Project 1: Memoir (200 pts): The Self as Evidence

What this assignment is asking you to do:
This writing project is asking you to write a memoir/personal narrative essay describing an important event after you turned 18. There will probably be a lot of things you could write about, but you need to figure out what it is that you really want to focus on. Like William Zinsser says, “Think small.” You may have to add the appropriate background information as needed. Focus on telling the story and have fun with it!
We as the class will be your audience. You need to think about who we are as an audience and what you want to tell us.
What I will be looking for when I grade your final draft of Project #1:

  1. An understanding of your audience in your choice of topic, tone, vocabulary, and other conventions appropriate to your audience.
  2. An interesting and thoughtful focus and the appropriate use of details.
  3. The ability to articulate your ideas in a sophisticated manner by making connections between events and ideas, as well as the ability to reflect upon them.
  4. Writing that emphases showing versus telling
  5. The use of exact language in your writing
  6. The ability to revise and edit your writing for focus, organization, style, grammar, and punctuation.
  7. Your overall ability to inform and/or entertain your reader on the topic.

Your first draft should be 3-4 pages long, and your final draft 4-6 pages long, double-spaced using MLA writing conventions. Make sure you have an interesting title!

Some Useful Definitions:

  1. Memoir
    A memoir is a piece of autobiographical writing, usually shorter in nature than a comprehensive autobiography. The memoir, especially as it is being used in publishing today, often tries to capture certain highlights or meaningful moments in one’s past, often including a contemplation of the meaning of that event at the time of the writing of the memoir.

Characteristics of the memoir form:
… explores an event that remains lodged in memory

… describes the event and then shows, either directly or indirectly, why it is significant — or in short, why you continue to remember it

… is focused in time; doesn’t cover a great span of years (that would be an autobiography)

  1. Narrative
    Narrative is a telling of events that have a beginning, middle, and end, and it generally gives a sense of meaning to those events. It is another word for “story.” Personal narratives focus on a retelling of true events from one’s life. Therefore, narratives are an excellent and common method for a narrator or speaker to communicate ideas to an audience. On the other hand, writers of a personal narrative need to find ways to make their own experiences meaningful to people who have not shared their experiences.
  2. Audience
    Audience is the intended reader of the writing. For this paper, your audience will be the class and me.
  3. Voice
    A writer’s voice is the type of style a writer writes in. It can be casual, formal, serious, fun, academic, etc…. For this paper, your voice will be your everyday voice as in how you would tell a story to a friend.

“Be yourself and your readers will follow you anywhere. Try to commit an act of writing and your readers will jump overboard to get away.”
William Zinsser “How to Write A Memoir”

  1. Protagonist
    The main character.
    “Remember that you are the protagonist in your own memoir, the tour guide.” William Zinsser.

Evaluative Criteria:

  1. Does the memoir have an interesting beginning that makes the reader want to read on?
  2. Is the topic relevant to the audience?
  3. Is the setting laid out so the reader understands when and where this memoir takes place?
  4. Do the people in the memoir have names and characteristics that bring them to life?
  5. Does the memoir have an appropriate amount of details? Not too little nor too many?
  6. Does the author’s voice come through giving the reader the author’s unique perspective?
  7. Does the memoirs sequencing of events make sense so the reader is able to follow it?
  8. Do paragraphs and ideas flow smoothly using appropriate transitions?
  9. Are words used appropriately? Is the writing mature and interesting: free from repetitively simplistic sentences, ineffective repetition of words, and abrupt transitions?
  10. Is the paper reasonably free of mechanical (grammar, spelling, and punctuation) errors?

Rough Draft and Final Draft Due Dates. You will submit your rough drafts, use PeerMark to give and receive feedback, and then post your final drafts for a grade. The links for each of these are on Blackboard under each project.