Archive for July, 2013

Dear America: Down the Rabbit Hole by Susan Campbell Bartoletti Feels Like Reliving History

Rabbit-HoleIn the spring of 1871, fourteen-year-old Pringle Rose learns that her parents have been killed in a terrible carriage accident. After her uncle Edward and his awful wife, Adeline, move into Pringle’s family home — making life unbearable for her and her younger brother, Gideon — Pringle runs away with Gideon to Chicago, seeking refuge from the tragedy, and hoping to start a new life. She becomes a nanny for the children of a labor activist, and quickly finds herself caught up in a web of intrigue and lies. This is just part of the adventure of Dear America: Down the Rabbit Hole by Susan Campbell Bartoletti. Then, when a familiar figure from home arrives, Pringle begins to piece together the devastating mystery of what happened to her parents, and realizes just how deadly the truth might be. But soon, one of the greatest disasters this country has ever known — the Great Fire of Chicago — flares up, and Pringle is on the run for her life.

“The many apt allusions to Alice in Wonderland, Pringle’s cherished gift from her mother, elevate and deepen the story as, more than once, Pringle’s life is turned upside down, and things are often not what they seem to be,” according to Kirkus Reviews.

Bartoletti’s writing is always clear and at times elegant. She creates a very likable young protagonist and paints this endearing character against a well-drawn historical backdrop. Her entry in the Dear America series brilliantly weaves the high-action historical diary tale into the whirlwind of events surrounding the Chicago Fire of 1871.  The book also includes the general labor unrest that was taking place at the time.  This wonderful and captivating story is a great choice for teens as well as adults.

As the pages turn, it feels like you’re reliving history.

The author writes:

I often tell aspiring writers to write about what you like, to write about what you know, to write about what you’d like to know, and to write about what you don’t like and don’t understand.

You see, the acts of researching and writing and telling stories help me to stretch and to grow and to make meaning. It helps me understand difficult subjects and ideas.

If you know my body of nonfiction work, then you know that I’ve spent the last twenty years researching and writing and thinking deeply about difficult and heart-breaking subjects such as child labor, the Holocaust, the Third Reich, famine and war, and the Ku Klux Klan.

In my work, I explore the lives of those who were victimized, exploited, disenfranchised, and silenced. I like to explore the ways that these people’s lives were greater than the pain and violence and injustice that they suffered. I like to explore the ways these people became active agents in their struggle for change — and for survival and for the survival of their loved ones. Those who suffered violence and injustice and hatred were not passive victims.

Given my interests, it may seem obvious that I would tell Pringle’s story through one of those lenses. After all, that’s what I did in my first Dear America book, A Coal Miner’s Bride.

I like to expose gaps and contradictions. I appreciate irony. Perhaps that’s the best way to explain how Pringle showed up on the page, as the daughter of a wealthy mine owner who railed against the workers’ attempts to unionize and strike for better wages and living conditions.

A book always surprises its writer, and there were many other surprises along the way. For example, when I began writing, I didn’t realize the full extent of my interest in the lives of children with disabilities and the fact that their stories are often marginalized or missing completely from the historical record. I didn’t know that Pringle’s younger brother Gideon had Down syndrome. That storyline emerged as I began to explore Gideon’s character more.

And yet, I know where I found the inspiration for Gideon’s character: from a family friend named Sal Angello. Sal was born with Down syndrome in 1947.

I first met Sal when I was sixteen and grew to know him and his family well over the coming years. Little did I know that I was collecting seeds for a character named Gideon. Perhaps the best compliment comes from Sal’s amazing sister, Rose Marie Crotti, who says about the book: “Susan captured Sal’s sense of humor and life qualities that were unique to him.”

Sal’s family was not wealthy, as Gideon’s family is in the story, but Sal led a rich life. He died before his sixty-third birthday in 2010.

Bartoletti’s lively prose and strong characterizations kept me turning the pages. And I absolutely loved sharing the brave  heroine with my daughters. As School Library Journal said: “Whether readers recognize the date of the Great Fire or not, the foreboding sense of tragedy looms over the city, creating suspense in the center of Pringle’s conflicting emotions.” Packed with multiple historical events and an engaging personal story, readers are in for a special treat with Down The Rabbit Hole.

Nana’s Gift offers a timeless message about intergenerational family relationships

by Michael Strickland

Nana’s Gift is a heartwarming, touching, and beautifully written picture book by Agy Wilson, Darlee Sims is left at Nana’s for the weekend and at first is not happy with it. But having fun with Nana, Pasha and Honey, Darlee learns about her family, and best of all herself. With wonderful illustrations that have a hand-drawn look, Nana’s Gift offers a timeless message about intergenerational family relationships.Nana's Gift  Agy Wilson cover

With the ever increasing older population, it is important for children to learn to appreciate contributions to our society by older people, writes Karen Debord in Selecting Children’s Books with Positive Intergenerational Messages.

Storybooks can be one vehicle to breaking stereotypes about aging. Using books to portray ideas is an excellent exercise in literacy but also helps children construct their knowledge of how they fit into the larger world. The difficulty for teachers is in keeping up with current titles that portray accurate and positive images of today’s society.


Here is a look inside the book:

nana's_gift_7In her article, Debord suggests we pay attention to the following considerations when selecting good books to use with children:

realistic and believable portrayal of characters
a story that chronologically unfolds
a resolution of tension or conflict
simple plot to allow the child to become involved in the action, discovering the problem and understanding the resolution
a theme that relates to children’s understanding, needs and interests.
style that involves rhythm, repetition and a careful choice of words
portrayal of a diversity of culture, community and lacks stereotypes
characters are engaged in a variety of activities

“I love family, art, environment, history, calligraphy and all things language,” writes Wilson. “It’s only natural for me throw it into a huge pot and cook up my books. When I’m not playing with kids or pets, I’m usually immersing myself in my work.”

