Posted in Reading, Teaching, Writing

ENG 111: Welcome Back!

What you will need in class this week: (1) your journal, (2) Maus, (3) loose-leaf notebook paper, (4) a pen with dark ink, preferably black, and (5) a mask.

Welcome back to in-person classes at Guildford Technical Community College! I can’t tell you how happy I am that we are finally meeting face to face. Remember that the 9 a.m. class is divided for social distancing purposes. Half of you in the 9 a.m. class will meet with me today and every Monday; the other half will meet with me on Wednesdays. Schedules for the 9 a.m. class–as well as ones for the 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. classes–are posted below, in the March 17 blog post, and on Moodle.

For those of you who are new to the campus–and as a reminder to those who are returning–I am including some details here about pandemic protocol for the classroom.

Near the door, you’ll see a white bucket of disinfectant cloths. When you enter the classroom, pull a cloth from the bucket and wipe down the table where you will sit. This can be a messy process. Often the cloths are so saturated with rubbing alcohol that they fall apart in your hands.

To maximize your distance from your classmates, do not move the chairs. Keep your chair on the side of the table opposite the round “TABLE UNAVAILABLE” decal.

As I mentioned in our last online meeting in Microsoft Teams, except for days devoted to revision work, class time is time away from our screens. Using your phone or any other digital device without permission will lower your grade. 

This week will be devoted to planning and drafting your textual analysis of Maus, the second of your three essays for English 111. You will receive a paper copy of the assignment in class. Later this week, the assignment file will be posted to Moodle and on my blog. 

Although I have emphasized the importance of revising and editing, 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 panel or series of panels and that doesn’t seem to lead anywhere, turn back to the pages of Maus and try writing on another panel or series of panels.


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

Posted in Reading, Teaching, Writing

ENG 111: More on Maus, Part II

Spiegelman, Art. Maus I. Pantheon, 1986. p. 74.

On Monday we studied several student essays–including three written by students of mine last semester–as models for your own analysis of Maus. Today we will examine an additional analysis of Maus, Of Mice and Menace,” which I wrote as a model for my students last semester.

A Possible Secondary Source

Before we examine my analysis, I will turn back briefly to “The Lasting Effects of World War II and the Holocaust,” yesterday’s live stream of Michael Brock and Zachary Goldstein’s lecture. If you watched it, you are welcome to use that presentation as a secondary source for your analysis of Maus. Here’s how you would integrate one of their points into your analysis:

Zachary Goldstein, Associate Professor of English at Guilford Technical Community College, observes that one of the misconceptions of the Holocaust is the notion that all of the deaths occurred in the gas chambers. Art Spiegelman’s depiction of the public hangings of Jewish merchants in Modrzejowska Street illustrates Goldstein’s point.

Notice that the signal phrase includes the writer’s first and last name as well as his credentials. The paraphrase does not include a page number because the source is a presentation. The works cited entry, which would appear at the end of the analysis, lists the details of the event:

Work Cited

Brock, Michael and Zachary Goldstein. “The Lasting Effects of World War II and the Holocaust.” Guilford Technical Community College Globalization, Education, and Literacy Committee Presentation, Microsoft Teams Live Stream, 16 Mar., 2021. Lecture.

For more on introducing sources with signal phrases and citing online lectures, see A Writer’s Reference, pages 376-79 and 419.

Sample Analysis: “Of Mice and Menace”

My sample essay features all of the elements that you are required to include in your analysis of Maus: 

  • an introduction that includes a description of the panel, tier, or page
  • a thesis statement that presents your particular reading or interpretation
  • textual evidence, both words and images, that support your interpretation
  • a relevant quotation or paraphrase from an authoritative secondary source
  • parenthetical citations for both Maus and your secondary source
  • a conclusion that revisits the thesis without restating it verbatim
  • a title that offers a window into your analysis
  • a works cited list with entries for Maus and your secondary source

Note that the requirements above are for your revision. You do not need to integrate an authoritative secondary source into your draft.

In-Person Class Schedule

Our schedules for in-person class meetings, which begin next week, are posted below as well as in Moodle. If you are in the 9 AM class, review the schedule carefully. Because of social distancing requirements, you are permitted to attend class only on your designated day.

Posted in Reading, Teaching, Writing

ENG 111: More on Maus–a Sampling of Student Studies

Spiegelman, Art. Maus 1. Pantheon, 1986. p. 15.

On March 3, I led you through my close reading of three tiers of panels in Maus. From that examination of Spiegelman’s work, I developed four paragraphs of commentary, a total of 450 words, that could serve as a rough draft for a textual analysis of Maus

Today we will examine additional samples of analysis, beginning with one written in 2016 by Sadie Dossett for an English class at the University of Hawaii at Hilo. Dossett’s essay, “Lucia Greenberg: In-Depth Analysis” was chosen for publication in Hohonu,  the university’s undergraduate journal of academic writing.

