Assignment: Descriptive Personal Narrative

To synthesize what you’ve learned about description, narration, and reflection, you will write a personal narrative. This is generally a nonfiction, prose essay (similar to a memoir), but your instructor might provide additional guidelines in regard to genre, media, approach, or assessment standards.

Assignment

Your task is to identify an influential place, event, or person from your life experience about which you can tell a story. Then, you will write a narrative essay that relates that story and considers the impact it had on you, your worldview, and/or your life path. Using model texts in this book as exemplars, you will tell a story (narrate) using vivid description and draw out meaning and insight using reflection.

As you’ll evaluate below, descriptive personal narratives have a variety of purposes. One important one is to share a story that stands in for a bigger idea. Do not be worried if you don’t know the “bigger idea” yet, but be advised that your final draft will narrate a focused, specific moment that represents something about who you are, how you got here, what you believe, or what you strive to be.

Be sure to apply the concepts you learn in class to your writing.

Before you begin, consider your rhetorical situation:

Subject:

Occasion:

How will this influence the way you write?

How will this influence the way you write?

Audience:

Purpose:

How will this influence the way you write?

How will this influence the way you write?

Rubric for Descriptive Personal Narrative. For accessible version, contact pdxscholar@pdx.edu.

Guidelines for Peer Workshop

Before beginning the Peer Workshop and revision process, I recommend consulting the

 Revision Concepts and Strategies Appendix. In your Peer Workshop group (or based on your teacher’s directions), establish a process for workshopping that will work for you. You may find the flowchart titled “Establishing Your Peer Workshop” useful.

 

Thumbnail of Establishing Your Peer Workshop flowchart. For accessible version, contact pdxscholar@pdx.edu.

Establishing Peer Workshop Process:

Do you prefer written notes, or open discussion? Would you like to read all the drafts first, then discuss, or go one at a time? Should the author respond to feedback or just listen? What anxieties do you each have about sharing your writing? How will you provide feedback that is both critical and kind? How will you demonstrate respect for your peers?

One Example of a Peer Workshop Process

Before the workshop, each author should spend several minutes generating requests for support (#1 below). Identify specific elements you need help on. Here are a few examples:

I need suggestions for new imagery.

Do you think my reflective writing seems too “tacked on.”

Do you have any ideas for a title?

I need help proofreading and polishing.

During the workshop, follow this sequence:

  1. Student A introduces their draft, distributes copies, and makes requests for feedback.
    What do you want help with, specifically?
  2. Student A reads their draft aloud while students B and C annotate/take notes. What do you notice as the draft is read aloud?
  3. Whole group discusses the draft; student A takes notes. Use these prompts as a reference to generate and frame your feedback. Try to identify specific places in your classmates’ essays where the writer is successful and where the writer needs support. Consider constructive, specific, and actionable feedback.

What is the author doing well? What could they do better?

    • What requests does the author have for support? What feedback do you have on this issue, specifically?
    • Identify one “golden line” from the essay under consideration—a phrase, sentence, or paragraph that resonates with you. What about this line is so striking?
    • Consult either the rubric included above or an alternate rubric, if your instructor has provided one. Is the author on track to meet the expectations of the assignment? What does the author do well in each of the categories? What could they do better?
      • Ideas, Content, and Focus
      • Structure
      • Style and Language
      • Depth, Support, and Reflection
      • Mechanics
    • What resonances do you see between this draft and others from your group? Between this draft and the exemplars you’ve read?

4. Repeat with students B and C.

After the workshop, try implementing some of the feedback your group provided while they’re still nearby! For example, if Student B said your introduction needed more imagery, draft some new language and see if Student B likes the direction you’re moving in. As you are comfortable, exchange contact information with your group so you can to continue the discussion outside of class.

Model Texts by Student Authors

The Pot Calling the Kettle Black…1

“You aren’t acting normal,” my dad said with a dopy, concerned look on his face. He was a hard-working, soft and loving man. He was smaller than my mother, physically and figuratively. She sat beside him. She had a towering stature, with strong, swimmers’ shoulders, but she was hunched often. She didn’t really have eyebrows, but she didn’t need them. She had no problem conveying emotion on her face, especially negative ones.

“What’s wrong?” my mother asked. She took my hand frantically. Not the way one might take someone’s hand to connect with or comfort them. She needed reassurance more than I did.

