Assignments for April 28

Your only homework is to critique for the lyric essay workshop. Time permitting, we will also have an in-class writing assignment, but you do not need to do any advance reading for it. The rest of the lyric essay manuscripts (Felicia, Brantlee, Alison, Maddy, Amaya) are due in class for distribution.

Lyric Essay Workshop for Kim, Ana Stina, Salem, Chantelle

Please use the following criteria to provide written critique: one for each writer; one for Julia. As always, you can use the criteria as a worksheet or you can write a more organic response that acknowledges the requested elements.

Lyric Essay Critique Criteria (download hard copy here)

  1. What observations can you provide regarding the structural choices of this piece. Is it flash nonfiction? Is it a prose poem? A hermit crab essay? And in what ways does the structure serve the piece? How might the scaffold be strengthened (or even changed) to greater enhance the piece? For example, for flash pieces, do they contain the compression and urgency often associated with the form? If a hermit crab essay, does the appropriated form have a relationship with content that creates a transaction we can discuss?
  2.  Please discuss the poetic/lyric elements of the piece. This may include observations about language, syntax, rhyme scheme etc. Please be as specific as possible in offering observations of how/if poetic elements are present in the piece and how/if they might be used more/differently/less etc.

3. Please discuss the “assaying” elements of the piece. What idea, event, emotions is it “about” and how does it explore its core? How might its central occupations be enhanced or clarified, if necessary? Please discuss at least one question/idea/problem you observe at play in this piece, as well as the associations this piece may make.

4. Please include observations about other CNF techniques at play in this piece, such as: description, character, scene, point of view. Are there elements that are working particularly well? Are there some you believe would strengthen the piece?

5. Provide any other responses to this piece—personal, thematic, cerebral—as you see fit.

 

 

 

Assignments for April 21

We will finish any critiques for the reported personal essay if we do not complete on April 14.

Four lyric essays due in class for workshop on April 28. Names to be added here based on decisions in class April 14: Kim, Ana Stina, Salem, Chantelle

Please read “The Lyric Essay as Time Machine.” We will be doing the final “coin argument” essay. I realize you are not beginning writers, so if you really want to do the advanced exercise that requires writing a verse sonnet and removing enjambments, you also will have that option.

Please also read for discussion: Reported Poem, Lyric Truth: Some Inquiries into Documentary Poetry

Excerpt from Daniel Nester’s Shader

Self-interview with Daniel Nester

Assignments for April 14

External Essay Workshop:

Chantelle, Maddy, Salem, Ana Stina, Kim, Brantlee

Critique Criteria for External Essay (critiques due in class, one for Julia; one for the author):

  1. What is this piece about, and what is it about?
  1. Discuss the structural basis for the piece and offer any observations or suggestions.
  1. Creative nonfiction employs a variety of techniques. Consider the follow types of techniques and offer observations for places in which the piece effectively employs them, and places that could be enhanced:
  • sensory imagery
  • characterization
  • scene and summary
  • voice
  • syntax, diction and other elements of writing
  1. Author Leslie Jamison has said that “…one of the central imperatives of combining personal material with history or criticism or reportage: Each thread must do some work that isn’t being done by another; that can’t be done by another.”

Considering Jamison’s maxim, discuss the “work” being done by the reportage elements of the piece.

  1. On a less philosophical note, are there aspects of the reportage that could be enhanced or clarified?
  1. Please offer any additional observations, reflections or thoughts on the writing.

Assignments for April 7

Words for Thought:

“Keep typing until it turns into writing.”—David Carr

 

Reminder: We will not be meeting March 31.

April 7: Reported nonfiction workshop for Alison, Felicia, Brantlee, Amaya

Critique criteria here and below. As before, you are welcome to use this critique sheet, or to simply write a critical response that addresses the criteria in any way you see fit. These are due in class: one to the writer; one to me.

In-class writing: Rather than use Now Write! exercises this week, I will instead be giving you an oulipo exercise at the start of class. And yes, I will be explaining (or reminding those of you who did these in the Lyric Essay class) what this means.

Critique Criteria for External Essay:

  1. What is this piece about, and what is it about?
  1. Discuss the structural basis for the piece and offer any observations or suggestions.
  1. Creative nonfiction employs a variety of techniques. Consider the follow types of techniques and offer observations for places in which the piece effectively employs them, and places that could be enhanced:
  • sensory imagery
  • characterization
  • scene and summary
  • voice
  • syntax, diction and other elements of writing
  1. Author Leslie Jamison has said that “…one of the central imperatives of combining personal material with history or criticism or reportage: Each thread must do some work that isn’t being done by another; that can’t be done by another.”

Considering Jamison’s maxim, discuss the “work” being done by the reportage elements of the piece.

  1. On a less philosophical note, are there aspects of the reportage that could be enhanced or clarified?
  1. Please offer any additional observations, reflections or thoughts on the writing.

 

 

 

 

 

March 24 Assignments

Words for thought:

“What would you say if I told you about an essay that looks like a local phonebook? Or an eBay auction? Or a Google map? Or a college syllabus? Or a Harvard outline? Or a final exam? Or a Trivial Pursuit card? Or a doctor’s pain scale? Or a series of contributors’ notes?

You might be interested even before reading a word. That’s one of the easy appeals of writing in borrowed forms: people who’re used to the defaults perk up when they see something different.” —Patrick Madden, “Finding a Form Before a Form Finds You,” —TriQuarterly

Due in class:

All manuscripts for the reported essay/ external essay are due in class for the upcoming two weeks’ workshops. Please bring a copy for each class member and one for me. Criteria for critique will be discussed in class.

