Week #15, April 27-May 3






Final Essay and Audio/Video:  For your final project, you should:

  • Send me a revised, polished and edited version of one of the four essays.
  • Additionally, please attach an audio or video of you presenting this revised essay. I will post these on the website on the “Digital Readings” page. There are currently examples posted there from previous classes. This should also be emailed.
    Both essay and digital presentation should be emailed to me (dlfarmer@alaska.edu) by Friday, May 1.
  • I will accept any other assignments not yet turned in by Monday, May 4.

Here are some tips for revision:

  1. When I revise, I work especially hard on the opening paragraph. I feel like once I have that in place, everything else follows naturally. I sometimes spend as much time on my opening as I do the rest of the essay.
  2.  Identify the 2 or 3 most important scenes in your essay, and work to illuminate them in as much detail as possible. Understanding the difference between Scene and Summary can make a big difference. Here’s a handout that I find helpful:

    Download (PDF, 750KB)

  3. Read essay out loud a couple of times. If you have someone you can read it to, all the better. Our ears will notice things our eyes will not. Reading out loud will also help you develop an ear for rhythm in your sentences.
  4. Tighten the language. Here’s another handout I find helpful:

    Download (PDF, 1.1MB)

Finally, here are some suggestions for presenting your work by audio or video:

  1. Practice a couple of times before recording. (Another reason to read the work out loud). The more you know the work, the less you will stumble through the words.
  2. Speak clearly.
  3. Use punctuation – commas and periods especially – as reminders to take a breath.
  4. Most of us have a tendency to drop off at the ends of sentences. Think to emphasize last words of sentences to keep this from happening.


Here are links to a couple great examples of well known authors presenting work:



Response #9 – Sue Miller’s “A Lecture on Revision”

As we head into the final two weeks of the semester, I would like to ask you to start thinking about revising, refining, polishing and deepening one of your four essays. In  her essay “A Lecture on Revision,” Sue Miller gives us some pretty wonderful insights on how to think about revising.

In the exercise for this week, I’ll ask you to:

  • take up Miller’s idea of “the dragon,” or how you might deepen your essay by looking closely at the what is the core struggle you are grappling in the work.
  • As she also implores us, to keep in mind a reader, to make the work of consequence for a reader. Another way of thinking about this is to project out, to give a reader not only our story, but to help readers in thinking about their own lives and struggles.
  • To consider the other word she uses: “center.” What is at the center of the essay you’re writing? Once this is determined, we can deepen the meaning of the essay by writing toward this core.

In your response this week, discuss what you have learned about revision from this essay, and how you might begin revising your own work.

Please post by Tuesday(ish), April 21.


Exercise #9 – Revision Exercise – Interviewing Your Draft

For this week’s exercise, choose one of the four essays you have written this semester. Consider choosing not necessarily the one that you think is the best so far, but the one that you think has the most meaningful thing to say.

Many times the key to revision is learning to “listen’ to what our draft is trying to tell us. Writers have to be ruthlessly honest with ourselves about what is and what is not on the page as opposed to what we hope is on the page. One technique I find useful is to interrogate the draft. Interviewing the draft can help you help think more deeply about what it is you hope to accomplish. Here are some questions to ask about your draft:


  1. What is the one thing I wanted to say, the single most important message I intended to deliver?
  2. What single message does the draft deliver?
  3. To whom is the message being sent?
  4. Does everything in the draft support the intended message? If not, do the digressions serve a different purpose?
  5. What are the most effective elements in the draft?
  6. What are the most underdeveloped parts of the drafts? Where does the draft break down or take a turn?
  7. Are the reader’s questions all answered by the end of the draft?
  8. Is the voice of the draft appropriate to the reader? Does that voice stay consistent?
  9. Is there anything that can be cut?
  10. Are the portions of information adequate? Is it saying something the reader already knows, or does it provide new insight or information?
  11. What do you want the reader to think feel or do after reading the draft? If you were the reader, would you think, feel that way, or take that action?

And, from the Sue Miller Essay, “Lecture on Revision,” here are two additional questions (from p. 350).

  • What drew you to write this essay?
  • What is the central struggle (center) of the essay? Has that struggle been made clear to the reader?

It may be that not all of these questions are relevant to your essay, but the majority should be. Work to answer at least 10 of them.

Make sure you identify at the top of your page which of your essays you have chosen.

Please email to me by April 23.

