Forums Writing Writing Labs Writing Lab for the Week of March 25 // Open Until Tuesday, March 26, 5:00PM EST

Writing Lab for the Week of March 25 // Open Until Tuesday, March 26, 5:00PM EST

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 Tuesday, March 26th to post your work. If you don’t know what time that is, it’s this time here.

View Profile 2013-03-25 14:07:47 PDT

Hi guys,

 

This is my first time in the writing lab. I would like your feedback on my Chapter 2 writing assignment which I will post below. My concerns are does it flow? Am I painting good word pictures, how can I improve painting word pictures? Am I showing not telling? Should I add more detail?

Don’t worry about finding grammatical errors. This isn’t my first draft, but I sometimes have trouble with commas, but I can fix that on my own. I know I’m struggling with the ending so any additional feedback you have on that would be appreciated. I look forward to your feedback.

 

Chapter 2 Assignment.

 
Every breath burned as it slowly filled my lungs with an icy frost. The steady pants of my breath, the beat of my heart, the pound of my feet against the asphalt were the only sounds to shatter the emptiness of the dawn. They lined up in rhythmic unison, the beat of the drum to which I ran.
The rest of the world hadn’t stirred yet this morning, including the warmth of the sun, and with every exhale of my breath a thick cloud of pale fog covered the world in front of me. I looked to my left to see an old pine tree, its black scarred trunk telling the story of all the storms it had survived long ago, it crooked branches loomed over the path like a malformed hand waiting to grab an unsuspecting traveler up. This pine marked that I was half up Mill Street. At the end at the street I would turn right on Grand Avenue and sprint the final mile of my run.
The wind stabbed at me out of nowhere like a knife in the dark, it cut me to my core. I stammered back and forth as it had its way with me. My eyes cringed as it pushed the frozen sweat on my shirt against my chest, as I fought my way forward struggling against the invisible enemy.
I rolled my eyes at the wind carried the sound of a dog barking in the distance to me ears. I felt chills, which had nothing to do with the cold, spring up the back of my neck before slowly slid down my spine. I felt my pace slow as terror crept its way into my mind.
I veered right and saw the first rays of light crawl above the horizon; they outlined the massive of my growling nemesis, a massive German Shepherd just a few feet from the road. His sharp teeth were barred and the light brown tuft of hair stood up on the back of his neck like beacon of his hatred for me. His brown eyes blazed with desire, mine with fear. He viciously run forward until his chain yanked him back as he screamed at me. The hell hound then dug his bottom legs into the ground and lifted himself up letting the chain support his upper body. He snapped, gnarled I on the other hand wet myself a little.
I quickened my pace and sprinted to put as much distance between me and him as possible. My heart pounded up into my ears, it drowned out every other sound. The broken road below was a blur beneath my feet. I moved back and forth to doge pot-holes. Soon my legs burned as my body began to argue with my mind to slow down. I ignored the argument; I always used the boost of adrenaline from the encounter with the beast to give me the final boost the last mile of my run. I had never sprinted the whole way without stopping.
My overheating body shed the cold, as sweat poured down my eyes I cleared my dry throat, trying to find any activity to keep my mind busy. The pine trees and cookie cutter houses passed in a blur. An old woman was dragging out her trash cans, I nodded to her two exhausted to wave or say good morning. My whole body was on fire the mental struggle to keep going was at its peak when I spotted my house. I began whispering to myself that I couldn’t quite now, not when I was so closer than I had ever been. I jumped over a divot in the road and thought about the piping hot steam cup of coffee that awaited me just a couple hundred feet down the road. Just picturing the warm embrace of a warm cup of coffee, my one and only love, filled my aching bones with new life and I poured all the energy my body had life into my legs, which caused my arms humorously flap dead at my side.
Just when I thought my body was about to shut down I reached my front porch. I collapsed on it, and as I tried to catch my breath a feeling pride swept over me. I had being pushing myself to finish this run for weeks. As I opened my front door, I silently thanked the hell-hound, without his fearful push I knew I would have never been able to do this.
 

