July 31, 2007

I’m really excited about the poetry that some of my former students have been producing with Laura Jaramillo this session.  Raquisha, in particular, has been writing some really great poems, and I’ve convinced her to post them to her blog.  Check it out!


In the image:

July 26, 2007

This is one of my own images.

The assignment for today was to pick an image from Flickr.com or Google Images. Once you have picked out a picture, look at it for a while and brainstorm ideas about it. In class, I used an example of two people looking walking, with gulls flying up in front of them. For my example here, I’m going to use one of my own images.

Some questions to ask yourself:

  1. What is going on in the picture? What are some basic descriptions of this image? For example: In the above image, there is a black and white paste-up. It is a silk-screened image of a man with sunglasses on, screaming. It is torn at one corner. There is wood behind that. On the left, there is a pink paste-up for some sort of event – the name is not shown – it is also torn. The wood looks like it is wet, and there is mold or paint along the bottom of the image.
  2. What does the picture make you think of? How does it make you feel? For example: This picture always makes me feel a little queasy, because the image of the man screaming is disturbing. I’m so used to seeing images posted as advertisements, and to see a paste-up that’s so gripping without advertising anything disturbed me.
  3. What are the themes in this picture? Fear, the public, art, weather, destruction, silence, speech, screaming, communication, aggression, loneliness, disconnection.
  4. What is the story behind the picture? I thinkI would be tempted to write a story about a man trapped inside an image, or inside a piece of paper. There’s the danger that that could be too cliched, though, so I kept thinking. I thought about a woman who came to visit the portrait every day, until one day it was smiling instead of screaming; that could either be creepy or sweet.

Writing a blog review.

July 25, 2007

Once you have set up your blog, you will want to look at another blog to review and get an idea of how you want to organize your own work.

Start by finding another blog, and reading a few entries. What is the name of the blog? What do you know about the person who writes it? Anything? Provide your reader with a link – how can they read what you’re reviewing?

Describe the blog. What is their focus, topic, and style? What kind of language do they use, and what kind of subjects are they most focused on? Why does their blog exist?

What do you like about this blog? What do you dislike? What are you going to do differently in your own blog?

Type in the phrase that you want to link. For instance, if I were linking to Google, I would type in the word Google, so that people would know what to expect. For this assignment, you might type something in like This is the blog I reviewed.

Highlight the text you’re going to make into a link with your cursor. Move up to the top of the post box, and click on the chain button that has popped up. A new box will open, asking you to type in the URL. Type it in, or copy and paste it from another browser window. Click “Insert.” This will make a link:


If at first you don’t succeed, revise, revise again.

July 19, 2007

Below the cut is a story that I wrote in about forty-five minutes, after looking over what the class discussed when we looked at our inspiration picture. I put the story up on the screen in our classroom, and asked the class to help me revise it.  They came up with some great suggestions.  Everyone agreed that the ending wasn’t very good, and they made some great suggestions for how to think of one.  Vanessa came up with the great idea that the guy could be in rehab.  This is an example of how a peer editor can make you rethink the entire piece.


There were a lot of logistical suggestions – how does he breathe?  where does he go to the bathroom? – and some really great tone suggestions came out of that discussion.  For example. Jasmin argued that the food should be the same each day, so that the man’s loss of time would make more sense.  Leslie argued that the man should get through to someone on his cell phone, which would add some serious mystery – the other person could hang up on him, for example.


After we revised the piece below, we also worked on Raquisha’s most recent High School post, which she was brave enough to put up for critique in front of the class.  I was really excited about the criticism she received, since it was really constructive.  There were positive comments, some expressions of confusion, and suggestions for improvement.  A really great class, all around.


Read the rest of this entry »

A daring day.

July 13, 2007

This is an image I'd like us to work on today.

Some of the things we thought about when we looked at this photograph:

  • Two hands, five fingers on each hand.
  • Strength, strong wrists.
  • His thumbs are bent, like he’s been trying to escape for a while.
  • A boy, or a man; definitely a “he.”
  • He’s starting to give up.
  • Either he’s one of many who came before him, or he’s just been trying by himself for a long time.
  • Fingerprint smudges; palm marks on the window.
  • Raquisha thought of Jesus when she saw this; she also used the word “burning.”
  • Sweaty, trying to get out, and escape followed one after another.
  • Terrell gave us the basic description when he said “touching a dirty window.”
  • Whittney gave the imaginative line “light from his hands.”
  • Doesn’t want to be there, touching the light.
  • Mykia said that he might have fallen forward after crying.
  • Leslie told said that perhaps he was moving from darkness to light.
  • Colors: blue and black and grey and gold.
  • Depression.
  • The sun coming out.
  • Getting somewhere, getting in.
  • Struggle.
  • Cloudy.

