My blog provides tips for new writers on writing paragraphs, tackling grammar, and designing essays. There are also prompts for creative writers and ideas for tutoring and teaching writing. Enjoy!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

More about my creative writing process course...

Creative Writing Process Workshop is a series of four classes for writers of all skill levels. During the course we look at the writing process of four published authors and at their work which demonstrates the outcome of that process. Then we use writing prompts to help us mimic that process and generate our own new stories, poems, or memoirs. The course includes brief reading assignments outside of class, but otherwise doesn't require homework. It is my hope that the exercises in class give writers a fresh perspective on generating new material or re-envisioning current projects. The course also balances approaches to writing--some examples feature writers who like to organize upfront, and other examples feature writers who follow the wild ride of creativity and then organize later in the process. Students will have time at the end of our classes to share what they've written that day if they so wish, and the rest of us will enjoy listening to brand new words on paper!

Friday, March 7, 2014

More about my creative writing course...

Creative Writing Workshop is a course for writers who want to generate new material in a playful environment with the support of fellow writers. The course features three to four writing prompts per session including a miniature lesson in topics relevant to prose and poetry and the creative process. Two sessions involve writing in response to the Waldron's art exhibits through unique prompts (like those posted elsewhere in this blog). Classes always include an opportunity to read what you've written. Everyone enjoys hearing the variety of responses to a prompt. The workshop allows you to write without having to perfect anything--the prompts simply spark ideas for later. Together we have a great time and feel motivated to go home and finish what we've started. Many of my own poems and short stories were first composed in these classes. Because each session is unique, it is OK if participants are unable to attend regularly.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

More about my creative revisions course...

Creative Revisions Workshop is a course for writers who seek feedback on their work from fellow writers. Writers who participate have already polished their written work, and want to know how readers perceive it so that it can be polished again. Participants vary broadly in their genres and writing styles. We’ve worked with short stories, creative non-fiction, novels, memoirs, personal essays, poetry, young adult fiction, historical fiction, and fairy tales. Topics have included family history, teen romance, long-lost love, war, personal triumph, aging challenges, brotherly squabbles, moonlit gardens, great quests, and much more. It is very important that participants spend time outside of class to read submissions and write feedback. In other words, if you seek feedback on your work, you must be willing to provide feedback to your classmates. This barter system is a powerful experience, and it is exciting to read new work by others. After the first class, which is an introduction to giving feedback, our class time involves lively discussion of each other’s works. We talk about the purpose, strengths, and weaknesses of the writing as well as ideas for what to cut, what to add, new directions, and favorite lines. Participants frequently mention how useful it is to read the work of classmates as a means to discovery in one’s own work. Since feedback is dependent on regular attendance, it is best if participants can commit to attending all class sessions.  

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Writing prompts in an art gallery (encore)

Art Heist 
Someone steals a piece of art from this gallery. What piece is stolen? Who stole it? When? Where? Why? And importantly: How? Describe what happens in this heist. 

When Art Is Left Alone 
It’s late at night, maybe 1:00 am, and all the staff of the gallery has gone home. The lights are off, downtown is sleeping since it’s a Wednesday, and no one is even peeping in the windows. What does the art do when no one is watching? 

Mixing Art 
Take a look at two vastly different exhibits: the wooden sculpture verses the nature painting. Now imagine the sculpture inside the scene of the painting. What is it doing there? 

Art's Other Charms 
Find a piece of art that resonates with you. Now try to describe it without sight: What smells, sounds, tastes, tactile sensations, and emotions could describe it? (Remember, we’re not allowed to touch the artwork or breathe closely on it.) 

Art You Love 
Write a love poem or love letter to a piece of art. 

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Writing with hearing impairment

For a year, I've tutored a writer who grew up hearing impaired. The experience reaffirms my belief that grammar and spelling, while necessary for the craft, are not an indicator of whether someone can write. My student's novel includes well-developed characters, a good sense of timing, interesting conflict, and realistic dialogue. Yet his hearing impairment has affected his writing, and in his education he was held to a different standard than other students. Now, on his own and through his creative writing, he explores grammar and spelling issues in his work. Here is what I've learned as his tutor. 1) Sit to his side with the better ear so he can hear; it is not impolite to ask which side is preferable. 2) Read aloud, enunciate well, and yet read at a normal speed. 3) Sound-alike words cause more problems than usual; whereas any student might misspell threw/through, my hearing-impaired student also confuses as/has/and because they sound the same to him. When correcting these, focus on how the word is used in the sentence: This should be 'and' because it combines things, and here 'has' is part of the action while 'as' starts a descriptive phrase. 4) Read ahead a few paragraphs to understand the content of the story before discussing grammar. This way I learn what he intends to communicate story-wise and then we discuss how the sentences can better achieve his goals. 

Monday, July 8, 2013

Parallelism gone wrong...

Good parallelism means that in a series, each item begins with the same part of speech (verb with verbs, noun with nouns, preposition with prepositions, and so on):

Jackie runs to the store, buys food, and hurries home. (verbs: runs, buys, hurries)
Poetry takes years to learn, decades to practice, and a lifetime to master. (nouns: years, decades, lifetime)
To save him, the girls lifted the car off the curb, over his body, and onto the street. (prepositions: off, over, and onto)

Parallelism goes wrong when an item doesn't match its companions. What would happen if a door that hangs on three hinges had one hinge on backwards? The door wouldn't open. Similarly, faulty parallelism makes the sentence difficult to read:

X    Jackie runs to the store, buying food, and hurrying home.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Framing summarized source material in your paragraphs...

When you write a summary of one of your sources, you need to use proper in-text citation or else you are committing plagiarism. Here is an example of a framing technique used to introduce and end your summary. You frame the summarized material between a signal phrase and the parenthetical in-text citation. I'll write this example in APA style.

you:                     Far fewer women enter computer programming as a career than men. Visit any
signal          computer  sciences department and the disparity will be obvious. According to 
phrase:        Laura Sydell's NPR report (2013) "Blazing the Trail for Female Programmers," 
summary:    female programmers make up only 20% of their field. However, women entrepreneurs
                  who head computer companies are attempting to change the situation. They say that 
                  it is crucial to insist on a diverse hiring pool when dealing with recruiting firms. 
                  Interest in the field is growing among women, too, as evidenced by high enrollment in 
                  workshops like Rails Bridge. An added incentive is that the field can be ideal for 
citation:       women who are raising families and need flexible scheduling (Sydell, 2013). Thus, 
you:            there are many reasons why the gender imbalance in computer programming may 
                  change in the future.