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Week One - Assignment One
Week One - Lesson One
Basics At Their Best


Just as with architecture, a lasting impression must begin with a strong foundation. In this lesson we will cover the blocks necessary for building that vital groundwork. Fundamentals first!


*Fire* 1 *Fire*
Choosing Your Partner


         Though few reviewers consciously think about this step in writing a review, our goal is to become more aware of what we are doing and to do that well. The first step we take, and surprisingly one of the most important, is choosing the piece we will review.
         Selection matters because what we are striving to achieve is a quality only found through confidence and familiarity. Every writer has heard the old adage 'Write what you know', and the same wisdom applies for a good reviewer. We cannot write a detailed, thorough review without being well-informed. This comes from having a solid idea of what type of writing you know best, and the dedication to expand on that knowledge. Education breeds confidence, confidence allows for excellence.
         When choosing what piece to review, carefully consider what you, as a reviewer, are most comfortable with reading and critiquing. This is a perfect place to start reviewing and build the confidence from there to other genres! If you write and/or read a lot of science fiction, start by choosing pieces that fall into that category. Love a good mystery? Find one to review!
         One of the smartest decisions a budding reviewer can make is the choice of what to read, as that is where it all begins! And once your set of skills grows, you can begin taking on less familiar genres but with no less surety.


*Fire* 2 *Fire*
Keeping It Together


         After selecting the piece you will review, next comes the equally important decision of organization and formatting of your review. Before delving into what you want to say to the author, you must plan out how you want to say it. Even the most insightful, inspired feedback would be lost upon the intended recipient without a well thought-out presentation. That responsibility falls to you.
         Building a template that fits your style is a matter of personal preference, but there are some fundamental points and pitfalls all reviews must take into account.
         A strong basic review is one that maintains balance between the positive and the negative. These should be clearly defined and separated so that the author can easily comprehend the information, ensuring their satisfaction (which, along with a high standard of quality, should always be a reviewer's top priority). Remember, there will be times when your best efforts are not appreciated or well-received by the author. Do not be discouraged by these instances, which hopefully will be few and far between - as long as you have offered your best, you can rest assured with a clear conscience.
         Keep it simple! When writing a review, there are things you always want to avoid, whatever your style may be. Few things can drag down a review like visual clutter. Eschew over-complicated formats, excessive use of graphics and color, and too much fluff ('fluff' being defined as pointless fawning praise with little real substance). That is not to say that you shouldn't put a personal touch on your reviews - on the contrary, a truly exceptional reviewer will make their submissions personal yet professional every time. The line between too much and just enough can be a tricky one to walk, however. The minimalist approach is usually safest, at least to begin with.
         One other thing to be mindful of is copy/pasting in a review. While some is understandable, even necessary to demonstration of your point at times, large sections should never be used and must never make up the majority of your review's body. There is a singular exception to this rule, but that will be covered in a later lesson.




*Fire* Assignment One *Fire*


For your first assignment, you must read the following short piece. It is from an anonymous member of WdC, copyrighted to them, and is to be used only for the purposes of this assignment. Its format, content, and arrangement has not been changed in any way:

Doomsayer.

The man, rumpled and disoriented, staggered off the bus and blinked fiercely in the slanted October sun. Another passenger stepped down onto the sidewalk at the corner of Main and Center streets and watched Cooley, fascinated. The bus pulled away. This was the legendary Cooley Jason had heard about since he moved here to work for Setonsville’s mayor.

An annual event: every year since anyone could recall, every October, a different day each year, Cooley came to Setonsville with his message. People said Cooley would ride his rickety bicycle down from somewhere in the hills above Axton, pedal onto the shoulder of Route 59 eastbound a half mile to the turnaround bus stop at the entrance to Axton College, padlock his bike to the guardrail, and board the bus for the two mile trip through Axton to Setonsville. No one remembers Cooley ever coming to town any other time.

Cooley wore ratty army fatigues and combat boots. His full gray beard covered what could have been a handsome face, and his gray hair under the fatigue cap was pulled back in a ponytail that hung down past his shoulder blades. From one oversized jacket pocket he pulled a flask, uncapped it, and tilted his head back to take a long drink. It was then that Jason noticed the sign tucked under Cooley’s left arm, a rectangular piece of planking crudely hand printed, nailed to a weathered picket fence post. This year the sign again read, THE END IS COMING.

The annual ritual would continue. There had been increasing doubt about that, as October came and the days passed without Cooley appearing. Jason had been amazed to read the one line blurbs in the Chronicle every morning. Where’s Cooley This Year? Anyone Seen Cooley? Is Cooley Coming? The Chronicle had been reporting the annual happening for years, one column on the front page, although editor Hal Coffey didn’t know anything more about Cooley than anyone else in town.

Cooley now hoisted his sign and stepped off the sidewalk and strolled down the middle of Center Street through Setonsville’s business district. Lunchtime traffic slowed and drove around him. Jason followed, noting that people stopped and stared and waved at Cooley as if they were watching a grand parade. Farther down the street the mayor and his aides were just about to enter the Forest Hotel for lunch in the lounge. The mayor turned and laughed at the sight of Cooley marching.

