Sunday, January 31, 2010

Academic Writing--The Research Challenge!

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The Research Challenge!


For the Spring 2010 semester, you will have two options for earning your 15 points:

Option 1: Argumentative Essay Final Exam (15 points total) = 15%

OR

Option 2: Argumentative Essay (15 points total)
--(written out of class and submitted in lieu of a final exam): = 15%
--3 drafts (of the same paper, 2 points each) = 6%

--Final version of paper (6 points) = 6%

--Selection of topic, definition of audience,and development of thesis statement (1 point) = 1%

--Development of topic sentences (1 point) = 1%

--Development of counterarguments (1 point) = 1%
Obviously, I believe that Option #2 would be the best choice because you will receive feedback throughout the semester from me and your peers. I suggest that you begin the semester with Option #2 in mind because if it doesn’t work out, you can always switch to Option #1. However, you CANNOT begin with Option #1 and then switch to Option #2.

Option 2 will work best if you submit all your homework in a timely manner. It will do you no good to submit three drafts in the last week of class. I wouldn’t accept them late anyway.

So if you select Option #2, be prepared to attend class regularly and submit all your homework on time. If I see good faith effort on your part, I will work with you.

Option #1
May be a good choice if you have taken this class before (for example, in the U.S. or the U.K.), and already know the subject matter and just need the credits to fulfill a university requirement.
Option #2
May be a good choice if the subject matter is new to you and you have never written this type of essay.
Below I have listed some advantages and disadvantages of both options:

Advantages of Option #1
• If you miss submitting the homework/ assignments associated with the final paper, it won’t affect your final grade.

• Your topic will be selected for you.

• If you anticipate a lot of absences due to conflicts and/or outside jobs, this option will offer you some flexibility.

• For practice, you may still submit the rough draft homework/assignments, so you don’t have to decide right away whether to do Option #1 or #2.
Disadvantages of Option # 1
• The final exam is very difficult and asks you to complete in 90 minutes what the class has been doing all semester. The bar has been raised high on the final examination. If you do not pass this exam, you may end up not passing the course at all.

• You do not get to select your own topic, and you might end up with one that may bore you.

• If you have a bad day (sickness, tiredness, conflicting exam schedule, etc.) on exam day, your entire score is still riding on this one exam.

• You will receive limited feedback on your writing (just on your final).

• Even if you do some of the homework/assignments, the exam will still count 15% (and you will not receive the Option #2 points).
Advantages of Option #2
• Consistent feedback from me and your peers.

• Your 15 points for the semester are not riding on just one exam.

• You get to select your own topic, therefore writing about a subject that interests you.

• You can still begin the semester with this option in mind, but if keeping up becomes a problem, you can still switch to Option #1.
Disadvantages of Option #2
• Submission of homework/ assignments and regular class attendance are mandatory.

• This option will keep you busy all semester, not just at the end.

• If you have too many class and/or job conflicts, this option may not work out (unless you are self-driven and can properly submit the work without being in class).
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Academic Writing--Syllabus for Spring 2010

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The St. Martin's Guide to Writing, 8th edition
(I will use this text for background)
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(Class meets on Monday, 16:20-17:50)

This syllabus is subject to changes, updates, and additions if circumstances warrant it.

On this website, I may also be posting additional exercises and information, so please check here often.

Focus/Scope:
During the spring semester, we will cover techniques for planning and developing an argumentative/persuasive essay. Given that English is a second language for this class, I believe it will be helpful for you to write short in-class passages often, either in groups or individually.
Methodology:
Teaching methods will likely include the following: in-class exercises and writing, peer review, lecture, and objective final exam OR one out-of-class Argumentative Essay based on the *“Research Challenge” (You will receive a separate handout regarding this challenge).
Evaluation:
The final writing examination OR the “Research Challenge” for this class will count as 15% of your Spring semester score for third-year academic writing. (The two main courses will account for the other 85%, and your other professors will evaluate that percentage.) Breakdown:
Argumentative Essay Exam (15 points total) = 15%

OR


Argumentative/Persuasive Essay (*“Research Challenge”):

3 drafts (of the same paper, 2 points each) = 6%

Final version of paper = 6%

Selection of topic, definition of audience,
and development of thesis statement = 1%

Development of possible topic sentences = 1%

Development of counterarguments = 1%
15 TOTAL POINTS = 15%
Plagiarism:
Avoid the temptation of cutting and pasting passages from the internet and other sources in your paper without adding quotations and internal citations. If your submitted final paper or final exam essay is plagiarized in any way, you will lose all 15 points, and your name will be submitted to Professor Oncevska.
Attendance:
If you select the Research Challenge, attendance is necessary, given that you will be writing in class and working, both alone and in groups, on exercises related to your paper. Therefore, I will continue keeping attendance records. If, for any reason, you must be absent, please ask a colleague for any notes or handouts (except the major handouts–I will keep those for you). Also, check this website for updates.
Submission of homework:
Last semester, most of you were able to submit your work electronically, and I found that, generally, this has worked out very well.