View Profile 2013-03-25 15:51:26 PDT

Hi all,

Recently found myself roped into a tsunami relief response, so decided to write my assignment #5 on the topic. Am struggling however to work out what angle to take if I used this topic for the actual feature article, though. An aid worker’s perspective? A human interest story? Something else?

Would love to hear your thoughts. Assignment 5 is here.

I’ve also written a couple of blog entries on my time in Temotu (the place hit by the tsunami) below, and might draw some stuff from them for the feature article – so any tips would be welcomed:

– Lost for words
– In a Temotu village 

Note my blog entries are written for an audience who knows some of the background, so might be a bit confusing for those unfamiliar with it.

Thanks!

Alice

View Profile 2013-03-25 16:31:45 PDT

Hi Kate & Keph,

I am still working on my kiwifruit piece, but in the meantime there is a travel writing contest (World Nomads) that I want to enter. I chose the theme: A Local Encounter that Changed my Perspective. The only other stipulation is a 2500 character limit. Currently I am at 2,483.

Because it has to be so short, I would like to know your thoughts regarding my word choice. And if you would like one area expanded, please help me select another are to cut. I am also still trying to figure out a name for the article- let me know if anything jumps out at you in this regard.

Thanks!

A Tale of Two Tails

View Profile 2013-03-26 04:16:46 PDT

Hi Keph!

I found the feedback you gave me for my other piece very useful, and I’ve now submitted the revised version to the contest. I’ve also been working for a piece for the Matador Network (one of the editors was interested in a 24 hours in Tbilisi piece, but of course I need to submit on spec), so he is what I’ve worked on. I tried to experiment with 2nd person, so I’m not sure how it worked out. Any feed back is very much appreciated. 🙂 Thanks!

 

Twenty-Four Hours in Tbilisi


Morning
 
            Get up early and have a shot of espresso before leaving. Take the Metro to Freedom Square or go by taxi. Navigate the underpass that runs under the large square, which is more akin to a glorified roundabout, and get distracted by the complex of shops until you come out at Pushkin Street.
 
            You continue downhill and link into Baratashvili Street. You arrive at the old city wall topped with the circular gallery of balconies; it makes you think that you’ve stumbled into Georgia in the US rather than Eurasian Georgia. You make eye contact with the locals, nod and say gamarjobat, hello.   
 
            Follow the city wall until you come to the Konka, a disused horse car. The smell of fresh coffee gives away its present day use, and if you’re an addict like me, it’s time to fuel up. Have a Turkish coffee: it’s short, sweet and only costs 3 lari (1.50€).
 
            Pass by the doll museum and take a turn right into Shavteli Street. Stop and take a look at the clock tower that looks like it was designed either by someone who was drunk or a genius. Don’t worry, it won’t topple over, it just looks like it’s constructed out of a child’s building blocks. If you make it here on the hour, stay and watch the little angel come out to strike the bell.
 
            Look over to the Anchiskhati Basilica with its 6th century bell tower and the birds nesting in it, turn left here and head down to the river, and then turn right. Walk towards the Peace Bridge, you can’t miss it: it looks like a giant, glass slug. Glance over to the other side of the river at the Presidential Palace, it’s the building with neo-classical front topped with a post-modern glass dome. Go past the bridge, you come to the monument to poet Ietim Gurji.
 
            This is my favorite spot in Tbilisi. I love the galleried houses being eaten up by the crawling ivy. A group of youths drinking homemade wine out of used coke bottles or a gang of streetwise stray cats gather around that the copper-green statue of the poet.
 
            Peaking behind the decaying houses, the conical and pointed dome of the Sioni Church invites you down a block to take the steps up to this 7th century church. Look at the Georgians walking by in the street – notice how many of them cross themselves upon passing. Beggars and old ladies fill up empty water bottles at the surrounding water fountains, and you see some stray kittens being fed by an old lady in rags. She might seem a bit crazy, but stop and talk to her, she is rather nice and she houses an unofficial rescue center for animals in one of the abandoned houses up the street.
 
