Thursday, January 2, 2020

Introduction to a New Year of WRITING: Hello, 2020!

March 22 update: It feels kind of weird reading this Introduction now... the Twenties are not starting out with all the joy and excitement I hoped for, but something really overwhelming and frightening instead. But we still need to look for the joy where we can find it. Plus I added a music video to the bottom...

I have to admit that I love this year being 2020. Numerically, it's cool: I was not around for 1919, and I won't be around for 2121, but I am getting the pleasure of the year 2020. Even better would be getting to see the year 2222 or the year 2345, but that's not on the agenda for me... and I'm starting to wonder just what kind of humanity is going to make it to the 23rd and 24th centuries.

I also love the metaphor of 2020 as in 20/20 vision. I'm totally nearsighted; even with my amazing super-powerful weird-looking trifocals, my vision is just 20/30 at best. But I will be hoping for clear vision and insight all throughout the year 2020. If I can't see 20/20 with my actual eyes, maybe I can see 20/20 with the eyes of the spirit this year. I am inspired to try!

And entering a new decade like this is also something that really makes me stop and think. I first came to OU in 1999 at the end of a decade, end of a century, end of a millennium even... wow! But every ending is also a beginning, and so that means I've begun a new millennium at OU, and a new century, and now: a new decade. It's the Twenties!

I'm also extremely excited for the classes this semester, both as a teacher and also as a student. Because, yes, I'm taking the Indian Epics class this semester... I've gotten into the habit of taking one of the classes every semester, and this time: it's India. I did Myth-Folklore last semester, working on Africa stories and Brer Rabbit, and I had a blast; here is my Storybook from last time: Brer Rabbit and the Witch-Rabbit.

So, as a teacher: excitement! Normally I don't try to add in new things midyear like this, especially since winter break felt especially short this year, but I had some ideas that I just couldn't wait to try out. So, there is the new "student advice" widget in the sidebar of the class announcements blog that I hope will inspire people to have fun, be creative, and also take charge of their schedules in this class. Then, there are the two new kinds of writing options that I've blended in with the Story Lab (and also as extra credit): microfictions and also biographical writing. I am really curious to see what people will do with those options!

And... as a student: excitement! I will be writing microfictions this semester for sure. In fact, I already know I want to do a Portfolio for Indian Epics this semester based on a form of microfiction called drabbles, which are 100-word-stories. I've been totally obsessing about drabbles for a few weeks now, and I am glad that this class gives me a chance to keep on obsessing about them. The way that happened is that I wrote a book for National Novel Writing Month in November (that was my biggest accomplishment of 2019 for sure, writing a whole novel in a month!); it's a collection of stories about Nasruddin and Birbal, who are folk heroes of the Middle East and India respectively. Here's the book, if you are curious: Witty Tales of Nasruddin and Birbal.

Then when I set up the website to go with that book, I decided to make a randomizing widget with Nasruddin stories, and I needed for the stories to be really really really short to fit in a widget, so I decided to make them 100 words or shorter. Well, when I shared my new widget at Twitter, one of my friends there told me about a 100-word-story contest he had seen at his local newspaper. I had no idea that 100-word-stories are a THING, but they are. They even have a name: drabbles. So over the winter break, I started writing drabbles; I even made a new website to collect them: Drabbles: Stories in 100 Words... or fewer. I wrote over 100 drabbles over the winter break, focusing on stories from India.

And now.......... I will get to write drabbles for the Indian Epics class. I am really curious what it will be like to look at the epics, which are big by definition (the Ramayana is big, and the Mahabharata is even bigger!), through the lens of these tiny stories. I have no idea yet just how my project will evolve, but I can guarantee you that it will be built of story blocks that are 100 words in length. I've really found my niche with this writing style, and I am so curious to see if other people get into the whole 100-word-story thing too.

Anyway, thanks for reading, and I hope we all have a fantastic semester ahead! And a wonderful new year! And a fabulous decade too! :-)

On the thought of endings AND beginnings, here is a cartoon by one of my favorite cartoonists, Grant Snider: The End.

The end of one story... is the start of another.

I set up a Padlet in the Canvas courses for people to share favorite music videos, and I included this song from India, Yaara / Anthem, which features a lot of different Indian musicians, including Maati Baani, who are the janitors. I hope everybody will add some music videos to the Padlet; look for Music in the Canvas menu and you'll see it there. Turn on CC to see the English subtitles:


  1. Hi Laura,
    So glad to be back and expressing my creativity again! I am also excited for the year 2020, just because the Roaring '20s in the 20th century was such a time of prosperity. I can't wait to see what this decade brings. Crazy to think that 2 decades have passed. I was born in 1999 and one day hope I can live to see three centuries haha! Also, my vision is so terrible. I think I am -8.5 in one eye and -7 in the other. Bad and unequal vision ugh! I am excited to be in this class with you. One of the reasons I decided this class a year after Myth and Folklore.
    Can't wait to read your drabbles soon!

