Wednesday, June 25, 2008

I've been busy

This residency has been so so so so busy. Yet, I have learned so much. I learned about the importance of verbs in moving action. I learned about how to avoid sentimentality in writing. We read some really really awful pieces.

I was workshopped and basically need to change my whole book. Imagine writing 140 pages then being told to change everything. It was refreshing and I didn't cry. I actually felt okay and looking forward to rethinking everything.

This residency has been a lot of fun. I've had good conversations about writing and with people. Over lunch, myself and a bunch of authors and students played desert island albums, movie, and book. I chose:

1) Confederacy of Dunces as a book
2) Beatles White Album as the album
3) Annie Hall as the movie (though I'm not confident on this one.)

I heard some great readers. My advisor David Elliot read from his book (Wuv Bunnies from Outers Pace). It was hysterical. I have a workshop with MT Anderson today and he is reading tonight. So I'm excited.

I also read yesterday and people were rolling in the aisles and laughing. A couple people said I intimidated them, which I found funny, because I think I'm lest intimidating person.

I'm off to read and need to get to Lesley to learn about point of view. YAY.

Sunday, June 22, 2008


I'm about to learn about juxtaposition and parallel structure - YAY

Saturday, June 21, 2008


I just had two seminars on revision and ate a wonderful veggie wrap.

I want to comment on the second revision seminar - It was intense and humorous. Our class is starting to bond - awesome.

During the time, we really looked at our intentions behind scenes and characters. And, we asked ourselves these questions:

Why did you invent the characters you invented?
How am I similar to this character?
How can I heighten the similarities?

We talked about using active verbs, "word" choice, knowing our dramatic tension, line breaks, sentence variety, being able to enter the story through the backdoor, the importance of well-placed fragments, etc.

The instructor, AJ Verdelle, quoted good ole' Bill Shakespeare - "Action is eloquence" - USE ACTIVE VERBS. This is the same thing I tell you. Be active, not passive.

She told us, if we have a word more than eight letters in our work, that we better be prepared to lie on the ground and fight for it. I love long words. I'm so reminded of what I tried to convey with clutter, specifics, etc.

I'm enjoying the talks and the workshops, but I am feeling dread about my own story. I feel like a don't have a plot. This is big. REAL BIG.


Residency: Day One

Last night was our opening reception. It was great to see people I hadn't seen in six months. There was a lot of energy and I felt ready to get back to studying and writing.

I took the opportunity coming off much praise for my reading a few weeks ago to lobby myself to be the commencement speaker for our graduating class next June. I managed (with some shady backroom dealings) to secure myself the spot as commencement speaker - a dream come true for me. I already have a title: "Writers in the Hand of an Angry God" - I plan on delivering it as a 17th century Puritan preacher, complete with whipping rod and compulsory biblical recitation. It is going to be sweet.

After the delightful lunch meat and sushi spread, we had our opening reading. I was thrilled because Susan Goodman, my advisor my first semester, read from her new book: See How They Run - It is about presidential elections. The book is hysterical and she gave some great advice to non-fiction writers. I'm going to try to get her to do a classroom visit next year. She is so funny, and would probably really make fun of me.

I don't start today until 10:45. In one great ironic twist, my reading today consisted of the chapter from On Writing Well entitled Bits and Pieces - the same one I assigned to you - proving that yes, we are still learning.

I'm off to get caffeine and perhaps a toffee bar at Starbucks - um, toffee bar.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Oh - this is so funny...

I'll be live-blogging my residency starting this Friday, then shutting the site down. My blogging adventures will not end, and I hope yours won't either. Keep blogging. 

I found this on McSweeney's. Being from Philadelphia, I always had a wonderful love for Will Smith a.k.a. the Fresh Prince.

Friday, June 13, 2008

End of the Year...

Well, thank you for this year. I have enjoyed you all as students and as people. Thank you for your hard work, your intellect, your kindness, and your humor.

I'm always a sucker for good summer music. I'm currently revisiting Neutral Milk Hotel and everything by Bruce Springsteen (great BBQ music). Post any recommendations of good summer tuness.

I'm going to live-blog my MFA week, which begins next Friday. I have a class with M.T. Anderson, the author of Feed. I found this helpful for me to remember what I was learning as well as hopefully interesting to you all.

