Portfolio: Final Reflection

Why I chose the articles I chose

I selected samples based on both strength and variety. I wanted to show my best work, but also my flexibility across different types of writing.

My portfolio includes three business writing samples. I selected my claim refusal to show that I can deliver bad news using the indirect method to maintain strong customer relationships. My informative email shows my skills writing informal positive messages to colleagues. Finally, my proposal shows that I am able to write a persuasive and thorough formal document.

I also included samples from various other genres, including presentations and public speaking, academic writing, freelance journalism, and creative writing. I wanted to demonstrate that I can produce strong writing for a variety of purposes and products.

How I organized my portfolio

My goal in organizing my portfolio was simplicity and ease of access. I focused primarily on my writing, not on graphics. I chose a clean, professional WordPress Theme as the backdrop of my portfolio.

I structured my portfolio as a landing page with links to individual documents. This allows me to present an overview of the content to readers. The readers can then choose to explore the samples they are interested in.

My samples are organized by genre to help readers determine which samples will be most relevant to their interests. I led with the business writing samples because I felt those would be most relevant to employers viewing my portfolio.

How I met my goals for the program

My goal in entering this program was to learn how to apply my skills and experience as a creative writer to business communications in order to build a career for myself as a communications professional. I am proud to say that I was successful in meeting my goals, and was able to upgrade my career while completing my coursework. Last April, I began a new position as a Knowledge Base Specialist for BC Pension Corporation. This role requires me to write clearly and concisely for a broad audience. I’m responsible for creating the content for and maintaining an internally-facing knowledge base tool to support our call centre staff. That means I need to know how to translate complex pension information into pieces that are easy to understand for both staff and clients and that promote positive client relationships. I also act as a communications coach, helping to revise difficult written communications and providing training to new staff.

How my writing products and processes have changed as a result of the program

What I’ve learned in this program has made a tremendous difference to my professional communication skills. Through the program, I have transformed my business writing from wordy and overly formal to clear, concise, and helpful.

I have gained a thorough understanding of the direct and indirect approaches to writing. In my job, I am sometimes asked to help staff members deliver news that clients may not want to hear. By using the indirect approach, I can make sure the client hears the reasons for the bad news and understands that we take their concerns seriously.

I’ve also learned to write in concise, plain language. I used to include complicated words and jargon in my professional writing because I believed it would make people take me more seriously. Now I know that the best way to communicate is simply and concisely.

Finally, I was reminded how important it is to cultivate a regular writing practice to get more experience. The more I write, the more confident I feel about my skills.

Portfolio: Reflection #8 (Poetry)

The course: Fundamentals of Great Writing

The most important thing I learned in this class was how important it is to cultivate a regular writing practice. During my writing courses in university, I was asked to produce a certain number of poems every term. Once I graduated, I lost much of my motivation to create new work.

For this course, we were asked to develop a daily writing practice. The writing I did was mostly an unstructured free writing, much like a journal. What amazed me, though, was that the foundation of several new poems grew out of the notes I had taken during my daily writing practice. Nearly all of the daily writing I did will remain as scribbled notes that nobody will read. But there were little pieces that I could pull out and play with to write poems I’m now quite proud of.

We were also asked to provide feedback on writing by our peers. I am used to providing feedback on poetry, but in this course, I was providing feedback on various types of prose. It was a new and fascinating experience. When I am thoughtfully engaging with work by other writers, I feel inspired and I discover techniques that I can apply to my own writing practice.

The assignment

This was a self-directed project. We were given the opportunity to define our own writing project to explore. I chose to write three poems as part of a larger manuscript of poems I have been crafting for a few years. I have included one of those poems as my eighth sample, and I have added one of the other poems to my roster for submitting to literary journals.

I shaped the three poems out of scribbles from my daily writing practice. The form and style of the three poems varied, but they were all concerned with my adolescence. Part of what I’ve been exploring with my manuscript is tracking an undercurrent of darkness in my childhood and adolescence.

This poem centers around a Tarot card reading. It’s loosely based on an actual reading a friend of mine performed when I was a teenager. However, it’s been over a decade since the reading, so I couldn’t recall the exact cards. Instead, I did some research into the symbolism behind various tarot cards, and selected a hand of cards based on the symbols I thought reflected my feelings when I was seventeen. After I selected my hand of cards, I wrote stanzas attached to each one, except the final card, “The Judgement.” I deliberately changed the pattern of stanzas at the end of the poem to create a sense of unbalance and uncertainty.