            Take the steps up to Sioni Street, look to your left at the caravanserai. Opposite at number 13, is the theological seminary, and as you head past it towards the bronze statue of the toasting Georgian, you catch a whiff of fresh baked goods. If you’re hungry, then descend the stone steps into the basement and buy some take-away khachapuri, Georgian cheese bread. I’ll clog up your arteries, but tastes damn good. If you want something healthier, then try some lobiani, which is stuffed with spicy red beans.
 
Noonish
 
            Make your way down to Abanotubani, the bath district, especially taking care if you cross the roads. Well-lit underpasses serve parts of Tbilisi, but other times you have to use my not-so-foolproof method of “look, pray and run.” Be careful: pedestrians don’t have right of way in Georgia.
 
            Stop and take in the view of the brick domes dotting the square and the 17th century Orbeliani Baths decorated with lapis blue tiles and two little minarets to the side, and you note the smell of sulfur that wafts out of the little holes in vapor strands. Make sure you come back another day for the baths.
 
            But for now, you go up the little street that goes past the carpet shop on the right and you turn uphill. This steep incline takes you past more galleried houses. The scent of flowers and herbs hit your nose, and you hear the sound of running water as you approach the top. The open gate marks the entrance to the Botanic Gardens. Instead, you follow the steps the up the side of the rocky hill to the Narikala Fortress.
 
            There isn’t much to see in the fortress, so you enjoy the view. The golden roof of the Sameba (Holy Trinity) Cathedral winks at you in the distance. You continue along the path, following by the trajectory of the unstable looking cable car. When you reach the end, take the steps; this brings you up ruined building that says “Property of the Hellenic Republic”. I have no idea what this means either, but you go towards the giant metallic statue of Mother Georgia and take the winding path of stairs down through the greenery.
 
You come out behind Betlemi Church and the nearby ruins of the Zoroastrian Fire Temple. Take the Betlemi Steps down into the Sololaki neighborhood, and now you face two choices for lunch. There is Pur Pur on Lado Gudiashvili Square, a restaurant with a bohemian feel that is made up of uneven bits of decadent furniture and paper lanterns offering a modern take on Georgian cuisine. For something more traditional, you continue to Shemoikhede Genatsvale on 25 Leselidze Street. You’ll recognize this from the mural of Pirosmani’s toasting ritual on the front. The food here is very good, particularly the khinkhali, slippery dumplings filled with spicy meat, or a delicious stew. You wash this down with some good Georgian wine, perhaps a red saperavi.
 
Afternoon
 
            You’re back at Freedom Square, and you’ve come full circle, but now you cross over to Rustaveli Avenue. You observe the contrast between the dilapidated, yet grand, back alleys around Sololaki to the art nouveau and neo classical buildings of this European style boulevard. En route you pass the Parliament, a building of Soviet proportions. Enjoy a bit of window-shopping until you notice the Kashveti Church on the other side of the road. You take the underpass and investigate the bright frescoes, painted by the Georgian avant-garde painter Lado Gudiashvili. Further down, you pass by the neo-classical façade of the Tbilisi National Museum of Art and the burnt orange, Moorish style façade marking the Opera House. If you need a little break, dash into Prospero’s Books and Caliban’s Coffee, an English language bookshop and café in a hidden, green courtyard just off Rustaveli.
 
However, you’re still hungry to see more, and you continue down to Rustaveli Metro and take the train up to Avlabari. You don’t really know where you’re going; you just look around for the golden roof of the Sameba Cathedral and follow the dusty backstreets in this direction.
 
The marble platform punctuated with fountains and shrubs stretch out over the views of Tbilisi. Sameba Cathedral takes on the proportions of a traditional Georgian style, but its angles are too sharp and the stone cut too smoothly. Perhaps you’re not surprised to find it was finished in 2004. The cool wind takes the edge off things and you go inside. There are no pews in Georgian churches, just open spaces that spread out. There’s a draft, so pull a jacket out.
 
Evening
 
            For a relaxed, romantic dinner with a scenic view over Tbilisi, go to the nearby Café Flowers. This garden terraced restaurant smells of summer flowers and has views over the Narikala Fortress and the hanging balconies in Sololaki. If you’re here in the summer, you sit down and try some shashlik, a marinated Georgian shish kebab, and a refreshing glass of tarragon lemonade while the evening colors Tbilisi in orange hues.
 
