Category Archives: CUPID News

My Experience as the PWR Social Media Intern

by Carey Spence

How I Started

I first started working as the Professional Writing & Rhetoric major’s social media intern in September. In order to become acclimated to the role, my initial work included familiarizing myself with the website, CUPID blog, and the social media. Because Professional Writing and Rhetoric just recently became its own major separate from the English major, I needed to understand all that this switch entailed. After acclimating myself with the tone and overall brand the major embodies, I then needed to make a plan for the content I wanted to create and share. After meetings with Dr. Li and Dr. Pope-Ruark, as well as communicating with the previous intern, I had a plan in place to effectively communicate as the Professional Writing intern.

What I Did

My overarching plan for the Professional Writing and Rhetoric department’s social media was to focus on engagement. While there was already content on both the Twitter and Instagram accounts, engagement was not very high. However, after meeting with Dr. Pope-Ruark, we decided that the main focus should be on the Twitter account. With this in mind, my research for content was strategically informed. I wanted to share information that was useful to my audience, with the goal of getting more engagement on tweets — retweets, comments, and likes — and moreover, expanding the account’s reach.

One of the ways I focused on engagement with the Twitter account was by tweeting at different departments. The purpose of this was to establish relationships with these other departments so that they would retweet the content I was pushing. I emphasized the Professional Writing and Rhetoric program as a major that supplements other majors such as business majors and liberal arts majors.

In this regard, I also placed a lot of emphasis on the benefits of the program. Many Elon students have never even heard of Professional Writing and Rhetoric, and therefore don’t know much about the program. I tweeted articles about the importance of writing and communication skills and snippets from the website that promote this program as applicable to all career paths. Everyone needs to learn how to effectively communicate, so why not become an expert?

For the overarching theme of engagement, one of the ideas for content I had was to reach out to alumni in order to get testimonials for both Instagram and Twitter, as well as for the CUPID blog. While it’s nice for me to say that the Professional Writing and Rhetoric program is beneficial to any career, it means a lot more to hear it from people who are actually in the workforce, putting these skills to use. Including testimonials from alumni builds the program’s overall ethos.

My Advice

My main advice for future interns, both in this position specifically and for interns in general, is to come into any task with a specific plan. Coming up with content for the social media could have been a daunting task, but when I planned out how I wanted to approach the week, or even just that specific day, it was easier for me to think back on my goal (increasing engagement) and make decisions strategically.

Another piece of advice when it comes to social media specifically is to remember the social aspect. If I wanted other people and accounts to interact and engage with the content I was producing, I had to be willing to do that myself. Just liking photos on Instagram from other accounts went a long way in increasing engagement. I also found that retweeting other departments’ tweets made them more likely to retweet mine. In fact, just liking other accounts’ tweets led to an alumni sending me content that she thought my audience would want to see, making my job easier. Thinking strategically and building relationships are my two key pieces of advice when communicating.

 

Carey Spence is the 2018-2019 social media intern for Professional Writing & Rhetoric. Carey is double majoring in English Literature and Strategic Communications, with a minor in Professional Writing.

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Words From The Wise: Parting Thoughts From Soon-to-be Graduates

With Commencement just a few weeks away, the Cupid Blog wanted to take a minute and talk to a few of the soon-to-be graduating seniors about what they have learned and hear any PWR words of wisdom they might have to share.

 

                                                                                                                          Dustin Swope 

11225510_10206820098124938_560738177_n“PWR has taught me the power of rhetoric as a tool for enacting change in the world, as well as the need to lead future authors by example towards an ethical relationship with rhetoric.”

“My advice  is to start every project by learning as much as you can about the topic, the people that you’re writing to, and possibly the people that you’re writing for. Then, use this information to spread knowledge and make a positive difference in the world.”

 

 

 

 

 

Rachel Lewis 

11205105_10206526807630559_8413733152649991146_n-2“PWR taught me how to communicate. It taught me that writing has value within the sphere of social justice, and it taught me that social media can be huge when it comes to uplifting the voices of marginalized voices. More than anything, PWR has taught me that communication is great, but communication backed by theory and ethics has the ability to make a huge influence on the ways that we interact in the world. Because of PWR, I have had the opportunity to manage a number of social media accounts, I know how to send a professional email that will get a response, and I know how to design a brochure that allows my readers to skim without losing any important information.”

