Workshopping Life-Place on Friday.

This is a reminder to all that we’ll be workshopping rough drafts of your Life-Place Essay in class this Friday. A quick summary of the qualifications for the Life-Place essay are listed here. If you have further questions, look under “major assignments.”

  • The paper is 1,000 words (around 4 pages).
  • It needs to engage in two elements: who you are and how your environment has shaped who you are. You can talk about Missoula, where you came from, other places you’ve been, or a combination of both. The idea is that where you are shapes who you are, and that idea need be reflected in the essay.
  • The paper should have some sort of cohesive narrative thread / organizational structure at work. I’m particularly interested in descriptive language (show, don’t tell!), anecdotes, details, feelings, reactions, etc. “Make it sparkle,” as my friend Ted says.
  • Never forget the all important “so what?” question. Avoid making this seem like a journal entry. The paper is about you, but make it interesting to me and your other classmates as well!
  • Everyone seemed to dig the way we did workshop last time, so again I’ll ask you to bring three specific questions for your classmates to answer. The best questions are open ended (as in, not yes or no) and a combination of broad and specific.

    See you on Friday, with bells on.

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    An announcement and a lesson.

    I meant to mention to you on Friday that I’m kind of a big deal and I’ll be talking into a microphone as part of the Second Wind Reading Series, with Brian Blanchfield. It’s this Sunday at The Top Hat at 6:30. The Top Hat is downtown on Main street (I think). It’s a bar but it’s all ages until 9 or something. You don’t get extra credit for coming.

    Here is the lesson. On Facebook, I made a status update wherein I suggested everyone should come to my reading “or else I would kill myself.” (I’m really funny outside of class. I make really funny jokes.) Here is how my friend Travis replied. I took the liberty of correcting his sentence for maximum effect.

    See you next week, friends!

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    For Friday.

    If you recall, I asked you to read one of the two articles I linked below. Do that. Here are your prompts for the written work I asked you to have read and understood for Friday. Please come with at least a half a page (no more than a page) of typed responses to the following prompt:

    “Identify 3 specific instances in the text where the author uses place-based details to say something about his or herself.”

    You can use bullet points or write in a paragraph. Pay attention to all the things we pay attention to when writing.

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    It Starts: The Life-Place Essay

    We start a new unit today. It’s called “the life place essay.” Here’s a quick rundown of what to expect for the next little bit.

    Monday 11/01
    Today we’ll do some writing, we’ll do some group works, I’ll assign you an optional blog assignment, and I’ll assign you a choice between two readings for Friday. Here they are:
    Seeing, by Ann Dillard
    Tennis, Trigonometry, Tornadoes: A Midwestern Boyhood – by David Foster Wallace

    Choose one of them to read and summarize. I’ll give you further prompts for this on Wednesday, but you’ll be turning something in on Friday. Be prepared to discuss.

    Wednesday, 11/03
    Mapping activity. Other activities tbd.

    Friday, 11/05
    More in class activities tbd. Writing assignment for the weekend and signing up for conferences.

    Monday, 11/08, Wednesday 11/10
    Individual conferences in my office. No class scheduled.

    Friday, 11/12
    Workshop rough drafts of essay.

    Monday, 11/15
    Final essay due. Other stuff as well I’m sure.

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    Reflective essay paper requirements

    Here are the elements that I will be looking for and evaluating you on.

  • Demonstrate an understanding of the course objectives as you understand them.
  • Talk about your personal experiences/stories as a writer. “The personal.”
  • Discuss specific goals you have for the class; project into the future somehow.
  • Create your own structure, story arch, or narrative to the piece. Demonstrate that there is a conscious organizing principle at work.
  • Take special care of your work in terms of style, clarity, voice, ease and enjoyment of reading.
  • Grammar, mechanics, and punctuation are all important. For such a short paper, ideally it should really be free of ANY glaring errors. Misspelled words, obvious punctuation mistakes, etc. will be devastating, for me. Be sure to look over these papers very carefully. You have no opportunity for further revision.
  • The paper should be 500-700 words. (Around 2-3 pages.) Going significantly under (or over) will affect your grade. It’s important to learn how to work in specific parameters.
  • As always, Include a letter of introduction to the piece, a “drafting artifact” (an outline, sketch, mind map,etc.) and whatever workshop evaluations you received.
  • .