Today’s assignment: write a piece inspired by a photograph or picture that you find on Google Images, GettyImages, or Flickr. Learn how to insert a picture into one of your blog posts.

Topical jungle.

July 12, 2007

If you can’t tell, I love to use stupid puns in my entry titles.

Yesterday in class was free-form, but I think we got a lot of important work done.  We talked about our blog reviews, and especially what made a blog appealing or effective.  Some of the things we came up with were humor, drama (like he-said-she-said), mystery, and communication.  We talked about the importance of the title, as well, since that can be what draws a reader in.

Most importantly, we talked about “topics.”  We’re writing very personal blogs in this class, so the main topic is of course ourselves.  However, I wanted everyone to think about why they wanted to share themselves with the world.  What was it about their perspective that was unique?  This can be an incredibly difficult thing to think about – imagine if someone came up to you on the street and said “why are you special?” – but everyone rose to the challenge.   The main thing is to recognize your interests, first of all, and then to acknowledge that those interests are special and worth reading about.

One thing that I didn’t mention in class, but that I find interesting is the idea of a narrative arc for a personal blog.  I read an article a long time ago (that I haven’t been able to find again) that argued that blogs should have a beginning, middle, and end, just like a novel.  Unless the author was struggling with something and came to a conclusion, the writer argued, the blog wasn’t interesting.  I don’t think this is true, honestly.  I like to read about people’s personal experiences.  However, I do agree that there has to be a “so what?” to the post.  If a post makes me think about my own life, about the world around me, I am more likely to come back and read that blog again.

I had everyone write a thirty minute personal portrait two days ago, and I read them over last night.  I’m going to give everyone prompts today to work on, based on those personal portraits.  One of the things I’d like to see is more detail from everyone, and working on setting a scene that other people can relate to.  We’re also going to talk about revision a great deal in class, because it’s an important skill to learn and practice.  Hopefully we’ll also have time to read over a few poems.  I like to set my expectations high!

If you click on the “Read More…” link below, you can look at a piece I’m working on right now, which is based on the prompt for the first day.  I told Arisleyda that I would post something of my own efforts, and while I’m nervous about doing so, I think it can also be productive.  Feel free to leave constructive criticism in the comments.  Read the rest of this entry »

The world does revolve around TWA.

July 10, 2007

Today’s class was pretty zany, but I think everyone had fun. We started by all-too-briefly discussing the article, and then moved from our classroom to the Writing Center computer classroom, which Ryan had graciously reserved for us. We began with a thirty minute writing exercise. The writing was meant to produce an introductory post for the blog, which would be a portrait of the author as a writer. Afterwards, during discussion, I was surprised by how much everyone fit into their responses. Arisleyda wrote something beautiful about the way that writing as an experience felt to her, and how her pencil could speak far better than she could.

After that, we turned to the difficult task of setting up our blogs. I expected this to be simpler, and I think next time I will print up a series of step-by-step directions, so that if someone falls behind, everyone can keep working on their own. There was a lot of discussion, though, and some really creative names. Leslie took a sentence from her portrait of herself to use as her tagline (The World Doesn’t Revolve Around Me), and I think it works well with her blog title (Through My Own Eyes). The juxtaposition* of the two creates a strong contrast. For the student blogs, see the blogroll at right.

I’m missing quite a few of the thirty minute exercises, since I was called away at the end of class and couldn’t collect them from everyone. I’m planning on getting them at the beginning of class tomorrow, though, and I’m excited to do some reading tonight.

Tonight’s assignment: find a blog, any blog, and read at least three entries in it. Write a review, between 200 and 500 words (a couple of decent-sized paragraphs), describing the blog. What does it look like? What is it about? Why does the blog author keep the blog? What sets them apart from the rest of the blogging world? What do you like about it, and what do you dislike about it? It should be posted to your new blog by midnight tonight.

To write a post: click on “My Dashboard” on the main WordPress page. Then click on “Write” in the light blue bar at the top. In that post, you should create a link to the blog you’ll be reviewing. To create a link, highlight the text that you’re linking, and click the little chain link icon up at the top of the blog window. Then type or paste in the URL (that’s the http:// web address up at the top of the browser). Click “insert,” and you should have a link in your post. After you’ve linked the blog, type in your review. As you write, click “Save and Continue Editing,” below the text box, so that if your window closes or you accidentally delete something, you can still have it. When you’re completely finished and want to publish your work, click “Publish.”