            If you want traditional Georgian feast, make your way back down the hill and cross the bridge over the Mtkvari River, passing the Metekhi Church on the rocky outcrop. Take in the view of the old town and look to the gorge-like bank on the left to the hanging houses. Continue across the bridge towards the baths. You’re looking for an underground restaurant called Alani, you’ve walk past it a couple of times, so look for the Georgian writing “ალანი” written outside in red at 1 Gorgasali Street. You order a feast of khinkhali, khachapuri, walnut dressed salads, and stuffed eggplants since they’re all at Georgian prices. Wash this down with carafes of Georgian wine, either a red saperavi or a white tsindali. The live music and singing drowns out the conversation, but one of the locals on the other table approaches you and invites you to a “supra” a Georgian toasting ritual with chacha, a spirit made from grape seeds. If you decide to participate say good-bye to your liver and hello to Georgian hospitality.
 

View Profile 2013-03-26 07:49:56 PDT

Hello,

Here is a story I am working on and I would very much appreciate the feedback.  Thank you.

What to do about Barriles?
By Jim O’Donnell
Below the grassy parking area where the majority of the stone artifacts were on display I crawled into a tiny sandy nook. 
 
The hole at the edge of El Sitio Barilles was made into a cave by the dangling roots of bright green bamboo stands that teetered overhead. I was looking at the layer of black volcanic sand that had covered the village of Barriles many hundreds of years ago. That is when Edna told my companion about the UFO she had seen over the volcano forty-some years before.
 
“We saw it just out there,” she said. “One afternoon when all the family was together my mother shouted ‘Look! Look at that huge light!’ And we saw a light that was coming down. It was round like a ship and it was spinning. We waited for it to fall but it didn’t. From the ship came a giant light, like a bulb, which lit the ground all around…and then it waited and waited and then it went straight up into the air.”
 
She clapped her hands and pointed to the sky. “This is an important place.”
 
~ ~ ~
 
Sitio Barriles is one of the better-known archaeological sites in Panama.
 
The road to the site runs out of Volcán into the Chiriquí highlands and wends west towards the Costa Rican border up into bright green hills on the flanks of the Barú volcano. There the fences are alive, made of various species of trees and bushes, purple, white and red flowers drape the roadside and men with machetes fade in and out of the patches of cloud forest that remain.
 
The road is potholed and narrow and run by careening dump trucks so weighed down with sand and gravel that their tires are pancaking. I was tense the whole way, sure our little Hyundai was going to crack an axel.
 
Barriles was named for several stone barrels found on the site in the late 1920s. It is assumed to have been a socially-stratified town and home to about 1000 people around 1300 years ago. Barriles hosted a far higher population than any other site in the region and was probably a ceremonial center whose activities drew people from the dozens of sites dotting Chiriquí valley and the slopes of the Talamanca cordillera.

 
~ ~ ~
 
My friend and I crossed the mountains from the town of Boquete to reach Barriles. We got lost among all the green pastures and Swiss-looking farmhouses. The freshly-paved road dipped straight down into and then climbed straight up back up the other side of every little river coming down off the cordillera, and at every crossroad waited someone with an eager smile and a slightly off set of directions.
 
Edna met us in front of the farmhouse next to a replica of a four-foot stone statue found on the site whose authentic counterpart was now hidden away in a Panama City museum. She wore a red sweater and a free-flowing skirt that gave her a carefree aspect, which she soon dispelled by telling us that she was stressed.
 
“You’re late,” she said.
 
Edna Houx is the matriarch of the site and manages it for tourism under an agreement with the National Institute of Culture. The northwest portion of the settlement lies on the property of her family farm. The rest of the site rolls away towards the volcano under Holstein-dominated pastures owned by a number of other families.
 
Edna is convinced, despite what archaeologists say, that the site was populated by an advanced race of Africans and Asians; she took me immediately from the porch and pointed to the statue as proof. One of the men, she assured us, had African facial features, while the other was “obviously” Asian.
 
“They were not Indians.  They were not native people from the area.  It was a special group that was here.  Everything here is different from everything else in the region.  Now, look at this,” and she pointed at a large stone near some berry bushes.
 