Notes on “Lucia Greenberg: In-Depth Analysis”

Dossett’s analysis is admirable for its reassessment of Lucia Greenberg. She effectively argues that Spiegelman’s depiction of Lucia, based on what Valdek tells him, reduces her to a one-dimensional temptress. Though admirable, Dossett’s analysis would benefit from additional revisions and edits including these:

  • The first two paragraphs of the essay should be condensed and combined.
  • The thesis, which Dossett presents at the end of the second paragraph, should offer something more specific about Lucia. In other words, the thesis should show how she was “so much more” than what readers see on the page. For more on drafting an analytical thesis statement, see A Writer’s Reference, page 66.
  • In MLA style, numbers one-hundred and below are spelled out, so 15 should appear as fifteen, but that number should not appear in the third paragraph. Whenever possible, limit the appearance of page numbers by including them only in parenthetical citations. For more on writing numbers as words and figures, see A Writer’s Reference, page 299.
  • The first sentence of the third paragraph is written in passive voice. Rather than writing that “Lucia is introduced,” Dossett should write, “Art Spiegelman introduces Lucia,” or “Lucia enters the narrative in Chapter 2.” Note that chapter numbers are an exception to the words-versus-figures rule in MLA style. For more on active verbs, A Writer’s Reference, pages 153-55.
  • The parenthetical citation in the third paragraph should not include Spiegelman; it should simply include the number 17 because Dossett has established that Art Spiegelman’s Maus is the subject of her analysis. For more on repeated citations from the same source, see A Writer’s Reference, page 388.
  • The first sentence of the conclusion is written in passive voice. Rather than writing that “different interpretations could be made,” Dossett should write that “readers interpret Lucia in different ways. Some perceive her as a heroine; others see her as a villainess.” 
  • The quotation from Parker should be introduced with a signal phrase. In academic writing, a quotation presented at the beginning of a sentence is considered a dropped quotation. Dossett should include a signal phrase that includes the scholar’s full name and his credentials. For example: Literary scholar Robert Dale Parker or Robert Dale Parker, Professor of English at Illinois, observes that “[t]he problem comes with reducing women to little or nothing except their status as an object” (171). Note that I bracketed the letter t because I altered it from capital to lowercase. For more on signal phrases and dropped quotations, see A Writer’s Reference, page 37778.
  • The works cited entries comply with seventh edition MLA style guidelines, which differ from those for eighth edition. For more on MLA works cited entries, A Writer’s Reference, pages 384419. MLA 7th Edition: Parker, Robert Dale. “Feminism.” How to Interpret Literature: Critical Theory for Literary and Cultural Studies. 3rd ed. New York: Oxford UP, 2008. 148-84. Print. MLA 8th Edition: Parker, Robert Dale. “Feminism.” How to Interpret Literature: Critical Theory for Literary and Cultural Studies. 3rd ed. Oxford UP, 2008. pp. 148-84.

Dossett’s analysis is much longer than yours will be. Hers is more than 2,700 words long; yours will be a minimum of 500. I presented Dossett’s essay to you for two reasons: (1) It demonstrates how to develop an in-depth analysis of a minor character, and (2) It illustrates that a writing assignment you complete for a class can become a publication. Publishing your writing is one way to build your résumé. 

Now we will turn to three shorter analyses written by students of mine last fall.

ENG 111 Maus Analyses

  • At War with Others and One’s Self,” by Emi Ceca, explores the behavioral changes of Vladek’s that underlie the scene in which he throws Art’s coat in the garbage (68).
  • My Analysis of Maus” by Josh Graeber, examines Art Spiegelman’s depiction of the presence of the past in his father Valdek’s life as he recounts his experiences as a prisoner of war (62).
  • The Holocaust Horror,” by Joe York, focuses on Spiegelman’s portrayal of the Nazi’s seizure of Mr. Zylberberg as an example of why the artist may have chosen to depict the characters with the heads of animals (115).

These essays, though strong ones, would benefit from additional revisions and edits, including the ones in the notes that follow.

Notes on “At War with Others and One’s Self”

Spiegelman, Art. Maus I. Pantheon, 1986. p. 68.
  • Ceca should not refer to Maus as a novel. Some book-length comics are labeled graphic novels, but a novel is by definition a work of fiction. “Novel” should be replaced with “graphic memoir” or “book-length comic.”
  • The image that Ceca includes does not feature part of her writing away from the screen. Rather than including a photo of her laptop, she should include an image of her journal notes or a snippet of her handwritten draft.
  • The conclusion should be followed by a works cited list. Ceca documents the sources in her essay with parenthetical citations but omits the list that she included in her file posted to Moodle. For more on MLA works cited entries, A Writer’s Reference, pages 384419.

Notes on “My Analysis of Maus”

Spiegelman. Art. Maus I. Pantheon, 1986. p. 62.
  • Graeber’s title should refer to something specific about his analysis. Since he focuses on the presence of the past in Vladek’s life and his experience as a POW, he might title it “Prisoner of the Past.”
  • The title Maus should be italicized, not enclosed in quotation marks. For more on italics for titles, see A Writer’s Reference, pages 301.
  • Near the end of the first paragraph, Graeber should delete the word “past” before “memories.” For more on redundancies, see  A Writer’s Reference, page 150.

Notes on “The Holocaust Horror”

Spiegelman, Art. Maus I. Pantheon, 1986. p. 115.
  • In his sentences, York should refer to the scene rather than the page number. As I mentioned in my notes on Dossett’s analysis, whenever possible, limit the appearance of page numbers by including them only in parenthetical citations. 
  • In the fourth paragraph, York offers an insightful observation from a secondary source but he presents it in an awkward way. The important words are Gopnik’s, not Wilner’s. Here’s one way he might revise the passage: New Yorker writer and art critic Adam Gopnik contends that the animal heads in Maus express “our sense that this story is too horrible to be presented unmasked” (qtd. In Wilner 109). For more on indirect sources, see A Writer’s Reference, page 391.
  • In the works cited entry for Wilner’s book, the title should be italicized. For more on italics for titles, see A Writer’s Reference, pages 301.

And a Note on You’ve Got to . . .

In February, we examined five of the You’ve Got to . . . assignments. When in-person classes resume, we will examine the remaining twenty assignments.

