Something Old Something New: Current Events and Sociopolitical Contexts

The Election 2016, Pokemon Go, Black Lives Matter…. What drives your current writing focus and artistic identity?


Character Building: Find a picture of an adult in your life who has influenced you for better or worse. Choose a picture/person that still impacts you with emotion.

Setting: Take this picture to a particular room in your home or location in your town or abroad if you are traveling this week. This location should either remind you of this person in some way, a location this person would either really love or hate.


In the above optical illusions, notice how your mind can be so certain of its perception and then your mind can shift just as certainly to another perception. The lines are offset. No, they are parallel. It’s a wine glass. No, it’s a picture of twin profiles. It’s a head shot of a man with part of his face erased. No, it’s a side profile of a man. It is difficult to hold two diverse perceptions at one time, though, not impossible; however, to hold two diverse perceptions requires a sort of blurring of perceptions. Neither of the individual perceptions can be held with great clarity and focus if both are simultaneous.

In The Age of Insight, Eric Kandel discusses the “beholder’s share” or what the reader brings to the experience of reading our work. Kandel also discusses how the science of perception and illusion can affect the nuance and understanding of an element in a story, article, painting or drawing, changing the interpretation as the element relates to its background. If we relate this to narrative, this illusion aspect creates a secondary setting, one that is not physical, but rather contextual. We’re going to use this concept in our writing in order to create a richer, deeper story. Begin by choosing one of the above optical illusions as your focus then consider this chosen illusion as two perceptions within a narrative. See the below example.



Maybe you had a visceral reaction to Bug Bunny when you were younger. Maybe your mother really loved to sit in a sunny window and let the sun fall over her on Sunday afternoons. What sensory memories come to you as you sit with your mother’s picture in this sunny window? Or maybe your brother really hates biker bars. What sensory memories about your brother come to you as you sit and have a beer, stare at his picture, and write at a biker bar? Be as adventurous or minimalist as suits you, but please note, Eckleburg will not be able to post bail should you get into a biker fight. Just good information to know up front.



  • Submission Format: MS Word format, double-spaced, 12 point font, Times New Roman, 1 in margins, heading with name, address, email, website (if applicable), and phone number on page one. Page two and forward should have in the top right corner your last name and page number. See “Universal Manuscript Format” under RESOURCES to the right.
  • Page Count: You may use up your full allotment or partial allotment. This may be one story or several. Short story length or short short length (1000 words or less) are fine. Remember, you have one month to get in your full page count allotment. You must turn in your full page count by course end.
  • First Draft: As you write the first draft, let your creativity go where it needs to go. First drafts are meant to be messy and creatively uninhibited. After writing the first draft, lay it to the side for at least a day before revising.
  • Second Draft: Read through again, and revise for language and lyricism. Consider, during this revision, how the two characters interact and what that might mean in a sociopolitical and/or human relationship way. Whatever sociopolitical and relationship mean to you. Flesh out any sections that might further reflect this sociopolitical undercurrent of the work but be careful  not to make this undercurrent too obvious. Let the reader have room to work this out for him or herself. Remember, we don’t answer questions for our readers, we simply prompt them to ask good questions. Giving our readers room to make meaning for themselves within our narratives is a sign of artistic literary excellence. Now, lay the work aside for at least a day before your next revision.
  • Third Draft: Now read this revision aloud as you record yourself. Upon listing to your recording, consider any language issues in your revision. You might also ask a trusted reader to read the manuscript aloud to you as you sit with your own copy and make revisions. Hearing our language aloud is one of the quickest and surest ways to improve our pacing, tone, and cadence.
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