 

 

Miranda Allan

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“Keep track of how your PWR definition and identity evolve throughout your coursework. It’s something we’re always wrapped up in, but we don’t always examine it critically. As a senior, I wish that I had more materials chronicling my growth throughout the program!”

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Research Highlight: Carolyn Braganca

One of the most important rhetorical decisions every scholar makes when conducting research is the methodology. Within the literature field, every scholar must choose which critical lens he/she believes will reveal the most about a text. Every text can be analyzed with a multitude of critical lens; to strengthen and streamline your argument, you should typically choose one, two at most. However, in some instances, the critical lens you use contributes to the credibility of your argument—for example, analyzing Homer’s Iliad using postmodern criticism is typically not advisable. The importance of this decision became clear to me during my undergraduate research process.

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Since Guy Ritche’s adaptation with Robert Downey Jr. in 2009, Sherlock Holmes has seen a recent surge in fame and popularity. He was similarly popular when Arthur Conan Doyle published the first two collections of short stories between 1890 and 1892. Back then—and, arguably, today—Holmes was considered a model of masculinity to Conan Doyle’s audience of middle-class men, largely because of his intense observational and analytical capabilities. This idealization of him initially made sense when I first read the first 24 short stories. However, upon reading a biographical piece about Conan Doyle that argued the author himself was considered a champion of the dominant masculine ideal, I began to question how masculine Holmes really was—after all, Holmes is vastly different from Conan Doyle in many capacities.

My research question then became: Can the man Watson termed “the world’s most perfect reasoning and observing machine” be considered an ideal masculine figure by Victorian standards?

Once I established this question, I then had many decisions to make, the first being: What method would lead to the most relevant answer? The answer initially seemed obvious—my paper was obviously going to be a gender criticism of Sherlock Holmes. However, I quickly realized this critical lens would the weaker method of defining the Victorian masculine ideal. For the stronger definition, I would need to analyze primary sources. A not-as-popular lens called new historicism became the best method; it seeks to analyze literature within its historical an/or cultural context by analyzing the work in conjunction with a relevant primary source from the time. Thus, my next decision became to choose the primary co-text.

Fortunately, I had an abundance of sources from which to choose. The fin de siècle period (“end of the century,” typically considered the 1880s to 1890s) in England was a time of gender instability, which was a big reason I was fascinated with the time period. For much of the century, gender roles were influenced by the ideal of separate spheres—women were defined by their role as wife/mother in the private sphere of the home while men shifted between their role as husband/father in the private sphere and as whatever their occupation was in the public sphere of society. By the end of the century, however, the first wave of feminism saw women publically move into the public sphere, the sphere that used to distinguish masculinity from femininity. As a result, men had to redefine the line that separated masculinity from femininity, and many advice columns and advice books aimed to help men do so. All I had to do was choose which one.

Although I checked out numerous dusty, old primary sources from various libraries around the country, my choice ultimately came from a quick skim of a secondary source: Robert Baden-Powell’s Scouting for Boys: A Handbook for Instruction in Good Citizenship. The book was immensely popular, and while it was published more than a decade after Conan Doyle’s first two collections (Baden-Powell published it in 1908), many of the qualities Baden-Powell championed in the book were militarized adaptations of qualities emphasized in many of the other primary sources I had read. Scouting for Boys became the main source I used to define ideal masculinity during the fin de siècle, but to compensate for the time gap I buttressed my definition with my analyses of other primary sources from within nineteenth century England.

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Because I chose Scouting for Boys and new historicism, my argument is more of my own. If I has chosen gender criticism, my argument would be relying on other scholars’ definition of Victorians’ ideal masculinity, which would have made my argument even more susceptible to criticism.

It is important to be critical, and the critical lens you use is an central rhetorical decision: choose wisely, fellow readers!