Bridge the generation gap with titles like this one that portray positive relationships between the old and young — sure to spark discussion.


Regalo de Nana ofrece un mensaje intemporal sobre las relaciones familiares intergeneracionales

Regalo de Nana es una conmovedora y libro ilustrado bellamente escrito conmovedor por Agy Wilson, Darlee Sims se deja en Nana para el fin de semana y en un principio no es feliz con ella. Pero se divierte con Nana, Pasha y Miel, Darlee aprende acerca de su familia, y lo mejor de todo a sí misma. Con ilustraciones maravillosas que tienen un dibujado a mano, regalo de Nana ofrece un mensaje intemporal sobre intergeneracional familiar relationships.Nana ‘s Gift Agy Wilson cubierta

Con la creciente población de edad avanzada, es importante que los niños aprendan a apreciar las contribuciones a nuestra sociedad de las personas mayores, escribe Karen Debord en la selección de libros para niños con mensajes positivos intergeneracionales.

Libros de cuentos pueden ser un vehículo para romper los estereotipos sobre el envejecimiento. Usando los libros de retratar ideas es un ejercicio excelente en la alfabetización, sino también ayuda a los niños a construir su conocimiento de cómo encajan en el resto del mundo. La dificultad de los profesores está de acuerdo con los títulos actuales que retratan imágenes precisas y positivas de la sociedad actual.

En su artículo, Debord sugiere que prestar atención a las siguientes consideraciones al seleccionar buenos libros para su uso con los niños:

retrato realista y creíble de caracteres
una historia que se desarrolla cronológicamente
una resolución de la tensión o de conflicto
argumento sencillo para que el niño se involucre en la acción, el descubrimiento del problema y la comprensión de la resolución
un tema que se relaciona con la comprensión de los niños, sus necesidades e intereses.
estilo que implica ritmo, repetición y una cuidadosa elección de las palabras
retrato de una diversidad de estereotipos cultura, la comunidad y carece de
personajes se dedican a una variedad de actividades

“Me encanta la familia, el arte, el medio ambiente, la historia, la caligrafía y todas las cosas de lenguaje”, escribe Wilson. “Es natural que me lanzo en una enorme olla y cocinar a mis libros. Cuando no estoy jugando con los niños o los animales domésticos, generalmente estoy sumergiéndome en mi trabajo “.

Puente de la brecha generacional con títulos como éste que retrata las relaciones positivas entre los viejos y jóvenes – seguro para suscitar el debate.

Intro to Writing for Television: Creative Writing Lesson Plan, Tuesday July 16, 2013

91Dqu0CvhnL._SL1500_There is probably no single “absolute” anyone can use as a yardstick to describe the nature of the television writer, his background, his fortes, or the nature of his advent into the realm of television writing—save for the simple statement that there are no absolutes. – Rod Serling Foundation

The TV writer is never trained to be a TV writer. There are no courses, however specialized and applied, that will catapult him into the profession. And it was especially true back in the twilight days of radio that coincided with the primitive beginnings of television that the television playwrights evolved—and were never born. In my case the decision to become a television writer arose from no professional master plan. I was on the writing staff of a radio station in the Midwest. Staff writing is a particularly dreamless occupation characterized by assembly-line writing almost around the clock. It is a highly variable occupation—everything from commercials and fifteen-second public-service announcements to half-hour documentary dramas. In a writing sense, it serves its purpose. It teaches a writer discipline, a time sense for any kind of mass-media writing, and a technique. But it also dries up his creativity, frustrates him, and tires him out.Writing for television is very different than writing a feature-length screenplay. You need to create a concept that holds an audience’s attention for years, not just two hours.

Yesterday we watched a couple of episodes of Law & Order, an American police procedural and legal drama television series, created by Dick Wolf and part of the Law & Order franchise. It originally aired on NBC and, in syndication, on various cable networks. Law & Order premiered on September 13, 1990, and completed its 20th and final season on May 24, 2010. At the time of its cancellation, Law & Order was the longest-running crime drama on American primetime television. After The Simpsons, both Law & Order and Gunsmoke tied for the second longest-running scripted American primetime series with ongoing characters.

Set and filmed in New York City, the series follows a two-part approach: The first half hour is the investigation of a crime (usually murder) and apprehension of a suspect by New York City Police Department homicide detectives; the second half is the prosecution of the defendant by the New York County Manhattan District Attorney’s Office. Plots are often based on real cases that recently made headlines, although the motivation for the crime and the perpetrator may be different.

The show has been noted for its revolving cast over the years. Season 1 starred George Dzundza as Sergeant Max Greevey, Chris Noth as Detective Mike Logan, Dann Florek as Captain Donald Cragen, Michael Moriarty as Executive Assistant District Attorney Ben Stone, Richard Brooks as Assistant District Attorney Paul Robinette and Steven Hill as District Attorney Adam Schiff. After numerous cast shuffles, its final season starred Jeremy Sisto as Detective Cyrus Lupo, Anthony Anderson as Detective Kevin Bernard, S. Epatha Merkerson as Lieutenant Anita Van Buren, Linus Roache as Executive Assistant District Attorney Michael Cutter, Alana de la Garza as Assistant District Attorney Connie Rubirosa, and Sam Waterston as District Attorney Jack McCoy. Another one of the series’ most notable performers was Jerry Orbach as Detective Lennie Briscoe, who starred on the show for twelve years (seasons 3–14).

The success of the series has led to the creation of additional shows, making Law & Order a franchise, with also a television film, several video games, and international adaptations of the series. It has won and has been nominated for numerous awards over the years, including a number of Emmy Awards. On May 14, 2010, NBC announced that it had cancelled Law & Order and would air the final episode on May 24, 2010. Immediately following the show’s cancellation, Wolf stated that he was attempting to find a new home for the series and would also consider a “last resort” plan to conclude the show with a two-hour TV film to air on NBC.[5] In July 2010, however, he indicated that those attempts have failed and declared that the series had now “moved to the history books”.


