Writing course calendars is an imperfect science under the best of circumstances. While I certainly hope that we can stick as closely as possible to this schedule, please be prepared to make adjustments as necessary to ensure that you all have the best possible chance to do your best work.
You will notice that there are days and entire weeks with no specified activities, assignments, or homework. I have intentionally left these calendar slots blank to leave us room to respond to specific learning needs near the end of the semester as you are working on your final projects. Just because nothing is listed for a particular day on the calendar doesn't mean class does not meet. If class does not meet, it is noted on the calendar.
Major assignments appear in bold. Readings not from your textbook are linked from this page.
Week 1: Introduction to the course
Reading: Syllabus, Introduction to text book. Note that after this week, all readings should be completed BEFORE class on Tuesday. Because that’s impossible for the first week, plan to have this reading assignment completed by Friday.
T—Introduction to the course. Two critical elements of magazine writing: Audience analysis and what is NEW.
Assignment: Audience analysis presentations. Who reads this magazine? How can you tell? How is this person reflected in the components, eg, content, page design, advertisements? Plan to give a short presentation (5-10 min), in character, as the ideal reader of this magazine. You must include images (eg, the magazine cover) and may be as creative as you’d like—music, prezi, power point, video, puppet shows, etc. You must come in costume. Plan to submit your notes on Canvas—they can be informal. Be sure to sign up for a time.
Week 2: Audience Analysis presentations/Feature analysis
Reading: Chapters 1-3
Assignment: Feature analysis. Before we start writing our own magazine articles, we will look at some of the articles that critics have named as the best magazine writing of the year. We will do close readings to see what makes them so good. Find a full-length feature piece that you like. What makes it work? Analyze its style, tone, and authorial voice in addition to its content. What little tricks does the author use to address the reader? Write 5-6 pages (DS/MLA format) summarizing, analyzing, and contextualizing this piece. This paper must be submitted with a copy of the article and a letter of transmittal explaining your choices to me. Due 2/22.
Week 3: Feature analysis
Reading: Each student will be assigned a feature to read, summarize, and present to the class in a roundtable discussion on Thursday. This will allow students to know a little bit about each feature so that they can choose one they like for the analysis assignment.
T--Presentations continued as needed; feature assignments; short discussion of feature analysis assignment.
TR--Log lines assigned. Upload to Canvas for homework grade.
Week 4: Interviewing, profiles, and angles
Reading: Chapters 4, 5, and 12
T--Log lines and summary discussion of features. Discuss feature analysis assignment.
TR--WORK DAY: CLASS DOES NOT MEET. Read the profiles linked above. Consider these dramatically different types of profiles and why they work in terms of audience, purpose and situation (kairos).
Assignment: Conduct and transcribe an interview. Write a profile of your subject. Due 3/1. The length and format will be dictated by your publication’s Writers’ Guidelines. Include a printed copy of Writers' Guidelines with your submission for five extra points. You will turn in both the transcribed interview and the profile. The interview should be in Q/A format, but the profile must be narrative, featuring only the most effective quotes. This paper must be submitted with a letter of transmittal explaining your choices to me.
What's the angle? Discuss leads/ledes and analyze them for action, angle, or anecdote. 40-40-20 rule of research and writing. Recognize the distinct components or building blocks of your stories: anecdotes, facts, examples, and quotes. We will discuss both profiles in class on Tuesday the 13th.
Week 5: Using quotes in profiles
Reading: Chapters 7-8
Homework: How have the authors of the above articles used quotes from their subjects to add to the theme or through-line of their pieces? Write 1-2 pages and upload to Canvas.
T--Class discussion of profiles. Be ready to give the class an update on the status of your profile.
TR—How to write letters of transmittal (LOT)
Week 6: Tone, comedy, and what the publication sounds like
Reading: Chapters 9-10
*ALSO* Everything on Wonkette!
T--Read samples aloud and discuss sound qualities (rhythm, emphasis, end-focus, etc.) and diction in establishing tone. Look at the rhetorical concept of the bdelygmia (rant) and satire.
TR__Peer editing workshops; bring three clean copies of your Feature Analysis to class. Feature Analysis due on Canvas by 11:59.
Week 7: Tone and comedy
Reading: Chapters 11, 13
Assignment: Write a Comedy Column piece to be submitted to the “Open Letters to People or Entities who are Unlikely to Respond,” section or as a listicle for Cracked.com. Due 3/8. We'll brainstorm ideas on Tuesday and bring a rough draft to class Thursday for editorial workshops.