Therefore, I am going to ask that you try to submit your drafts electronically, instead of handing in paper copies.

When you submit electronically, I will read it on the computer and make comments directly on screen. I will return your work and my comments electronically. In any case, please bring print versions of your drafts to class for any impromptu exercises.

To make electronic submission much easier, I have revised the submission protocol:

1. If you use Microsoft Word, you still must submit a .doc or .docx file as an attachment; I’m just not set up to accept any other type of word processing program. So, please, do NOT submit any other kind of file! Make sure your full name is on the attached file, upper right hand corner preferred.

2. You may submit your electronic submissions single-spaced. I will convert it to triple spacing on my end when I mark your letters and essays.

3. If you do not have access to Microsoft Word (or if you have a version that offers only limited use), you may submit your work in the body of your e-mail message. I will move it to a Microsoft Word file and give you a print out of your marked essay.

4. An alternative to Microsoft Word: Google documents, which is a FREE open-source word processing program, accessible from any browser, from anywhere in the world:
Keyword phrase in browser: “Google Docs” or “Google Documents”
On Google Docs, your document is stored online and accessible no matter where you are, so no need to carry around a flash drive.

You will need a gmail account, however, and you will need to submit that gmail address to me. Also, I’m still learning this application, so be patient if I make errors. My gmail address is msjennifersiegel [at] gmail.com, same user ID I use for my Yahoo! email.

However, if you are without internet, you may still submit a typed paper document, but be aware that I seem to offer better and more detailed comments electronically. In addition, my comments to you are more readable.
For paper copies, homework must be typed--no handwritten work, please. I will not accept it. Homework submitted in paper form must be double-spaced (with your name in the upper right-hand corner). Please staple your pages together.

You must submit your assignments on time; each exercise and homework assignment leads into the next skill and unit. Therefore, this course will not work well if you try to submit all your assignments during the last week of class. In fact, I will not accept a pile of late work at the end of the semester.
Materials:
Department handouts, this website, and other materials as needed.

I will post additional handouts on the website, distribute copies in class, or place items on reserve in the library. You will also need the APA guide, which we used last semester.
Supplies:
Please bring writing supplies to class, including a notebook, loose paper for in-class writing, and pencils or pens, so that you don’t find yourself in the embarrassing position of having to beg your colleagues for supplies.
Semester Folder:
You are responsible for keeping your handouts, in-class writing, submitted and graded assignments, drafts, class notes, and syllabus well-organized and bringing them to class each week.
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Schedule:
This is a preliminary schedule, subject to updates, changes, and additions as warranted.
Week 1:
Introduction to semester. Updated and new questionnaire. Distribute “President Obama’s Victory Speech” and “What is a Argumentative/ Persuasive Essay?” Discussion of Argumentative/Persuasive essay.
Week 2:
Homework: questions on the last page of the Obama speech. Preliminary research, three areas to consider: 1. Discussion of sources (print and electronic): books, scholarly journals, newspapers, popular magazines, and niche publications. 2. Defining validity/ credibility of sources. Important questions to consider: Who is the author? What are his/her credentials? Is the author writing from his/her position of authority within his/her specified field of expertise? 3. What is the validity/credibility of the publication itself in terms of authority and reputation? Choosing a topic, defining your audience, and developing a thesis.
Week 3:
Homework: Choosing a topic, defining your audience, and developing a thesis (1 point). Topic sentences and body paragraphs.
Week 4:
Homework: Topic sentences and body paragraphs (1 point). Counterarguments.
Week 5:
Homework: Counterarguments (1 point). The introduction and the conclusion. Drafting: Putting it all together.
Week 6:
Homework: First Draft due (2 points).
Week 7:
Bring a copy of your first draft to class for possible peer review.
Week 8:
Homework: Second Draft due (2 points).
Week 9:
Bring a copy of your second draft to class for peer review.
Week 10:
Homework: Third Draft due (2 points).
Week 11:
Bring a copy of your third draft to class for peer review.
Week 12:
Catch-up week.
Week 13:
Bring a copy of your preliminary revision of final version for peer review.
Exam Week:
Final Writing Exam (Option #1) OR Submission of Final Argumentative Essay (Option #2)
* * *

If you have any questions/concerns, e-mail or see me after class or during my office hour.

Also, if there is ANYTHING in this syllabus or ANYTHING I say in or out of class that you don’t understand, please ask me, either in person or via e-mail. This includes definitions of words, cultural references, slang, historical facts, etc.

In the U.S., we have a saying: “The only stupid question is the question left unasked.”

So please ask. That’s why I’m here.
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Thursday, January 28, 2010

American Literature--Syllabus for Spring 2010

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The Color Purple (Alice Walker)
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(African-American Focus)

Class meets on Monday, 11:20-12:50 (My Office)

Alternate meeting time and place: To be arranged


This syllabus is subject to change if circumstances warrant it. Before offering you a final book list, I would like to meet with you first to discuss options. You will receive a print copy of this syllabus, so there is no need to print this out.

