So, this week is a transition week…

We’ve just written two memoir pieces and read a variety of memoir examples! Yay!

Now, we’re going to start working on short fiction. Yay! 🙂

A mic and a stool stand on an empty stage.
Spotlight’s on you!

Normally, I have a class where we have an informal reading of our work thus far. It’s a great chance for everyone to put voice to their words, and is often one of the most fun activities for many students, but, alas, that isn’t to be.

Instead, I’m going to assign you to read and comment on your classmates’ work on the Student Work: Memoir page. (More on that on the Assignment page.)

Another activity I have in class is a chance to debrief on the experience of writing memoir. I ask students to share what they liked/didn’t like, and what they learned either through the reading the work of others or the writing process. It’s a time to connect and reflect. In place of this, I’m asking you to write a short Journal reflecting on the process.

Please note: Not only will this help connect with your experience so far, this Journal will also assist you later this semester, when I’m going to ask you to reflect on the semester as a whole (and you can include parts of this Journal in your Final Reflection).

Now on to our next creative writing genre: fiction, or rather, short fiction!

Short Fiction: An Introductory Reading

A reading assignment to introduce you to writing short fiction is the story “The First Day,” by Edward P. Jones. (A copy is in the Course Profile section–the link is on the Assignment page.) Read the first paragraph here and consider the questions that follow.

In an otherwise unremarkable September morning, long before I learned to be ashamed of my mother, she takes my hand and we set off down to begin my very first day of school. I am wearing a checkeredlike blue-and-green cotton dress, and scattered about these colors are bits of yellow and white and brown. My mother has uncharacteristically spent nearly an hour on my hair that morning, plaiting and replaiting so that now my scalp tingles. Whenever I turn my head quickly, my nose fills with the faint smell of Dixie Peach hair grease. The smell is somehow a soothing one now and I will reach for it time and time again before the morning ends. All the plaits, each with a blue barrette near the tip and each twisted into an uncommon sturdiness, will last until I go to bed that night, something that has never happened before. My stomach is full of milk and oatmeal sweetened with brown sugar. Like everything else I have on, my pale green slip and underwear are new, the underwear having come three to a plastic package with a little girl on the front who appears to be dancing. Behind my ears, my mother, to stop my whining, has dabbed the stingiest bit of her gardenia perfume, the last present my father gave her before he disappeared into memory. Because I cannot smell it, I have only her word that the perfume is there. I am also wearing yellow socks trimmed with thin lines of black and white around the tops. My shoes are my greatest joy, black patent-leather miracles, and when one is nicked at the toe later that morning in class, my heart will break.

Edward P. Jones, “The First Day”

Scribble down the answers to the following questions:

  1. What is the point of view of the narrator? (First person? Third person?) How do you know?
  2. What is the age of the narrator when the story occurs? How do you know?
  3. What is the age of the narrator when they share this story? How do you know?
  4. What time period do you imagine this story takes place? (Present, 1990s, 1970s, or a different time?) What are the clues to your guess?

Now, read the story and see if your answers stay the same to the end. For more detail, go to the Assignment page.

We’ll talk more about point of view (POV) next week, and prepare to write short fiction! Woot!