Transcript from the Shapiro Awards Gala 2017 at the University of Toledo

I had the honor of speaking at the 2017 Shapiro Awards Gala at the University of Toledo, my alma mater. The gala is held annually, serving as an awards ceremony for both the Shapiro writing contest as well as the English department’s awards for student achievements across many categories.

When the department approached me about speaking, they asked me to talk about how writing and literacy have influenced my personal and professional life. As a born-and-raised Toledoan — like many UT students — who transplanted elsewhere in the US for work, I tried to think about what I needed to hear when I was an undergrad, and what advice I could give students who might be worried or discouraged about the future.

Below are my written notes from the original script I wrote in preparation for the Shapiro Awards. Some of my eventual additions are included in brackets.

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VIDEO: Women Unbound 1-Year Anniversary Event – “Transformation”

If you follow me on social media, you may have seen me talking about a talk I delivered last Saturday in my hometown. The video is live, for those who may be interested in checking it out.

It was an incredible opportunity to return to Toledo for this talk.  I’m incredibly grateful to Lorraine Cipriano and Kayla Williams, the organizers of Women Unbound who invited me to speak both at last year’s launch and this year’s anniversary.  Special thanks also to Randy Nissen from Toledo Early College High School, who records the Women Unbound talks and brings a boatload of TECHS kids (who, I might add, I always find to be some of the most intelligent, mature, and overall amazing high school kids I’ve ever met.)

[Guest Post] NaNoPlaMo

That’s right, folks, it’s October, aka National Novel Planning Month. For the common Nanoer that is, not for me – I’ve had a chapter-by-chapter outline done for this year’s Nano since the end of September.

(Don’t feel bad. It’s only because I finished a second draft of this novel in June and spent all summer brainstorming the plot-holes out of it until I had a workable plot line.)

But I still have some planning ahead of me, because I am the official-unofficial Nano Planner for the University of Toledo Writer’s Guild. Admittedly, that doesn’t require as much work as would befall, say, a regional ML (municipal liaison), but still: Between five classes, three jobs, a boatload of homework, and this being my first year as any sort of coordinator for Nano events, I’m swamped.

What is a Nano event, you ask? Well, the primary event would be a write-in, but in all there are three basic things that happen around Nanowrimo:

  1. Kick-off parties
  2. Write-ins
  3. End parties, aka “thank God it’s over” parties

Kick-off parties might take place before November, to let everyone touch base, meet, and hang out before their month of shared insanity, or they might take place right at the beginning of November. The Toledo-area kick-off, for example, was a week ago, whereas the Writer’s Guild kick-off will be on the first Friday of November.

Because our UTWG kick-off will be after NaNo has started, it will really be a big write-in. “Big” in our case meaning “this is the first write-in of the month, so come in and kick-start your novel before school, work, and those annoying people you live with start to bog you down,” not meaning “a lot of people will be there.” Considering we’ve had an average meeting attendance of about four students, I’m guessing a lot of people will not be there, but it’ll be fun and it’ll be productive, and if a couple of new people happen to come join us, awesome.

Our write-in will actually be a write-in, in that we’ll while away the hours by sitting at a table with our laptops or notebooks and write with that burst of speed that always accompanies the beginning of the month.

In contrast, Toledo-area write-ins are really fun, but they’re not very productive. When someone asks what we do at a write-in, I say, “Well, supposedly we’re writing all together, but really it’s more like we’re helping each other procrastinate.” Not to cast disparagement on these write-ins – I love going to them. It’s how I made friends in Toledo last year. But the only time I got any real writing done was the day before Thanksgiving: I arrived late, after work, to find that the few people who had showed up were gone. Sitting alone at the Starbucks in Barnes & Noble, I managed to get 2500 words written in just a couple of hours.

But normally I just talked to people.

At the end of the month is the traditional “thank God it’s over party,” at which you congratulate the people who won and celebrate the fact that you can stop freaking out about word-count, start spending more time with your significant other and less with your cat (who was your only company for the month, as he, unlike your boyfriend, simply slept on the table while you typed away, rather than complaining about your lack of attention), and otherwise return to a state of sanity.

I have our kick-off party and write-ins worked out for the month, but I’m not sure about our end-party. November 30th falls on a Friday, which would be perfect since that’s UTWG’s normal meeting day…but I don’t want to alienate anyone who’s still racing the clock, desperately trying to get to that fifty-thousandth word before the laptop strikes midnight.

Maybe the following Monday at Biggby. We’ll see.

Happy Nanoing to all, and to all a good novel!

Elizabeth Anderson is an education major at the University of Toledo. She works at the Learning Club of Toledo, the Toledo Botanical Gardens, and Lane Bryant and writes the UTWG newsletter. Her blog, Inkwell, can be found here, or follow her on Twitter.

