Writing a Basic Essay

Writing a Basic Essay

I teach English at a community college, and one of the biggest issues students face when it comes to writing a basic essay is how to put their ideas down on paper.  Or rather typing them in a word processor, which is my preferred way of receiving a paper.  I tell my students that the way to write a basic essay is to understand the basic parts that make up an essay.  These may vary from instructor to instructor.  Below is my list of items I require in each essay submitted in my class. 

Basic Essay Format

Introductory Paragraph –Introduce the topic of your essay.  Give some background information on why it is a timely topic or why it is pertinent to be addressed.  What is happening in the world that makes this topic something that needs to be address?   The last sentence should state what you will prove about the topic.  (The thesis statement is last sentence in introduction).

Body Paragraph 1 (First Major Topic)—Begin with a topic sentence, which addresses what the entire paragraph will be discussing.  Add supporting details.  Add a closing statement that transitions to a new point that will be addressed in next paragraph.

Body Paragraph 2 (Second Major Topic)—Begin with a topic sentence, which addresses what the entire paragraph will be discussing.  Add supporting details.  Add a closing statement that transitions to a new point that will be addressed in next paragraph.

Body Paragraph 3 (Third Major Topic)—Begin with a topic sentence, which addresses what the entire paragraph will be discussing.  Add supporting details.  Add a closing statement that transitions to a new point that will be addressed in next paragraph.

Conclusion Paragraph—Several methods are good to use here—give a restatement of thesis worded slightly differently from introductory paragraph.  Use a call to action for the reader to do something or stop doing something.  Sum up major points brought out in body of essay and close with an overall message to the reader.

In addition to these required items, students are to include their name, course, date, and assignment title in the upper left hand corner of the paper.  They are to include a title (centered) that represents the content of the essay.  They also should double space their essay and indent all paragraphs.  Following these steps can help students get off to a good start when writing a basic essay.

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Zelda Lockhart–Fifth Born II

Fifth Born II

Zelda Lockhart has written a second book in the Fifth Born series, titled Fifth Born II.   I have pre-ordered a copy and am looking forward to reading it.  Fifth Born, her first in the series, can be ordered directly from Zelda Lockhart’s website.

Click here to read a summary of Fifth Born.  Also if you would like to pre-order a copy of Fifth Born II, contact Zelda Lockhart on her website, and she will gladly get it out to you.

The Nicest Rejection Letter–Have You Received One?

I received the nicest rejection letter from the editor of a literary magazine, Umbrella Factory Magazine, informing me that my fiction piece would not be accepted for publication.  I must say receiving this kind of rejection letter was a welcomed treat because the editor commented on how well he liked the piece and offered suggestions for other literary magazines he thought I should submit the piece to.  Now, how many editors would do that?  I didn’t feel the sting of rejection from this letter because the editor did not indicate the piece was not good; he noted only that it would not find a home at his magazine. 

Hello Katrina,

Thank you for the submission.  Unfortunately, “The House Down the Dirt Lane” will not find a home with Umbrella Factory Magazine.  Your piece was a treat to read.   You clearly have a handle on the Southern dialect, and the dialogue is masterfully written.  I would think in the climate of our country today, a short piece about a shell-shocked vet will resonate with many readers.  Have you seen Clapboard House?  It’s been a few years since I’ve seen it, but it was one of my favorite magazines.   They focus on Southern literature.  Also, I use www.newpages.com as a resource; perhaps that will be a useful tool for you. 

Thank you.

[A nice person at Umbrella Factory]

Many writers who submit to literary magazines may not receive a rejection letter, or if they do, it may not state why the work was rejected, leaving the writer to wonder what was wrong with the piece.  In a case like that, my suggestion to writers would be to send the piece out again to another magazine.   What may not appeal to one editor may tickle another editor’s fancy.   

“Keep writing and publishing your work!”  That is the message I got from this nice rejection letter.  I know editors are very busy, but this type of rejection email, a nice one, will go a long way to encouraging writers to resubmit their works for publication after receiving a negative rejection letter.

If you have been fortunate to receive a nice rejection letter after submitting your work for publication, share your letter or experience with us.

Zelda Lockhart–Writing Workshop

 

I had the pleasure of attending a workshop Saturday with a wonderful woman, author, and speaker, Zelda Lockhart.  She is the author of Cold Running Creek and Fifth Born and the 2010 Piedmont Laureate.  She also has a new novel coming out this summer, and I am looking forward to ordering it as soon as it hits the bookshelves.

