Posts in: EN286

Week 2: The Essay

After a relaxing weekend filled with reading, coloring, exploring the arts, and taking a stroll with nature, our class piled into the room. With our refreshed minds we prepared for our next assignment.

The Essay is our last big assignment that is supposed to encompass our lives. The first day we described our golden memory, which is the memory that really stood out to us. For some, like myself, it was a very emotional and spiritual experience. Finding that golden moment and highlighting some of the key moments was probably one of my favorite parts of the class, because I was able to find that special moment and other moments leading up to it. After we all found our golden moments, we shared with our class. I don’t know about you, but there is something wonderful about sharing something special to you from a composition notebook.

In order to make our golden moment stand out from our essay, we were also asked to write about memories that go with the same theme as the golden one. In addition to that, we had to read essays that embodied voice, imagery, and characterization. The next day we came up with our own list of what these writing techniques meant to us and what it means to evoke that in our pieces. And each day we would share our writing pieces and give each other feedback on how to enhance and further grow our essay. We had a writing day on Friday, to start typing up our pieces and arranging them to our liking. The first draft of our essay is what we will be in Workshop for Third week. I would tell you more about that, but I will save that for another time. Until next time!

Week 1: The Ask Album

The first day of Creative Nonfiction Writing started by climbing 3 flights of stairs in Armstrong and into a packed classroom. Our professor, Felicia Chavez, set the tone waited till everyone got settled. There were 25 students in class room, 9 of them were wait-listed. We all wanted to be in the class. We all wanted to be a part of what was bound to be a spiritual experience. Professor Chavez passed out the syllabus and what was expected of us. She wanted to make it very clear that this class was very different from other creative writing classes, let alone English class, and if this wasn’t the class for us, then we should leave. Nobody left. Professor Chavez continued to talk about the course and then took a 3 minute break so that people could leave if they wanted to. Nobody left. Those who were wait-listed were asked to leave and told they were more than welcome to take her other blocks. The 16 of remaining sat in a circle and learned about the first assignment.

The Ask Album is the big question that you don’t know the answer to. Its the big red door with the brass know in your head that is filled with possibilities but not answers. Our task was to physically make our album revolving around the big question by first Friday. It was a pretty daunting project in my eyes. It seemed less daunting but still imminent when she said that we would be working on our Ask Album all week. Each day, she would give us writing prompts as homework to figure out that question. We would write for at least 30 minutes and then edit for no more than 30 minutes. When we would share our pieces, some of the most beautiful sentences came out. Some were moved to tears, some to laughter, but in the end we were all here for each other.

Friday came and we all piled in quite unsure if our project made the cut. Professor Chavez was so happy to see everyone and our Ask Albums. When we all presented our Albums, I felt closer to my class. It was like we were this little family sharing our feelings every day. We were all emotionally and physically exhausted but all extremely proud of each others work. Professor Chavez gave us our assignment for the weekend and I think a few of us groaned before actually reading it.  Our homework was a Play-List of relaxing and pleasurable things we get to do over the weekend. I thoroughly enjoyed all of it by the end and was ready for week two to star20160911_204531

A week of conferencing and work days

Our class all seemed to be disproportionately sick, overtired, or gloomy this morning, myself included. I think 3rd week monday of 8th block came a bit sooner than a lot of us were expecting. It’s occasionally been challenging to be fully present in this class during such a transitional time on campus. Most of our early 3rd week will be spent working and recording in the lab, with workshopping our rough drafts at a field trip to KRCC at the end of the week.

I’ve been really appreciating our daily check in, where we all go around and give  a quick update on how we’re doing, both inside and outside of class. Its something I wish every class did, I think it can humanize us all if we’ve been feeling half awake or nonspecifically moody that morning. I think we’ll be really needing check in this week to stay updated with one another’s progress, because we’ll be spending most of our class time working on our individual projects.

I had my first 1:1 conference with Felicia this morning to edit down my final script. Watching her editing process and being part of the conversation was incredibly helpful, and her attention to transitions between scenes in my script was important. I guess our own stories always seem perfectly logical and coherent to us because we know exactly what happened next.