I made minor revisions to my original draft. Because poetry is something I have considerable experience writing, I felt confident with my earlier draft. The changes I did make were to tighten verbs and trim away some unnecessary words and punctuation.

Revised Sample #8 (Poetry)

Celtic Cross

Three of swords

Your hand divining your pocket

phantom vibrations

Nobody ever calls

 

Temperance, reversed

Your mouth sapless, lips wrung dry

Swallow another sip of Bacardi and Coke

It won’t slake you

 

Lovers, reversed

Remember Easter, faking sleep

You were waiting for someone who never arrived

On the floor next to you, they learned the tongues of Babel

 

Six of Cups

Pablo’s nose inks your ankle.

You think dogs can smell grief

easy as you can smell smoke

 

Queen of Cups

The first dream you interpreted for him,

butterflies in an old house

He wrote a song for you, but it wasn’t really for you

 

The Hanged Man

Driving your mother’s car down the Old Island Highway,

you thought you saw his brother’s ghost

Nearly drove into the ditch

 

The Fool

She says you can only read

with gifted cards

You pick at the chips in your purple nail polish.

 

The Hermit

Remember hating her before you met

Bus stop after school,

she spoke too loudly to too many people

 

The Wheel of Fortune, reversed

Your skull is an autoclave

You want to bore an auger through your temple,

release the pressure

 

Judgement

Portfolio:Reflection #7 (Scene with Dialogue)

The course: Fiction: Crafting Dialogue

We learned a lot about the importance of conflict in dialogue. To make dialogue interesting, the characters need to have objectives that are in conflict with each other. To practice creating conflict, we looked at a scene from the film Oleanna and tried to identify the action each character was trying to perform on the other character in the scene with each line they spoke.

As part of our homework, we were asked to listen carefully to real conversations around us. What is interesting in real conversations is that people don’t usually say exactly what they mean. There’s always subtext, and the writer’s challenge is to convey that subtext without “telling” too much.

We also spent time cutting the dead wood from dialogue. While real life conversations have plenty of filler words and small talk, that doesn’t make for compelling fiction. Every word needs to be able to move the plot forward or help with character development. All that extra stuff can be pruned away.

The assignment

We were asked to take a scene we had previously written and improve the dialogue using the principles and techniques taught in this class. I very rarely write fiction (or any genre with dialogue), so I took a scene from one of my only fiction projects, a mystery-romance novel.

When examining my scene, I found that I hadn’t considered my characters objectives enough and it was lacking in conflict. I was fairly clear on the objectives of one of my protagonists, Florence. But I had to dig deeper to explore the objectives of the other protagonist, Tom. I realized I had only really conceived of him as a love interest and I hadn’t tried to build a character with complex emotional needs.

Returning to this project for revisions, I found there were still many words and sentences that were not contributing enough to the plot. It was especially challenging to create dialogue that was concise but that also sounded authentic to the period (late 19th century London).

Outside of the dialogue, I found places where I could make sentences more active and where I could “show” rather than “tell.” For example, instead of telling the reader that the girl who answered the door looked like a maid, I showed her wearing an apron.

Finally, I cut several gratuitous exclamation marks that I was relying too heavily on to telegraph the emotions in the scene.

Portfolio: Revised Sample #7 (Scene with Dialogue)

Florence hardly believed her own boldness. Walking alone with a young man she barely knew? And to follow a mysterious stranger. Yet, it was thrilling, investigating a mystery. She imagined she was an officer of Scotland Yard trailing a suspect. Except, Miss Marchbanks wasn’t much of a suspect, her only crime being her resemblance to the dead.

“If you don’t dream of being London’s foremost typist, what do you dream of?” Tom eyed Florence and grinned. “A rich wife? Embroidering or playing the pianoforte while your Duke husband neglects you for the races?”

Florence snorted. “Though I would love a closet full of silk brocades and a jewellery box full of pearl earrings, I simply couldn’t. It would be so boring.”

“I hoped you would say that,” Tom said.

Florence’s heart fluttered. “Hoped?”

Tom flushed. “Rather, a bright young woman should never resign herself to tedium.”

“That’s easy for you to say. You’re a man. You have a choice. A woman may choose to marry, or to take one of the meager jobs considered suitable to our delicacy.”

“I hadn’t thought of it that way,” Tom said.

“Men often don’t,” Florence said softly. Even her own father, as dear as he was to her, didn’t seem to understand.

“If you could do anything, what would you do?”

“I’d be an officer in Scotland Yard.” Florence prepared herself for the potential reactions to her confession. Typically, she was met with a chuckle, sometimes with a chiding, Always, she was reminded of the danger, the exposure to unsuitable places and people.

