Archive for June, 2013

Toto: We’re Not In Kansas Anymore!” Creative Writing Lesson Plan, Thursday 6/27/13

419px-WIZARD_OF_OZ_ORIGINAL_POSTER_1939Below is a plot summary for the original Wizard of Oz. Use it to study for today’s quiz, along with these items:

The quiz is found at:

Quiz topics will include:

Elements of a Short Story: See Short Story Elements.

Plot, characters, and literary devices in the movie Armageddon (1998).  Here is a refresher and plot synopsis. 

Plot, characters, and literary devices in the movie Dead Poets Society.  Here is a refresher and plot synopsis. 

What makes a Good Poem: What Makes a Good Poem? – Marilyn Singer.

Tarzan and the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs, Chapter XIX: See Tarzan by Edgar Rice Burroughs.

END OF QUIZ MATERIAL (There will be no questions about The Fall of the House of Usher)

In 1939, Kansas farmgirl Dorothy Gale lives with her Aunt Em, Uncle Henry and farmhands Hunk, Zeke and Hickory, but gets little attention and is told to stay out of the way. Land owner Miss Gulch arrives at the farm demanding that Dorothy’s pet dog Toto be destroyed after he bit her. Fearing for Toto’s life, Dorothy decides to run away from home. On the road, she meets Professor Marvel, a travelling showman who pretends to foresee Aunt Em falling deathly ill. Dorothy rushes home as a tornado forms nearby. Dorothy’s family take shelter in the storm cellar, but, unable to get inside, Dorothy and Toto run into the house. Dorothy is knocked unconscious by debris, and wakes up to find that the house got swept up in the tornado and carried into the sky.

After the house lands, Dorothy finds herself in the colorful Land of Oz, meeting Glinda the Good Witch and the Munchkins, who were terrorized by the Wicked Witch of the East until Dorothy’s house crushed her. Her sister, the Wicked Witch of the West, appears looking for her sisters’ Ruby Slippers, only for Glinda to enchant them onto Dorothy’s feet. After the Witch leaves vowing to get the shoes, Glinda suggests to Dorothy she go to the Emerald City and ask the Wizard of Oz to get back home. Dorothy and Toto follow the yellow brick road, meeting three companions on the way – the Scarecrow, Tinman, and the Cowardly Lion who seek a brain, a heart, and courage respectively and accompany Dorothy. They reach the Emerald City but learn the Wizard sees no visitors, but are eventually let in. The Wizard appears as a giant head made from smoke and fire, demanding that they kill the Wicked Witch and bring her broomstick to him in return for granting their wishes.

The group venture out into the haunted forest to get to the witches’ castle and kill the witch, but she sends her flying monkeys to capture Dorothy and Toto. At her castle, the Wicked Witch decides to kill Dorothy to get the slippers. Toto escapes and brings the Scarecrow, Tinman and the Lion to save Dorothy. They are surrounded by the Wicked Witch’s forces. She sets the Scarecrow on fire, but Dorothy puts him out with a bucket of water, splashing the witch and causing her to melt and die, leaving her broomstick, and the Winkies are happy to be free of Witch’s cruelty. Dorothy and her friends return to the Emerald City but the Wizard puts off his end of the bargain. Toto pulls aside a curtain, revealing the Wizard to be a harmless elderly illusionist. However, he gives the Scarecrow a diploma, the Tinman a clockwork heart and gives the Lion a medal, proving that they had what they wanted all along. When it comes to Dorothy, the Wizard reveals he is also from Kansas himself and offers to take Dorothy home in his hot air balloon.

The Wizard and Dorothy prepare to depart, but Toto chases a cat, causing Dorothy to follow him. However, the Wizard’s balloon takes off, leaving Dorothy and Toto in Oz. Glinda arrives and reveals to Dorothy the Ruby Slippers can grant her the power to return home. After having an emotional farewell with her friends, Dorothy follows Glinda’s instructions, clicking her heels three times and repeating “There’s no place like home.” Dorothy awakens back in Kansas after being knocked out, with her family and Professor Marvel and Hunk, Zeke, and Hickory at her bedside, learning Oz may have been a dream, but it taught her to value her home and her family.

Oz the Great and Powerful: Creative Writing Lesson Plan, Monday 6/25/13

As we have done with other great pieces of literature, we will examine a film today for plot, characters, and literary devices.