The University of Toledo Writer’s Guild is open to all UT students and alumni as well as high-school students who would like to be honorary members. Any high-school or college-aged students from any schools in the Toledo area are welcome at UTWG’s Nano events.

Kick-off party: UT Student Union, room 1507 on Friday, November 2, from 3-5p.m. and 7-9p.m.

Meetings: Every Friday in UT SU 1507 from 5-7p.m.

Write-ins: Every Monday at Biggby Coffee on W. Central Ave. from 7-9p.m.

The UTWG blog can be found here. You can also check out the UTWG Nano thread.

Toledo-area write-ins are on Thursdays at the Barnes & Noble on Monroe St. from 6-10p.m. or whenever you get there. There will be no write-in on Thanksgiving.

UTWG and The Mill to co-host poetry reading

The UT Writer’s Guild and The Mill literary magazine will host a Banned Books Week poetry reading Wednesday, September 28 at 7 p.m. in Room 2240 of the Field House on the University of Toledo’s Main Campus.

The featured poet at the event is Zach Fishel, a graduate student at UT.

The reading, presented in open mic format, will also feature The Mill editor in chief Peter Faziani and UTWG president Michael Beers reading their own work.

Several other students will read at the event as well, including members of the UT Writer’s Guild.

Banned Books Week 2011Banned Books Week is an annual event sponsored by the American Library Association to raise awareness of books banned and challenged in schools and libraries. Banned Books Week encourages the sharing of literature and ideas between and among groups.

Contact UTWG vice president Feliza Casano (feliza [dot] casano [at] rockets [dot] utoledo [dot] edu) for more information or to sign up to read.  You may also contact Feliza for more information about the UT Writer’s Guild.

Links:

Indie Toledo: Phoenicia Cuisine

Part of a series about independent restaurants and stores in the Northwest Ohio area.

Classes at the University of Toledo have started up again, and in honor of thousands of students migrating back to Toledo to learn stuff, I would like to present you with a special edition of Indie Toledo about an on-campus treasure.

Phoenicia Cuisine is a Mediterranean-style restaurant located on the third floor of UT’s Student Union.  Phoenicia serves Lebanese-style food for the most part, but there are also other offerings.

When it’s time to order, you have two choices: a sit-down area and a take-out window.  Busy students may want to just grab an order to take back to the dorm, but it’s always nice to sit in the dining area and just chill out.  It’s a great place to catch up with that friend you haven’t seen since May!

Food & Beverages

There are several main categories of food at Phoenicia, including Entrees, Appetizers, Sandwiches, and Salads.  I’ve tried something from every category, so we’ll talk about at least one recipe from each here.

The appetizer list consists of several dishes, including several Lebanese foods.  I’ve tried the hummus and grape leaves, and both were fantastic.  Hummus comes in a regular and large size, but the regular size is huge!  It was much bigger than I could eat all on my own, and if my roommate had not been allergic to chickpeas I would have saved the rest for later.  (I ended up giving it to a friend.)  The stuffed grape leaves were non-vegetarian, something I like in my stuffed grape leaves, and were served slightly warm.  Mmm.  There are also vegetarian stuffed grape leaves available.

The list of salads is by far my favorite.  While there are regular American-style salads, like the house salad and Greek salad, there are also Mediterranean-style salads as well.  In particular, you can find an incredibly fresh tabbouli and an absolutely delicious fattoush salad.  My personal favorite is the tabbouli – I get it so often, I’m sure that’s how the staff knows me by now!

The sandwiches are fairly standard in terms of American restaurant fare.  There are cheeseburgers and other specialty hamburgers as well as gyros and other sandwiches.  One particular delicious meal is the grilled feta, a pita filled with feta cheese and tomatoes grilled to a melty perfection.  It comes with a side – you can choose fries, but I almost always take rice with it.  Grilled feta is my staple sandwich at Phoenicia because it’s easy and quick when I’m on the run.

You can also order one of their many entrees, which are always made when you order it.  You can order things like the chicken shawarma platter or a Lebanese combo.  Vegetarian entrees, like the vegetarian grape leaves and falafel sandwich, are also available for the health-conscious or those living a vegetarian lifestyle.

Critic’s Conclusion

While it’s one of the pricier options for on-campus food, Phoenicia offers fresher, healthier options for those who spend a lot of time on campus.  They even offer vegetarian options – always a healthy choice no matter if you’re a vegetarian or proud omnivore.

Phoenicia is also a nice place for a sit-down dinner with friends or a casual lunch date with a new friend.  If you attend the University of Toledo, you should definitely check out Phoenicia before you graduate.

Indie Toledo: KotoBuki

Part of a series about independent restaurants and stores in the Northwest Ohio area.

KotoBuki in Sylvania, Ohio is one of several Japanese food/sushi places within just a few miles on Monroe Street.  Nestled among a variety of shops in the same plaza, KotoBuki houses a beautiful dine-in area and a friendly atmosphere.