Focus/scope:
For Spring 2010, we will finish up covering a few short works, which can be found in African-American Literature: an Anthology, on reserve in the library--mainly an excerpt from The Autobiography of Malcolm X (Malcolm X). Then we will read and discuss book-length works.

I will definitely assign Invisible Man in its entirety (Ralph Ellison) and The Color Purple (Alice Walker). While Invisible Man is a bit complex and long, I have brought a literary criticism text about the book. The Color Purple is fairly easy, and I also have the film.

I am considering the following books (but will assign only one of them): Black Boy (Richard Wright), Native Son (Richard Wright), Their Eyes Were Watching God (Zora Neale Hurston), and The Bluest Eye (Toni Morrison).

Please let me know if there are any other books by African-American writers that you would like me to consider. Just make sure that there are two copies in the Library, one for me and one for reserve.
Methodology:
Teaching methods will likely include the following: class discussion and exercises, lecture, guest speakers, film and music, reader's theater, optional outside lectures and events (for example, The American Corner), and written final exam.
Evaluation:
Written Final Exam* = 50%

Two short response papers = 40%

Class participation = 10%

Total = 100% (10 points)

*An oral exam will be optional. If your score on your written exam is good, then you will not need to participate in an oral exam. If, however, your score is borderline, then we will set up an oral exam during the exam period in May.
Attendance:
Regular attendance is highly recommended, for we will likely be discussing some background material that does not appear in the texts. If, for any reason, you must be absent, please ask a colleague for any class notes or handouts. Also, check the website for updates.
Submission of response papers:
Last semester, most of you were able to submit your response papers electronically, and I found that, generally, this has worked out very well.

Therefore, I am going to ask that you try to submit your response papers electronically, instead of handing in paper copies.

When you submit electronically, I will read it on the computer and make comments directly on screen. I will return your work and my comments electronically. In any case, please bring print versions of your drafts to class for any impromptu exercises.

But if you are without internet, you may still submit a typed paper document, but be aware that I seem to offer better and more detailed comments electronically. In addition, my comments to you are more readable.

For paper copies, please double space, place your first and last name on the upper right hand corner, and staple your pages together.

To make electronic submission much easier, I have revised the submission protocol:
1. If you use Microsoft Word, you still must submit a .doc or .docx file as an attachment; I'm just not set up to accept any other type of word processing program. So, please, do NOT submit any other kind of file! Make sure your full name is on the attached file, upper right hand corner preferred.

2. You may submit your electronic submissions single-spaced. I will convert it to triple spacing on my end when I mark your essays.

3. If you do not have access to Microsoft Word (or if you have a version that offers only limited use), you may submit your work in the body of your e-mail message. I will move it to a Microsoft Word file and give you a print out of your marked essay.

4. An alternative to Microsoft Word: Google Docs, which is a FREE open-source word processing program, accessible from any browser, from anywhere in the world:
Keyword phrase in browser: Google Docs or Google Documents
On Google Docs, your document is stored online and accessible no matter where you are, so no need to carry around a flash drive.

You will need a gmail account, however, and you will need to submit that gmail address to me. Also, I'm still learning this application, so be patient if I make errors. My gmail address is here, same user ID I use for my Yahoo! email.
You must submit your two short response papers on time; please let me know in advance if you are having difficulties writing your papers so that we can work out any issues that you may be having as a non-native speaker and writer of English. Some of you have attended American universities, so you understand how American professors are obsessed with perfect English and deadlines. Often, we bring our Americanisms overseas with us, sometimes forgetting that you are writing in a foreign language. Please gently remind me from time to time.

In any case, please bring a typed version of your response papers to class because you will likely be sharing your responses with your peers.
Books and other materials:
African-American Literature: An Anthology, Second Edition, Eds. Demetrice A. Worley and Jesse Perry, Jr., Lincolnwood (IL): NTC Publishing Group. 1998. (Very limited use this semester). Other books and materials:
The Color Purple, Alice Walker.

Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison.

One other book (to be determined later).

Other materials as needed (handouts, reserve, and website)
Supplies:
Please bring writing supplies to class, including a notebook, loose paper for in-class writing, and pencils or pens.

* * *

Schedule:
The following is a preliminary schedule, which will be updated as soon as I add another book to it. This schedule will be updated, changed, and expanded as needed; Check this website often, for I will regularly be posting new materials.
Week 1:
Introduction to semester. Class discussion regarding one more book for the semester. Update questionnaire or questionnaire for new students. "Straightening Our Hair," Bell Hooks.
Week 2:
Excerpts from The Autobiography of Malcolm X. "To Mississippi Youth," 310-316 (Malcolm X), from African-American Literature Anthology (AAL) and untitled. Reread "I Have a Dream," 317-321 (Martin Luther King, Jr.), from AAL.

