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OAC Writer's Craft

Course Outline & Introductory Notes

OAC (Grade 13) English (Ontario)
Martin Aller-Stead's Students
Monarch Park Collegiate
Toronto


Now is the time to really wake up.

Notice things at work, or through the streetcar or subway window. Examine your life. Examine your self. Take mental photographs, and store them away for later use (maybe with a picture hastily scrawled, with a few words on it, such as a drawing of a person with a baby in a pram. Words might be tenderness, wonder, protective, bored, etc.). Watch what people wear. Draw peoples' ears, with the earrings or studs showing. Try to describe smells, or walk around your house blindfolded for a half-hour to experience 'knowing' in a different way. Go to art galleries. See movies in different languages. Eat food you can't pronounce on a menu. Be bold, but be kind. Be honest, but be kind. Observe with a generous and critical eye, but be kind.

Above all, be kind.


No one has a right to an uninformed opinion, so homework and background reading is of utmost importance. Do it!


Please become familiar with this outline and note to you as students in the senior English course of the school. (Note: Writer's Craft is not a remedial English course. It is a course for budding writers. Those students whose basic English skills are insufficient for success will be guided to courses they may find more directly useful.) Please come to every class ready to write, discuss, read and listen. Bring things to be passionate about. Please be on time with all assignments. (Exceptional circumstances will be treated on an individual basis.)


The mark distribution in the course will be:

Prepared writing folder              30%
In-class & oral work                 20%
Independent Study Unit (ISU)   20%
Final examination                    30%


My students are expected to take active part in every class. Voice your opinions!
When writing, don't be afraid to be messy, go off on tangents or break rules. Technique will come; be patient with yourselves. Keep a journal, or do Morning Pages (an idea cribbed from "The Artist's Way").


Each of you needs an email address. Please set one up, (it doesn't cost anything), and send me a brief note so I can capture your address. Homework will be assigned in class and sent out, with details, on the email system to you. Students who require assistance in setting up their email are urged to see me immediately. The system will be used starting the second week of the course. My email is martin@aller-stead.com

You will make frequent use of the internet for research, especially for the ISU. Please be sure you are familiar with various search engines and basic Boolean search techniques. (I will spend one-half of one class reviewing this.)


The Writer's Craft Course Content and Manner may be summarized as follows:

  • Literature studied will include many short literary selections (essays, stories, one-act plays, poems, excerpts) as well as articles about writing by writers (theory & practice)
  • Language work will be focused on developing writing skills; usage and spelling will be related to your written work (including patois, argot and slang). We will examine usage, structure and style (including identifying intended audience and purpose), rhetorical devices and development of technique through self and peer-editing. Specialized language areas, such as business, manuals, politics, advertising, sports and religion/rites of passage will be investigated and experimented with, as well as various genres and media assayed (including dialogues, scripts, speeches, oral debates and formal replies)
  • You will maintain a writing folder including all your pre-writing, draft, final copy and post-writing work. The folder will contain many different types of writing samples in various modes for various purposes and for various audiences. Much of this work will be done in class. Over half of the class time will be given over to writing activities
  • The Independent Study Unit (ISU) will arise from your interests. Part of my job is to comfort the afflicted; the other part is to afflict the comfortable. I will afflict all of you, dear students, and try to get you to be passionate about something that touches you deeply. It may be poverty, AIDS, racism, taxation, opportunities, systemic inequality, an injustice, public housing, the destruction of parks, beauty, clean air or true love or what is Good.
  • This part of the course will result in you developing an original written piece of work and presenting it as a fully-structured morsel of writing with all background materials (rough notes, background materials consulted, internet sites found, other essays found and critiqued).
  • Dates will be announced in class for interviews, during which time you will need to show me the progress of the research so far, including all materials consulted. (Hint; keep track of everything! If you make notes on a napkin in a restaurant, bring the napkin with you. A final piece of writing can not be accepted for marking unless this process has been complied with.)
  • The final examination will comprise 30% of the course mark. It will require you to write on a prepared topic (I will give you three topics ahead of time, one of which will appear on the exam). A short essay will be presented to you for editorial correction and critiquing (techniques we will practise in class). Finally, you will be asked to analyse and assess the purposes, processes and styles of three of the short essays we study during the course.

Please see or email me immediately if you have difficulty with doing or understanding something in the class, the course or the teaching method. I am here to help you through this work and prepare you for whatever comes next for you. Remember to work well, invest in yourself and listen to others. They, too, have their story to tell.

And above all, be kind.

F. Martin Aller-Stead.


Bibliography and some suggested reading about writing:

  • Butala, Sharon "The Perfection Of The Morning" HarperPerennial NYC 1995 193 Pg
  • Cameron, Julia "The Right To Write" Putnam NYC 1998 236 Pg
  • Cameron, Julia "The Artist's Way" Putnam NYC 1992 222 Pg
  • Dillard, Annie "The Writing Life" HarperPerennial NYC 1990 111 Pg
  • Fulford, Robert "The Triumph Of Narrative" Anansi Press Toronto 1999 158 Pg
  • Goldberg, Natalie "Writing Down The Bones" Shambhala Boston 1986 171 Pg

You may also contact me directly at martin@aller-stead.com