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Monday, Aug. 26

August 26, 2013

Creative Nonfiction Workshop: Today we reviewed what makes a successful workshop comment. I have to insist that all comments be no less than three complete sentences. And remember, that’s the minimum. Doesn’t mean you’ll get full credit if the minimum is also minimal in terms of content.

I suggested two things: first, that every comment include the following:

1. Something in the essay that you liked or is done well.
2. A question you have about something in the essay.
3. A suggestion about something in the essay that could be improved.

Second, I proposed a method for effectively responding to each essay.

1. Read the hard copy (I’ll be giving out packets on Friday).
2. Annotate the hard copy. “Annotate” in this case means to mark small changes (grammar, punctuation, etc.) and make short comments. (“Maybe you should move this part to the end?”) You do not need to write a lengthy response as part of your annotation.
3. Then, once you’ve read and annotated the essay, visit the blog and make your comment. Comments should be bigger-picture observations, but also contain specific observations and suggestions. (“This is your best essay yet, thanks to the unforgettable moments you chose.”)

We went over your summer moments next, and I made some suggestions for trying to expand them into a full-blown essay. (You don’t have to do this; I just wanted to talk about how it could happen.)

1. Think about what this moment has in common with other moments in your life. For example, these moments happened during summer vacation, so you’ve all had plenty of summer vacations to compare this to.
2. If this moment is a first — say, if it relates to your first job, your first date or even the first time you were left at home without supervision — it’s potentially significant too. Your points of comparison, though, might come from other sources. For example, if you’ve watched a lot of movies and TV shows that suggest all first dates are disasters, but yours was nothing of the sort, you’ve identified a built-in comparison.
3. When you’ve figured out a commonality, try to come up with at least three moments that relate in some way to this one. For example: say your moment happened during your first date. You might compare it to, and draw moments from:
a. a first date you saw in a movie
b. your older brother or sister’s first date
c. dates you’ve had after this one

You’re trying to identify focus and theme. In this case, “focus” would simply tell you what to focus on: first dates. The “theme” would be expressed in more detail. For example, “The idea of disastrous first dates is actually just a relationship cliche.”

Wednesday is a work day, probably the only one we’ll have this semester. Your first rotation essay is due on the blog by the start of school next Thursday. Old material (that has never been workshopped) is fine.

Screenwriting Workshop: Today was an orientation/work day. We read an excerpt from The Fantastic Mr. Fox (pages 1 – 10) and discussed it – what was unusual, what was good, what wasn’t quite so fantastic. On Wednesday we will look at an excerpt from another screenplay and have a similar discussion.

The rest of the time was yours to spend working on your first rotation screenplays. I will be checking them all on Wednesday. This doesn’t mean they need to be complete, it means that you need to bring in your screenplay-in-progress (TYPED) so that I can check and make sure that you are on the right track. If you don’t bring in something for me to look at, I will be merciless when it comes to grading this round. So it is in your best interests to let me have a look, even if you don’t have much.

Again, here’s the handbook: Screenwriting – Handbook 2012
Here’s the 3-act structure outline: Screenwriting – Three Act Structure Outline

Fiction Workshop:

Public Speaking: Today we spent a surprising amount of time talking about bad habits that we all have when we have to speak publicly. The list was too long to reproduce; let’s just say that some of the habits discussed were new to me, and I’ve seen quite a few over the years.

Hopefully this discussion makes you feel less self-conscious about your own bad habits, as we work to minimize them. Remember: biologically speaking, it makes sense for you to be nervous when you’re speaking publicly. Scott Berkun points out that several factors trigger our nervousness: we’re exposed; we have no means of escape; and nothing with which we can defend ourselves. Who wouldn’t be a little uneasy?!

Then we watched this 10-minute video clip of Berkun speaking:

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It’s a fairly unremarkable talk, but I read you what Berkun wrote about it in his book. He thought it was a disaster afterward, largely because he was surprised at how much time had elapsed when he started speaking, and also because there was a little mixup with his PowerPoint slides at the beginning. However, when he spoke to people afterward, nobody noticed.

Which brings to mind an important piece of advice: don’t call attention to your mistakes, because most people won’t ever notice them. When you speak, you’re a little like an actor or actress. (The part you’re playing is yourself, but an informed and engaging you.) When you call attention to a mistake, you’re breaking character, just like an actor or actress. They have to go on and pretend nothing is wrong. So, in most cases, should you.

Your assignment for Wednesday: please bring in a piece of text (printed or handwritten) that is between 100 and 250 words. Could be a poem, could be a short speech, could be a dramatic monologue — whatever. I do NOT want it to be your own work, however. I want a printed copy: it does not count if you only have it on a laptop or jump drive. Print it out beforehand, or it won’t do you any good. We are going to use these Wednesday, so be sure you have one.

Press: Today we started refreshing bookbinding techniques. Sara, Sarah, and Autumn are working on traditional bindings and the rest of you are start off with box making. So far… so good? We’ll continue this on Wednesday.

7th Grade:

Survey Fiction: Today we went over the syllabus (Survey Fiction Syllabus Fall 2013) and had a discussion about what fiction is and what we’re going to be doing in this class.

To summarize: fiction is something invented by the imagination, specifically a story, and for our purposes, stories written in prose (which is to say, written with a likeness to the way we speak – NOT poetry). Prose fiction is something you’ve seen before, as novels, short stories, novellas, and plays. Prose fiction can be categorized in genres, such as romance, mystery, sci fi, fantasy, young adult, realistic, etc.

In this class, we will be reading and writing literary fiction (which is also realistic – most of the time). Literary fiction is a term that sprung into usage in the 1960s and it suggests a serious form of writing that is set apart somehow from “genre” or “popular” fiction (such as romance novels in the grocery aisle). Literary fiction utilizes literary technique and devices, many of which we will cover in this class, and is often highly regarded as something worthy of study and praise. It’s a hard term to define, but a general rule of thumb is that you’ll know it when you see it. This class is going to help you out with that.

Note that literary fiction doesn’t have to be completely serious all of the time – it can be humorous, weird, unexpected, etc. We will be talking more about this as the semester progresses.

We ended class with a survey which was collected.

Homework for Wednesday: get your permission slip signed! Here it is again if you need another one: Permission Slip All Courses Fall 2013. Remember that you need to have your parents sign this before I can give you a textbook, and you will need it over the weekend.

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