Week 2 | Narrative Position

Welcome back! Sorry about the online glitches. This week we will focus on distance from the subject to navigate time and place in memoir. 

How does a writer explore the past in an urgent way, while also providing the perspective of his/her experience. Does a memoir need both? Why or why not? To answer these questions for yourself, go back to your favorite memoirs and notice the balance between scene and exposition, immediacy and wisdom?  Also, start a discussion amongst yourselves in the FORUM, and I’ll join in! 

Read the following excerpt of Virginia Woolf’s “Sketch of the Past.” You need not start at the VERY beginning, just read from the beginning through page 24 (of the PDF document). As each page of the PDF is two pages of text, the page number of the “actual” page where you’ll stop reading is page 83.  Also, read Brent Staples’ personal essay “Just Walk on By.” Think about how these two pieces of writing connect; in other words, how does Woolf describe “I now/I then” perspectives, and how does Staples’ work exhibit that concept/any other use of perspective? 


Reading Assignments

Just Walk on By Brent Staples

Sketch of the Past by Virginia Woolf

Writing Assignment


Sometimes using present tense exclusively can be a great experiment, especially when you’re writing a journey of discovery and want to capture, in real time, how things are changing, particularly for your innocent, former “I” self. A longer view, phrases such as “Later I will find out…” or “It will be forty years until I…” allow you to move out of present tense and reflect as needed.  

To explore how the power of present tense can trigger and inform memory, here is your writing exercise for this week: 

–Think of a “first” from your childhood–first kiss, first defeat, first ice cream, etc., and write as if you were again in that moment. Use present tense and capture the voice of the point of view you had AT THAT TIME. 

–Now write as an adult looking back. Use PAST tense and say different things, using the language and perspective of who you have become. 

–Reread both versions and do one of the following: 1. go with the voice that seems most powerful, or 2. weave the two voices into one piece

Guidelines, Submissions & Formatting

  • Due Date: Friday, 1/22/16 6 pm.
  • Submission Link: Submit to the below forum.
  • Submission Format: Attach an MS Word document in Universal Manuscript Format with the following format (this format is firm and universal). 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. 
  • Forum: Upload your course-created work to your course and month forum so that other students in the course can read your work and give you feedback on your story. MAKE SURE YOU ARE UPLOADING YOUR STORY TO THE CORRECT FORUM AND COURSE. Group feedback runs on the honor code. Submit only one work by the due date, next Sunday 6 pm. Your feedback given on each story need be no more than a paragraph or two and should include elements that are working and elements that require further work. 
  • Favorite Forum Works: Beginning with Week 2, after you’ve read through all the student submissions, pick your favorite work from each peer’s course-created content. Mark this work as favorited. At the end of the course, you will each be able to review each others’  profiles and see which of your works are the favorites of your peers and instructor.  
  • Submissions to the Instructor: The last week of class, you will choose one favorite piece from the works you’ve created in this course for submission to Alice. You will be given the chance to flesh it out and make it longer. Your peers will give feedback on your story in short paragraph form. Alice will give you specific copy editing and contextual feedback.  
  • Please make sure to contact me directly with any questions regarding assignments and technology.


[bbp-single-forum id=29709]



Feel free to use the below discussion area to discuss some ideas regarding your story focus for this week. You do not have to engage with the discussion. Some writers prefer not to talk about focus until they have a first draft out on the page. Your choice. You could also talk a little about the readings for this week. This week is an open discussion format.