Manning_08-09_Fall_Writer's_Notebook by liwenting


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The Writer’s Notebook
Bard HS Early College
Fall, 2008
First Period, M, Th
Ms. Kate Manning 212-427-3503

          In this class students will use a daily notebook to explore elements of fiction and memoir such as
plot, dialogue, character, setting, point of view, and especially, voice. Students are responsible for writing
notebook entries at the rate of two pages a day. They are free to write whatever they like, but are expected
to experiment with different subjects and approaches, and to complete assignments in the notebook, as well
as develop longer pieces from their entries. The class will learn various techniques by studying other
writers. Cormac McCarthy or Richard Russo, say, for dialogue, Junot Diaz, Barry Hannah, Dave Eggers
and ZZ Packer for voice, and so on. At the end of the semester, each student will have completed two
polished 10-20 page papers, as well as 4-5 shorter pieces of fiction/non-fiction, 4-5 pages each.

Required Reading
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, by Dave Eggers
Everything is Illuminated, By Jonathan Safran Foer
Best American Short Stories, 2006
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, By Junot Diaz
Various handouts, memoir and fiction:

Grades will be broken down as follows: 25% Midterm Paper 10-20 pages, 25% Final Paper, 10-20 pages.
25% Notebook entries, 25% Student Improvement/Class Participation/Homework assignments, 4-6 pages

Class Schedule

       11th -- Introduction to the course, discuss role of notebooks. Read handouts w/character
       descriptions from F. Scott Fitzgerald, Tom Wolfe, Charles Frazier, Annie Proulx; and Bruce
       Chatwin. Discuss techniques of physical description.
       HW: write 1-page description of a character in notebook.

         15th—Read excerpt: The Woman Walked Into Doors, by Roddy Doyle
         Discuss Action: How action comes out of character and vice versa.
         HW: set your character in motion, 1 page minimum.
         Read: The Ant of the Self, by ZZ Packer, 30 pages, and Cormac McCarthy, No Country for Old
         Man, excerpt

         18th –Dialogue. Discuss: Cormac McCarthy excerpt and ZZ Packer story in terms of character
         description, action, and dialogue.
         HW: In the notebook, make your character talk for 2 pages.
         Read: “The Aerial View,” an intvw. w/ ZZ Packer from The New Yorker.
         Develop your character/action/dialogue assignments into a full blown character sketch, 3-5 pages.

         22nd—Discuss “The Aerial View,” and Packer’s technique.
         Half-hour partnered workshop; discuss which notebook entries can be developed into longer

         25th— Character sketch due 3-5 pages, 3 copies each.
         WORKSHOP STORIES in pairs
         Continue discussion of Voice in fiction.
         Read Horse Badorties Goes Out, by William Kotzwinkle.
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          Notebook HW, write 2 pages in style of Kotzwinkle.

          29th— Character sketches returned.
          Discuss editing & revision. How to cut, tighten, illuminate.
          HW, edit character sketch
          Read pp. 1-25 of Everything is Illuminated, by Jonathan Safran Foer

          2--- Discuss Foer.
          HW, work on 4-6 page story, read Foer, pp. TBD

          6--- hand in 3 edited drafts. Discuss Foer,

          9-- Yom Kippur, no class

          13-- Columbus Day, no class

          16—4-6 page story due, bring 19 copies

          Discuss leads: first sentences. Workshop stories.
          HW: Read long excerpts, thinking about beginnings, lead lines: Brady Udall, The Miracle Life of
          Edgar Mint, Edwidge Danticat, The Farming of Bones, Geoffrey Eugenides, Middlesex, Elizabeth
          McCracken, The Giant’s House, Sherman Alexie, Indian Killer.
          In your notebook, write 5 good leads of your own

          20 —Discuss reading for voice, lead lines. As writers we read to answer the question: what is the
          author doing and how does s/he do it?

          23—Workshop stories
          HW: Read John Gardner excerpt from, The Art of Fiction

          27—Workshop stories. Begin discussion of Point of View
          HW: Read excerpt from Bright Lights, Big City, by Jay McInerny, 2nd person narration. Write 2
          pages in 2nd person

          30—Workshop stories.
          HW: Read: excerpt from The Curious Incident of the Dog in Night Time, by Mark Haddon, write
          2-page imitation of his style.
          Read in Best American Short Stories 2006, Tobias Wolff’s Awaiting Orders, and Donna Tartt’s
          The Ambush.

      3—Discuss Tartt, Wolff, and role of current events in fiction.
      HW: Read NY Times story about American War Dead, letters home
      Write: in the voice of someone who’s received a letter, 2-4 pages

          6th—Workshop stories.
          HW: Pick an article from a newspaper, and write a story inspired by it. 4-5 pages.

          10th-- Workshop remaining stories
          Work on Midterm paper

          13th—Discuss ‘reaction to the news’ pieces
          Read: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, By Junot Diaz, 35 pgs.
          Work on first draft of Midterm Paper, due TBD
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          17th—Discuss Diaz
          HW: Read, in Best American Short Stories, Refresh, Refresh, by Benjamin Percy, and After a Life,
          YiYun Li

          20th—Discuss reading. Review plot, point of view

          24th—Midterm papers due. Editing workshop.
          HW: Read 1-122, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, by Dave Eggers

       1-- Begin study of memoir. Discuss Eggers.
       Read William Zinsser on Memoir, excerpts from The Liar’s Club, by Mary Kerr,
       And 3 New Yorker memoirs. Write 2-4 page memoir of your own.

          4—Discuss Kerr, Zinsser, New Yorker memoirs.
          In-class exercise, breaking down one simple memory into elements: character, scene, POV, action,

          8th—Peer edit workshop, first memoir
          Homework: Read excerpt from Autobiography of a Face, by Lucy Grealy, and The Face of Pain,
          by Ann Patchett

          11th—Discuss Grealy, Patchett
          Write 2nd memoir, 4-6 pages

          15th—Discuss imagery, examples
          HW: In notebooks, write five images—metaphors or similes
          Read: David Sedaris, Memento Mori, Edwidge Danticat, Marie Micheline, and

          18th—Discuss Sedaris, Danticat. Peer edit workshop, second memoir
          Read: The Comfort Zone, by Jonathan Franzen

          22nd—Discuss Franzen.


          5— Workshop Final papers, rough drafts

          8--Rough draft , Final Paper due

          12--Peer edit rough drafts

          15—Last class, Final Paper Due

          Reflections on Writing, discipline, inspiration, and the notebook as a tool of the writing life.
          Collect all notebooks

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