The Law Portion: For most of Law & Order’s run, the cold open or lead-in of the show began with the discovery of a crime, usually a murder. The scene typically began with a slice of everyday life in New York, e.g locals jogging in Central Park or walking their pet dogs in the morning, going for refreshments like coffee in a New York coffee shop or buying lunch at a deli and tourists getting lost, etc. The characters would then discover the crime victim, or sometimes the crime would occur in a public place and they would be witnesses or one of them would be a victim. However, in the first two seasons the characters discovering the crime would generally be beat cops. In the middle of the 17th season, the lead-in was changed to a short scene of the murder victim in his or her last hours, similarly to Criminal Intent, followed by a cut to the police investigating the dead body.

The police are represented in the show by Manhattan’s fictional 27th Precinct and two homicide detectives, a senior partner and a junior partner, who report directly to their boss, a police captain or lieutenant. During the preliminary crime scene examination, the featured detectives are filled in on relevant information by first responding officers and/or Crime Scene Unit (C.S.U) personnel and make their first observations and will come up with theories followed by a witticism or two, before the title sequence begins.

The detectives often have few or no good clues—they might not even know the victim’s identity—and must usually chase several dead ends before finding a likely suspect. They investigate the crime by collecting evidence at the crime scene (with the help of the Crime Scene Unit), visit the Medical Examiner’s office (M.E) for clues to the victim’s cause and time of death (sometimes the victim’s identity from dental records or fingerprints). The police will also inform relatives of the victim’s death, interview witnesses (both on the streets of New York and in the interrogation room at the precinct), trace the victim’s last known movements (by talking to the victim’s family and friends as well as through tracing calls using LUDs) as well as visiting the crime laboratory for evidence (e.g. such as fingerprints, DNA, bloodstains and ballistics etc.), records and research for information on financial details and background information on both victim(s) and suspect(s). In some instances, psychologists and/or psychiatrists are called in for insight into the criminal’s behavior or modus operandi. All the while, the detectives report to their commanding officer, keeping them informed and being advised on how best to proceed next.

When the investigation leads to one or more suspects, the police will take the case to their boss, who decides if there is enough for a search and/or arrest warrants (though sometimes the commanding officer will consult with the D.A’s office to see if the case is strong enough) and whether or not any back-up (such as uniformed police or the New York City Police Department Emergency Service Unit (E.S.U)) is needed. The detectives will then arrest the suspects(s), with sometimes the police having to chase the accused through the streets of New York City. After all suspects are cuffed by the police and the miranda rights are read to the suspect(s), the scene then shifts to the interrogation room where the detectives interrogate the suspect(s), until they ask for a lawyer, their attorney shows up and asks the suspect not to talk anymore or the DA’s Office decides they have enough to press charges.

The Order Portion
Towards the middle of a show, the police will begin to work with the prosecutors to make the arrest, though sometimes the ADAs will on occasion appear early on to arrange a plea-for-information deal or to decide if the detectives have enough evidence for search warrant(s) and/or arrest warrant(s) before arresting the suspect or suspects. The matter then is taken over by a pair of prosecutors, a senior executive assistant district attorney (E.A.D.A) and junior assistant district attorney (A.D.A) from the office of the New York County Manhattan District Attorney (D.A). They discuss deals, prepare the witnesses and evidence, and conduct the people’s case in the trial.

The court proceedings are shown from the prosecution’s point of view, with the regular characters trying to prove the defendant’s guilt, not innocence. The second half usually opens with the arraignment of defendants and an indictment read before an Arraignment Judge who takes a plea from the defendants. The show then proceeds to trial preparation, including legal research and plea negotiations. Some episodes include legal proceedings beyond the testimony of witnesses, including indictments before grand juries; motion hearings, often concerning admissibility of evidence; jury selection; and allocutions, usually as a result of plea bargains. Many episodes employ motions to suppress evidence as a plot device, and most of these end with evidence or statements being suppressed, often on a technicality. This usually begins with the service of the motion to the ADAs, follows with argument and case citations of precedent before a judge in some setting, and concludes with visual reaction of the winning or losing attorney. Sometimes the case might go before an appellate court or even the New York Court of Appeals in Albany, New York.

The prosecutors work together and with the Medical Examiner’s office, the crime laboratory (including Fingerprint analysts, DNA profilers, Bloodstain pattern analysis and Ballistics analysts), and psychologists and/or psychiatrists (if the defendant uses an insanity plea) all of whom maybe be needed to testify in court for the prosecution. The police may also to testify in court or to arrest another suspect, but most investigation in the second segment is done by the ADAs, who always consult with the District Attorney for advice on the case. In real life the D.A investigation unit will do the necessary investigating while the prosecution team will be busy with paperwork and prepping witnesses. If the case is very weak then the police would re-investigate.

Unlike the CSI franchise where the science is treated as being exact, the science in Law & Order is presented as being equally reliable and unreliable e.g. a forensic technician will tell the court that a fingerprint was found at a crime scene and was a certain percent match to the defendant, to which the defense attorney will point out that it means the other percentage doesn’t match his client. The expert will then try and explain why its not a whole match to the defendant.

Many episodes use outlandish defense scenarios such as Diminished responsibility (e.g. “Genetics”/”Television”/”God”/”the devil made me do it” and intoxication defense) and Temporary insanity (Ie “Black Rage”/”White Rage”/”Sports Rage”). Also episodes revolve around moral and ethical debates including the right to die (euthanasia), the right to life (abortion) and the right to bear arms (gun control). The episode usually ends with the verdict being read by the jury foreperson and a shot of both the winning and losing parties. The scene then shifts to the D.A.’s office where the team is leaving the office to go home while contemplating either the true guilt of the accused, the defense scenarios they used or the moral or ethical debate of the episode.


