is a 3000-word piece about an artist or arts organization in Philadelphia that will involve extensive reporting, interviews and research.  Currently, I’m working on a 1000-word profile of Michaela Majoun, the host of the Morning Show on WXPN, the radio station at operates out of Penn.  I’m thinking of developing this profile into my final project.  We’ll see what happens!

It’s funny, my Arts and Popular Culture course is actually how I got involved in writing extracuricularly at Penn.  A good third of the editors of 34th Street, Penn’s arts and culture magazine, take this class with me.  I would always hear them talk about the weekly Writers Meeting that took place only a couple hours after this class would finish.  One day, I decided I’d go to the meeting.  I filed into the tiny room in the DP office, said my name, year, and what one ingredient I would put in a brownie (that was the ice breaker of the week).  I volunteered to write a couple pieces for the Music section, and the rest is history.

Since that first Writers Meeting, I’ve had such a fun time writing for 34th Street!  I write predominantly for the Music and Arts sections, just because they’re the ones I’m most interested in.  So far, my editors have let me do some really cool assignments!  This week, I co-wrote a review of Underground Arts, an up and coming arts venue in the Loft district of Philly.  I got a free ticket to see the alternative band Grouplove perform in concert the night I covered the venue.  It was awesome!

The entryway to Underground Arts. (courtesy of 34th Street)

The entryway to Underground Arts. (courtesy of 34th Street)

In addition, I conducted a series of interviews for a preview of this week’s Philadelphia Open Studios Tours.  I talked with several local artists about their work, their studios, what made them decide to be an artist, and why they think an event like POST is so important.  This piece is the longest I’ve written for Street so far, and it’s definitely one of my favorites.  I’m planning on visiting the studios this weekend, both to thank the artists for helping me and to show them the final piece.

Burnell Yow! (the exclamation point is part of his last name) - one of the many artists I interviewed for my POST feature.  Courtesy of 34th Street.

Burnell Yow! (the exclamation point is part of his last name) – one of the many artists I interviewed for my POST feature. (courtesy of 34th Street)

This semester in particular has gotten me extremely excited about writing.  I think it’s because I now realize how easy it is to write at Penn in both a variety of styles and a variety of settings.  I have peers and professors as my editors.  I can write about my favorite subject – the arts – for either a letter grade or a Facebook “like.”  Penn is giving me the opportunity to grow as a writer both in and out of the classroom.  That’s doing something worth writing.

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