My parents were sitting across from me on cushioned, bland-colored chairs in my dad’s office, while I sat on a rickety, torturous wooden chair. My dad’s office generally utilized natural light due to the expansive glass windows that allowed the light to drown the room, enclosing us in the chamber. I felt like an inmate being prepped for lethal injection. The weather was particularly gray and dismal. Perhaps it was the ambiguous, gray, confusing feelings I was breathing through. My parents had somewhat regular “interventions” to address my somewhat regular (sometimes public) emotional breakdowns, my self-medicating habits, and my general shitty attitude.

This week in particular, I had purposely destroyed two of my mother’s collectible horses. She had a maniacal obsession for them. She also maniacally collected sunflower artwork, which was the one obsession, of many, I found endearing. My old babysitter noted at one point there were 74 collectible horses in the house. After my outburst, there were 72.

I could see behind my parents, through the glass-paned door, my two younger sisters were secretly observing the altercation from the dining room, hiding under the table. They were illuminated by the ominous weather, which was also watching in on the dismal conversation through the windows. I was envious, jealous even, of my spectating sisters. My sisters didn’t have overflowing, excessive emotions. They didn’t have emotions that were considered “excessive.” I felt like an offender being put at the stocks: my parents were the executioners, and my sisters were the jesters.

“I’m angry.”

“What about?” my dad asked, puzzled. “Did someone do something to you?”

“Honey, were you—” my mother looked to my dad, then concealed her mouth slightly with the other hand, “raped?”

I couldn’t help but raise my voice. “No, Mom, I wasn’t raped, Jesus.” I took a moment to grind on my teeth and imagine the bit I was chomping at. Calm, careful, composed, I responded. “I’m just angry. I don’t feel—”

“What don’t you feel?” She practically jumped on me, while yanking my imprisoned hand toward her. She yanked at my reins.

“I don’t feel understood!” My mind was bucking. I didn’t know why I needed to react by raising my voice. It felt instinctive, defensive. Shouting forcefully, I jerked my hand away from her, but it remained in her clutches. I didn’t feel satisfied saying it, though what I said was the truth.

“What are you talking about?” my dad asked mournfully. I knew he felt betrayed. But he didn’t understand. He didn’t know what it’s like for things to be too much. Or to be too much. My dad looked at me longingly, hoping I would correct what I had said. He looked lost, incapable of understanding why I was doing what I was doing. My mother interjected, cutting off my dad’s hypnotic, silent cry for connection.

“You’re crazy!” she said, maintaining eye contact. My mother then let go of my hand, flipped it back to me. She reclined in her chair, retracting from me and the discussion entirely. She crossed her legs, then her arms. She turned her head away, toward the glass windows, and (mentally) left.

***

I was and am not “too much.”
I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at 18 years old.

***

I had just stepped off a squealing MAX line onto a broken sidewalk slab, gnarled from tree roots, when I felt my phone buzz rhythmically.

“I need you to come to the hospital. Mom had a little accident.” My dad’s voice was distant and cracking, like a wavering radio signal, calling for help.

“What’s going on? Is she okay?” I asked while making my way to campus.

“Where are you?” He wasn’t going to tell me anything over the phone. Adrenaline set in. I let him know I was downtown and headed to campus, but that I would catch a Lyft to wherever they were. “We’re at Milwaukie Providence. How soon can you get here?

“I’ll let you know soon.” My assumption was that my parents had been in an argument, my mother left the house in a rage, and crashed her car. She’d been an erratic driver for as long as I could remember, and my parents had been arguing more than usual recently, as many new “empty-nesters” do. The lack of information provided by my dad, however, was unsettling. I don’t really recall the ride to the hospital. I do remember looking over the river while riding from the west to east side of town. I remember the menacing, dark clouds rolling in faster than the driver could transport me. I remember it was quick, but it was too much time spent without answers.

When I arrived at Providence, I jumped out of the sedan and galloped into the lobby of the emergency room like a race horse on its final lap. My younger sister and Dad were seated on cushioned, bland-colored chairs in the waiting room. There were expansive glass windows that allowed the light to drown the room. The weather was particularly gray and dismal. Perhaps it was the ambiguous, gray, confusing feelings I was breathing through. I sat down beside my dad, in a firmer-than-anticipated waiting room chair beside him. He took my hand frantically. He took it in the way one might take someone’s hand to connect with or comfort them. He needed reassurance more than I did.

“Where did she get in the accident?” I asked.

My sister, sitting across from me with her head in her knees, looked up at me with aquamarine, tear-filled eyes. She was staring through me, an unclouded window. “Mom tried to kill herself.”