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Week 3:
The Color Purple (Alice Walker), about the first 1/3 of the book. Film/ Discussion.
Week 4:
The Color Purple (Alice Walker), about the second 1/3 of the book. Film/ Discussion.
Week 5:
The Color Purple (Alice Walker), the last 1/3 of the book. Film/ Discussion.



Invisible Man (Ralph Ellison)

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Week 6:
If needed, wrap up The Color Purple (Alice Walker). Discussion. Invisible Man (Ralph Ellison), Prologue - Chapter 3. Discussion/Documentary.
Week 7:
Invisible Man (Ralph Ellison), Chapter 4 - Chapter 11. Discussion/Documentary.
Week 8:
Invisible Man (Ralph Ellison), Chapter 12 - Chapter 18. Discussion.
Week 9:
Invisible Man (Ralph Ellison), Chapter 19 - Epilogue. Discussion.
Week 10:
If needed, wrap up Invisible Man (Ralph Ellison). Discussion. (Second half of class: To be determined or TBD.)
Week 11:
TBD.
Week 12:
TBD.
Week 13:
TBD.
Final Week:
Exam or other activity (exact day and time: TBD).

* * *

If you have any questions/concerns, e-mail or see me after class or during my office hour.

Also, if there is ANYTHING in this syllabus or ANYTHING I say in or out of class that you don't understand, please ask me, either in person or via e-mail. This includes definitions of words, cultural references, slang, historical facts, etc.

In the U.S., we have a saying: "The only stupid question is the question left unasked."

So please ask. That's why I'm here.
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Monday, January 25, 2010

Creative Writing--Some Links for Spring 2010

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A Pistol is Fired (see Chapter 12 of I, Driven)
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I have posted some items and links for Creative Writing:

Syllabus (Spring 2010)

Elements of Non-fiction

Private vs. Public Writing

Chapter Eight (or "Rudy"), from I, Driven: memoir of a teen's involuntary commitment (Jennifer Semple Siegel)

The Politics of Memoir (A rather long essay that explains how I approached writing I, Driven, my memoir)

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Creative Writing: Private vs. Public Writing

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(1) Purpose: Private Writing as Therapy and/or Catharsis
There is nothing inherently wrong with expressing private writing in a journal, which is a good way to express emotion without worrying about the typical "writerly" concerns, such as form, structure, originality, and avoidance of trite language and clichés.

The writer should NOT be concerned with the artistry of private writing.

The writer’s primary purpose is to get the emotion down on paper, to express it, and, perhaps, derive some therapeutic value from the exercise.

The writer knows NOT to share this draft of the piece with others (except, perhaps, a trained psychologist who is working with the writer in therapy), although the writer may use the private writing as a jumping off point for a semi-public or even a public piece.

A creative writing teacher should NOT be asked to evaluate private writing, unless the writer is prepared to hear a critique (from an artistic standpoint) and is willing to revise it into public writing. Otherwise, submitting such writing is an exercise in futility and a waste of time.

(2) Purpose: Semi-Public Writing for Possible Revision
The writer begins to consider artistry, but most semi-public writing doesn’t move past this level. Writers should expect many false starts.

The writer may show his/her the semi-public writing to one particular person, perhaps the subject of the piece.

The writer may show the writing to a close circle of friends, a writing group, or a therapist.

The writer who shows a semi-public piece to family, lover/spouse, and close friends should not expect an objective critique because the people who love the writer are usually biased. Generally, psychologists are not trained to judge therapeutic writing from an artistic standpoint, and probably wouldn’t address such concerns anyway. On the other hand, the writer should expect an objective critique from a writing group.

The writer may submit, as a draft, a semi-public piece to a creative writing teacher, but, again, the writer must be prepared to hear a critique (from an artistic standpoint) and be willing to revise. Otherwise, submitting a semi-public work is an exercise in futility and a waste of time.

(3) Purpose: Revised Public Writing for Submission
The writer has revised the piece for Final Portfolio and/or publication submission, paying special attention to form, structure, originality, and avoidance of trite language and clichés. The piece is ready to make its public debut. If the writer submits the piece to a creative writing teacher as part of a final portfolio, the piece should be ready for a final grade.

The writer may submit the public piece to a creative writing teacher for an opinion, but, again, the writer must be prepared to hear a critique (from an artistic standpoint) and, perhaps, be willing to revise it. If the writer feels the piece is finished, then he/she should NOT submit the public writing as a draft. Otherwise, submitting it as a draft is an exercise in futility and a waste of time.

The writer, keeping in mind that the publication game is a crap shoot, may submit a public piece to a publication, but should be prepared for three possibilities: acceptance, rejection, or an editor’s request for a revision.

At this point, it’s up to the writer to decide whether or not to revise.

