Essay Workshopping

Because the five paragraph essay here is meant to argue a point, I want to writers to remove all emotion and you reviewers to go in hard. This is your opportunity to call out every grammatical error, every misspelling, every logical leap or fallacy, every point with which you disagree. A good essay is so well-argued during its writing and editing that by the time it reaches the public, every argument has been anticipated and negotiated in its text.  

For my essay, I would want a workshop partner who hates Parks & Rec, dislikes female leadership, and hates me the person. I like to have a real fight during the editing process so that I’m really ready to argue my points once the essay is completed. 

I want a workshop partner to say, “But Leslie is too enthusiastic and emotional to be a good leader” so that I can work that argument into my essay, refute it, and move on. So I could include the line, “Leslie Knope’s enthusiasm, passion, and emotional interest in Pawnee when translated to national leadership would bring us progress and growth – just like it did for Pawnee.”  

While usually I trust having a workshop partner you trust, who sees things your way, who knows where you’re coming from – in this case it can be best to have a partner with whom you actively disagree on a number of issues. That said, please still remain respectful of one another and one another’s work so I don’t have to conduct any divorce mediation on your group.  


Pick a television show, something you have watched at least once in its entirety, something you can quote, something you know really well. If there is no television show that fits the bill, choose a movie. If not a movie, pick a book.  

We’re going to work on the five paragraph essay so choose a position to argue in your essay, and write five paragraphs. The first paragraph will introduce your topic and hook in your reader. I’m writing my essay about why Leslie Knope from Parks & Rec would eventually run for and win the United States Presidency. My introductory paragraph would outline this in a catchy way. It would end with my three provable parts. 

These are the *parts* that your essay is going to *prove* and should be carefully laid out, concise, and little teasers for the paragraphs to follow. These can be laid out in one sentence – you’re going to explain them in greater detail later in the body paragraphs. 

Each body paragraph – three of them – is dedicated to one of the provable parts.  

And finally your fifth paragraph is the conclusion – a place to finally state and rest your case. It should pack a punch, be poignant, and leave your reader at least convinced in your own conviction. I like to use a poignant quotation here when I have one. In Leslie’s case, “Maybe it’s time for more women to be in charge” would be a beautiful campaign slogan that would lead seamlessly into a female cabinet when she wins. 

Childhood Home Workshop

Workshopping poetry can be particularly sensitive due to the inherently emotional nature of poetry. Because it doesn’t necessarily fit into the rules or norms of many types of literature, it can also expose its author to unnaturally critical responses. The critique rules outlined two blogs ago should definitely be followed. But I warn you poets to be prepared to have your work dissected, to emotionally detach from the words you wrote despite that being nearly impossible and to trust that your partner has the best interest of your piece in mind.  

And while providing feedback to your partner, be careful to dissect the WAY they say things rather than what they’re saying. Be careful to respect their boundaries and emotions. And if you give a critique that makes them emotional, leave it alone.  

Image result for poetry workshop

Childhood Home

For this week’s writing prompt, you are to use your own memory of your childhood home – whether or not you still live there – as the setting for your poem. This can be a memory of your own, an invented story starring you, an invented story starring an invented star, or simply musings. We will be reviewing some famous epic poems in class all week and I implore you to use these as your muse when writing your own poetry.  

I know some of you believe that the appeal of poetry is the lack of rules, and that is partly true. Poetry however should follow the basic vocabulary and grammar rules of English language unless the deviation is intentional and has a purpose that you are able to explain.  

I encourage all poems for this exercise to be at least thirty lines and you should be prepared to do a mostly oral workshop as poems truly come alive when read aloud by their creator.  

Great Lakes Workshop

Ok now that we have our lakes divvied up and our first drafts, I want to share some good workshopping tips before you split off tomorrow for an hour of workshop time.  

First of all, and perhaps most importantly, you must be careful with the feelings of your writing workshop partner. Consider the time you put into your own writing and the kind of feedback you do and don’t want. Make sure that when giving your partner notes, they are gracious, thoughtful, and kindly worded. A writing workshop must be considered a safe and open space where sharing is imminent and feelings are respected.  

Make sure that your own work is ready to be critiqued – consider the type of work you expect from your partner and match yours to that standard. It should be complete, legible, and you should proofread it at least once before handing it over.  

Be confident in your opinions but ready to be convinced otherwise – both with respects to your own writing and that of your partner.  

And finally, if you and your workshop partner have a disagreement always keep in mind that your writing is your writing and their writing is their writing. Ultimately the decision always goes to the penholder. Share your opinion respectfully, and move on if that opinion is not shared. 

Great Lakes

Living in Indiana, we are blessed with 234 miles of Lake Michigan access. Lake Michigan is the only great lake located entirely within the United States and is the third largest of the great lakes.  

Your assignment this week is to choose one of the great lakes – Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, or Superior – and write a 300-word short story using historical facts, current data, and your own understanding of the lake as a back drop. The story can be about whatever you want – the lake can be central to the story or merely a backdrop. You will be asked to workshop the story with a classmate as to be determined once you’ve completed your first drafts and eventually read a finished product to the class.  

This is an exercise in using geography to enrich human stories. Geography is more than just a class or a course of study. It is a context in which everything on earth – and outside of earth – happens. Strong stories lean on the geography around them to tell a compelling human story.  

Please use the comments to dibs your lake. Because there are five lakes and twenty students, please limit the number of students writing about each lake to four.