Oz-The-Great-and-PowerfulOz the Great and Powerful is a 2013 American fantasy adventure film directed by Sam Raimi, produced by Joe Roth, and written by David Lindsay-Abaire and Mitchell Kapner. The film stars James Franco as Oscar Diggs, Mila Kunis as Theodora, Rachel Weisz as Evanora, and Michelle Williams as Glinda.

The film is based on L. Frank Baum’s Oz novels, and also pays homage to the 1939 MGM film, The Wizard of Oz. Set 20 years before the events of the books, Oz the Great and Powerful focuses on Oscar Diggs, who arrives in the Land of Oz and encounters three witches: Theodora, Evanora and Glinda. Oscar is then enlisted to restore order in Oz, while struggling to resolve conflicts with the witches and himself.

Oz the Great and Powerful premiered at the El Capitan Theatre on February 14, 2013, and with general theatrical release by Walt Disney Pictures on March 8, 2013, through the Disney Digital 3D, RealD 3D and IMAX 3D formats, as well as in conventional theatres. Despite mixed reviews, the film was a box office success, grossing $491 million worldwide in revenue, $149 million of which was earned during its opening weekend worldwide.

In 1905 Kansas, Oscar “Oz” Diggs works as a small-time magician in a traveling circus. As a storm approaches, the circus strongman learns Oscar has flirted with his wife and goes to attack him. Oscar escapes in a hot air balloon, but is sucked into a tornado that takes him to the Land of Oz. There the witch Theodora believes him to be a wizard prophesied to overthrow the Wicked Witch who killed the king of Oz. En route to the Emerald City, Oscar flirts with Theodora, who falls in love with him, wishing to be his queen when he rules Oz. They encounter the flying monkey Finley, who pledges a life debt to Oscar when he saves Finley from a lion.

Upon reaching the Emerald City, Oscar meets Theadora’s sister Evanora, who is skeptical of Oscar being the foretold wizard. Evanora tells Oscar that the Wicked Witch resides in the Dark Forest and can be killed by destroying her wand, the source of her power. Oscar and Finley are joined en route to the forest by China Girl, a young, living china doll whose home and family were destroyed by the Wicked Witch. The three reach the forest and, upon retrieving the wand, discover the “Wicked Witch” to be Glinda the Good Witch, who tells them Evanora is the true Wicked Witch. Evanora sees this with her crystal ball and manipulates Theodora against Oscar by showing him together with Glinda, saying he is trying to court all three witches. She offers the heartbroken Theodora a magic apple she promises will remove her heartache. Theodora bites it and transforms into a heartless, green-skinned Wicked Witch.

Glinda brings Oscar’s group to her domain in Oz to escape Evanora’s army of Winkies and flying baboons. She confides to Oscar that she knows he is not truly a wizard. However, she still believes he can still help them stop Evanora, and provides him an “army” of Quadlings, tinkers, and Munchkins to do it. Theodora enters Glinda’s domain and angrily reveals her new, hideous appearance to Oscar before threatening to kill him and his allies with the Emerald City’s well-prepared army. Oscar despairs that his army cannot defeat the Wicked Witches, but after telling China Girl about the exploits of his hero Thomas Edison, he realizes they can fight using prestidigitation.

Glinda and her subjects mount a mock attack on the Wicked Witches’ castle using an automated army of scarecrows blanketed by thick fog. The Wicked Witches are tricked into sending their flying baboons through a poppy field that puts the baboons to sleep. However, two baboons manage to capture Glinda, who is brought to the city square and enchained. Meanwhile, Oscar infiltrates the Emerald City with his allies, only to seemingly abandon them in a hot air balloon loaded with the king’s gold, which Theodora destroys with a fireball. Oscar then secretly reveals himself to his friends, having faked his death. Oscar uses a hidden smoke machine and image projector to present a giant, holographic image of his face as his “true” form, and a fireworks display to attack and intimidate the Wicked Witches. Evanora fearfully hides in her castle while Theodora flees on her broom, unable to hurt the “invincible” wizard; Oscar says Theodora is welcome back should she find good in her heart again. Glinda is freed by China Girl and defeats Evanora, destroying the Wicked Witch’s emerald necklace that hides her true, crone-like appearance. The banished Evanora is carried off by flying baboons.

