English 134: Writing about Place

Class 1, Essay 1: Where Are You From?

Your first essay is a description of the place where your partner was living before moving to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo--750-1000 words or three to four double-spaced pages in length. Your objective is to produce a piece that's clear, well organized, concise, informative, lively, and provocative--writing worth reading. In fact we all will be reading these essays at various stages of composition.

A. Invention (or Prewriting)--in class

Partner with the person who took your picture for the seating chart and exchange email addresses and phone numbers.

Talk to each other for half an hour and take notes that will supply the raw material for your essay. Good questions will produce good information. Press your partner for more details whenever they touch on something that raises your interest. Allow your partner's responses to stimulate your own.

Some of the many subjects you might talk about

Take another ten minutes to add to your notes and ask your partner for clarifications or additions. Imagine a tentative order of paragraphs by which to organize the material.

B. Composition (or Writing)--in class and at home

You may want to read over your notes until you get an idea for how they could be sorted into groups and then simply start writing paragraphs. Or you may want begin by making an outline. I find it helpful to use the Outline Layout option in Microsoft Word, found underthe View menu, which I'll demonstrate in class.

Exchange a draft of your essay with your partner as an email attachment by 9:00 p.m. tonight. Include a map you make with National Geographic mapmachine and if you'd like, a captioned picture or two. Accompanying your draft, send your partner any further questions that occurred to you while composing. By 9:00 tomorrow morning, reply to your partner's questions along with factual corrections, elaborations of important points, and comments about what you find effective or in need of further revision in the draft.

C. Revision (or Editing)--at home

Reread your essay several times--once aloud--and make changes in content, organization and style that occur to you after a night's sleep and after considering your partner's feedback. Study the documents in OOO for suggestions to improve descriptive writing, organization and writing style.

Email your revised paper #1 to smarx@calpoly.edu no later than 6:00 AM Wednesday morning as a MS Word attachment. After our class reading and discussion of several papers, I'll return yours with comments, suggestion for revision and a grade by next Monday. You'll then have a week to revise it again, and I'll regrade it, averaging the original and revised grade.