  2. Hi Laura,
    I too am excited for this year, crazy to think that I've lived in 4 decades at this point (born 1998). My eyesight isn't great either, but I love your thoughts on good vision being much more than just physical eyesight, and how that's something people can strive for. It's fascinating that each semester you take one of your own classes along with the students. I've never heard of that before, and it shows a passion for the subject that some other professors can seem to be lacking. I've also never heard of drabbles before, although they seem quite interesting and difficult, given the amount of information you could be wanting to fit in just 100 words or less. Especially for some of the stories we've read thus far in the Ramayana, that seems fairly challenging. Looking forward to the rest of this semester, and love that final quote in the comic strip above!

  3. Hey Laura,
    I think that micofictions are very interesting. I have never heard of those until I read another students story. I was very confused about what they were. Now, after reading your introduction I feel like I understand what they are a whole lot better. I am super excited to be in another one of your classes, because I loved Mythology and folklore.

  4. Hi Laura! What are the odds that the randomizer would give me your intro as my first comment of the semester? Exciting! Fun fact: a 20/20 vision joke was one of the few times I have been able to out-dad-joke my dad (I asked him about plans for the next day while he was putting contacts in... on New Year's Eve. It was beautiful!)

    It's so neat that you did NaNoWriMo this year! I got to do it as an extra credit assignment my junior year of high school and it was actually a lot of fun!

    Thanks again for posting my sorority's flyer on the class page. One more fun fact before I go: Anhthu, your very first commenter on this post, is also in Alpha Sigma Kappa! We actually initiated together in the same class!

  5. Hey Laura! It's awesome to be taking another one of your courses. But I agree so much! It's also not only a new year, but a new decade, so there's so much memories to make. I might try to make one of the microfictions that you brought up. I enjoy writing, but sometimes it can be a bit tedious for me just due to the time commitment that it can take.

  6. Hi Laura, happy to learn more about you! I have to agree that being able to live through 2020 is a privilege and honestly, I have a feeling this is gonna be a really good year. I want to commend you for following along as the teacher and doing all the assignments with us. Not many professors do that but I think it helps build a better relationship with students. Also, I love the way you structure the class. I had a busy week last week and wasn't able to do a lot of my online stuff, but now I am free and plan on doing all the EC to make up for lost credit. I appreciate that we can navigate this class on our own time and still be eligible to get all the points needed for a specific grade!

    100 words is definitely a challenge, but I think that's the fun of it! At least for the Ramayana, it's possible!

  7. Laura,

    I was so happy to read more about you and I think it is really great that you participate in the class yourself! After reading your week 6 stories and now reading your introduction, the 100-word stories make a lot of sense. I love the thought of writing short stories, but I can never get to my point quick enough. I truly admire people who are able to achieve such beautiful short stories like yourself. I look forward to reading more of your work and hearing your feedback throughout the semester!

  8. Hello Laura,
    I honestly wasn't sure what I would think of this class but I am actually surprised with how fun creating stories is. I have enjoyed the microfictions and the longer stories and I honestly don't know which one I like better. You can do more with a longer story but the shorter ones are quicker and not as in depth. I've also really enjoyed reading the different comments on my stories and reading other stories. There are so many different styles and it's neat to see them all. Also I applaud you for taking the class along with your students. I think it's a great idea.

  9. Hiya Laura,
    So far this class has been nothing but a fun learning experience and I'm loving it. I never expected to be making a blog for a grade, let alone having fun while doing it! It's awesome that you're taking the time to write micro-fictions along side us while we work. Seeing a professor this connected in an online class is surely a welcome change from some experiences I've had before!

  10. Hey Laura!

    It is so cool to see you partaking in all of our class assignments alongside us! I have never seen a professor be so involved within their class and doing all the work with their students! It makes me even more excited for the last half of the semester with you as our instructor!! I can't wait to get started on your stories!

  11. Hello Laura,

    I think it is really cool that you are doing the same assignments that we are doing. Maybe that's why you are so understanding whenever something comes up for me haha! I've been enjoying this class a lot and I'm glad to see that you are enjoying it as well. It has definitely been one of my favorite classes that I have taken so far at OU and having such a cool and understanding professor is a big part in this! I hope you have a great semester, new year, and decade too!

  12. Hi Laura,

    I think that's awesome that youre teaching this semester while also being a student. You started your introduction about how the new year cam about and it's weird writing about this 2 months later and how this year hasn't been the best. If someone would of told me at the beginning of the year about the possibility of WW3 and then the Coronavirus taking the world by storm I would've called you crazy. I hope you enjoy the rest of the online semester!

  13. Hi Laura!

    It's been a wild 2020 so far that is for sure. On the bright side however, things can only go up from here right? Also I didn't realize that you have been at OU for 21 years! That is such a long time in my eyes and it is very impressive that you hve been able to stick to one thing for that long. Also good luck on your book about teaching online! I'm sure a lot of teachers are going to be needing it soon.

  14. Hey Laura,
    I was super excited when you allowed me to take this class with you, because I had so much fun in Mythology and Folklore. I still think that it is super impressive to be a teacher yet part take in your very own classes. I really enjoyed the music video you posted. This semester seems weird with everyone at home and no one at OU.


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