Author Archives: conorswimm

Reflection/Advice – by Conor

Looking back now on the writing process, I feel, more than anything, satisfied. It was a bumpy road working on the story and I’m not entirely out of the woods yet. However, now being entirely in the editing stage and coming to the end of my project, there are a few things I’ve learned, and would like to share with those who plan to do Independent Seminar in the future. Continue reading

Lisa’s Story

Having finished Nehmet’s part of the story, I am now in the midst of writing the second half, telling the story of Lisa, the daughter of former East Germans, below is a short summary of the five vignettes that make up her section of the writing

Die Mauer (The Wall)

The first section introduces the reader to Lisa and tells a bit about her family history. Her parents were staunch believers in communism and supporters of the East German state. Having grown up hearing her parents wax nostalgic about the glory days of the German Democratic Republic, Lisa feels disillusioned now that she will never be able to go to this place. She compares herself to Mehran Karimi Nasseri, a man who lived in a French airport for close to 20 years after his homeland ceased to exist. She feels much the same way about her life and the country she lives in. The title, “The Wall,” refers both to the Berlin Wall, a symbol of the barrier between East and West, as well as the wall Lisa feels around herself, the distance from others she deals with as a young woman.


This section explores Lisa’s relationship with her mother. Lisa is 6 and is laying in bed with the flu as a blizzard rages outside. Her mother comes to tell her a bedtime story. She tells the story of a princess and her prince, that lived in a magical kingdom where everyone did their fair share and no one went hungry. One kingdom over lived a greedy wizard. One day, tired of being alone he began playing a cursed violin, and hypnotized the townspeople of the beautiful kingdom to come be his slaves. He kept doing this until one day there was no more kingdom, there was just the princess, all else was owned by the greedy wizard. To Lisa this is just a bedtime story, but to her mother this is how she saw her homeland’s disappearance.

Rote Haare (Red Hair)

This section explores Lisa’s adolescence. At 13, she arrives at a new school to find she is the only one with red hair. She spends the first day drawing stares from her classmates, especially the boys. As the year progresses she makes a few friends but remains very much a loner. The boys in her grade make fun of her scorching red hair, calling her many different names. She becomes so upset that she comes home one day and tries to dye her hair brown. Her mother finds her in the process of this and stops her. They talk about what it means to be different and Lisa gains a new understanding and appreciation for what sets her apart.

Liebe (Love)

This section details Lisa’s meeting with Nehmet from her perspective

Heimat (Homeland)

This section, the final one in the book, takes place after Lisa and Nehmet have graduated from Gymnasium (comparable to high school) and go on a trip with many friends to Turkey to revel and celebrate their graduation. Nehmet and Lisa have been dating on and off for two years but next year Nehmet will go to Heidelberg for university while Lisa will go to England. The two must come to terms with each other as well as themselves before they say goodbye and start new chapters of their lives.

A Breather – by Conor


I can say that this weekend was probably the first real amount of sleep I’ve gotten in over a week, as well as the first opportunity to invest myself in my project for an extended period of time. Having spent the past two weeks at school dealing with the stresses of impending college deadlines and first-quarter grades, it was nice to get home for a brief stint and be able to sit down with a nice cup of tea and really dig into writing. Hopefully, now that most deadlines are behind me, I can refocus myself and begin my last stretch of writing before finishing the writing section of my project.

Meeting with Mentor – by Conor


Being now about halfway through the creation of this project, I had a meeting this past week to touch base in person with my project mentor, Norm Robinson. I am basically half way through my writing, having finished  the first segment of my story detailing a boy’s search for identity growing up in a Turkish immigrant family in Berlin. His part of the story ends with him meeting his main love interest, Lisa, whose story is told in the following part.

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Shakespeare and German


In my English class we are currently reading Hamlet, one of Shakespeare’s classics. Working with the text, many students in my class have complained that Shakespearean English is hard to understand, that the sentences seem out of order and strangely worded. I, however, haven’t had much difficulty reading it because I noticed very quickly that Shakespearean English is written with German word order.

At first I was surprised by this realization, I knew English had Germanic roots but I hadn’t realized how deep they went. What I learned was that English had in fact started out as an archaic dialect of German, originating in Saxony. The Anglo-Saxons brought this dialect with them when they invaded the British Isles. Over many years the Germanic settlers linguistically displaced the native Celts and after centuries of French and Viking influence, we now have the modern English language.

It was a pleasant surprise to see the connections between the two languages, and a good reminder of how languages evolve.

Reunification Day – by Conor


I spoke today with a friend from Germany and he mentioned not having school. Confused I asked him why. He mentioned that it was Reunification Day (Tag der Deutschen Einheit) today. What this celebrates is the reabsorption of East Germany into West Germany, creating the current German state. This is actually a strange coincidence given that today I completed the first segment of the second part of my story, detailing the life of Lisa, a daughter of former East Germans.

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This week was actually remarkably productive. I finished the first part of my story, dealing with the experiences of a German-born Turk named Nehmet growing up in Berlin. The story talks about his coming to terms with his identity and the paradigm of looking “foreign” but feeling native. The next part of the story will deal with the exact opposite, Continue reading

Show not tell – by Conor

One of my favorite writers (in English) is Chuck Palahniuk, the author of many books including Fight Club. I appreciate his work for many reasons but the greatest of all of them is because I think he understands the craft of writing. There was an essay I read by him one night, during a momentary bout of insomnia, that I’ve been trying to re-find ever since. It talked about how to be a better writer. He challenged you to print out a piece of your writing and highlight every “thought verb” (i.e. thinks, knows, feels, realizes, believes…) Continue reading