The film concludes with Oscar, now king of Oz, using his projector to sustain the belief he is still a powerful wizard and keep the citizens of Oz united against the Wicked Witches. He also presents gifts to his friends: Master Tinker, who helped build his machines, receives Oscar’s camping-tool jackknife.

Let’s Write a Short Story: Creative Writing Lesson Plan Monday 6/24/13 and Tuesday 6/25/13

On Monday we will have a quiz with 50 multiple choice questions.

The quiz is found at:

Quiz topics will include:

The Fall of the House of Usher: See The Fall of the House of Usher, by Edgar Allen Poe.

Elements of a Short Story: See Short Story Elements.

Plot, characters, and literary devices in the movie Armageddon (1998).  Here is a refresher and plot synopsis. 

Plot, characters, and literary devices in the movie Dead Poets Society.  Here is a refresher and plot synopsis. 

What makes a Good Poem: What Makes a Good Poem? – Marilyn Singer.

Tarzan and the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs, Chapter XIX: See Tarzan by Edgar Rice Burroughs.



Below are today’s notes:

Let’s Write a Short Story: How to Write and Submit a Short Story, by Joe Bunting  is loaded with practical advice and motivation. That is why it is today’s reccommeded reading.

Recommended Reading: Let's Write a Short Story: How to Write and Submit a Short Story by Joe Bunting

Recommended Reading: Let’s Write a Short Story: How to Write and Submit a Short Story by Joe Bunting

Begin with basics of a short story. After you’ve chosen an idea, you need to remember the basics of a short story before writing one. Steps to a good short story are:

Introduction: introduces characters, setting, time,weather, etc.
Initiating action: the point of a story that starts the rising action.
Rising action: events leading up to the climax or turning point.
Climax: the most intense point or turning point of the story.
Falling action: your story begins to conclude.
Resolution: a satisfying ending to the story in which the central conflict is resolved—or not! You don’t have to write your short story in order. If you have an idea for a great conclusion, write it down. Move backward or forward from your starting idea (it may or may not be the beginning of the story), and ask “What happens next?” or “What happened before this?”


Suggested short stories:

The Little Match Girl by Hans Christian Andersen – Great Christmas story, but it’s no fairy tale!

The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry – Tender and moving Christmas story with a lesson.

Thank You, M’am A wonderful story by Langston Hughes, highly recommended!

The Cask of Amontillado Edgar Allen Poe spins a classic horror story.

The Monkey’s Paw by W.W. Jacobs. A scary story told with mounting suspense!

A Dark Brown Dog This is a very sad story, but highly recommended.

An Occurance at Owl Creek Bridge Read it! Especially if you have never heard of it.


> Naomi Alderman ‘Jewfish’
> Naomi Alderman ‘Other People’s Gods’
shortlisted for the 2009 BBC National Short Story Award
> Trezza Azzopardi ‘Sticks and Stones’

> Richard Beard ‘Guidelines for Measures to Cope with Disgraceful and Other Events’ shortlisted for the 2008 BBC National Short Story Award
> John Burnside ‘Something Like Happy’
> Kate Clanchy ‘The Not Dead and the Saved’ shortlisted for the 2009 BBC National Short Story Award
> David Constantine ‘Tea at the Midland’ winner of the 2010 BBC National Short Story Award
> Linda Cracknell ‘The Lost Son’

> Anne Donovan ‘But’ originally published by Artlink and Scottish Book Trust
> Anne Donovan ‘Sleepers’
> Aminatta Forna ‘Hayward’s Heath’ shortlisted for the 2010 BBC National Short Story Award
> Jane Gardam ‘The People on Privilege Hill’ shortlisted for the 2008 BBC National Short Story Award

> Niven Govinden ‘We Are Always At Your Service’ originally broadcast on BBC Radio 3’s The Verb

> Dominic Green ‘The Clockwork Atom Bomb’ originally published in Interzone 198
> Romesh Gunesekera ‘The Library’ originally published in Underwords: The Hidden City (MAIA press)
> Sarah Hall ‘Butcher’s Perfume’ shortlisted for the 2010 BBC National Short Story Award

> Peter Hobbs ‘Deep Blue Sea’ from I Could Ride All Day In My Cool Blue Train (Faber)
> Nicholas Hogg ‘How the Tiger Lost Its Stripes’ editor’s choice 2009 Raymond Carver Short Story Contest

> Tove Jansson ‘Snow’ from A Winter Book (Sort Of Books)
> Adam Kamiński ‘The Girl from the Train’ translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones

> Jackie Kay ‘My Daughter, the Fox’ originally published in Endangered Species
> Etgar Keret ‘Magic & Childhood: three tales of innocence from Israel’
> James Lasdun ‘It’s Beginning to Hurt’ winner of the National Short Story Prize 2006

 > Alison MacLeod ‘The Will Writer’ originally published in Fifteen Modern Tales of Attraction (Penguin)
> Alison MacLeod ‘Coupling’ originally published in Fifteen Modern Tales of Attraction (Penguin)
> Jon McGregor ‘If It Keeps On Raining’ shortlisted for the 2010 BBC National Short Story Award
> Sara Maitland ‘Moss Witch’ shortlisted for the 2009 BBC National Short Story Award

> Katherine Mansfield ‘The Daughters of the Late Colonel’

> Patrick Ness ‘The New World’ exclusive short story from his tenure as Booktrust writer in residence
> Courttia Newland ‘Smile Mannequin, Smileoriginally published in Music for the Off-Key (Peepal Tree Press)
> Rebecca O’Connor ‘St. John of the Miraculous Lake’

> Helen Oyeyemi ‘My Daughter, The Racist’ shortlisted for the 2010 BBC National Short Story Award
> Ian Rankin ‘An Afternoon’
> Janes Rogers ‘Hitting Trees With Sticks’ shortlisted for the 2009 BBC National Short Story Award
> Lionel Shriver ‘Exchange Rates’ shortlisted for the 2009 BBC National Short Story Award
> Erin Soros ‘Surge’ shortlisted for the 2008 BBC National Short Story Award
> Adam Thorpe ‘The Names’ shortlisted for the 2008 BBC National Short Story Award
> Ricardo Waale ‘A Special Day’ translated by Christina MacSweeney
> John Waddington-Feather ‘The High Master and Little Billy Clough’
> Jack Wallsten ‘Something Light’ originally published in Aesthetica Magazine
> Clare Wigfall ‘The Numbers’ winner the 2008 BBC National Short Story Award
> Clare Wigfall ‘Before Their Very Eyes’ written as part of her online residency
> Gerard Woodward ‘A Tray of Ice Cubes’

> Evie Wyld ‘The Whales’ exclusive short story from her tenure as Booktrust writer in residence

What Makes a Good Poem? Creative Writing Lesson Plan – Thursday 6/20/13 and Friday 6/21/13

Recommended Reading: Writing Poetry from the Inside Out: Finding Your Voice Through the Craft of Poetry, by Sandford Lyne

Recommended Reading: Writing Poetry from the Inside Out: Finding Your Voice Through the Craft of Poetry, by Sandford Lyne

As we begin to look at our poems in more depth, here are some of the rubrics and ideas we will be using:

What makes a good poem? – Short Poems
What is Good Poetry (What Makes Good Poetry)? – PoetrySoup
What Makes a Good Poem? – Marilyn Singer
How to Critique Poetry: 9 Steps – wikiHow
How to Critique a Poem | eHow
How to critique a poem | ebooks4writers
Further, here are some thoughts from: Telling a Good Poem from a Bad One – Daily Writing Tips:

What makes a poem “good”?

The answer ultimately lies with the reader of the poem, but there is a certain consensus as to what makes a poem “good” or “bad.”

According to the critic Coleridge, prose is “words in their best order,” while poetry is “the best words in their best order.

Poetry demands precision. The novelist can get away with less than precise expression from time to time because the story will pull the reader along. The job of the poet is to create a picture in the mind and an emotion in the heart. Every single word counts. The wrong choice–a word with the wrong connotation or the wrong number of syllables or an unlovely combination of consonant sounds–spoils all.

The underlying thought of the poem is also important. Some poems are written to create a picture only, but the most memorable poems also convey a universal truth about the human condition. For me, a “good” poem leaves me with goosebumps along my arms. I think a poem is “bad” when it lacks a discernible point and sounds like prose.

In Writing Poetry from the Inside Out: Finding Your Voice Through the Craft of Poetry, poet and national poetry workshop leader, Sandford Lyne, offers the writing exercises, guidance, and encouragement you need to find the poet inside you. Lyne’s techniques, which he developed through twenty years of teaching poetry workshops, flow from an understanding that poetry is an art form open to everyone. We all can-and should-write poetry.