I included a video from Bryan Adams. It is classic 1980s. Yes, I had hair like this. This song always reminds me of my teenage summers, with the world before me, wanting to be a rock star. I remember having band practice in my living room and we were really rockin' out and I was ready for my monster solo, when my mom interrupted us with Strawberry Shortcake. I knew from that moment on I was not going to be a rock star. Rock Stars don't take Shortcake breaks.

Have a safe summer. Stay out of trouble. Don't do anything genuinely stupid.

Oh, and Read.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Extra Credit Reminder

Hey everyone,

The assignment is below for extra credit.

I just wanted to remind everyone about the reading and Seussical. The reading is at 4 p.m. today on the 5th floor of the Barnes and Noble at BU. The address is in a below post.

Seussical is at 340 Dorcester Street at Fourth Presbyterian Church in South Boston. It is at 7 p.m. It is right off of Andrew Station T stop.

Both events are free and are one hour in length.

If you attend, you get extra credit. Bonus points if you make signs.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Blog Extra Credit

Choose one of the following assignments for extra credit (20 points)

1) Choose an ending to any of the novels/plays we have read this year. Rewrite the ending. Don't just provide a summary, but actually WRITE a new or additional ending. Try to mimc the author's voice.

2) Think of a situation in which a long-held fear or anxiety that you have comes true (this should be a situation which could, but has not yet happened). Now, using the third-person mode of narration, write a scene describing a fictional version of yourself dealing with the situation.

3) Write a dialogue between two characters where each character has a secret. Imply the secret, but do not tell the secret outright. This scene should have exposition, climax, and a resolution. Ex. Husband has lost his job, the wife has been having an affair.

4) Choose one of the following characters: Holden Caulfield, Sydney Carton, Gene Forrester, Bottom, or Antigone. Write song lyrics that best express their character. You may wish to put the lyrics to a familiar tune. Instead of Billy Idol's "Mony Mony", you could write Holden's "Phony Phony".

HOW LONG? (200-300 words)

Due June 12th.


Monday, June 2, 2008

Humor in Shakespeare

We've talked lately about how Shakespeare creates humor. This video "reduces" his humor and combines all of his comedies. They also mock him as a formula writer.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

A Midsummer Night's Dream - Part of Act 3, Scene 2

Not the best quality, but worth a watch.

Shameless Self-Promotion

As we approach the end of the year, I wanted to name two upcoming events that I am involved in.

1) PEN New England Reading on June 7th @ 4:00 p.m. at the Barnes and Noble in Boston. I will read excerpts of my novel in progress. The information is below.

2) Seussical the Musical - June 6th and 7th @ 7:00 p.m. It is at Fourth Presbyterian Church in South Boston. 340 Dorchester Street. I have spent the last ten Tuesdays teaching 70 elementary school kids to sing and dance.

Both events are free and open to the public. You are more than welcome to attend. Both are good, clean fun. I am firm believer in life-long learning. These are two examples of ways I am still striving to increase my understanding of English (writing and literature) and hone my skills as a director. IT NEVER STOPS and it shouldn't.

Here is the information on the reading:
PEN/New England and U. Mass Boston will sponsor a reading by a six local students from the Lesley MFA Program in Creative Writing

Place: BU Bookstore (BU Barnes & Noble in Kenmore Square )
Date/Time: June 7, 2008, 4:00 pm.


· Jennifer Badot, poetry
· Jessica Belt, nonfiction
· Philip Holland, fiction
· Alyssa Lovell, poetry
· Sareeka Rai, fiction
· Sean Walsh, young adult fiction

Lesley MFA Program Director Steven Cramer will introduce the readers read briefly from his own work.

Sponsored by PEN New England and coordinated by Barbara Perez, an MFA student at U. Mass Boston, and Joyce Peseroff, Director of the MFA Program at U. Mass Boston, the reading series is intended to connect students, faculty members, and artists in Boston area, and to foster an atmosphere of mutual inspiration.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Annotated Bibliography

For the research you will use in your presentation, your group will create an annotated bibliography.
An annotated bibliography "is a list of citations to books, articles, and documents. Each citation is followed by a brief (usually about 150 words) descriptive and evaluative paragraph, the annotation. The purpose of the annotation is to inform the reader of the relevance, accuracy, and quality of the sources cited" (

The bibliography uses MLA format for citation of sources. Click on this link or refer to the Writer's Inc. book on how to properly cite your sources. Your group will be graded on the accuracy of your citations.