Zelda held a workshop on writing entitled “Write It & Publish It: A Publishing Guide” in Durham at the Bean Traders, a coffee shop on 9th Street.  As my husband and I walked down the wooden steps to the lower part of the coffee shop to meet Zelda, I was amazed at how tall she was.  I had seen her photo on her book cover jacket as well as on her website, and for some reason I expected her to be shorter than I.  I was surprised to find that she was a tall woman, regal in stature and appearance. 

We walked to the far end of the shop, and my husband and I greeted Zelda, and I sat down at wooden tables reminiscent of the ones I was accustomed to in elementary school, wooden tables, some painted and some stained, (shabby chic would be my best description of them), dented in places, and filled with scratches and dings that indicated they had been put to good use in a classroom. 

After greeting Zelda, my husband left us to our workshop.  I, along with a thoughtful, elderly woman who had previously attended one of Zelda’s poetry workshops, were the only participants.  I greeted her and pulled out my pen and pad to what was an informative yet relaxed workshop.  We were originally scheduled to attend the workshop in another location, but that fell through.  Zelda contacted me the night before to inform me that the workshop may have to be cancelled, but I asked if I could still meet with her individually, and she agreed.  Even though plans had fallen through at the other location, I still wanted to meet this author and gain some insight from her background and expertise as a published author. 

The atmosphere in the coffee shop was peaceful, the occasional sound of coffee being expressed upstairs and the aroma of richly brewed coffee permeating the air and the light tapping of fingers to computer keys filling the charming and quaint space.  People were seated at other tables in the coffee shop, reading a book, looking over important paperwork, working on their laptops, or as in our case, discussing writing with a published author.  Sitting with Zelda and my fellow participant, I felt like I was having coffee with two old friends (although I didn’t order any coffee—I had a cup of Java before I left for Durham). 

Zelda began with asking us participants to pitch our work to her.  I wasn’t expecting that to be a part of the workshop, but I understand why she began with that exercise.  We were given a few minutes to compose our ideas, and then we “pitched” our work to her.  I realized I had a good understanding of what my work was about and who my characters were, but I was lacking in the area of expressing what my goals were in the work and explaining how I would bring about redemption for each of the characters.  The short-story collection I pitched had many characters, so expressing how I would bring about redemption for all of them would take a while, and I needed to learn how to pitch the short-story collection in 30 seconds.  Zelda suggested I open with a brief overview of the story and then choose one story or character and briefly discuss his or her struggle and the hopeful outcome of the story.  This would give the listener a sense of what the entire collection was about.

Another exercise she gave to us was a “Jump Starter,” a way to jump start our writing at home.  She called it “Steal the Line,” choosing a line from a book—poetry books are great for this exercise—and putting your ideas down on paper.  It was a fun exercise, and it worked.  It’s amazing how a few words can inspire you to write a poem, a short story, or a personal essay.  Some other jump starters she suggested were “Photo Prompts” and “Music in the Same Vein.”  These prompts could be done individually or combined to get those writing juices flowing. 

Next to us was a young girl, I imagine a college student as she was tapping away at her computer keyboard, occasionally glancing over whenever Zelda shared one of her pearls of wisdom.  I wanted to ask the student to join us.  “You should get in on this great information,” I wanted to say, but kept quiet.  It was a paid workshop, however.

Zelda shared with us her insight on the publishing industry.  She clarified the differences between subsidy or vanity presses, commercial presses, and self-publishing.  She indicated that many new authors are not familiar with the differences and often fall into the trap of publishing their work with subsidy or vanity presses.  She noted that authors should never pay a publisher to publish their work.  If a publisher charges you to publish your book, you need to run like your house is on fire. 

Subsidy or vanity presses tend to get grouped in with the term “self-publishing.”  Zelda pointed out that the term needs to be changed because “it is a misnomer.”  Even though you are paying to have your book printed when self-publishing, she mentioned that you should make sure you are not paying too much for the printing that you cannot recoup the costs.  And she noted that if you want to self-publish, you should always go into it as if it were a business and as if you were the business owners.  You should follow the same steps as commercial presses, replicating the process they use (ie. obtaining ISBN numbers, contracting book designers, typesetters, and book manufacturers, securing distributers, etc.).   In essence, publishing a book, either through a commercial press or by self-publishing, is a business, and many first-time authors don’t go into the publishing industry with that sentiment in mind.