(4) Purpose: Published Work for Critique and/or Possible Republication
The published piece has already made its public debut, having been published in a national or regional glossy magazine, anthology, or literary magazine.

The writer should NOT submit published work to a creative writing teacher for a critique, unless the writer (1) discloses the piece’s publication history, (2) is open to critique, AND (3) intends to revise the work for republication. Otherwise, submitting such work is an exercise in futility and a waste of time.

The writer should NOT submit a published piece to another publication, unless the writer knows that the publication is open to reprinting previously published work. The writer MUST disclose a work’s previous publication(s) in the cover letter, even if it appeared only in an undergraduate literary magazine.

In short, it is unethical to submit work without disclosing its previous publication history.
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Creative and Academic Writing--Elements of Non-fiction

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What is Non-fiction?
Non-fiction is writing that is expository and/or descriptive, having to do with ideas, issues, actual events, and/or real people.

However, creative non-fiction borrows elements from fiction, poetry, and drama: plot structure of a true story, dialogue (re-created), “character development” of real people, scenes, summary, and description.
Types of Non-fiction: Narrative Non-fiction and Rhetorical Non-fiction. However, the dividing line between these two types of non-fiction is often fuzzy.
Narrative Non-fiction:
Diary: a more intimate, personal, and private chronology of events that is presented sequentially–mostly chronicles personal feelings.

Journal: tends to be a more public forum, the writer being more concerned with ideas and the world at large.

Literary Journal: direct responses to other texts, based on feelings, emotions, imitation, and/or analyses. Often used by writers for getting ideas of their own.

Letter: informal or formal message written directly to a family member, a friend, an acquaintance, or a stranger. Letters of famous people are often published in collections.

Epistle: a more formal version of the letter, often intended for public dissemination (publication and/or public speech). As such, the epistle usually addresses public issues, such as religion and politics.

Biography: a chronology of a famous or distinguished person’s life, written by a biographer other than the person whose life is being chronicled. Typically, a biography attempts to cover the person’s entire life.

Literary Biography: a specialized type of biography in which a writer’s life story is told from the perspective of his or her body of literary works.

Autobiography: a writer’s (usually a famous or noted person), version of his or her own life. Typically, the writer attempts to cover his or her entire life thus far.

Memoir: a writer’s (not necessarily a famous or noted person) attempt to emphasize events and/or people he or she has experienced and/or known from his/her own perspective. A memoir does not usually cover an entire life, but, rather, emphasizes key events and people. Memoirs tend to resemble fiction, and, in fact, some memoir writers have been accused of stretching the truth (see James Frey, A Million Little Pieces).
Rhetorical Non-fiction presents facts and ideas in such a way to persuade a reader of a viewpoint.
Journalistic prose: reportage that goes beyond the simple reporting of events; thus, the writer takes and supports a position and then write a piece for publication.

Descriptive prose: writing that is concerned with the physical world: sight, sound, taste, touch, and smell. Also known as “sensory” writing.

Expository prose: writing that explains, offers information, and/or defends a viewpoint. Research is often involved. Often the line dividing the following can be fuzzy:
Argumentative/Issue/Persuasive: writing that defends/supports a viewpoint on a controversial issue.

Informative: writing that is intended to offer information on a subject–usually noncontroversial–without making major judgments on an issue.

Process: writing that explains how something works (informative process) or how to do something (directive process)
Essay: a term for a piece of nonfiction prose that has an introduction, a body, and a conclusion–a complete work.
Informal essay: writing that is more personal, tentative, or subjective–not the “last word” on a topic. Language/tone/register tends to be informal/casual. Creative non-fiction falls into this category.

Formal essay: writing that is serious in tone/register, objective, and formally structured. Extensive research of issues is usually involved.
Parts of the Formal Essay (Traditional Five or Six Paragraph Format):

Introduction: the beginning of the essay that introduces the topic and attracts the reader’s attention by offering an anecdote, story, or scenario.

Thesis: the major claim (position of the writer) or what the essayist plans to cover.

Explicit Thesis: the major claim or topic of essay that is stated directly in a clear and concise sentence.

Implicit Thesis: the major claim or topic of essay that is implied throughout the essay–not directly stated.
Body: the “meat” of the essay, the evidence to support the thesis, which is offered to the reader, such as research, statistics, interviews, and solid reasoning/inferences.

Counterarguments: in an issue essay, recognition, refutation, and/or
accommodation of opposing viewpoints. Usually not needed for the informative essay, but a very powerful rhetorical device for controversial topics.

Conclusion: the ending that wraps up the essay by restating the thesis in different words and sometimes offering an extra “nugget” for the reader for further thinking.
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Creative Writing: Syllabus--Spring 2010

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Syllabus for Creative Writing–Spring 2010

(Focus on Creative Non-fiction)

(Class meets on Tuesday, 13:00-14:30)


Focus/Scope:
We will cover techniques for writing creative non-fiction (with emphasis on flash non-fiction, a genre that focuses on short short creative non-fiction, 250-1,500 words, give or take). Given that English is a second language for this class, I believe it will be helpful for you to concentrate on writing weekly short short creative non-fiction in draft form and then selecting the two best drafts for a final portfolio, perhaps developing short shorts into longer pieces for revision.