Your response to your citation should address the following questions (to the best of your ability). Your writing style should be scholarly, not in the first person, not a journal entry:
Write a concise annotation that summarizes the central theme and scope of the book or article. Include one or more sentences that (a) evaluate the authority or background of the author, (b) comment on the intended audience, (c) compare or contrast this work with another you have cited, or (d) explain how this work illuminates your bibliography topic. (

A sample annotated bibliography can be found here. Notice that this site refers to the need of writing in the present tense. A habit you MUST kick.


Monday, May 19, 2008

Procrastination...., which is a great news and culture website, has a special issue on Procrastination. I stumbled upon as I was working on your grades.

Friday, May 16, 2008

A Poem for the Weekend

I’m a riddle in nine syllables,
An elephant, a ponderous house,
A melon strolling on two tendrils.
O red fruit, ivory, fine timbers!
This loaf’s big with its yeasty rising.
Money’s new-minted in this fat purse.
I’m a means, a stage, a cow in calf.
I’ve eaten a bag of green apples,
Boarded the train there’s no getting off.

- Sylvia Plath

What’s the answer, you say? NO CHEATING!!!!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

More on Feet (Poetic Feet that is)

I just wanted to post some information on different meters and beat used in A Midsummer Night's Dream.

Here is information on Trochiac Tetrameter used by the fairies.

Here is great information on Iambic Pentameter. Here is some more on verse and poetry in Shakespeare's world. It is a glossary and AWESOME!

Friday, May 9, 2008

I just added...

I added to the class links, a link to the complete text of A Midsummer Night's Dream. You can use this for your explication and reading. Enjoy.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Shakespeare, Inc.

Could Shakespeare survive Hollywood? How would the BARD do in our modern world?

Listen to this radio story on NPR - It is about eight minutes in length.

Write a response, addressing the following:

1) What did you find interesting about this radio cast? What did you learn? What did you question?

2) Do you believe Shakespeare would survive in Hollywood and our modern world? Why or Why not?

Your response should be a brief paragraph and refer specifically to the audio show. The assignment is due May 9th.

Monday, April 28, 2008

About your blogs...

You can find your blog, if you scroll down and click on "view my complete profile".

You are required to post TWICE from now until 5/19. You MUST comment on every post. This assignment and adventure is a test grade. It is your working journal for your independent reading book.

What should the posts look like?

Open-ended questions for clarification
Questions that predict
Links to important research websites
Statements or Debatable Assertions that spurn dialogue

Comments should be of an appropriate length, and you are encouraged to comment more than once when necessary. Remember, this is a public website and a school website. NO SARCASM. Address everyone with respect. You are here to discuss literature and have fun. I'm looking for you to focus in and large ideas and structure.

Best of luck.

My final comments on the Feet essay...

Man, I was really impressed at the level and depth that all of you were able to look critically at a student's paper. I wanted to share some of my final thoughts on the essay to help you.

FOCUS I felt within each individual paragraph the student was incredibly focused. As far as the thesis statement goes, it was vague, but I felt purposefully so. In looking back, I would encourage the student to make sure they go back to the thesis within the paragraphs - keep going back to past, present, and future. I think, though it builds to the conclusion,I would encourage the author to make his/her building to the conclusion more visible.

CONTENT This is what blew me away. The author managed not only to fully explore the use of feet, but tie it into wine, stones, doubles, pureness, and weather. The amount of quotes, which were occasionally jarring, showed an incredible depth of time and research. This paper is not summary, but rather makes a point to analyze each element of when and why characters hear feet, how it affects them, and what footsteps tell us about the characters and the revolution. This is pretty neat stuff.

Throughout this process, we have been trying to find our own style, being more conversational in order to help us focus. Many times, this works for the author - particularly with the internal questions. At times, it doesn't. Most of you pointed this out. For me, the introductory paragraph doesn't work. I would encourage a more academic approach, since the paper is very academic. Having read this paper in several drafts, I can attest to the student's desire to try something different stylistically and I think he/she ended up at a solid place, but there are some areas that could be tightened.

Overall, I felt this paper was one that showed thought, effort, and a great understanding of how a motif works and knowledge of the text. I applaud the student's effort and ability to tackle "feet" as a motif. Yes, there is room for improvement, there always is, and I think your comments were helpful, insightful, and most welcomed.