Week 8: Tone and comedy
Reading: Chapter 19
Reading: "God Knows Where I Am"
Reading: “Nature's Spoils"
TR--Discuss the presence of the writer in long-form features that we've read. Begin your feature project. Choose your publication. How long are its typical full-length pieces? What kinds of topics does your publication typically run? What is the tone? What are your resources?
Assignment: Feature. You will write a full-length feature article for a specific publication. The publication will dictate everything from the topic to the tone and the word count. Your final feature should incorporate the best elements of story-telling: character, voice, theme, conflict, and ultimately, resolution. Great features, such as the ones we've considered in class, inform and energize true stories in ways that draw readers into the immediacy of the narrative and show us as much as tell us. See class notes under Literary Non-fiction for a refresher on the form and what makes a successful story. Due 4/17.
Week 9: Spring Break
Week 11: Features; The Writer's Presence; Research
Reading: Chapters 7-8
Reading: “Nature's Spoils"
T--Comedy Columns due. Present feature topics to class as loglines, the one or two sentence summaries used to pitch scripted narratives (eg, films, tv shows, episodes, etc.). These should contain not only the critical details (W questions), but also the conflict/narrative arc as a hook. This web page has some great tips for writing leads that are helpful in thinking about loglines.
TR--Easter Break--class does not meet.
Week 12: Query Letters
Reading: Chapter 6
Reading: "Queries that Worked" (hard copy handout), "How to Write Query Letters for Magazine Articles"
T—Nicole Seligman--SEU WRIT alumnus, Big Deal Blogger, and Executive Editor of the online magazine Junebug Weddings, visits the class.
TR— Find your editor and write the pitch and plan to actually send it. Assignment: Write a query pitching your feature idea. Start working on your feature piece immediately.
Note: If you would like to accept submissions for your magazine from other members of this class, you will need to have writers' guidelines for them to follow. These do not have to be extensive. I recommend looking at examples on various publications' websites. You will need the following information and it must appear somewhere in your final magazine project:
Magazine title (eg, Done)
Magazine subtitle (eg, "The magazine for crafters who are young, dumb, and broke")
Mission statement (eg, "Done is the first crafting magazine for the real people who love to make stuff or have to make stuff because they're too broke to buy stuff. You don't have to be Martha Stewart to do our crafts, share your crafts, or laugh at crafting fails. Our tone is young, fun, and non-judgmental, but we do insist on the Oxford Comma.)
Departments: (eg, "How To": 100 word instructions; "My Grandma Rocks at This": 200 word profiles; Features: 500-1000 words; "Craft Fails": captioned photos; "Yes, I Did Make That": 500-1000 word personal essays.)
Submission guidelines (eg, Please email queries to and include three writing samples, links or attachments to published work).
Week 13: Editing samples; [World's tardiest midterm review and quiz]
Reading: Chapter 20
T—Assignment: Collect at least three editing samples for your portfolio from assignments you've written for this class. I recommend that your samples demonstrate your versatility as an editor: hard-copy with standard copyediting marks, electronic documents with mark-ups and comments, substantial recommendations for style, organization, and content in light of the intended publication. Due 4/24.
Week 14: Features; Magazine Projects
Reading: Look at online publications at www.issuu.com
T— Present leads/ledes to the class and take questions. How to write the letter of transmittal and submit your feature. Set up magazine projects in class. Features due.
TR-- Assignment: Magazine Projects. Due 5/8.
Week 15: Magazine projects
Reading: The Middle of Things: Advice to Young Writers (by Andrew Solomon, the guy who wrote "The Reckoning" and a book called Far from the Tree)
T: Visit from B2B magazine writer and editor (WRIT alumnus) Perdita Henry. Editing samples due. Sample query letters by Melody Warnick (a friend of mine who makes a LOT of money freelancing). Her niche is "women's interest" and parenting and she eventually got a book deal.
TR--Work on magazine projects in class.
Week 16: Magazine projects
T--Work on magazine projects in class
TR--Work on magazine projects in class
*Finals Week: Magazine Projects due no later than 11:59 Tuesday, May 8.
Note: please confirm that you have uploaded all of the required documents and that any links are working.
Want to get some extra credit? Here's how to do it. When you turn your feature assignment in, add it to the folder. Each one will be worth one point toward your final grade.
Book Review: Go to Amazon.com and write a review of our textbook. Print a screen shot of your review on the site.