Posted in Reading, Teaching, Writing

ENG 111: Maus under the Microscope, Part II

Spiegelman, Art. Maus I. Pantheon, 1986. p. 65.

On Monday, we began our study of Maus as a subject for analysis and closely examined the panels in Chapter 3 that depict Vladek Speigelman’s surprise return to his family after he sneaks across the border from the Protectorate to the Reich. Today we will take a close look at several more panels in Chapter 3, ones that depict Vladek’s reunion with his parents. 

Spiegelman, Art. Maus I. Pantheon, 1986. p. 65.

The first panel on the page places readers outside of the Spiegelmans’ house, where they view Vladek’s reunion with his parents through the window. Art Spiegelman renders the window—and the image of the family that readers see through it—as slanted or oblique, a technique that comic artists use sometimes to indicate something is awry or wrong. And in fact, it is. Though Vladek’s homecoming brings his parents joy, life as the Spiegelmans have known it has ceased to exist. Following Poland’s surrender to Germany, the Nazis confiscated all Jewish property, including Mr. Spiegelman’s seltzer factory.

Spiegelman, Art. Maus I. Pantheon, 1986. p. 65.

In the panel above, the word you in Vladek’s line of dialogue appears in boldface to emphasize his concern for his mother and to mark a point of deflection. With his emphatic “you,” Vladek redirects the conversation from his own health to hers. Mrs. Spiegelman claims she looks sick from worry over Vladek, but readers learn from the panel’s narration that Mrs. Spiegelman is dying of cancer.

Spiegelman, Art. Maus I. Pantheon, 1986. p. 65.

In the second tier of panels, Art Spiegelman shifts the setting from his grandparents’ house in Poland in 1940 to 1978, when his father recounts the story in his living room in New York. Unlike the panels that depict Vladek’s reunion with his parents, the one that depicts him at home in Rego Park is frameless, a contrast that delineates his recollections from his son’s depiction of them. With that frameless panel, Spiegelman moves readers from his own storytelling—his drawings based on his father’s words—to his father’s own words as he spoke them, one of the memoir’s meta moments that illustrates its identity as a narrative about the storytelling process itself.

Spiegelman, Art. Maus I. Pantheon, 1986. p. 65.

The third tier of panels features close-ups of Mr. Spiegelman telling Vladek how his beard was shorn by the Nazis. Spiegelman draws readers closer to his grandfather’s bare face as the elder Spiegelman recounts how, after Germany invaded Poland in September 1939, Nazi soldiers grabbed Jews in the street. Mr. Spiegelman tells Vladek, “They made us sing prayers while they laughed and beat us . . . and before letting us go, they cut off our beards” (65). Mr. Spiegelman’s bare face is a shock to Vladek because of his father’s adherence to the centuries-old Jewish tradition that prohibits the cutting of facial hair, a custom with roots in the book of Leviticus: “You shall not round off the corner of your head, and you shall not destroy the edge of your beard” (19:27). The Nazi soldiers’ mockery of Jewish custom and the figurative rape of Mr. Spiegelman foreshadows the horrors that his wife will not live to see. In Mr. Spiegelman’s words, “She never knew how terrible everything would soon be” (65).

Developing an Analysis through Close Reading

Through my close reading of the first three tiers on page sixty-five, I developed four paragraphs of analysis (the four above), a total of 450 words, that could serve as a rough draft for a textual analysis of Maus.

To transform those paragraphs into an effective analytical essay, I would need to add these elements:

  • a short introductory description of the tiers
  • a thesis statement that presents my interpretation of the panels
  • a conclusion that reiterates the thesis without restating it verbatim

What page of Maus lingers in your mind? Turn back to that page and closely examine it as I have examined page sixty-five here. Putting your close reading into words on the page may be the starting point for your textual analysis of Maus

Works Cited

Spiegelman, Art. Maus I. Pantheon, 1986.

Vayikra-Leviticus-Chapter 19. The Complete Jewish Bible with Rashi Commentary. Chabad, Chabad-Ludavitch Media Center, https://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/9920/jewish/Chapter-19.htm.


Literacy Narrative Blog Comment Assignment

Last week all of you received feedback on your literacy narrative in a blog comment from me. As an opportunity for additional feedback and an exercise in analysis, I have developed the following assignment that requires you to comment on a classmate’s literacy narrative.

Directions

  1. Go to the class blog page, https://janelucas.com/english-at-gtcc/.
  2. Click on the name of the student whose name follows yours in the class list. If that student’s name is not a live link or the student’s literacy narrative is not posted, choose another classmate. If your name is last in the list, click on the name of the student whose name appears first.
  3. Read the student’s literacy narrative, and compose a short response (50 words, minimum).
  4. In your response, demonstrate your close examination of one or more of the narrative’s components: the title, the structure (chronological or otherwise), the use of vivid details, dialogue, scene, how the writer conveys the significance of the story, or the image or images that the writer includes (as supplements to the written text).
  5. Post your comment as a reply no later than noon on Friday, March 5. If you do not see the leave comment/reply option at the bottom of the student’s literacy narrative, scroll to the top of the page, click on the post’s title, and scroll down. You should then see the leave comment/reply option.
Posted in Reading, Teaching, Writing

ENG 111: Maus under the Microscope

Spiegelman, Art. Maus I. Pantheon, 1986. p. 66.

In the first weeks of the course, we studied Maus as a model for your literacy narratives. Now, as we turn to more formal academic writing, we will examine Art Spiegelman’s memoir as the subject for your second essay assignment, the textual analysis.

Analysis

Unlike a narrative, an analysis has an explicit thesis, which often—but not always—appears at the end of the first paragraph. A thesis is not a statement of fact; instead, it’s an interpretation or judgment* based on a close examination of the subject—in our case, Maus.

*Making a judgment is not the same as being judgmental. When you make a judgment in academic writing, you present an informed opinion based on evidence. When people say, “I’m not judging,” they are making the claim that they are not judgmental or intensely critical of others.

Statement of fact: The epigraph for Maus shows the young Art Spiegelman and his father talking but not truly communicating with each other.

Spiegelman, Art. Maus I. Pantheon. p. 6.

Thesis (which presents an interpretation or judgment): The cutting remark that Spiegelman’s father makes as he saws wood illustrates the communication breakdown between him and Artie; Spiegelman’s deft depiction of that gulf foreshadows the trials he will encounter: struggling to understand his father and himself as he aims to make meaning of their lives through his comics.

Notice how the thesis above addresses what Vladek Spiegelman says and also lets the reader see him sawing wood. Keep in mind that Maus is a graphic memoir. In your analysis, you will address both the pictures and the words on the page.

Where to Begin

Look back through the pages of your journal and note what aspect of Spiegelman’s memoir interests you most? Here are a few that might serve as your focus:

  • Vladek and Art Spiegelman’s father-son relationship
  • Maus as a dual memoir
  • Maus as a meta-memoir
  • The Nazi persecution of the Jews (leading up to the Holocaust, depicted in Maus II)
  • Anja Spiegelman’s depression
  • Anja’s diary

My journal for English 111 is a dual-entry notebook. I draw a line down the middle of each page to separate my summaries of the chapters (on the right) from my questions and comments (on the left). For more on keeping a double-entry notebook, see A Writer’s Reference, page 59.

Turn back to the pages of Maus devoted to the parts of the story that interest you most. Ask yourself how Spiegelman makes meaning with both his images and his words. Your answer to a how question about those words and pictures could serve as your thesis.

Questions to Ask of the Words

  • Are the words in the panel dialogue, narration, or both? (Dialogue is presented in speech balloons; narration or summary is presented in rectangles.)
  • If the panel includes dialogue, what does the exchange between the characters reveal about their relationship? Do the words of the second speaker propel the narrative forward or disrupt it?
  • Are any words enlarged or in boldface for emphasis?

Questions to Ask of the Pictures–the Panels, Tiers, and Pages

  • Is the image in the panel a close-up or a long shot?
  • Are the panels and the tiers on the page roughly the same size? If not, why might Spiegelman have chosen one in particular to dominate the page?
  • Are any of the panels borderless?
  • Do any of the panels break the frame and spill into the gutter (the white space between the frames)?
  • Are any of the panels oblique or slanted?
  • How do these visual effects contribute to your perception of the story? For example: What mood or atmosphere does Spiegelman create through his combination of black and white, lines, and silhouettes? How does the size of a panel or a series of panels convey the passage of time?

Look back at the panels from Maus at the top of this post. There Art Spiegelman presents the scene of Vladek’s surprise return to his family after he sneaks across the border from the Protectorate to the Reich. A narrow vertical panel shows him in his uniform holding aloft his son, Richieu, who responds to his father’s embrace with screams. Beside the vertical panel, two horizontal ones–close-ups of father and son–depict Vladek questioning his son and toddler’s tearful response. Richieu explains that it was the metal buttons on his father’s uniform that made him cry. In Richieu’s words, “Daddy–they’re cold!” (66).

Note how with minor changes, the preceding paragraph could serve as an opening-paragraph summary that leads to a thesis. Here’s a slightly altered version of the summary, followed by a claim, or thesis, about the panels.

In Chapter 3 of Maus, Art Spiegelman presents the scene of Vladek’s surprise return to his family after he sneaks across the border from the Protectorate to the Reich. A narrow vertical panel shows him in his uniform holding aloft his son, Richieu, who responds to his father’s embrace with screams. Beside the vertical panel, two horizontal ones–close-ups of father and son–depict Vladek questioning his son and the toddler’s tearful reply. Richieu explains that it was the metal buttons on his father’s uniform that made him cry. In Richieu’s words, “Daddy–they’re cold!” (66). That brief exchange between father and son exemplifies Spiegelman’s masterful rendering of the pain that underlies the moments of happiness in the narrative.

Although Richieu has no knowledge of the horrors of war that his father has endured, the uniform that symbolizes the war is a literal source of pain for the child when its cold metal buttons press against his body.

The passage above–the introductory summary, the thesis, and the topic sentence for the second paragraph–constitutes 155 words, which could be the first 155 words of a textual analysis of Maus. The analysis could be developed into one of five-hundred words or more by addressing these points:

  • The juxtaposition of happiness and sorrow in the words and images in the panels.
  • The specific horrors of war that Vladek’s uniform represents. 
  • Richieu’s screams as foreshadowing.

For more on writing analytical essays, see A Writer’s Reference, 69-78.

Posted in Teaching, Writing

ENG 111: Editing Your Literacy Narrative

Edditing Editing

The processes of revising and editing aren’t the same. As the authors of A Writer’s Reference note, when you revise “you focus on clarity and effectiveness; when you edit, you check for correctness” (29). 

On Monday, I asked you to focus on the big picture, on the “clarity and effectiveness” (29) of your literacy narrative. Today, as you begin the editing process, I ask that you focus on finding and correcting errors. As an exercise in that process, we will examine the You’ve Got to . . . assignment below. 

You’ve Got to . . .

In the first four installments in our You’ve Got to . . . series, we examined a novel (The Hate U Give), a video game (Counter Strike: Global Offensive), a song (“Keep the Wolves Away”), and a TV show (Community). For our fifth installment, I offer an assignment devoted to the film Step Brothers. As you read it, make note of any corrections needed.

Untitled

One film “you’ve got to” see is Step Brothers. Step Brothers is a film that stars comedians Will Ferrell and John Reilly, who play 2 sons that are forced into a family when their divorced parents marry each other. At first, they hate each other with a passion, which leads to hilarious scenes of them fighting in a weird, dorky way. As they begin to live with each other though, they begin to learn that they just found their own best friend in each other (at the age of 40). They play video games together, watch movies and TV shows, and bond in their own dorkish way. This is, until their stepdad and stepmom get a divorce, causing them to separate.

This movie is so funny to me because I love Will Ferrell and I love the type of humor in this movie. Although it is very stupid and childish humor, it is right up my alley, and the jokes make in the movie are very similar to ones that I would make around my friends. I spent the entire movie laughing out loud, and I highly suggest watching this film.

YGT Notes: Untitled

  • In the first sentence, the phrase “you’ve got to” should not be enclosed in quotation marks. It’s the title of the assignment, but the writer simply uses it as a common phrase.
  • In MLA style, titles of films are italicized. (See A Writer’s Reference, page 301.)
  • On first reference, Reilly’s full screen name, John C. Reilly, should appear. The middle initial “C” needs to be added.
  • Another MLA note: The numbers one hundred and below and large round numbers (such as fifteen million) are spelled out rather than expressed as figures. 2 should be two; 40 should be forty. (See A Writer’s Reference, page 301.)
  • In the second line, “sons that” should be “sons who.” In formal writing, the relative pronoun “who,” not “that,” should be used to refer to people. (See A Writer’s Reference, page 150.)
  • The statement at the end of the second line and the beginning of the third should be corrected to read something like this: when Brennan Huff’s mother, Nancy (Mary Steenburgen), marries Dale Doback’s father, Dr. Robert Doback (Richard Jenkins), . . . .

Proofreading

A Writer’s Reference presents excellent advice on proofreading, which I am including verbatim below.

“Proofreading is a special kind of reading: a slow methodical search for misspellings, typographical mistakes, and missing words or word endings. Such errors can be difficult to spot in your own work because you may read what you intended to write, not what is actually on the page. To fight this tendency, try one or more of the following tips.

Proofreading Tips

  • Remove distractions and allow yourself ten to fifteen minutes of pure concentration–without your cell phone.
  • Proofread out loud, articulating each word as it is actually written.
  • Proofread your sentences in reverse order.
  • Proofread hard copy pages; mistakes can be difficult to catch on-screen.
  • Don’t rely too heavily on spell checkers and grammar checkers. Before automatically accepting their changes, consider accuracy and appropriateness.
  • Ask a volunteer (a friend, roommate, or co-worker) to proofread after you. A second reader may catch something that you didn’t.” (31)

Grammar, Punctuation and Mechanics, and Word Choice

The items listed below are the ones that I noted most often in your drafts. Review the ones that are trouble spots for you. 

  • active verbs/voice, 153
  • apostrophes, 275-78
  • capitalization, 293-96
  • colons and semicolons, 271-73
  • commas, 259-71
  • end punctuation, 283-84
  • hyphens, 291-92
  • italics for titles, 301
  • lay, lie, 182-83
  • like, as, 146
  • numbers expressed as words, 299
  • paragraph focus
  • paragraph length, 53-54
  • pronoun case, 196-97
  • reason why, 148
  • reflexive pronouns, 306
  • sentence fragments, 207-13
  • standard idioms, 166
  • than, then, 149
  • that, which, 149
  • there, their, they’re, 149
  • to, too, two, 149
  • verb agreement with subjects, 171-79
  • who’s, whose, 150
  • who, which, that, 150

Concluding Your Literacy Narrative

What word, idea, or image in the first paragraph might you return to in the final paragraph? The authors of A Writer’s Reference recommend bringing readers full circle with that strategy (Hacker and Somers 18).

Avoid concluding your narrative with a platitude: a phrase or sentence that’s been uttered so often that it comes across as neither interesting nor thoughtful. For example: It made me the person I am today. Who is that person? Write who that is, rather than the platitude, which tells readers nothing.

Also avoid the phrases “in conclusion,” “to conclude,” “in summary,” and “to sum up.” These can be useful, even welcome, in oral presentations. But readers can see, on the page or the screen, when a short essay is about to end.

MLA Style

The MS Word file that you will submit to Moodle should comply with the format guidelines for MLA (Modern Language Association) manuscripts. A Writer’s Reference includes a sample MLA paper (see pages 427-432). You can use the MS Word file posted in Moodle as a template. Your literacy narrative will not include a works cited list unless you quote or paraphrase a source.

Remember that in addition to submitting your revision to Moodle, you will publish it as a post on your WordPress blog. Your blog post will omit the first-page information included in your file submitted to Moodle (your name, course, section, instructor’s name, and date). You will include in your blog post an image that documents some part of your writing process away from the screen, such as a photo of your reading notes or a page of your handwritten draft.

Writing Help

If you would like for someone to review your literacy narrative before you submit it, look to the Center for Academic Engagement, which offers a variety of options:

Posted in Teaching, Writing

A Clara-fying Lesson

Aunt Clara / Screen Gems, Yoda / Lucasfilm

As a writing teacher, I have often imagined myself as Yoda, the irascible Jedi master who trains her students to express their ideas with light-saber accuracy. But although Yoda and I are roughly the same height, the similarity ends there.

