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One last post…

June 11, 2018

…before we shut things down officially.

Several people have asked me over the past few days for advice about what to do over the summer. “What should I be working on?” or “What can I do to improve?”

I love those questions because that’s exactly what you should be thinking as we prepare to take some much-needed time off. But rather than giving specific advice — which we have probably already passed on during the portfolio reviews we just concluded — I’d rather make this more general.

It won’t be surprising. It also won’t be followed by most people, if history is any guide.

I give it anyway: read.

There is no single thing a writer can do — not even writing itself — that will make them better, faster, than if they read.

Many of you have heard me tell the story of a student evaluation, long past, in which the student in question said she loved writing poetry. I asked her who her favorite poet was, and her face clouded momentarily. Then she brightened. “I’m so busy writing poetry,” she declared, “that I don’t have any time to read it.” Everyone laughs when I tell this story, but I hope it’s uncomfortable laughter. The belief this student expressed is shared by lots and lots of people, and some of them are students here.

Does it matter what you read? It does in this sense: reading will only improve your work to the level of what you read. In other words, if you only read stuff that doesn’t challenge you, then that’s as good as you can possibly get.

It’s a little like lifting weights. If you go to the gym and do a few reps at the easiest possible weight, it’s better than doing nothing. But it won’t make you bigger or stronger.

(Reading the blogs of your peers, Tumblr poetry, online conversation threads, and memes, meanwhile, is more like getting dressed to go to the gym and then standing by the treadmill for an hour, trying to decide whether you should get on, and then just going home. It’s good that you were there! You had the right idea! But you didn’t actually do anything.)

Go to the library. They still exist. You might even have a card. (If not, they aren’t terribly difficult to procure.)

Pick out three books that look interesting, for whatever reason. It doesn’t matter what genre or what author. Then check them out, go home, turn your phone off, and try reading one. See what happens. If the first one doesn’t take, try again. (But think about why you didn’t connect. That’s an important lesson too.)

You might find yourself reading a well-written work by an author whose worldview doesn’t line up with yours. That’s good. Keep reading. Think critically about your differences as you read. Test your assumptions. Maybe they’re mistaken?

I know very well that most people, as stated earlier, will not take this advice. They will supply any number of perfectly defensible excuses. I worked all summer. I was gone. I had family commitments. Etc. Etc. Etc.

All fine. But just as we would laugh, rightfully, at someone who said their goal was to be a professional actor, but had never managed to even audition for a show, we should laugh at someone who says they want to write and then gives the excuses above — or any others — for not reading.

Here’s hoping you all have a restful, productive, relaxing, challenging, peaceful, provocative summer, filled with books.




Monday, June 4

June 4, 2018

Poetry Workshop: Our final five revisions.

On Wednesday, I will give you back:

  • comments (or at least annotations) on your speed round poems (six and 10).
  • a packet of all the Round 10 “partner poems”

Miss Aloi and Miss Bartlett were the only two people who correctly IDed all nine of the partner poems. They know you better than you know yourself…

CNF Workshop: We are done. Thanks for filling out those cards!

Comics: Gave back the final exams, which were mostly meh.

I will give back the final projects on Wednesday.

BatCat: We still have work to do! Don’t forget about the assignments you got today.

Side note: Yes, I absolutely want you to have a nice time in this final week, but you must ask for a pass if you are trying to come up at times other than lunch. You all have been very good about this throughout the year, which I appreciate, but the rules haven’t changed just because it’s the last week of class. Don’t assume – ask first. (Seniors who come to school are an exception, of course!)

New Media: Portfolio reviews. We got done five of six.

Survey: Screenwriting: Today we did two final table reads, and we are officially done. I will try to get all of this back to you by the end of the week (and as I mentioned in class, your test grade in Powerschool might not be correct! I had a tech issue and will be correcting these in the next day or so).

If you haven’t given me your self-evaluation for the development project, I need it tomorrow. Waiting to have all of these in before putting up the pitch grades.

The rest of the week will be portfolio reviews.


Friday, June 1

June 1, 2018

Poetry Workshop: Bartlett/Shafran/Aloi/Kennedy.

I gave out packets of the final five revisions. They are due Monday:  Starr/Holten/Ambrose/Pilch/Wahlenmayer.

If you’re a senior, you do not have to do those last five comments. That’s your graduation present.

CNF Workshop: Finished up Round 5. Thanks, everyone. It was a good semester.

Comics: Final exam.

BatCat: What a day.

Podcasting: You handed in Episode 4 (hopefully – if you’re planning to hand it in late, remember that sooner is better than later!). Weekly listening will be checked one more time (next Thursday) for those of you who will be around.

Survey: CNF: Final exam.

Thursday, May 31

May 31, 2018

WWTWWT: Final exam.

Book History: Final test & alphabet book project due. Remember that you’re allowed to use our resources throughout the next week to do a personal project if you would like. Aside from that, we’re done! I love teaching this class and I hope you learned something and had a little bit of fun. Thanks for your participation & effort.

Siren: Final assignment: an interview with Mr. Poling.

Publishing: Continued work/organizing.


