Friday, February 21, 2014

AWP 2014: Seattle or Bust

I'm very excited to be attending the Association of Writers & Writing Programs (AW) Annual Conference in Seattle, WA, next week.

I'd love to see you at our panel on or my book signing. Here are the details:

Thursday, February 27, 10:30 - 11:45 am
Room 613/614, Washington State Convention Center, Level 6
Don't Hate Your Life: Redesign Your Comp Class
(Rachel Simon,  Chloe Yelena Miller,  Melissa Febos,  Kamilah Aisha Moon,  Alex Samets) Experienced composition writing professors share strategies for how to design a course that will engage students and not overwhelm instructors with unending piles of grading or grammar instruction. Using course texts ranging from Didion to Real Housewives, we will share practical and useful approaches for syllabus design, student success, managing your grading workload, and juggling multiple employers.

Friday, February 28, 10:00 - 10:30 am
Finishing Line Press Table B14 (Bookfair)
Unrest Book Signing (books will be for sale!)

And don't miss Toadlily Press & The Cortland Review's off-site reading on Friday evening at 6:30:
Rock Bottom Brewery
1333 5th Ave, Seattle, WA 98101
(206) 623-3070
Only a few blocks from AWP!
Featuring Toadlily Readers:
Janlori Goldman (Accord, NY)
Leslie LaChance (Nashville, TN)
Sierra Nelson (Seattle, WA)
Rachel M. Simon (Mahopac, NY)
and 4 readers from The Cortland Review

In 2012, I shared some thoughts about preparing for the conference, which was in Chicago that year. 
What are you looking forward to most at the conference? 

Monday, February 17, 2014

Call for poems about Georgetown, D.C.

Perhaps some of you are interested in this? I recently received this call for submissions. 

Since 1935 the Georgetown Neighborhood Library's Peabody Room has collected materials related to the history, culture, and economy of Washington, DC's oldest neighborhood.  Missing from this special collection of books, files, photographs, maps, newspapers, artwork, and objects however is POETRY!

Surely Georgetown's many residents and visitors have been inspired over the past 263 years since its founding to put pen to paper but none of these writings have been preserved.  Operating under the adage that "It's never too late," please consider donating an old or new Georgetown-themed poem to be added to the Peabody Room collection.  Future researchers (and poets) will thank you for your contributions.

Questions?  Contact:

Jerry A. McCoy
Special Collections Librarian
Peabody Room
Georgetown Neighborhood Library
3260 R Street, NW
Washington, DC  20007

Monday, February 10, 2014

Memoir Writing Writing Prompt: Organizational Activity

Don't those shoes appear super small next to Daddy's?

How do you tell your story in your memoir? Should you order your sections based on chronology, themes, location, or something else? 

This writing prompt is based on one that I offer to my memoir writing students at Politics & Prose bookstore

Write a list of 8-10 major components of your story on index cards. You might list chapter titles, main themes, main characters, main events, central research or other related ideas from your project. 

Place your index cards out on a table or on the floor. Put them in one order and then see what happens when they are in another order. 

Ideas, like objects, change based on their relationship to other like or different objects. For example, if I place an espresso cup next to a super sized to-go cup, the espresso cup will look much smaller than it might next to a tea cup. If you look at your index cards, what happens if you don't follow the chronology and instead organize events based on common themes, for example? 

Once you've settled on a possible order (which might change as you work on your project), write the following: 

First, what did you list on the cards? (Names of characters, places, etc.)
How does each item fit together in this particular order and why?
And then, the hardest question: What's the thesis statement or "so what" of your piece? (How do these 8-10 items fit together to result in a final argument or world view?)

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Submit. Submit Again. Submit Better.

Samuel Beckett famously wrote, "Try again. Fail again. Fail better."

Submitting your work for publication would benefit from the same approach. Submit. Submit again. Submit better. Research the publications you're considering submitting to and following their requirements. And if you're rejected, consider a better fit for your work and continue to edit and revise your writing.

It is 100% certain that you will not be published if you don't submit your work. If you are spending your time working to improve a piece of writing, then, when it is ready, why not work to find a larger audience for it?

If you're a poet, consider submitting to Toadlily Press. They publish four chapbooks in one perfect bound book. Submit 16-18 pages of poetry and $20 online reading fee (waived for students) through February 15. Winning poets receive $100 and 25 copies of the book. (As you might remember, I've been working with them and think they are fabulous!)

For more on submissions, you might be interested in this post about keeping track of your submissions or this one about "good" rejection letters.  

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Composition Writing: Thesis Statement

What's the first thing I look for when I'm reviewing a college composition essay? The thesis statement. It is the most important part of the paper. Without a strong thesis statement, the paper won't have a clear focus and will fall apart.

The thesis statement is the paper's main idea. It is poorly named since it isn't a "statement" at all, but rather an argument. Most of us make arguments regularly throughout the day without even realizing it. For example, think about when you might be deciding which restaurant to go to or which movie to see. You tell your friend what you'd like to do and you'd include why. The "why" section of your argument is the part that will influence your friend. In effect, your goal is the same in an essay: You want to convince the reader of your position.

Unlike a conversation with a friend, however, your academic essay will be top-heavy, which is opposite organization of a story you might relay to a friend. That is it say that your main argument and a summary of the main ideas will be in your introduction (a careful reader should be able to write an outline based on your paper's introduction). If you tell your friend a suspenseful story about something that happened recently, you'll probably save your argument (or punch line) until the end.

To help to form an argument, push your statement further by asking yourself, "what should be done or changed based on this situation"? For example, if you were to write, "Americans have a complicated relationship with food," you could add, "therefore…x, y and z should be done." This approach will help you to push your analysis of your research further.

For more, click through to my posts Writing a Strong Thesis Statement, Be Argumentative in Your Thesis, and What's Your Point?