Saturday, April 26, 2014

Saturday Summary: Week 6

I went missing-in-action for a couple of weeks there, so sorry! The past week has consisted of the mid-semester break and after missing the chance to upload this last Saturday, I figured I may as well just wait until this Saturday. Meanwhile, I have been indulging in chocolate, swimming with a bunch of writerly friends, working at the library, and having the unit on res to myself as all of my housemates stayed in their hometowns for longer than I did. Here is the summary of my classes from two weeks ago!

Fiction Writing: Story, Structure, and Starting Out
Readings: Workshop pieces.

This week was the week I workshopped alongside two of my best writerly friends. I was really pleased with the responses I got this week, everyone's pieces were really good and I thought the feedback was useful and very encouraging. This is why I love workshopping in class. I didn't bring in a full first-draft because I wanted to get an idea of whether or not the class thought the subject and the writing was 'literary' (as is required for this assignment) and to get an idea of where a first-time reader would think the story is going if they had to guess. I can't wait to keep writing this piece.

Poetry: Making it Strange
Readings: Ode to a Grecian Urn by John Keats, Ode on Melancholy by John Keats, and Adonais: An Elegy on the Death of John Keats by Percy Bysshe Shelley.

The reason our teacher wanted us to read these poems was so that he could tell us not to try and write poems like them. Keats and Shelly were the 17th Century romantics, but for our assignment especially our teacher wants us to write about the world as we have inherited it.

We took a look at some other poems in class to get a better idea of what our teacher meant by this. It was the small decisions within these poems that made them stand out; the unique use of words, the choice to refer to certain things that probably weren't around in the 17th Century. Good poetry is made up of small decisions.

Literature for Children and Young Adults
Readings: Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi 

This week we were looking at graphic novels and memoir. The reading, Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi, is both. We started the lecture by looking at Australia's engagement with Asia, how texts represent Asia, and how they represent Australia. The Australian engagement with Asia is surprisingly manipulated and limited to particular aspects. In Persepolis, the setting is Tehran, Iran, in the late 70s and early 80s. We are told about political, religious, and cultural aspects of the time and place through the eyes of a young girl, between the ages of 10 and 14. Some time next week, I am aiming to write a review for this book, because I really enjoyed it.

The graphic novel is a long-form comic. It uses juxtaposed pictures and images in a deliberate sequence, intended to convey information and produce an aesthetic response in viewers. Although they rely heavily on illustrations to tell the story, they are very different to picture books, for example: in the way they depict movement and the number of different pictures that are often on the same page. The images of a graphic novel are laid out in panels and strips rather than in spreads, the gutter is the space between panels rather tan the fold in the middle of the book, and closure* is what a reader fills in between panels rather tan what they fill in when they turn the page. (*in this case, closure is not referring to the 'narrative closure' at the end of the story where all lose ends are tied up.) 

Persepolis was used as an example of how texts represent childhood and adolescence as developmental stages, that identities are formed in particular socio-economic and cultural contexts, and that identities are formed in particular historical and colonial contexts. This book can be used to compare the representation of class and gender in a particular time and setting.

Creative Nonfiction: The Personal Essay
Readings: Home Truths: Revisiting Wake in Fright by K Jennings and Hope Lives Here by G Linnell.

This week discussed the use of multiple voices and characters in a creative nonfiction personal essay and some methods of keeping them accurate, specifically the writer's responsibility to do their research and conduct interviews where appropriate. Writers need to research beyond their own means to write competent and true stories. Interviews, especially when conducted face-to-face, are useful for gaining information, observing behaviour, ascertaining opinions, facts, and observations about an individual, and to better understand the story. One of the great things about interviewing somebody is that although you might start with certain questions in mind, if you let them just talk and talk and allow them to go on a tangent while answering the questions you're asking, they might end up giving you information you never considering, stories you weren't expecting, and more material to work with than you could have hoped for. Of course, for this to happen, the interviewee needs to be comfortable enough in the interview setting to open up, which is why it is important to have good people skills and conduct the interview in a place and form that the interviewee is most comfortable with. The interviewer needs to be aware that it isn't an interrogation, but a dialogue, a conversation. After an interview, you might go back to the questions and answers and decide that some of the things you would like to include in your story are not entirely clear, and it is then the writer's job to verify the information and seek clarification, especially if the piece is intended for publishing.

However, just as we have to choose certain aspects of ourselves when we write the 'I' in a creative nonfiction piece, we also have to choose certain aspects of the story, otherwise it could become too confusing, too long, too complicated. The things we choose to include and exclude need to make the reader feel (or not feel) the way the writer is trying to make them feel (or not feel) and so that the intended message being conveyed isn't overshadowed or diminished by other things. However, this also has to be done with respect for the other people involved and their wishes.

That concludes the week 6 Saturday Summary. I apologise again for going missing in action for a couple of weeks there, I'll try to resurface and visit everyone's blogs again soon! Happy writing, everyone.

Did you enjoy your Easter/International Chocolate Indulgence Day? 
- Bonnee.


  1. Can we agree that writing a blog is just an extra activity, after studying and working and hanging out with family and friends? No need to apologize or feel pressure to write a blog. I know the comic book PERSEPOLIS because two years ago it was part of a book club at our Reference Library. Very well know comic book that was made into a movie. You told us about another comic book last year, VENDETTA. Talking about comic books we have every year in May a big event here for comics books and many people attend, including authors/illustrators from Australia. About your poetry class, we had here a workshop with a Poet and she told us that in the past Poets like Shelly used to be celebrities, but now they do worse than authors. You rarely see books of poems on Best Sellers list. Best wishes in writing the piece to your fiction class.

    1. You're kind, Giora, but I do like to be consistent with my blogging haha of course I will put study and work and physical social contact before internet life though.

      I really want to read the second 'Persepolis' book and to watch the movie. There are quite a few graphic novels I would like to read and review.

      I don't think anyone in my class was keen on the Shelly or Keats poems, and we were greatly relieved when he assured us he didn't want that sort of work from us. Thanks for visiting, Giora! :)

  2. Interestingly enough, I would think that reading a particular set of poems, then telling you not to write poems like that, might make it harder not to write poems like that!

    1. See, I think there was a huge sigh of relief when he assured us we didn't have to write that stuff. :)

  3. Workshopping is the best! Don't you just love getting a fresh perspective on things? Glad it went well and you're still having a good time with the piece! :)

    Also: double yay for chocolate AND swimming!!

    1. I love getting an idea of what other people are thinking, where they think it's going, and whether or not they like it so far. Feedback is the best. Thanks Shari!


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