These essays should be four to eight pages long and incorporate some element of external reportage (research, observation, interviews). They can be literary journalism, reported personal essay, art criticism or some other type of hybrid as you see fit. These do not have to be straight reported stories; they should just be rooted in some sort of external investigation.

Reported Essay Workshops:

April 5: Alison, Felicia, Brantlee, Amaya

April 12: Chantelle, Maddy, Salem, Ana Stina, Kim

Meanwhile…

Reading for class on March 24:

We will have an in-class writing assignment from Now Write! Judith Kitchen’s “Worth 1,000 Words” (page 81). Please note, this prompt requires a photograph. Please bring the photo you are using to class (you can bring it in digital form if necessary).

As we are not meeting March 31 and will have two weeks of writing workshops afterward, on March 24 we will begin reading into our next unit on lyric essay.

Readings for class, with critical response paper due in class:

Please note: your critical response papers are not required to acknowledge or focus on all the readings. However, you are required to read all the readings. Some of these are not very long.

Bodies of Text: On the Lyric Essay by Amy Bonnaffons

Finding a Form Before a Form Finds You by Patrick Madden

Desirae Matherly, “Final: Comprehensive, Roughly” (Fourth Genre, 2007)

Discovering the (W)hole Story: On Fragments, Narrative, and Identity in the Embodied Essay by Chelsey Clammer

Index for “Bi the book” by Chelsey Clammer

Excerpt from The Book of Beginnings and Endings by Jenny Boully

Jenny Boully: An Interview in Questions from Her Books

 

March 10 Assignments, Mid-Term and More

Words for Thought:

“A great photographer insists on writing poems. A brilliant essayist insists on writing novels. A singer with a voice like an angel insists on singing only her own, terrible songs. So when people tell me I should try to write this or that thing I don’t want to write, I know what they mean.” —Sarah Manguso, “Short Days”

Your midterm assignment is due in class on Friday, March 10.

The midterm includes:

• a one to two-page presentation of a writing exercise, modeled on the exercises we’ve been working on in Now Write. This means it should include:

• an introduction to the exercise that discusses the motivation behind it, the goal of the exercise, the thinking behind the exercise, your process in deriving the exercise. Perhaps an example of the exercise on the page, as we’ve seen in some of the prompts.

• the exercise itself with instructions (employ what is known as process writing to some degree)

For class: Bring one copy of your exercise for each member of the class and one for me. Each of you will present your exercise to the class. After all the exercises have been presented, we will have in-class writing and each of you can pick one exercise (not your own) for the writing session.

Originality: The writing world includes a vast number of writing exercises and prompts. The expectation for this exercise is that you will create an original prompt. I realize this is a challenge. To avoid appropriating an existing prompt, please practice diligence and make an effort to determine if your exercise exists elsewhere. If it does, consider ways of giving credit to other writers’ exercises who may have informed your project as you would source any other written material. We will discuss this in class at greater length prior to the midterm.

Approach: For this assignment, I want you to think about outcomes and process. Perhaps you want an assignment that results in helping a writer more fully develop a character in a memoir. What are some of the challenges to doing so? What are some of the elements that contribute to fully developed characters, in terms of direct and indirect characterization? What are some ways of eliciting a writer to access this material?

Additional reading for March 10: In advance of your external writing assignment, please read:

• She’s the Droid of His Dreams (“Ex Machina”) by Mahnola Dargis, NYT Magazine (Pulitzer finalist for criticism)

“American Untouchable” and “Little Boxes” by Emily Nussbaum (Pulitzer winner for criticism)

“The Birth of The New Journalism” by Tom Wolfe (this is the essay mentioned in last week’s interviews with Ted Conover and Susan Orlean—I mostly want you to read it for context as you start considering your next essay).

You are not required to write a critical essay on these readings. Just read them for discussion and, possibly, for inspiration for your own upcoming assignment, as discussed below.

Coming up:

March 17: Spring Break, no class

All reported personal or journalistic essays are due in class March 24, the week after spring break. These should be four to eight-page essays that incorporate to some degree external reportage. For example:

• personal reported essay

• literary journalism

• criticism

Workshops for the personal reported essay will be held on April 7 and April 14. Please bring copies for each member of the class and for me. We will discuss in greater detail in class on March 10.

Please note, there will be additional reading assignments for class on March 24, which will be assigned next week.

Assignments for March 3

Words for Thought:

“Each essay we read is as close as we can get to another mind. It is a simulation of the mind working its way through a problem. This is not to suggest that every essay is good, revelatory, successful, fruitful, interesting. But stepping into an essay is stepping into the writer’s mind. We are thrown into the labyrinth, a huge stone rolling behind us. It is a straight shot of the brain in all its immediacy, its variety, strands of half-remembered text, partly-thought-through ideas, images below the surface of memory. We are thrown into process: of thinking, which is like an algorithm, a machine for replicating or simulating thought…” —Ander Monson, “Essay as Hack”

In-class exercise: “Creating Shape in Scene: Image as Strategic Bookend” by Patricia Foster (Now Write, page 258)

Readings:

Susan Orlean interview (The New New Journalism)

• Nieman Storyboard, “Why Is This So Good?” Susan Orlean’s “The Orchid Thief.”

Orchid Fever by Susan Orlean

• interview with Ted Conover (The New New Journalism)

• “Guarding Sing Sing” by Ted Conover

“The Way of All Flesh” by Ted Conover

Critical response paper due in class.

We also will review your March 10 midterm and presentation criteria. Please read the assignment criteria in advance of class.