OUR Assignment

We will watch another episode of Law and Order and write our own ending to it. We will begin with some shared writing on the topic.

Setting and Point of View in The Hunger Games: Creative Writing Lesson Plan, Wednesday July 10 and Thursday July 11, 2013

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51BFUr-TbbL__SX215_The Hunger Games is a 2008 science fiction novel by American writer Suzanne Collins. It is written in the voice of 16-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives in the post-apocalyptic nation of Panem, where the countries of North America once existed. The Capitol, a highly advanced metropolis, exercises political control over the rest of the nation. The Hunger Games are an annual event in which one boy and one girl aged 12–18 from each of the twelve districts surrounding the Capitol are selected by lottery to compete in a televised battle to the death.

The book received mostly positive feedback from major reviewers and authors, including authors Stephen King and Stephenie Meyer. It was praised for its storyline and character development, though some reviewers have noted similarities between Collins’ book and Koushun Takami’s Battle Royale (1999). In writing The Hunger Games, Collins drew upon Greek mythology, Roman gladiatorial games, and contemporary reality television for thematic content. The novel won many awards, including the California Young Reader Medal, and was named one of Publishers Weekly’s “Best Books of the Year” in 2008.

The Hunger Games was first published in hardcover on September 14, 2008 by Scholastic, featuring a cover designed by Tim O’Brien. It has since been released in paperback and also as an audiobook and ebook. After an initial print of 200,000, the book had sold 800,000 copies by February 2010. Since its release, The Hunger Games has been translated into 26 languages, and publishing rights have been sold in 38 territories. The novel is the first in The Hunger Games trilogy, followed by Catching Fire (2009) and Mockingjay (2010). A film adaptation, directed by Gary Ross and co-written and co-produced by Collins herself, was released in 2012.

The Hunger Games takes place in a nation known as Panem, established in North America after the destruction of the continent’s civilization by an unknown apocalyptic event. The nation consists of the wealthy Capitol and twelve surrounding, poorer districts united under the Capitol’s control. District 12, where the book begins, is located in the coal-rich region that was formerly known as Appalachia.

As punishment for a past rebellion against the Capitol, in which a 13th district was destroyed, one boy and one girl between the ages of 12 and 18 from each district are selected by an annual lottery to participate in the Hunger Games, an event in which the participants (or “tributes”) must fight to the death in an outdoor arena controlled by the Capitol, until only one individual remains. The story is narrated by 16-year-old Katniss Everdeen, a girl from District 12 who volunteers for the 74th annual Hunger Games in place of her younger sister, Primrose. The male tribute chosen from District 12 is Peeta Mellark, a former schoolmate of Katniss who once gave her bread from his family’s bakery when her family was starving.

Katniss and Peeta are taken to the Capitol, where their drunken mentor, Haymitch Abernathy, victor of the 50th Hunger Games, instructs them to watch and determine the strengths and weaknesses of the other tributes. “Stylists” are employed to make each tribute look his or her best; Katniss’s stylist, Cinna, is the only person at the Capitol with whom she feels a degree of understanding. The tributes are publicly displayed to the Capitol audience in an interview with television host Caesar Flickerman, and have to attempt to appeal to the television audience in order to obtain “sponsors”. During this time, Peeta reveals on-air his longtime unrequited love for Katniss. Katniss believes this to be a ploy to gain sponsors, who can be critical to survival because of their ability to send gifts such as food, medicine, and tools to favored tributes during the Games.

While nearly half the tributes are killed in the first day of the Games, Katniss relies on her well-practiced hunting and survival skills to remain unharmed and concealed from the other tributes. A few days into the Games, Katniss develops an alliance with Rue, a 12-year-old girl from the agricultural District 11 who reminds Katniss of her own sister. In the meantime, Peeta appears to have joined forces with the tributes from the richer districts. However, when he has the opportunity to kill Katniss, he instead saves her from the others. Katniss’s alliance with Rue is brought to an abrupt end when Rue is killed by another tribute, whom Katniss then kills with an arrow. Katniss sings to Rue until she dies, and spreads flowers over her body as a sign of respect for Rue and disgust towards the Capitol.

Apparently because of Katniss and Peeta’s image in the minds of the audience as “star-crossed lovers”, a rule change is announced midway through the Games, allowing two tributes from the same district to win the Hunger Games as a couple. Upon hearing this, Katniss begins searching for Peeta. She eventually finds him, wounded and in hiding. As she nurses him back to health, she acts the part of a young girl falling in love to gain more favor with the audience and, consequently, gifts from her sponsors. When the couple remains as the last two surviving tributes, the Gamemakers reverse the rule change in an attempt to force them into a dramatic finale, in which one must kill the other to win. Katniss, knowing that the Gamemakers would rather have two victors than none, retrieves highly poisonous berries known as “nightlock” from her pouch and offers some to Peeta. Realizing that Katniss and Peeta intend to commit suicide, the Gamemakers announce that both will be the victors of the 74th Hunger Games.

Although she survives the ordeal in the arena and is treated to a hero’s welcome in the Capitol, Katniss is warned by Haymitch that she has now become a political target after defying her society’s authoritarian leaders so publicly. Afterwards, Peeta is heartbroken when he learns that Katniss’s actions in the arena were part of a calculated ploy to earn sympathy from the audience. However, Katniss is unsure of her own feelings and realizes that she is dreading the moment when she and Peeta will go their separate ways.

