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Friday, Oct. 20

October 20, 2017

Fiction Workshop: Today: Erb-White and Kennedy. We held over Duffy until Monday.

For Monday: new packet. McCollough/Bett/Julia Aloi.

Screenwriting Workshop: 

Act One: You turned in your exposition + outline. I will have these back to you Monday with comments. Wednesday will be another work day; Friday’s assignment is to add at least one complication (and perhaps resolution) to what you’ve already done.

We watched a version of the Tennessee Williams play This Property is Condemned. You took a quiz on it, and we discussed what makes it significant (including a staging mistake from the version we watched that changes the intent, somewhat).

As promised: for a limited time only…


Hitchcock: Hitchcock Presents:

“The Crystal Trench” (S5 Ep 2) 1959

“Mrs. Bixby and the Colonel’s Coat” (S6 Ep1) 1960 (Story by Roald Dahl)

Remember: ALL outlines are due Monday.

We set the order for next week’s presentations by age:
























  • If you’re absent on the day of your presentation, you go first the next day.
  • All presentations have to happen next week.

Survey: Fiction: 


Thursday, October 19

October 19, 2017

Professional Writing: For-real test #1.

You turned in your edited press releases and originals. Please be sure you email me ( a copy of the edited version.

We found local newspapers for all our LAVA readers. Your job is to come in Tuesday with the email address of the person at this paper who is supposed to get this press release. Work together if need be, but be ready: we’re sending these releases out Tuesday morning!

Critical Reading: Finally got all the way through Foucault. We are not done with this yet; your homework for Tuesday is to research Jeremy Bentham. There is one specific idea that he came up with (amongst many) that will be of particular interest to us – see if you can figure out what it is!

Siren: Gave your Shearer stories an informal workshopping. Takeways, generally:

  • Write short and punchy. Give your stories the squint test. If you see big blocks of text, that’s most likely a problem. Use short sentences, too. One idea per graf. Most of the time, you should give a quote its own graf, as well.
  • Let the subject have the last word whenever possible. However, you might have to set up the quote with some sort of context.
  • You can do things like make use of direct address, and become a more visible narrator in your stories. But when the story becomes more about the writer than the subject, that’s when this strategy becomes a problem.

Publishing: Continued progress on all fronts. 

Style: You shared your notes on Nicola Yoon’s The Sun is Also a Star. Your Style assignment, due Tuesday, is:

  • to write 5 passages/chapters – length of your choosing, but not more than 3 pages per passage
  • Must have graphic unique to each character above each chapter – can be original, but it doesn’t have to be.
  • 2 protagonists – each point of view  represented in  1st person
  • 1 secondary character written in  3rd person omniscient
  • Passages/chaptersYoon picture can be an intro, middle, or resolution of the storyline.

Hitchcock: Today was a work day for your midterms, which are due Monday. Note: tomorrow we will determine the order for the midterms. Regardless of order, ALL outlines are due to be handed in on Monday.

Survey: Poetry: Gave back the quizzes. You guys did well on the scansion stuff, overall, but struggled with the meter-muting strategies on pages 91-93. So we practiced some more on that stuff, including how alternating lines of different meter (iambic tetrameter and iambic trimeter) produces ballad form. Like this:

Miss Van Houtem and Miss Brody got a point of extra credit for singing Emily Dickinson’s “Because I Could Not Stop For Death” to this tune, which I always enjoy.

Remember: your sonnet/rhyme royal is due Tuesday!


October 18, 2017

There is one bagel left over from this morning. It is cranberry-something. Come see Mrs. Baringer if you want it.

It’s over.

Wednesday, October 18

October 18, 2017

Fiction Workshop: Today: McCollough (R2, which finishes that off) and McDanel.

No assignments for Friday, as we have three pieces (Erb-White, Kennedy, Duffy) held over from today.

Screenwriting Workshop: Today we workshopped Ian and Tony. Torie’s screenplay is for Friday. Please remember that we will start having visitors on Friday and throughout the following month, so be on your A game.

Act One: Work day. Your exposition is due Friday. I tried to talk to everyone, but did not succeed. So if I missed you and you have questions, PLEASE come ask. I’ll try to catch up with some folks tomorrow during Block 2, but I’m counting on you to come see me if you are unsure about anything.

And please don’t forget that this HAS to be in SAF. Here’s the cheat sheet if you need it.

I gave out copies of a third Tennessee Williams play, This Property is Condemned. Read it for Friday! You know what that probably means.

BatCat: Progress. Thank you for your continued efforts.

Hitchcock: We finished Rope, probably my favorite Hitchcock film. (Not, however, Mrs. Baringer’s.)

