For the last essay of the semester, our goal is to bring together concepts we’ve been covering all semester, including: how real research is in action, and how combining patterns of writing helps you structure an essay. Looking at the remaining essays and texts we are going to cover, your job will be to select the essay option that most appeals to you, ideally one you will learn from and enjoy writing. Consider how your essay might in some way be inspired in some way by Braiding Sweetgrass. I am recommending that most students choose option one.

This will be a shorter essay, like the personal essay that started off the semester, with a minimum length of 1000 words for the rough draft and 1500 words for the final. The primary difference is that we’ll try to incorporate more than one pattern and also include at least two APA sources in our search.
The rough draft will be due
The final draft will be due

As with the comparison/contrast essay this will be informal, meaning you can use the first person voice and are encouraged to do so. For the final draft you will need at least two quality sources cited according to APA format. We will cover differences between APA and MLA.

Your options:
Literary Reflection: In the early chapters of Braiding Sweetgrass, Robin Wall Kimmerer braids her personal experiences and family memories with research into a particular plant or tree or food, from wild strawberries, to pecans to the story of Skywoman herself creating sweetgrass. Following her style, choose one specific plant, animal, food, or place and bring together your own personal experiences with this element from the natural world. What does this thing have to teach us? What does science know about it? What experiences do you have there? Is this part of your heritage or family story?
Subculture/Ethnography: Braiding Sweetgrass gives an intimate view of indigenous culture, with echoes of the past and present. Investigate a culture from the world around you—another religion or race—or perhaps a subculture like Trekkies. Check out how the essays “On Dumpster Diving” and “Inked Well” combine the patterns in exciting ways. Is there a unique hobby or culture from the world around you that you can write about? Want to visit a tattoo parlor? Crave knowing what drives Taggers or the Tournament Bowlers or Comics Collectors or Poker Players? Pick a favorite, unique hobby, culture, or lifestyle and write about the culture, telling the story of what happened to you when you explored it and combining patterns of description and process to tell us how it’s done. [See below for more details.]
Service Adventure: Investigate a local service organization. It can be any service organization, but ideally must be fresh to you and inspired in a way by our discussions. (IE—You can’t simply write about that time three years ago when you went to Feed My Starving Children and packed meals along with your youth group…) Note: I am also keenly aware that we are shorter on time as the end of the semester approaches…You must go beyond Internet searching and include an interview, but also recognize that many organizations may not allow an in-person visit because of privacy concerns.

Satire/Story: In the style of Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal” write a satiric response to a real world problem:
Remember that you must make your “proposal” sound believable, no matter how troubling.
Details are again of vital importance. Describe this solution in vivid ways so that your proposal will have impact on the reader.
The “problem” you are confronting must be real and pressing. Remember that Jonathan Swift was horrified about the Irish Famine of his times and he was writing to raise awareness for his readers. There must be some good you are hoping to achieve with your satire!
In an “addendum” to your proposal, report on the sources you used to understand the problem better. Make sure you use APA citation.
See also: “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson in your Patterns textbook.

The Details on Some Options:


Use one of the chapters from Braiding Sweetgrass as a launching point. Study how smoothly one paragraph moves from personal experience and then the next into related research. For instance, consider “The Gift Strawberries”
Kimmerer opens by describing meeting native elder
In the next paragraph she tells a story about the importance of wild strawberries
The next few paragraphs describe strawberries, including their connection to Skywoman
She moves here into a reflection on a gift economy
She uses research to describe how strawberries spread and grow
She contrasts the alternating view of strawberries as a commodity
She returns to tell a story about the Andes and her dream of a market
Blending science and economic quotes, she turns again to the notion of viewing the earth as a gift
Ending with a description of those first strawberry fields, she calls for change.

Checklist for Literary Reflection:

Final draft is four pages in length and explores the subject in depth:

2. Final features at least two-three unbiased quality sources:

3. Final uses patterns to open up subject.
Historical background
Definitions and Illustrations
Facts, expert analysis, examples, and analogies:

4. Writer remembers to include patterns already covered in composition:
personal story
research/news story
Scene-setting, possibly including dialogue

5. Writer may have conducted personal research/experiments and reports the results in the paper. .

6. Introduction of the essay engages attention immediately. The writer establishes the importance of the topic. Why should we care? .

7. Transitions guide the reader throughout so the essay flows well. .

8. The sources are cited correctly throughout the paper according to APA format. Paranthetical citations correctly feature (author #). If there is no author, the article title is included. The author used a variety of sources during research.