A squat bus pulled in next to our car and a bunch of Panamanian teenage girls spilled out and milled about in confusion, pasting on lipstick, checking cell phones and kicking at the gravel. Their teacher was fiddling with a folder and trying to pass out photocopies.
 
“Hey.” Edna poked my arm to call my attention back towards the stone. It was a five-foot tall polished anthracite. “People come here to be healed by this rock.”
 
And then there was the Ark of the Covenant.
 
“They found it in Panama,” she said. “Pay attention now or you will get confused.”
 
No kidding. I began to wonder if the UFO has anything to do with this.
 
She explained that Barriles was settled nearly 3000 years ago by two trans-oceanic groups of people who knew the secret healing powers of stones, one African and one Asian. A giant volcanic eruption wiped them out — and then came the Mayan invaders.
 
“Mayan invaders?”
 
It was clear that Barriles, as it is known to Edna, is far different from the one researchers know. 
 
Besides the large farmhouse, the modern site sports a small display of maps and blown-up photocopies of old research journals and National Geographic Society magazines housed under a tin roof. Further west, among rows of stone artifacts, Edna led us down a ladder leads about 7 feet underground into a fake excavation block. Whole ceramic pots stuck out of the dirt walls green with the growth of small lichens.
 
Then she took us to a tiny, one-roomed slightly problematic museum sheltered by bamboo. Problematic because the roof barely kept out the rain water. Problematic because a large number of the artifacts on display simple don’t come from Barriles and are not even from the same time period.
 
~ ~ ~
 
Several days before visiting Barriles, we had thankfully exited the racous Pan-American Highway near the coast southeast of David and pointed the car up one of those impossibly steep roads where you can’t see the pavement in front of your car and it is impossible to know what is over the hill or around the corner.  The goal was a 1500 year old rock-art site towering above the Pacific Ocean known as Nancito.
 
There were some huts by the side of the road on the way up.  There was a man looking at the sea smoking and a little girl sitting on a ragged-looking horse. She wore a Dora the Explorer backpack.  A woman stood closer to the road holding an umbrella. I asked if I was going the right way.  The woman shrugged. The man didn’t look my way.  The girl hugged the horse’s neck.
 
At the end of the road sat the whitewashed Nancito Archaeological Museum. It was closed. I shot what photos I could of the rock art with my telephoto lens through the fence and, not sure what else to do, drove down the hill.
 
Nancito and Barriles speak to challenges of both preservation and interpretation of archaeological resources in Panama for the general public — not to mention the ability to generate income for preservation and further research through archaeological tourism.

 
“Even though the archaeology of the country is fascinating, the vast majority of research and museums and such are all concentrated in or near the canal and deal with the Colonial period. So, in many respects, Barriles is all there is for people interested in visiting a site in Chiriquí,” Dr. Scott Palumbo of the College of Lake County in Illinois told me several days later. “There used to be a small museum in David- which still exists- but is closed due to lack of funding.”
 
Many of the statues and tools from Barriles are on display in the Museo Antropológico Reina Torres de Araúz in Panama City. Many more sit in crates in the museum basement.  Other important archaeological objects, including some impressive rock carvings pilfered from sites throughout the western provinces, are housed at the small museum in Los Santos.

Barriles is one of only three archaeological sites regularly accessible to visitors. The others are El Caño in Central Panama and Panama Viejo. One site dating from 500-1400AD is located on Isla Palenque is protected by a resort and can be visited by tourists to the island.
 
Panama has become adept at delivering white sandy beaches, palm-tree laced islands and bountiful birding tours to the growing numbers of tourists arriving on its shores.  But does the ancient past offer another form of both rural economic development and access to tight research funds?
 
“I want to live something for the future of Panama by protecting our past,” Edna told us when we arrived at Barriles. “The government doesn’t care anything about archaeology in Panama.  They just want money.  I have to do something here.”
 
There is a complication in Edna’s relationship with the ancient history under her pastures. She operates as somewhat of a rogue, delivering not-quite-accurate information to visitors and hosting questionably-obtained artifacts of which the authorities aren’t quite approving. And yet without her, Barriles would not get the protection and exposure it deserves.
 