One more important piece of information she pointed out was even in self-publishing, you should make sure you know the total costs, not only the cost of printing the book, but also shipping costs, returned book fees, etc.  All of these costs need to be calculated in the pricing of the book so that you can recoup your investment as well as make a profit.

Zelda discussed submitting works to literary magazines, journals, and online literary websites for the purposes of getting your work published, especially if you want to get it noticed by agents and book publishers. She emphasized the importance of the “Author’s Bio” as bait for agents.  It is a calling card, a mini advertisement of your accomplishments, so you want to use it to your advantage.  Include only pertinent information that relates to your writing and publishing accomplishments. 

That last part of the workshop was a walk-through of the bookstore next door to us.  We went into the bookstore, taking our notepads, and looked for works that were similar to the works we wanted to publish.  I was focusing on historical fiction as that is the genre of my short-story collection.  Once we found works similar to ours, we were to look for information in the books that would help us find an agent who would sell works like ours, who would have a relationship with the press in which we were interested in getting our work published, and who would be associated with the editor.

This exercise was extremely helpful as we would be finding the most current publishers, agents, and editors.  Zelda suggested we research them also to ensure they are still in business and to find the correct contact person as some editors and agents may not be in business anymore or may have moved into different positions within the industry.

The workshop ended, and we two participants were left to explore the bookstore on our own.  I thoroughly enjoyed spending those few hours with Zelda Lockhart.  I learned a lot about the publishing industry and plan to utilize the techniques from workshop in my daily writings.

Of course, as with any workshop, you always think of questions afterwards that you wished you had asked during the workshop, but they didn’t come to you at that time.  Zelda informed us participants that we could email her and keep her abreast of our work.  I took her up on that and emailed her with a few more questions about things that came to me after the workshop. 

Zelda Lockhart is a great resource for information on writing and the publishing industry.  She has several upcoming workshops that I know will be informative to any writer at any stage of the writing and publishing process. 

  • Zelda will be facilitating an “Elders Writing Memoir” workshop at the Regulator Bookshop in Durham on May 1, 2010. 
  • Zelda will be hosting a workshop entitled “Adding Color to the Cheeks of Historical Characters” at the Writing and Visual Arts Workshops at Moorefields in Hillsborough on May 22, 2010 and May 23, 2010. 

You can find out more about Zelda Lockhart, her works,  Fifth Born and Cold Running Creek, and upcoming workshops at her website: www.zeldalockhart.com.

My Artwork

This is my favorite flower and favorite color--magnolia and alizarin crimson

I love the way the watercolors glide over the 140 lb. watercolor, creating a marbling effect in the background.  Colors used are alizarin crimson, sap green, and payne’s gray.

Hats Off! at the North Carolina Writers’ Network

Information on my works is posted on the NCWN website: 

http://www.ncwriters.org/members/574-hats-off-to-katrina-park-williams

Maureen Sherbondy–one of my favorite authors

http://www.maureensherbondy.com/ 

I first discovered Maureen Sherbondy at the North Carolina Writers’ Network after reading her article “Why I Belong to the NCWN.”  She has written three books–The Slow Vanishing, Prayer at Coffee Shops, and After the Fairy Tale–all of which I have ordered and plan to start reading as soon as my teaching schedule lightens up.  I look forward to delving into her works.

Read the article at this link: http://www.ncwriters.org/news/553-why-i-belong-to-the-ncwn

Linda Beatrice Brown–one of my favorite authors

Read a review of Black Angels at this blog:  http://littlebookroom.wordpress.com/2009/12/11/black-angels-by-linda-beatrice-brown/ 

Find out more about Black Angels at Linda Beatrice Brown’s website:   http://www.lindabeatricebrown.com/ 

CONGRATULATIONS!!

The following titles have been selected as Chicago Public Library’s Best of the Best Books of 2009!