Afterward, we talked about several things:

  • Hitchcock obviously thought often about the idea of the perfect murder, as we have discussed, but this script was based on a real crime: the Leopold-Loeb case, which I gave you a handout about. It was sensational in part because the two killers did what they did for sheer kicks — to see if they could get away with it. And they almost did. Just like Brandon in Rope. (Why didn’t Leopold and Loeb get the death penalty? The answer is Clarence Darrow, one of the most famous lawyers in history, and an opponent of capital punishment.)
  • Brandon’s ideas about how superior people have the right to take the lives of inferior people were — as Dr. Cantley suggested — reminiscent of the thought of Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900), a German philosopher who achieved almost no success in his own unhappy lifetime. However, after his death, his sister went on to build up his reputation, and future generations would discover, and be inspired by, his work — most infamously, the Nazi Party.
  • People will argue that the Nazis perverted some of Nietzsche’s ideas (with the help of Nietzsche’s sister, who was anti-Semitic), and that’s certainly true — to an extent. But Nietzsche has some things to answer for — just like Rupert does in this film. Nietzsche saw traditional Judeo-Christian morality as a burden that man needed to throw off, to be truly free and live up to his full potential. He saw the man who would do this as an ubermensch, or “overman” — someone strong enough to resist societal norms and transcend them. It sounds good on paper, perhaps, but Rope examines what happens when people pay lip service to these ideas (Rupert), and what happens when other people take then seriously (Brandon).
  • Turning to matters of technique, we talked about the unusual way the movie was filmed — as a near-continuous shot. (There are, reportedly, 10 edits — five of them dissolves into black when an object fills the lens, and five traditional hard cuts. Did you notice where they were?)
  • We also talked about the way Hitchcock borrowed techniques from this film in later works — specifically, Hitchcock Presents episodes. For example, “One More Mile To Go” obviously uses the same “Will they open the chest?” tension-builder. “Banquo’s Chair,” which we saw just last week, also uses doorways as a framing device — almost like a proscenium arch — and the trick of focusing on a particular thing (in this case, the maid, Mrs. Wilson, whom we slowly realize might be about to lift the lid of the chest unless she’s stopped!) while conversation is happening offscreen. It’s more a plot device than a cinematic technique, of course, but “Arthur,” also from last week, shares a smarmy protagonist who seems to have everything so precisely figured out that he delights in taunting the onlookers (and us). The point is that Hitchcock, like most great artists, was not only an innovator — he also knew how to mine his own back catalog and reuse ideas in slightly different contexts. That’s how you develop a recognizable style, after all.

Remember that tomorrow is a work day — your last before the midterm is due. Come ready to rumble!

Survey: Fiction: Today was a little weird, because of pictures/health screenings. We did an in-class activity: we wrote a choose-your-own-adventure book in an hour. I’m sure it’s… delightful.

We also took a quiz on Miriam. We will pick class back up with serious stuff on Monday.

Tuesday, October 17

October 17, 2017

Professional Writing: Off-the-books quiz #1.

Gave back the press releases. Overall, pretty decent. Please correct the following errors (as well as any others I marked), and turn the revisions in Thursday, along with the original (with my comments):

  • Don’t get too cute with the headlines. Keep it basic.
  • Standardize the dateline. MIDLAND (Oct. 18, 2017)
  • Make sure you list when this event is, where it is (the location IN the school, as well as the school itself), and what LAVA stands for, somewhere.
  • Make sure you have a quote no lower than graf #4.
  • Make sure you format dates (Oct. 17 — no “th”) and titles (poem and story titles in quotation marks, because they’re considered part of a whole work.
  • Use a graf of boilerplate about the school at the end. Include the part about the arts programs offered, at least.
  • Include your contact info at the end! And don’t use “me” or “I.”
  • For future reference, think about trying to find the story in what is basically an attempt to get free advertising. It’s one thing to say somebody’s doing something somewhere at some time; it’s another to dig deeper and find something more potentially interesting about it. This reader is going to read to try to conquer stage fright. This reader has read at every single reading since they got here. This reader is reading a poem about Colin Kaepernick. Whatever.

Real test Thursday. It’ll be similar to today’s, but longer. (Still timed, though.)

Revised resumes due next Tuesday (along with the originals).

Critical Reading: Today we continued going over Foucault. Didn’t finish. Will continue on Thursday.

Siren: Thanks for turning in your annotations and your October copy. We’ll take a look at the annotations Thursday — today it didn’t really work because of editing October copy and because we were missing folks for health screenings.

Publishing: Good work once again.

Style: Today you were given the first several chapters of The Sun Is Also A Star by Nicola Yoon. Please read and take notes on her style for this book.

Hitchcock: Today we read the Truffaut excerpt for Notorious, then began to watch Rope. Here’s the observation sheet: Hitchcock 10.17.17 – OR Rope. 

Survey: Poetry:  Scansion quiz. You dudes should definitely look over the material on pp. 91-93, because that part of the quizzes appears to have produced dreadful results.

We began talking about formal poetry, starting with two forms: the sonnet and the rhyme royal. Read about them here: Survey of Forms Poetry The Sonnet and Rhyme Royal Oct 17 2017

And here’s a great piece from a few years back about the sonnet and how to write one.

Your assignment for next Tuesday is to write either a sonnet or a rhyme royal. Both need to be written in iambic pentameter.

