"I am a Minnesotan by birth and a traveler in wild places by vocation and compulsion." -Paul Gruchow

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Eng. 150: How Do We (Re)Create Places For Ourselves?

Okay, so I probably won't be posting this much once the semester really gets underway, but so far in this class, things have been going so well that I need some sort of outlet.

First, I stumbled on this website that features great place-writing things by the amazing Gretchen Legler. She's the author of On The Ice, about Antarctica, and it's great. I met her a few years ago when we were on a panel about Women and Travel Writing at AWP. If you haven't read her book, put it on your list. In the meantime, check out these great exercises and ideas.

Today's Readings: Short-shorts by Tim O'Brien, Judith Kitchen, Emily Hiestand, and Cynthia Ozick.

Quest of the Day: How do we create places for ourselves?

Goals of the day: connect any of these pieces to ones we've already read--where is the conversation between them? (How many noticed that Ozick used "quotidian" in her piece?) Start being able to identify narrative, exposition, high exposition. How do these pieces fit into the themes of the class.

Activities: write around. I did this in groups of 3. Each student writes a paragraph, an initial comment. Write for a specific length of time. Pass to the person sitting next to them. The 2nd person reads the initial comment, then continues the conversation. The 2nd person can elaborate on those ideas, ask new questions, or take the conversation in a new direction. After a specific length of time, the paper gets passed to the third person, who reads what's already been written and continues the conversation. At the end, the third person writes something to bring the conversation full circle back to the originator. When the paper gets back to the originator, they read their own, highlighting or underlining strong, interesting, questioning moments. In their groups, they briefly discuss what they came up with, then bring it back to the big group.

Writing Exercise: Take me on a tour of your dream house. No expense spared. Take me down to the tiniest details--no detail is too small. Your dream house, since we're talking about creating a place for ourselves. (10 minutes, give or take.) Pass to the person next to you, read it, and jot down a note or two about what you can tell about what the author values, given this house. Value family, environmental ethics, solitude, etc? What details give you that impression? (This went over very well. We didn't have time to do the second half of the exercise, which we'll do next week.)


  1. Thanks for posting this! I'm going to steal it.

  2. You should! And definitely check out the Legler stuff on that Alaska site.