9. The References page is its own separate page and correctly formatted. .

10. The paper has been peer edited to make sure there are no run-ons, sentence fragments or other grammar gremlins. .

11. The writer showed instead of told, using concrete sensory specifics.

Writing the Ethnography

This assignment will take you into the field to observe a subculture in the community. You will write a 1,500+ word essay that uses field research and reading as the basis for interpretation of how the subculture sees things. This necessarily will be a limited picture, so it should focus on some aspect of the culture that emerges from your observations. This essay should have the following qualities:
Be organized around some thesis or interpretation of how this culture sees things. For example, how does the culture view authority figures, or what constitutes a leader in the group?
Offer a rationale for why this group constitutes a distinct culture
Provide enough evidence from your field observations to make your interpretations and commentary convincing.
Thinking about Subjects
Like any inquiry project, success depends on what motivates you. What makes you curious about studying a certain local culture? Do you have a family member you’ve always wanted to know better who just happens to be a truck driver, a farmer, an emergency room nurse, a migrant worker? Maybe your best friend is a member of a social group you’d like to study—a Baptist youth group, rock climbers, or Deadheads—and can offer access. If you’re an older student, perhaps you have a niece or a nephew or possibly one of your own children who is a member of the local girls’ tennis team, the youth ballet company, or the bowhunters club.

Might your professional interests be relevant to this project? Say you want to be a police officer; might it be enlightening to hang with a few officers to find out what it is like? If you have an interest in writing, then the ethnography assignment promises to be a great learning experience, no matter what culture you choose to study. You’ll get practice in observation, note-taking, interviewing, and profiling—skills that are invaluable for writers of any kind. Possible subjects are all around you!
In the introduction establish a reason for your search. Introduce us to this subculture, its background or history.
Give us a day in the life. Tell us what happened when you went to the comic shop/church/meeting place. Use specific sensory detail to create an experience for the reader. Your “day in the life” should focus on language (how the subculture talks, specific terms) artifacts (objects or things the subculture uses) and rituals (what they do, their rituals and routines).
Use secondary sources, in the style to describe how things are done and provide context and background.
In your conclusion, think about what value this subculture has or why it exists. How do they view the world? What does this subculture’s existence say about our world? What did you gain from your investigation?

What’s Promising Material and What Isn’t?
The culture is accessible to you.
The culture’s members gather at places that you can visit.
The culture interests you in some way.
The culture might lend itself to library or online research.
You are not a member of this culture.
How Do You Know It’s a Culture?
Does the group you want to study, feel, at least implicitly, a sense of identification with each other as members? Do group members share certain behaviors, outlooks, beliefs, or motivations for belonging?
Do they share a common language? Do they tend to describe things in similar ways, or use words or phrases that have special significance to the group? Do they share an interest in certain objects or artifacts?

Ballenger, Bruce and Michelle Payne. The Curious Reader: Exploring Personal and Academic Inquiry. 2nd ed. NY: Pearson Longman, 2006.

For the service adventure, I’m challenging you to take the next step. A writer creates out of life experience, what wisdom he gathers in his journey through this troubled world. For this essay option, you to go out into the community, find a service organization that helps those in need, and lend a helping hand.

We can’t change the world, but through our actions and choices we can help make the world a better place. Your first goal is to find an organization that you want to know more about. Service organizations in this community exist to help everyone from battered wives to handicapped adults. Once you’ve selected an organization, go there. Take a notebook along and learn everything you can. Pay close attention to the building, the physical space, and the atmosphere. Jot down details about the people there: lines of dialogue, physical descriptions. Consider lending a helping hand. You are there as a witness, but you can also help and if you do so your writing will speak of direct experience and therefore carry more authority and power. Hands-on experience could provide an intriguing angle to your writing. This also means interviewing people who volunteer there will give you unique perspectives.

Writing Structure:
Once you’ve gathered your observations and date, you will compose your rough draft. Think about an outline that looks something like this:
Introduction: Why did you choose this organization? What were your initial expectations? Phrase your initial thesis as a question, but as your draft evolves make it into a statement that takes a stand.
Background: What is this organization? The history? What problem does it confront? Here is an ideal place to weave in secondary sources with statistics or research.
Experience: What happened when you went there? Here, you want to use sharp, sensory specific details to bring your writing alive. Show us this place, these people. Provide an experience for the reader.
The people: Who did you meet while you were there? What did they tell you? What are their struggles? What gives them hope?
Conclusion: How were you changed by what you saw? Do you believe in this organization? Why or why not?
Next week we return to our text which does include some classic works of fiction. Write a fictional response to a real world problem as Margaret Atwood did for her novel.
Your story should use the techniques of fiction and good narrative that we discussed in the personal essays. It should begin IN MEDIAS RES, or in the middle of the action.
Your story must include details and dialogue. It should be built upon scenes, as the best stories are.
Remember your structure. A story features a rising conflict, a climax, and a resolution. Make sure you have a completed arc.
You must include an addendum with two sources you consulted in order to understand the problem better. Yes, there should be a problem—like bullying, divorce, addiction—and the more specific you are the better. Your addendum must describe the two sources and use APA citation.

See also: “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson in your Patterns textbook.
If none of these options appeals to you, but you have a subject that you really, really want to write about, please see or write me and we’ll figure something out. I want you to have as much choice as possible, while still fulfilling course requirements.