A Peek in the Classroom

It’s been an amazing semester here at Penn State. We’re in week three of advanced writing, and so far, students designed stunning professional portfolios that included a resume, cover letter, and personal mission statement (all with vivid, shimmering verbs!). Now, we move on to the professional “signature story”—a short single-event memoir that showcases the student’s transformation in some way. These stories work well for personal statements, interview settings, or for personal confirmation about career paths.

We talk about creating an authentic written voice. We talk about rhythm. We talk about how semicolons and colons powerfully direct the reader’s mind; they make arguments. I show examples of the best, most memorable lines in literature and how, essentially, writers arrange words in particular patterns to create that elusive concept called “voice.” I point out, too, the power of the two to five word sentence. It lets voice in. It’s musical. It’s a way to talk in the paragraph.

My favorite lesson today, however, involves conflict, tension, and enemies. We transform through opposition. But the enemy doesn’t have to be another person; it appears in various forms: time, psychological barriers, philosophies of living, nature, or one’s own body.

We begin sharing our stories of transformation that reveal why we do what we do now, what we want to do in the future, and what we aim to inspire others to do as well. We think about our writing as changing something in the world around us. We consider our role as change agents. We’re reading Mary Pipher’s book, Writing to Change the World, and we enjoyed sharing our favorite quotes from her first chapter as our name game.

Such fun over here!



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