“What?” My voice crescendoed from a normal volume to a shriek in the span of a single word. My mind felt like it was bucking. I grabbed at my hair, pulling it back tight with my spare hand. The tears and cries reared, no matter how hard I yanked my mane.

“We got in another argument this morning, and she sent me a message saying she didn’t want to be in pain anymore. She told me to tell you girls she’s sorry. I’m so sorry.” I’d never seen my dad cry before; I didn’t know he could. I didn’t know his tears would stream like gushing water from a broken dam. He looked lost, incapable of understanding why she was doing what she was doing. I looked from my dad to my sister to my hands. One hand remained enveloped by my dad’s gentle palm. At this point in life, I had not yet learned to be gentle with myself, or others. I cut off my dad’s hypnotic, silent cry for connection.

“She’s crazy!” I let go of my dad’s hand, flipped it back to him. I reclined in the

chair, retracting from the situation entirely. I crossed my legs, then my arms. I turned my head away, toward the glass windows, and (mentally) left.

***

“Crazy” is a term devised to dismiss people.

My mother was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at 50 years old.

Teacher Takeaways

“This essay makes excellent use of repetition as a narrative strategy. Throughout the essay, terms and phrases are repeated, generally with slight alterations, drawing the reader’s attention to the moment in question and recontextualizing the information being conveyed. This strategy is especially powerful when used to disclose the separate diagnoses of bipolar disorder, which is central to the narrative. I also appreciate the use of dialogue, though it mostly serves an expository function here. In itself that’s effective, but this narrative would be strengthened if that dialogue could serve to make some of the characters, especially the mother, more rounded.”– Professor Dunham

All Quiet2

“We can have you kicked out, you know.” Miss Nick (as everyone addressed her) began digging her fists into her hips. She towered over me at six-foot-something, gravity pulling her wire-framed glasses to the end of her nose.

I recounted the empty threats my mom would make.

Ay nako nanlan! Putang ina! I’ll pull you out of that school! You want to go to Taft? Reseda?” Local public schools.

“Do it, you’ll save a ton of money,” I’d say.

“The only thing Catholic school is good for is producing my favorite unstable artists and writers,” I’d joke with my friends. They had been in the Catholic school system far longer than I had—fourteen years. I was jaded, though it was only my fourth year.

All-girls’ school was supposed to turn me around. But did my mother really expect the Northeastern elitism she hammered into me to fare well in Los Angeles? Especially surrounded by the daughters of television, radio and film legacies who lived in their hilly pseudo-ranches populated with their troupes of horses dancing around in golden Agouran fields? Homogenized whole milk.

Lodged right against the Santa Monica mountains was Louisville High School. The school was founded by the French sisters of Saint Louis, a French order founded by Abbé Louis Eugene Marie Bautain—whoever the hell that was. At the top of the rolling hills that were about as blonde as those who lived in them, was a small room that erupted with incense and the chatter of young women. These quarters belonged to this supposed gentle giant who chanted Mary Oliver poems ad nauseam. By her side was a new hire: an aspiring Christian songstress, also the daughter of an actor who had been typecast as a hundred high school bullies in the eighties. They, collectively, made up the “campus ministry.”

“Why didn’t you come to us first?” Miss Nick continued. “Why did you have to go straight online?” She had me there. I suppose it just ate at me. Maybe some sense of urgency. Maybe I was just playing their own game.

“Are you gonna cry?” The songstress almost demanded it. Her piercing blue gaze could only be summed up with lunacy. This was the first time I’d actually had any conversation with the religion department outside of class.

“No.”

The Archdiocese of Los Angeles demands Catholic schools regularly hold these retreats in some picturesque Californian mountain range or seaside. A select number of student lectors were elected to tell their stories drawn from their own struggles. It was supposed to be a time of reflection about your faith or something, but it never felt wholly about that. It was a period where you got to know your teachers and your peers, and empathize with each other. For a lot of the closeted non-religious and agnostics, this was the only time they could identify with their school and community.

Once, during lunch at a retreat, I hailed down one of the most respected instructors of our school. As a seven-foot bleeding wood crucifix looked on, we sipped the punch prepared by the sisters.

“Hey Mr. Clark, what was the name of that cult leader in sixties?” I asked. Amber punched me. We all giggled.

“You mean Jonestown?” He paused. His voice grew stern. “Now ladies—behave.”