In an interview with Collins, it was noted that the novel “tackles issues like severe poverty, starvation, oppression, and the effects of war among others.” The novel deals with the struggle for self-preservation that the people of Panem face in their districts and the Hunger Games in which they must participate. The citizens’ starvation and their need for resources, both in and outside of the arena, create an atmosphere of helplessness that the main characters try to overcome in their fight for survival. Katniss needs to hunt to provide food for her family, resulting in the development of skills that are useful to her in the Games (such as her proficiency with the bow and arrow), and represents her rejection of the Capitol’s rules in the face of life-threatening situations. On the subject of the Games’ parallels with popular culture, Darren Franich of Entertainment Weekly writes that the book “is an incisive satire of reality television shows”, and that the character of Cinna “almost seems like a contestant on a fascist version of Project Runway, using Katniss’ outfits as a vehicle to express potentially dangerous ideas.”

The choices the characters make and the strategies they use are often morally complex. The tributes build a personality they want the audience to see throughout the Games. Library journal Voice of Youth Advocates names the major themes of The Hunger Games as “government control, ‘big brother’, and personal independence.” The trilogy’s theme of power and downfall, similar to that of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, was pointed out by its publisher Scholastic. Laura Miller of The New Yorker finds the author’s stated premise of the Games — an exercise in propaganda and a “humiliating as well as torturous …. punishment” for a failed uprising against the Capitol many years earlier — to be unconvincing. “You don’t demoralize and dehumanize a subject people by turning them into celebrities and coaching them on how to craft an appealing persona for a mass audience.” But the story works much better if the theme is vicissitudes of high school and “the adolescent social experience”. Miller writes:

“The rules are arbitrary, unfathomable, and subject to sudden change. A brutal social hierarchy prevails, with the rich, the good-looking, and the athletic lording their advantages over everyone else. To survive you have to be totally fake. Adults don’t seem to understand how high the stakes are; your whole life could be over, and they act like it’s just some “phase”! Everyone’s always watching you, scrutinizing your clothes or your friends and obsessing over whether you’re having sex or taking drugs or getting good enough grades, but no one cares who you really are or how you really feel about anything.”

Donald Brake from The Washington Times and pastor Andy Langford state that the story has Christian themes, such as that of self-sacrifice, which is found in Katniss’ substitution for her younger sister, analogous to the sacrifice of Jesus as a substitute for the atonement of sins. Brake, as well as another reviewer, Amy Simpson, both find that the story also revolves around the theme of hope, which is exemplified in the “incorruptible goodness of Katniss’ sister, Primrose.” Simpson also points to events similar to the Passion of Jesus; in the Games, “Christ figure” Peeta Mellark is stabbed after warning Katniss to flee for her life, and is then buried in the ground and placed in a cave for three days before emerging with a new lease on life. Further, she finds that the Christian image of the Bread of Life is used throughout The Hunger Games; in the story, Peeta gives Katniss a loaf of bread, saving the girl and her family from starvation.


WRITING ASSIGNMENT (3 to 5 sentences for each, for numbers 1-9)

1) Write a Letter

  • Pretend you are a tribute and are given one chance to write a letter home from the Capitol to your family.   It is the night before you are going to enter the arena and this is most likely the last chance you will ever get to say goodbye.

i.      What are you feeling about having to fight in the games?

ii.     What would you tell your siblings (if you have any)

iii.    What is the Capitol like? Describe what you have experienced.

iv.     What do you want them to remember about you?

2)  Describe the setting in one paragraph. Address the name of the setting, what it feels like there, and what time period it reminds you of.

3)  What is the lifestyle like in District 12? What can we learn about the characters based on how they interact with their living conditions?

4) How does the reaping make you feel? What is your impression of the Capital after the reaping?

5) Compare Effie to Katniss. How does this mirror your perceived differences between District 12 and the Capitol?

6) How do you think the train makes Katniss and Peeta feel? Consider their lives in the District and consider how easily everything appears on the train.

7) What is your first opinion of the Capitol? What would be your reaction in that situation?

8) Compare the Capitol to the Districts.

9) How do you think you would have reacted to the Avox?


Sources for assignment:

Hunger Games Assignments – Talman Library – Google Sites


Mr. Rowe’s Super Funtastic Class

Setting and Mythology: Creative Writing Lesson Plan Tuesday 7/9/13 (Continued)

Recommended Reading:  The Adventure Time Encyclopaedia: Inhabitants, Lore, Spells, and Ancient Crypt Warnings of the Land of Ooo Circa 19.56 B.G.E. - 501 A.G.E.

Recommended Reading: The Adventure Time Encyclopaedia: Inhabitants, Lore, Spells, and Ancient Crypt Warnings of the Land of Ooo Circa 19.56 B.G.E. – 501 A.G.E.

What is Adventure Time and why does a cartoon matter in Creative Writing? How can we use it to stimulate our own work?

First, let’s look at its concept and creation:

According to series creator Pendleton Ward, the show’s style was influenced by his time at California Institute of the Arts and his work as a storyboard artist on The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack. He tries to include “beautiful” moments like those in Hayao Miyazaki’s film My Neighbor Totoro, as well as elements of subversive humor. The show began as a single stand-alone animated short which ran for seven minutes. Ward created the short almost entirely by himself, and wrapped up production for the short in the spring of 2006. It aired in January 2007 and again as part of Frederator Studios’ Random! Cartoons on December 7, 2008. After its release, the short video became a viral hit on the internet.Frederator Studios then pitched an Adventure Time series to Nicktoons Network, but the network passed on it twice. The studio then approached Cartoon Network. The network said they would be willing to produce the series if Ward could prove that the series could be expanded into a series while maintaining elements from the original short.


Written by Lord of Evil Himself to amuse and confound the citizenry of the Nightosphere, Adventure Time Encyclopaedia is perhaps the most dangerous book in history.