 

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Research Highlight: Hannah Silvers

Hannah Silvers—PWR ’17

In the beginning stages of the brainstorming process for my undergraduate research project, all I knew was that I wanted to investigate something about how writing operates in organizations. I had no idea where to go from there. I played with a few ideas, but when I realized that none of them were sticking, I turned to my own experiences as a student editor for inspiration. What I identified were two conflicting identities, and it is this idea of a conflicting identity that I think I want to investigate further:

On one hand, I am first and foremost a student. Everything I do at this stage in my life is a test run for the “real world.” The audience of class assignments and projects is always my professor — even assignments that ask me to imagine different hypothetical audiences are evaluated by a professor, so which is the audience that really matters in the end? I’m expected to fail and then use my failure as a learning opportunity.

On the other hand, as an editor, I’m expected to know what I’m doing. I’m employed by a student media organization that relies on my proficiency with AP style and English grammar as well as my fact-checking skills. Technical knowledge aside, I’m also supposed to understand organizational norms, such as how the production process works and the role I play in the organization. How I understand these processes affects how I edit.

Student editors, particularly those employed by student-run or other on-campus organizations, are always navigating their dual identities as students and as editors, as learners and as experts. The context in which they work is one that frames them primarily as students, but their responsibilities require them to act as experts.

I want to explore this duality in an undergrad research project. We’re in the beginning stages of the research process, brainstorming a potential skeleton for what the research would look like. Right now, I think want to conduct an ethnographic study in which I follow a few student editors, observing and interviewing. The goal of my research would be to discover how student editors function in these two roles and maybe how they or their organizations could help them be more successful in both roles.

I think research in this field would be immediately useful for college students who find themselves in positions of authority over a text. But since we’re always learning, the findings could translate beyond college students to employees who have to learn how to write for a new company or situation.

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What’s the Font About?

Mags Bryant ’16, Professional Writing and Rhetoric & Creative Writing

Typically, I’m a stickler for Times New Roman, font size 12, single spacing (or double, if necessary). Yes, I’m THAT person. Personally, I feel that in the realm of creative writing, there is no other way to hand off your work. Times New Roman looks professional, clean, and familiar. There’s no room for wondering if a G is a Q or if an I is actually an L. It is the standard. And yet, much like how Comic Sans has its place in the elementary school teacher’s letter to the parents, it seems that experts are finding the same to be true about my favorite font.

I use TNR for a lot of things, but my resume is not one of them. And much like your job experience, the font of your resume matters; it says a lot about you. Earlier this week, Natalie Kitroeff of Bloomberg wrote an article about The Best and Worst Fonts to Use On Your Résumé . There seems to be some controversy surrounding what is the right font for a good resume. Yesterday, NPR provided their thoughts on the Bloomberg article. After reading both, I’ve found that maybe the place for Times New Roman is in essays, articles, and cover letters.

What do you think of their font judgments? Do you agree or disagree? Did you learn something different? Do you use just one font or does your resume get two? Let us know!

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Grammar Tips: Passive Voice & Collective Nouns

We’re back with our second edition of Grammar Tips; brought to you by the ENG205 Grammar students, Professor Paula Patch, and the Cupid Studio. Last week our Grammar Tips highlighted who vs. whom and comma splices.

This week our tips will focus on passive voice and collective nouns. If you’re ever unsure whether your voice is passive or you can’t quite remember what a collective noun is, these tips may be just what you need. With finals just around the corner it’s never a bad idea to brush up on your grammar skills! Are there any tips you use? Let us know and check out #elongrammar too!

 

PASSIVE VOICE

Grammar Tip! (1) (1)

 

COLLECTIVE NOUNS

Collective Noun Grammar Tip

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Guest Post: Jamie Rice On Gender, Grammar, and Rhetoric

 

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Jamie Rice ’16, English Literature.

English is a magnificent language because it appears to lack gendered nouns. Unlike

French or Spanish, English speakers never have an awkward moment where they have to stop themselves and think, “Wait, is lamp female or male?” In that sense, English is gender neutral. But that does not mean that the issue of sexism in writing is not present. For example, a study published in 1996 asked readers to assess the quality of two essays in which the author’s gender is never specified. These students were interviewed and asked what gender the author was. Two thirds of the respondents offered a gender, and about half of their gender guesses were incorrect. In contrast to the neutrality in these papers, people feel like writing voices are gendered even if there is no actual evidence. They had a feeling, and the only reason these students even felt qualified to answer the question was because of said feeling.

