Forums Writing Writing Labs Writing Lab for the Week of May 1st // Open Until Thursday, May 2nd, 9:00PM EST

Writing Lab for the Week of May 1st // Open Until Thursday, May 2nd, 9:00PM EST

Welcome to the Writing Labs

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 9:00PM EST on Thursday, May 2nd to post your work.

If you don’t know what time that is, it’s this time here.

View Profile 2013-05-01 18:29:39 PDT

Hi Josh-

Attached is a link to my midterm assignment. I look forward to any feedback you have!

Thank you,



View Profile 2013-05-02 01:08:43 PDT

Hello! Below is my Chapter 2 Assignment – Journey Down Wrigley Way

Thanks for your feedback!

-Teran Jones

View Profile 2013-05-02 09:10:22 PDT

Hi Josh,

I would like to get feedback on this piece I’m working on. It is a two part story. This is part one, so it is not the end.

My concerns. Is piece coming alive? What areas am I telling not showing? Where can I improve my descriptions? Any other advice would be great.

Climbing Mt Olympus.
Flip flop… Flip flop, the sound had been echoing in my ears for hours now it was like fingernails on a chalk board. I stopped readjusted my backpack and gave my cheap flip flops, the culprit of my irritation, a deathly stare. The path to the summit of Mt Olympus rose before me. I wiped the sweat out of my eyes as gratitude welled upside me as I glanced around at the beautiful forest.
I had been in Greece over a month and hadn’t even considered hiking the mountain because all I had were two pairs of flips flops (not the best mountain climbing gear). I funds were disappearing fast, and I didn’t have a budget to buy a pair of boots.
A phone call back home changed my mind. I was sternly warned of the life-long regret I would feel if I didn’t hike the mountain. I realized they were right! The next morning I slipped on my flip flops and started hitchhiking to the mountain path.
This is how I found myself a few hours later shuffling to the top of the tallest mountain in Greece. My goal for the day was to reach the hostel at the midpoint of the mountain. I was a little more than half way to the hostel, and the sound of my shoes slapping the bottom of my feet was driving me crazy…well, crazier.
I swung my head to look at the path behind me, disappoint stung me as I stared at the empty, the path in front of me was just as empty. Not a soul, I thought. I shook my head as I continued walking, I hadn’t seen anyone since I started hiking the trail; it didn’t look that was going to change anytime soon.
It seemed a shame to keep all the beauty of the mountain to myself. Olympus is covered with strange trees; their branches shooting off in odd directions like crooked fingers.  The mountain gets steep rather quickly which makes the trees grow at awkward angles. A number of the trees looked burnt, their scars telling the story of a fire that happened long ago. There were tons of ponds and tiny mountain streams where to stop for a rest. The whole mountain has another worldly feel to it, and it is easy to see why the Greeks choose this mountain as the home of their gods. You can’t help but imagine Hermes running down the mountain in the winged shoes.
A couple more hours passed, and I slowed my pace taking in the magic of the forest, wondering what adventures were in store for me. I would whistle to drown out the sound of my sandals; soon I noticed the trees were getting thinner and that the trail was getting steeper and rockier. Pretty soon there were sharp drop-offs on one side of the path.
I sun was starting its descent adding a little chill to the air. The fact that I hadn’t seen a soul worried me that I veered off on a separate path. Suddenly, I heard a strange sound was in the distance, I tilted my head, it sounded like some sort of clanging. I adjusted my backpack and quickened my pace. I’m catching up to someone, I thought.  The bell sound was extraordinarily close now. I jumped to the side as three donkeys, equipped with saddle bags, strolled by bells clanging around their necks, rounded the corner. The only problem was that I had jumped to the side so fast that I had landed on the edge of the drop-off.  The donkeys blocked whole the path, stranding me on the edge. I turned my head slightly; a cold sweat covered me as I looked at the razor sharp rocks below, my sandals just inches for the edge. My chances of surviving that fall were not good.
“Great, this is how I die”, I thought, “Tomorrow old Greek men while wake up, sip their morning coffee, pick the paper, and read the headline ‘Death on Olympus- Dumbass killed by Jackass.” Not the way I had envisioned being remembered!
When the last donkey passed, I lunged back onto the path.  I sat there for a minute trying to steady my heart. Then it hit me, and I jumped up. The donkeys had carried the supplies to and from the hostel. I was on the right path.
This put a spring back in my step, and within the next hour I could see the hostel sitting off a cliff in the distance, my own personal Olympus shrouded in mist.
Tents were pitched everywhere and as I entered I was greeted by loud laughter. The place was overflowing with people, crowded around the picnic tables, hunched over board games, talking by the fire, and eating in the dining area.
Where the hell did all these people come from, I thought.
I spent the rest of the night stuffing myself with making friends, eating spaghetti and meatballs, and sipping my flask and whiskey before heading to bed. The path to the summit would be steeper, and I would want my sleep if I hoped to navigate it with my flip flops.