You will come to this class with a certain level of anxiety. THIS IS NORMAL because you will be putting your work, much of it in draft form, out there for others to read and critique. ALL creative writers feel anxious about allowing others to critique their work; even published writers AND your instructor are not immune to this anxiety and fear.

Each group of students is different, so it is difficult to make accurate assumptions about your particular class and abilities of individual writers; some of you may be ready to write longer stories, others may not, so we will begin with short pieces and make adjustments as needed. As we say in the U.S., “Let’s play it by ear.”

However, the Fall session involving Flash Fiction was very successful, so my expectations may have been set very high.
Methodology:
Teaching methods will likely include the following: some in-class writing (mostly at the beginning of the semester), class critique of individual pieces, some discussion of published essays, writing drafts, public readings of your own work, and final portfolio development based on two drafts of your required four drafts.

Beginning Week #2, I will e-mail to the class a “writing prompt,” which is simply a creative and focused way of circumventing the dreaded “writer’s block” that just about every creative writer has experienced. Some of your own creative essays may arise from one or more of these prompts, or you may find your work going into another direction entirely. This is okay–whatever works for you.

Please do not feel obligated to use the prompts; they are just tools for writers. Last semester, some wonderful work emerged from the prompts, but other wonderful stories emerged without any prompt help.

Beginning week #3, we will start class critique of individual essays. My goal: to try to offer two critiques for each writer, even if we have to meet one or two extra sessions to accomplish this goal. You will NOT be assigned to a workshop group.

In Week #2, you will start submitting electronic drafts to me (see “Submission of Drafts, Revised Draft, and Final Portfolio,” next page).
Evaluation:
Final Portfolio: (2 essays, revised from 2 drafts) = 70%

Four drafts (from 8 assigned) = 20%

Class participation (class discussion of essays) = 10%

------Total = 100% (10 points)
Attendance:
Attendance is necessary, given that you will be writing in class and engaging in class critiques. If, for any reason, you must be absent, please ask a colleague for any notes or handouts. Also, check the website for updates.
Submission of Drafts and Final Portfolio:
Last semester, most of you were able to submit your work electronically, and I found that, generally, this has worked out very well.

Therefore, I am going to ask that you try to submit your drafts electronically, instead of handing in paper copies.

When you submit electronically, I will read it on the computer and make comments directly on screen. I will return your work and my comments electronically. In any case, please bring print versions of your drafts to class for any impromptu exercises.

But if you are without internet, you may still submit a typed paper document, but be aware that I seem to offer better and more detailed comments electronically. In addition, my comments to you are more readable.

For paper copies, please double space and staple your pages together.

To make electronic submission much easier, I have revised the submission protocol:
1. If you use Microsoft Word, you still must submit a .doc or .docx file as an attachment; I’m just not set up to accept any other type of word processing program. So, please, do NOT submit any other kind of file! Make sure your full name is on the attached file, upper right hand corner preferred.

2. You may submit your electronic submissions single-spaced. I will convert it to triple spacing on my end when I mark your essays.

3. If you do not have access to Microsoft Word (or if you have a version that offers only limited use), you may submit your work in the body of your e-mail message. I will move it to a Microsoft Word file and give you a print out of your marked essay.

4. An alternative to Microsoft Word: Google Docs, which is a FREE open-source word processing program, accessible from any browser, from anywhere in the world.
Keyword phrase in browser: “Google Docs” or “Google Documents”

On Google Docs, your document is stored online and accessible no matter where you are, so no need to carry around a flash drive.

You will need a gmail account, however, and you will need to submit that gmail address to me. Also, I’m still learning this application, so be patient if I make errors. Link to my gmail address, the same user ID I use for my Yahoo! email.
You must submit drafts on time; this class will not work well if you try to submit your all your drafts at the end of the semester.

You will be required to submit FOUR drafts of the EIGHT assigned, so you may abstain from submitting four drafts. That way, you will have more control over your deadlines.
Textbooks:
What If? Writing Exercises for Fiction Writers: Revised and Expanded Edition, Anne Bernays and Pamela Painter. New York: Harper Collins College Publishers, 1995.
Although What If? focuses on fiction, creative non-fiction often incorporates fictional techniques, such as description, dialogue, plot, and characterization. (On reserve at the department library.)
Life Writing, Winifred Bryan Horner. Upper Saddle River (New Jersey): Blair Press, 1997. (Select essays, to be distributed. I have only one copy of this text.)

