Preface

Katie Roger

Lather, rinse, repeat. Three simple words printed on the back of my shampoo
bottle that I diligently follow every morning. Skipping one of the steps would ruin my
hair hygiene and skipping two steps might even throw my whole head off balance! So
why was I so skeptical in high school to believe a similar mantra in writing: write,
review, rewrite? I would never go to class with my hair still lathered, so why was I
willing to turn in a first draft paper?

This semester at Coe has cured me of my first draft woes. It was clear from the
start in my First Year Seminar, Images of France, and English class, Twentieth Century
British Drama, that one draft would not cut it for a graded composition. Many rough
drafts and revisions were necessary before a paper was fit to be turned in, and even then,
a final revision had to be completed after the professor graded the paper. This semester
has helped me learn that no piece is perfect the first time, and good writers do not settle
for a first draft.

The three papers I have included in this portfolio have stretched my abilities as a
writer. They are all creative pieces, a genre I have always avoided in the past. The first
is a piece of historical fiction written for my First Year Seminar. The assignment was to
create a diary of a fictional medieval person based on historical research. We had to
include twenty historical details in every entry while presenting the information in an
interesting way. My project details the daily life and intrigue of a young Cathar woman
living in the 13th century. She is searching for answers to her past while trying to stay
optimistic about the widespread religious persecution of the Cathars. I was nervous about
the project because I was going to have to get more creative than my usual analytical
papers. After completing the research, however, a storyline just evolved as I started to
outline the diary. Many revisions and much input from my peers followed a shaky first
draft, but I am proud of the final result and feel it is a solid first attempt at fiction writing.

The second paper comes from my First Year Seminar's Cajun project. We were
each to choose a painting that told part of the story of the Cajun people and present it's
historical context to the class. After the oral presentation, we were to write a paper that
briefly summarized the history of the Acadian and Cajun people, and we were also to
write a creative letter from the point of view of a person in the chosen painting. The
painting that I chose was entitled "A First Settlement" and depicted a family building
their new home in the wilderness of Acadia, Canada. My creative letter was written from
the viewpoint of a young girl sitting in the painting. Her letter tells of her new life in
Canada and is intended for her Grandmother back in France. I included this paper in my
portfolio because it contrasts my factual style of writing to my creative writing. I hope to
continue to improve my creative writing at Coe, but through many revisions I feel the
Acadian letter is a creative paper I can feel proud of.

The third and final paper in my portfolio comes from Twentieth Century British
Drama. For every play we read we are to write a "Moment Paper;" a paper that dissects a
critical point in the play. We are to act as a director by developing a vision for the scene
and then to stage the scene in detail to illustrate our vision. Though at first I hated
writing "Moment Papers" because they were so long, after writing all ten papers I have
come to love the process that goes into them. They are part analytical and part creativity;
and I enjoy writing them because it is great to combine both genres of writing.

The "Moment Paper" included in this portfolio comes from J.B. Priestley's play
The Inspector Calls. This play is meant to teach social responsibility through the story of
a wealthy family that has mistreated a young woman. Though they each deny that they
know the woman, a police inspector forces a story out of every one of them. I read the
play to prepare for class discussion, and as happens every class, learned so many
interesting details that I had to read it a second time to prepare to choose a moment to
stage. I finally settled on the final scene of Act II. This is a shocking scene because it
reveals that a much-revered son has also mistreated the woman.

After rereading the play and choosing a moment, I brainstormed a list of actors to
play the characters and sketched possible sets for the scene. I jotted down moment
during the scene and tried to get a clear picture of it all in my head before I began to
actually write. After I completed my first draft, my roommate read my paper to see if my
staging was coherent to someone who had never read the play. After revising, I sent it to
my neighbor who works in the writing center/or criticism. After a second revision, I was
ready to turn in my draft to the professor. However, a paper is never done, and I made
changes to even my final draft after my professor read the paper.

Four drafts from where I started, I am ready to turn my paper over to you... for
more criticism. If I have learned anything this semester, it is definitely to write, revise,
rewrite. I would not go to class with my hair in foamy lather, and now I definitely will
not go to class with a first draft paper.

Back to Katie Roger's Portfolio

 

 

 


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