Writing Disasters

Writing about disasters can be exciting for both writer and audience.

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The movie Twister with Helen Hunt  and Bill Paxton shows the dark side of nature.

It was written from a screenplay by Michael Crichton and Anne-Marie Martin.

A natural disaster movie is essentially science fiction: the audience must suspend disbelief.

It is the author’s job to make the story exciting without making it entirely unbelievable.

Here is a list of the best disaster films:


Today’s Assignment:

1. Watch a disaster movie or read a classic tale of survival such as Robinson Crusoe, Swiss Family Robinson . . . or Moby Dick!

2. Write a scene that involves a natural disaster or survival techniques.

3. Check your emergency kit.


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Be Concise — Sometimes Less is More

In many situations, being concise is important.

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A long explanation can be frustrating.

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A short explanation is often better.

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More teaching (or presenting) tips here: (click on image to enlarge)

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Thanks to TeachThought and Sylvia Duckworth.

Today’s Assignment:

1. Sit in chair.

2. Write.

3. No surfing until you have written for at least two hours.

The Works Cited Page

You are almost finished with your paper!

It’s time to tidy up your Works Cited page.

If you are using MLA format . . .  your Works Cited page will look like this:

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In the example above:

–notice how the title of the page is Works Cited (no other words will do)

–entries are alphabetized

–the hanging indent is used . . . which means that the first line is at the left margin and the following lines for that entry are indented.


Here is another example:

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(Invitation template)


Remember that different types of resources (books, anthologies, websites, etc.) have slightly different formats.


A useful tool is Noodletools.
There is a free Express version which is very helpful, but if you use their subscription version, you can automatically transfer your data to a properly formatted Works Cited page.

Here is a link to the free version of Noodletools:



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I highly recommend it!


Today’s Assignment:

1. Complete your final bibliography page (often called a Works Cited Page).

2. Be sure to double-check the instructions given by your professor.

3. Smile — you’re almost finished!

How Long is an Era? Does Steampunk = Victorian?

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The Victorian Era refers to the reign of Queen Victoria which would be:

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“It was a long period of peace, prosperity, refined sensibilities and national self-confidence for Britain.”

(John Wolffe (1997). Religion in Victorian Britain: Culture and empire. Volume V. Manchester University Press. pp. 129–30.)


Steampunk plots are often set in a time frame which roughly cover the reigns of both Victoria and Edward VII.

The reign of Edward VII was 1901-1910.


Remember that simply setting a story during this time period is not enough to make it Steampunk.

A Steampunk story includes anachronistic technologies. This means that technology from another time can be included.

Females are often given more freedom in a Steampunk story than what would have been commonly found during the Victorian-Edwardian Era.


So what is an Era, really?

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———————————————————————————–(Numbers Nut)


Today’s Assignment: Write a short story. Include technology from today in a Victorian-Edwardian setting.

The Header for Your Paper


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If your instructor does NOT want a title page, your name and info should be listed at the top left of your first page,

like this:


Your Name

Your Professor

Your Class

The Date


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If your instructor requests a title page, it should look like this:

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For a short video on the creation of the title page shown above, go to:



(M. Zonin)

Another great resource is from Diana Hacker, found here:



Today’s Assignment:  Proofread your work. Make final edits.


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Just Laugh!

This time of year many of us are preparing for exams or facing assignment deadlines.

Sometimes you just have to laugh.

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Thanks, Gary Larson!

Today’s Assignment: You know what to do. Work on your assignment!

Rules for Writing


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One good rule is “Show, don’t tell.”

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Another good rule: “Use your imagination.”

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A great third rule for today: “You can’t edit a blank page.”


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Remember Elmore Leonard’s rules?

I especially like his rule #10: “Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.”


Today’s Assignment: Write the rough draft of new material. It’s okay for it to be rough . . . it’s a rough draft!

Finding the Right Book for a Close Reading

A CLOSE READING is an assignment which is more than a simple book report.

A Close Reading cannot be done on a book with an extremely simple, straight-forward story.

A Close Reading can be done on a book filled with subtext and metaphors.

A Close Reading may cover only a section of a book, not the entire book.

A Close Reading reflects the reader’s experience and knowledge.


The Harvard Writing Center says:

“The process of writing an essay usually begins with the close reading of a text. Of course, the writer’s personal experience may occasionally come into the essay, and all essays depend on the writer’s own observations and knowledge.”

They suggest the reader “annotate the text.” This is where a nice inexpensive paperback version of a book comes in handy. Your marked up copy becomes an interesting addition to your bookshelf.

Read more from Harvard here:


This resource  by Beth Burke suggests three readings of the piece being analyzed:

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For a good resource on Close Reading go to:



BUT, but, but . . . how do I find a good book?

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To help you find the find book, check out https://lexile.com/fab/


Today’s Assignment: Find the right book for a close reading.

Our Love — Hate for Citations

I appreciate reading a source which is properly cited. It lets me know where the material originated.

Often the citation gives me information about the validity of what I am reading.

Authors should be given credit for their work via proper citations.


Students are often intimidated by the requirement of citations for their papers.

Here are some helpful sources:

The MLA format:

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See more at: http://www.anselm.edu/Library/Research-Help/Research-Tutorials/Understanding-Citations.htm


Remember that not all material needs to be cited.

The Purdue OWL is a great resource:

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There are several citation machines online that will help you out, but always double check. They are not fool-proof!

Here’s one:

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Also, this for this one you can simply type in the book’s ISBN number.

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Today’s Assignment: Do your citations!