1. If you choose the rhyme royal, you have to follow the rhyme scheme: ababbcc

2. If you write a sonnet, it does not have to rhyme. (You’ll be writing in blank verse, in other words.)

3. If you need some sample lines to get you started, here are the ones you wrote yourselves:

  • The small and helpless ant is named Gaston
  • The girl went slow around the town and wept
  • The dancer swayed against an angry wind
  • The body hangs by rope and dangles high
  • The maggots squirmed inside the rotting fruit
  • The mice must bow to him, the king of rats
  • A dog with cats recalled a cat with bats
  • The fearful boy that always cries at night
  • She walked, she ran, she had a plan that’s bad
  • The girl in class would always cheat on tests
  • The angry hipster sneered about his school
  • The door was creaking ev’ry day for years
  • The rose fell in the pool of blood and sank
  • The little animal is still no good

Monday, October 16

October 16, 2017

Fiction Workshop: Today: Holten (R2), Bocek and Koscinski (R3).

For Wednesday: Erb-White, Kennedy, Duffy.

Screenwriting Workshop: Today we workshopped Hailey and read Ian’s screenplay aloud. We will workshop Ian first thing on Wednesday, followed by Tony (whose screenplay you received today as well).

On Wednesday, please don’t wait downstairs for announcements: come to our room as soon as the first bell rings (or earlier!) as we will start as soon as we possibly can. If you are a sophomore, please check in with me when the first bell rings, then go downstairs immediately to take care of your pictures & health screenings. Come back ASAP.

You also received Torie’s screenplay, which is for Friday. You may or may not get Calliope’s as well – I’ll update you on the status of this one on Wednesday.

Please stay aware of your due dates.

Act One: Today we did an exposition exercise with partners, to help show efficient ways to orient an audience to who’s onstage, what their relationship is, where they are, and what’s going on.

  • You will have Wednesday to work on your exposition, which is due Friday. BRING YOUR OUTLINES, WITH MY COMMENTS. I will try to meet with everyone individually.

Remember, the full plays are due next Friday, Oct. 27.

BatCat: As mentioned in class: submissions. Every day manuscripts are withdrawn because they are picked up by other presses – it’s a competitive time of year, so the fast we go, the better. Consider this HOMEWORK.

Hitchcock: Today I handed back the Hitchcock Presents papers with a few comments.

We watched two Hitch20 episodes, which focused primarily on camera technique and its effects:

“Banquo’s Chair” (the “high,” or overhead, shot, and its various uses):

“Arthur” (having a character address the camera, and how it makes us perceive that character — and his or her reliability):

The rest of the time was your to work on your midterms, which are due next Monday.

Survey: Fiction: Today you read and then handed in Prompt 4. Nice job – these sounded quite good. I hope the technical quality of the writing lives up to the reading!

For Wednesday: read Miriam by Truman Capote (pg. 66). There will be a quiz.

Middle School Literary Arts Enrichment:

Friday, October 13

October 13, 2017

Fiction Workshop: Today: nobody. (People were absent.)

I gave out the first R3 packets. For Monday: Bocek/Koscinski/McDanel.

For Wednesday: Erb-White, Kennedy, Duffy.

Screenwriting Workshop: Today we workshopped Henry. You received two new screenplays (Hailey and Ian). We will be workshopping Hailey’s screenplay on Monday – annotations and comments will be due as usual. We will read Ian’s screenplay, but will be discussing it on Wednesday – annotations and comments will be due on Wednesday for his screenplay.

On Monday, you’ll receive a copy of Tony’s Round 2 piece. It is already on the blog (scroll down a bit) if you want to get a head start. Tony will be workshopped next Wednesday as well.

Act One: We read “The Last of My Solid Gold Watches” by Tennessee Williams. This is another play about delusion; in this case, Charlie behaves as though he’s still a big-deal salesman worthy of respect. (A “legend,” he even says at one point.) But Harper, and his ever-present comic book, stand in contrast to Charlie’s self-importance.

For next Friday, you need to turn in the exposition for your midterm. Here’s what it should look like:

  • Title (in SAF)
  • Character names and short descriptions (also in SAF)
  • Setting (Also in SAF)
  • Act 1, Scene 1…and then the beginning of your play. (Also in SAF)

So essentially, I’m asking you to write the first couple of pages of your play. How much do we need? The exposition ends (for our purposes) when we know:

  • Who the characters are, and what their relationship to one another is,
  • Where we are, and
  • What seems to be going on. (Think of it as the “What makes this day different?” question.

Yes, it needs to be typed. AND I NEED YOUR OUTLINE WITH IT!!

BatCat: Lots of things going on. Remember to ask if you need assistance, and thank you for taking initiative and staying (mostly) focused. See you Monday. (Also, in case you missed the memo, we are NOT going to Frostburg tomorrow.) 

Hitchcock: Two more Hitchcock-directed episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents:

  • “Banquo’s Chair” (S4, Ep. 29), 1959
  • “Arthur” (S5, Ep 1), 1959

By now, you should be seeing some pretty familiar repeated elements in these shows. (And I don’t just mean another John Williams appearance.) Remember: if you missed, you need to watch these and make notes in your notebook. The good news is that most of them appear to be available online — or you can ask us for the DVDs.

Survey: Metrical poetry and Shrek. And donuts. There is nothing else.