Five was the magic number

Five was the magic number, not required, but I went with it…

            I have chosen five essays to include in my creative nonfiction, final portfolio.  Four because they are strong pieces and the fifth piece to prove (to myself) that I am able to edit my own work.  Nonfiction writing is my personal preference to read and write.  This course has enabled me to create work in many nonfiction genres.  As a blogger writing about my life nearly daily, this experience at several “hands” of nonfiction work has improved my self-published, online posts.  The five essays in this portfolio best represent my work achieved through workshops in the classroom and professor comments on previous drafts.  Most importantly, these pieces represent my nonfiction voice.

The first essay, York’s Uncharted Territory, is my favorite and the piece I’m most proud of, because it is risky and risqué and I imagine unique, compared to most profile pieces submitted for this course.  My strength as a writer is edginess and the forwardness of my voice.  I dare to be different and take chances with my work.  During the workshop process of this draft, my classmates were surprised when I agreed to visit this club and get a first-hand experience.  As a writer, this was a challenge for me: to visit and write about a taboo place.  I jumped in, ready to live it, so I can tell it.  The result of the entire writing and workshop process developed into an exemplary profile of York’s secret club.

The second essay, Quattrone’s Tornado Experience, was the easiest to write because Rebecca Quattrone was an excellent subject to interview.  In this piece I deleted paragraphs of unnecessary print and web links to reduce the cluttered look.  Quattrone was a fountain of fascinating and emotionally moving quotes.  Her quotes made this piece flow and made it a genuine, human-interest story.  I was surprised and proud when Quattrone told me I “rocked it” and she would be attaching the piece to her online profile.  The interview assignment was a great learning experience, and personally rewarding for me and Quattrone.

The third essay, Disney’s Over-rated, was just a little slice of my life.  This piece did not need much revision to the original.  I enjoyed sharing this memoir, because I felt relief as I typed angrily on my keyboard.  The little mishaps of life, the funny moments, and spurts of anger and streams of tears, all make for memoir moments.  When I laugh, I write.  When I cry, I write. When I am annoyed, I write cool.  The sarcasm and snark of this piece work in place of hot, angry, words or thoughts.  Writing memoirs, for a fact, keeps me out of jail.

The fourth essay, You have a Sexy Dash!, is a representation of my blogging style.  This short piece allowed me to express myself through my favorite punctuation.  As an assignment, it was ironic, as I dislike punctuation and believe it is overused and generally unnecessary.  My weakness is punctuation, due to my disregard.  I know when and where comas are placed, I just don’t like the pause they create in my sentence flow.  Fortunately, my disregard for comas did not appear to affect my grade.  This prompt has created an idea for a story format in a new piece.  One without punctuation

The fifth essay, What Happened to the Good People?, is my proof I can edit.  I was extremely long-winded in this piece and reduced it by nearly half.  This was rewarding, though difficult, process.  Editing out large amount of material moved the action forward, getting to the rant and cutting out the unnecessary details of the trip to the mall.  I was excessive in the description of my day prior to the incident leading to the rant.  After “removing the fat” from this piece, a much leaner, more focused rant appeared.

This course was an excellent outlet for my nonfiction writing.  The guidance from my peers and professors was academically rewarding, as well as, personally rewarding.  As a result, my confidence has grown and I look forward to using my newly gained and groomed skills in the future work of my academic career.  Travel writing is my dream and nonfiction is my ticket there.

GIF is pronounced Jif

GIF is pronounced Jif

            The correct pronunciation of the Word of the Year 2012 sounds like a brand of peanut butter. I did not know that. What I did know about GIF had something to do with pictures that showed movement. For example, the baby dancing to the “ooga chaka” song back in 1996. If you never watched the dancing baby GIF, you are missing out. Like anything else you’re looking for, just Google it. That baby will dance eternally on the World Wide Web. dancingbaby2

So it seems there were many people unaware of the correct pronunciation of the acronym. Graphics Interchange Format, the words this acronym is formed from, begins with a soft “g” sound. Pronouncing it gif sounding like gift makes the most sense. But now we all know GIF is pronounced with a hard “g” sounding like genius. I hope this clears things up but I can still hear myself mispronouncing GIF in my head, as I write.

