“Though I was done with it all, God wasn’t done with me.” —Celeste Warner, “A Love I Could Never Deserve.”
The audience listened in enjoyment, and some were moved to tears, as seniors from PCC’s professional writing (PW) major recently read a selection of original stories, poems, and essays that they’d penned over the course of four years. The pieces that had been edited and fine-tuned over the past semester were from their PW portfolio (PW 421), the capstone project for their major.
“The portfolio allows the students to further edit and polish their writing while the reading allows them a chance to showcase their work in a public setting,” said Miss Autumn Pearson, the faculty instructor for the portfolio process. “These pieces can be used as they make their way to the job market after graduation.”
As students spend the semester editing and improving their work, they are able to critique the writing choices they previously made and make their pieces stronger in story, grammar, and aesthetics. Throughout the past semester of portfolio work, Celeste Warner (Sr., OH) has seen the importance of taking this second look at the things she’s written.
“The PW portfolio gives writers an opportunity to reevaluate their work,” she said. “I’ve learned the importance of knowing that your writing is never flawless, and that there is always something you can improve.”
As they edit and rewrite their stories, students in the portfolio class are required to choose a theme they feel represents their work, a message they wish to convey to their audience. For Celeste, her theme fits well with the lessons she learned while reevaluating her work.
“I chose the theme Beautifully Broken,” she explained. “I want my readers to realize that true beauty is found in the broken parts of their lives. My stories are about flawed people living in a flawed world, and it’s those flaws that make the stories beautiful.”
Combining their works into an edited book and choosing a theme to represent their writing provides a real-world glimpse into the process of creating and publishing a book. Most writing majors also collaborate with a designer to create artwork for their covers and compile their pieces into a book format, taking the real-life experience of book creating a step farther.
“The design was actually my favorite part of the portfolio process,” said Jenneth Dyck (Sr., VA.) “I loved writing the pieces and seeing them develop through the editorial process, but there’s something about making your book look like a real book. It just makes everything feel more official and real, like your writing can be taken seriously.”
When all the hard work comes together, they choose a self-print publisher to order a hard copy of their portfolio. Some students even go an extra step and have the chance to put their books on the market.
Zachariah Wilhelm (Sr., IN), who completed his portfolio in the fall 2018 semester, explained that he was able to publish his portfolio as a print and eBook on Amazon. “I’ve been thrilled to see my work become available for global distribution,” he said. “Now I want to publish another one.”
The semester of revising, revisiting, and reworking numerous writing selections culminates with the seniors reading their original works in front of an audience of friends, family, and faculty. The chance to show others what they’ve worked so long and hard to achieve is often an exciting experience.
Jessica Kabakjian, a 2017 professional writing graduate, said, “Writing can be a very personal experience. You often feel like you are putting a piece of yourself into your work. To turn around and share that work with an audience can be a vulnerable feeling, but it’s also exciting. The reading gives seniors the chance to overcome nerves with confidence, to put themselves out there and often get a positive response they may not have been expecting.”
As students overcome the academic hurdle that is the culmination of their college career, they realize how defining the portfolio project is to them.
“I spent four years to get to this moment,” said Celeste. “It’s surreal and an amazing feeling to be able to hold my book in my hand. These pieces show my friends and family who I am as a person, and how I have grown in Christ.”
With books in hand, the seniors who’ve completed their capstone projects will soon enter the professional field with the goal and purpose of writing the stories they see in the world around them.