Handouts: “Elements of Non-fiction” and “Private vs. Public Writing.” Other materials will be distributed as needed.
Supplies:
Please bring writing supplies to class, including a notebook, loose paper for in-class writing, and pencils or pens, so that you don’t find yourself in the embarrassing position of having to beg your colleagues for supplies.
Semester Folder:
You are responsible for keeping your in-class writing, drafts, class notes, handouts, and syllabus well-organized and bringing them to class each week. You will create a lot of writing this semester; thus, I recommend that you buy a folder or ringed notebook so that organizing your materials will be easy and effective. Bring all your cumulative work with you to every class.
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Schedule:
This is your semester schedule, subject to change if circumstances warrant it. This schedule is also posted on my website and will be updated, changed, and expanded as needed: www.MsSiegel.com. I may also be posting additional exercises and information.

Week 1:
Introduction to Course. Questionnaire (for new students) and syllabus. Handouts: “Elements of non-Fiction” and “Public vs. Private Writing.” In-class writing exercise: “Three Vitally Important Facts about Yourself.” Short non-fiction: “Straightening Our Hair,” Bell Hooks, and “Chapter Eight,” from I, Driven, Jennifer Semple Siegel.
Week 2:
Draft due (1) (500-1,000 words). Prompt #1.
Week 3:
Draft due (2) (500-1,000 words). Prompt #2. Class Critique of two drafts.
Week 4:
Draft due (3) (500-1,000 words). Prompt #3. Class Critique of two drafts.
Week 5:
Draft due (4) (500-1,000 words). Prompt #4. Class Critique of two drafts.
Week 6:
Draft due (5) (500-1,000 words). Prompt #5. Class Critique of two drafts.
Week 7:
Draft due (6) (500-1,000 words). Prompt #6. Class Critique of two drafts.
Week 8:
Draft due (7) (500-1,000 words). Prompt #7. Class Critique of two drafts.
Week 9:
Draft due (8) (500-1,000 words). Prompt #8. Class Critique of two drafts.
Week 10:
Revision: Rewriting is Writing. Final Portfolio Instructions: Revise TWO of your drafts and submit on or before May 11, 2010. Class Critique of two drafts.
Week 11:
Class Critique of two drafts.
Week 12:
Class Critique of two drafts.
Week 13:
Class Critique of two drafts.
Last Week:
Submission of Final Portfolio by Tuesday, May 11, 2010.
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If you have any questions/concerns, e-mail or see me after class or during my office hour.

Also, if there is ANYTHING in this syllabus or ANYTHING I say in or out of class that you don’t understand, please ask me, either in person or via e-mail. This includes definitions of words, cultural references, slang, historical facts, etc.

In the U.S., we have a saying: “The only stupid question is the question left unasked.”

So please ask. That’s why I’m here.
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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

American Literature--Epilogue to August Wilson's The Piano Lesson (Daniela Atanasova)

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[The following epilogue was written by Daniela Atanasova, a third-year English Language and Literature student at Ss. Cyril and Methodius University of Skopje, as a response to The Piano Lesson, by August Wilson.]
Epilogue to August Wilson's The Piano Lesson
(Three years later. Afternoon. BERNIECE is playing a score that sounds like a spiritual on the piano in Doaker’s living room. The door opens and a young girl enters wearing a school bag. BERNIECE ceases playing.)
MARETHA

Go on playing, Mama…Was that a new one?

BERNIECE

Yeah…I’ve been practicing it on and off since this morning. We’re performing it at next month’s concert. How was school today?

MARETHA

My math teacher said I did surprisingly well on the test, so he might let me off the final exam.

BERNIECE

That’s a smart girl!

MARETHA

It wasn’t too hard. Math’s quite easy, but bores me to death. I’m so happy I won’t have to deal with equations again.

BERNIECE

Don’t ask me about equations. Can’t help you there. All I could ever do was scrubbing and sweeping and cooking the dinner.

MARETHA

No one cooks it better than Uncle Doaker, though. I miss him.

BERNIECE

Yeah, the house is not the same without him.

MARETHA

And, Mom, you play the piano beautifully, like no one else I know. Go on, play that song again. And then I’ll tell you about the books my literature teacher told us to read. She is white, you know, and really nice. Says I got talent…
(BERNIECE smiles and starts playing again. But soon, a knock is heard on the front door. Maretha goes to see who it is and enters with WINING BOY.)
MARETHA

Look, Mama, it’s Uncle Wining Boy!

WINING BOY

Well, good day to y’all! Maretha, my love, you’ve grown so…and grown even prettier! Berniece, you gonna have to look after her, boys will be going crazy soon, I can see that.

BERNIECE

Oh, Wining Boy. Just talking and talking as always! It’s so good to see you! Maretha, get that chair for Uncle Wining Boy.

WINING BOY

Berniece dear, it’s true, a man can’t tell the difference between you two any more, she as pretty as you! And you as young as always. (Sits down.) Ah, the good old place.