The restaurant has a very good reputation in Toledo and has been featured in local media several times.  The restaurant currently has a 4 1/2 star rating on Google restaurant reviews and is one of the highest-recommended Japanese restaurants in Toledo.

Food & Beverages

KotoBuki has a wide range of food available, from unique and standard sushi rolls to Korean and Japanese traditional cuisine.  One item of note that sets KotoBuki apart from other area sushi places is that, if requested, a diner may enjoy a cup of green tea to accompany his or her meal for free.  One of my closest friends, who in fact brought me to KotoBuki in the first place, loves to have green tea with her sushi, so this works out wonderfully for her.

Many specialty rolls at KotoBuki can also be found at other restaurants, such as the Joe roll or the Ninja roll, but the restaurant also has several unique rolls as well including the Toledo roll and the Harry Potter roll, neither of which I’ve seen (in the exact incarnation) as I have at KotoBuki.

My personal favorite at KotoBuki is the Joe roll, simply because of the way the KotoBuki chefs make it.  I have tried some of the other specialty rolls as well and have never felt unsatisfied with the way it was made or the taste.  The fish at KotoBuki is fresh and the presentation is very pretty.

There are other dishes available as well, such as chirashi and Korean chirashi.  Chirashi is a dish of sashimi (sliced raw fish) on top of a bed of rice, unlike nigiri-zushi, which is a slice of raw fish on a pat of rice.  There are also hot dishes, like tempura and soba, and hot appetizers like gyoza (dumplings) and calamari.

Critic’s Conclusion

I personally would recommend KotoBuki as a place to enjoy sushi or traditional Korean and Japanese meals with family members or close friends.  The atmosphere is friendly, the restaurant itself is beautiful, and the wide variety of foods available on the menu make it an excellent place for evening meals.

While there, I’d definitely recommend trying out the traditional dishes over the sushi.  Not that there’s anything “wrong” or sub-par about the sushi – it’s quite delicious – but the traditional offerings are what really set KotoBuki apart from other Japanese-style restaurants in the area.  It also makes KotoBuki a great place to have dinner with friends who don’t do the raw fish thing when everyone else in the group loves sushi.

You can learn more about KotoBuki and check out the menu at the KotoBuki website.

Have you been to KotoBuki?  What do you like about the restaurant?

Indie Toledo: Elaine’s Tea Shoppe

Part of a series about independent restaurants and retailers in the Toledo area.

Toledo isn’t exactly the place you’d expect to find tea and scones, but you can in fact find a place that serves tea and scones on Monroe Street in West Toledo.

Elaine’s Tea Shoppe, which has been in the area for about 10 years at various locations, sells loose-leaf tea, tea accessories, and other paraphernalia as well as offering a tea service at all times of the day.

Elaine’s is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday.

Food & Beverage

Elaine’s offers a tea service to customers who stay in the shop which has a variety of offerings.  The main menu is a list of the varieties of tea available at the tea service.  I vastly prefer the green teas, but that’s more of a personal preference.

The shop has multiple varieties available, primarily black teas, oolong teas, green teas, and white teas.  Each type costs $3.50, which includes multiple re-steeps.

There are other things on the menu, as well, including Elaine’s recipe for scones with jam and cream.

Products

The greatest variety at Elaine’s includes the various tea-related accessories and other items that a casual browser might enjoy.

First off, there are a variety of teapots, tea strainers and infusers, and other items to help a tea enthusiast to brew tea.  Currently, since it’s summer, the shop is carrying iced tea makers as well as regular pots to make hot tea in.

Apart from single pots, the shop also carries sets – for my birthday, my friends bought me a set with a teapot and a cup, while other sets come with a pot and two cups.

Elaine’s also carries food products, particularly loose-leaf tea (nothing comes in bagged form) and flavored varieties of honey, which – incidentally – are created locally in Waterville, Ohio.  The honey comes in several varieties, such as Lemon, Cinnamon, or Lavender.  There are also other sweeteners available, such as the popular tea sweetener German rock salt.

In terms of tea, Elaine’s carries black teas, oolong teas, white teas, green teas, herbal tisanes, and blooming teas.  All of these line one long wall on the right side of the shop.  They come in small or large bags – you can purchase packs of 4 as well – and you can always buy a 2-oz or 3-oz tin and buy loose-leaf tea to be put in the tin if you don’t like to use up a lot of packaging.

Critic’s Conclusion

If you’re interested in learning more about tea – and maybe discovering a new brew – then Elaine’s is the place for you.  Elaine is one of a handful of Tea Masters in the country, and she can answer practically any question on the topic.

My best recommendation is to visit with the intent of having tea in the shop.  The service is very nice, there is a wide variety of teas to try for $3.50, and you can try something new each time.  My favorite thing to do?  Have tea with a friend.

*Please note that Elaine’s Tea Shoppe requests that you pay by check or in cash if possible.