In addition, despite the glowing gender neutrality of the English language, there are still people who use it in sexist ways. This is a problem to the extent that the purdue owl has an entire page of their website, typically utilized for guidelines revolving around citation and grammar, that tells readers how to avoid using stereotypes and gender bias in their writing. One example of an improper usage is “Although she was blonde, Mary was still intelligent.” The page goes to show numerous examples of words that appropriate to use in the place of “man.” My favorite part of the page is when they specify that instead of referring to someone as a “male nurse” or a “woman doctor,” these professions should be used without the gender modifier–I find the fact that anyone would write male or female in front of a word fascinating just because of how wordy it is.

Furthermore, even in my personal experience writing essays, I have encountered multiple instances where someone assumed the gender, typically as male, when citing for a scholarly article. It’s been such a problem that I have had professors explicitly state that they should never assume gender because most people cited a female scholar, with a stereotypically female name, as a male because they only memorized her last name and assumed she was a he. The gendered nature of English as a language becomes even more pronounced when we attempt to correct for this issue. For example, let’s write a sentence. We don’t know who started the fire, but he or she will be held responsible. Okay. Now imagine instead of writing that you wrote this. We don’t know who started the fire, but she or he will be held responsible. That is a very political change. That sentence reads like a subversion of patriarchal tendencies in language, rightly so, because of the switch. “He,” the normally preferenced pronoun, is demoted to second status. Overall, both of these configurations are problematic. Not only do they preference one gender over the other, they preference the gender binary, in general.

Basically, even though it is very easy when looking at the differences between English and other romance languages to call the former gender-neutral, that is not the case in practice. And despite small victories like the acceptance of “‘they” as a singular pronoun to be used in the place of “he or she,” there is still a long way to go within culture itself before grammar and language will reflect what could become a society that promotes lived gender equality.

 

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PWR from a Dance major’s perspective

Carolyn Braganca- LIT ’15 

Currently, Quinn Czejkowski is enrolled in Dr. Li’s Introduction to Professional Writing and Rhetoric. As a senior dance and arts administration double major, she provides a different and interesting perspective on how some basic PWR principles can be applied in settings and contexts other than writing. Below is an interview with Quinn, exploring how her brief PWR experience has affected her outlook on dance.

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Carolyn: When choreographing, how much do you consider your audience?

Quinn: Personally, I am not very aware of my audience when I create dance. Of course this is not an absolute thing and is not often a strongly conscious choice, but I tend to create dances that I don’t attach a lot of meaning to. I am more interested to hear peoples’ interpretations than I am to see if I can communicate a specific message with the movement I create. The audience is not consciously why I create pieces, but I know that they are subconsciously affecting certain things that I do. I think that when a piece of choreography tackles some sort of societal issue or observation, knowing the viewing audience is very important. The desire is never to offend, but if anything, to make people think in a new or different way. But controversiality is at times necessary, and so efforts to not offend may not be successful. One of the things that I love about art is that it is open to calling people out, challenging systems, pointing out problematic things, and that can never and never should be taken away.

How do you consider your audience?

When I do think about my audience, I tend to think of them in two ways – the dancers and the non-dancers. It is a divide that is critical because I hope to please both, but I know that in attempting to do that, I may appear to “talk down” to the dancers in the audience but also over shoot my non-dancing audience. For me, there is always a concern that dancers who watch it can see right through the structure I have created and may have a value judgment based on that.

Another interesting part of dance and the choreographic process is that it is important to remember that you, as the creator, have seen the piece tens or hundreds of times more than your audience has or will. Their experience with a piece is rarely extended for more than a few days, even if it is longer than the singular performance that they get to see. This is something unique to dance because it is a form bound by space and time. It does not continue to exist like a painting does, but it is fleeting. Videos don’t do justice to live performance, and so dance grapples with the challenge of some sort of immediacy for its audience. What the audience is left with is not something tangible, and so impressions have to be significant but not overdone.

Has your experience in your PWR class changed how you consider the rhetorical situation of your dancing?