I’m still nervous to begin to actual recording and editing process after my first attempt was a titanic sized disaster. Our shorter experimental assignments with sound editing have built my confidence, and I think the ability to present a rough draft before our final next week should smooth out my nerves.

Workshopping; The Best of Times, The Worst of Times

Thursday and Friday of this week were consumed by workshopping all ten drafts of our final audio essays. Both days were long, rewarding and difficult. It was my first experience workshopping anything, or being workshopped, and I think most of the class was a little nervous.

A writing workshop environment is so intense because you can’t allow yourself to zone out for even a moment. Giving someone feedback on their writing is such a personal experience, and our class has established an open and respectful environment I think we all wanted to honor. I also think Felicia (our professor) did an awesome job in grounding feedback sessions to be constructive, and to dissuade us from obsessing over a particular element of our classmates work.

For my essay, about getting malaria last summer in Senegal and delaying getting medical attention for a long time, I quickly realized that I had not put nearly enough time into my draft for it to be ready to feedback from ten writers. As I work now to revise the past draft into a script, its been overwhelming to cycle through ten copies of the essay that each member of my class scratched up with comments and suggestions. You would be surprised how often feedback matches up.

We’ve been told that the next week will include a lot of time working in the lab on producing our final pieces. I’ll try to supplement individual work time with some quality podcasts outside of class. I’m hoping that during our final full week our class will spend more time sharing work and giving each other feedback on our progress; so far, the feedback has proven invaluable.



Playing around with sounds (Audio Essay, Block 8)

Greetings from the Audio Essay!

So, after reading an awesome article by Brendan Baker (here’s the link: ) our class spent the day split between peer editing our personal essay and a very fun, creative sound compilation exercise. I think the bigger sound nerds in our class got more from the Brendan Baker article than I did, but it was a fun read regardless.

After our last assignment using the Audition Program for audio compilation, I was feeling a little insecure about my audio mixing abilities compared to the rest of the class (I tried to layer two too many Alt-J songs into my rendition of Italo Calvino’s Moon short story, the results were cringe-worthy). This time, Felicia had us make an audio adaptation of one of four creepy vintage children’s book covers. I picked this one:



It was a really fun and unexpectedly challenging creative exercise, translating the mood of a picture into an audio score. Nicole and I were talking after class, and agreed that Felicia should teach an “audio sculpture” class next year as a follow up to this class.

I do miss the amount of writing we were doing earlier in the blocks, classes have shifted into more abstract exercises this week. Tomorrow, our writers workshop should give me a good dose of word work.





Making the Pitch

The second week of The Audio Essay started out on a note of high anxiety for me; we all made a professional story pitch. Over the weekend, our assignment was to create a formal pitch for a personal essay to debut on a radio program. Theoretically, if our pitch did well in class, it was a sign our story might have potential for a real radio program. I appreciated the obvious practicality of the assignment, and the idea that my classmates would act as cut throat as a real production team definitely motivated me to put a lot of time into the project this weekend.

In actuality, I may have taken this whole “your classmates are a skeptical production team” too literally. I was quick to critique my classmate that I didn’t think his story was interesting enough to make a production worthy audio essay. Felicia informed me that the point of this exercise was to help develop an existing pitch, not suggest an entirely new one (what happened to learning to abandon ideas early??).

We spent some time playing with high tech sound recording devices, running around campus to capture interesting noises. The exercise was fun, but I don’t know how many of us will be developing our own sound effects for whatever story we decide to produce.

I’m hoping we do get around to reading aloud our latest personal essays tomorrow. So far, the most invaluable element of this class has been the availability of my classmates as critics and collaborators.

That’s all till tomorrow!

Idris Goodwin’s Five Absolutes for Writing

After three days of performances in Armstrong Theater, we were all ready to start Spring Break. Idris dropped some wisdom on us before we went on our merry way, to encourage us to keep writing, revising, throw it in the air, and repeat. For those of us who are lucky enough to be in Old Man Goodwin’s orbit this block and onward, here’s a video of his words of wisdom to revert back to, when we find ourselves in times of need in the future.

