27 Aug 2009 [ Prev | Next ]

P1: I, Writer

In about 200 carefully chosen words, teach me who you are as a writer. Use vivid examples that unite to illustrate a single main idea. Do it all in a single, well-crafted paragraph.

Bring an electronic version of your assignment to class. (You can use a thumb drive, put it on your I drive, or e-mail it to yourself.)

Your objectives are to demonstrate your ability to
  • focus on a single subject, and
  • craft a well-organized paragraph with a topic sentence, supporting details, and a conclusion.
(Bonus -- if you'd like to start working ahead, consult this handout on preferring vivid "showing" to unnecessary "telling".)

Note: Writing prompts are not like questions on a quiz, where  you are expected to answer each one, in order.  Use the following prompts to guide your thinking, responding to whichever ones spark the most promising ideas.  When you sort through your ideas and actually start writing, come up with your own controlling idea, illustrated with good examples, in order to express an important point about yourself as a writer.

Writing Prompts
  • Who are you, as a writer?
  • What do you you write, for whom, and why?
  • When, where, and how do you write?
  • What have you written that made you proud? Embarrassed? Bored?
  • Do you have a strong physical or emotional reaction when you think of the words "college writing"?

Self-Revision Checklist:
Before you submit your paragraph, ask yourself these questions:
  • Is your strongest, best idea mentioned right away in the topic sentence? (If so, good!)
  • Is the first two-thirds of the paragraph just filler ("Some people like to talk about X, while other people like to talk about Y.  I am here to ask a question about the completely unrelated topic Z.")? (If your first significant thought comes at about the 2/3 point, cut that filler and start over again with that strong thought in the thesis position.)
  • Are you puffing up your language in an effort to boost the word count, or maybe to sound more intelligent?  (Writing "at this point in time" instead of "now," or "utilize" instead of "use"?)
  • Have you illustrated your main idea with vivid details that teach me something I don't already know about you?


This assignment is a starting point. It's purpose is to help us identify your strengths and weaknesses. It's also an opportunity for you to get to know my evaluation methods.

There is no single "correct" way to answer this essay. Every answer, even the very good ones, can be improved. Even if I make detailed comments and offer many specific suggestions, that doesn't mean you've done anything "wrong."

I will provide feedback according to the following checklist. You can use it to avoid losing points for some common newbie mistakes -- such as submitting several short paragraphs instead of a single 200-word paragraph, submitting too many words (in the hopes that you'll get extra points), omitting an important detail such as your name, or forgetting to supply a meaningful title.



Title block MLA-style title block (see SF Writer 335).

Title An original, thoughtful title - not just a variation of the assignment title.

Layout One double-spaced paragraph (beginning with an indented line).

Typeface 12-point Times New Roman (or similar)


Length About 200 words?  ~10% variance? >20% variance?

Theme Addresses assigned topic? Off topic? Split focus? Rambling?

Timeliness Submitted on time? Late? Incomplete?

E-text File accessible during class workshop?


Diction Word choice: stuffy? slangy? misused? IM-speak?

Proof Nicely polished? Garbled typing or disjointed layout?

Punctuation My overall impression. We're not concerned with the details just now.

Grammar My overall impression. We're not concerned with the details just now.


Voice Inconsistent? Dry? Personal? Flowing? Inviting?

Clarity Muddy? Wordy? Precise? Concise? Snappy?

Details Absent? Vague? Irrelevant? Helpful? Vivid?

Conclusion Absent? Redundant? Routine? Substantial? Insightful?

"Can You Just Tell Us What You Want?"

Okay.  I want...

  • you to dive in, sleeves rolled up and eyes open. Writing is not like arithmetic or spelling, where you can stop once you've found "the right answer."  Every thing that has been written, and every person who writes, can improve.
  • you to take your first step towards reaching your true potential, not just as a writer, but as a thinker, a problem-solver, and the future of our civilization.
  • you to understand I'm not looking for a specific answer, or any specific approach.
  • you to use any tone you want -- funny or fearful; factual or philosophical.
  • you to be honest. You won't get more points for expressing an opinion that I happen to hold, or fewer points for disagreeing with me.
  • you not to waste words. (Don't repeat the question... just dive right into the answer.)


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