To Florence’s surprise, Tom merely shrugged. “You couldn’t beat that for adventure, except perhaps sailing to Africa to tame lions.”

“I’m not sure. A den of lion’s couldn’t have much on London’s criminal underworld.”

Tom laughed. “True. I’ve met a fair few of London’s criminals and their table manners are not up to scratch.”

“Do you often sup with convicts?” Florence couldn’t decide if this possibility was fascinating or terrifying.

Tom hesitated. “It’s nothing, really.”

“If you don’t feel like sharing, I suppose there’s nothing to be done.” Florence pursed her lips and tipped her chin up just enough for him to notice.

“My mother ran a boarding house when I was a boy. Not all the roomers were respectable.” He lingered on the word respectable as if it were a book he was wrapping in paper.

“I’m sure you met the most fascinating people, though.”

“Perhaps. But I dare say, I’ve already met at least one fascinating person while minding Mr. Winthrop’s bookshop, and so far she hasn’t shown any criminal tendencies. I have yet to witness her table manners, though.” Was it just Florence’s imagination, or had he winked while saying that?

Blood surged to Florence’s cheeks. Surely he couldn’t mean her. She had never been called fascinating before. Morbid, perhaps. Hotheaded. What was the term Miss Peyton had used to describe her in grade school? Incorrigibly unconventional and deliberately unmarriageable, whatever that was supposed to mean. But never fascinating.

Before Florence could ask what Tom meant, he pulled the cart to a stop and pointed to the building in front of them. The umber bricks ran in crisp rows and the glass of the wide front window gleamed. A sign proclaimed it the surgery of Dr. Morton.

Tom maneuvered the cart to the tradesman’s entrance and knocked. The door swung open and a young woman with downy blonde hair and and a freshly starched apron peeked out. At the sight of her wide blue eyes sparkling up at Tom, Florence felt a sharp pain in her rib cage. It couldn’t be jealousy, she thought. She had only met Tom the day before, and for all she knew, he could be engaged. Or a madman. Or, worst of all, a secret fop. She hardly knew him at all, and any silly miss could sparkle up at him as much as she wanted!

“We’ve a delivery for Dr. Morton,” Tom told the girl. “That’s not you, is it?”

The maid laughed, producing a sound like a wild animal with its foot caught in a trap. Florence scowled. His joke didn’t deserve that much mirth, did it?

“Cor, who sent something that enormous?” The maid’s eyes flicked over Tom’s chest as she pronounced the last word.

“These are from the doctor’s fiancée,” Tom answered. “An entire stack of encyclopedias.”

“Books!” the girl exclaimed. “How dreadfully unromantic.”

Florence huffed. “I think a book is very romantic gift. If I had a fiancé who sent me books I would be ecstatic.”

“Even encyclopedias?” Tom asked, his eyebrow raised.

“I haven’t the faintest idea what sort of reading Dr. Morton prefers. This could be perfectly romantic to him.”

“The doctor was never much for romance before he met this Miss Marchbanks,” the maid told them. “And now, he spends his hours exchanging love letters.” She pulled a thick envelope from the pocket in her apron. “This is one of Miss Marchbanks’s responses, just arrived. I wouldn’t be surprised if she dabs her perfume on them before she sends them.”

An idea struck Florence. “You don’t say.” She tried to smile, but she felt more like a chimpanzee baring his teeth at the London Zoo. “Is it at least a nice perfume?”

The girl shrugged.

“Here, give me a sniff,” Florence insisted, snatching the envelope from the maid’s hand. She held the envelope to her nose and inhaled. A faintly floral aroma wafted up, but she hardly noticed it. What she was after was something else entirely. And there it was, almost too easily, the clue she was looking for:

Miss Mary Marchbanks

No. 8 Chesham St.

London, SW1

Portfolio: Reflection #3 (Proposal)

The course: Report and Business Writing

This course was very helpful to me as it introduced me to formal business documents I had never written before. Having the skills to write a formal proposal or report will be useful to me as I grow my career. In my current position, I have not been required to produce any formal reports, but I do often have to make informal reports or propose new ideas. Being able to incorporate elements of formal documents into the writing I do enhances my credibility and allows my supervisors and colleagues to take my work seriously.

The assignment

The assignment required us to identify a problem in our workplace and propose a solution. The problem I chose was the high number of incorrectly completed travel claims, which I proposed could be solved by hosting a Lunch and Learn lecture.