“Edna does do a lot for the archaeology of the area. She freely stores my artifact, a function a museum often provides. Even if I disagree with some of her claims, many people do walk away form her property even more appreciative of archaeology than when they started, and that has tremendous value,” Dr. Palumbo told me. “I think she does a nice job sharing archaeology with people and deserves commendation for her efforts.”
 
Back out on the Pan-American Highway evening came early as smoke from the burning cane fields settled over a nearly endless stream of Spanish-owned in-and-out motels for the philandering adult, billboards pointing towards brand-spanking new beach-front resorts and semi-tractor trailer rigs barreling up and down the highway blasting their horns as a warning and not slowing down if you didn’t clear out of the way.

 
Night fell and we continued southeast towards Panama City.

 

 
# #
 

 
 

View Profile 2013-03-26 11:17:23 PDT

The lab is now closed.

View Profile 2013-03-26 14:00:38 PDT

Hi abackapckerstale,

Overall you’ve done a good job of capturing details in this piece but there are parts where your language waxes a little too poetic, or where word choice of phrasing structure could be better. Let’s take a closer look at some sections where your language could be clearer:

The steady pants of my breath, the beat of my heart, the pound of my feet against the asphalt were the only sounds to shatter the emptiness of the dawn.

I read this as “steady pants” like trousers. You could use “panting”, and I’d even recommend removing “of my breath”.

Look at this passage:

The wind stabbed at me out of nowhere like a knife in the dark, it cut me to my core. I stammered back and forth as it had its way with me. My eyes cringed as it pushed the frozen sweat on my shirt against my chest, as I fought my way forward struggling against the invisible enemy.

Stabbing like a knife, though a little cliched, makes sense, but why “in the dark”? The word “stammered” doesn’t fit. I think you mean “staggered”. I don’t think eyes can cringe. And finally, what invisible enemy are you telling me about?

Here, you lose control of the piece, moving into poetic language instead of focusing on detail:

I veered right and saw the first rays of light crawl above the horizon; they outlined the massive of my growling nemesis, a massive German Shepherd just a few feet from the road. His sharp teeth were barred [bared] and the light brown tuft of hair stood up on the back of his neck like [a] beacon of his hatred for me. His brown eyes blazed with desire [<– how do you know this? Desire for what?], mine with fear. He viciously run [ran] forward until his chain yanked him back as he screamed at me. The hell hound then dug his bottom [do you mean hind legs?] legs into the ground and lifted himself up letting the chain support his upper body. He snapped, gnarled [snarled]  I on the other hand wet myself a little.

 

I’ve bolded some of the other issues in this passage. It’s usually helpful to read a piece out loud. It will help you catch things like repeated words.

Similarly, look here:

An old woman was dragging out her trash cans, I nodded to her two [should be too] exhausted to wave or say good morning. My whole body was on fire the mental struggle to keep going was at its peak when I spotted my house. I began whispering to myself that I couldn’t quite now, not when I was so closer than I had ever been.<– I don’t understand what’s going on here. You could quite hat? I jumped over a divot in the road and thought about the piping hot steam [steaming] cup of coffee that awaited me just a couple hundred feet down the road. Just picturing the warm embrace of a warm cup of coffee, my one and only love,<– may be a bit over-dramatic filled my aching bones with new life and I poured all the energy my body had life into my legs, which caused my arms humorously flap dead at my side.

You do have some interesting observations as well. I liked this very much: “I looked to my left to see an old pine tree, its black scarred trunk telling the story of all the storms it had survived long ago…”  And this was a very strong image, if a little difficult to picture: “I poured all the energy my body had life into my legs, which caused my arms humorously flap dead at my side.”
I’d suggest that for your next pass at this, you try to focus more on the details of what you see, smell, hear, and feel instead of trying to weave a narrative through it. Make sure you read it aloud, and you may even want to have a friend read it to point out things that don’t make sense.

I hope this helps!

