|Instructor: Terri Long
||June 26-August 2, 2006
|Office: McGuinn 100
||M/W 8:30-11:30 am
Models for Writers, Alfred Ross & Paul Eschholz, Editors
The Elements of Style, Strunk & White
Little Brown Compact Handbook, Aaron
Great Writing Comes From The Heart:
Or, if you want to write well, you can
Download Syllabus as PDF
Despite an ever increasing emphasis on learning to write, an awful lot of people still believe the old myth that great writers are born that way. Sure, talent helps. The same can be said of almost any pursuit. Let’s be honest: who’d argue that Curt Schilling or Tom Brady are not more gifted athletes than most? The important thing is, along with their natural ability, Schilling and Brady have heart. That means, they believe in themselves and, no matter how terrific their stats, always strive to improve. Those basic qualities—confidence, determination and persistence—separate the best from all of the rest.
While you might never become the Schilling or Brady of the literary world (hey, you might not want to!), you can become a better, even an excellent, writer. After all, writing, like sports, learned. Learning to write well is simple: First, you have to want to write well. Next, you have to believe that you can write well. Finally, and most important, you have to practice (read: revise). And practice. And practice.
Whether you’re a terrific writer already or just starting out, it’s my hope that this class will help you gain greater confidence in your writing ability; that you’ll learn to ask thoughtful questions; and that you’ll discover new ways of using your inherent brain-power and creativity to answer those questions intelligently. Mastering these basic elements of good writing will make you a better writer.
Essay Assignments: This class requires three two-three page essays, which you’ll write in steps, along with regular short-shorts (one page practice assignments). Since all good writing requires revision—it’s impossible to write a good essay in one sitting (ask anyone who writes for a living)—you’ll be asked to write at least two drafts of each of your essays. Only the final version will be graded. All drafts must be handed in with each revision.
Please note: All work must be handed in, at the beginning of class, on the morning it’s due. In fairness to those of you who regularly turn in assignments on time, late papers will be penalized one letter grade per class.
Paper Format: We’ll be using the Modern Language Association (MLA) manuscript format for English and the humanities.
Academic Integrity: Plagiarism hurts everyone. Plagiarizing deprives you of the chance to prove to yourself what a good writer you really are; cheats your classmates of the opportunity for fair appraisal of their work; and steals the acknowledgement the original author rightly deserves. Therefore, unacknowledged “borrowing” of another’s work will not be tolerated.
Attendance and Class Participation: Please come to class, on time, ready for discussion. Talking, a form of prewriting, prepares us for writing. And remember: your classmates depend on you for your support and insights.
Attendance and class participation count for 20% of your grade.
Please note: two late appearances or early exits equal an absence. If you anticipate a problem with either attending a class or arriving on time, or if you must leave early, please discuss the situation with me in advance.
Journal: Journal entries are designed to help you develop your critical thinking skills and to serve as a step in the writing process. Please type your journal entries and hand them in with your homework.
Another incentive: Homework counts for 10% of your grade.
Grades: I don’t expect you to write like a grad student. I do, however, expect you to put forth your best effort. This means, you’ll be expected to:
1) do all work assigned—including the reading;
2) come to every class on time and prepared for discussion;
3) hand in your work the morning it’s due;
4) turn in papers that are clean; that is, not full of silly mistakes (using its, for example, when you should be using it’s—if you have problems that require one-on-one help, please either meet with me or take advantage of BC’s terrific tutoring staff);
5) give thoughtful consideration to my critique of your drafts and take the time necessary to rethink and revise your papers.
Adhere to these five standards and you will earn at least a “B” in this class.
Conferences: I’m pleased to meet with you, to discuss whatever you’re working on—or writing in general. So that I’m able to set aside an appropriate amount of time for you, I ask that you schedule an appointment at least one class period before you would like to meet.
Discussion Groups and Peer Workshops: Much of the work for this class will be done in groups. Sometimes, your group will meet in class; other times, I may ask you to meet on your own. But more on that later.
Above all, I hope you have a pleasant and rewarding semester.
Syllabus: Summer 2006
1) Please adhere to page lengths listed on the syllabus. To lengthen a too-short essay, add additional evidence or detail; to shorten, tighten your focus.
2) All written work must be typed and double-spaced.
3) All work must be turned in when it is due. Late papers will be penalized by one letter grade per class.
4) Please remember to turn in your journal entries.
M 6/26 Introduction: Why Write?
Reading: Baker, “Becoming a Writer”
In-Class: Where do I begin? Read to write. Write to discover.
2) The writing process.
3) Concrete v abstract; specific v general
Exercise: Brainstorming ideas.
Reading: “The Wounds that Can’t be Stitched,” Russell, 148
Essay #1 “Shame,” Gregory, 142
“Beginnings and Endings,” 129
Journal: Copy the first and last paragraphs of any piece of writing that you really enjoyed—this could be an essay, an article from a newspaper or magazine, a favorite novel—then write a paragraph explaining what you think “works” and why.
