Monday & Wednesday, 1:25-3:15
Instructor: B.J. Roche
Instructor Website: www.bjroche.com
Course blog: journal492M
Office: Journalism Program, 108 Bartlett Hall
Telephone: (413) 545-5930
Office hours: Thursdays 9:30-2, or by appointment. Please sign up for an appointment on my office window. Quick question? Email me.
Student goals for this course
* To build on skills acquired in Journalism 300
* To report, structure and write longer features in a magazine style
* To report, structure and write different types of short features
* To learn about the magazine publishing industry and self-marketing
* To work on several different assignments simultaneously throughout the semester.
Required (available at UMass Textbook Annex)
The Art of Feature Writing, by Earl R. Hutchison
On Writing Well, by William Zinsser
Writer’s Market 2008, Writer’s Digest Books
Want to read more?
For an expanded list of books about writing, see my website, bjroche.com
This is not a sports writing class. No sports-related articles will be accepted. This includes profiles of UMass or other athletes, essays about love for the Red Sox or the Patriots, etc. etc. This is non-negotiable.
Grades will be based on the following:
* Writing assignments. These will be graded on a numerical scale of 1-100.
* Attendance. Attendance is required, and I take attendance at the beginning of class. If you are not on time, you will be marked absent. I expect an E-mail before class if you will not be attending because of medical or family emergency, the only two acceptable reasons for non-attendance. Any more than two unexcused absences will result in the loss of a half-grade.
* Reading and analysis. All reading assignments will require some written responses.
* Class participation. Speak up and make this the best class you–and your fellow students–have ever taken.
You will write three major features of 1,200 words each and three 800-word pieces during the semester.
All stories should be submitted in standard manuscript format, and to the specifications in the accompanying handout.
No stories will be accepted after deadline.
The 1,200 word pieces
1. a profile of a person or a place due: 3/2/09
2. a public issue or social problem due: 4/6/09
3. a feature on your choice of topic due: 5/11/09
The 850-word pieces
1. a food story due: 2/21/09
2. a personal essay due: 3/24/09
3. a travel piece due: 4/27/09
The food and travel pieces must both have at least one historical or literary reference, and at least two live, quoted sources. Travel pieces must be about a place you are familiar with, and can report about. Ideally, these will be destinations you will visit during the semester, and need not be foreign or exotic places.
We will cover different aspects of feature writing each week, including the following topics:
1/28-2/2: Introduction/ Writing about people and places/outlining, structuring the longer story.
Reading: The Art of Feature Writing, Chap. 1-2, AND Chap. 5
* How is magazine writing and reporting different from reporting shorter stories and hard news?
* What are the basic types of features and where do we read them?
* We’ll look at what makes a good profile, how to gather the information you need, and what kinds of structures work best for longer stories.
* We will also talk about story ideas, and discuss which ones work and why.
2/4-2/11: Writing about food and travel
* What are the elements of good food and travel stories?
* We’ll tour the library to find some helpful resources, along with the huge archive of food writing over the past century. If you are planning to write your travel feature about a spring break destination, here’s your chance to start your pre-travel research.
2/4: LIST OF ALL STORY IDEAS DUE, via e-mail SEE HANDOUT FOR REQUIRED FORMAT.
2/18-2/23: Research/resources and interviewing
Reading: The Art of Feature Writing, Chaps. 8, 9
* Where do reporters find sources?
* Basic research techniques, both electronic and shoe-leather
* Documentary sources and how to use them
* Interviewing primary sources, note-taking and the logistics of researching longer pieces.
2/18: DRAFT OF FOOD ARTICLE DUE, via e-mail.
2/19-2/20 Writing the public issues piece
Reading: The Art of Feature Writing, Chaps. 4 AND 10
* What are the elements of a good public issues/social problem piece?
* How do we write about these issues in a way the reader can relate?
* Where do we find good sources and how do we approach the reporting?
Topics will include: finding the human element, and integrating informational material into a narrative, and structuring a readable story.
2/19: OUTLINE OF PROFILE DUE, via e-mail SEE HANDOUT FOR REQUIRED FORMAT.
2/23-2/25: Leads and endings
Reading: The Art of Feature Writing, Chap. 3
* What are the different type of magazine leads and when do you use them?
* How do you know the lead works?
* How do you revise your lead and how does it relate to your ending?
3/2-3/4: Writing the personal essay
Reading: The Art of Feature Writing, Chap. 6
* Who publishes this popular genre of writing?
* What elements make a good personal essay?
* We’ll look at Newsweek’s My Turn, This I Believe and New York Times Lives and Modern Love columns
3/2 FINAL MANUSCRIPT OF PROFILE DUE.
3/9-3/11: Catching up before Spring Break
3/9: DRAFT OF ESSAY DUE, via e-mail
3/16-3/18: SPRING BREAK
3/23-3/25: Building the body of the story
* This week we’ll talk about how to flesh in the middle of your story
* The joys of outlining
* Best ways to use, anecdotes and other magazine writing elements.
3/24: OUTLINE OF PUBLIC ISSUE/SOCIAL PROBLEM STORY DUE, via e-mail
3/24: FINAL MANUSCRIPT OF PERSONAL ESSAY DUE
3/30-4/1: Developing a feature voice
Reading: The Art of Feature Writing, Chap. 7
* How does a writer develop a magazine “voice”?
* Writing beyond cliche: We will try some creativity exercises to develop your own voice that doesn’t use cliches.
Reading: handouts and your own work
* How to figure out what’s wrong with your story and how to fix it.
4/6: FINAL MANUSCRIPT OF PUBLIC ISSUE STORY DUE
4/13-4/15: Analyzing magazine content/writers guidelines.
Reading: mediabistro.com, handouts, Writer’s Market 2008,
* We’ll look at writers guidelines to see what magazines want from their writers.
* Students will present analysis of particular magazines to see what they publish, and think about how we, as writers, can plug in.
4/13: DRAFT OF TRAVEL STORY DUE, via e-mail
4/21-4/22: In-class writing session
* Be prepared to talk about your work and your career. Bring a resume, recent stories and some idea of where you’re headed next semester.
4/27: FINAL MANUSCRIPT OF TRAVEL STORY DUE
4/29: FINAL FEATURE OUTLINE DUE via e-mail
Marketing your work
Reading: The Art of Feature Writing, Chaps. 11 AND 12.
We’ll wrap up by talking about query letters, how to make contact with editors and freelance writing in general.
5/11: FINAL MANUSCRIPT OF CHOICE FEATURE DUE