Homework for the Week

Hi folks.

Following our discussion of David Sedaris, and the critiques we gave to I-Hsuan and Jakyung, I gave you some suggestions along with some homework. I’ll list it all here:


1. Write two one-paragraph descriptions of the same place, one from a very happy point of view, and one from a very sad point of view. The two descriptions should be of the same place, at the same time–for example, a classroom, a bathroom, your bedroom, a cafe, or whatever. (My example was: imagine you’ve just fallen in love, and are hopeful, excited, and happy. Which details would you pick out and notice to describe the room? Then… imagine the person you just fell in love with was run over by a bus and killed this morning. Now describe the same place, except picking and including the details that would be apparent to you from a very gloomy, heartbroken, hopeless mood.)

2. Review your notes on the question of how David Sedaris manages to make his essays so funny. (The sarcasm, the “neurotic” confessions he makes, the discussion of things that one isn’t supposed to talk about (like “Stadium Pal”), his exaggerations, and the distance between David Sedaris-as-character and David Sedaris-as-narrator, as in the beginning of “The Understudy”.) Write a scene of approximately 500 words which is funny using one or more of these tricks; aim to make the reader smile or laugh aloud at least three times when reading your ~500 words.


1. I also recommended that you head to the library and grab a novel so that you can check out how dialog looks and works in a real piece of fiction. My main advice was that we settle on a North American format, meaning, you should choose something published in the US or Canada. (Sometimes the formatting of quotation marks is different in British fiction,and I want to avoid confusion. If you really want to use a British system, that’s fine, but be consistent.)

If you need recommendations, post a question to our mailing list and I’ll see if I can recommend a story or book of short stories to you, or even provide a link to something appropriate.

For those submitting stories, remember our next critique submission deadline is 6pm on Friday, 8 April. 6pm is a strict deadline!

Finally, I forgot to ask for the homework assignments I gave you last week (in which a rounded character and a flat character interact). You can drop them off with me if I’m in my office; if not, please put the assignments in my mail box (in IH341, which is the School of English office) by Thursday afternoon, so I can pick them up and grade them for next week (I hope!). I expect your “funny” scenes and your description exercises by next Wednesday, however–it’s best to hand them in at the beginning of class so we don’t forget.

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