Podcasting: Weekly listening was checked. Your 4th and final podcast episode is due at the beginning of class tomorrow, to be shared via Google Drive. Weekly listening will be checked one more time – next Thursday – for those of you who will be around.  

Survey: CNF: Review game for final exam. Donuts for MMPR tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 30

May 31, 2018

Poetry Workshop: For Friday: Bartlett/Aloi/Shafran/Kennedy.

CNF Workshop: Please have all three remaining essays ready to go for Friday (Sarah, Bec, Marena). I hope to get them all done on Friday, but if we run out of time, one of the juniors will be pushed to next week.

Comics: Reviewed for Friday’s final.

BatCat: Organizing. Books go on sale on Friday, so we do need to finish up some more Canyons.

New Media: Saw all four reality shows. Nice work, everyone!

Survey: Screenwriting: Excerpts were due! We did table reads for those that were turned in. If you were absent, you may or may not get a table read – depends on how the schedule works out in the next week. In any case, hand these things in ASAP. If you need to take the final, come see me ASAP as well.

Tuesday, May 29

May 29, 2018

POETRY WORKSHOP: Please remember that for tomorrow (by 8:45 a.m.) you are to leave a comment for the three revisions from seniors: McKinzie, LeRoy and Wolfe. No annotations are required, but here is the packet in case you would like everything in one place: Senior revisions 5-30-18

WWTWWT: Gave back the final projects and we reviewed the responses.

That didn’t leave us much time to review for Thursday’s final, so I am going to have a review session during the second half of Block 2 tomorrow. See me for a pass in the morning if you’re not normally with us then.

Book History: Binding day for the alphabet book project. If you didn’t finish in class, make a plan for yourself! These are due by the end of the block on Thursday – but keep in mind that Thursday is not a work day (but you can work on it if you finish your final exam early).

Final exam Thursday. Here’s the review list, again, if you need it: Book History 5.17.18 – Review List.

Siren: I gave out the AP Style handout.

On Thursday, we will have a guest. You will interview our guest and, within the block, write a short piece suitable for publication (most likely it ends up on the website).

You will be graded in part on your adherence to AP Style — and on your ability to recognize the correct punctuation for attributive verbs. (It’s a comma, generally.)

Publishing: Social media stuff. Please remember that we are not done! I know the end of the year can be a tough time, but we need to do right by our authors and make sure that we’re still operating at 100%.


New Media: Final work day for the reality shows. You graded yourselves on the blogs and on the shows.

PLEASE try to get me the shows before class starts tomorrow. I want to have a look before we screen these.

Survey: Screenwriting: Final test. Work day for those you doing excerpts. Excerpts are due tomorrow. Remember that you must print multiple copies in order to get full credit! You need to print one copy for each speaking role in your script (no matter how small) plus one extra for exposition. Print BEFORE class – to make things crystal clear, print before the bell rings or else you’ll be subject to a deduction.

Friday, May 24

May 28, 2018

Poetry Workshop: Speed Round 10. Nice job, everyone.

Your revision — of one poem you have done in this workshop — is due on the blog by 8 a.m. Tuesday. Remember: I am looking for substantial revisions, not a couple of commas. These revisions will be graded on content.

Also remember: we are only leaving comments on the blog for these revisions: no annotations. (Unless you just want to do them.)

CNF Workshop: Marena and Spencer for Wednesday.

Comics: Watched a segment of The Superheroes about the post-Bronze Age period in comics. Takeaways:

  • Sales and excitement peaked in the early 1990s with creators like Todd McFarlane, who created Spawn and gave Spider-Man a memorable makeover: 
  • These comics got more violent and more gimmick-ridden — comics companies realized that their core market could be tapped further with stuff like variant covers, special #1 editions, giveaways, etc., and that regular folks believed that comics were a great investment for the future. They were wrong about that; one big difference was that these comics never became scarce because now everyone plastic-bagged their purchases to keep them in mint condition.
  • Companies kept at it, however — restarting continuity and falling back on alternate realities; letting celebrity creators have at their characters; issuing more #1 issues. And finally, the marker would collapse. The casual reader/investor saw there was no money in this; the diehard fan finally got burned out on too many do-overs.
  • This sort of thing peaked early with the spectacularly cynical Death of Superman, which was a yearlong trolling of Superman fans that generated huge initial sales and interest, but ennui when the Man of Steel was inevitably resurrected: 
  • And that’s where we are today, re: comics — a shrunken market that occasionally generates provocative work, but which teeters towards irrelevance. The movies — well, Marvel movies — have become more and more successful, and the last 10 years of the MCU have been the sort of success Stan Lee always dreamed of, back when he went to Hollywood in the 1970s. Can it continue? We’ll see.

I gave you this packet to prepare for next Friday’s final exam. Ask questions! Classic Comics Final Review May 25 2018

Final project due next Wednesday!

BatCat: Everything is fine!

Podcasting: Episode 3 was due today, and we listened to several of these in class. Next week: Thursday is your (probably) last weekly listening reporting, and Episode 4 is due at the BEGINNING of class on Friday.

Survey: CNF: You ate cake.

We went over deadlines. There’s really only one:

Friday, June 1:

  • Hybrid essay due
  • Final essay due
  • Final exam

The end.