Although seemingly a guidebook to the Land of Ooo and its post-apocalyptic inhabitants, it is in fact an amusing nightmare of literary pitfalls, bombastic brain-boggles and ancient texts designed to drive the reader mad.

Complete with secret lore and wizard spells, fun places you should visit and places where you will probably die, whom to marry and whom not to marry, how to make friends and how to destroy your enemies–this volume includes hand-written marginalia by Finn, Jake, and Marceline.

Arguably the greatest encyclopedia ever written since the beginning of the cosmos, it is also an indispensable companion to humans and demons who know what time it is. Adventure Time!

Ward quickly retooled the concept of the pilot; he wanted a potential series to be “fully realized”, rather than possess the “pre-school vibe” that the original pilot had. One of the major changes from the pilot to the series was the emphasis placed on the background art. Dan “Ghostshrimp” James, an artist, was tasked with fleshing out the background; reportedly, he was told to make the series look like it took “place in a ‘Ghostshrimp World'”. He designed major locations, such as Finn and Jake’s home, the Candy Kingdom, and the Ice Kingdom.Ward, with help from Pat McHale and Adam Muto, turned in a rough storyboard that featured Finn and an “oblivious” Princess Bubblegum going on a spaghetti-supper date. However, the network was not happy with this story, and asked for another. Ward then created an early storyboard for the episode, “The Enchiridion”, which was his attempt to emulate the style of the original short. Cartoon Network approved the first season in September 2008, and “The Enchiridion” became the first episode to enter into production.

Setting and Mythology:

The show is set in a fictional continent called the “Land of Ooo”, in a post-apocalyptic future about a thousand years after the “Great Mushroom War”. According to Ward, the show takes place “after the bombs have fallen and magic has come back into the world”. Before the series was fully developed, Ward’s original intention was for the Land of Ooo to simply be “magical”. After “Business Time” aired, in which an iceberg containing reanimated business men floats to the surface of a lake, the show suddenly became post-apocalyptic, and Ward notes that the production crew “just ran with it.” Ward later described the setting as “candyland on the surface and dark underneath”. Ward stated that he has never intended for the Mushroom War and the post-apocalyptic elements to be “hit over the head in the show”. In fact, he limited it to “cars buried underground in the background [and elements that do not] raise any eyebrows.”  Ward has acknowledged that the post-apocalyptic elements of the series were influenced by the 1979 film Mad Max. Kenny called the way the elements are worked into the plot “very fill-in-the-blanks”, and DiMaggio noted that “it’s been obvious the Land of Ooo has some issues”.

The series also has a mythology, or an overarching plot and backstory that is expanded upon in various episodes. This backstory largely involves the Mushroom War, the origin of the series’ principal antagonist the Lich, and the backstory of several of the series principal and recurring characters, such as the Ice King, Marceline, and Princess Bubblegum. Ward has admitted that the details behind the Mushroom War and the series’ dark mythology form “a story worthy telling”, but that he feels that the show will “save it and continue to dance around how heavy the back-history of Ooo is.”

The show has received positive reviews from critics and has developed a cult following among teenagers and adults; Adventure Time has a passionate audience of both children and adults “who are drawn to the show’s silly humor, imaginative stories, and richly populated world.” Television critic Robert Lloyd, in an article for the LA Times, said that the series was a good companion piece “to the network’s [then] currently airing Chowder and The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack.” He complimented the setting and compared the two previously mentioned, noting that each take “place in a fantastical land peopled with strange, somewhat disturbing characters and has at its center a young male person or person-like thing making his way in that world with the help of unusual, not always reliable, mentors.”[2] He went on to write that the show is “not unlike CN’s earlier Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends, about a boy and his imaginary friend, though darker and stranger and even less connected to the world as we know it. Lloyd also compared it to “the sort of cartoons they made when cartoons themselves were young and delighted in bringing all things to rubbery life.”

Mike LeChevallier of Slate magazine awarded the third and fourth seasons of the show four stars out of five. In a review of the third season, LeChevallier wrote that the series “scores relatively high marks for storytelling, artwork, music, voice acting, and realization with its neatly wrapped, 11-minute packages of multicolored awesomeness.” He further complimented the show because he felt that “it scarcely appears to be trying too hard to attract attention, yet it does just that”. He did note that “the short-form format leaves some emotional substance to be desired”, although he noted this was inevitable for a series with such short episodes.  In a review of season four LeChevallier positively complimented the show for “growing up” with its characters, and that “the show’s dialogue is among the best of any current animated series.” He concluded that the series possesses “strikingly few faults”.

The A.V. Club reviewer Zack Handlen summed Adventure Time up as “a terrific show, and it fits beautifully in that gray area between kid and adult entertainment in a way that manages to satisfy both a desire for sophisticated (i.e., weird) writing and plain old silliness.” He concluded that the show was “basically what would happen if you asked a bunch of 12-year-olds to make a cartoon, only it’s the best possible version of that, like if all the 12-year-olds were super geniuses and some of them were Stan Lee and Jack Kirby and the Marx Brothers.” Robert Mclaughlin of Den of Geek wrote that Adventure Time “is the first cartoon in a long time that is pure imagination”. He heavily complimented the show for “its non-reliance on continually referencing pop culture […] and the general outlook is positive and fun.” Eric Kohn of IndieWire said that the show “represents the progress of [cartoon] medium” in the current decade. Kohn also enjoyed the way the show not only revels in “random, frequently adorable and effusive” aspects, but also “toys with an incredibly sad subtext”. Entertainment Weekly named Adventure Time #20 on their The 25 Greatest Animated Series Ever list. Later, in 2013, Entertainment Weekly reviewer Darren Franich awarded the series an “A” and called it “a hybrid sci-fi/fantasy/horror/musical/fairy tale, with echoes of Calvin and Hobbes, Hayao Miyazaki, Final Fantasy, Richard Linklater, Where the Wild Things Are, and the music video you made with your high school garage band.” Franich praised the series’ “consistently inventive” plotlines and its “vivid landscape”, as well as its continued maturation.


