All posts by jlbhogal

Black and White

This week, my blog will be focusing on Diana’s thesis-in-progress presentation. I really enjoyed it and thought she did a wonderful job at bringing the characters to life. The way she writes is very similar to my preference, in terms of being descriptive and allowing the reader to envision what she imagines as a writer. I am looking forward to reading her thesis and hopes that she decides to publish it once she’s ready. The images she starts each chapter with is my favorite part of what she shared with us, and I start realizing more and more the power and impact a black and image can have. Its simplicity has so much to say.

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I am also glad that I have been given the responsibility to share with my peers my experience of self-publishing on Amazon. I intend to do that on our “last” class after all the presentations are done, and I hope that my understanding of it will help the writers in our graduating Class of 2022 to publish and have their work out there for people to purchase and enjoy. In the meantime, I encourage my classmates to write down any specific questions they have in the two weeks so that I can make sure I can help everyone to the best of my ability. Also, my personal copy of my novel finally came in on Saturday, and I got the hardcover version for myself and my family. My mom has started reading the book, with the foreword completed. She just entered Chapter 1, since she already read the short story and skipped it. I also used black and white images. I wanted to use color, but just like Diana’s work, maybe sometimes color can create confusion and divert the reader form what you really want them to see. The images I felt looked best without color were the ones I kept in the book. And maybe, just maybe, the beauty will show in something as straightforward, obvious and unambiguous as black and white.

Turned Out for the Best

So, I don’t have much to say about anything regarding my thesis or anyone else’s since there were no presentations this week. But I was glad there was no class as my throat was also feeling scratchy and sore. I was afraid it had to do something with the new subvariant (or the sub-sub-subvariant >:/) but my sense of taste and smell is still intact, thank God. I guess I can write about how my Saturday went. In my last blog, I talked about how I was going to go to a free Holi event hosted by the New Brunswick Public Library. I even talked about how I couldn’t register because there were supposedly 200+ people who had signed up the day the registration opened up. My best friend and me decided to be rebels and go anyways. I even bought our own packets of Holi color, just in case they ran out.

But then…Saturday came. Beautiful weather, a sunny day. I thought everything was going to go perfectly. My best friend, her two younger sisters and I drove 40 minutes out to RU since the library was within the campus, and what did we find? Two tiny tents with absolutely no children’s activities (which was mentioned on the website) and a girl who was practicing henna on her own hands instead of putting it on others. There weren’t even close to 50 people present, and we were already 30 minutes into the event. No one was even dressed to celebrate the Festival of Colors :/ And the Holi part…it was supposed to be played on a tiny little lawn in front of the library. After celebrating at Rutgers for two years on a big green field, I didn’t know what to make of the unbelievably small space. My best friend and I stared at each other in shock and experienced major disappointment. I was lied to, and I worked so hard to make sure that everything was going to work out. We felt so horrible. Last minute, my best friend decided to host it at her house. So, the four of us ended up having a picnic at the park closest to our homes and played Holi at her place. Even though we were only such a small group, we ended up having so much fun! We finished all eight packets of Holi color within one hour, and we ended up coming out looking like pink, green, red, and orange mini monsters 😀 But it was definitely memorable. We complained during our ride home from the supposed “sold-out” event, but later on we were glad it happened the way it did. We just wished we didn’t waste so much time. And I wished I wasn’t given such a fake picture of the event. A lesson learned for sure, but in the end, it turned out for the best!

“Wong & Walker” & Some Color!

Kate did an awesome job yesterday presenting her thesis-in-progress! As a graduate student who is actively looking for full-time tenure-track teaching positions (if possible!) for the coming school year, I know I will need all the help I can get. Pretty soon, “Wong & Walker” will be the classic term used for first-year teachers to be well-informed and mentored to make their classroom welcoming and interpersonal. I am looking forward to purchasing her book when it’s ready to be published in hard copy 🙂

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Other than that, there’s not really much to say. This month was Holi, so I am planning to go celebrate that on Saturday with one of my best friends and her sisters. We usually used to go to Rutgers N.B. for it, but this year we decided to do something different and visit the event hosted by the New Brunswick Public Library (which I still think is in the Rutgers campus…) The only problem is that the registration became full a day or two of advertisement, and my friend and me decided a whole week later *we couldn’t register*! So after a long conversation with the event organizer, my friend and I are willing to take a chance and go anyways, hoping to be colored, have fun, and enjoy all the things they have to offer while blending in with the crowd. Let’s see…but I have a feeling all will go well. Looking forward to it!