The GIF was 25 last year. I was curious to see what a new and improved GIF image might look like since its conception. Video games have made leaps and bounds in the past 25 years. Back in the day my friends and I gathered to play Atari and Nintendo in my parent’s basement.  They were simple games and graphics with few complex concepts. Like the outdated video games, the GIF files from 1997 are just images with a few portraying some movement. Looking at the top 50 GIF files of 2012 I immediately realized the GIF has grown-up artistically.


Of the top 35 GIF files in 1997, 24 were still images.  Last year’s top 54 GIF images were all looped, showing action. It seems the GIF is rarely a still picture, but instead a cleverly crafted series of images on a continuous loop. Most of these images convey humor or sarcasm while others are just cool looking. At one time it was the rage to embed GIF images on a MySpace page. MySpace is no longer the place to be on the Internet. The large number of electronic devices available makes sharing GIF images easy on cell phones, laptops, notepads and more. Entire web communities have developed around the concept of sharing GIF files. Tumblr and Flicker are popular websites to share simple, single images to complex loops of action.

Jeff Gordon Levi

I looked at numerous GIF images and saw the value in these little “clips” as a marketing tool. Pop-up ads are loaded with GIF images made to draw your eyes from the content of the website you are viewing. The flashing images appearing in various places on a website are impossible to ignore. Some GIFs are created to fool a viewer into believing it is necessary to click on them to continue on a website. The pop-up GIF will instead redirect them to a new website offering something the viewer has no interest in seeing. Tricky bastards aren’t they?

The GIF is a remarkable tool on the Internet. They look cool, make you laugh and lead you astray while surfing the web. People just love GIF images and once you know what you’re looking for, you will see GIFs on almost every website you visit. GIFs are fun, flashy and fantastic. With all these wonderful attributes GIF images possess, why has it taken 25 long years to declare GIF an official word?

Amish Mafia: Here’s the truth

What ya gonna do when they come for you?

What ya gonna do when they come for you?

Discovery Channel you had a good idea here with this Amish Mafia show.  It is a show that tells a story about some events that may or may not have really happened in Lancaster, PA and a bit in Ohio.  It tries to be a reality show, but it is not.

If it were a reality show we would see Esther Schmucker and Levi Stoltzfus learning they will be traveling to FL for a spontaneous vacation.  Esther knew they were going to FL, and that “Oh that’s just creepy” line was just good acting on her part.  She’s not an actress.  But she would like to be.  Esther would also like to be a model.  Her boyfriend (though they seem to have broken up) was a black rapper that goes by The Real Mirkat who smokes bongs in his videos.  He has nothing bad to say about Esther and considers her a wonderful person.  I haven’t spoke to Esther in over a week, but I wonder if she says the same.

Then there is Allen Bieler, a local repeat in the news.  He loves running from the cops.  Probably because of that weed, pills, etc. that was in the car.  He is listed as a paid actor on the set of Amish Mafia.  He has worked for them in the past in recording Amish stories.  Yes, he did get adopted and did live in Lancaster.  He currently lives in Lancaster, out free without bail.  Amazing, a “mafia member” out of jail and no need for bail.  Mafia my ass.

And Levi Stoltzfus, the Mafia Boss.  The only thing Levi is boss of is his deck and siding business.  His business has been around for a long time but only last year joined the Better Business Bureau.  I’m sure to look as legit as possible now that he would be on television as the Boss of Lancaster County.  Did I mention Levi is a cousin of one of the girls from Breaking Amish?  Levi if you’re the boss how about finding out where the Amish puppy mills are and doing something about it?  Or what about the horses sold off for slaughter at auction?  Oh wait Levi, you are guilty of doing just that.  Is the head of the Amish Mafia really that broke he has to take his horses to auction and not donate them to an horse rescue?  People don’t want to hear about Levi sending his horses get whacked and making some cash too.