Essay #1: You are 30 years-old. What is your life like? What career have you chosen? Do you enjoy what you’re doing? Do you have a family? A significant other? What happened when you were 16 to prepare you for the life you are leading now? Be as specific and detailed as possible. Length: 1 1/2- 2 pages
In-Class: Beginnings and Endings
What makes a great essay?
Exercise: 1) Starting a new essay.
2) Round the class stories.
W 7/5 Reading: “On Being 17, Bright, and Unable. . .,” Raymond, 247
“A Hanging,” Orwell, 279
“Diction & Tone,” 237
“Figurative Language,” 265
Journal: Find an ad you like, cut it out, and bring it to class. In your journal, write two paragraphs describing the ad’s target audience. Who is the advertiser trying to reach? Young? Old? Male? Female? Athlete or couch potato? What techniques does he use to appeal to that audience? Is there any group that the ad purposely excludes? Be specific.
2) Bring your favorite CD to class.
The Writer’s Voice
Exercise: 1) Manipulating the writer’s voice (group project)
2) The Corporate Ad-Execs
M 7/10 Reading: “The Corner Store,” Welty, 117
Revision Due “Doubts About Doublespeak,” 122
Journal: In one paragraph, describe how organization affects the essay. Your reading of the essay.
Writing: Revision Due of Essay #1 Length: 3 pages
In-Class: 1) Organization
2) Developing an essay
Exercise: How does reorganization affect the essay?
W 7/12 Reading: “Anxiety: Challenge by Another Name,” Collier, 75
“My Name,” Cisneros, 89
Journal: Describe an issue or problem that you are passionate about. This might be pollution, for instance, or global warming or using cork bats or the way adults treat younger people. The only requirement is that this is something you care deeply about and are emotionally invested in. Explain why this problem or issue is important to you.
In Class: What is a thesis?
Gathering Evidence: Library Visit
M 7/17 Reading: “Why We Crave Horror Movies,” King, 457
Essay #2 “Surfing’s Up and Grades Are Down,” Sanchez, 471
“Cause & Effect,” 457
Journal: Describe the essay “Why We Crave Horror Movies.” What is King’s main point? What reasons does he give to support his thesis? Evidence? How does he build his argument? Does his argument make sense? Why or why not? 2-3 par.
Writing: Essay #2: Draft a persuasive argument of your choice. Be sure to provide valid arguments backed by solid evidence. You should be able to persuade someone who doesn’t agree with you that your argument makes sense. Draft length: 2 pages.
In-Class: Arguing Cause and Effect
Exercise: Building a solid cause-effect argument.
One on One Conferences Begin
W 7/19 Reading: “As They Say, Drugs Kill,” Rowley, 507
“Life Is Precious, or It’s Not,” Kingsolver, 546
Journal: Make a list of ways in which you could improve your last essay. What would happen if your changed the beginning? The end? How could your essay be more convincing? Are your arguments logical? What additional evidence might you provide?
Journal: List two pieces of evidence in support of each point you’ve used to build your argument. How would someone who opposed your argument rebut those points? How would you rebut those rebuttals?
In-Class: Building a Solid Argument
Exercise: Group Workshop: Evaluating Your Evidence
M 7/24 Reading: “In Praise of the F Word,” Sherry 519
Revision Due “The Right to Fail,” Zinsser, 524
Journal: List three reasons the drinking age should be lowered, then three reasons why it should remain at 21. Cite good reasons. Try to think from the perspective of the other side.
Writing: Revision Due Essay #2 Length: 3 Pages
In Class: Revision: A re-envisioning
Exercise: In the Courtroom
W 7/26 Reading: On Dumpster Diving,” Eighner, 383
Essay #3 Journal: As you’ve researched your thesis, have you learned anything surprising? How has your research influenced your thinking? Please bring three copies of your essay to class.
Writing: Essay #3 Researched Human Interest. Form an argument based on the issue or problem you are passionate about. State your thesis clearly, then, using solid evidence, create a strong argument in support of your thesis. Please bring a copy to class. DRAFT LENGTH: 3 PAGES
In Class: Revision
Exercise: Group Workshop
M 7/31 Reading: “Be Specific,” Goldberg, 299
“The Case for Short Words,” Lederer, 303
Journal: Outline the last essay you turned in, then analyze the piece and describe the various techniques you used to persuade. What points did you make? How did you back them up? What evidence did you use? Length: One Page
2) List ways to improve your research paper.
3) Make a list of questions about writing, your essay or the class.
In-Class: 1) Questions answered.
2) Revise to Edit.
Exercise: Editing the essay.
W 8/2 Reading: TBA
Revision Journal: Write a brief reflective essay describing the ways in which your writing has improved, ways you’d like to continue to improve.
Writing: Revision Essay #3 Length: 3-4 pages