Cooley raised his sign higher, shaking it at the sky in defiance. The crowd roared. Suddenly a chill last day of October breeze swept down the street. Ugly dark clouds roiled up over the hills to blot the sun and swallow the town. Crowd noise turned to a collective gasp as waves of wind blasted through, stripping last leaves from trees, flinging millions of leaves like buckshot. Cooley shouted as the wind tore the sign from his grasp and hurled it down Center Street over ducking heads until it disappeared. There was an explosive rumble and the sky split open. Nickel-sized hail rained down, pockmarking car roofs and hoods and gouging chips in windows. Traffic stopped. The crowd scattered, diving into storefront alcoves for protection. The mayor and his aides were wedged into the doorway of the hotel. Trying to run for cover, Jason thought he saw Cooley, the only person untouched by the hail, dancing in the middle of the street and laughing.

The end of the world lasted five minutes by Jason’s reckoning. Black clouds wisped away and then the sun broke through blazing and quiet descended so quickly it hurt Jason’s ears. He stood up. People emerged from their hideaways. Cooley stood still, gazing up at the sky.

The mayor stepped into the sunlight and mock-wiped his brow. “Wow, Cooley, you came close this year, thanks for holding off so the kids can go trick-or-treating tonight.” Everyone howled laughter.

Cooley stuck his tongue out, shook his fist and laughed again. “You just wait ‘til next year!”
© Copyright 2011 seagoat (UN: seagoat at Writing.Com). All rights reserved.


Create a mock review of this piece as a STATIC ITEM in your Portfolio. For students who are using a Basic account, create a single item that you can erase each week and rewrite with your new assignment, so that your Portfolio doesn't get filled to limit with your work for this course. Upgraded accounts may choose to do this as well, if they like, as I will be keeping my own records of every student's work every week.

'Review' must address the lesson, showing special attention to basic skills of organization/formatting, balancing positive and negative feedback, and clear communication of your points. There should be an EVEN number of no less than 3 points - a negative for every positive, and vice versa. You may do more than 3, but no fewer than that.

For the purposes of this assignment you may keep your content more simplistic and focus on mechanics, as per the lesson of the week. Remember, though, that grammar and technical execution will always be a factor in your final score for the assignment.

When you have completed your assignment, post it as a bitem into the Class Forum with the subject line 'Assignment One'. This will be the procedure for every assignment following this one as well, changing the subject line respectively to match each week of course.


*Fire* Discussion One *Fire*


Each student is expected to participate openly in each discussion, and should address each part of the discussion in their posts. A master post for each discussion will be made by me to signal that the discussion is to begin, students are then free to post replies to that post throughout the week, thus carrying it on.

Before you begin writing a review, what do you worry about most? When you have completed a review, do you hesitate for any reason before sending it? If yes, explain your thought process and what gives you pause. What aspect of writing a review causes you the most uncertainty in your abilities?


*Fire* Review Requirement One *Fire*


Two reviews must be submitted by each student, posted in 'review' format in the Class Forum upon completion. Hopefully you are all familiar with this format: simply open a bracket { followed by the word 'review', followed by a colon and the ID number of the review,  then close the brackets }. It should show up. Let me know if you have any problems with this.

Each review should be selected from "Gang's Monthly Review Board [13+], unless there are no packages that need fulfilling there - in which case, let me know . It must be of short story format (NO POETRY!), 2500 words or less, and may NOT belong to a fellow student. For Paper Doll Gang Newbies, you may NOT choose a piece belonging to a fellow Newbie either, but may review pieces belonging to other Paper Doll Gang members if you so choose.

For your reviews to count, there are a few rules you must follow. It can be NO LESS THAN 500 WORDS with minimal WritingML or 'filler', such as introduction. Your brief introduction must include some variation of this line: 'I am reviewing your work as a student of the Rockin' Review Academy!' and you MUST be wearing an Academy signature. For Basic members, you may wear a text signature that reads 'I am a student of the Rockin' Review Academy'. Paper Doll Gang Newbies - you are expected to be wearing a Newbie PDG signature as well, or you may create (or have created for you) a multi-sig. If you need help with signatures, email me BEFORE you write your reviews. Remember, there is no shame in asking questions, I welcome questions in fact because it shows that you want to do things correctly. If you are unsure of anything, just ask!

Also, I expect your weekly reviews to directly reflect the week's lesson as well as "The Five Commandments of Reviewing [E].

If your reviews do not meet these requirements they will be disqualified and you will not receive credit for them. Each review is worth a total of 25 points, and this counts for HALF of your weekly score so they are very important.

Remember, I reward efforts that go above and beyond what is asked of you!


© Copyright 2011 TheHuntress is Finding Herself (thearcherqueen at Writing.Com). All rights reserved.
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