And we will continue our discussion of literary devices including motifs, found in Titanic:

In Titanic the constant images of the ship sailing on the ocean are visual motifs. But these images themselves fall into two categories:

See this link for more info.

Because there are two categories of ship shots there would in fact be two motifs.

  1. When the ship is shown in detail a particular idea is being presented. This idea is all about how great Titanic is and what an incredible achievement she is. These shots all present Titanic as a masterpiece, “the largest moving object ever built by the hand of man.” They also present the social structure of the ship because many of the details shown are those that apply to the luxury of the first class areas of the ship.
  2. When the ship is shown in extreme long shot the idea being explored is completely different. The ocean dwarfs the ship and so the motif means that even though Titanic is so great, she is still insignificant when compared to the ocean. It is these shots that provide the visual dramatic irony of the film. We know how this film will end because it is an historical fact that the Titanic sank, but the characters in the film are unaware of the tragedy that is sliding towards them.

Visiting a Boise State Writing Class: Creative Writing Lesson Plan, Tuesday 7/9/13

Recommended reading:  Barron's AP English Language and Composition, 5th Edition, by George Ehrenhaft

Recommended reading: Barron’s AP English Language and Composition, 5th Edition, by
George Ehrenhaft

Today, we will visit David Scott’s English 101 Class.

Thyis is a chance for you to experience how a college writing class goes; the ins-and-outs, the tone, demands, and general feel.

Here is a description of the course we are visiting:

English 101: Introduction to College Writing

Statement of Mission and Course Goals

Recent research into the role of first-year writing reveals that first-year writing courses are best used to encourage meta-awareness of the genres, contexts, and audiences that writers encounter in college (see Anne Beaufort, Writing in College and Beyond). English 101, which the great majority of incoming students take their first or second semester in college, serves as an important introduction to the culture of the academy—its habits of mind, conventions, and responsibilities. Its central purpose is to immerse students in the writing, reading, and thinking practices of their most immediate community: the university. Students explore how literacy works, both within the academic and without, through extensive inquiry-based writing.

English 101 focuses on engaging students as writers and building the reflective awareness needed for success in a wide range of writing experiences within the university. In English 101, students write consistently, receive feedback on their writing and give feedback to others, are introduced to academic writing conventions (including using the library, integrating sources, and using a citation system), engage with challenging readings, and begin putting others’ ideas in conversation with their own. Because writing in the 21st century means composing in a wide variety of print-based and digital environments, the 101 curriculum encourages students and instructors to work in online environments as is appropriate.

The overall goals, outcomes, and curricular components for English 101 and 102 have been developed locally through discussion and collaboration among instructors in the First-Year Writing Program. They are directly informed by our annual student assessment process, and they have been written within the framework of nationally accepted outcomes for first-year composition. The yearly assessment reports are available at the First-Year Writing Program website; the Council of Writing Program Administators Outcomes for First-Year Writing are available at their site.


Motifs in the Classic Film Titanic: Creative Writing Lesson Plan, Monday 7/8/13

Welcome back from break!

NOTES: As I mentioned, I curved the last quiz. I did this by adding five points to everyone’s grade. Thus, if you received a 30, I entered 35 points in ThinkWave, our site where your grades for the class are found. See: … if you got 29 points, I entered 34, and so on.

91rZp5zs8kL._SL1500_Today, we will watch another classic film, Titanic. As usual, pay attention to plot, characters, and literary devices. We will also examine and learn about a new literary term: motifs.

First, let’s take a look oat our sample piece of great literature. According to an amazon review:

When the theatrical release of James Cameron’s Titanic was delayed from July to December of 1997, media pundits speculated that Cameron’s $200-million disaster epic would cause the director’s downfall, signal the end of the blockbuster era, and sink Paramount Pictures as quickly as the ill-fated luxury liner had sunk on that fateful night of April 14, 1912. Titanic would surpass the $1-billion mark in global box-office receipts, win 11 Academy Awards including Best Picture and Director, launch the best-selling movie soundtrack of all time, and make a global superstar of Leonardo DiCaprio. A bona fide pop-cultural phenomenon, the film has all the ingredients of a blockbuster (romance, passion, luxury, grand scale, a snidely villain, and an epic, life-threatening crisis), but Cameron’s alchemy of these ingredients proved more popular than anyone could have predicted. His stroke of genius was to combine absolute authenticity with a pair of fictional lovers whose tragic fate would draw viewers into the heart-wrenching reality of the Titanic disaster. As starving artist Jack Dawson and soon-to-be-married socialite Rose DeWitt Bukater, DiCaprio and Kate Winslet won the hearts of viewers around the world, and their brief, but never forgotten, love affair provides the humanity that Cameron needed to turn Titanic into a moving emotional experience. Although some of the computer-generated visual effects look artificial, others–such as the climactic splitting of the ship’s sinking hull–are state-of-the-art marvels of cinematic ingenuity. It’s an event film and a monument to Cameron’s risk-taking audacity, blending the tragic irony of the Titanic disaster with just enough narrative invention to give the historical event its fullest and most timeless dramatic impact. –Jeff Shannon



In 1996, treasure hunter Brock Lovett and his team are searching the wreck of RMS Titanic for a necklace with a rare diamond, the Heart of the Ocean. They recover a safe and find inside a drawing of a nude woman wearing only the necklace. The drawing is dated April 14, 1912, the day the Titanic hit the iceberg. An elderly woman calling herself Rose Dawson Calvert and claiming to be the person in the drawing visits Lovett aboard the research vessel Keldysh and tells of her experiences as a passenger on the Titanic.

