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Sample Essay and Instructor Critique

Sample Student Essay and Instructor Response

My Genius for Getting Stuck

I picked up the thing, just a simple sheet of paper, yet it was exactly what I needed to solve this big dilemma. Scrutinizing it, I picked up a pen. Carefully, I filled the entire application out, making sure that every block letter was written legibly. Taking a deep breath, I walked to the office and tossed it lightly on her desk.

I remembered her gentle voice reading me softly to sleep, often stumbling on words in the language that was somewhat unfamiliar to her, English. It was my mother, my hero at that time, who taught me to read. I remember asking her, "Where do all the pretty stories come from?" and she would reply with a smile, "Someone takes the time to imagine this and write it down for you." After that I spent all my time at the library, taking out piles of different types of books. I read everything from Dickens to Nancy Drew, from O. Henry (which I didn't like too much) to Marguerite Henry. I had decided I would become a writer too and write stories for other people

I forgot all about my wish to write well until this year. I had gone through a horse 'phase' where I stayed for hours and hours at the barn instead of the library, not caring about the vast and unexplored world with paper backs. When I outgrew my pony, the 'horse crazy' in me died out, and I began reading again. My friend referred me to a book by Victor Hugo, called Les Miserables, like the Broadway play. I was so engrossed with this book, and could not stop, until I had read the entire thing, often exposing myself to the perils of parental anger for staying up so late. For weeks I lived, slept and ate Les Mis. Well, I barely slept because I was reading it all. Yes, all 2500 pages of it. I wanted to be a writer again, to capture the vivid detail and description like Hugo did when he described the barricades.

I realized, however, that this would not be an easy task. One day I was stuck on a history test, and not because I didn't study, because I did, it was simply because I was stuck on an essay. I couldn't figure it out, no matter how many times I scratched out and rewrote, it seemed dull and boring. I was in a cold sweat when time was called, and ended up handing in only a half-finished essay, though I knew the material perfectly well. How could I be a writer if I couldn't even finish an essay? I later reread my essay with a mediocre number on it, and saw how far apart in caliber it was from Victor Hugo.

I needed a class that could make me a better writer. I needed a class that would cure my genius for getting stuck in the middle of my essays. Wandering around my mother's office, my eye was quickly seized by an advertisement for the CTY Online Programs writing courses. Perfect!

Instructor's response to the Student's Essay

Hi Katie,

As a writer, we are constantly revising and reworking. For this assignment, you had the opportunity to take a fresh look at your Lesson 3 Narrative Essay on how you got into this writing course.

Keeping with the aim of the lesson, you were to break conventional ways of writing and recreate the structure of your piece, starting at another point in the narrative. As I re-read your essay, I looked for changes from the original narrative. Where did you decide to begin? Does this work for your piece? Did you indeed take a fresh approach and revise (and by revise, I mean re-envision, not simply changing erred grammar or omitting an extraneous detail)? Is the thesis still clear, and although the sequencing is out of order, is it still coherent?

You began your piece at the end of your narrative as you discover the CTY Online Programs catalog. You then flashbacked to provide content and explanation, and continued to the end to conclude. This technique works well for your piece. You create a clear, organized structure that is easy to follow and interesting to read.

You obviously spent time looking at your first draft and revising. In my response to your first draft in Lesson 3, I noted that you could elaborate on your ending. In this draft, you reworked the end, as well as altering the middle of your piece. These changes lend themselves to creating a solid piece with strong details.

As with your first piece, your thesis is your desire to be a writer, which leads to joining the this course. You show this journey in your piece, and all the details from when your mother read to you to you finishing Les Miserables.

Revising is a chance to re-envision, re-invent, or simply start a new from a pre-existing work. I hope you enjoyed this assignment. As always, if you have any questions, please drop me a line.


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