Getting Raw About Law

So, from here on out, all my blogs are going to consist of less information about me and more about my peers and their thesis-in-progress presentations. Although everything for this class has officially been submitted, I still have my Phonology & Structure of American English class to pass…and let me tell you, that’s the real test. All my classmates are ESL teachers, so they understand things like prepositional phrases, noun clauses, infinitives, relative clauses, present progressive, past perfect, etc. but I don’t! Honestly, I feel by the time I actually understand the class, the semester will be over. That’s exactly what happened to me last semester too :/ But that’s the class I am really praying to pass. I feel that is the only thing standing in the way of my graduation, so I hope all goes well. Just trying my best, but everything flies over my head. Even my friend who is an ESL teacher is lost half the time, so imagine my situation. I was never taught grammar in this way when I was in elementary school. I was really introduced to it my junior year of undergrad and now this. So, approximately 20 years in school, and I was just taught grammar. No wonder my teacher in Middlesex County College kept taking off my points on my paper. He would say, “Your content is really good, but your grammar is really off.” I never understood how I went through so many years of writing essays without being told that, but I guess it’s true, better late than never.

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In reference to yesterday’s peer presentation, Sun did a great job on her topic! I can tell the amount of research that has been put into this is definitely extensive and I really hope she decides to go the creative side for her thesis. Just by reading a short piece, it seems that she enjoys it more and writes it in a more relaxed manner, compared to the analytical side of it. It was very interesting to learn about all the various aspects of forensic linguistics and how bias plays such a huge role in determining true justice in any legal case. Pre-conceived notions and assumptions seem to be considered a big no-no in this field which I think is the right thing. What is there, is there. It cannot, or rather should not be altered to fit the mindset of what the investigators believe. I am sure her work will be a first in her field in terms of connecting writing studies to, like she said, “a neglected field” and will bridge the gap between creativity and legal information for laymen to educate themselves and understand the intricate realties of forensic linguistics.

From One to Another…

A lot has happened these past two weeks. To start off, I went from being eligible to teaching only elementary grades to now being eligible to teaching K-12. Substituting at my local high school was a change that first intimidated me but now, for the most part, I enjoy it. I have been working with the little ones for nine years now, ever since I was 15. I guess one could say I experienced “burn out” earlier than most teachers. So, when I moved to the high school, it was a whole new world (along with some nostalgia, of course). No more being on my feet constantly, dealing with runny noses, screaming or hearing “He took my pencil!” Don’t get me wrong, high school has its own disadvantages, but I can for the first time, see myself teaching at the high school level sometime in the near future. After a lot of contemplating, I signed up to take the Praxis English exam over the spring break and I am happy to say, I passed! In a couple of weeks, I will be applying for certification and once that happens, I will hopefully be done for the rest of my professional life (in terms of taking exams, etc.).

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In terms of my thesis, I appreciate all the feedback, comments and suggestion received yesterday. The overwhelming support I received was something I did not expect would occur, considering that I am still a novice writer. I finalized the minor changes today in my synopsis, where the “but” and the capitalization in “Kosher” was preventing the summary to flow the way it should. “The I of the Storm” is now revised, uploaded and published on Amazon, but because of the few changes made, it will take probably until tomorrow to be available for purchasing. I added an Acknowledgments section, mentioning not only the resources used as my research but also Dr. Zamora and my cohort who have been such great and encouraging factors in the creation of my thesis. But it will be ready on Amazon as paperback, hardcover and eBook by tomorrow and will be shared all over my social media. Thankfully, everything is done and am looking forward to everyone’s reactions. And it’s finally time to relax (besides work for my other class which isn’t much), after spending a lot of time jumping around, from one place to another.

It’s Early…but it’s Done!