It is 1912 in Southampton, and 17-year-old first-class passenger Rose DeWitt Bukater, her fiancé Caledon “Cal” Hockley, and her mother Ruth DeWitt Bukater are boarding the Titanic. Ruth emphasizes the importance of Rose’s engagement; the marriage will resolve the DeWitt Bukaters’ secret financial problems. Made distraught by the engagement, Rose considers committing suicide by jumping off the ship’s stern; Jack Dawson, a penniless artist, intervenes and convinces her not to jump. Discovered with Jack, Rose tells Cal she was looking over the edge and Jack saved her from falling. Cal is at first indifferent to Jack’s actions, but when Rose indicates that some recognition is due, Cal offers Jack a small amount of money. After Rose mocks Cal by asking if saving her life meant so little, he invites Jack to dine with them in first class the following night. Jack and Rose develop a tentative friendship, even though Cal and Ruth are wary of the young third-class passenger. Following the dinner, Rose secretly joins Jack at a party in third-class.

Cal and Ruth both disapprove of Rose seeing Jack, so Rose attempts to rebuff Jack’s continuing advances. However, she soon realizes that she prefers him to Cal, and goes to meet him during what turns out to be the Titanic’s last moments of daylight ever. They go to Rose’s stateroom, where she asks Jack to sketch her nude wearing only the Heart of the Ocean necklace, which was Cal’s engagement present to her. Afterward, they evade Cal’s bodyguard and make love in an automobile in the ship’s cargo hold. Later, the pair go to the ship’s forward deck, witness a collision with an iceberg, then overhear the ship’s officers and designer discussing its seriousness. Rose and Jack decide to warn her mother and Cal.

Cal discovers Jack’s sketch of Rose and a mocking note from Rose are in Cal’s safe along with the necklace. Furious, he arranges for his bodyguard to slip the necklace into Jack’s coat pocket. Accused of stealing it, Jack is arrested, taken to the Master-at-arms’ office, and handcuffed to a pipe. Cal puts the necklace in his own coat pocket. Rose evades both Cal and her mother, who has managed to board a lifeboat, then frees Jack. The crew starts to launch flares to attempt to obtain help from nearby ships.

Once Jack and Rose reach the top deck, Cal and Jack encourage Rose to board a lifeboat; Cal claims that he has arranged for himself and Jack to get off safely. After she boards, Cal tells Jack the arrangement is only for himself. As Rose’s boat lowers away, she realizes she cannot leave Jack and jumps back on board the Titanic to reunite with him. Infuriated, Cal takes a pistol and chases them into the flooding first-class dining saloon. After using up all his ammunition, Cal realizes, to his chagrin, that he gave his coat and the diamond to Rose. With the situation now extreme, he returns topside and boards a lifeboat by carrying a lost child in his arms.

Jack and Rose return to the top deck. All lifeboats have now departed and passengers are falling to their death as the stern rises out of the water. The ship breaks in half, and the stern rises 90 degrees into the air. As it sinks, Jack and Rose ride the stern into the ocean. Jack helps Rose onto a wooden panel only buoyant enough to support one person. Holding the edge of the panel, he assures her she will die an old woman, warm in her bed. Jack dies from hypothermia. Fifth Officer Harold Lowe has commandeered a lifeboat to search for survivors. Rose gets Lowe’s attention and is saved.

Rose and the other survivors are taken by the RMS Carpathia to New York, where Rose gives her name as Rose Dawson in memory of Jack. She hides from Cal on Carpathia’s deck as he searches for her. She learns later that he committed suicide after losing everything in the Wall Street Crash of 1929.

Back in the present, her story complete, Rose goes alone to the stern of Lovett’s salvage vessel, takes out the Heart of the Ocean, which has been in her possession all along, and drops it into the sea over the wreck site. When she is seemingly asleep in her bed, the photos on her dresser visually chronicle that she lived a life of freedom and adventure thanks to Jack. A young Rose is then seen reuniting with Jack at the Grand Staircase of the RMS Titanic, congratulated by those who actually perished on the ship.


From a creative writing perspective. Theme, characterization, motifs, mood, and plot are concepts that apply to film as well as other forms  literature.

• Filmmakers purposely create a desired effect. Film elements (angles, shots, sound, lighting, and transitions) are used to influence the audience’s perception and understanding.
Identifying specific elements of film can help us to be critical viewers.

A motif  is any recurring element that has symbolic significance in a story. Through its repetition, a motif can help produce other narrative (or literary) aspects such as theme or mood.


A narrative motif can be created through the use of imagery, structural components, language, and other narrative elements. The flute in Arthur Miller’s play Death of a Salesman is a recurrent sound motif that conveys rural and idyllic notions. Another example from modern American literature is the green light found in the novel The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Narratives may include multiple motifs of varying types. In Shakespeare’s play Macbeth, he uses a variety of narrative elements to create many different motifs. Imagistic references to blood and water are continually repeated. The phrase “fair is foul, and foul is fair” is echoed at many points in the play, a combination that mixes the concepts of good and evil. The play also features the central motif of the washing of hands, one that combines both verbal images and the movement of the actors.

A motif establishes a pattern of ideas that may serve different conceptual purposes in different works. Kurt Vonnegut, for example, in his non-linear narratives such as Slaughterhouse-Five and Cat’s Cradle makes frequent use of motif to connect different moments that might seem otherwise separated by time and space. In the American science fiction cult classic Blade Runner, director Ridley Scott uses motifs to not only establish a dark and shadowy film noir atmosphere, but also to weave together the thematic complexities of the plot. Throughout the film, the recurring motif of ‘eyes’ is connected to a constantly changing flow of images, and sometimes violent manipulations, in order to call into question our ability, and the narrator’s own, to accurately perceive and understand reality.

We will look for and identify various motifs in Titanic.

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