I chose the direct approach for this proposal because I felt it was uncontroversial and therefore would be received positively by management. I included my suggested solution first before diving into the justifications. The advantage of this formula is that it allows readers to get a high level understanding of the proposal early on. Readers in the executive positions that can implement proposed solutions are often limited in the time they can devote to reading a proposal or report. Presenting a suggestion early in the proposal can get the reader’s attention and provide motivation for them to continuing reading the document.

To enhance my proposal, I included several visual elements. I used a flow chart to demonstrate the administrative process involved in filing travel claims. I think it can be helpful to include graphics to explain ideas, particularly the steps in a process. I also included several tables. Tables are great for showing time and budget requirements because they allow the data to be presented in a clean, readable way. With the white space and lack of unnecessary words, the data is more apparent.

During revisions, I focused on small changes as I felt my original draft was quite solid. I was able to improve concision and readability by removing extra words and making my sentences more active.I also expanded my explanation of the travel claim process in the background section to clarify the administrative consequences.

Returning to the proposal after leaving the job it was written for allowed me to look at the assignment with a new lens. I was able to identify areas where I had not included enough information for outsiders to understand the proposal because I had assumed the readers had a certain level of knowledge. I used the perspective of someone no longer working in that department to expand and clarify points I had not addressed fully.

Portfolio: Revised Sample #3 (Proposal)

PROPOSAL: LUNCH & LEARN SESSION ON TRAVEL CLAIMS

Abstract

Hosting a Lunch and Learn session on completing travel claims would improve staff efficiency, reduce the number of claims returned to the office for correction, and lessen the wait time for reimbursements.

Contents

Executive Summary. 2

Introduction. 2

Background. 2

Workflow Diagram.. 3

Proposal 3

Topics Covered. 3

Format. 4

Required Materials. 4

Schedule. 4

Budget/Cost Analysis. 4

Staffing. 4

Possible Risks/Setbacks. 5

Benefits. 6

Conclusion. 6

Authorization. 6

Appendix A: Systems Travel Policy. 7

References. 12

Executive Summary

University Systems employees regularly complete travel claims to be reimbursed for business-related travel expenses. If these claims are completed correctly, the review time required for General Office clerks is minimal and employees receive their reimbursements within three weeks. However, incomplete or incorrect claims can delay reimbursement and create additional work for clerks. A Lunch & Learn session on completing travel claims could be held with optional costs of up to $150 and a time commitment of only 7.5 hours. Hosting this session would reduce reimbursement wait times, allow clerks to focus on other priorities, and promote our departmental values of Communication & Information Sharing and Continuous Learning.

Introduction

This is a proposal to plan and host a one-hour “Lunch & Learn” session on Travel Expense Claims. I would run this session in our main conference room over the lunch hour (12:00-1:00pm).

Background

Many University Systems employees travel for business purposes, whether to attend a BCNET meeting in Vancouver or to participate in an international conference. University policies require employees to use personal funds to arrange their trip and then submit expense claims for reimbursement after the trip concludes. In ideal conditions, Accounts Payable reimburses travel claims within three weeks.

The processing time for travel claims increases when employees are unfamiliar with the reimbursement procedure. If Accounts Payable receives incomplete or incorrect forms, they return the forms to the claimant via inter-campus mail with an attached memo listing the required corrections. An internal audit conducted by Accounts Payable in 2013 indicated a 29% error rate on travel and business expense claims (“Expenses and Payments,” 2014).

Depending on how often the claimant checks their mail and how quickly they are able to correct their claims, the claim process may be delayed by several weeks.  Employees who have paid for international flights and hotels on personal credit cards must pay their credit card bills out of pocket or risk incurring interest charges.

Incorrect travel claims also place an administrative burden on General Office clerks. The Systems General Office clerks regularly assist with preparing travel expense claims, particularly when employees are unfamiliar with the process. All travel claims should be submitted to the General Office for review before they are signed by supervisors and submitted to Accounts Payable. Clerks check the forms for completion, enter account numbers where necessary, obtain signatures from supervisors, and file electronic copies of the claims. If claims are incomplete, the clerks must also locate missing information and receipts. If claims are incorrect, the clerk may have to redo the claim form. The workload for clerks would be  reduced if employees were able to submit complete, error-free claims accompanied by all necessary paperwork.

