Session Three

First-Person Memoirs and Introduction to Letters

Discussion of Assignment Two – 10 minutes 

Return Assignment One with your comments. Ask the group about the current assignment: Was it difficult or easy, and why? How did this first-person memoir assignment compare to the first one? Did you like what you wrote? Were you surprised by anything you remembered?

Sharing Stories & Feedback – 30 minutes 

Ask for volunteers to read their second assignments. Allow participants to provide positive critique on the work by offering comments. Although it’s fine to allow people a few minutes to reminisce about places or situations described in the piece, comments should be focused on the writing itself and should not drift into comments on the writer’s personal life. Some questions to consider:

  • Which details in the piece stick out in your mind?
  • Are there any events or characters that you wish the writer described more thoroughly?
  • Did the story begin and end at the appropriate time?

In-Class Examples: “Letter to Myself, Revisited” and “Letter” – 15 minutes

Distribute hard copies of the pieces, examples of letters. Read the letters aloud, and ask the group:

  • Without looking back, what do you remember about this piece?
  • Did you get a sense of the person writing the letter? If so, how?
  • How does this letter differ from the first-person memoirs we’ve talked about, like “The Captain’s Lady and the Tiger”? Does the author reveal details in a different way? If so, how?
  • How does the recipient of the letter (or, the letter’s audience) affect which details are shared and how they are shared?

Explaining Assignment Three – 5 minutes

Distribute this week’s assignment (Letter: Write about an incident or event from your past in the form of a letter to someone you know or would like to know). Brainstorm topic ideas and possible letter recipients, the audience of this piece. Remind participants to choose their recipients wisely — details that emerge (or do not) depend on who is supposed to be reading.

Discussion of Literary Concepts

  • Audience – all present and future readers or listeners; writers sharing life stories should focus on expressing their past experiences and their present thoughts, opinions, and feelings as authentically as possible
  • Sentence structure – prose with varied sentence length is more interesting and easier to read; interject a short, effective sentences to grab readers’ attention
  • Starting in the middle – a trick to jump into a story in “the middle of things,” or in medias res. Rather than writing from the beginning, you begin writing when the action takes place.