In this enchanting and inspiring volume, Lyne will introduce you to the pleasures and surprises of writing poetry, and his methods and insights will help you tap into your own unique voice and perspective to compose poems of your own in as little as a few minutes.

Whether you are an experienced writer looking for new techniques and sources of inspiration or a novice poet who has never written a poem in your life, Writing Poetry from the Inside Out will help you to craft the poems you’ve always longed to write.

Writing Toward Home: Creative Writing Lesson Plan – Wednesday 6/19/13

Recommended Reading:  Writing Toward Home: Tales and Lessons to Find Your Way, by  Georgia Heard

Recommended Reading:
Writing Toward Home: Tales and Lessons to Find Your Way, by
Georgia Heard

Here are further thoughts on Creative Writing:

Creative writing is any writing that goes outside the bounds of normal professional, journalistic, academic, or technical forms of literature, typically identified by an emphasis on narrative craft, character development, and the use of literary tropes. Due to the looseness of the definition, it is possible for writing such as feature stories to be considered creative writing, even though they fall under journalism, because the content of features is specifically focused on narrative and character development. Both fictional and non-fictional works fall into this category, including such forms as novels, biographies, short stories, and poems. In the academic setting, creative writing is typically separated into fiction and poetry classes, with a focus on writing in an original style, as opposed to imitating pre-existing genres such as crime or horror. Writing for the screen and stage—screenwriting and playwriting—are taught separately, but fit under the creative writing category as well.

Here is a personal and compassionate book for everyone writers, poets, teachers, lovers of life, and especially those seeking to find their writing voices again or for the first time. It is an autobiographical travelogue moving from a volcano in Hawaii to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and places in between, with writing at its heart.

Writing Toward Home offers practical advice on overcoming some of the obstacles writers of all ages face: writer’s block, fear of rejection, confronting silencing critics in your head, finding the time to write. Each short chapter speaks to the larger truths about writing and how to truly live the writer’s life: how to become more of a risk taker, how to excavate the past as a source, and how to become an acute observer of the world.

Writing Toward Home is a book that will remind you-and help you remind your students-that the true source of writing is the creative self. In this fast culture when most people have so little time to do anything but menial tasks, it will jumpstart you, it will awaken to you the journey within, it will make you want to write.

Today, we will work with the following Short Story Element Rubric:

Below is an EXCERPT from it.


Creative Writing ____________

Name of story analyzing _______________________  By __________________ Published_______


SHORT STORY ELEMENTS WORKSHEET – Fill in the following as appropriate:


a)  Place –

b)  Time –

c)  Weather conditions –

d) Social conditions –

e)  Mood or atmosphere –


a)  Introduction –

b)  Rising Action –

c)  Climax –

d)  Falling action –

e)  Denouement –



1)  External –

2)  Internal –


1)  Man vs. Man (physical) –

2)  Man vs. Circumstances (classical) –

3)  Man vs. Society (social) –

4)  Man vs. Himself/Herself (psychological) –


We will also read The Fall of the House of Usher, by Edgar Allen Poe, as a sample of a great short story.

“The Fall of the House of Usher” was first published in September 1839 in Burton’s Gentleman’s Magazine. It was slightly revised in 1840 for the collection Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque. It contains within it the poem “The Haunted Palace”, which had earlier been published separately in the April 1839 issue of the Baltimore Museum magazine.

In 1928, Éditions Narcisse, predecessor to the Black Sun Press, published a limited edition of 300 numbered copies with illustrations by Alastair.

The story begins with the unnamed narrator arriving at the house of his friend, Roderick Usher, having received a letter from him in a distant part of the country complaining of an illness and asking for his help. Although Poe wrote this short story before the invention of modern psychological science, Roderick’s condition can be described according to its terminology. It includes a form of sensory overload known as hyperesthesia (hypersensitivity to light, sounds, smells, and tastes), hypochondria (an excessive preoccupation or worry about having a serious illness), and acute anxiety. It is revealed that Roderick’s twin sister, Madeline, is also ill and falls into cataleptic, deathlike trances. The narrator is impressed with Roderick’s paintings, and attempts to cheer him by reading with him and listening to his improvised musical compositions on the guitar. Roderick sings “The Haunted Palace”, then tells the narrator that he believes the house he lives in to be alive, and that this sentience arises from the arrangement of the masonry and vegetation surrounding it.

