Monday, September 2, 2013

Recording FIrst Weeks at College: E-Books vs Paper and Pen

Lots of you have probably seen the article that appeared in the Star Ledger yesterday. If you missed it, it's worth a look, whether you have a child going to college this year or not. It's an interesting view on then and now.

The blog got me thinking about my first days and weeks at Boston University, where I spent my undergrad years and set the goal of writing and illustrating a Caldecott-winning children's book. The first thing I noticed about the article was something I've been noting for several years. College begins WAY earlier than it did in the 1960's. My first day of college (Moving In Day) was Sunday, September 8th, 1963. Like the author of the blog above, I had no computer, no Apps, no cell phone and no clue!

No iCal and no iPad, so I bought a paper calendar. It was a Charles Schultz, Peanuts calendar with a square for each day. Even without a digital camera and Instagrams, without a computer and without a single App, I can tell you where I went, what I wore and what the weather was like every day of my first 4 months of college. I can tell you when I met my college boy friend and when I visited my newly-wed sister and her husband. I can tell you how I wore my hair  and when I did volunteer stints at the University radio station (WBUR). I know when I first learned a number of folk songs and when I got home for Thanksgiving vacation.Yes, I have a great memory, but I also have that Peanuts calendar in which I drew each day of those first four months in Boston. Art endures in a way that electronic records don't. Maye this is part of why I still believe in real books, as opposed to e-books.

This is what my first month looked like. Well, the Saturdays don't show, but I can tell you that on my first Saturday it was sunny, I wore a turtleneck  and an a-line skirt and attended three open-houses at three different fraternities on Bay State Road. I also met a cat.

The next day, which was partly cloudy, I wore a jumper (probably my rust colored corduroy one), with a black turtleneck. I went to church at Marsh Chapel and went for a motorcycle ride, I think with a housemate's boyfriend.

It was my third day in Boston that some of my housemates took me to meet some of their friends, and I met the boy I dated for the next two years. It was Tuesday, September 10th and we all played guitars and sang folk songs. My long hair was braided that day.

So what does this have to do with writing and illustrating? Well, I was illustrating my life and making "journal entries" about my daily life. It was these "in the moment" sketches that allow me the joy of reliving those months with rich detail fifty years later. It is this illustrated calendar that could provide me with a fine primary source if I ever choose to write a book about college life in the 1960s, including the historic event shown by the black draped frame and flag at half-mast on Friday, November 22nd. I spent most of that day working at the radio station and most of that night crying on my boyfriend's shoulder.

If you have a child going off to college this month, plant this idea (an illustrated journal - on paper) which he/she can look back at 50 years later. Stories and pictures and books on paper will outlast electronic diaries and FaceBook Timelines. Despite great strides and wonderful aspects of technology in publishing, I am banking on books on paper well in to the future.

Here is one way in which I envy today's students regarding "real" books. I remember the cost and the weight of the books I had to buy and lug around campus. One semester I had 17 novels to read. (Tell your students not to take two novels courses the same semester). It would have been a lot easier to read those books on a Kindle, I bet. And less costly too.

New technologies allow me to "take notes" quickly with my camera. For example:

Gazpacho with additions

City crest with murcielago (bat)
                                    Candies in store on Calle Di Pi, Barcelona

So use the technology. Record the moments. Draw or doodle. But whatever else you do, keep drawing, taking photos and journalling, so that you can write and illustrate rich, real, readable stories to share with the world.  And save important things on paper!

1 comment:

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