* Our word of the day.

Villanelle ice cream.

July 10, 2007

Raquisha mentioned the villanelle yesterday, during a quick discussion of the definition of a poem.   The villanelle is an incredibly difficult form to write, but when it’s done correctly it can be beautiful.

Yesterday in class, we did a short 15 minute writing exercise.  There were two options to choose from:
Option 1: Write a description of yourself in someone else’s voice.  Assume you’re not in the room, so they’re being honest.
Option 2: Write a list of statements, all beginning with “I am.”

I really enjoyed the responses, and we had a relaxed discussion about the responses that people were willing to share.  Then we wrote what we would change in our responses, and talked about those as well.  Revision is important to the blogging process, as it is in any form of writing.  I often go back and change blog entries multiple times after I’ve published them, as the situation changes or I notice errors.  Editing a blog, however, can be a little strange.  By the time you make the edits and hit “publish,” someone may have already seen the original and commented to correct you.  (This can be more than little frustrating.)  On the other hand, you can also be linked to something that promises to be exciting that then doesn’t exist when you click on it, since you missed the window when the author chose to put it up.

For today, the assignment was to:
1.  Read Weblogs: A History and Perspective, which has a lot of difficult words but is pretty short.  It gives a good history of weblogs, and an idea of the effect that blogs can have.
2. Write a very short description of your goals as a writer.  This means that you have to identify as a writer, and that you need to think about your goals for yourself in the long term (how will writing play a part in your life?) and in the short term (what do you want to learn at TWA?). 

Welcome to the course!

July 9, 2007

Temple Writing Academy
Blogging and Writing for the Internet
Instructor: Lewis-Turner

            You’ve probably spent a lot of time online by now, looking at Myspace or Facebook and finding new ways to waste time.  The internet is full of undiscovered territories and new opportunities, especially for writing.  In this class, you’ll be taking advantage of a few of those opportunities in the form of a weblog, or blog.

You will be writing both creative and argumentative pieces.  The types of writing that you will do will not be limited.  You will learn how to write with the public nature of the internet in mind, and to take advantage of the possibilities in internet writing.  This class should function as a writing community.

            With that community in mind, you should abide by the code of conduct you signed when you joined this program.  We will make some more specific rules for our classroom in class on the first day.  In addition, please be respectful of your classmates online as well as off.  Rude comments or blog entries will be deleted at the discretion of the instructor.

Week One:
Monday, July 9:
Introduction to the course, class rules, journaling.
Assignment: Read “Weblogs: A History and Perspective” in course packet.  Write a journal entry on what your goals are for your writing, both in the course and long-term.

 Tuesday, July 10:
Discussion of journals, the potential and appeal of blogs, and narrative in blogging.
Assignment: Read at least three entries in a blog of your choice and write a review, focusing on questions handed out in class.  Review should be between 200 and 500 words.  Post to your blog by midnight.

 Wednesday, July 11:
Discussion of reviews.  In-class writing assignment on personal history.
Assignment: Revise personal narrative and post to your blog by midnight.

 Thursday, July 12:
Workshopping personal narratives.  Discussion of the similarities and differences between personal narrative and creative fiction or poetry.
Assignment: Read poems and “Getting Started” in course packet.  Find a picture that inspires or creates an emotional response in you, either from your own collection or elsewhere online.

 Friday, July 13:
How to insert a picture into a blog post.  In-class writing exercises around the pictures.
Assignment: Revise one of your in-class writing exercises into a polished piece.  Post to your blog by Sunday at midnight.  Remember to include the picture or photograph in your post.

Week Two:

Monday, July 16:

Workshopping creative pieces from previous week. 

Assignment: Read short introduction to hypertext in course packet.  Explore hypertext stories linked on course blog.  Brainstorm different writing styles and techniques that the internet makes possible.

 Tuesday, July 17:
Discussion of hypertext and other forms of internet-specific writing.  In-class writing exercise.
Assignment: Revise in-class writing exercise to create a hypertextual or internet-inspired work.  Post to your blog by midnight.

Wednesday, July 18:
Discussion of the public nature of blog writing and “netiquette.”  In-class writing exercise to brainstorm topic for an argumentative piece; in-class outlining work.
Assignment: Research for two internet sources that will supplement your argumentative piece. 

Thursday, July 19:
Workshop on writing the argumentative piece.
Assignment: Revise and  post your argumentative piece in your blog by midnight.  Respond to a classmate’s argumentative piece in a comment (more than 100 words); try to find one that doesn’t have any comments yet.

Friday, July 20:
Last day!  Revisiting the work we’ve done during the past two weeks.