Twitter Wars could be another show for TLC oops, Discovery Channel.  (Esther worked for TLC on their series Breaking Amish.  TLC and DC are produced by the same company)  Esther was on Twitter but has since decided it’s just insane.  Levi Stoltzfus account has been suspended…don’t know who suspended.  There are other “characters” that may or may not be on Twitter making disgusting comments.  I wonder if Levi is regretting taking the part of Boss Man.  So much drama for just an Amish man….well, for a non-Amish man.

So it’s fake.  FAKE….fake….yep fake.  Come on, you already knew it.  I won’t twist the knife but: IT’S FAKE!!  The “cast” of Amish locals are no longer friends.  It is strictly business for them.  Can you imagine having to work with Merlin?  Some nutbag they found in Ohio to be Levi’s rival.  At least they don’t have to fake hate and contempt.  No acting required for that.

Thank God it is fake because Lancaster County doesn’t need Robin Hood like characters brandishing semi-automatic weapons.  And where the heck did they find Jolin, the finest maybe Mennonite, now maybe living in the area.  At least til this roller-coaster ride comes to an end.  Now that a local business that gives tours of the Amish area has decided to add a tour of filming locations, the show could become even more popular.  Perhaps it won’t matter if it’s fake.  If it brings business to Amish community, that will be a plus.

Just admit there is no mafia in Lancaster.  And this show and supposed mafia people have nothing to do with the horrible shootings at Nickels Mine School, and I’ll be happy.  Otherwise, I’m coming to find out.  That reporter in Hollywood won’t be coming, but I can….and will.

Hunting down the mafia,


P.S. This makes for great creative nonfiction.  I’m going to ace this class and term.

UPDATE: 6/15/2013

I used the Amish Mafia as the thesis of my Religious Secrets and Conspiracy final paper.

Click these links to read the results of my deeper delve into the Amish Mafia.

What is creative nonfiction?

The genre of writing termed Creative Nonfiction refers to a style with nearly limitless boundaries.  This style has existed for centuries but has only recently been termed a “genre” in literary circles.  This type of nonfiction is expressed in the form of journaling, blogging, diaries, and autobiographies but is not limited to this style of writing.  It is a combination of the established genres: fiction, drama, and poetry into the fourth genre, creative nonfiction.

There are six pronounced elements in creative nonfiction.  An essay may have one or two to all five of these elements.

  1. Personal Presence- a writer of creative nonfiction should include their own reflection and experience.  The essay should be written as if speaking directly to the reader.
  2. Self-Discovery and Self-Exploration- a writer should include their own interests, opinions, observations, goals, analysis, rants and raves.  The readers should feel as though they are learning about the author, while the author is also learning about themselves.
  3. Flexibility of Form- the days of a strict format in both fiction and nonfiction are long past.  Writers of nonfiction are encouraged to “break the rules” of traditional story format.  There are no rules to follow giving writer’s complete freedom to write in their own voice and form.
  4. Literary Approaches to Language- the language of nonfiction is what guides the reader along in the discoveries and exploration of the writer.  It can be intimate, poetic, figurative, informative, from the past, looking to the future, etc.
  5. Veracity- this is the reliability of the author story as truthful.  In creative nonfiction, it is assumed that what is written are the actual thoughts of the author.  These thoughts, based on memories, research or experiences, generally are left unverified.

Creative nonfiction is a genre that gives a writer freedom in the first person to connect to readers on a personal level.  When a reader connects with a writer’s life, career, triumphs, failures, uncertainties, etc. it becomes a bond that only creative nonfiction can accomplish.

Begin your creative nonfiction experience at


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