K-

View Profile 2013-03-27 11:38:23 PDT

Hi Alice,

Just a quick note to let you know that we don’t have the capacity to look at more than one piece per week in the lab so I haven’t looked at your blogs. They shouldn’t really have a bearing on the assignment anyway, because this is a stand alone report. Similarly, I can’t really dig into your questions about the feature (I’d ask faculty in course) though I will say that typically you’ll want to choose the best angle for both the content and the venue you hope to publish in.

OK, on to your assignment!

I think you’ve got a lot of great information here, and you’ve clearly done your research. I have a few questions about language:

“…the Province could be described as isolated – yet also resilient.” <– What do you mean by “..yet also resilient”? 

“…The province is made up of 9 island clusters…” <–spell out numbers one to nine.

“In theory, there are two scheduled flights per week…” <– This is not theory. There are two scheduled flights.

“…was told she was the forth [fourth] guest in the past six months…” 

Overall, I think this is really good. There is no first hand source quoted, but you’ve explained why that is so. If you’re going to move forward with this material, though, you’ll want to make sure you get those sources.

Good work! I hope this helps,

K-

View Profile 2013-03-27 11:51:34 PDT

Hi spotell,
Wow! What an opener. Just like with your last piece, you’ve brought the reader right into the story and given us something to hang onto. That said, I was confused by what exactly was going on, and I think that although it’s compelling as is, you should tighten that up so we understand a bit more precisely.

– What are you doing to sheep? Notching their ears, but what are you doing to their tails?

– Who are Mike et al telling to “Have a look”?

– What is a Huntaway? A dog?

– This is hilariously confusing (I picture you putting the lamb in a baby car seat!) “As the lambs scrambled forward I picked one up and laid it on its back in a reclined seat. ”

There is kind of a big issue here for me and that’s that I don’t see how your perspective was changed. Both the sheep and the rat story are sort of gross and queasy-making… so what was the revelation? Can you make it clearer?

Overall, I have to say, you have a fabulous way with words. Some of these descriptions are so bright and unusual, they take my breath away. This, for example, “The skin slid off the bone as easily as if he had removed a sock.” So, so good.

I enjoyed this and very much hope my comments are helpful,

K-

View Profile 2013-03-27 12:02:24 PDT

Hi Jennifer,
The second person device is often used for this kind of story so I think you’re okay there, though I will admit that I find it a little contrived. If you’re more comfortable with another voice, use it!
Now, onto the piece:
The very first question I have is, where is Tbilisi? What country? Try to get that answered early.
Watch for where you switch from the imperative to the narrative. Look:
            Get up early and have a shot of espresso before leaving. <– imperative

You continue downhill and link into Baratashvili Street. <–narrative
Either will work, but be consistent.
Tighten your language where you can. An example:

“Stop and take a look at the clock tower that looks like it was designed either by someone who was drunk or a genius.” Could be “Stop and take a look at the clock tower that looks like it was designed by a drunk or a genius.” (I’d even suggest switching the order, so it’s “…designed by a genius, or a drunk.” <— packs a little bit more humor in that way.)

“Peaking [peeking] behind the decaying houses, the conical and pointed dome of the Sioni Church invites you down a block to take the steps up to this 7th century church. Look at the Georgians walking by in the street – notice how many of them cross themselves upon passing.”

Watch for places where you need to define things: Take the steps up to Sioni Street, look to your left at the caravanserai.
Overall I though this was very good, packed with details, but perhaps too packed. After a while I sort of glazed over because it was just too much. I’d suggest cutting it down substantially. It looks like far too much for 24 hours, so a lot of your great stuff gets lost. Try to make it realistic for the time frame, and make sure you give enough information about what things are that someone could actually follow this as a guide.

I hope this helps,
K-

View Profile 2013-03-27 12:21:04 PDT

Hi Jim,

You don’t mention whether you’re eyeing a specific venue for this piece, so I will just give you my general impressions.

Let’s start with the opener:

Below the grassy parking area where the majority of the stone artifacts were on display I crawled into a tiny sandy nook.

The hole at the edge of El Sitio Barilles was made into a cave by the dangling roots of bright green bamboo stands that teetered overhead. I was looking at the layer of black volcanic sand that had covered the village of Barriles many hundreds of years ago. That is when Edna told my companion about the UFO she had seen over the volcano forty-some years before.