  • After by Amy Efaw (Viking 9780670011834)
  • Al Capone Shines My Shoes by Gennifer Choldenko (Dial 9780803734609)
  • All of Baby, Nose to Toes by Victoria Adler, illus. by Hiroe Nakata (Dial 9780803732179)
  • Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen (Viking 9780670011940)
  • Because I Am Furniture by Thalia Chaltas (Viking 9780670062980)
  • Black Angels by Linda Beatrice Brown (Putnam 9780399250309)
  • The Brooklyn Nine by Alan Gratz (Dial 9780803732247)
  • Cork & Fuzz: Finders Keepers by Dori Chaconas, illus. by Lisa McCue (Viking 9780670011131)
  • Fire by Kristin Cashore (Dial 9780803734616)
  • Flygirl by Sherri L. Smith (Putnam 9780399247095)
  • Hold Still by Nina LaCour (Dutton 9780525421559)
  • If I Stay by Gayle Forman (Dutton 9780525421030)
  • Jane in Bloom by Deborah Lytton (Dutton 9780525420781)
  • Keena Ford and the Field Trip Mix-Up by Melissa Thomson, illus. by Frank Morrison (Dial 9780803732643)
  • Make Way for Dyamonde Daniel by Nikki Grimes, illus. by R. Gregory Christie (Putnam 9780399251757)
  • Marching for Freedom by Elizabeth Partridge (Viking 9780670011896)
  • Omnivore’s Dilemma: The Secrets behind What You Eat by Michael Pollan (Dial 9780803734159)
  • The Orange Houses by Paul Griffin (Dial 9780803733466)
  • Otis by Loren Long (Philomel 9780399252488)
  • Peace, Locomotion by Jacqueline Woodson (Putnam 9780399246555)
  • Return to the Hundred Acre Wood by David Benedictus, illus. by Mark Burgess(Dutton 9780525421603)
  • Rhymes Round the World by Kay Chorao (Dutton 9780525478751)
  • Riki’s Birdhouse by Monica Wellington (Dutton 9780525420798)
  • Sweethearts of Rhythm by Marilyn Nelson, illust. by Jerry Pinkney (Dial 9780803731875)
  • The Vast Fields of Ordinary by Nick Burd (Dial 9780803733404)
  • Wink: The Ninja Who Wanted to Be Noticed by J.C. Phillips (Viking 9780670010929)
  • Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson (Viking 9780670011100)
  • Years of Dust: The Story of the Dust Bowl by Albert Marrin (Dutton 9780525420774)

 

The Chicago Public Library selects books that meet high standards of writing and illustration and that have a significant curriculum link. The Best of the Best list is presented in workshops to hundreds of public and school librarians from across Chicago, distributed to bookstores and put into wide release in the Chicago media.  The complete annotated list will be available in early 2010 at http://www.chicagopubliclibrary.org <http://www.chicagopubliclibrary.org/>.  

Rachel Moore

School & Library Marketing Assistant

Penguin Young Readers Group

345 Hudson St/New York, NY 10014

p: 212-414-3505/f: 212-414-3393

rachel.moore@us.penguingroup.com

Jack Riggs–one of my favorite authors

Read a review of Jack Riggs’ novel The Fireman’s Wife at this link:  http://storysouth.com/2009/09/the-firemans-wife-jack-riggs.html 

http://www.jack-riggs.com/

I met Jack Riggs , author of The Fireman’s Wife and When the Finch Rises at the  Spring 2009 North Carolina Writers’ Network conference in Greensboro, North Carolina.  He was witty and inspiring and took the time to talk with me about my aspirations as a writer.  He gave me some sage advice and has been an inspiring and supportive resource for this up-and-coming writer.  I have commented on the NCWN website about the conference and about Jack Riggs:  (read my comments here) http://www.ncwriters.org/whitecross/?p=84#comments

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Suzy Barile–one of my favorite authors

 http://suzybarile.blogspot.com/

Suzy Barile is the judge for the literary magazine contest 2009-2010 of the Wilson Literary Review.  I have interviewed her and discussed her book, Undaunted Heart:  The True Story of a Southern Belle and a Yankee General

The interviews can be found at these links:

http://www.wilsoncc.edu/Curriculum/CTGE/An_Interview_with_Suzy_Barile_part_one.cfm — An Interview with Suzy Barile, Judge for the Literary Magazine Contest 2009-2010 (PART ONE)

http://www.wilsoncc.edu/Curriculum/CTGE/An_Interview_with_Suzy_Barile_part_two.cfm — An Interview with Suzy Barile, Judge for the Literary Magazine Contest 2009-2010 (PART TWO)

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