I grew keenly aware of just how un-Yoda-like I am when I began teaching online synchronously for the first time last month. Initially, I found solace in the knowledge that I would muddle my way through Microsoft Teams for only a couple of weeks before in-person classes resumed. Then two weeks became five, and then five became eight.

Now as we begin week seven online, my true identity as a teacher has moved into sharp focus. While for years I have envisioned myself as Yoda, I am in fact Aunt Clara.

For Gen Z readers, Aunt Clara may require a bit of explanation, or—dare I write it?—Clara-fication: Long, long before George Lucas dreamed up the Star Wars galaxy far, far away, Aunt Clara (Marion Lorne) entered the lives of TV viewers as the well-meaning but bumbling great aunt of Samantha Stephens (Elizabeth Montgomery) on the sitcom Bewitched. Though Clara shared her great niece’s supernatural powers, she inevitably flubbed her spells, always conjuring or morphing something but never what she intended. That has been my modus operandi for the past six weeks.

And now as I stare into the screen of my laptop for the seventh week, I find myself wondering once again whether breadcrumbs is the correct term for those little icons for the microphone and the camera, and then my mind wanders into an enchanted forest because breadcrumbs make me think of Hansel and Gretel, not computer applications, and then I realize I’m lost in the woods—but in this case, the woods is the lesson plan. (If only the figurative breadcrumbs could morph into real ones and lead me back.) As Aunt Clara would say, “Oh, dear.”

Once while Aunt Clara babysat her grand-niece, Tabitha (Erin Murphy), she resolved to stop the toddler’s tears by playing a lullaby on the piano. But the size and location of the piano—a grand one, no less—presented a problem. Clara’s solution: cast a spell to shrink the piano and carry it upstairs to Tabitha’s bedroom. Clara’s plan worked—until it didn’t. As she carried the Schroeder-sized piano upstairs, it ballooned to its original size. Wedged halfway up the stairs, Clara wrestled with the piano and plunged the entire Eastern Seaboard into darkness.

At this point, I should mention that none of my technical blunders are to blame for the recent power outages—at least as far as I know, but perhaps you shouldn’t take the word of someone who still imagines she’s on Dagoba.

The words that my students want to write seem out of reach. With a little coaxing, I help bring those words to the surface. Voila! There they are, shining out from the darkness, rising like the X-Wing fighter from the swamp. To the students who are reading this: The last part is real. The writing force is strong in you; with persistence, you will find the words you seek. In the meantime, the struggle is real. Take it from the woman wedged on the staircase, trying to move the piano.

“No. Try not,” Yoda says to me, “Do, or do not. There is no try.”

After I catch me breath, I answer him. “Fair enough, Yoda—then again, you never had to teach online.”

Work Cited

Star Wars: Episode V-The Empire Strikes Back. Directed by George Lucas, performances by Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford, and Frank Oz, Twentieth Century Fox, 1980.

Posted in Reading, Teaching, Writing

ENG 111: Revising (or Reenvisioning) Your Literacy Narrative


The processes of revising and editing aren’t the same. As the authors of A Writer’s Reference note, when you revise “you focus on clarity and effectiveness; when you edit, you check for correctness” (29).

On Wednesday, I will ask you to check for correctness. Today, I am asking you to focus on the big picture. With that in mind, consider the differences between the side-by-side paragraphs below. On the left is the first paragraph of a rough draft of a literacy narrative written in 2015 by then-college student Michelle Nguyen. The paragraph on the right is her revision.

My family used to live in the heart of Hanoi, Vietnam. The neighborhood was small but swamped with crime. Drug addicts scoured the alleys and stole the most mundane things–old clothes, worns slippers, even license plates of motorbikes. Like anyone else in Vietnam in the ’90s, we struggled with poverty. There was no entertainment device in our house aside from an 11″ black-and-white television. Even then, electricity went off for hours on a weekly basis. (25)

I grew up in the heart of Hanoi–Nhà Dàu–a small but busy neighborhood swamped with crime. Houses, wedged in among cafés and other local businesses (see fig. 1), measured uniformly about 200 square feet, and the walls were so thin that we could hear every heated debate and impassioned disagreement. Drug addicts scoured the vicinity and stole the most mundane things–old clothes, worn slippers, even license plates of motorbikes. It was a neighborhood where dogs howled and kids ran amok and where the earth was always moist and marked with stains. It was the 1990s Vietnam in miniature, with all the turmoil and growing pains of a newly reborn nation. (32)

Revising (or Reenvisioning) by Adding and Deleting Details

In her revision, Nguyen paints a clearer picture of her neighborhood with these added details:

  • Nhà Dàu, the name of her neighborhood in Hanoi
  • the size of the houses, cafés, and other businesses
  • the thinness of the walls
  • the sounds of arguments
  • the howls of dogs
  • the sight of running children
  • the moisture of the ground
  • The image of her neighborhood as a microcosm of her country–a “Vietnam in miniature, with all the turmoil and growing pains of a newly reborn nation” (32).

Nguyen also deletes a couple of details:

  • the 11-inch black-and-white TV
  • the weekly power outages 

Although the TV and the power outages provide specifics about her childhood home, Nguyen realized through the process of revision that they were details she didn’t need to include.

As you work on your revision, turn to pages 25-26 and 32-33 of A Writer’s Reference. There you will find the complete rough draft and revision of Nguyen’s literacy narrative. As you revise the body paragraphs of your own narrative, examine the differences between the body paragraphs of Nguyen’s draft and those of her revision. Later, as you revise the ending of your essay, consider the changes in Nguyen’s conclusion.