Workflow Diagram

workflow

Proposal

University Systems regularly hosts informal Lunch & Learn sessions organized by the Living Values Committee. These sessions allow colleagues to share their expertise and undertake cross-training in a casual, enjoyable way. A Lunch & Learn session on completing travel claims would be an efficient and cost-effective way to refresh employee knowledge and, as a result, improve processing times and increase efficiency in the Systems General Office. Additionally, hosting a Lunch & Learn session would support our departmental values, particularly Communication & Information Sharing and Continuous Learning & Development.

Topics Covered

The lunch and learn session would cover the following:

  • Systems travel policy
  • Travel claim workflow
  • Travel advances and prepaid air claims
  • Components of the travel claim form
  • Requirements for back up receipts
    • Lost receipt declaration forms for missing receipts
  • Prohibited expenses
  • Foreign exchange rates
  • Account coding information
  • Required authorizations/signatures
  • Common errors and how to avoid them
  • Audience questions

Format

The session would run for approximately one hour, including a 45-minute lecture with slides and 15 minutes for audience questions.

Required Materials

The session would be held in the Systems Conference room, which comfortably seats 25 attendees. If more than twenty employees RSVP, an alternate room could be booked through the Office of the Registrar for no cost. All rooms are equipped with the necessary audio-visual equipment for a slideshow presentation.

Attendees may choose to bring a laptop or a notepad to take notes, but these are not required. Because the session takes place over the lunch hour, attendees may also choose to bring food.

Schedule

The time commitment for this project is minimal. I have outlined the necessary steps below.

Task Time Required (Hours)
Contact Living Values Committee to pitch the topic 0.5
Research content of the presentation 1.0
Draft content of the presentation 3.0
Rehearse presentation 2.0
Book conference room and arrange supplies and refreshments 1.0
Deliver presentation 1.0
Total: 8.5

Budget/Cost Analysis

Hosting a basic Lunch & Learn is free. However, hosts may order refreshments through Degrees Catering to encourage higher attendance. The table below breaks down the optional refreshment costs.

Optional Refreshment Approximate Cost (for 30 attendees)
Coffee and Tea $60
Cookies $20
Pizza $150

I recommend ordering coffee and tea as well as cookies to increase attendance, a total cost of $80 for 30 attendees.

Staffing

I would host the Lunch and Learn. As one of the clerks in the Systems General Office, I have over two years of experience completing and reviewing travel claims. In December 2014, I attended a training session held by Accounts Payable explaining the travel claim process and reviewing common errors.

While drafting the presentation, I would consult the Administrative Officer  regarding departmental travel policies to ensure the information presented is accurate. Additionally, one member of the Systems Living Values Committee would assist with the development and promotion of the Lunch & Learn event.

Possible Risks/Setbacks

The following table shows potential risks and setbacks and how those risks and setbacks might be prevented or mitigated:

Potential Risk/Setback Prevention/Mitigation Strategies
Information presented is incorrect or incomplete Research information thoroughly·

Confirm information with Administrative Officer

Contact Accounts Payable to verify information

Staff members are confused by information presented Allow time for questions following presentation

Provide contact information for Accounts Payable department

Conference room is not available Contact Office of the Registrar to book alternative room at no cost

If necessary, postpone session until the room is available

Few people register for lecture Send additional emails advertising session

Target emails at staff who frequently travel and at leadership team

Offer additional refreshments

If necessary, postpone session until more staff can attend

Cost of refreshments is over budget Confirm food price quotes prior to submitting orders

If necessary, cancel or reduce food order

One of the required resources has competing priorities and cannot complete their tasks Confirm availability prior to planning session

Locate an alternative staff member to assist with that portion

If necessary, postpone session until the resource is available

Benefits

Training staff to complete their own travel claims correctly before submitting them to the General Office for review would reduce the workload for clerks, allowing more time to be spent on other priorities. Additionally, with fewer claims returned for correction, employees would be reimbursed more quickly, reducing personal financial strain. Finally, organizing an educational event supports many of our top departmental values, including Continuous Learning & Development, and Communication & Information Sharing.

Conclusion

My conclusion is that hosting a Lunch and Learn training session on travel claims would be an effective, low-cost way to expedite travel reimbursements, minimize work required by General Office clerks, and promote departmental values.

Authorization

Thank you for taking the time to review this proposal. Please respond to me by Monday, February 29 indicating whether I may proceed with planning this event. I can be contacted by email  or telephone if you have any questions or concerns. I look forward to hearing from you.

Appendix A: Systems Travel Policy

[Removed from this sample for security reasons]

References

“Expenses and Payments” [Slideshow Presentation]. (2014). Retrieved from https://www.uvic.ca/vpfo/accounting/assets/docs/acctpayable/resources/expenses-payments-presentation.pdf