Finals (due May 11) and Farewells

Dear class,

Thank you for all your hard work this semester. I’ve really appreciated both the work you’ve generated creatively, as well as all your insightful observations from our readings.

Below is (yet again) your final portfolio requirements. Email them to me and remember I’ll confirm that I’ve received your materials. Congratulations on your work this semester and your accomplishments throughout your college careers.

Your final portfolios are due to me NO LATER than 5 p.m., Friday, May 11, and sooner would be better as this is graduation day. This is the last hour of the last day of finals week and grades are due the following week. Accordingly, I will not be accepting any late work. You may either email or turn in hard copy of your portfolio—my guess is email would be easier given the various hours of the building being open. If you want to turn in hard copy, please let me know so we can arrange a drop-off spot. Please be advised I will respond if you send by email to confirm receipt. If I don’t, I didn’t receive it. No extensions will be granted due to technological mishaps.

FINAL PORTFOLIO COMPONENTS:

  1. Self-interview portfolio statement. DETAILS BELOW.
  2. First internal essay, workshop version and revised version
  3. Reported/external essay, workshop version and revised version
  4. Lyric essay, workshop version and revised version

 

SELF-INTERVIEW PORTFOLIO STATEMENT

In lieu of a regular-old portfolio statement, I thought a hermit-crab-style portfolio statement seemed more fun. We will be using the “self-interview” style, such as that for the Daniel Nester piece I had you read. The Nervous Breakdown has self-interviews on a regular basis, so you can also check out other ones if you want. Please format them as TNB does.

For your self-interview, please ask yourself seven questions. I am assigning the general topic of six of them, but you are responsible for phrasing the question and, of course, responding to it. Here they are:

 

  1. This is a question about your internal essay that discusses the revisions you undertook.
  2. This is a question about your external essay that discusses the revisions you undertook.
  3. This is a question about your lyric essay that discusses the revisions you undertook.
  4. This is a question about the area of craft in creative nonfiction that you consider your strength.
  5. This is a question about the area of craft in creative nonfiction that you consider your weakness.
  6. This is a question about one of the essays you read this semester that had an influence on how you think about your work and creative nonfiction in general.
  7. This is a question you made up yourself about any topic that has some connection to the work you read or wrote this semester.
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May 4 Assignments

This is our last class! Thank you for all your hard work, good writing and interesting observations this semester.

  1. For our last class:

Please bring the draft of your memoir piece from earlier this semester. Read in Now Write, “Finding the Center” by Fritz McDonald (page 312). We will work on the revision exercise in class.

2. As you prepare your final portfolios, you should be thinking about craft and the themes in your work. As part of this assignment, please peruse the New York Times Writers on Writing series here.

Please find one profile that resonates with you and bring a one-page response to it that you will share with the rest of the class, i.e. let us know a bit about what the writer you chose had to say about writing and why it resonated for you.

If you don’t find anything resonant from the NYT, you can also choose from one of these Paris Review interviews.

Here, again, is the link for the final portfolio requirements.

Assignments for April 27

We will hold workshops for your lyric essays. Please provide written critique that addresses the following areas of analysis, and bring a copy for me and for each writer.

LYRIC ESSAY CRITIQUE

• Structure: 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?

• Language:  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.

• Assaying: 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?

• General feedback and response to the piece.

We also will have an in-class writing assignment, and I will review the final and portfolio requirements.

April 20 assignments

To read: 

Flash: “Meanness” by   

Prose Poetry:  “Crisis Actor” by Harmony Holiday

Hermit Crab/Braided Essay: The Search for Marvin Gardens by John McPhee (sorry the quality could be better).

To discuss: Please read each of these essays and write down:

  1. How the form serves the content
  2. Places of lyric engagement (poetics, syntax or other)
  3. Assaying/Essaying: What is the essay driving at, what associations is it making.

WRITE:

A draft of your lyric essay is due for the lyric essay workshop. Here are your options:

• prose poem

• flash nonfiction

• hermit crab essay

• braided or collage essay

Our workshop will be held Friday, April 27. You will be critiquing several elements, which will be discussed in greater detail, but keep these elements in mind for your drafts:

• Structure: 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?

• Language:  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.

• Assaying: 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?

Assignments April 13

For this week, please read the following pieces, which are all examples of lyric essay (essays that break and blend genre rules) but in different ways.

Please write a one to two piece response paper with a special emphasis on noting how these pieces play with form and any thoughts you have on how form serves the content (as well as other responses).

We are working toward a lyric essay, so you should also be thinking about what form you might like to play with (hermit crab, prose poem, flash, collage, braided etc).

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.

Excerpt from Daniel Nester’s Shader

Self-interview with Daniel Nester

Excerpt from The Body by Jenny Boully (handout)

Ander Monson, “Outline Toward a Theory of the Mind versus The Mind and the Harvard Outline” (handout)

Assignments for April 6

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

LYRIC ESSAY UNIT

Next week, we will begin discussing the lyric essay and working toward the lyric essay assignment. I will be presenting and discussing the various forms the lyric essay can take.

As you learned in Techniques, without being overly prescriptive, the lyric essay you write for this class could be:

• a hermit crab essay

• flash nonfiction

• prose poetry

We will review these subcategories and the lyric essay as a genre in greater length next week.

For your writing assignment, we will have an in-class writing assignment based on the idea of abecedarian segmented writing, which I will provide in class.

Here are your reading assignments, below:

Please note, you are required to read all of these—some are not very long. A one-page critical response paper is due in class, but it does not need to account for all of these readings. Write about one or more for which you have a response.

Please also note, some of you may have read some of these already, if you took Techniques with me or if you took the Special Topics course on the Lyric essay. However, I’d like us to all be on the same page, and re-reading never hurt anyone (at least, not as far as I know).

Seneca Review’s Introduction to the Lyric Essay

“On the Lyric Essay” by Ben Marcus

Bodies of Text: On the Lyric Essay by Amy Bonnaffons

Writer Michael Martone’s Leftover Water by Patrick Madden

Finding a Form Before a Form Finds You by Patrick Madden

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

 

Assignments for March 30

Today’s class will be primarily devoted to workshops for your personal reported essays. You are expected to thoroughly read and critique each other’s manuscripts, and to bring in copies of your critiques for the writer and for me.

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.