Revising (or Reenvisioning) by Reorganizing

  • If you drafted your narrative chronologically, try starting in the middle or working in reverse.
  • If your draft begins in the middle or the end, try reordering it chronologically.

And for More Ideas and Inspiration . . .

Browse 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.

Writing Help

If you would like for someone to review your literacy narrative before you submit it, look to the Center for Academic Engagement, which offers a variety of options:

Works Cited

Hacker, Diana, and Nancy Sommers. “How to Write a Literacy Narrative.” A Writer’s Reference. GTCC Custom 9th ed., Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2018. pp. 34-35.

Nguyen, Michelle. “A Place to Begin.” A Writer’s Reference by Diana Hacker and Nancy Sommers. GTCC Custom 9th ed., Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2018. pp. 32-33.

—. Rough Draft with Peer Comments. A Writer’s Reference by Diana Hacker and Nancy Sommers. GTCC Custom 9th ed., Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2018. pp. 25-26.

Szalai, Jennifer. 17: Boyhood by J.M. Coetzee. “The 50 Best Memoirs of the Past 50 Years.” The New York Times, 26 June 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/06/26/books/best-memoirs.html.


You’ve Got to . . .

For the fourth installment in our You’ve-Got-To series, I offer an assignment that focuses on the television sitcom Community. As you read it, ask yourself how the writer might revise the paragraphs by adding and subtracting details. 

You’ve Got to Watch Community

Community is a TV show on Netflix with 110 episodes around 30 minutes each. The show starts off about Jeff Winger, a former lawyer who faked getting a bachelor’s degree. In order to become a practicing lawyer again he enrolls at Greendale community college to earn his degree. The show follows Jeff as he makes a study group with a bunch of random people in his spanish class. He ends up not liking anyone in his study group and constantly talks about how he can’t wait to get out of Greendale. As time goes on he continues to meet with his study group and he actually starts to like them and the school. 

I first started watching community at the beginning of quarantine because my sister showed it to me. I really enjoyed the show and I liked it so much that I finished it in 2 weeks. The show was super funny and it was pretty cool watching Jeff go from hating the school to loving it. You also get to watch the study group grow closer together and become a family.  Community has a little something for everyone and you should definitely watch it.

YGT Notes: “You’ve Got to Watch Community”

  • In the first paragraph, the writer includes the number of episodes and their run time. Although those are concrete details, they are specifics that the writer doesn’t need to include in the summary. 
  • While Community does stream on Netflix, it is not a Netflix original series (such as Stranger Things). Details that the writer might add to the first paragraph include these: Community originally aired on NBC (2009-14) and streamed for a sixth season on Yahoo.
  • After the writer names the central character, Jeff Winger, for the first time, he should follow the character’s name with the actor’s name in parentheses. That’s the stylistic convention for identifying actors when you’re writing about TV/streaming series and films. 
  • The writer notes that Jeff doesn’t like his classmates initially. Adding some of his personality traits, naming some of his classmates (followed by the actors’ names), and including some of the classmates’ character traits would give readers a clearer picture of Jeff’s circle of friends.  
  • The second paragraph offers a more effective place to present the number of episodes in the series. When the writer notes that he watched the entire series in a couple of weeks, he could include the detail that he watched all 110 episodes to emphasize Community’s binge-worthiness. 
  • Since the writer is a community college student, he might add to the second paragraph his observations about the similarities and/or the differences between the experiences of the fictional Greendale students and his own at GTCC.
  • As a guide for addressing trouble spots, the writer should consult these pages of A Writer’s Reference: 259-71 (commas), 293 (capitalize proper nouns), and 301 (italic for titles). 
Posted in Reading, Teaching, Writing

ENG 111: Ideas and Inspiration

Today as you continue to plan and draft, look to the essay excerpts I’ve included here for ideas and inspiration as well models for developing your own narrative through description, narration, classification, and definition.

Developing with Description

First, consider the paragraph that follows from a literacy narrative written by a student at the University of Texas at El Paso. In the first paragraph of her essay, the writer, Ana-Jamileh Kassfy, introduces readers to her family’s auto repair shop. In the second paragraph (the one below), she describes her role in the auto shop with details that lead to the incident at the center of the narrative.

From “Automotive Literacy”

Since I come from a family whose life revolves around cars, and since I practically lived at the auto shop until I was able to drive, you’d think that I’d understand most of the jargon a mechanic would use, right? Wrong. During my first sixteen years of life, I did manage to learn the difference between a flathead and a Torx screwdriver. I also learned what brake pads do and that a car uses many different colorful fuses. However, rather than paying attention to what was happening and what was being said around me, most of the time I chose to focus on the social aspect of the business. While everyone was running around ordering different pads, filters, and starters or explaining in precise detail why a customer needed a new engine, I chose to sit and speak with customers and learn their life stories. Being social worked for me–until it didn’t. (85)

The writer, Kassfy, develops the second paragraph using description as her pattern of organization, specifically by describing what she has and hasn’t learned about her family’s auto shop. What she hasn’t learned (because she focused on the social aspect of the business) leads to the incident at the center of the narrative, which she introduces with the line “until it didn’t.”

For more on developing paragraphs with description, see A Writer’s Reference (45-46).

Developing with Narration and Classification

In “Wet Dogs & White People,” Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Harvard Professor and host of PBS’s Finding Your Roots, begins with a one-sentence paragraph hook followed by a memory within a memory: a car ride with his daughter in which he recounts learning to read and write.

