Forums Writing Writing Labs Writing Lab for the Week of April 3rd // Open Until Thursday, April 4th, 5:00PM EST

Writing Lab for the Week of April 3rd // Open Until Thursday, April 4th, 5:00PM EST

Welcome to the Writing Labs – this week Kate Siobhan and Noah Pelletier will be giving critiques on your work.

IMPORTANT: The lab is not meant for first drafts of assignments. Due to recent curriculum changes, we will be accepting original drafts of your coursework here in the writing labs while they remain in their current form. However, please pay special attention to the assignment parameters. If the assignment has a word limit, stay within that word limit. Disregarding assignment parameters may disqualify your work from critique.
What you submit here should be your best work. In other words, please do not dash something off quickly in order to meet the lab deadline. We do our best in here to give comprehensive feedback and hope you will respect this by meeting our best effort with your own.
Assignment One, Assignment Six, and Assignment Twelve are not eligible for critique here unless they have already been critiqued by faculty and revised.
+ Reply to this thread before the deadline. Posting your own thread might cause you to miss the deadline, so check and make sure you’ve posted a reply to this thread — not a new thread.
+ You must have already completed and gotten feedback on your first assignment before being eligible to post to the lab. You may post revisions of assignments or any other work you would like critiqued.
+ Please post questions about your work with the link to the work or the work itself.
+ Please proofread your work and keep typos to a minimum so we can focus on issues like narrative and character instead of it’s and its.
+ Please limit yourself to one piece of work for review. Your piece doesn’t need to be a course assignment. It can be anything travel writing related you’d like feedback on. However, if it is an assignment or assignment revision, please be sure to let us know for which chapter you wrote it.
+ Please note that revisions from this lab will have to wait for critique until next week’s lab. We can’t review your piece twice in the same lab, in other words.
You have until 5:00PM EST on Thursday, April 4th to post your work. If you don’t know what time that is, it’s this time here.

View Profile 2013-04-03 09:50:28 PDT


I am working on this piece for a contest. It has to be shorter than 2500 characters and the theme is: A Local Encounter that Changed my Perspective

The title is still a work in progress. I am having a little bit of a hard time with the conclusion. I am trying to show how my perspective has changed without drumming that out too bluntly. Let me know what you think!


A Tale of Two Tails

View Profile 2013-04-03 14:23:38 PDT

Hey Spotell,

There’s a lot to like about this story. The details that stuck out in my mind are:
“weather hardened cowboy in short shorts”
“A heart-shaped chunk of hairy confetti”
Good, solid details.

So the theme is “A Local Encounter that Changed my Perspective.”
I don’t understand how the rat part fits in aside from the title, which you say is a working title. Ask yourself why this (the rat part) is in here. What specifically does it add to the sheep story? This has to be clear, b/c it’s not apparent to me. Also, is this incident “place” oriented, or could a rat have chewed its tail off anywhere in the world?

My main concern is the ‘local encounter’ bit. Perspective is gained/changed when we are forced to do something outside of our comfort zone–mentally (and geographically?). To do this, one must know the background of the person telling the story so we realize how the perspective was changed.

For example, if you were a Jewish lawyer from Manhattan on vacation in New Zealand, I’d think Wow, this guy’s really out of his element cutting off sheep tails!

So I need you to “sum up” your life in a few sentences. If you decide to cut the rat part, you’ll have room to give us your previous perspective before the docking. As it is, I only know that you’re “a moralistic teenager” and I don’t know what a moralistic teenager is. This can be fixed with specifics, for example, “as a teenage vegan who criticized her mother for wearing leather shoes, I thought only vets and psychopaths chopped the tails off animals.” or whatever. I have preconceived notions about vegans, and I could see a teenage vegan doing something like this. Apply this to yourself. Don’t be afraid to be self-deprecating.

Next comes the change. You said “ I am trying to show how my perspective has changed without drumming that out too bluntly.”Okay.

Here: “I realized there was also a grey zone. It might not be socially acceptable for a suburbanite to dock tails and punch ears in their own backyard, but farmers have that allowance by necessity.” Did you not not know this before?

I feel like you need to be blunt here. The reader must know/see/feel how your perspective changed. That’s what the judges are asking for. My advice is to be specific, very specific on how this experience changed you. Up to now, you’ve been very journalistic in your approach. This is a good thing. Now, after cutting off the tail (btw, what was that like), you must show us how this affected you, changed your suburbanite perspective for life.

Here are some stories that deal with people changing forever.  
“Monster Mash” by David Sedaris (When you are engulfed in flames)
The man with the beautiful eyes” by Charles Bukowski

Hope this helps,


View Profile 2013-04-05 04:53:55 PDT

Hi Noah,

Thank you so much for your feedback. I read the Bukowski poem (awesome- and I don’t normally consider myself a poetry person) and I took to heart your advice to be more direct. I was having problems incorporating the separate story with my father, so I reworked that so it flowed together more meaningfully. I think the inclusion is more relevant now.

I also gave more reference about my suburban background and I came up with a name I liked! I submitted the story to the contest. If you are interested to see how it turned out, here is the link: For the Good of the Lamb

Thanks again for the feedback!


View Profile 2013-04-10 01:00:45 PDT

Hey Stephanie,

This version is much tighter! Well done and good luck.


View Profile 2013-04-10 12:01:14 PDT