Week #14, April 20-24

  1. Response #9 — Due on April 21, by 5:00 PM
  2. Exercise #9  — Also due on April 23 by 5:00 PM

Essay #4 will be posted under “Workshops” in the next couple of days. Please remember that peer responses will be due on Slack on April 27.

Please note:  While I like the idea of a potential ZOOM get-together so members of the class could meet, given that several of you live out of town, that people’s schedules vary widely during Finals week, and that adding one more thing to your Finals week schedule seems unfair to you at this late date, I have decided to not try to schedule this.

Please remember that in addition to emailing me your final draft of one of the four essays during Finals, I will ask you each to post either a video or audio of you reading your essay by the end of Finals week.


Week # 12 – April 6-April 10

Hi Everyone,

Hope you’re all doing well. I’ve been reading through your essay #3’s, and finding them quite moving. I was thinking maybe rather than the usual peer workshops, I’d just put them in a readable form to share? That way you can read them without having to worry about providing feedback. I think it will be good for all of us to read them, and to hear what some of your classmates are going through. There are a few essays that did cover an event as originally assigned, and I think it will be good to read those, also, just as a reminder of where we were just a few short weeks ago.
Stay healthy everyone!

This week’s agenda:

  1. Response #8 — Due on Tuesday, April 7
  2. Exercise #8 — Due on Thursday, April 9
  3. Please also note that your Essay #4, Due April 16, is posted here: https://engl377.community.uaf.edu/2017/04/02/essay-4-the-portrait-or-profile/

Please let me know if you have any questions.





Week #11 – March 30-April 3

This week’s agenda:

  1. Response #7 – Due on March 31
  2. Exercise #7 – Also due on April 2
  3. Read Chapter 8 in Writing True.  This chapter is about new media. Look for a related blog post about this later this week.
  4. And, looking ahead, here’s the assignment for Essay #4, due on April 16.

Please note, I’ll try to to schedule essay #3 Slack workshops for April 9. I plan to post these essays and peer review assignments later this week. I think it’s important for you to have readers for theses essays, and as many of them will deal with COVID-19, they’ll be of interest, cathartic even, for you. My new policy of flexible due dates, however, means that I’ve not yet received all of the essays. Bear with me as I determine the best way to schedule this

Thank you!

Week 10 – March 23-27

Hi Everyone,

Before I post this agenda, I want to say that I hope you’re all doing well during this strange time, and that you’re with people you care about, in a safe place, and staying healthy. We have the advantage of ALREADY being online, but it’s clear that all of our lives have been disrupted in a variety of ways. Please let me know if I can be of help to you in any way. For example:

  • if you need chapters or readings copied because your book was left in your dorm (or elsewhere);
  • the disruption has left you in a place without adequate technology, and you need an alternative way to finish the coursework;
  • you need flexibility on due dates. (All due dates from here on out are flexible – I’ll keep posting them, just to help you stay on track. But my policy will be, if you finish the assignment, you’ll get full credit).

I’m sure there are other things I haven’t thought of. Just know that I’m here to help in any way that I can.

A couple other notes:

  • The revised schedule has now been posted.
  • I’ve added a Q&A (q_and_a) channel to the Slack page. Fairly new to the online teaching world, if there’s one thing I miss the most it’s having more interaction with students. Starting on Tuesday 3/24, I will be immediately available there from 3-5 on M,T, and Th. You can ask me questions anytime, of course, but I’ll be online then. You can ask me anything that has to do with writing – publishing, the writing process, dealing with writer’s block, etc. And because we have so many great writers in the class, others can chime in as well. Please understand that this is not a requirement by any means – just a way to make myself more available.
  • Sadly, Elena Passarello’s visit to UAF in April has been cancelled. If you have purchased her book,  Let Me Clear My Throat I want to recommend that you keep it and read it at your leisure. It’s a wonderful book. I believe that she WILL be on campus in the fall, if it all works out. But I am sensitive to the cost of books, and apologize for having you purchase a book that we won’t have time to use.

Now it’s time for the:

  1. There’s only one thing due this week, and that’s your essay #3, which is due on Thursday, March 26. Some of you have done the assignment already, and that’s great. But, clearly, this has been the wrong two weeks to attend a public event. The assignment page (Essay #3) has been updated with an alternative assignment.

    MY agenda is to update your grades and return all assignments this week. Thank you for your patience.