BERNIECE

(Laughs.) Can’t say it ain’t so…Lord, Wining Boy, it’s been a long time! Last time you were here was when we drove away Sutter’s ghost…I’d swear you people come all at once and make a row, and then go and forget about us for three years and more. How have you been? Would you like some dinner?

WINING BOY

Sure, but later. I need some rest from that damn train ride. Forgot how long it takes. But where’s Doaker? Get the old fool here.

BERNIECE

Doaker is…on vacation.

WINING BOY

Doaker on vacation?! Boy, things have changed!

BERNIECE

After thirty years in the railroad he done deserved it. He got a letter from Coreen to go visit her up New York. I think she must be sick or something, otherwise why would she suddenly remember to write, when he hadn’t heard of her for years. She used to be real proud, Coreen was.

MARETHA

First he didn’t wanna go, but I convinced him. One needs some rest from time to time. And adventure too…It must be wonderful to see New York! I’m gonna go there soon, when I go to college.

WINING BOY

College?!

MARETHA

Yeah, I wanna be a writer!

WINING BOY

Why, Berniece, you got quite some ambition to handle there. No one of our family has even gone to college or become a writer.

BERNIECE

Well, I’ve always hoped she’ll have a better life. And her teacher says she got talent, and with her good grades she can get some scholarships.

WINING BOY

But how are you getting by on your own? I thought you’d gone and married Avery and become a rich Ma’am by now. Is he still preaching?

BERNIECE

I never said I was going to marry Avery. Besides, he’s now married to the widow who’s teaching Sunday school at his church. Avery’s the same as always. His church is doing well, though. Started a choir and all. I play the piano for them, and I even get paid. With that and the piano lessons I give, we’re doing fine. I don’t go to rich people’s houses to clean any more, praise the Lord! And Doaker said he’ll help out if Maretha goes to college. He done so much for us already.

WINING BOY

That sure is good news! You ended up musician too, Berniece! We should play duets, if you are up to it. But jazz, not that church stuff! I wish I could help you out too, but, you see, I don’t have a cent. I have something else, though…I got me a woman, Berniece…

BERNIECE

(Laughs.) Like that’s something new.

WINING BOY

But, for real you know…When a man grows old, he oughtn’t to be alone. She is a kind heart, not like Cleotha…but kind. Gone tell me not to drink and gamble, but at least lets me play for her. She real nice, you should come down and meet her…

BERNIECE

I’m happy for you Wining Boy! You should’ve brought her over…

WINING BOY

Hey, how’s that Lymon kid doing?

BERNIECE

Rambling around. Can’t hold on to a job. Haven’t seen him for a while. Maybe he’s gone and married some of his girlfriends. He’s got a new one every week.

WINING BOY

He probably hasn’t found the right one. Or she hasn’t noticed him.

BERNIECE

Anyway, Boy Willie called last week. Scared me to death as usual. He the same as you, disappearing for so long you almost forget about him, and then comes out of the blue, shouting as if he owns the place. Always been like that. I thought he would start about that piano again, but he didn’t. He wanted me to play for him. And went ranting about some new business he was going to start.

WINING BOY

He a good boy. Something is bound to work out for him these days. But I’m glad you didn’t sell the old piano.

BERNIECE

Yeah, Maretha didn’t take to it, but it sure done me a lot of good.

WINING BOY

Well, come on, play us some blues.

BERNIECE

Later. Let Maretha read to us now. Every evening she reads her books to me. They mighty fine, even the parts I don’t understand. Her father and her grandparents would have been proud.

WINING BOY

I’m sure they would. Let’s see what you got, Maretha girl.

MARETHA

Let me get my books!

(She runs up the stairs and the lights go down to black. The piano is heard playing in the background.)

THE END


______________________________________________________

INSTRUCTOR'S NOTE

I love offering prequel/sequel assignments as options for response papers because
1. Such exercises allow literature students to develop something creative without having to invest a large amount of time trying to come up with an original idea.

2. If a student can create a plausible prequel/sequel to a piece of literature, then I can easily determine if the student truly understands the original work. Besides, it is always interesting to see a creative mind at work, even if the student is not a "creative writer" in the traditional sense.
Over the years, I have had many students tell me that they have never written anything creative (for example, a story, poem, play, or creative non-fiction) in their lives and that the creative response option offered them a opportunity to try something new.

I have had at least one student who decided to start writing poetry and continues to this day.

________________________________________________________

WORK CONSULTED

Wilson, August. The Piano Lesson. Rpt. in Literature and Society:
-----An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, Drama, Nonfiction
, 4th Ed. Eds. Pamela
-----J. Annas and Robert C. Rosen. Upper Saddle River (NJ): Pearson-Prentice Hall,
-----2007. 809-879.

________________________________________________________
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Sunday, January 3, 2010

To All My Students: Best Wishes for a New Year and Merry Christmas!

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On "New" Christmas, my husband, a friend, and I took a walk to center city, and I shot this footage:




About this video
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Enjoy!

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