From “Wet Dogs & White People”

You just wouldn’t know it from Mama.

I remember the first time I got angry with my older daughter, Maggie. Not the angry that a parent gets when he’s tired, or irritable, or stressed. But angry, deep-down angry, angry like: Do I know this person I’ve helped bring into the world and have been living with for seven or eight years? We were driving along the highway that connects Piedmont to Cumberland, and I was going on about Mama, about how she had taught me to read and write in one day in the kitchen of our second house, down Rat Tail Road. (“You want to learn how to write?” was all she had asked me. And I had said yes, so she wrote out all of the letters in printing and in script, and we made them together on our red kitchen table.) (84)

After opening his essay with a one-sentence paragraph hook, Gates begins his narration with a memory, then interrupts it with classification. Note how Gates begins to develop his paragraph by classifying types of anger before he returns to the narration that leads to the memory within a memory. 

For more on developing paragraphs with narration and classification, see A Writer’s Reference (45, 48).

Developing with Definition

Novelist Amy Tan, author of The Joy Luck Club, begins her essay “Mother Tongue” with a definitionfirst by defining herself by what she isn’t, then by turning to how she defines herself as a writer.

From “Mother Tongue”

I am not a scholar of English or literature. I cannot give you much more than personal opinions on the English language and its variations in this country or others. 

I am a writer. And by that definition, I am someone who has always loved language. I am fascinated by language in daily life. I spend a great deal of my time thinking about the power of language—the way it can evoke an emotion, a visual image, a complex idea, or a simple truth. Language is the tool of my trade. And I use them all—all the Englishes I grew up with. (462)

In the first paragraph of her essay, Tan defines herself by what she is not (“a scholar of English or literature”). She develops the second paragraph by expanding her definition of what it means to her to be a writer, a definition that serves as a lead-in to her exploration of her identity as someone who grew up hearing and speaking more than one form of English: her own standard English and the nonstandard English of her immigrant mother.

For more on developing paragraphs through definition, see A Writer’s Reference (48-49).

Works Cited

Gates, Henry Louis, Jr. “Wet Dogs & White People.” Colored People. Knopf, 1994, pp. 29-39.

Hacker, Diana, and Nancy Sommers. A Writer’s Reference. GTCC Custom 9th ed., Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2018. 

Kassfy, Ana-Jamileh. “Automotive Literacy.” The Norton Field Guide to Writing with Readings and Handbook. 5th ed., by Richard Bullock, Maureen Daly Goggin, and Francine Weinberg, 2019, pp. 84-86.

Tan, Amy. “Mother Tongue.” The Norton Book of Personal Essays. Edited and with an Introduction by Joseph Epstein. W.W. Norton, 1997. pp. 462-68.


You’ve Got to . . .

For the third installment in our You’ve-Got-To series, I offer an assignment that focuses on “Keep the Wolves Away” by Uncle Lucius. In it, the writer addresses the song’s themes of overcoming adversity and the dynamics of parent-child relationships. As you read the assignment, ask yourself if a similar experience of overcoming adversity or a story of a lesson learned from one of your parents might serve as the subject of your literacy narrative.

Now It’s My Turn

So a former banker, a bassist, a rock guitarist, and a drummer walk into a bar. What are they doing? The answer: playing a show. These four men, by the names of Kevin Galloway, Hal Vorpahl, Mike Carpenter, and Jason Armstrong made up the band “Uncle Lucius” . Formed in 2005, then retiring in 2017, “Uncle Lucius” embraced the Texan music culture, inspired by musicians such as Willie Nelson. The song that helped the group gain traction, “Keep The Wolves Away”, is a true story based on the life of lead singer Kevin Galloway and his father’s misfortunes. Galloway’s father was involved in a chemical accident while at work, and being the only one working in the house, his father had to “Keep The Wolves Away” while his family struggled.

“Keep The Wolves Away” is a song about misfortune and overcoming misfortune. I feel that although not everyone’s fathers get into chemical accidents, everyone faces adversity and misfortune at some point or another, and everyone also has a metaphorical father, being someone to ward off the sorrows of life. Galloway details the way life goes on, and now that his father is growing old, Kevin is now the one “Keeping The Wolves Away” from his father. This is a song I can listen to with my best friends, or my own father, and it sparks conversation starting with “ Do you remember when…”. Yip Harburg said it best, “Words make you think. Music makes you feel. A song makes you feel a thought” .

Notes on YGT: “Now It’s My Turn

  • The writer draws readers into the first paragraph with a guy-walks-into-a-bar set-up, which he uses to introduce the band Uncle Lucius, whose song “Keep the Wolves Away” serves as his subject.
  • In the summary, the writer conveys a sense of Uncle Lucius’s sound by including the group’s locale (Texas) and one of its influences (Willie Nelson).
  • In the fourth sentence, “by the names of” is an empty phrase, which A Writer’s Reference defines as one that “can be cut with little or no loss of meaning” (151). Listing the names alone suffices.  
  • In the fifth sentence, the writer states that the group retired. More accurately, the group disbanded. At least one of its members, frontman Kevin Galloway, continues to record and perform. 
  • Not everyone’s father falls victim to a chemical accident. That is a statement of fact, not a perception. “I feel that” should be deleted from the second sentence of the second paragraph.   
  • Yip Harburg should be identified as a lyricist and the source of his observations should be listed in a works cited entry.
  • As a guide for addressing trouble spots, the writer should consult these pages of A Writer’s Reference: 164-65 (exact language), 281 (periods and commas–placement inside quotation marks), and 383 (documenting sources). 

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.