Tuesday, September 29, 2015

New Semester: Time Management?

I teach college writing classes online to (primarily) adults. Each school has varying schedules, with their semester and course start dates, depending on the length of the class. Classes at two schools started on Monday and while I love the fresh, new start, it can be overwhelming, too. Juggling a number of classes, schedules and students can be confusing at times.

The adult students I teach are also busy. They are usually fitting school between professional careers and family responsibilities. Time management is a concern we address during the first week.

My go-to problem solving idea is to use an electronic calendar. When I teach online, I mark down not only the days the class is meeting, but when work is due, when class discussions are happening and when I plan on grading assignments. Without my trusty calendar, I might not remember to check-in on classes during the non-grading days or forget to grade longer assignments in a timely fashion.

What advice do you follow when you are juggling many responsibilities? 

Monday, September 21, 2015

Attention: Adjuncts!

Are you reading Adjunct Commuter Weekly yet? News, poetry, events, games and more for the on-the-go adjunct. Maybe start with the interview with "platinum commuter" Sam Messer.

Read more about the publication's beginnings on Slate, including an interview with founder (and my former NYU in Florence colleague), Dushko Petrovich. Here's the beginning of the interview:

What made you decide to dedicate an entire publication to commuting adjunct professors?

As you know it’s a huge—and hugely underserved—demographic, and a growing one. [Adjuncts] might not have much disposable income, but I did think it was a community that could stand some more visibility and respect. I wanted to provide them with content that reflects the realities of their lives, products that serve their needs, and a way of forming a kind of community.

I think the adjunct commuter has the potential to be an incredibly influential demographic. They are well-educated and talented, and they are the ones doing most of the teaching at American universities. I think they are the only people who will be able to save the American university from itself. But first they have to recognize and respect themselves as a group, so they can come to terms with the conditions of their employment and do something about it.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Memoir Writing: How to Start Writing a Life?

Friends tell you, "You should write that story down!" You've had experiences that changed you. You want to share them with your friends, family and strangers.

But how do you start writing your life story? Telling your grandkids a story over the holiday table is a very different experience from sitting alone with a blank pad of paper.

My memoir writing students at Politics and Prose ask me this question every session. (Click through to register today for the next class that starts Nov. 3.) This is how I answer it:

Start by writing one scene. And then the next and the next. But start small with just one scene. You don't have to start in the beginning. Write the moment that moves you the most. You know the moment: the one you are drawn to telling friends over and over. The one you understand the most or the least, but try to understand it better each time you retell it.

Resist the urge to start by explaining the long backstory. Avoid summarizing your life, every person in it and every place you've been. Trust that the scenes you build will be informed by those details and that many, many details can be left out. Your goal is to hone in on one particular story line from a life well-lived and still being lived.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Writing Prompt: Dialogue

Dialogue can show the differences or similarities between characters. Your goal is to use the right words, emotion and even pauses to reflect a character's background, personality and relationship to the other characters in the scene. This isn't to say that you should rely on stereotypes, but rather your knowledge of that character's unique background, including regional affiliations, education, class, aspirations, politics, gender identification, sexuality, and more.

Nope, that's not easy to do in a short dialogue. And not all of those things will come out in every conversation. But your goal is to know your character so well that you could hint at various aspects of her personal history in a dialogue.

For today's prompt, write an inner monologue for a character. Set a timer for ten minutes and make sure you continue to write for the full ten minutes. You can use someone you are already creating in a piece of fiction or creative non-fiction. You might set that character in an extreme or calm situation. Maybe that character is looking out at the ocean's rising tide and thinking about a loss. Or maybe that character just got off of a crowded subway train, but her friend didn't. Let the character think to herself and go on any tangent that feels right. See what happens.

After the ten minutes are up, read through what you've written and underline any ideas or sentences that you could build on.

Happy writing!

Click through for more writing prompts.