View Profile 2013-05-02 17:33:44 PDT

The Lab is now closed.


View Profile 2013-05-03 12:16:01 PDT

Teran –

Lots of lovely details in here! I loved the opening. “Beware of the tiny humans lurking inside.”

I’d like some introduction into exactly the area you’re exploring, even briefly.

Love these lines: “After its owner merely taps his foot on the break at the stop sign, it turns left and continues its noisy descent down Kingswood out of my view.”

Nice use of photos throughout.

I like the interaction on the baseball pitch, but beware of dragging a scene out too much…my mind started to wander just a little. Happens especially if you don’t know much about baseball. The scene strikes me as comical but it isn’t exactly enough to hold my attention, and I’d love to see further characterization of the teammates. Were you really standing close enough to overhear the coach talking to his athletes? Just wondering.

Thought this was a great ending:  Back on the sidewalk I am met again by the old couple I passed by earlier. “Hi.”  à Always a good way to end things, with bringing it full circle.

Overall, Teran, you’ve done a great job of capturing those lovely little details that make a place pop. I don’t know much about where you live, but I can certainly imagine everything you’ve described. Nicely done!


View Profile 2013-05-06 19:57:36 PDT


Hey Stephen!
Thanks for your submission. First up: I’d LOVE for you to try and condense this into one piece, between 1000-1500 words. Even just to challenge yourself. You’ll be AMAZED by how much tighter a piece is once you’ve trimmed the fat. Writers tend to have difficulty letting go of those details we feel are most important, but when you begin carefully considering each and every word, you’ll find yourself breaking out a stellar essay.
You have a sharp sense of humour that translates well in your writing. I love your adventurous nature and your ability to draw us into your world by totally opening up to us. Dig the honesty!
Some of the biggest issues with this piece are the grammatical errors and the fact that I’m not REALLY sure what this is all about, although you do mention it’s a two part piece. But I find myself wondering…what’s the point? Where’s the story going? I totally think you can keep this two-piece story around the 1500 word mark, or less. I know it’s leading somewhere but I just can’t tell WHERE, and we need that inkling of understanding within that part one piece.
I find your opening a bit awkward. “Flip flop… Flip flop, the sound had been echoing in my ears for hours now it was like fingernails on a chalkboard.” The “now” makes it feel like you’re shifting from past tense to present tense, but you still use “was.” I’d find a way to reword for better flow. For example: “Flip flop, flop flop…the sound had been echoing in my ears for hours, and now sounded liked fingernails on a chalkboard” (although “fingernails on a chalkboard” is bit of a cliché).
Redundancy: “I wiped the sweat out of my eyes as gratitude welled upside me as I glanced around at the beautiful forest.” (AS gratitude and AS I glanced)
Typo! “I funds were disappearing fast, and I didn’t have a budget to buy a pair of boots.”

I like the flip-flop story. But find a quicker way to lead into the REAL story.

Reduce the use of exclamation marks: “I realized they were right!”

Typos! “, disappoint stung me as I stared at the empty, the path in front of me was just as empty.”
“I would whistle to drown out the sound of my sandals.” Haha, love the increasing fury over the flip flops.

“The fact that I hadn’t seen a soul worried me that I veered off on a separate path.” This sentence doesn’t make sense. Do you mean “worried e so much that I veered…”?

Haha, love this bit!  à“Great, this is how I die”, I thought, “Tomorrow old Greek men while wake up, sip their morning coffee, pick the paper, and read the headline ‘Death on Olympus- Dumbass killed by Jackass.” Not the way I had envisioned being remembered!