There is some mystery here that grabs the reader, but I found it very difficult to picture exactly what this nook was and looked like. You need to strengthen it so you don’t lose your readers. Also, who are Edna and your companion? Why do you introduce Edna by name, but not the companion?
You do a good job with your descriptions:

The road to the site runs out of Volcán into the Chiriquí highlands and wends west towards the Costa Rican border up into bright green hills on the flanks of the Barú volcano. There the fences are alive, made of various species of trees and bushes, purple, white and red flowers drape the roadside and men with machetes fade in and out of the patches of cloud forest that remain.

It’s difficult to get the right ratio of description to story (too much is boring; too little is baffling) and I think you’ve done a good job above, but it starts to drag for me here, below:

My friend and I crossed the mountains from the town of Boquete to reach Barriles. We got lost among all the green pastures and Swiss-looking farmhouses. The freshly-paved road dipped straight down into and then climbed straight up back up the other side of every little river coming down off the cordillera, and at every crossroad waited someone with an eager smile and a slightly off set of directions.

You lost me here:

And then there was the Ark of the Covenant.

“They found it in Panama,” she said. “Pay attention now or you will get confused.”

No kidding. I began to wonder if the UFO has anything to do with this.

I don’t understand what you’re saying. The Ark is sitting there? You see it? Or it’s something you read? Or..?
Make everything you write count. Look at this passage:

Several days before visiting Barriles, we had thankfully exited the racous Pan-American Highway near the coast southeast of David and pointed the car up one of those impossibly steep roads where you can’t see the pavement in front of your car and it is impossible to know what is over the hill or around the corner.  The goal was a 1500 year old rock-art site towering above the Pacific Ocean known as Nancito.

There were some huts by the side of the road on the way up.  There was a man looking at the sea smoking and a little girl sitting on a ragged-looking horse. She wore a Dora the Explorer backpack.  A woman stood closer to the road holding an umbrella. I asked if I was going the right way.  The woman shrugged. The man didn’t look my way.  The girl hugged the horse’s neck.

At the end of the road sat the whitewashed Nancito Archaeological Museum. It was closed. I shot what photos I could of the rock art with my telephoto lens through the fence and, not sure what else to do, drove down the hill.

Nancito and Barriles speak to challenges of both preservation and interpretation of archaeological resources in Panama for the general public — not to mention the ability to generate income for preservation and further research through archaeological tourism.

You seem to be building up to some mystery but I really have no idea what is going on here. Clarify, and don’t ley more on your readers than they need to know. Find the narrative and work everything else out from it.
Here, you seem to be positing some sort of thesis, but again, it’s not clear: “But does the ancient past offer another form of both rural economic development and access to tight research funds?”
Similarly:

There is a complication in Edna’s relationship with the ancient history under her pastures. She operates as somewhat of a rogue, delivering not-quite-accurate information to visitors and hosting questionably-obtained artifacts of which the authorities aren’t quite approving. And yet without her, Barriles would not get the protection and exposure it deserves.

There’s a lot going on in this piece, clearly, including lots of research and interviews. I think the main issue is in taking your interest in the topic and making it understandable and accessible to readers who may not share your level of knowledge. Some of this has to do with your language choices that border on academic at times. Also, you distance us by keeping the identity of your companion a secret. You neither let us in on who he or she is, nor give many clues to what your stakes are in the story. Why are you there? Why do you care? Why are you interviewing people? If you can clarify and simplify these elements I think you could build a very informative and interesting piece.

I hope this helps!

K-

View Profile 2013-03-27 12:42:33 PDT

K,  thank you so much.  This is very helpful.  Jim

View Profile 2013-03-29 13:15:09 PDT

Thanks Keph for your feedback. Will keep it in mind as I move onto the feature article. Cheers.

View Profile 2013-04-01 19:41:02 PDT

No writing lab this week? Seeing as it is the ONLY way to get feedback now, it would be helpful to have a consistent writing lab.

 

View Profile 2013-04-02 00:19:47 PDT