Mr. Clark taught history and social sciences. He was the oldest member of the faculty and the most outspoken atheist of all. I’d spend hours in his room for detention, and we would have elusive conversations about Freud, Hunter S. Thompson, and his time in Boulder. The only way to enter campus ministry was through Mr. Clark’s room.

A week prior Olivia had applied to be a student leader for a retreat. Olivia kept to herself for the most part, and though we differed a lot, I always found something to discuss with her. Her last name came right before mine, so we often worked together on a number of assignments and projects. Mostly, we’d just critique our religion classes which emphasized chastity and accused select girls of being hussies. Olivia was a model student with perfect attendance. She was an artist, a writer, and more importantly, my friend.

Olivia’s application was readily denied in favor for the wealthy Catholic sweethearts and a select few who never disclosed certain information.

“I’d put on there that I was an atheist,” she shrugged. I knew for a fact the retreat leadership was ridden with heathens. There, on the sunny knoll, I flipped through the handbook and showed her a clause that prohibited the act of denying anyone for their race, religion or creed. And I knew save for everything, Olivia was overwhelmingly more qualified than anyone to lead a retreat. She was articulate, an active contributor to all things art and writing, and had come from years of struggle. She’d been living with Type I Diabetes her entire life, and her parents had just divorced. Her brother frequently got in trouble with the law, and she had managed to maintain perfect grades and demeanor for the past year. She actively contributed her art and writing in various forms, and was loved and championed by many teachers. If theres anyone who deserves this position, it’s her, I thought.

I went home late after serving another detention. I opened my computer, lazed around, wondered for a moment. It’s our last year of high school. Fuck it.

I typed in the search bar, “Petitions.”

I spent a couple hours, which could have easily been spent completing all my assignments, formatting and outlining my 95 theses. I typed and typed with the fury and angst that coincided with the suffix of my age. I clicked submit and shared the URL for my peers to see—namely, my closest friend at the school, Amber, another artist who had recently painted a depiction of a dark-skinned Jesus. Amber naturally became fired up.

The next day, parades of teachers, parents, and students voiced their opinion to me.

“What you’re doing is wonderful,” uttered my art teacher. “I hope she gets the position.” So far, the whole idea was met with so much positivity. Olivia would get her voice.

“Can I speak to you for a moment?” The math and earth science teacher stopped me in my tracks between classes. She, an advocate for the environment and reason, would surely shower the petition with nothing but affirmations.

“I’d put an end to this before it escalates. This is a Catholic school. This is a private school.” I was blindsided. It was not until then I realized what I was doing could be considered wrong.

Endlessly, I cited the handbook. It was their constitution—their code of conduct. Often, I just nodded in confusion. I did not know what to reply. More and more teachers looked at me with disdain and discouraged me from continuing forth. No one would listen to the citation. Why couldn’t anyone just admit that this clause was being broken? Opponents would only say that the campus ministry could conduct business as they wanted. It was their school.

Amber, vehement and by my side, became my spokesperson. She was the recipient of the arts scholarship. That, coupled with the death of her father years ago, granted her the honor of being selected as a senior lector. Students could not apply for this position—rather, they had to be nominated by a member of faculty. The thing was, Amber was a fervent atheist—more so than Olivia.

“She’s a cunt,” Amber protested, “she’s a fucking cunt.” I envied her absoluteness. It came so naturally to her. But I couldn’t say the same.

From across the knolly pasture I saw my religion teacher, someone I found solace in. He had gone through seminary. He lapsed, and married a former student of our school. He found himself in some sweat lodge deep in New Mexico, where his Catholic faith had been lingering all along. Here, an adult teacher, admitted his agnosticism and his doubt. I admired it so. He had a liberal nature similar to my own: he talked of rogue Catholic sisters who were pro-choice and advocated for birth control.

“I understand your intention,” he told me, “but I don’t think you’re seeing it in the right light. It’s a perceived injustice. I’m not sure it really is one.” My heart dropped.

I finally piped up after an hour-and-a-half into the harangue.

“So, you would have let her speak if she lied about her beliefs? That’s all she had to do?” I could feel my voice rupturing.

“Yes.” Miss Nick replied. I silently stood up.

“Thank you.” I left.

I took down the petition at the instruction of the principal.

“It was very brave what you did,” she smirked, “but we can’t have that on our record, you know how it is.” She gave me a wink. I did not know what to make of that.