So yeah, I’d work on finding the real story here. And cutting it down. (And those grammatical bits.) You’ve got your voice pretty well figured out, now it’s just making it all come together.

If you have questions, let me know!

View Profile 2013-05-06 21:22:39 PDT

Thanks for your helpful feedback Candice!

I wasn’t sitting close enough to the practice to hear what they were saying unless they were shouting.

I wanted the pace of that section to read quickly and not get weighed down with too many details, but after reading it again I do see there could be some room for more characterizations.

Thanks again 🙂

View Profile 2013-05-07 13:05:09 PDT

Hey Summer – thanks for submitting to the Labs – I know you have worked on this a bit with Candice so I hope my perspective is helpful 🙂

First off – I like the fast paced, kinetic feeling of your opening paragraph, it moves us quickly into the action ans sets up the unfolding scene – good work there. I do feel that I don’t get much TEXTURE to the places, voices and personalities. I want Alia and Tony to be more than ‘my friends’ – I want some clues as to who they are and what makes them unique – I can’t easily build a character off names.

Over the next couple days, we were able to cross off many items on our touristy to-do lists. – kill this. I don’t prefer expository writing that neatly tells me what I’m about to read. Jump right into one of these touristy places and form the landscape of the trip with some solid descriptions.

Circular Quay, Hyde Park, the Botanical Gardens, the Sydney Opera House, – take a breath and realize that besides the opera house I (and many readers besides) have no idea what these paces are. So don’t just tick them off your list – give the clueless reader something to ether see, hear, smell or touch.

all of which were amazing – tells me nothing

The piece really starts when Adam enters the scene, why not dump the beginning few paragraphs and more carefully set up Adam and your history, this will anchor us emotionally to the piece – as it stands now the opening paragraphs don’t drawn me in. It is when Adam shows up that my ‘ears’ perk up. Because he is the first element in the piece that gets more than a cursory glance – he has substance.

The atmosphere was great; fairy lights strung overhead, two bars serving a variety of drinks, with great music playing, but not too loud so you could still chat with your friends. – This place seems interesting – but you TELL me about it and don’t SHOW me. how bright are the fairy lights? how do they contrast the sky? how far down is the harbor? what drink did you order? what ind of music is play? is it house music or a quartet…? What do you hear under the music? What colors do you see? what smells are present…? SHOW SHOW SHOW

SAME HERE – which was surprisingly quiet (and romantic) where we took in the view of the bridge and Opera House which was beautifully lit up in the night. – what does ‘surprisingly quite’ sound like? What does ‘beautifully lit up in the night’ look like? SHOW SHOW SHOW

Thank you for links!

Great captions for your photos – they lend a new element to the narrative.

Bondi beach – why include this if you don’t actually spend time there – this paragraph slowed me to a crawl – don’t lose your momentum or you will lose your reader.

Australia Day – I get no evidence of what this looks like, how people are celebrating…. how does Australia day look/feel/sound/taste any different than the day before?

On Sunday, Adam took me to Coogee, where we met up with two other friends from camp.– avoid sentences that could be summarized ‘and then we did this’. Instead jump right in with ground level descriptions of what makes Coogee the ‘quintessential beach town’.

friends – don’t mention ‘friends’ if they are faceless, voiceless, nameless beings…

I LOVE YOUR ANGLE here Summer – Australia with a local is a wonderful comparison to the tourist trot. But I feel every step of the way I was missing sensory based descriptions that textured the people, places and situations. I was TOLD what happens (we did this then we did that) but it never achieved a LIFE of its own – I never felt the pulse of the place or People.

Adam is a good example – he is never given any being. He is, for lack of a better word, a prop. After your initial description he is a word that is repeated but gains no further depth. Similarly your relationship with Adam does not evolve for the reader.

You have the bones here – they just need the muscle of ground level POV description and humanity to make it come alive for me. Read every sentence out loud and ask yourself – am I TELLING? Am I SHOWING? Does this person have DEPTH? Does the RELATIONSHIP EVOLVE?

I hope my humble feedback is helpful. Thank you for the opportunity to read your work.


View Profile 2013-05-08 11:46:20 PDT