This class has made me more aware of the interaction that I have with my audience, planned or unplanned, conscious or unconscious. I am more conscious of the disparity that exists within my audience and therefore more active in trying to temper things for both sets of eyes. Though rhetoric (in terms of specific end results) doesn’t come directly into my process, as I don’t often try to communicate a specific message with my choreography, rhetoric as a structural idea is very applicable. In the same way that a story needs a beginning, middle, and end; an argument needs an opening, body, and conclusion; a dance needs to start, continue, and finish. The structure of anything is arguably infinitely variable, but art and dance are different in that a piece could not follow the logical chronology of time, or be abstract and be successful. Whereas, a professionally written document is written with a purpose in mind and it’s success is evaluated based on its achievement of the purpose or failure.

 

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Rhetoric at Research Conferences

Carolyn Braganca ’15. 

To present at an undergraduate research conference is actually a very realistic opportunity for many Elon University students—one that is not very common at many other universities. This past weekend (Wednesday – Saturday) I attended the National Council for Undergraduate Research (NCUR), which was hosted at Eastern Washington University just outside Spokane, Washington. With more than 50 students presenting, Elon University was one of the most represented schools in attendance. I highly recommend anyone interested to apply to be one of those Elon students at next year’s conference (in the beautiful Asheville, North Carolina).

What better way to practice rhetorical strategies than to present at a conference?

For anyone interested at possibly presenting at a conference (be it NCUR or a professional conference), here are some rhetorical decisions to consider.

At a research conference, the major and obvious rhetorical decision you will have to make is how to present your research effectively and clearly. First, you have to consider what content to include in the presentation: how much background information is it safe to assume your audience will have? Depending on the conference, your audience may have a very solid foundation of knowledge, a relatively solid foundation, or even no foundation at all. At NCUR, for example, I attended presentations on topics of which I had only a wobbly idea. Likewise, I know I also presented my research on Sherlock Holmes to people whose only knowledge of Sherlock Holmes came from BBC’s Sherlock. Some conferences, however, may be biology conferences, at which it will be safe to assume your audience has a stable but broad understanding on basic biology.

In any scenario, you will likely have to present some background information, but you need to determine how much time in your presentation—remember, you will likely be given a small time slot—you want to devote to explain exposition.

Along with the oral aspect of your presentation, you need to consider the visual aspect of your presentation. Unless you are specifically told not to by the conference, always include a visual! People want to look at something, so give them something eye-catching but informational to absorb visually. When designing you PowerPoint, Prezi, poster, or whatever visual aid you decide to use, be sure to keep visual design and visual rhetoric in mind. Your research may be the coolest topic in the world, but if you present it using a PowerPoint presentation with a blank white background and default black words, your audience will likely not remember much about your research. Your visual should reflect your research in some way, so even if your audience does not pay much attention to the words you speak, they will remember the words you or ideas you wrote.

For more information on visual design, check out these websites to get you started: Web Style Guide, Visual Mess, and Usability.

Finally, an often not-fully-realized rhetorical decision you need to make at a conference is what to wear—you need to carefully consider how you present yourself. Most conferences have a business casual dress policy, but when presenting people often dress more business formal. Within those parameters, however, there are several choices you can make—particularly if you have the privilege of being a woman. Does the blue suit or the gray better represent you? The slimmer fitting pants or the looser ones? Do pants even suit you? Maybe you are more comfortable in a skirt? Heels or flats? Red or purple? Collared blouse or cardigan?

Standing in front of people with whom you are unfamiliar is often an uncomfortable experience, so counteract the discomfort of the situation with comfortable clothes. Yes, you should aim to look formal and nice, but if you feel more comfortable in your older black pants instead of your new gray pants, then wear your black pants! Or if you feel more confident in your flats than in your heels, then wear your flats! Remember: while looking formal is a priority, you can sacrifice degrees of formality for the sake of comfort and confidence. What you look like on the outside is an important rhetorical decision, but what is more important is how what’s on the outside affects the inside—if you are enthusiastic about your research and personable, and if that enthusiasm and personality shows in your presentation, that is what your audience will focus on and remember.

And for the love of all things good and beautiful in this world, don’t read from your paper!

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Brianna Duff on Her Novel and Her Audience

Carolyn Braganca ’15

In honor of Neil deGrasse Tyson’s visit to campus today, this post will highlight a brilliant Elon student who also seeks to make science more interesting and understandable to the general population.