Roderick later informs the narrator that his sister has died and insists that she be entombed for two weeks in a vault (family tomb) in the house before being permanently buried. The narrator helps Roderick put the body in the tomb, and he notes that Madeline has rosy cheeks, as some do after death. They inter her, but over the next week both Roderick and the narrator find themselves becoming increasingly agitated for no apparent reason. A storm begins. Roderick comes to the narrator’s bedroom, which is situated directly above the vault, and throws open his window to the storm. He notices that the tarn surrounding the house seems to glow in the dark, as it glowed in Roderick Usher’s paintings, although there is no lightning.

The narrator attempts to calm Roderick by reading aloud The Mad Tryst, a novel involving a knight named Ethelred who breaks into a hermit’s dwelling in an attempt to escape an approaching storm, only to find a palace of gold guarded by a dragon. He also finds hanging on the wall a shield of shining brass on which is written a legend: that the one who slays the dragon wins the shield. With a stroke of his mace, Ethelred kills the dragon, who dies with a piercing shriek, and proceeds to take the shield, which falls to the floor with an unnerving clatter.

As the narrator reads of the knight’s forcible entry into the dwelling, cracking and ripping sounds are heard somewhere in the house. When the dragon is described as shrieking as it dies, a shriek is heard, again within the house. As he relates the shield falling from off the wall, a reverberation, metallic and hollow, can be heard. Roderick becomes increasingly hysterical, and eventually exclaims that these sounds are being made by his sister, who was in fact alive when she was entombed and that Roderick Usher knew that she was alive. The bedroom door is then blown open to reveal Madeline standing there. She falls on her brother, and both land on the floor as corpses. The narrator then flees the house, and, as he does so, notices a flash of light causing him to look back upon the House of Usher, in time to watch it break in two, the fragments sinking into the tarn.

“The Fall of the House of Usher” is considered the best example of Poe’s “totality”, where every element and detail is related and relevant.

The theme of the crumbling, haunted castle is a key feature of Horace Walpole’s Castle of Otranto (1764), which largely contributed in defining the Gothic genre. The presence of a capacious, disintegrating house symbolizing the destruction of the human body is a characteristic element in Poe’s later work.

“The Fall of the House of Usher” shows Poe’s ability to create an emotional tone in his work, specifically feelings of fear, doom, and guilt.These emotions center on Roderick Usher who, like many Poe characters, suffers from an unnamed disease. Like the narrator in “The Tell-Tale Heart”, his disease inflames his hyperactive senses. The illness manifests physically but is based in Roderick’s mental or even moral state. He is sick, it is suggested, because he expects to be sick based on his family’s history of illness and is, therefore, essentially a hypochondriac. Similarly, he buries his sister alive because he expects to bury her alive, creating his own self-fulfilling prophecy.

The House of Usher, itself doubly referring both to the actual structure and the family, plays a significant role in the story. It is the first “character” that the narrator introduces to the reader, presented with a humanized description: its windows are described as “eye-like” twice in the first paragraph. The fissure that develops in its side is symbolic of the decay of the Usher family and the house “dies” along with the two Usher siblings. This connection was emphasized in Roderick’s poem “The Haunted Palace” which seems to be a direct reference to the house that foreshadows doom.

L. Sprague de Camp, in his Lovecraft: A Biography [p. 246f], wrote that “[a]ccording to the late [Poe expert] Thomas O. Mabbott, [H. P.] Lovecraft, in “Supernatural Horror”, solved a problem in the interpretation of Poe” by arguing that “Roderick Usher, his sister Madeline, and the house all shared one common soul”. The explicit psychological dimension of this tale has prompted many critics to analyze it as a description of the human psyche, comparing, for instance, the House to the unconscious, and its central crack to the personality split which is called dissociative identity disorder. Mental disorder is also evoked through the themes of melancholy, possible incest, and vampirism. An incestuous relationship between Roderick and Madeline is never explicitly stated, but seems implied by the strange attachment between the two.

Opium, which Poe mentions several times in both his prose and poems, is mentioned twice in the tale. The gloomy sensation occasioned by the dreary landscape around the Usher mansion is compared by the narrator to the sickness caused by the withdrawal symptoms of an opiate-addict. The narrator also describes Roderick Usher’s appearance as that of an “irreclaimable eater of opium”.

