WR 121 - Week 2 January 18, 2017

Today's Agenda

  • Hand in Informal Writing #1
  • A brief primer on academic discourse
  • Paper #1 - Writing What We Know
  • Reading Discussion
  • Reading for Understanding

What is academic discourse?

Paper #1

To get our feet wet, we'll start by writing about something we know. By situating ourselves in a comfortable position, we should be able to focus on being descriptive, evocative, and, perhaps, emotional in our approach.

Think about an important, memorable place from your own lifetime. It might be a grandparent’s home, a summer camp, the place where you took piano lessons, a vacation spot, a favorite restaurant, etc. Write an essay that describes the place in a way that helps the reader feel as if they are there with you. Let your memory drift back in time and find the details that will make the place feel true.

  • Describe the place. Use all the senses—what did it look, smell, and sound like? Could you taste or touch it?
  • Describe the people who were there, and their relationship to you. Why were they there? What were they doing?
  • Why were you there? What were you doing?
  • Apply a cultural perspective. Why was the place important? What were the values of the people or of the place itself? How did this affect your own values? How did it make you feel?
  • The story can include action, but you don’t have to have anything actually happen. This essay is all about description.
  • Length: minimum 750 words
  • Audience: Your classmates and your teacher. We have never been to the place in your essay, so you’ll need to describe it carefully so that we can see it.
  • Writer: Since you are the expert on your place, it’s up to you to describe it. This is an informal paper, so feel free to use the word “I” (also known as a “first person” point of view) as you write.
  • Due: January 25th - bring six copies to class.
  • Workshop January 30th.

A Few Resources for Finding Creative and Descriptive Words...

  • The Describer's Dictionary by David Grambs (Amazon) (Powell's) -- also in stock over at the PSU Bookstore. It's a handy sort of thesaurus of descriptive terms, complete with examples.
  • A glossary of architectural terms
  • Wine descriptors (they cover a lot more than what you'd normally just apply to wine)
  • And last, but not least, that old standby of writers -- along with paint chips from the hardware store, there's always Crayola crayon colors.

Brainstorming Ideas & Work for Monday

In Class Work: In your journal, start listing all the places you can think of that you might write about. Don't stop listing, even if you already know what you want to write about -- generate as many ideas as you can. (NOTE: If you are doing this at home, please set a timer for 5 minutes and generate as many ideas as you can possibly come up with, even if you already know what you plan on writing for paper 1.)

Get into your workshop groups and share your top three or four ideas with each other. Ask questions and discuss which direction you may want to head. Tell your peers what you think of their ideas -- which ones would you want to read?

For Monday, January 23

Go through the list you generated in class, circle your top five choices. Add notes or additional lists that explain what you know about this place, why it is a good choice for this paper, and why you are interested in this place as a subject for your paper.

Read: Barbara Ehrenreich, Nickel and Dimed, Chapter 1: Serving in Florida (The introduction is worth reading if you have the time.)

As with the Susan Orlean readings, pay attention to how the author brings you into the story. What scene setting details does she include in her writing. How does this work speak to something larger? Even those this book was written almost 20 years ago, it really made a mark and seems to still carry its weight in terms of the social commentary offered. She has continued to write about the struggles of surviving on minimum wage, and has used the book as a platform for keeping this important conversation going. Here's an excellent article she wrote in 2014 for Atlantic, if you are interested in reading more.

Reading to Understand

  • If it is a short work, give a quick read through once and see what you think.
  • Then, reread it more closely.
  • Think about how the material fits into the class you are taking. In other words, what lessons should you be learning from the text?
  • Take notes.
  • Ask questions.
  • Look up unfamiliar words, events, people: Google is your friend, use it.
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Jenny Woodman

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