    For Wednesday:

    Please bring a rough draft for workshopping. In addition, I want you to bring 3 questions you have for your editors. I want you to either type them or write them out on a piece of paper, legibly. I’ll be looking at these and you’ll receive credit for them. Also you should read the blogs and leave comments by this time. I keep track of these things in my special little book so don’t blow it off.

    On y va.

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    My Top 5 Tips for Writing

    These are just a few things that I think about a lot when writing. For me, writing is sort of the whole story. I write as as student and as a teacher, and then I also write fiction as an “art” and general recipe for unhappiness. I kid, mostly. Anyway, here are some things that work for me.

    1. Set a timer.
    This has become a kind of OCD tick for me. I often find it very difficult to motivate myself to start writing. I say to myself, “damnit, Molly. Sit down and write for 10 minutes,” and I set a timer. Then I alternate between writing and doing other chores/schoolwork/youtube videos, etc. I know, right? You wouldn’t think it would be so difficult for someone who allegedly “loves writing,” but sometimes, it is.
    2. Reading is fundamental.
    I have to read at least a novel a week for my literature class. When I’m not in school and I have more free time, I try to read even more than that. I read dozens and dozens of short stories a year. It helps me to think about how to create my own stories, and to see what’s been done before. Also it just gets the mind into a creative mindset. When it’s really working, you’ll want to put the book down and go write something yourself.
    3. Use writing for self discovery.
    I write to know what it is I’m thinking about. If you’re in college, I’m going to assume that means you’ve signed up, at least to some extent, for a life of the mind. “The unexamined life is not worth living,” right? Turning your thoughts inside out onto the page is one of the purest forms of intellectual expression. Do it!
    4. Read your work out loud.
    My roommates probably think there’s something wrong with me because I do this constantly – and if it’s fiction it’s worse. I emote. Reading stuff out loud is the best way to find sentence fragments, clunky word repetition, awkward or confusing passages, and on and on. You will find so many errors this way.
    5. Blog.
    I’ve had a blog since high school. I don’t believe I would have been a competent enough writer to make it here as a graduate student teaching you fine minds if it hadn’t been for all those thousands and thousands of words I wrote in my formative years. It’s a good daily practice, and it satisfies tip #3 re: self discovery. Writing to an audience (even if that audience is somewhat inflated/imagined in your mind) is the best motivation for writing well. You don’t want to look like a hack, right? The more you write the better you get, and blogging is one of the most convenient and effective ways to get daily practice in.

    There you have it. Straight out of the horse’s mouth.

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    The reflective paper! Yeah! This is going to be fun. You’re going to love it. You already love it.

    This unit is short and sweet. Rather than give you a formalized syllabus, I’m going to outline what we’ll be doing the next few days here.

    Today (Friday) 10/22:

    We’ll look at your blogs a little bit at the start of class.
    I’ll pass back your fast writes and say stuff about them.
    We’ll do another fast write.
    We’ll talk together as a class.
    I’ll pass back your remaining PAA’s.
    We’ll go home.

    Monday 10/25

    We’ll talk more explicitly about the parameters of the assignment.
    We’ll begin pre-drafting and “invention” activities in class.
    Your homework will be to come to class with a rough draft of your papers.

    Wednesday 10/27

    We’ll spend the day reading each other’s rough drafts. This will be the most important workshop session of all time.

    Friday 10/29

    We’re going to do the same thing we did last time: In lieu of a regularly scheduled class, you’ll drop your papers off outside of my office. This is because: number 1, it’s halloween weekend and halloween ruuuuuules. Number 2: I’m going to be doing a panel on workshopping at the festival of the book that afternoon. I’m kind of a big deal.

    Your Blog Assignments for This weekend:

    Take a look at the following links. They’re tips on writing.

    The best writing advice. Ever.

    The 22 best writing tips ever.

    7 tips for writing great essays.

    I want you to write your own list of 5 writing tips for other students of writ 101. What works for you? You can borrow some of the ones you read about, but be sure to put them in your own words. Make sure you write a few sentences on each. Don’t make them flimsy. They should be insightful, fun to read, interesting. Inject a little of your own personal style into these lists. I’ll be interested to see what you come up with.

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