Amber was also subject to their lectures. She was told she had to forfeit her position as a student leader for being a “convicted atheist”—more specifically, that she had no business leading because of her system of beliefs. She argued that she was nominated by faculty, and that Mr. Clark was also an atheist embraced by the staff. To no avail.

Olivia thanked me. She said it was the best thing anyone had ever done for her. As an act of compromise, the campus ministry let her say a prayer over the intercom system. People were moved. Silence reigned. Our art teacher, Mrs. Dupuy, cried.

In a city of millions and a country of hundreds of millions, one girl in a small Catholic high school was viewed as threatening to the point of disrupting the entire framework. How could something so miniscule pose such a threat to our adult overseers? I never attacked their religion, but they were so adamant in attacking anyone’s lack thereof. They preach “universality,” but where? They lost all credibility with me.

After that, I became passive, stopped participating, and kept to myself. I often found myself cheek first against my desk in religion classes while Miss Nick ignited a pro-life/pro-choice debate that swept across the room. The songstress rallied for nigh fundamentalist practices that I’d never seen within a Catholic church. In the yearbook’s senior superlatives, there’s a picture of me under “Class Rebel,” but it didn’t mean anything. An embarrassment. No one seemed sincere after that. Self-interest ruled everyone around me: the lenses I had on determined that everyone was doing and saying anything to further their personal convictions, regardless of how uninformed they were, or anyone who defied them.

Including myself. Especially myself.

So, I shut up. Everyone is self-serving, I’d remind myself. I became cynical of everyone’s intentions. I longed for authentic empathy. No, unachievable. I muted myself behind layers upon layers of verbal irony. No one could attack me if I followed my lines with nervous laugh, and I dont know! Just kidding! I prescribed myself large doses of Charlie Kaufman films, acid, and absurdist texts. At least Beckett and Camus see the gray.

“Now ladies,” Mr. Clark said. “I know you don’t agree with her, but she’s had a rough life. Please try to understand where she came from.”

I don’t think anyone there would have done the same.

Teacher Takeaways

“This author’s use of dialogue is especially striking to me. Because the individual characters (and the way they speak) are each so vivid, I am more invested in the way the narrative plays out. I also appreciate this author’s reflection; it’s a good reminder that reflective writing doesn’t haven’t to sound like a self-help book or motivational speaker. On a global level, I would love to see this author apply their skill with dialogue to tell this story from multiple perspectives. What if Olivia was a first-person narrator in one section? What if we saw Miss Nick in her office alone after the confrontation?”– Professor Dawson

Blood & Chocolate Milk3

The stick of gauze, the tinny primal taste of blood and the sweet creaminess of chocolate milk is what I remember. It was a spring day of my junior year in high school. It was the day I lost my wisdom teeth.

The night before my surgery Dad showed up and cooked us dinner. He made spaghetti, those meatballs he makes with the drop of plum sauce on the top, and a salad of spring greens topped with bright balsamic dressing and twirls of carrot. Then Mom, Dad and I watched a movie and Dad tucked me in for the first time in a long time. He slept on the couch.

***

It was strange that we were all together. My parents divorced before I could talk. I don’t think about them as a pair. Other than birthdays and drop-offs they were never in the same place. They were always separate entities that I saw half a week at a time.

***

The next morning we woke bright and early. The dental assistant had told me to wear something comfortable but my cashmere cardigan and slippers did little to calm my nerves.

In the car on the way to the dental surgeon’s office we made groggy early-morning small talk. Mom was at the helm of our beat-up, dark blue minivan, La Fiesta. Dad sat in the passenger seat and I was behind them on the first bench seat wringing my hands.

The waiting room was sterile and white, it smelled of disinfectant and mint. Copies of various parenting magazines, Life and People scattered the low generic coffee table. More catching up. We asked dad how things were going with his new girlfriend, he was happy and we were happy for him. I fidgeted in the uncomfortable pastel green chair.

In the surgical consult they had said that the roots of my wisdom teeth were too close to the nerves in my lower jaw, it was possible that I could lose feeling in my lower lip. I was terrified of that possibility. I watched the hands on the clock tick away. I wanted to get it over with already.

A serious woman in scrubs finally appeared to lead me to the surgical room. I hugged dad and he stayed behind in the waiting room, Mom came with me. There were machines beeping and blinking. I handed Mom my sweater and shoes and she gave me a tight squeeze.

***

Mom and I are a good team. It’s always been us against the world. Dad has moved away twice but Mom has always been right here.