Brianna Duff is a senior creative writing and physics double major, an Elon College Fellow, and a Lumen Scholar. Not content with the traditional collection of short stories, Brianna tasked herself with writing a novel for her research project. As if the prospect of writing a novel wasn’t already ambitious enough, she also decided to write a story centered around advanced physics concepts. And just because she is that kind of visionary, Brianna also decided on a young adult audience—one that had little to no knowledge of such concepts.

Brianna Duff and her research mentor, Drew Perry

Brianna Duff and her research mentor, Drew Perry

The following is an interview with Brianna, focusing in particular on why she chose her audience and how the audience affected her writing.

Carolyn: Could you provide a quick synopsis of your novel? 

Brianna: My novel, titled I Travel Light tells of a world where the laws of modern physics have stopped applying only to the micro or the macro and have moved to operate on our everyday scale. While the physical situations themselves are impossible, the science behind them is honest and works to explain real theories and phenomena in the fictional context. The novel revolves around four stories: there’s Kate, who can communicate with herself in a parallel world; Hadley, who can run at the speed of light; Sam, who’s town has been plagued with an anti-matter disease that’s causing people to disappear; and Claire, who starts her story standing at the edge of a black hole that’s opened up in the middle of her college campus. The novel nests and builds like a series of equations, moving first in reverse chronological order to reveal each character’s beginnings and then going forward in time to reveal their ends. It explores the complex human responses to a world gone strange and unfamiliar, and it works to merge together the scientific world and the literary sphere. 

What made you choose a young adult audience as opposed to an adult audience? 

Physics often seems unattainable to younger students, particularly female students. It is a primarily male-driven field, and young girls are often inadvertently discouraged from pursing it beyond the high school level. I wanted to write a novel that would help challenge this slow-changing status quo. I wanted to expose young readers, particularly the female readers that currently dominate the young adult genre, to the beauty of physics. I wanted to encourage them to be curious and to ask questions and to see the world in a new way, and, maybe, to put the book down mid-way through to research just exactly how relativity works. It would be amazing to have someone read my book and be interested enough to call me out on the fact that running at the speed of light really is impossible and explain to me exactly why. I also wanted the opportunity to write a female character who was interested in pursing physics and who was smart and aware. There weren’t any in the books I was reading, and I hoped I could change that and help other young women see the potential for something similar.

How did you research your audience and the conventions of young adult literature? What did you find? 

My research consists mostly of reading all the time. I make it a goal to read a book a week and I always try to keep up with what is current in the YA genre. There is so much that can be learned by simply paying attention to the big names out on the shelves. John Green, for example, was (and still is) a big voice in YA literature when I started the novel a few years ago, and his voice has been a big influence on how I write. There are some great sci-fi writers I’ve read who build wonderful dystopian worlds that I try to emulate (Beth Revis, for example, and Marissa Meyer). I also read literary fiction meant for older age groups because I think most young readers are aware of these books, and I don’t want to patronize my readers (David Mitchell, for instance, has been a massive influence on this book). Reading constantly reminds me not to fall into the trap of “dumbing down” my characters just because I’m writing for people younger than me. It’s easy to do, but I’ve found characters mean so much more when you let them breathe on the page and just say what they want to say, regardless of stereotypes or expectations.

How did you consider your audience while writing about advanced physics concepts? 

This was, I think, the key point to my research. I talked to a number of science writers and science outreach professionals about what it looked like to write science for a general audience. It wasn’t so much that I was considering my YA audience particularly; it was more just an understanding that I was writing for a group of people who would likely not have any basis on what I was talking about. When I interviewed with Dr. Alan Lightman, a physicist and author of Einstein’s Dreams, he told me to put as little science in as possible; he said he wrote books he thought had barely any science in them and they were critiqued for being science-heavy. So I made it my policy to focus on just a few concepts in the story I was telling. I couldn’t fit the entirely of black hole physics into 60 pages, for example, so I chose my battles. I chose what interested me—event horizons and spaghettification and time dilation—and I built the world around those. For me, that’s what its all about: finding the few basic concepts that would get people intrigued and letting them delve into the rest on their own.

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