Posted in Teaching, Writing

ENG 111: Beginning the Literacy Narrative

The first draft of “A Bridge to Words,” the literacy narrative that I wrote with my students in September 2020

This week’s classes will be devoted to planning and drafting your literacy narrative, the first of the three essays that you will write for English 111. The assignment file is posted in Moodle and I have included an additional copy here. (See the link and rectangle labeled download below.)

Although I have emphasized the importance of revising and editing your writing, I am asking you to resist the urge to revise and edit this week. Your primary goal for now is getting your ideas down on paper. In Bird by Bird, author Ann Lamott’s guide to writing, she offers these reassuring observations about beginning the process:

Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere. Start by getting something–anything–down on paper. A friend of mine says the first draft is the down draft–you just get it down (25).

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).

If you write on one topic in the list of options and that doesn’t seem to lead anywhere, return to the list and try writing on another topic–or two, or three . . . . The complete list of options is in the assignment file, and I am including an additional copy below.

  • any early memory about writing, reading, speaking, or another form of literacy that you recall vividly
  • someone who taught you to read or write 
  • someone who helped you understand how to do something
  • a book that you found significant in some way
  • an event at school that was related to your literacy and that you found interesting humorous, or embarrassing
  • a literacy task that you found (or still find) especially difficult or challenging
  • a memento that represents an important moment in your literacy development
  • the origins of your current attitudes about writing, reading, or speaking (one of those, not all three)
  • creating and maintaining your WordPress blog

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).

Spiegelman, Art. Maus I. Pantheon, 1986. p. 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 class notes for February 8 and 10. Look to Dillard’s words as models for creating dialogue and shifting back and forth from scene to summary.

More Models for Your Literacy Narrative

Remember that I am writing a literacy narrative along with you and will post mine as a model next week. In the meantime, I offer links to six literacy narratives, three that I wrote with my students in previous semesters and three written by students of mine at Catawba Valley Community College.


You’ve Got to . . .

For the second installment in our You’ve-Got-To series, I offer an assignment that focuses on Counter Strike: Global Offensive (CSGO). In it, the writer observes how the skills he has developed as a player differ from those of his teammates. As you read his assignment, ask yourself if a similar experience of your own–whether as a video game player or an athlete–might serve as the subject of your literacy narrative.

Drop AWP Bro

Counter Strike: Global Offensive (CSGO) is the third installment of the video game series Counter Strike. It is a competitive first-person shooter game with a strong player base, a real-life economic system with skins in the game being able to be sold for real life money, and a big professional scene. The game is different from most shooters as it’s round based and you can earn in game money to upgrade your kit for each round, from getting armor to an upgraded pistol or if you have the money you can buy a sniper or a rifle. In most shooter games you just go in and shoot’em up but in CSGO you must use your brain because of the in game economic system of needing to buy new guns.

I really enjoy the game because my skills in the game aren’t the best but my skills in what we should buy for the next round or how to set up with different kits, like where to throw smoke grenades to block vision or flash bangs to have the other players blind and easy wipes to be able to win the round. My friends can win almost any fights they get themself into but with the addition of the utility sets that I set up with them makes it almost impossible for us the lose the first engagement of each round and then hopefully when the second fight happens when the players who were on the other side of map move to take us out, I can hold them off with the sniper.  The Sniper in the game is called the AWP and it’s my favorite weapon because you can lock off a hold side of a map if you place it in the right spot and can change the whole round with one player. 

Notes on YGT: “Drop AWP Bro”

  • The writer has crafted a title that engages readers. Those who aren’t gamers may not catch the reference to CSGO, but presenting an imperative sentence that begins with a concrete verb (one that describes a literal action) indicates that the paragraphs that follow will be action-filled. That said, note that AWP should be followed by a comma because the title is a statement of direct address (Drop AWP, Bro).
  • Among the additional details that the writer could include in the summary are these: the game’s developer and publisher (Valve), the designations of the two opposing teams (Terrorists and Counter-Terrorists), and the game’s sequence in the Counter-Strike series (it’s the fourth).
  • In the second paragraph, when the writer turns to the specifics of his own game play, he might identify the mode in which he plays (there are a total of nine). He might also mention the five categories of weapons. On first reference in the second paragraph, the acronym AWP should be followed by Arctic Warfare Police enclosed in parentheses (Arctic Warfare Police). The writer should also specify that “skins” are virtual goods and identify the type of kit he mentions.  
  • As a guide for addressing trouble spots, the writer should consult these pages of A Writer’s Reference: 145 (hopefully), 193 (pronoun-antecedent agreement), 259-71 (commas), and 291 (hyphens in compound words).

Lamott, Anne. Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life. 1994. Anchor, 1995.

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