My parents were young hippies when I was born. They didn’t have life figured out yet and their relationship disintegrated but their love for me never faded. Mom always says “You were a surprise but never a mistake. If I could go back in time I wouldn’t change a thing because I got you and you just kind of came along for the ride. Whatever I did, you did too.”

***

As I laid down on the grey vinyl chair, the stale frigid air and my racing heart prompted tiny goose bumps to appear on my arms. Everything in that room was a dull pastel color or unnatural white. The pastels were unsettling — not the kind that reminded you of a sweet Easter morning but the kind that brought to mind dreary hospitals and desolate nursing homes. Mom held my hand, the tiny IV needle pricked into my vein and I was gone.

Hours later I was semiconscious with a mouth full of cotton and four less teeth. My parents got me to the car and dad sat in the back with me, letting my limp medicated body lean on his. Blood and drool seeped out of my numb lips and onto his ratty Patagonia jacket. He held me the whole way home.

***

Mom is my rock but I know she was glad to have a partner that day. She couldn’t have carried me the way Dad did and she couldn’t have seen me so broken without someone to assure her that I was going to be fine. Dad isn’t always around but when he is, he gives all he can.

***

Mom and dad helped me wobble into bed and I floated away, my body heavy with anesthesia and Vicodin. I drifted in and out. The light came in my window, soft and pink like the creamy walls of my room.

My eyes opened slightly as I sensed movement in the room. “Hey Mai, how are you feeling?” Mom said, concern and sweetness heavy in her high voice. “It’s time for some more medicine, does your mouth hurt?”

“A little bit,” I said as best as I could with numb lips. The words came out muffled and strange. Gauze thick with blood and saliva was tucked over the wounds from the excavation. My mouth had become a foreign landscape with mountains of gauze and slippery rivers of blood. My tongue tried to ignore the upset. The blood was unnerving.

Dad reached into my mouth to deftly extract the blood soaked wads of gauze. Mom handed me the pills and dad held the bottle of chocolate milk, letting me sip it bit by bit to get the pills down. The milk was cool. Thick. Chalky. Chocolaty. A lazy breeze drifted in and Dad tucked fresh gauze over the wounds at the back of my mouth. They let me succumb to sleep again.

Hours or minutes later, Dad came into my room holding the Seattle Times. “Hey Sweetie, how are you feeling? I have some good articles to read to you,” Dad said softly. He was wearing his jeans that didn’t fit quite right and a ratty flannel. He sat down on the edge of my full-sized cloud, his back against the window sill, his legs outstretched horizontally and crossed at the ankle. His tall lanky body looked so out of place in my room but I was grateful to have him there.

***

He didn’t have to come. Maybe it was the medical nature of the event that made that more important in his mind than the school events or performances he’d missed. He could justify the trip and missing a night of work—to himself and his boss—because it was my body that needed hire, not my heart.

***

I sat up a little bit. I was still groggy but aware. He read me an article about an ignorant hick couple that had gotten lost in the woods but survived to hilariously tell their lucky story. His performance was complete with different voices for each person. The ridiculous accents made me laugh. He read me a few more articles. I savored his performance. He was going back to his city the next day and I was going to miss him.

Mom came in to check on me. She sat down next to dad on the edge of my bed. She touched my forehead, her hand was cool and steady. They looked at me with so much love, the pain was there but they lessened it. We were all under the same roof and on the same page, they were a team taking care of me, Mom handled the important things and dad handled the laughs.

Our journey has been hard but I know that they were always doing their best. They are both here for me in their own way. I grinned as much as I could; my puffy cheeks aching and straining against the gauze. My mouth felt broken but I felt whole. All I need is them, soft light, a warm breeze and chocolate milk.

Teacher Takeaways

“This essay caught my attention for a number of reasons. Primarily, I appreciate the content—this essay is about wisdom tooth surgery, but not really. The surgery is a way for the author to explore their family dynamic. Next, the imagery in this essay is vivid and appeals to a variety of senses. Finally, I really enjoy the structural choice this author has made: in order to weave reflection in with narration, they alternate each mode, indicating the shift with asterisks (***). This choice, I feel, is very effective. However, it also runs the risk of choppiness, as the abrupt changes might interrupt the ‘flow’ for some readers.”– Professor Dawson

Endnotes
1 Essay by an anonymous student author, 2017. Reproduced with permission from the student author.
2 Essay by Carlynn de Joya, Portland State University, 2017. Reproduced with permission from the student author.
3 Essay by Maia Wiseman, Portland State University, 2014. Reproduced with permission from the student author.