Short-Stories: Creative Writing Lesson Plan – Tuesday 6/18/13

“Every writer I know has trouble writing.”  Joseph Heller

This collection of ten short stories,  Short-Stories [Kindle Edition] Various (Author), L. A. (Lemuel Arthur) Pittenger (Editor), was assembled nearly 100 years ago as a teaching aid. It “attempt[s] to present selections from a list of the greatest short-stories that have proved, in actual use, most beneficial to high school students.” The introduction presents a brief history of the short story from Cervantes’ “The Liberal Lover” in the seventeenth century to its widespread popularity in the early twentieth century. It also defines the essence of the short story, not by its length, but that it “…deals with a single character, a single event, a single emotion, or the series of emotions called forth by a single situation.” Each element in the short story should build to the stories point, even when it comes as a surprise to the reader. The introduction ends with a list of short story collections for suggested reading.

91ZGRJAmjwL._SL1500_The stories listed in the table of contents are:

“The Father” by Bjoernstjerne Bjoernson
“The Griffin and the Minor Canon” by Frank R. Stockton
“The Piece of String” by Guy de Maupassant
“The Man Who Was” by Rudyard Kipling
“The Fall of the House of Usher” by Edgar Allan Poe
“The Gold-Bug”, by Edgar Allan Poe
“The Birthmark” by Nathaniel Hawthorne
“Ethan Brand,” by Nathaniel Hawthorne
“The Sire de Maletroit’s Door” by Robert Louis Stevenson
“Markheim” by Robert Louis Stevenson


What is a short story?

A short story is a brief work of literature, usually written in narrative prose. Emerging from earlier oral storytelling traditions in the 17th century, the short story has grown to encompass a body of work so diverse as to defy easy characterization. At its most prototypical the short story features a small cast of named characters, and focuses on a self-contained incident with the intent of evoking a “single effect” or mood. In so doing, short stories make use of plot, resonance, and other dynamic components to a far greater degree than is typical of an anecdote, yet to a far lesser degree than a novel. While the short story is largely distinct from the novel, authors of both generally draw from a common pool of literary techniques.

Short stories have no set length. In terms of word count there is no official demarcation between an anecdote, a short story, and a novel. Rather, the form’s parameters are given by the rhetorical and practical context in which a given story is produced and considered, so that what constitutes a short story may differ between genres, countries, eras, and commentators. Like the novel, the short story’s predominant shape reflects the demands of the available markets for publication, and the evolution of the form seems closely tied to the evolution of the publishing industry and the submission guidelines of its constituent houses.

The short story has been considered both an apprenticeship form preceding more lengthy works, and a crafted form in its own right, collected together in books of similar length, price, and distribution as novels. Short story writers may define their works as part of the artistic and personal expression of the form. They may also attempt to resist categorization by genre and fixed form.

NOTE: 10:07 pm Stopped movie (Armageddon 1998) at 120:24.

10:47 pm Stopped movie (Armageddon 1998) at 148:19.

Creative Writing: Four Genres in Brief: Lesson Plan – Monday 6/17/13

“Revising makes a person aware of how vast imagination is. One accesses something much larger than one’s self.” – Baron Wormser

This diary is my lesson plan for Monday, June 17 2013, for my 10th and 11th grade TRIO/Upward Bound Students.

All of my daily lesson plans for this summer can by found at:

For the last week, we have read, reviewed, shared, analyzed, discussed and written about a wide variety of poems. We also drafted our first poem. My intention in including verse that ranged from Edgar Allen Poe’s work in the 1800s to modern slam poets in Brooklyn, New York can be expressed in one sentence.

We provided each other with an accessible survey of those technical aspects of poetry which students of creative writing often see as daunting.

We attempted to demystify the writing, experience and study of poetry, and explored the issues in a lively and informative fashion.

In effect, last week was a route map though the poetic maze, with discussion on such essential but often complex issues as rhythm and metre, the use of metaphor in poetry, poetic sound effects and the visual appearance of poetry. Our course aims to make the jargon of poetry less intimidating, offering clear explanations of poetic terminology allied to close readings. These pieces demonstrate how poetry actually works in practice. Our focus on short assignments in this class encourages students to work hard on revising each piece.

As we move into our short story unit this week, here are more thoughts on revision.

