Taylorsville Hometown Apple Festival
Writing as Inquiry is a course designed to introduced students to research methods that inform writing as a rhetorical practice. To develop these skills, we worked on a semester-long project, traveling across North Carolina on Highway 64 in order to learn about the highway, the towns it travels through, and the people who live there. The project required the application of several research strategies, which culminated in the composition of various articles about the experiences we had while traveling.
One such article was a feature I wrote on Taylorsville, North Carolina's Hometown Apple Festival. The research my classmate and I gathered was mostly experiential, and allowed us to describe the event with a different perspective than we would have if just conducting online research or consulting a book. To supplement my writing on the event, I took several pictures to document the experience.
With the purpose of the assignment and medium of publication in mind, I made several deliberate rhetorical choices before composing the piece. When considering the tone, I knew I did not want it to be formal; the piece was intended to be a friendly description of the event and my experience attending, not an emotionless rehashing of research. Therefore, I chose to include my perspective in the first person and wrote as playfully as I believed was appropriate. I could have been more critical, and would’ve liked to considering that is my nature, but I thought about the piece being posted online, available to be viewed by anyone stumbling upon the page. I didn’t want to disrespect the town or its people, so I kept my writing fairly tame.
When crafting the piece and considering the fourth canon of dispositio, or arrangement, I decided writing the feature as a linear recollection of my partner and I walking through the festival rendered maximum impact of my description on readers. I decided to only write in detail about the sights, sounds, and people I dealt with personally. Simply making lists of the elements of the festival I observed as I walked by and taking the time to describe my experiences at the vendors I stopped at contributed to the movement in the piece. These choices enabled me to give readers the sense they were “walking with us,” experiencing the sights and sounds of the festival while traveling down the row of concession stands.
When I finished the piece, I felt a sense of completion, but not of satisfaction. It wasn’t nearly as transformative as it could have or should have been. The problem was rooted in the fact that I didn’t write enough about the event in the moment, despite my professor’s constant reminders to take copious notes. At the time, I thought what I had would be sufficient, but, looking back, I realize I was often too distracted by the events to make a conscious effort to take notes. I thought the notes I did take would jog my memory enough to craft a strong piece after the fact. I have since realized they may have been enough for me to write about the experiences generally but were not enough to allow me to be as detailed as I intended.
Taking the inquiry aspect of the course more seriously would have also contributed greatly to this piece, and others. Though I was proud of myself for talking to as many people as I did, considering I tend to be shy in the company of strangers, I did not put myself out there nearly enough to gather the information required for a compelling piece, especially considering my ethnographic efforts were inadequate. When writing about the fried apple pies, I described the process of making them that we witnessed and described the unpleasant experience of being burned by the filling, but I never even mentioned the actual taste. The process was easy to discuss because I had photographic documentation of it, and it wouldn't have been easy to forget about being burned, but the lapse in my notes of a description of the taste made my account of the experience incomplete.
Upon recognizing these deficiencies, it would have been wise to ask the partner I traveled with for her notes on the experience. Our combined perspectives could have provided enough detail to add interest. I didn’t think of the assignment as being part of a collaborative project, at least as writing was concerned, but in reflecting I am realizing how much that realization would have strengthened this piece and the others I wrote.
Unfortunately, this reflection does not allow me to go back and improve my writing. Making different choices along the way is the only way I could improve it. At least I’ll know for next time.