Use the following format: The Event: In a paragraph or two, describe the event you plan to explore. Make sure you include the basics: who, what, when, where. The Meaning: While you likely won’t know

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Use the following format:

The Event: In a paragraph or two, describe the event you plan to explore.Make sure you include the basics: who, what, when, where.

The Meaning: While you likely won’t know the full extent of the meaning at this point in the process, in a paragraph or two, address the following:

  • Themes and issues you plan to explore
  • Why has this event stuck with you?
  • Why might this event connect with others?


PART 2 Summary:Memoir/Personal Narrative

Word Count: 1000-1250

Due: Thursday, 12/10


Our final essay will have you diving back through the corridors of your memory and examining a moment that has stuck with you and changed you (or your view of the world) in some significant way. Whether you have long recognized this event’s effect on you, or you discover it through the writing process, one of the keys to this essay is thinking critically about how and why this event changed you. You will also explore how this experience relates to broader or universal experiences of others.

You will compose this essay with the sort of conventions that accompany the genre of memoir (also known as personal essay or personal narrative). This is a non-scholarly genre – one meant to connect deeply via emotion and shared experience to a wide-ranging adult audience.

Your essay will explore a specific event (known as “The Event” in the rubric) from your life, in which, upon examination, you’re able to find deeper meaning (known as “The Meaning” in the rubric) which will resonate with a wider audience than just yourself.

The Event must be a specific event in time. “Your high-school years” is far too broad. That time you fell down the stairs and your lifelong bully helped you up is the type of specificity, the type of moment, I’m looking for.

You don’t have to write about some personal tragedy – although you may. (I’ve just about seen it all, and no one will read these but me.) You do need to write about something interesting and unique. The event you choose has to have changed you, stuck with you, and must be meaningful to others. Unless absolutely extraordinary, the time you failed the test, made the baseball team, or won that big game will not suffice.

You will need to honestly examine your role in the event and the time since its occurrence. You should not come out looking like a superhero. And while your essay should convey some vulnerability, you should avoid painting yourself as simply a victim. In other words, a good memoir should be nuanced.

See Chapter 18, Memoir (pgs 224-232) and Chapter 45, Narrating (pgs 462-470) for more guidance. Rick Bragg’s essay, “All Over but the Shoutin,’” which begins on page 224 is a wonderful example.

A successful essay will meet the criteria outlined in the rubric linked below:


  • The Event (35 pts.)

    • Focuses on a specific event or experience (THE MOMENT)
    • Presents/develops a complete picture of the “situation”
    • Contains descriptive language, images, and sensory detail
    • 1st-person narrative is engaging/voice is consistent
    • Selects a moment that lends itself to reflection/analysis
  • The Meaning (35 pts.)

    • Transitions to “The Meaning” effectively
    • Presents ideas in an organized/coherent manner
    • Provides analysis and insight that digs deeper than the surface
    • Establishes direct connections to “The Event”
    • Through proper questioning of the moment, universal ideas emerge
  • Mechanics (15 pts.)

    • Appropriate sentence structure and variety
    • Accurate spelling, punctuation, and capitalization
    • Consistent and appropriate voice and word choice and usage
    • Avoidance of Engfish
  • Attention to Directions (15 pts.)

    • Follows prompt
    • Meets length requirement
    • Double-spaced, Times New Roman 12-pt. Font

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