Feeling Synergetic

July 15, 2008

Today I wrote a story about my fellow blogger Rachel DeCuir. I mention her blog in the article. She mentioned the article — and me — in her last post. I commented on that post, twice, with links to this site. That, my friends, is synergy!

I’m pretty sure this article, called “Je Me Souviens: Senior makes memories of a lifetime in Quebec,” is the best one I’ve written this summer. I try to model my work after the best features in the New York Times, especially the NYT magazine, which have a really confident tone to them. Rick Bragg and Michael Pollan — ooh, and Natalie Angier — are my personal idols.  (When I found out my brother’s wife was pregnant with a girl, I suggested they name her “Natalie” in Angier’s honor. This from the girl who wants to name her own hypothetical future daugter after the capital of Slovenia.  I digress.)  Using adjectives, adverbs and metaphors as freely and as astutely as those writers do requires an assurance that I am fully understanding and accurately portraying the story. Depending on the nature of the story, that’s a lot of pressure.

DeCuir was a good subject to practice on, because her character is so very likeable. It’s a lot easier on one’s conscience to characterize someone as a bubbly Francophile than it is to insinuate that he or she is pompous, greedy or mean-spirited. I’d have a hard time as a politics reporter, I guess.

I am always proud of my stories after I finish them, but I think they have improved significantly since the beginning of the summer — especially my leads.  (Headlines, maybe not so much.)  I haven’t put the article up on the Hendrix site yet, since I just posted another one (Rwandan student makes quantum leap at Hendrix) earlier today. So here, just for you, is a taste of the new article:

Senior Rachel DeCuir has to grasp for English words, now.

“My metaphors have gone down the drain; I’m so sorry,” she said a few days after her return from the French-speaking province of Quebec, Canada. “Oh dear, oh dear. And all my big words … oh, not big words – curse words? Swear words. They’re coming out in French.”

DeCuir’s linguistic confusion is perfectly normal for someone who has just spent ten days in Quebec … after spending nine months in France. DeCuir, a French major, spent her junior year at the Université de Lille in northern France and returned to the U.S. in late June. After a week-long breather in her hometown of Lafayette, La., she returned to the French-speaking world for an Odyssey project.

Officially, it should be noted, Louisiana itself is part of the French-speaking world. The state’s French roots go deep, given its long tenure as a colony of France. That shared history is what brought DeCuir to Quebec.

Her project, titled “Je me Souveins” (“I Remember”), is named after the provincial motto of Quebec. The province has been much more successful in “remembering” and maintaining its French heritage than Louisiana has, and DeCuir planned to interview as many French-speakers as she could while she was there. Her timing – early July, during the peak of Quebec City’s enormous and world-famous 400th anniversary celebrations – would allow her to meet Francophone folks from around the globe.

“I really wanted to get a feel, via interviews and just being there, for the role that a language plays in someone’s identity – specifically a Francophone identity,” she said. “That was the original plan.”

DeCuir deviated from her original proposal when she received the chance of a lifetime:

Oh! The suspense!  You’ll just have to keep an eye on the Hendrix homepage to read the rest.

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