By the time you read this, you should be a little more acquainted with this strange and wonderful thing called narrative journalism and eager to start practicing.
First, I want you to spend some time thinking about story. What are the elements of a good story? What are the stories that make up your family history? Why? What are the stories you tell about yourself, either to yourself or to others? What are the experiences in your life that have changed you? What are you thinking about these days?
I start the term with a personal essay assignment, because I think it's useful for you to understand the elegance and necessity of story by culling and crafting one from your own life. Feel free to blog about the ideas you're thinking about approaching with this personal essay.
Another way to prepare yourself to write your personal essay is to read and study recently published examples of the form. In The New York Times, check out Modern Love from the Sunday Styles section and Lives from the Magazine for examples and potential intended publications.
Here's some information on how to submit to Modern Love. And here's that helpful "How to Write a 'Lives' Essay" piece I handed out in class.
Take a cue from any of these you like, or come up with something completely your own. The key is to rely on the elements of story and a point of insight, or a turn that shows a change in thinking, understanding, or character.
I'm so eager to read what you come up with! Heed Anne Lamott's advice and don't be afraid to write shitty first drafts. Get something out, get feedback, and then shape it. You must turn in a first draft, but you'll get a grade on your revision. All writing is rewriting. You'll hear me say this more than you'd like, so get used to it!
With that I send you off to explore, discover and write. Turn off the inner critic long enough to get something out, rework it to your heart's content, and post it for all to see by Monday at 5 p.m. Why not hit the ground running spring quarter? You're writers, so write!