So…it feels strange to say this even though I have exactly two months left for the semester to graduate and submit my thesis, but I am happy to say, it’s DONE! I know my timeline was to edit and revise approximately 8 chapters each month, but for the first time that I have ever known, I actually was bored and free…remember those words? So I decided to work on my story, and along with the cover page and the formatting, “The I of the Storm” is completed. When I present next class, I look forward to hearing everyone’s feedback and comments. I honestly want to say that I am content with what I wrote and how I wrote it. Considering that this story focuses on characters who are not similar to me in any fashion, I feel that I was able to put together quite an accurate and realistic plot. That credit goes mainly to my research, which is heavily embedded with orthodox Jewish cultural and religious information. I am hoping everyone enjoys whatever little I read. There is a lot of “backstory” that falls into my project, but I have included the short story in my book so that’s it accessible to readers and allows for sensible reading instead of being lost and confused. (When you read the book, make sure to read the short story first before the actual thesis, if you do 🙂 )

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Also, a shoutout to Susan for starting the trail of presentations yesterday. It was a wonderful presentation, filled with so many intimate details that were exclusive to her and her family’s experience. I learned a lot about Chinese culture in that 1 hour than I have in any school. So personalized, so nostalgic and so universal. I say that because her childhood experiences with a big family remind me of what my mother said she used to experience when she was a child growing up in different parts of India. Although the memoir is a very close and emotional element for Susan, I definitely learned that the struggles, dreams and cultural pride that her family had were things that every family around the world would have had in their own time and place. And that’s what I feel is the strongest theme in her work: relatability. An all-around excellent piece of work!

And enjoy your Spring Break everyone!

Not Much to Say

I really don’t have much to say for this blog. I have started working on the cover of my book on Amazon, since their cover creator is making things a little difficult for me and it will take me time to finalize what I want. However, in terms of revision, I have finished revising and editing ten chapters. I have eleven left. By the time we meet again, I plan to finish six more chapters. So far, so good. I am content with the material each chapter consists of, and although I know I have gone ahead of my outline for this month, I did it because I had a realization over the past couple of days. The semester is ending in the beginning of May, and I plan to submit my thesis as a fully published novel. For that, I would have to upload the manuscript and buy a copy of my book which takes a few days to come in. I have to give it during that last week of the semester, which ALL comes down to the fact that, I would like my story to be completed and ready to submit by the middle of April.

Photo by Aphiwat chuangchoem on

As a result, I would like to read as much as I can so that I can spend time with the visuals of the cover and be satisfied with what I produce. Time is counting down, and so I want to make sure I don’t take it too easy when it comes to comprehending how many days I really have when it comes to submitting my thesis. My literature review is only missing a few more annotations which I expect to finish by the week before Spring Break. And then, everything else will be done (except my revision of course.) But yeah, all is well. And my blog for this week is small and simple. Like I said, not much to say.

P.S. The picture of seashells was chosen because I feel very calm and peaceful when I look at or feel them, and I felt it was a good representation of my mental process with my thesis.

Checking the Boxes

So far, so good. This past week, I made a decent amount of progress in editing and revising my story. Not to sound like someone who is self-praising, but I was quite happy with what I read from Chapters 1-4. As I am starting to look over each detail, I am grateful to have been able to create something so real and possible from nothing (in my opinion). It does sound really filmy, but knowing my personality and my writing style, I am not surprised even one bit. I am hoping to finish editing and revising Chapters 6-8 next Monday. Even though I know my goal for the whole month of February was supposed to end at Chapter 8, I also need to time to refine my literature review. I was able to find a lot of articles and information regarding ex-members of communities, whether Hasidic or not, as well as things on interfaith and intercultural marriage.

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As suggested two weeks ago, I have created headings for each section on my lit review. The original suggestion was only to bring clarity to my sources of classical music and Jewish culture/identity, but I decided it would be best to make a heading for all four sections. The first is “Jewish culture/identity,” the second is “Classical Music,” the third is “Interfaith/Interracial Relationships,” next is “Ex-Member Experiences” and lastly, I have “Non-categorized” since I had to pick up some medical information regarding eye color in my story. I felt it would be easier not only for me to identify my research, but it would be clearer for Dr. Zamora to read. I have completed the MLA citations of everything, but I am still in the process of writing my brief synopsis of each source and connecting it to my story. I know that will take a while to finish. But, no complaints. I am satisfied with the pace at which things are going. Things are being done, which means checking the boxes. It’s a content feeling.

No More Coffee!