According to Creative Writing: Four Genres in Brief, by David Starkey:4141A66PuvL._SY300_

Although revision—the act of reconsidering and altering a piece of writing—may initially seem like a chore, most literary writers come to enjoy the process as much as, if not more than, the creation of the first draft. Indeed, finding yourself deep in a successful revision can become almost a mystical experience.

While editing and proofreading may take place in the revision process, those tasks are not what most teachers mean by “revision.” Editing means eliminating sentence-level errors. Proofreading is simply making a final pass through your draft to ensure that you haven’t left in any silly mistakes (“loose” for “lose,” “it’s” for “its,” and so on).

Revision in creative writing is a much larger process. It addresses global as much as local issues. A thorough revision of your story might mean reconceptualizing both the protagonist and the plot or deleting the first three paragraphs of your six-paragraph essay.

“The revision process involves comparing an existing text to a writer’s goals or ideal text, diagnosing the differences, and deciding how to reduce or remove these differences to bring the text as close as possible to the desired status,” wrote Todd Lubart. Georgia Heard likes to reminds writers that “revision doesn’t necessarily take place after they’ve finished a piece of writing, but instead . . . will most likely occur throughout the writing process.”

In an essay comparing the composing strategies of student writers and experienced adult writers, Nancy Sommers notes that “experienced writers describe their primary objective when revising as finding the form or shape of their argument.” Sommers goes on to remark that experienced writers believe that “their first drafts are usually scattered attempts to define their territory,” while the goal of second drafts “is to begin observing general patterns of development.

This week, you will write a short story. My approach to teaching this genre is to let plot guide your writing.

According to Writer’s Digest:

The short story is the art of abbreviation. We aren’t dealing with the panorama of life as we might be in a novel. We’re focused. If the novel is the art of the gaze, the short story is the art of the glance. The short story’s illumination must be sudden and should suggest an ongoing life, not present it in full. A short story must immediately pull the reader out of her world and drop her into the world of the story. There’s little time for setup. We begin when everything but the action is over—at the edge of the cliff. …If crafting such an engaging world in so few words seems intimidating, begin by grounding yourself in the fundamentals of good storytelling. We read stories to make sense of our lives, to be entertained, and to feel something. We read them to be transported to another more lucid and compelling world, to learn about ourselves, what it’s like to be human, and to “meet” someone we can care about. We read stories in order to imagine and to create, and so we ask the writer to tell us a story. And when we say story, we mean plot.

Plots, Aristotle told us, have beginnings, middles and ends, and they proceed through a series of reversals and recognitions, a reversal being a shift in a situation to its opposite, and a recognition being a change from ignorance to awareness. The basic plot of every story—regardless of length or complexity—is: A central character wants something intensely, goes after it despite opposition and, as a result of a struggle, comes to either win or lose. … Many aspiring short-story writers shun plot and instead focus on the other elements that make up a snapshot of a story—characters, descriptions, setting and the like. But no matter how luminous your prose or how fascinating your characters, if you have no plot—no narrative shape—if the characters have nothing meaningful to accomplish, the reader will lose interest in even a short piece. Plot is your weapon of suspense. Wield it wisely, and the reader will want to know what happens next.

So in crafting our  short stories, we will begin by taking our definition of plot and letting it guide us, quite naturally, to considerations of characterization, theme, tone, point of view, setting and so on. This approach can guide you in composing a short story that creates the emotional and intellectual experience your reader hopes for.

Sometimes when I think how good my book can be, I can hardly breathe. Truman Capote

We will use the following Short Story Worksheet to engage and discuss stories this week.


1. Who is the main character?

2. What is that character’s desire or decision? What do they want? What do they do to get it?

3. Who or what comes in conflict with the main character? How does that person, place, or thing work to frustrate the main character’s desire or decision?

4. How does the main character change? How is he/she transformed by his/her desire or decision and the associated conflict?

5. Does the character succeed or fail?

6. How does the author open the story?

7. How does the author introduce the main character?

8. What is the story’s mood?

9. How does the story end?

10. What tense is the story told in?

The Writer’s Tools: Cite an example of the author’s use of Action, Dialogue, Description, Inner Monologue, and Exposition/Narrative.

1. Action.

2. Dialogue.

3. Description.

4. Inner Monologue.

5. Exposition / Narrative.


Sample Short Stories:

How the Leopard Got His Spots

by Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936)

And we will be examining Tarzan by Edgar Rice Burroughs

Elements of short story can be found in many of the television shows that you regularly watch, such as Glee:

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