Writing Prompt: Fish

This week, I want you to write a story about a fish out of water. Your protagonist can find herself in a new place, facing a language barrier, or something much smaller-scale. Have fun! You have 1,500 words.

Writing Prompt: Identity

Your protagonist wakes up one morning to find that she or he doesn’t have an identity. Maybe your character can’t go to the bank, or some other banal activity, or maybe it’s a bigger problem than that for your character, but either way, your character wakes up and no longer seems to exist.

You have 2,500 words for this one! Have fun!

TA Update: Collaboration is Key

On Wednesday, I taught my first lesson of the semester. Whereas last fall I was TA-ing in a freshman course, this semester I’m in a sophomore seminar. For this lesson, I worked with my fellow TA (we’re in the same class this time around) to plan about an hour’s worth of content.

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Our First Plan

Originally, when we started thinking about what we’d like to do, we planned to do a game on evaluating sources for research. We were going to create a slide deck with various sources, split the class into two teams, and run a competition. However, we thought of a few problems with this:

  • What if technology was disagreeable that day? It’d happened before.
  • What if a slide isn’t sufficient space to share enough information for students to determine a source’s value?
  • What if the students didn’t know how to evaluate sources yet?

The last question was the big issue–and it prompted our revision of our lesson plan.

Our Second Plan

We put together a lesson plan that culminated in the game we intended to run, with some exercises first to allow the students to learn how to evaluate sources–and then practice. The problem was that we still felt like something was missing, our game still faced the potential issues of technology and space allowance, and now we were running into the second half of the class.

So, we emailed the professor we’re working with this term. She didn’t mind us taking more time, but as we thought about our plans, we discovered what was missing: how to incorporate sources.

After all, that goes hand-in-hand with evaluating sources. We discussed this with the professor, and came up with a new plan.

Our Third Plan

On Monday, the professor taught APA in-text citations. This was a great lead-in to our Wednesday plans. I taught evaluating sources (using the CRAAP method), and my fellow TA taught the students how to concoct an APA reference listing.

The two lessons worked well together, and we didn’t have to worry about the concerns I listed above. Overall, planning for this took about a week, and that includes both my fellow TA and I creating handouts and reviewing each other’s. It also included addressing printing concerns.

Final Thoughts

I really enjoyed working on this lesson together. It was great to be able to bounce ideas back and forth, and this reiterated for me something I had already learned (but reinforcement in this is always good): Even when teaching alone, it’s a great idea to share lesson plans, handouts, readings, assignments, rubrics…every piece that makes up the puzzle that is a course.

Great things can come of brainstorming. If we’d stuck with our first plan, it might have been fun and the students would have been able to test the knowledge that they came into class with…but that didn’t involve us actually teaching.

Our second plan was better in that regard, but it still needed some more oomph to go from abstract ideas to practical application in the sense that the students will have to create an annotated bibliography before they write their research papers. Those will involve APA references and evaluating sources.

We were able to get the students involved, teach them valuable, actionable information, and tie it in to their semester-long projects–all because we collaborated.

Writing Prompt: Tech Takeover

This week, your writing prompt is to compose a story in which technology takes over. It can be anything from technology affecting one person to the entire world. It can be a blessing or a curse, or both. You have up to 1,000 words.

On-The-Go Epiphanies

Last week, I was on the road for about a 2.5-hour trip. Naturally, during such an expanse of time, I thought of the story I’m writing for my MFA thesis. That’s when it hit me–at 70 mph–a connection between my character’s past and present that would offer an opportunity to show his growth!

But at that speed, alone in the car, and with no safe space to pull over, I was worried I would forget about my idea.

Sure, I could have left a voice memo on my phone for myself, but those often end up getting garbled, and I didn’t want to distract myself whilst on the road. It’d have been even more dangerous to take out a pen and physically jot it down.

With the next exit miles away, and with my eagerness to reach my destination, I did the next best thing: I made up a tune. It was a simple tune, just four lines long, but I sang it occasionally throughout the rest of my trip until I could safely stop driving and write it down for later use.

Off the Road

What came next was figuring out how to integrate my idea into my already drafted outline. I ended up deleting most of my outline, but that’s okay. It’s important to stay flexible, to stay fluid, and to accept that the brain is always writing.

I think that’s the thing so many non-writers don’t understand: Writing happens constantly, and the most powerful ideas often occur to a writer at the most inopportune times.

How About You?

Where are you when inspiration strikes? I’ve gotten ideas while out walking, driving, and hiking. Epiphanies have struck while I’ve been in the shower, while I’ve been teaching, and while I’ve been mixing bread dough so I was too messy to write. Only once did a big idea hit while I was actually in a place where I could easily record it.

Writing Prompt: Groundhog Day

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With Groundhog Day right around the corner (I could post this ON that day but it’s been a long day today so you get your weekly writing prompt now instead of Friday), I want you to write a story wherein your character has to relive a particular day or event. It doesn’t have to be Groundhog Day, but that was one of my favorite movies as a kid, so go for it.

You have up to 2,000 words.

The Value of Guest Blogging

I’ve had a productive week for guest blogging. On Monday, Sarah Foil and I swapped posts, and I had a post go live on Assignment Online–the publication of my MFA program. Then on Thursday, I had a post go live on Writers Helping Writers, which was voted one of the top 101 Best Websites for Writers by Writer’s Digest in 2016. I set up another guest blog post for February that I have to start work on next week.

So I thought now would be a great opportunity to talk to you about the benefits of guest blogging.

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Some Sites Pay You

I won’t lie; it’s nice when you can be paid for a contribution. Not all sites do, and this isn’t even the biggest benefit, but it’s nice to get some money thrown your way. That said, I’m not in a position where I can pay guest bloggers right now, so I certainly don’t expect it.

I listed this benefit first because I wanted to mention it, and get it out of the way. As I said, it’s really not the biggest benefit out there.

You Get to Know Other Bloggers

Blogging can seem like a lonely endeavor. We sit in our offices, rooms, dens, and kitchens and write, hoping someone will enjoy reading it. It’s a lot like fiction writing. If you don’t find a way to create community, it can be lonesome.

Guest blogging gives you the opportunity to connect with others who like doing what you do. Community is so important, even for those of us with introverted tendencies. (I’m an extroverted introvert, which is fun and confusing, but basically I like community but recharge on my own.)

Writing is also highly reliant on who you know, just like any other industry. Expanding your professional network is a wise move if you plan to make a career of writing.

You Get Clips

Guest blogging is a great way to get your name out there in bios and bylines. I wanted to have more clips about the craft and process of writing, so this year I made it my goal to seek out those opportunities that would allow me to start building that area of my portfolio.

You Build Your Own Blog’s Community

If you have the opportunity to link back to your own site or your own blog, then guest blogging can be a great move because it helps audiences of other sites discover your site. (To everyone who has recently discovered this site, thank you for reading!)

As a blogger, building community is one of my main goals. In order to do that, I need to attract readers. Sure, I can just post blogs and hope people will find them who will find them interesting, but I have a much stronger chance of attracting the right audience by going out and letting readers know I exist. Guest blogging is just one way to do this.

Other Benefits

It’s fun to guest blog. You feel like a bit of a super star for a day because someone else has decided to feature your work. It’s enthralling! There are loads of other benefits too, depending on who you are and what your goals are.

I’d love to know what you get out of guest blogging. And, if you’d like to swap posts, please feel free to contact me.