Essay #4 – The Portrait or Profile

Due Thursday, April 16: A well-written profile essay gives the reader a vivid portrait of a person, It should be balanced and honest. It’s great if we end up liking the person by the end, but it doesn’t need to be a tribute. Work to make the profile balanced and sensory, capturing the details that will help readers feel as though they really know the subject.

Every person is interesting – it’s our goal as a writer to find what makes them so.

This essay should be:

  • roughly 5-6  pages
  • double spaced
  • Size 12 or 14, Times New Roman




ESSAY #3 – Observation and Reporting

DUE Thursday, March 26:

Updated Alternative: If you were able to complete this assignment, great. But clearly, the present is not a good time to attend an event. As it is important for writers to chronicle the time they are living in, you can alternatively write about your own personal experiences with the coronavirus, how it has disrupted your life, what you see around you, what it means for grocery shelves to suddenly be empty of certain items, what it says about the culture and time we are living in. Try to avoid editorializing, and instead focus on the specifics of how it has affected you or people you know.

Literary Journalism is a form of creative nonfiction that includes  the reporting aspects of  journalism along with elements of the personal or lyrical essay. For this assignment, rather than focus on memory, or descriptions of place, write about an event that is happening right in front of you. Or, it could even be an event you are participating in. This could be anything, but I think it works best if you attend an event of some kind that is outside your own comfort zone. Then simply observe and report. But it’s okay (awesome, even) to work in your own memories, thoughts, etc. Fairs, art shows, concerts, sporting events, dances, etc. are all possibilities. Check Latitude 65   (if in Fairbanks) for even more ideas.


This essay should be:

  • roughly 5-6  pages
  • double spaced
  • Size 12 or 14, Times New Roman


Essay #2 – Writing Place

Writing Place

“I dream of an art so transparent that you can look through and see the world.’  

                                                                                                                                                                       –Stanley Kunitz

DUE: February 24. Essay should be  emailed to  by 5:00 PM.

Write about a place that is important to you. Ideally, this will be the place you chose for exercises 3 & 4.

You will have to decide what is essential about the place, what you want the reader to most understand.  Try to reveal the place through  specific memories of the place, through scenes (including dialogue, perhaps), or through your own perceptions and judgments (interiority). Once read, a reader should feel that they have experienced the place and shared your emotional attachment to it. Showing us how you perceive the place will reveal yourself to us.

Shoot for 6+ pages.



Writing Tip: Strunk and White’s (yep, E.B, that White)  The Elements of Style advises writers to “place emphatic words in a sentence at the end.’ A period acts as a stop sign, and the slight pause magnifies the final word as well as the beginning of the next sentence. By placing the important words at the beginnings and endings of sentences, writing will often have more of an impact on a reader.

Here’s an example, from Ellen Meloy’s  The Anthropology of Turquoise:


One toad squats in a clenched fist of dusky, mottled skin. The ice paralyzes the tension of its coiled muscles. Another toad is suspended mid-leap, a slender athlete of olive green and tenderly pale limbs and flanks that are so white they are blue. The leaper stretches its slim legs, it holds its toes with a ballerina’s grace, casting behind it a wake of air bubbles stilled by the cold into bright diamonds. Eyefolds hide its black, glassy orbs” (14).

Notice how often Meloy begins and ends her sentences with specific nouns or images. Keep this in mind as you begin your next next essay.

Memoir Assignment

Essay#1 — The Memoir

DUE DATE: Monday, Feb. 3, emailed to by 5:00 PM

 Write about a time from your childhood or adolescence — or any time from your past. Begin with the mapping of the specific place where you lived, and then, move into a specific moment, maybe a single weekend or night. Use essays by Alice Walker and Tony Earley as models. Here are some questions to consider as you write:

  • What were the matters that were important to you?
  • What kind of things did you and your friends talk about?
  • What did you keep hidden?
  • What did the place look like? Work to make the place come alive for someone who has never been there.
  • Who were some of the people who were important to you?
  • Was there specific lingo you used?
  • What did you want then?
  • What do you understand now that you didn’t then?

Shoot for 5-8* pages. Please remember to double space. As with all assignments, feel free to adjust to write what is most urgent for you.


*A note on page lengths. I’m more concerned about quality than quantity. I’d rather read 4 pages of very precise engaging prose than 6 pages of fluff. But 6 pages will push you to dig deeper into the experience you’re writing about, and might even reveal memories you’d thought forgotten. On the other end, you wan’t be punished for going over the 8 pages – good for you! – but keep in mind my normal reading load is about 1000 pages/week. This means it might take longer for me to get feedback to you.