Brainstorm and Freewrite
If your initial plan doesn’t seem to be taking shape, turn away from your draft for a while. Try brainstorming or freewriting in your journal. Don’t concern yourself with spelling and structure; attend to those matters later. The aim of brainstorming and freewriting is to get your ideas on paper as quickly as you can.
For more on brainstorming and freewriting, see A Writer’s Reference (6).
Write Your Uncertainty into Your Story
If you’re unsure of some details, make your uncertainty part of your literacy narrative. Art Spiegelman does just that in the epigraph for Maus when he writes, “I was ten or eleven . . .” (5).
Look to Maus and An American Childhood as Models
Continue to examine Maus as a model. Study how Spiegelman creates tension in the panels of his comic. Also reread the excerpts from Annie Dillard’s memoir, An American Childhood, included in my September 9 blog post (“ENG 111: Of Maus and Memoirs, Part II”). Look to Dillard’s words as models for creating dialogue and shifting back and forth from scene to summary.
Seek More Models
For starters, see the New York Times feature “The 50 Best Memoirs of the Past 50 Years.” The description of each memoir in the list includes a short quotation, a sentence or two, from the book. Browse the list, and if you read a line that you find evocative, write it down in your journal. Here’s one that I recorded in my journal:
He [J.M. Coetzee] feels like a crab pulled out of its shell, pink and wounded and obscene” (qtd. Szalai).
Writing of himself in third person, Coetzee vividly depicts the vulnerability that many of us feel when we put ourselves on the page for others to see.
For additional models, I offer the list below, which includes five literacy narratives written by former English 111 students of mine and two written by me.
- “My Spiritual Journey” by Brianna Carter
- “Just a Silly Poem” by Caroline Erkman
- “What Reading is for Me” by Kong Lee
- “The Origins of Learning English” by Luis Millan Lara
- “Childish Books” by Danny Purcell
- “María Gringa” by Jane Lucas
- “‘Twelve Angry Men’: A First Reading and a Second Act” by Jane Lucas
Remember: I’m in the process of writing a literacy narrative along with you, and I’ll share that process with you in class and on my blog.