Patrick McKercher F10                                           Office: College 8 125  

Core Sections 3 & 4                                             459-2083 (msg: 3516)                    Hours: T 2-3,

Email::                                  Th 8:30-9:30 & by appt.                         AIM patrickmck13


Texts and Materials :

Course reader available at Baytree Bookstore ($28)

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck (Penguin)

The Purpose of this course is to assist you in developing the kinds of writing, thinking and communication skills that you'll find invaluable in your studies, your career and your daily life.  We'll begin with personal writing, but , we'll end with the most difficult kind of writing, persuasive.  It's the most difficult because it requires you to predict rather precisely what will happen in someone else's brain as a result of your putting marks on paper in order for them to take some action.

Not only will this be your most useful course, but it may be your most difficult because here we are concerned with learning how, rather than learning that  (that is, this is a skills course, not a content course, and requires a different approach: because writing is a skill and a process, constant and consistent effort is required). 

Method : At each meeting we will learn how meaning is created through reading and writing.  We'll practice reading all kinds of texts, written and graphic, student and professional, in order to figure out what a "text" means and how that meaning was created.  Often we'll break into small writing groups to discuss your drafts (and you'll have a group tutoring session each week, which is mandatory and counts as regular attendance).   Through responding to other students' papers, you'll become a better writer and editor of your own work. 

Journal: All real writers keep one, so you can too, but it's strictly optional.  This is writing that will not be shared with classmates because the power of the journal comes from its lack of constraints.  Grammar and punctuation don't count here. The most important function of the journal is as a safe place to generate and try out ideas, so private entries can be removed temporarily, stapled or taped closed.  At least half a page at least every other day is the minimum effective level.  The journal can be whatever you want it to be, but you'll find that a diary will not be of much use for this course .  Rather, the best journals are for collecting and trying out ideas, as well as collecting and imitating stylish sentences.  The journal is an excellent place to write summaries, outlines/mind-maps and reactions to the readings.  The journal can accelerate and deepen your thinking/analysis.  Bottom line, the journal is the solution to nearly all the difficulties people encounter in writing, including lack of ideas, getting stuck, getting scared, or having difficulties organizing.  You'll find more and specific suggestions for the journal on the course website

Miscellaneous Unpleasantness : This is not a correspondence course.  Because of the nature of the course and the writing process, sporadic attendance will catch up with you.  For those that haven't quite figured that out, let me remind you that students with more than three absences (for TTh class, four for MWF, which includes tutoring and plenaries) are in jeopardy of failing the course (two lates equals one absence).  Furthermore, because of the demands of my own schedule, I reserve the right not to accept late papers.  Expect pop quizzes on the reading.  Although I understand the pressure of college life all too well, turning in work that is not yours is dishonest (and even recycling work from other courses without clearing it with me first) and cannot be tolerated.  If in doubt about if or how to document ("footnote"), simply add an informal note at the end about what you've borrowed and from where until we cover how to do documentation.  If you're still tempted some desperate night to cheat, remind yourself I spent a decade studying literary style and then read the section in The Navigator for the dire consequences ( failing the course, expulsion from the University etc).

Format: All drafts should be typed double space on one side of the paper.  Feedback (including audio, ask me about this) can be done on disk and email, but please always keep and turn in a hard copy.  Keep all your drafts , and even notes and prewriting, since because it's my job to coach you in the writing process, by looking over everything I can make suggestions for fine-tuning your technique.  You'll also want to keep everything for your peace of mind (including critiques done by other students so I can give them credit) and submit them in your portfolio when requested (around midterms and at the end of the quarter).

Evaluation : This is a writing course first and foremost,  so that's what I'll focus on in your grade and narrative.   Narratives typically also comment on your attendance, participation in class discussion and in writing groups, and on the quizzes (see course website for explanation and samples).  Grades (based on these criteria ) as well as those in the course syllabus), and will be assigned holistically on all of your work so I can take into account progress etc),  but feel free to ask about where you stand during office hours at any point.  The course is carefully and synergistically designed to be a means of attaining your goals, not as an obstacle to them; if at any point any part of the course seems unclear or unprofitable to you, please let me know.