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Monday, Aug. 28

August 29, 2016

CNF Workshop: You turned in your “most interesting person” moment notecards.

We started a new prompt about “firsts” from this past summer. We shared a few, and used them to highlight the differences between focus (the set of shared or linked experiences on which you choose to focus your essay) and theme (what you want to say about those experiences).

We also used Miss Bullock’s locked-my-keys-in-my-car story to reaquaint you with Lee Gutkind’s idea of the universal chord. We call it the midpoint between the public and private experience; an easier way to understand it is to say that while none of us has had an experience exactly like Miss Bullock’s — it’s unique to her, and thus “private” in a sense — we’ve all had experiences similar to it, whether they involve locking keys in a car, doing a silly thing with potentially unpleasant consequences, etc. That’s the “public” part of the equation.

I had you start a list of 10 strong opinions you hold. I asked you to bring this list back Wednesday for five points.

Remember: I want all three essays in the first packet read by Friday, when we’ll have our first reading quiz. I reserve the right to ask some general CNF questions, too. (Download this review guide: CNF overview 2016 if you need a refresher.)

Also due next Friday, Sept. 2: your first essay. It must be posted on the blog by 8:45 a.m. We’ll begin the first round on Wednesday, Sept. 7.

(If you’re looking for a few last-minute prompts, here are a few, courtesy of Miss Bullock: Writing Prompts)

Screenwriting Workshop: Today we went over the process to post to WordPress, and how to download your work from Celtx, if you decide to use it. We also went over the formatting handbook, which was given to you. The rest of the time was yours to work on your assignment for Wednesday, which is due to be posted to the blog by 8:45 am.

If you encounter any issues, do let me know. We will set Round 1 on Wednesday.

Public Speaking: We made a collective list of your bad public speaking habits. We will discuss these — and how to correct them — in more detail in the days and weeks ahead.

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:

It’s a fairly unremarkable talk, but I read you what Berkun wrote about it in his book, Confessions of a Public Speaker. 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 also want a printed copy: it does not count if you only have it on a laptop or flash 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.

BatCat: Today you all were added to the BatCat team on Submittable and submissions are coming your way. Remember that these are highly confidential; be respectful and follow the guidelines we discussed in class. If you didn’t hand in your permission slip, please do so on Wednesday.

Today you also filled out interest surveys, which I am looking forward to reading over.

Horror: Today we sat by the (virtual) fire to discuss the very beginnings of horror.

Long before there were any written stories, people sat by the fire. It offered light, warmth, a means to cook food, and safety — from both animal and human predators.

There were also legitimate reasons to leave the fireside and go into the darkness. We needed more wood. Or more food. Or someone heard a noise that needed to be investigated. Or someone had to pee.

But there’s usually someone in every group who leaves just because they can. Because they’re curious. Or because they think that there’s, to quote only about every horror movie ever made, “nothing to worry about.”

This, we call hubris — excessive pride or self-regard. And I gave you a packet of classical myths that have to do with hubris. Most of them end badly.

That’s because hubris is at the root of horror. Every horror story ever told is kicked off by someone crossing a boundary. And it’s usually the boundary between what man can do, and what he ought not do. Whether it’s curiosity or foolhardiness; whether you didn’t mean to upset the gods or whether you decided to challenge them outright, crossing that imaginary line is the trigger for every horror story ever told.

Read the packet of myths for Wednesday. And if you haven’t already, please remember to bring back the signed parental waiver, so I can give you a copy of Stephen King’s Pet Semetary.

Middle School Rotation (7th): Figured up the average amount of time you guys spend on the bus — about two hours a day. Which works out to 90 days over the course of a six-year career! Thank you for doing that to come to Lincoln Park!

We’ll start with some watching responses on Friday. Remember your watch lists for Mr. Cageao!

Middle School Literary Arts Enrichment: Our first class! We went over the syllabus: Middle School LA syllabus Fall 2016, and I asked you to please return this permission slip to me ASAP, so that I can give you your first book: Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere:


We then wrote, in the present tense, about the most boring moment of our summers. A few people shared — nicely-done, everyone!

Survey: Fiction: Today we began by going over expectations, and then you shared some of the answers you wrote on the opening assessment assignment, which was then collected. Thanks for sharing!

We began taking notes on prose, prose forms (novel, novella, short story, etc.), and genres. We ended by adding “literary fiction” to our list of genres; we will continue to discuss what exactly this means on Wednesday.

There are two reading assignments for Wednesday: first, My Date with Neanderthal Woman, which was handed out in class. We will discuss this story in relation to our discussion about literary fiction. Secondly, please read The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (Norton Anthology, pg. 720). There will be a quiz on this one (but not My Date). 

Questions? Concerns? Come see me or shoot me an email. See you Wednesday.

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