I am writing this blog after a night of restless sleep. This was the second time I drank coffee on campus, and unintentionally kept myself awake night, even though I was really exhausted. So I made a promise to myself: no more coffee from campus! The one I drink at home isn’t that strong, but the cappucinos and lattes from outside of my home are actively making me an owl when I just want to sleep. Anyways, here goes my progress report for my thesis.

My individual conferencing time really helped me in cleaning up my literature review. I was advised to look for information regarding interfaith and intercultural marriage, as well as information that depicts the experiences women have when leaving a community they grew up in. Although I found a lot of articles and videos that support these things, I realized that my own family has a lot of intercultural marriage, and I myself am a product of interfaith marriage. How would I include that as a cited source in my literature review? I have no idea, but I am hoping that next week I will get some help. My dad’s side of the family have stayed within their culture and faith, but my mom’s side hasn’t. Because they are Catholics, many of my aunts, uncles and cousins are Scottish, Irish, Italian, Spanish, etc. In terms of faith, the only two religions that my mom’s side of the family married into are Sikhism and Hinduism (which means my dad and one cousin.) So I have seen and felt the psychological experiences as well as social and emotional elements of interfaith and intercultural marriage. And honestly, the children come out to be more accepting, open-minded and respectful of all cultures and religions. I, for one, am very grateful that my parents had an interfaith marriage. Especially living in the U.S., it made me interested and keen in learning about the way other followers pray and practice their religion. I have visited the Hindu temple and went with one of my best friends to pray in a mosque. In high school, some of my classmates thought that I have no time for a social life and spend all my days in running back and forth between a church and gurudwara (Sikh temple). I laughed and told them, “Sundays are the only time I got to both.” They were shocked, and I was humored.

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I feel that I have represented this in Isaac’s character, the son of Ehsan and Sarah. He is being raised by a mother who left Hasidism but enjoys making challah and speaks Hebrew to her son by calling him “mothak.” And meets a father who believes in Allah and prays but doesn’t think there’s anything wrong in having ham bits in biryani (when pork is considered sinful in Islam). Isaac is clearly a product of two people who don’t believe religion to be a controlling factor in their life. It’s a good guide to discipline and figure out right and wrong, but it shouldn’t divide, and make one superior to the other. Everyone has their right to follow God the way they want to, but they should respect one another and welcome them with open arms. I have finished editing and revising Chapter 1 today and will probably complete Chapter 2 on Thursday. My next task will be to edit and revise Chapter 3 and 4 next week, as well as add these new sources of information to my lit review. Well, I think that’s enough for today. Surprisingly, I wrote a decent amount considering my brain is still hazy. Next time, I have to make sure, no more coffee!

The Time Has Come!

I am finally here! My last semester of graduate school! I can’t believe time has flown so quickly, it feels like just yesterday when I started my Masters program seeing everyone’s faces in little boxes on Zoom. Interestingly enough though, it also seems like forever. My winter break was productive, since I was able to complete a full rough draft of my novel. I cut it down from the expected 25-26 chapters to about 21. There were things I realized could be meshed into one chapter, and I didn’t want to drag out any details if there was no need to. I started practicing my Spanish again on Duolingo, since I am actively seeking out a full-time teaching position for the 22-23 school year. The more languages I know (or least kind of know), the better for me professionally. In terms of my thesis, considering I was hit hard with the flu over the break makes me happy that I was able to still get work done. I guess the idea of May coming soon is a significant motivation factor.

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But, although I have my rough draft done, there is still a lot that has to be done. This semester will focus on editing and revising. Oh, and one element I forgot to mention. I added images into my book, just to make it a little bit more visual instead of just text. That’s always something that can be taken out of course, but I liked the idea of it. It was something I decided to include over break, and they are images that are licensed to be shared and modified commercially, so I made sure to filter out Google (don’t worry!) January is almost over, so there’s no point saying what my goals are for this month, but these are my intentions for my thesis to be done and ready to submit by early May!

February: Edit and revise Chapters 1-8

March: Edit and revise Chapters 9-18

April to 3rd week of April: Edit and revise Chapters 19-21

End of April: Finalize look, cover, content and images (if applicable)

By May 1st (personal deadline): upload manuscript on Amazon and publish as an eBook and paperback, submit thesis as paperback novel.

I hope this achieve these goals without any issues, and am looking forward to perfecting my story (although a story can always be better). All focus on this, because now, the time has come!