Coconut Coated

As I promised in an earlier post, here is a recording of Xander Fehsenfeld’s “Coconut Coated”. Sweet brilliance. When we hit the road and made our class debut at Atlas Prep Middle School, the 7th and 8th graders melted into the chocolatey goodness of Xander’s words, and Sunday night was no different. The crowd of college students that gathered in Armstrong Theater showered his slam poetry with snaps, and guttural grunts of approval through the entire piece. It was one of our class’s favorites. I hope you enjoy.

Classy Class in Shove Chapel

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Today was a revealing day. We’re currently in the process of a major work of collaboration within our groups, and we performed 5-7 minutes of excerpts from what will soon be performed as 25-30 minute plays for our final productions. The public will be invited, so come one, come all! Here is the facebook event for those of you who are on top of your social networking game:

For those of you less facebook inclined, there will be three showcases on three nights – Sunday, March 10th at 8:30pm, Monday, March 11th at 1:30pm, and Tuesday, March 12th at 1:30pm in Armstrong Theater on Colorado College’s campus. Free to anyone and everyone who wants to come see some culminating creative projects.

To give you a lil bit of a flavor for the sweet tastes you’ll be experiencing if you’re able to make it out to any (or all) of the three performances, here is a sneak peek of Shane Lory ’16 grooving on the geetar and Tim Jenkins ’16 saying it how it is in Shove Chapel today. ‘Twas an interesting setting to fill such a massive space with our energy and voices when onstage… and the bells that sang out from the bell tower every 15 minutes added a twist to each performance whenever they chimed in. We’ve realized that Shove Chapel isn’t the ideal space to perform our pieces in, so instead we’re shooting for the moon with the hopes of filling the seats in Armstrong Theater. There are 730 seats that need to be warmed by your bodies, so bring your family, bring your friends, bring your neighbors, bring your enemies, and on and on.

Without further adieu, here is the snippet clip… like lickety split, sit a bit and view it…

Week two wasn’t too weak

‘Twas a productive week. It was a marathon of scenes, monologues, and choreopoem collaborations. We read many examples and excerpts from plays and poems and then spent the week writing and revising our own. The magic seeps through in the revisions, so we’ve been told. Idris tells us “The performance writer writes in real time. He/she must balance what the audience knows, when they know it, how they know it, and how it affects what they already know.” Since this is a class in which we write for performance, our pieces must beg to be read aloud, with animated voices and bodies to bring it to life.

Last Monday, we were given thirty precious minutes to split up into our six groups and create a choreopoem. This term was created in 1975 due to Ntozake Shange’s For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf. It is poetry with choreography and stage directions included in the text. Each group discovered something they had in common and started writing their choreopoem. Here is an example of what a group created in thirty minutes:


A choreopoem performance about the trials and tribulations of water parks. It made quite the splash (that’s when I nudge you in the side of your rib cage with my elbow, you look at me stern faced and say that’s just not very creative or “punny” and we move on to the next section of this blog post).

The rest of the week, we went for an exciting shift to have class in Armstrong Theater. We wrote 1-3 person scenes to be performed by our fellow peers. After each scene, we broke it down into what works and why it works (great perception shift, really created believable characters, the opening monologue really evoked a reaction from the audience, etc.), and the converse of what fell short of its potential or what was unclear (why did the man with the backpacks get in the car so fast, have you thought about how old you want the audience to think these characters are, explore the possibility of being more subtle, etc.)


Sitting on the stage of Armstrong Theater, we all had front row seats to view each other’s scenes and monologues.


Kevin Dorff ’14 and Tim Jenkins ’16 perform a staged reading of a scene written by Shane Lory ’16

When Friday rolled around, we performed our revised choreopoem group collaborations, and it was great to see the progress that had been made. Lots of edits and fine tuning.


A group performs their final choreopoem. Kevin Dorff’s face (back row) stole the show.

We also had the pleasure of inviting poet Shane Romero into our classroom Friday afternoon to show us another avenue to what performance poetry can be. He’s only 25 years old, but is now off on tour, making a name and a career for himself as a performing poet! Blew our minds. We got to pick his brain about the business and creative aspects of being a poet for a living. Shout out to Shane, check out his poetry here: